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

April 2011 Archives

Getting itchy feet


Today is another gloomy, rainy day. Even though the temperature is starting to rise I would still prefer more sun. I know, I know, April showers brings May flowers but it also brings floods, mold and other unpleasant things.
In anticipation of better weather I've been doing some research on fun outdoor things to do in Saratoga and the surrounding areas. I've come up with what I think are great options. I don't want to tip my hand right now but let's just say it has to do with water, fish and boats.
I'm always looking for more options so if anyone has a favorite outdoor activity please feel free to share.
Do you have a favorite campground? A favorite boat charter company? Or maybe another activity that you would like to share?

The National Museum of Dance in Saratoga Springs is celebrating its 25th anniversary.

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A variety of different dance styles are highlighted in the Hall of Fame with the museum and honors over 40 inductees among them-- Tommy Tune, Bob Fosse, Arthur Murray, Bill Robinson, Jerome Robbins and Martha Graham.
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The museum itself has a number of exhibits that include costumes and memorabilia from The American Ballet Theatre.
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It was amazing to stand so close to costumes that had been worn by dancers such as Ginger Rogers and M.C. Hammer.
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And with the recent popularity of the film The Black Swan you can be within touching distance of costumes of both male and female ballet dancers.

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The two exhibits I specifically went there for were the Dancing with Stars costumes and the Michael Jackson Tribute.  The Dancing with the Stars exhibit has costumes of not just the contestants but also the professionals.
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Pretty amazing! You can stand inches from them and see just how tiny these dancers really are!

The Michael Jackson Tribute has a display of memorabilia plus you can watch 5 of his most influential music videos including Thriller.  Will you be brave enough to have your photo taken with the zombies?

The National Museum of Dance has a little something for everyone -- even kids with the Alfred Z. Solomon Children's wing.  Here kids can play dress up and perform on a stage, create art or watch dvds.

The most unusual feature of the National
Museum of Dance is the fact that the building
housed a bathhouse -- The Washington Bathhouse.  To explain just how the bathhouse was used there is a video and 2 fully restored bathing rooms.
The National Museum of Dance is available for special events with spaces such as the Foyer and Courtyard that will seat from 150 to 250 people.  The Southwest Gallery that will 100 people and the Conference Room with a maximum capacity of 12 people.
The National Dance Museum and Hall of Fame is located at 99 South Broadway and their hours are:
Tuesday - Sunday 10 am - 4:30 pm during peak season
Admission is $6.50 for adults.  Seniors and students are $5
Children 12 and under are $3.  Children under 3 are free.  Admission is free to all museum members.  The museum is wheelchair accessible with free and ample parking.

I just came across this, this morning. I know that they do this every year but I didn't realize it came up so soon! And with the recent budget trouble I wasn't even sure they were going to have these special free days.
It's free admission days to National Parks!! From April 16th-24th.
For a complete list of National Parks offering free admission check out their website.
There are over 100 parks that are offering free admission during this week -- Saratoga National Battlefield being one of them.
If you need more planning time free admission days are also offered June 21st, September 24th, and November 11-13th.
If you can't make any of those dates there are 394 National Parks that NEVER have an entrance fee, some here in NY state.

I'll be heading out this weekend for a couple of day trips. First of all will be the Dance Hall of Fame and Museum in Saratoga Springs. The Hall of Fame has an exhibit honoring Michael Jackson that I'm really excited to see. I grew up with Michael Jackson's music and was a fan while all my friends were in love with Donny Osmond. Sorry Donny!
The exhibit is a roving one and will only be in Saratoga a few more months. Also The Hall of Fame has an exhibit of costumes from Dancing with the Stars, which I'm proud to say I've watched from the beginning. It will be cool to see just how many rhinestones there really are on those dresses!
On Sunday I'm not sure where I'll be traveling so if anyone has a suggestion then let me know -- actually for this week or any week. With the weather getting better I do want to get out and do more, but its tricky since most major attractions here are seasonal.
In the next couple of weeks I'll be taking a hot air balloon flight, chartering a boat on Lake George and possibly relaxing with a spa treatment at one of the mineral baths.
Oh yeah....on April 20th I'm going to the restocking of Geyser Creek in Spa State Park. Have never been but I've heard its a good time!
So come back and see the photos of the Dance Hall of Fame and read all about my weekend and share yours.

