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

Kim B: May 2011 Archives

This might sound just a little bit silly but I've been tweeting with the Fabulous Beekman Boys. Don't know who they are? They are two city boys who moved to Upstate NY to start a goat farm and they have a show on Planet Green. Josh Kilmer-Purcell and his partner Brent Ridge moved to Sharon Springs NY and bought an old farm called that Beekman Mansion. The show on Planet Green is part documentary, part comedy and all heart. The Fabulous Beekman Boys chronicles the lives of these two urbanites trying to make a go of it as gentleman farmers, raising goats, making soap and cheese and trying to get far enough ahead that Josh can quit his 9-5 advertising job in Manhattan.
But the show isn't all about them. Its also about the little town of Sharon Springs NY which is about an hour from Saratoga, near Cooperstown. In one of my tweets I told them that we are planning a trip to Sharon Springs so that I can write a piece for my blog. They tweeted back that we should come for The Garden Festival on Memorial Day weekend and invite all of Saratoga Springs to come too. So that's what I'm doing.... Everyone in Saratoga Springs now has an official invitation to come to Sharon Springs this weekend for the Garden Festival courtesy of the Fabulous Beekman Boys!!! Explore the town, get a bite to eat at one of the great restaurants and meet over 40 artisans that call Sharon Springs home. The event runs both Saturday and Sunday from 10-5. Brent will be at the Mercantile (the shop they own called The Beekman 1802) and Josh will be at the farm giving tours (tickets had to be purchased in advance and sorry to say I missed this) so I'm hoping to get to have at least a brief conversation with Brent while I'm picking out my soap!
There are lots of things to do in the Sharon Springs area and Schoharie County and its close enough that you can go back to explore and explore. So come to Sharon Springs - hope to see you all there!!


I understand that many, many people come to Saratoga Springs for the horse racing. I'm not so naive that I don't realize that it's a big, big draw for the area. I've been here for over 4 years and I know the Saratoga Race Course is a great part of the area but it's not the only reason to come to Saratoga Springs. In my next few posts I thought I would give some information about what you can find to do here in Saratoga and the surrounding area if you're planning a trip here.


Let's start with the basics:

Saratoga Springs is known for Horses, Health and History so let's start there. I won't go into a lot of detail but here's a little background The town of Saratoga Springs was founded in 1826 as a village. In 1864 the Saratoga Race Course was established. But that's not the only sport we have here that involves horses. Saratoga Springs is also home to Saratoga Polo Club, which holds its matches in the summer from July through August. Polo may not sound as exciting as horse racing and believe me I was skeptical myself, but after going to a match I have to say, it was surprising, fun and thrilling all the at the same time. In the archives of this blog I have a post written about my evening at the polo match.

DSC_0523.JPG

Thumbnail image for DSC_0523.JPG
DSC_0536.JPG









If you like to get more up close and personal like say, going horseback riding then there is plenty of that too.  A little too up and close and personal? Then why not try one of the most unique experiences here in Saratoga Springs (actually Lake Luzerne) The Painted Pony.  Not only will you experience a real western rodeo but also a BBQ buffet!  I haven't been to the rodeo myself but it's on "my not to miss list" for the summer.  The rodeo starts on July 1st and tickets are $14 for adults (rodeo only) and $26 including the BBQ buffet, children's tickets are $8 (rodeo only) and $14 including buffet.  The rodeo starts on July 1st and runs every Wednesday, Friday and Saturday until Labor Day.  If the rodeo seems a little too wild for you or you just don't think your kids would be into it, there's always the carousel in Congress Park.  The carousel is made of wood and dates back to 1910.  Your little ones can ride for only a buck!  The carousel opened on May 7th this year and will be open until Columbus Day.
You've checked out all the horse based activities here in Saratoga and still want more?  Then it's time to visit Saratoga Casino and Raceway.  What does a casino have to do with horse racing?  Not only can you play slots but you can watch live harness racing. Have seat in Fortunes, order dinner and watch harness racing while you eat.  Not into harness racing? Saratoga Casino and Racing offers over 1700 slots, a two story Vegas-style night club and a variety of options for eating including The Garden Buffet, Lucky Joe's and a deli; to offer adult beverages there are three bars.
That's a brief overview of the "Horses" part of the Saratoga Springs motto.  Next time: Health or as I would say,"Spa day anyone?"

