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

September 2011 Archives


After looking over our itinerary I noticed that we were going to visit a farm.  That's great, I like farms.  But Sprout Creek Farm is no common farm.  Yes, they have cows, goats and chickens.  Sure, they make cheese from milk and gather the multicolored eggs.  Yes, they have gardens that grow seasonal vegetables and trees that grow fruits.  But where they differ from other farms is that they allow you to participate in the experience.  Sprout Creek Farm is not only a working farm but also an educational center that offers programs for children and adults.  Through these programs children learn all about life on the farm, by living it firsthand.  They will be able to feed and milk the cows and goats.  Gather eggs from the hens.  Harvest vegetables from the garden.  All the while learning cooperation, recycling and ecology in the guise of good, clean fun. Well, sometimes not so clean. 

The programs are age appropriate and run in the summer and also throughout the school year.  Sprout Creek Farm has a relationship with many schools all over the country.  Margo met us at the market where they sell cheese and other products.  Through a window in the door between the barn and the market we could see the cows, along with a mom and a new calf, born that morning.  

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 The tour began with us walking around the farm and some of the gardens. We walked over to the "cottage" which can be used by parents whose children are taking part in one of the longer programs. The cottage can also be rented by the week for those looking for an unusual getaway.  The inside is clean and simple but comfortable.    

 As we walked around the farm, Margo pointed out a structure made out of branches that were hand shaped, this was made by the teenagers during one of their stays.  During this project they had to learn to measure, shape, and cooperate with each other to complete the project. The complete pergola is quite impressive, with vines planted around it to and benches for sitting and taking in the view on a clear, warm day. 

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 As we passed the patio area we saw the orchard of pear trees (I love to see pears hanging from a tree, they look so cute!), but this orchard had a special significance: it was donated by a family of a young man who died before he could fulfill his dream of being an organic farmer.  

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 At the far end of the farm was the hen house which houses different breeds of chickens. I noticed an Americana hen, the ones that colored eggs: different shades of blues and greens.

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We also took a trip to the goat barn and the cow barn where were we saw that it was milking/feeding time.

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In the garden area, participants will learn how to grow vegetables for the right time of year, how to start seeds and even how to cook and preserve the vegetables that grow on the farm.  One program offers third graders where they grow vegetables and tend them. By the end of program they are in 4th grade and harvest the vegetable to make soup.  Gardening is fickle.  Sometimes you have lots of greens and sometimes all that survives is root vegetables. The kids make soup out of whatever is available, another life lesson.

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Back at the market we could view them making cheese and got a rundown on the types available culminating in a cheese tasting.

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To receive more information about the programs at Sprout Creek Farm you can call or go to their website.

 


I just spent the most incredible weekend in Dutchess County doing some amazing things, and you can too. My itinerary went like this:

Friday:
Tour of The Vanderbilt Mansion
Tour of FDR's house and museum
Sprout Creek Farm
Walkway over the Hudson
Dinner at Brasserie 292

Saturday:
Cooking class at the CIA in Hyde Park

I want to give each place their own entry because I think they all deserve more than just a few words. So in the next few days I'll be writing about my experiences at each place with details and photos. First, here's a little background about Hyde Park NY.....

Hyde Park is about 2 hours south of Saratoga Springs near Poughkeepsie. It's home to the Culinary Institute of America as well as Dutchess College and Marist College. It was the boyhood home of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, his beloved Springwood Farm. It is also the place where the Vanderbilts built their vacation home, where they visited during the spring and fall. But more about that later. Hyde Park is along the banks of the Hudson River providing lots of opportunities for outdoor activities, like picnicking, biking and hiking along with sport fishing and boating. The best way to see and learn about the river is to visit the Walkway over the Hudson, where you'll see great views up and down the river as well as learn about the river and the bridge's history from one of the knowledgeable ambassadors, but more about this and other activities in later blog posts.

We got up early Friday morning for the drive to Hyde Park. According to our GPS the fastest way was to take the through way and pay tolls, so that's what we did. I think any way you go it's about 2 ½ hours. We got to the Vanderbilt Mansion at just past 10 am, a little late for the tour but the Park Ranger got us caught up and united us with the rest of the tour. Since this was our first stop in Hyde Park this is where I'll start.