Carlo's bakery for those of you who don't know is located in Hoboken NJ and is the subject of a reality show called "The Cake Boss" on TLC. Carlo's Bakery is run by Buddy Valastro and his family. Buddy is a fourth generation accomplished baker as well as a master baker and cake decorator, so to say that he knows something about baking is an understatement.
Carlo's Bakery has been in the same location since 1920 and brings patrons from all over. While standing in line I heard one woman say she was from Texas and another say she was from California.
We went right before Thanksgiving (as part of our trip to meet Rachael Ray) and as you can see there was quite a line outside.
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We walked up to what we thought was the end of the line and was asked by someone else who was waiting if we were there to go to the bakery. We said yes. She pointed behind her and across the street. "There's the line." she said. The line was almost 2 blocks long. But there were bakery employees outside making sure that the line was orderly and moved as quickly as possible. We were probably in line for 45 minutes, and even though it was New Jersey in November it actually wasn't that bad outside.
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Once we got to the front door we were given a number and then we made it inside the bakery. The scent inside was heavenly - like sugar but not overpowering.
The bakery was crowded with people waiting for their number to be called and other people ordering. Behind the counters employees scurried back and forth -- filling orders as quickly as they could from people wanting cookies, cupcakes, cakes and holiday pies. I wasn't really sure what to order so I'm glad that we actually had some time before our number was called, giving me a chance to look at all the pastries, cakes and cookies available. I had a request for cannolis from my daughter and cookies from my son, so we settled on 2 pounds of cookies, 12 cannolis, 4 lobster tails (which are pastries that look like a lobster tail but are filled with the most luscious cream) and a Happy Thanksgiving chocolate, chocolate cake.
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In my humble opinion Carlo's Bakery is not cheap - everything we bought came close to $100. But the quality is superb and everything was beyond delicious!! I wanted the whole experience and even though we were a couple hours from home everything made it back just fine. That is until we actually got it back and the pastries and cookies started to disappear. I remembered a tip from the man we met in line at the book signing -- if you put the pastries or cookies in a ziploc bag, then into a plastic container they will last up to 2 weeks. That is if no one gets to them first!
I really enjoyed the lobster tail. It reminded me of a pastry we used to get in St. Louis called a cream horn, but this pastry was a lot bigger and the pastry itself was a lot lighter.
The cookies were buttery and melt in your mouth good! Not sure how many adjectives I can come up with to describe the deliciousness of all the products we got at Carlo's.
Was t worth the trip? Well we were nearby anyway --but YES! Would I go back? Most definitely, even if its just to go the bakery and no other reason.
So the next time you go on a day trip or even just take someone to the airport, why not try a new restaurant, bakery or other point of interest? And if you do you might want to invest in a GPS! Lastly, I'd like to apologize for the quality of these photos. They were taken with my phone and takes crappy pics.

I Met Rachael Ray


As many of you may know Rachael Ray is from the Saratoga Springs area, at least from some where around Saratoga Springs. Anyway.... she recently came out with a new cookbook -- Look + Cook-- which features photos for every step in the recipes along with access to online videos minus commercial breaks so that you can see exactly how to make the recipes. So its virtually foolproof.
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Well there are 3 things that I dearly love.... 1. writing, 2. cooking and 3. travel .... so I took the opportunity to combine all 3 of these things by going to Connecticut and meeting Rachael herself at a book signing. I ordered the book online (also got one for my niece Laura who is a HUGE Rachael fan) from R.J. Julia's website. They held the books there until we got there the day before the signing. We decided to make it a late anniversary trip and got a room in the inn across the street from the bookstore. No way was I going to stay somewhere that wasn't within walking distance of the bookstore and risk getting lost. The inn was part of a restaurant and bar called The Inn at Lafayette. There were only 5 rooms that were much nicer in the pictures and description on the website. Since it was part of the restaurant and bar, it was very noisy and we were able to hear just about every word coming up through the floor from the bar below.