Between Saratoga Springs and Lake George is a small town called Glens Falls. The main street is lined with shops, restaurants, the public library, banks, churches and hotels, everything you would need for a good life. But east of downtown is a hidden gem, maybe not hidden to those who live in Glens Falls but still a gem. It's called The Hyde Collection. The Hyde Collection is not your typical art gallery. It houses more than 3,000 paintings, drawings, sculptures and other art objects that were collected by Louis and Charlotte Hyde. How did such an extensive and impressive collection that includes Degas, Picasso, Renoir, Whistler, Winslow Homer, Van Gogh and Cezanne come to Glens Falls? Charlotte Pruyn (whose father was the founder of Finch Pruyn & Co. paper mill located in Glens Falls) met Louis Hyde and they married in 1901, six years later they moved to Glens Falls. Louis was made Vice President of the paper company and Charlotte along with her two sisters built adjoining revival style homes that encompassed seven acres over looking the bluffs of the Hudson River. Louis and Charlotte shared a love of art and their collection grew and was influenced by trips to Europe, Boston and New York and with the aid of noted art connoisseurs their collection became quite extensive.
The entrance to the gallery looks very much like any modern art gallery. You are greeted by a volunteer who will ask how many admissions you need, there is an $8 (recommended) donation. After you pay you will learn the layout of the gallery. Now on display in the Charles R. Wood gallery is the juried show in which thousands of entries were narrowed down to 100 by a panel of jurors. The entries are by local high school art students in a variety of medium. Walking through the exhibit the amount of talent that was on the walls and in the cases was astounding. Self portraits done in a variety of media- pencil, ball point pen, pastels, charcoal....digital photographs that were amazing in their composition....sculptures and paintings all look like they were created by someone way beyond the years of a high school student.

To the right of the entrance is the Hyde House which was restored in 2004 to its historic period. Walking into the Hyde House portion of the museum is true step back in time. The solarium where art classes were taught in the 1940's has massively high ceilings and doors that open out on to the courtyard. Off of the solarium there are two smaller rooms, one a library that holds some amazing paintings ( the Rembrandt that usually hangs in this room is on loan to the Louvre!). From there you can go upstairs. Be sure to pay attention to the stained glass window at the top of the stairs. One of the volunteers pointed something very interesting and quite surprising about it. The stained glass window depicts a scene with priests and an alter. There is a lamp hanging above the alter in the stained glass window. The volunteer asked if we saw the lamp hanging above the alter in the window. We said yes. He said, now turn around. The lamp that was in the stained glass window was hanging from the ceiling over the stairs! The Hyde Collection is full of little gems like that. A Picasso that is hanging in Mrs. Hyde's bedroom is actually painted over an existing painting. At the time he painted it Picasso was very poor and reused canvases. If you look carefully at the top of the man's head in the painting you can see the outline of a woman's face coming through from underneath. In one of the other bedrooms is a Renoir painting of what looks like a little girl -- long hair feminine clothing and even a bow- but it turns out that it was Renoir's son!

In the music room are the most amazing pieces. Take some time to really appreciate the tapestries and sculptures from 1400 and 1500 - some older. Pieces of artwork that you would expect to see in a museum and not displayed in someone's home. I think that what I liked best about the Hyde Collection - it didn't feel like a "museum" but rather that you were walking through someone's home and admiring their collection and its a rather impressive collection.

If you would go to your left once you enter the museum you will go into the gift shop and then down the stairs. There you will find an art studio where they hold art drop off classes where children from 6-12 can be dropped off from 1:30-4:40 on Wednesday during the school year. There is also an orientation film that will give you a little bit of history of the Hyde Collection and runs on a 12 minute loop.

The museum hosts a number of special events with includes films, lectures and family programs.
The Hyde Collection is a great place to wander around and marvel at the imagination and creativity of humankind, of the longevity of man-made pieces of art. It makes a nice respite on a rainy, gloomy day, but if you decide to visit on a nice day, be sure to take in the gardens and the sculptures outside.
If art can be intimidating to you there are docents led tours available on Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday at 2 and 3 pm or if you prefer you can take a self guided tour through your cell phone or borrow one of the MP3 players at the program desk in the foyer. To make the museum experience more family friendly they offer "family kits" which can also be borrowed from the program desk. These colorful kits can be used to teach children different ways to view and enjoy the works of art they see.

There will be a new exhibit in the Charles R. Wood Gallery as the juried show comes to a close. The new exhibit is called New York, New York, the 20th Century will open June 11th. The Hyde Collection is located at 161 Warren Street in Glens Falls. They are open Tuesday through Friday from 11 am - 4 pm and on the weekends from noon - 5 pm.