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A Little History

The Vanderbilt name is synonymous with wealth and power.  In Hyde Park Frederick and Louise Vanderbilt built their mansion on a cliff above the Hudson River.  Frederick, the son of Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt (the creator and founder of the Staten Island Ferry) took his inheritance of $10 million and increased it to $70 million by the time he died, unlike his siblings who squandered their inheritance.  Fredrick and Louis Vanderbilt never had any children so the mansion and land was left to their niece, Margaret Van Allen.  She didn't want to be responsible for this huge amount of land and the mansion so she tried to sell the $5 million property for $2 ¼  million.  It was during the depression so there were no takers.  She lowered the price to $350,000, then to $250,000 still with no interest. In 1940 she asked President Roosevelt to make the property into a National Park and sells it to the government for $1.  

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The Mansion

When Frederick first bought the property it had neglected so the grounds required a lot of restoration.  The home they built was in the Greek Revival style of architecture.  The inside was furnished with imported furnishings from Europe.  The only piece that was American made was the piano in parlor (west end) and this piece was sent to Europe to be made more European in style.  

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The Tour

First stop on the tour will be the entrance hall.  From here you can see that the rooms are set up almost like spokes on a wheel.  You will be free to move from room to room, however you won't be allowed to go into the rooms or take any photographs.  Even from standing in the doorway you will be able to get the feeling of the grandness of the interior.  After looking into the rooms on the first floor, your guide will gather you in the entrance hall and give you a little history about the Vanderbilts and the rooms on the first floor.  If you have any questions the guide (ours was Chris) will be happy to answer them.  Then it's up to the second floor, which has guest rooms one was called the Honeymoon suite and another was for married couples.  The bedroom for the married couple is covered with sheets to demonstrate what the rooms would look like in the off-season when the Vanderbilts weren't using the house.  But these weren't just ordinary sheets, they were hand sewn.  On the second floor were Frederick and Louise's bedrooms.  They each had their own bedroom - Louise's is a direct copy of Marie Antoinette's bedroom and Frederick's has a crown on the ceiling and one over the bed.  His bed has columns that are hand- carved.  Be sure to (if you can) take a long look at both bedrooms, the furnishings are amazing as are the walls and the ceiling.  Our tour guide on the way up and the way down the stairs, urged us to use the handrail.  I wasn't really sure why until I did.  At one point the handrail was covered in velvet!  You can still feel it although most of it has been worn away over the years.

From there we were taken to the basement which housed the ice box, the kitchen and butlers' quarters.  The servants were treated well for that time in history.  They were paid between $1.50-$2.50 a day and also had a health plan.  When Frederick died he had 57 names in his will and 33 of them were servants.  They were left anywhere from $1,000 to quarter of a million dollars.

If you use your imagination you can feel the hustle and bustle that once filled this house, with party guests and servants.  The swishing of the ladies in their full skirts, the smell of cigar smoke as the men gathered after dinner to discuss business.  The air filled with music and laughter.  It was a grand time in history and seeing this mansion just as it was gives you the feeling and understanding of what a grand time it was.


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If you plan on visiting the Vanderbilt Mansion schedule at least an hour, longer if you plan on walking the grounds.  I recommend walking to the Italianate gardens and snapping some photos.  Also since there are no photos allowed inside, take full advantage of the exterior of the house, it's almost as grand as the interior, the ornate carvings and the incredible river view also makes for some stunning photos.


Tours of the mansion are run seven days a week from 9 am to 5 pm. The cost is $8 a person, 15 and under are free.  To visit the grounds is also free.  There are limited tours from November to March so if you plan to visit then, you should call ahead.

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My Trip to Dutchess County

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First a BIG THANK YOU

I've been spending the most amazing day in Dutchess County NY.  I have to send a big THANK YOU out to Nancy Lutz of Dutchess County Tourism.  She put together the perfect itinerary for our first tip to the area.

In the next few posts I'll be writing specifically about the places we visited which include:

The Vanderbilt Mansion

FDR's Home and Museum

Sprout Creek Farm

Walkway Over The Hudson State Park

Brasserie 292

In this post I would like to specifically thank:

Margo from Sprout Creek Farm for taking us on a tour of the farm and introducing us to the cows and goats and for the cheese tasting after.

Joyce at the Walkaway Bridge for the tour and history of the bridge

Chris and Jean the tour guides at The Vanderbilt Mansion and The FDR home, respectively.

And to Chris at Brasserie 292 for the hospitality and the amazing meal.

Tomorrow I'll be taking a class at the CIA for the first time and I have to admit, I'm excited and a little nervous.  I'm a home cook with no formal training, so I hope I can keep up.  I'll post another specific entry about my experience there.  But for now I'd like to thank Jay Blotcher for the opportunity to take this class.  It's an experience I'm sure it will be one I won't soon forget.