But it was across the street from the bookstore and Madison Connecticut is a picturesque little town so I was willing to deal with the accommodations. We arrived on Friday night and the book signing was the next day at 2 pm. We got continental breakfast with our room which was served at the coffee shop across the street, stale bagels and muffin and mediocre coffee....but while there we heard someone say that people were already lining up for the book signing, so we finished quickly and went to the bookstore. Outside were a man and his mother, then 2 sisters (one had her daughter with her) so we were essentially 3rd in line!! One of the sisters was nice enough to loan us a camp chair that she had in her car, which was a good thing since it was 9:30 and the book signing started at 2! While we were waiting (and freezing) we learned that the man in the front of the line is an avid celebrity hound and used to be a body guard for some pretty famous wrestlers and he has met some pretty famous people among them was Beyonce. During the conversation I found out about Carlo's bakery in Hoboken, the home of the Cake Boss and Buddy Valastro. He gave directions and it turned out that it wasn't that far from Madison so we thought that we would try it on Sunday on the way home. But that's another story...
The time started to pass and the line grew longer and longer. I was really glad that I decided to pre-order my books and get in line when we did. Finally came the time to meet Rachael. Someone from the bookstore came along and asked us who she was to make the book out to, then she wrote in on post it note and put it in the book, the book was then opened to the page she was going to sign. I had planned in my head every thing that I was going to say, I knew I didn't have much time since there were no photos allowed and I only had 2 books to be signed.
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I told her that we drove from Saratoga Springs and she smiled that big Rachael smile and said "Hey neighbor!" The man standing on the side who I assume was some sort of security asked if we were driving back today. I told him that we are staying at the Inn across the street. While she was signing Laura's book I told her that Laura is a big fan and that when she came to visit we took her to some of Rachael's favorite places like Oscar's Smokehouse (then she gave me a high five and said "Isn't Oscar's awesome!") and Hick's Apple Orchard (which warranted another high five!).
After she was done signing my books I told her "We only waited 4 1/2 hours, no big deal." After hearing that she grabbed and patted my hand. I told her my hands are cold and she said "I'll warm them up for you." and rubbed my hand between hers. It was so nice to meet the person that I watch on tv day after day and find out that she as genuine in person as she is on screen. And yes, it was worth the 4 1/2 hour wait even though our meeting was about 2 minutes long. The one thing that I wished I would have told her was that this trip was to celebrate our 21st wedding anniversary! Maybe then we would have gotten a photo with her.
Now onto the cookbook itself. The title is Look + Cook and is perfect for the novice cook. There are 600 photos that take you step by step through every recipe. I'm not a novice cook but I still tried the recipes and found them to be easy and quite tasty. My husband and son are fans of Rachael's recipes as am I for the flavors and ease of preparation. My only complaint is that some of the ingredients can be pricey and a little difficult to find. I've tried a good portion of the recipes in the cook book, among those that are favorites are Knife and Fork Burgers with Stewed Vegetable Gravy (p. 201) which is a frequent request. Double-Bacon-Beer-Braised Cheeseburgers (p. 218) also known as the Adirondacker. Bocconcini Stuffed Meatballs with Tomato-Pesto Sauce (p 181) which is a favorite of mine. Like Rachael says: "What's better than big roasted meatballs wrapped around fresh mozarella cheese?" There is also Crispy Curried Fried Chicken (p. 151), Pork Chops Pizzaiola (p. 147) Crispy Parm-Crusted Fillet of Fish & Buttery Bow Ties with Peas (p. 136), French Onion & Wild Mushroom Soup (p. 86) Steakhouse Chili Pot (p. 76) and Paprika Chicken with Egg Noodles (p. 41). Those are only the ones I've tried so far!
To sum it up, I love the cook book, the recipes and Rachael! The only thing that would make the cookbook perfect would be for it to be spiral bound so that it lies flat to make it easier to follow the photos.

The Saratoga Traveler is back. I hope my previous readers will find me.

This time the blog will have a little different focus. It seems silly to say why a travel blog is a travel blog but I'm going to anyway. Many people are like me. They love to travel, they love to explore new places. Some are adventurous, others... not so much. I like to discover places that might not be well known or might be well known but have been forgotten about in the course of our busy lives. That's what this blog is about: finding or rediscovering places in the Saratoga Springs area and the Northeast. Places that maybe you went to as a kid but haven't been back to. Places that you've always meant to see but just haven't been able to fit into your busy schedule, or places that you've been curious about and just never got around to seeing.

The Saratoga Traveler isn't just about things in Saratoga. I'll explore and write about places in the Northeast that maybe you've heard of and maybe you haven't. Being from the Midwest where its a day's drive to just about anywhere I was so surprised that I could travel to some of the greatest points in American history or to places that I saw on a TV show and see them for myself in a day trip or weekend.

I might review a local business, restaurant or store. I might review a business, restaurant or store that I come across while traveling. I might travel outside the Northeast and even outside the United States.

This blog will be fresh and new. This blog will be interesting and informative. This blog will be FULL of photos. And hopefully this blog will be one that you come back to again and again. I'm always looking for new places to explore, so share your favorites. Make a comment too. The more I hear from you the better the blog will be.
So let's go on this ride together and feed our travel bug.

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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!