Looking for something to do this weekend? Lake George has lots of things happening this weekend among them is the Thurman Townwide Yard Sale that will have over 100 yard sales. Maps can be picked up at the Thurman Town Hall or just follow the "Hot Pink" signs. Thurman is 6 miles from Northway exit 23. Be sure to gas up in Warrensburg since there are no gas stations in Thurman. Not into yard sales? Check out one of the many farmers' markets in the area, or if you're looking for something a little more physically active to do how about a hike? There are several hiking trails around Lake George that range from difficult to easy. Some of them are on the east side of the lake: Buck Mountain (difficult), Black Mountain (difficult), Sleeping Beauty Mountain Loop (moderate) and Shelving Rock Falls (easy) and some trails lead to waterfalls--Lakeshore trails and Warren County bikeway are both easy trails. Some of the more difficult trails will have the more spectacular views, one being French Point Mountain located in the Tongue Mountain Range. A waterfall greets you at the beginning of your hike on a trail that has an almost continuous views of the lake. If you chose to hike at the French Point Mountain or the much easier Deer Leap trail beware that rattlesnakes are found in this area.
Weather not nice enough for a hike? Why not try one of the many indoor activities at Lake George? Bowling, a spa treatment, shopping or ever take in a movie or visit a museum -- even if its Dr. Morbid's Haunted House or Frankenstein's Wax Museum.
As for me, I'll be in Sharon Springs if the weather cooperates. Sharon Springs is near Cooperstown and Glimmerglass State Park and is a quaint town full of shops and restaurants. Now if the weather doesn't cooperate, I'm not sure but the spa sounds good....

P5070007.JPG


Saturday was a Spring day like most-- sunny then cloudy, then sprinkles that turn into showers. The sidewalk in front of the Saratoga Farmers' Market was filled with people on foot, pushing strollers and even on bikes. Opening day looked like it was going to be a great success. White topped booths stood along the sidewalk filled with everything from flowers, farm fresh cheese and veggies to baked goods and grass fed beef.


P5070003.JPG

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for P5070002.JPG
Going to a farmers' market is a good way to get a feel for the culture of the city or town you visit.  How friendly the people are, what grows locally, how expensive the products are and even what types of things are being sold--ready-made food, dry goods and textiles can sometimes be found. At the Saratoga Farmers' Market there is a good variety of products to choose from, even this early in the year.  There were several booths that sold cheese, mostly goat cheese.  If you're new to goat cheese don't be afraid to ask for a sample.  Most if not all proprietors will be happy to let you sample their products.  Since I'm new to goat cheese I tried a sample.  The goat cheese was smooth and slightly tangy.

P5070010.JPG
"I'll take one of those and one of those."  While chatting up the proprietor of Sweet Spring Farm, Jeffrey Bowers, where we bought our cheese, he told me of another event that would make a perfect day trip.  Its the cheese tour and it takes place in Washington County during the second weekend in September.  On the tour which is tentatively set for September 10th and 11th this year, will not only be Sweet Spring Farm but also 4 other farms including one on the NY/VT border.  It's a self driving tour, the farms are within 20 miles of each other so its possible to visit more than one.  While on the tour you will be able to visit the cheese making facilities, pet the animals and of course buy cheese.
The clouds started to thicken and a few sprinkles began to fall.  The sounds of a local band, Running the River, filled the air with Johnny Cash, The Beatles and The Rolling Stones as people scurried to get under the pavilion and the rain came down harder.
P5070008.JPG
At the end of the sidewalk was Wildthings Rescue Nursery run by Dawn Foglia. Dawn specializes in native New York plants grown from seeds and cuttings.  
P5070011.JPG
Her booth was lined with potted plants along with baskets with mixed herbs from her nursery located about 25 miles south of Saratoga near Schaghticoke NY.  I picked out a basket of my favorite herbs for my kitchen windowsill.
P5070018.JPG












Once the rain stopped we headed toward another booth that caught our eye - The Lewis Waite Farm from Jackson NY.  This 450 acre family run farm offers not only 100% grass fed beef and natural, pastured pork but lamb, chevron, chicken, duck, rabbit and turkey along with other products that can be purchased through a CSA program.  CSA is short for community supported agriculture which is a way for farms to distribute their foods directly on a weekly or monthly basis.  It allows people to buy a variety of goods from local farms and pick them up at one location.
P5070013.JPG
The front of their booth was filled with blue coolers that had been filled with ground beef and other beef cuts, bones for dogs and pork.  If you would like to buy from them at the market it's strongly suggested that you go there early, they sell out quickly.
We ended our shopping trip by picking up some sourdough bread from West Village Cafe.  It was a difficult decision with all the fresh baked, handmade pastries, cookies and breads.  We planned on snacking on our purchases so we went with the sourdough.  
P5070004.JPG
Somehow we just couldn't pass up buying one more thing on the way to the car -- lettuce-- a whole flat!  Different varieties - butter crunch, salad bowl and red leaf which has all been planted in our garden.
P5100020.JPG








Saratoga Farmers' Market is a vibrant, bustling place that gets better as the season progresses.  It's open on Wednesdays from 3 pm-6 pm and Saturdays from 9 am-1 pm and runs from May through October at the High Rock location and in the winter months at Division Street Elementary School from November-April on Saturdays from 9 am-1 pm.  If you're visiting Saratoga Springs and are staying at one of the many hotels or B&Bs you can grab enough goodies for an impromptu lunch (including wine and apples that are also sold at the market) and head over to Spa State Park.  Visit, chat and learn where your food comes from.  Its best to buy local.