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September Fun

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It's September and the weather is turning cooler which means lots of outdoor activities.  Even though summer is over and so is track season that doesn't mean that you can't find fun and interesting things to do all over Saratoga.

Wine, Food and Ferraris

If you're into food and wine, why not check out The Wine Food and Ferrari Festival being held at SPAC this weekend, Sept 10-11th.  There will be wines, gourmet food and exotic cars--an unbeatable combination.

Want Some Cheese with That Wine?

Not into wine? Then how about some cheese?  This weekend is the Washington County Cheese Tour and I have to admit, I've been waiting for this one!  It's a driving tour of 5 different dairy farms in Washington County.  The farms are located close enough to each other so that you can visit more than one, and the tour lasts for two days.  So if you don't get to one of the farms one day then you can visit the next!   The tour is free but there is an enhanced experience that includes actual cheese making and other special events.  Associate membership is required and cost $75. Guess I'll have to wait for next year for that!


Are You a Leaf Peeper?

Bring your camera, there should be lots of photo opportunities on the way to the farms and at the farms themselves.  It is close to peak fall foliage time.  Which brings me to my next fall activity....

Then taking in fall foliage in the Adirondacks will be for you!  There are several driving trips that will give you plenty of opportunities to take some stunning photos of mountains ablaze in color.  You can drive by lush farm fields and expansive lakesides.  Here is a list of the most popular driving routes for fall foliage:

 

Prospect Mountain Memorial Highway and 100-Mile View 

For 100-Mile View:

Take I-87 to exit 21, travel 1 mile north on Rte 9, left at the state highway entrance.

For the Prospect Mountain Hiking Trail

To reach the trail from Lake George Village, turn let on Montcalm St. to Smith St.; turn south ½ block the trailhead sign. 

 

Warrensburg to Indian Lake on Rte 28

Head northwest on Rte 28 over the Hudson River, through Wevertown and North Creek, along the Hudson River.  There are several overlooks to take in the view.  And while in the Indian Lake region why not take in the village for lunch.  There are some very good restaurants in the village and if you're there early morning or early evening you just might see a moose.  The Great Adirondack Moose festival will be held in Indian Lake on September 24th and 25th and should prove to be a good time, with lots of family friendly activities.

 

Lake George and Hague on Rte 9N

If you exit the Northway at Exit 22 to Route 9 north you can drive along the Lake George shoreline through Diamond Point and Bolton Landing.  If you continue on Route 9N over Tongue Mountain to Silver Bay.  Here you can stop at another state overlook for another amazing view. The drive then continues to Hague.

 

Brant Lake to Hague on Rte 8

If you travel I-87 to exit 25 then go east on Rte 8 to Brant Lake you can drive along the shoreline.  Continue on Rte 8 through Pharaoh Wilderness and Dixon Forest.  You can see some incredible views of Lake George from Town Park in the village of Hague.

Lake George to Chestertown on Rte 9 

From I-87 take exit 2 north on Rte 9 through Warrensburg to Chestertown about 7 miles past the junction of Rtes 9 and 28.  Along the way there is some beautiful forest scenery.  If you take the left turn at the junction of Rte 8 and 9 stay on Rte 9, it will take you around Loon Lake.

 

For other road trips don't forget about some of the other regions here in Upstate. 

 

1. The Leatherstocking Region

Which includes Glimmerglass Lake and Cooperstown

2. Adirondacks Region

This includes Lake Placid where you can see not only breathtaking scenery but also the Olympic training venues.  Also closer to home, there are areas in and around Saratoga Springs that will have some fantastic fall foliage views.  Don't forget Crown Point, Ticonderoga and Lake Champlain.

Pick a Peck of Apples

Looking for a family friendly activity that won't keep the kids cooped up in the car too long or looking to stretch your legs while leaf peeping?  Then try one of the many apple orchards here in the area.

Here's a list of just a few of the many orchards close to home:

1. Bowman Orchards in Rexford

Offers you pick, roadside stand, farmer's market, cider and special events

2. Charlton Road Orchard in Ballston Lake

Offers roadside stand

3. Devoe's Rainbow Orchards in Clifton Park

Offers you pick, and roadside stand

4. Lakeside Cider Mills Farms in Ballston Lake

Offers farm market, cider, and country store

5. Lindsey's Country Store in Clifton Park

Offers roadside stand, farm market and cider

6. Saratoga Apple in Schuylerville

Offers roadside stand, you pick, farm market and cider



As fall goes on there will be more posts about things to do in and around Saratoga.

If you have a favorite thing to do in the fall months please feel free to share.

Have a place you've been curious about?

Been to a place that was so amazing you want to share?

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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!