The Saratoga Traveler: Day Trips, Weekend Getaways & Hidden Gems

September 2009 Archives

Freeport is a quaint little town with interesting architecture and sidewalks lined with amazing shops, one of the most famous being L.L. Bean.  L.L. Bean is a premier outfitter for sportsmen and aspiring sportsmen, their clothes, camping gear and fishing equipment are world known and their huge store is a number one attraction for those visiting Freeport.  L.L. Bean has divided up their merchandise lines into separate stores to make it easier to find what you need.  No more having to search through camping equipment or kayaks to find the perfect boots.  The staff is eager to help and friendly; and you can't beat the L.L. Bean guarantee!  If at anytime you aren't satisfied with your purchase or if at anytime it becomes damaged you can return it for a replacement no questions asked.  They stand by this too I found out when my husband wanted to replace a sleep shirt he purchased years before because it got ripped.  They didn't have the exact same pattern but still replaced it with something similar-- no questions!

Freeport is not only home to L.L. Bean but also to a wealth of smaller merchants and restaurants.  And most recently an outlet mall (where L.L. Bean stocks some of its leftovers and mistakes-- really not worth a visit) featuring name brand and designer stores with great discounts.  And the outlet mall itself is beautiful with modern architecture and brick walkways.

If you are in the area, say in Old Orchard Beach and are looking for world class shopping for recreational gear or designer clothing try Freeport.  There are public parking lots and the sidewalks have many pedestrian crosswalks making it easy to navigate.

Freeport Maine has much to offer beyond L.L. Bean, so why not make it a side trip?

Old Orchard Beach Maine

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Old Orchard Beach Maine is about 5 hours from Saratoga.  The trip there will take you through some spectacular countryside in Vermont and New Hampshire.  You will follow meandering creeks and see beautiful mountains, valley and covered bridges.  Fall folliage would no doubt be breathtaking.
But we went to Old Orchard Beach for Labor Day.  The beach itself is quaint with its pier, food shops on the sidewalk and an amusement park -- Palace Playland but like any beach its crowded.
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But not crowded like you would think.  Even though there were lots of people there was still room on the beach to spread a towel and soak up some sun -- however much sun there could be in Maine.
The pier houses several stores and restaurants that offer great views of the ocean.  The stores range from gift, souvenir stores to tattoo places.  And the restaurant  is expensive but offers a deck with an amazing view.
The food shops that line the sidewalk are usually crowded with people elbow to elbow trying to eat. The food ranges from hot dogs and sandwiches to pizza and seafood.
The amusement park was a lot larger than you would think, complete with the all the usual rides.  Prices are $1.25 per individual ticket (and each ride requires -5 tickets) or an all day pass for $27.95 which seems to be the best deal.  There is also an arcade with a nice variety of games to play and prizes to win, although big its very noisy.

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Old Orchard Beach is definitely a tourist spot.  Hotels and condos are all around the beach area as are campgrounds some within walking distance.  Parking is at a premium, some lots charging as much as $15 to park.  So I suggest finding a meter and filling it up.  If you like crowds, hustle and bustle and lots of people watching then I would say Old Orchard Beach would be a good choice.  But that's not all you can find there....

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Not far from the actual beach itself are a couple of state parks.  One is Two Light State Park -- although the lighthouses aren't accessible, the rocky shore makes for a nice, easy climb to get right down to the water; and an opportunity for some great photos.  Another state park that would be worth checking out is Crescent Beach State Park.  This park offers a beach, picnic area, swimming and fishing.  There is $6.50 charge per adult for non-Maine residents.
The Saco/Old Orchard Beach area is close to other spots that you can take as a day trip like Kennebunkport and Wells.  Kennebunkport is known for Walker's Point, the summer home of George Bush and his wife Barbara as well as a beautiful port and downtown.  Wells offers  the National Estuarine Research Reserve -- a 1600 acre research reserve great for wildlife enthusiasts.
Maine is a diverse and beautiful state with beaches, rocky coastlines, forests and wildlife.  It is one of my favorite vacation spots.  So if you are looking for a place relatively close by (5 hours or so) and would like a lot of choices as far as activities then try Maine.  Its still not too late to enjoy it.

Next time
Freeport Maine,  home of L.L. Bean

KOA at OOB

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For the last hoorah of summer we decided to camp in Maine, again (it is our favorite place) but we thought we would try some place different -- Old Orchard Beach otherwise known as OOB.  The attraction of camping for vacation as opposed to a hotel is that it  is one of the most economical ways to find lodging.  If you do your research you can usually find a nice private campground but most of the time its a crap shoot.
If you choose a KOA you pretty much know what you're getting -- clean bathrooms and showers, activities and most of the time a pool or mini golf and more than likely a pet friendly area.  But also with a KOA you're likely to get small sites which can be crowded and loud, you might be elbow to elbow with your neighbors and then there is the chance that you will hear airplanes, trains or traffic noise all night.  All of which is what happened to us.
When we got there Friday evening they wanted to put us into a tight site that was wedged between 3 sites, one on each side and one in back.  Needless to say it took some maneuvering to get the trailer into the spot in the dark, even though I made the reservations over the internet and told them the size of our camper.
Now most of the time we use our camping site just to sleep.  We pick a spot based on how close the campground is to the attractions we want to be near and then take our day trips from there.  But at this KOA there were some attractions that the girls wanted to do like the night time movie and the heated pool; that was one of the reasons we chose it.  But it shortcomings made it clear that won't be staying there again, not when there were other campgrounds more isolated and closer to the attractions, like the beach and the amusement park.
I do have to say that is was Labor Day Weekend and that every place was crowded but having to listen to maniacal laughter after 10 pm or airplanes flying low over head day and night, I would have rather have spent the extra money and stayed in a hotel.  According to the KOA website this campground was an award winner, but I'm not sure why they received those awards since it was obviously cramped to get the most campers in the smallest area, although they try to make it up with activities, they still need a lot of improvement.