Here we go!! The video is uploaded so on with the post....

I'm not a very adventurous person. I like to keep grounded. I like to keep both feet on the ground and my head out of the clouds. I like to keep my feet on the ground while I reach for the stars....okay.....enough of that. That's the way I used to feel before I felt the freeing, floating feeling of hot air balloon flight. I wasn't really sure this was for me, although I thought it might be fun. So I contacted Mike Hernandez of Carried Away Balloon Flights.

  P5010112.JPG









We emailed back and forth looking for the right day with the right conditions. Being first timers Mike wanted it to be perfect for us and he couldn't have picked a better one, a warm Spring evening with clear skies and light winds.

P5010069.JPG

P5010095.JPG













After the crew set up the balloon Capt. Mike gave us a briefing of what to expect on take off and landing.  Sounded simple enough. He likened take off to a slow ride on an elevator and I have to say that's pretty much how it was. 
From the take off site we flew over Glens Falls and toward Queensbury.
Thumbnail image for P5010105.JPG
P5010108.JPG
Floating at 1600 feet it feels as though you aren't moving but when you look down you can see that you are.  We flew over neighborhoods and schools, barking dogs and cheering people on the ground. The houses lined up on the streets from that distance look like houses on a Monopoly board.  At one point a car was following us on the street below, waving to us through their sunroof. It was amazing to see how far sound travels that far in the air.  We continued to glide along over treetops and neighborhoods while Capt, Mike checked with his chase crew and kept us aloft by hitting the burners.  Mike shared with us stories of how he travels with his balloon to Mexico and Texas.  He also told us about how he got into ballooning in the first place.  It turns out that he took his wife on a balloon flight and she fell in love with it, so he bought a balloon!  Mike became licensed and even though he hasn't given up his full time job (although one day he hopes to) he finds time to fly private and offers a variety of flights to the public.
One of the best ways to experience ballooning if you have a large group is "cloud hopping."  That's where Capt. Mike will take out 2 to 3 people from the group in the morning and 2 to 3 people from the group in the evening for a 30 minute flight.  It only costs $100 a person which is a great deal, especially for a first timer.
Once we were able to secure a landing site we started to descend.  By the time we got to the landing site we had attracted quite a crowd, parents and kids.  One couple whose house we flew over met us at the landing site. "Where did you take off from?" the woman asked. "Moreau", I said.  "You skimmed our house.  You were taking pictures!"

After the crew got the balloon down and packed away, Capt. Mike and his crew gave us a ride back to our car.  But before we left we had champagne and snacks to celebrate the flight!  While drinking to the incredible time that we had, Capt Mike told about flying the balloon in winter ( yes, he flies ALL YEAR ROUND), even though it's cold there is no humidity and its so clear you can see forever!  When they flew over Lake George he said that he could actually see the curvature of the Earth!!
Another special event that Carried Away Balloon Flights goes to is the balloon weekend at Lake Lauderdale Campground in Cambridge NY.  Mike will be there with his balloon offering tether rides to the kids and full flights for adults.  It sounded like so much fun that my husband and I are going to camp there just for the balloon weekend, which is the first weekend in June.
For those of you who might be a little more adventurous than I am Capt. Mike offers "adventure flights" where he actually will skim over and possibly touch the surface of a lake or come close enough to the treetops to scare out turkeys or deer.  Whatever flight you choose there will be plenty of photo opportunities that you won't want to miss.
A balloon flight is a fun, safe and spectacular way to see the incredible Adirondack scenery.  Captain Mike and his crew will insure that you have a memorable flight and even a little souvenir balloon made from the champagne cork at the end!
Carried Away flies year round and is a great anniversary or birthday present.  So give Captain Mike a call and he will make sure your flight is as perfect as ours was.
To see videos of the actual flight go to: 
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WGKhTs-38gc
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xBemi8Msmag
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UqCaL3ciSNY

 

A Question for You

user-pic

While I impatiently wait for my video to upload to You Tube for my next blog post, I thought I would pose a question..... If you were coming to the area what are some things that you would like to know about? If someone was visiting you from another area what are some things that you would be sure to do with them while they are here?
Okay...I know....that's 2 questions but be sure to give me your ideas!!
Thanks!! ....and now back to waiting....

Leave a Comment

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!