As the end of the summer neared, my family decided to get away for a few days. Nothing crazy, no heavy lifting….just a few days to soak in those last moments of summer 2019. We opted to take advantage what good ol’ New York State has to offer. What’s that saying? The best things are always the obvious ones right in front of you?
So one recent Sunday morning we hopped in the car to hit up some tourist stops in our very own New York State for a few days. Here are some of our highlights:
National Baseball Hall of Fame is the main highlight in Cooperstown. My 11 year old daughter is a huge Yankee fan, and as such, there were tons of exhibits that peaked her interest. (Me – as a Mets fan – had a little less to admire, but it’s all about the kids, right?).
The Hall portrays an in-depth history of the game of baseball through paintings, photos, and exhibits. On display are all of the bronze plaques of the Hall of Fame inductees, including Mariano Rivera, Mike Mussina, and the other 2019 inductees dating back to the first in 1936. Exhibits include vintage memorabilia of all of the teams and influential players; a “Baseball at the Movies” area (side note: there are way more movies about baseball than you think!); the African-American Baseball Experience; Women in Baseball; and a great area showing how baseball influences pop culture, such as baseball cards, video games, board games, and even food (think Reggie Bar).
For baseball fans – it is a must-see. It really is incredible to realize how much this sport has impacted American culture. Do you need to be a baseball fan to enjoy the Hall of Fame? The sport of baseball offers a lot of history, so if you enjoy history and museums or sports in general, the Hall of Fame is a great attraction. There was a repeating reel of the Abbott and Costello classic “Who’s On First?,” which we sat down to watch. The comedic timing on that is unreal! And my very literal son got a real kick out of it in such a frustrated, but funny way!
The National Baseball Hall of Fame is located at 25 Main Street in Cooperstown, New York. Here’s a few hints: Head to nearby Doubleday Field to park for the full day for $14 or $15. When purchasing tickets for the Hall of Fame ask about the Family Membership. If you’re a family of 4 or more, purchasing the membership actually saves you money.
Cooperstown itself is a quaint town, with much more to offer than the Hall of Fame. After we toured the Hall of Fame, we spent time walking on Main Street in and out of all the shops looking for that perfect shirt or sweatshirt. (And not purchasing that perfect sweatshirt the first go around and having to go back to the first store we saw it in!). We stopped for lunch and ice cream along the way. Being that we only had a few days to travel and more of New York State culture to capture, we weren’t able to take advantage of other Cooperstown attractions, including the Farmer’s Museum, Glimmerglass Festival, and Fenimore Art Museum, but hopefully one day we will. Cooperstown is around 160 miles from Northern Westchester. You can learn more about the town at https://www.cooperstowngetaway.org/ and https://www.thisiscooperstown.com/
Another New York State stop is Howe’s Caverns. This is a living, limestone cave which has been carved by an underground river over the course of millions of years. It was officially discovered in 1842 by Lester Howe, for whom it is named.
Trained tour guides help navigate the cave and will teach you about the history of the caves and how it was discovered, it’s amazing natural features, and the surrounding geology of limestone and rock formations. We took the traditional tour, which is a 90 minute tour taking you 156 feet (about 15 stories) below the surface to explore 6 million year old caves. This is a walking tour that includes a small boat ride.
Howe’s Caverns offers a variety of tour types that range from this 90 minute traditional tour that we took, through much more adventurous and physical visits where you crawl through caverns and head to more mysterious and secluded areas. The temperature in the caves is 52 degrees, so a sweatshirt and/or long pants is recommended. Remember that in the summer 52 degrees might feel even colder – since you are used to 80 degrees or so! And as you can see, we did purchase the souvenir picture.
Howe’s Caverns is around 140 miles from Northern Westchester and is located at 255 Discovery Drive, Howes Cave, New York in Schoharie County. Helpful hints: Review the website in planning your trip. They have tour packages available for purchase and other activities like gem mining. In addition, there are some seasonal attractions, such as zip lining and a ropes course. And again, do not forget that sweatshirt!
Saranac Brewery Tour
We took a tour of the historic FX Matt Brewing Company/Saranac Brewery in Utica. The brewery was initially established in 1888 by FX Matt and is still a family business today, being led by 3th and 4th generations. It is the fourth oldest family-owned brewery in the United States. On the tour we learned that they withstood the prohibition years by producing and serving soft drinks and non-alcoholic drinks. Once prohibition ended, they were the first brewery to be licensed again and started serving their famous Utica Club beer.
You start off the guided tour in the original 1888 Tavern, seeing old photos, historical cans and bottles, and other memorabilia. You proceed through the brewery through the various rooms where each step of the brewing process is performed. It is a mobile tour where you are moving from room to room to room, which does help in keeping the kids’ attention. The bottling process is a fun stop. You’re able to witness the true assembly line of filling the bottle, labeling, sorting and boxing. I heard one of the other kids on the tour say that it was like magic!
The end of the tour brings you back to the 1888 Tavern to sample a drink. My daughter chose the Saranac Shirley Temple and my son chose the Saranac Root Beer. I shared a sampler with my husband, and although I’m not much of a beer person, I enjoyed the Varick St. Breakfast Stout. It’s description says it is brewed with oats and aged in whiskey barrels with coffee, vanilla, and maybe syrup, with subtle hints of caramel. It sounds like something where if you add milk, you’d have a lovely creamy drink? The bartender quickly gave me a lesson that milk and beer don’t really mix, as he said it would be more of a curdle than a creamy! I really had no clue!
The family remains dedicated to the Utica community and Central New York, by launching many green initiatives and hosting weekly concerts dubbed “Saranac Thursdays.” Saranac Brewery is located at 830 Varick Street, Utica, New York, which is around 200 miles from Northern Westchester. In the summer months (June through August) tours are offered Monday through Saturday. During the other months of the year, tours are offered on Friday and Saturdays. The current cost is quite reasonable at $5.00 per person, children 12 and under are free – and includes that beverage on the house in The 1888 Tavern.
Tourism in New York is More Than NYC
Some of our best family trips have been these little getaways with no major planning or hoopla. For this trip we chose a hotel in Utica as our home base and did day trips to/from. As my husband planned most of our itinerary, we did wind up reliving one of his childhood vacations. It was cute to hear his memories during our stops.
When you live in Westchester and grow up in NYC, you tend to forget how much there is to see if you just drive north! Touring our great state of New York was a great way to tie up our summer. Next year maybe we will hit up Lake George or the Finger Lakes or even Niagara Falls. So much to choose from, so close to home.