Next time:
Old Orchard Beach   

Saratoga Polo Club

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Polo--what can I say about polo? I can tell you what I thought about polo-- that its a sport for the rich, a sport that would only appeal to the wealthy and snobbish.  But what I found polo to be was an exciting and adrenaline filled sport where you see the horses and players up close, where the action sometimes is just feet away from you.  A sport where you can see the determination on the player's face as well as the horse, a sport where some time the action is so close you can hear the crack of the mallet against the ball, and the ball some time comes close too when its hit out of bounds.

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I went last Friday evening to the polo match held at the polo grounds at the corner of Denton and Bloomfield Roads. For our first time we decided to try general admission, which is $25 a car load, a good value since most cars hold at least 5 people.  General admission is where you pull your car onto the sidelines of the polo field, most people back in just like at the drive in, and then you have an amazing, unobstructed view of the field.  Bring a picnic and some folding chairs and you are set for a couple of hours of exhilarating fun.

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Don't know anything about polo?  Don't worry, the announcer will explain the game as it goes along, so you won't be lost in the action.
Polo is played on Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday nights starting at 5:30 but you might want to get there a little early to get a prime spot.

This weekend John Walsh of America's Most Wanted and his team, Shamrock will be there to close the polo season.  If you have a AAA or a YMCA membership be sure to show your card for a $5 discount.
I've seen the signs for the Greenfield Farmer's Market for weeks, I've seen their ad in the little neighborhood paper, so I thought its time for me to check them out.
The farmer's market is only Friday afternoons from 4-7 p.m. so this Friday will be their last-- so better late than never-- right?  I pulled into a spot at the Middle Grove Park (at the corner of Middle Grove Rd and North Creek Rd) to find more cars than I expected at 4 in the afternoon.  I walked across the field to about 20 stands set up, selling everything from home grown vegetables, fruits, flowers, jams, jellies and pies to candles, soaps and crafts -- a good variety for such a small (or should I say intimate) farmer's market.

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One booth caught my eye.  It featured home baked goods by Teresa Alger who calls herself The LIttle Bakery in the Grove.  She had a nice variety of homemade pies, scones and breads but her real claim to fame is that everything she makes is from her own recipes and made with all organic fruit, her own free range eggs and natural honey.  Her sign boasts we never use chemicals or pesticides. She home roasts coffee.  I bought a loaf of bread which looked fantastic, and was.  Others were buying pies and lots of them at $13.00 a piece.

Next stop was the Saratoga Cookie Company. In business for the past 6 years the Saratoga Cookie Company bakes their cookies with only the freshest ingredients and made from scratch.  The cookies are all natural and butter based with no preservatives.

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Not only will you find them at the farmer's market but they do mail order as well.  The selection is huge as far as cookie varieties go, including the usual chocolate chip, along with white chocolate/ macadamia nut, M&M, and white chocolate chip, sugar cookies, decadent double chocolate (with walnuts or almonds, chocolate chips, white chocolate chips or peanut butter chips -- I tried the plain decadent double chocolate and wished I had another), along with peanut butter varieties and old fashioned oatmeal with raisins, (or cranberries--which my husband loved)--butterscotch chips or chocolate chips.  They also have snickerdoodles and ginger krinkles which I would think would be perfect at Christmas.  Shipping available for an additional cost for tins and gift baskets.  

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The owner's son A.J. has his own business too.  He sells fudge, toffee and water under the name of A.J.'s sweets, right next to his mom, a very enterprising young man.

There is a lot going on at the Greenfield Farmer's Market, great local produce, crafts and live music are featured.  So this Labor Day Weekend if you're looking for some fresh produce for your holiday cookout or sweet treats for anytime, visit the Greenfield Farmer's Market.  Easy to find with good deals!  Chat up the vendors and you never know-- you might make a new friend!

If you visit the Farmer's Market remember
This Friday is the last day.  They start up again in late June
Bring cash
All the produce is as fresh as you can get.  It's all grown locally in and around Greenfield.
The hours are 4-7 p.m.








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Kim Bernard

Moved to Saratoga from St Louis MO (home of The Gateway Arch, Baseball Cardinals and of course Anheuser-Busch) with my family for my husband's job. In the last 2 1/2 years we've had the opportunity to explore and discover day trips, hidden gems, along with some of the most beautiful, historic, interesting and curious places in New England. So come with me and look through a Midwesterner's eyes at Saratoga and beyond. I hope you enjoy your adventures and feel free to share yours and together we can feed our travel bug!