The American Kennel Club Museum of the Dog at 101 Park Avenue
When I was walking the neighborhood of Murray Hill for my blog, “MywalkinManhattan.com, I came across on one of the side streets tucked into a new office building on Park Avenue, The American Kennel Club Museum of the Dog at 101 Park Avenue. This unique little museum is two floors of art dedicated to the story of the dog.
The first floor features small fossils that show the early domestication of dogs during prehistoric times with humans. They may have used them for hunting and companionship. You could see this in the burials and in…
I love it when I can eat at a restaurant on its first week open and get to enjoy the excitement with the owner as they establish their dream. That is what myself and my best friend felt when we ate at AweSum Dim Sum the first time. The restaurant is on my Advantage Dining Program and was recommended. So I tried it for the first time and loved it and then I took her and she agreed.
Everything on the menu was excellent. All the Dim Sum on the menu is fresh and cooked to order. When it arrives, it is sizzling hot and busting with flavor. The tough part is knowing what to order because everything on the menu is so good.
As part of our Halloween festivities for the Junior Friends of the Hasbrouck Heights Library, we had a really special event on November 13th, 2013 for a new event we planned called “The Family Night Lecture” that we had just created. Our special guest that evening was Professor Angus Gillespie from the American Studies Department of Rutgers University. He is an expert and lecturer on folklore and myths including the ‘Jersey Devil’.
Professor Angus Gillespie with Professor and Chairman of the Junior Friends of the Hasbrouck Heights Library Justin Watrel
Professor Gillespie was a noted author and he had explained to me that when he originally wrote the book “The Twin Towers: The Life of New York City’s World Trade Center” that it had a press of 2000 copies in 1999 bought mostly by his mother as gifts to her friends. When the Towers fell two year later, the book took off and became a Best Seller and he was flown all over the world as an expert on the history of the Towers. His book “Folklore in the Pine Barrens: A Study of the Pinelands Cultural Society of Waretown” was when the interest of the Jersey Devil began.
‘The Jersey Devil’
It has been a very interesting lecture that had everyone spellbound on the story of the Leeds family. The legend began with the story of Jane Leeds ( or in some historical cases Deborah Leeds) on a stormy night in 1735. Tired and frazzled from her 12 other children who over-worked her, she found that she was pregnant for the 13th time. She exclaimed ” I hope it’s not a child; I hope its the Devil”.
The Leeds former home in the Pine Barrens
On a dark and stormy night she gave birth to the child with friends gathered in the home to witness the birth. The child was born normal and then transformed into a monster of hoofs, a goat’s head, bat’s wings and a forked tail. It then attacked people in the room before it escaped up the chimney. It disappeared into the Pine Barrens and over the years people have claimed to have had encounters with it the latest being in 1909.
Chairman Justin Watrel with Professor Gillespie and members of the Friends of the Hasbrouck Heights Library at the Junior Friends “Family Night Lecture”
It spellbound most of the crowd who were eager to ask questions. Professor Gillespie lead a discussion on the occurrences and accounts of the sightings over the years that got people thinking, was this thing still alive? The crowd had a wonderful time asking questions and getting a feel for the legend.
It was the last event of the Junior Friends of the Hasbrouck Heights Library that year and a wonderful way to celebrate Halloween. We had a small reception afterwards in Professor Gillespie’s honor.
Chairman & Professor Justin Watrel with Professor Angus Gillespie and Library Director Mimi Hui
It is funny to go back to a place that you have not visited since 1975 and realize that time does pass by. I had not been to Beach Haven, NJ since the summer of 1975 when I was just a little kid. We used to visit friends of the family who had a house there and we would visit for about three days. It was interesting to visit a beach community as we never went farther than Sandy Hook, NJ. Going to the Jersey shore was a hike from our home in Bridgewater, NJ and since we belonged to a swim club, my parents saw no reason to run “down the shore” as we say in New Jersey. Why deal with the crowds and lousy parking?
Still I remember visiting there in 1974 and 1975 before these friends no longer belonged to our pool. All I can remember of those visits was swimming in the ocean and diving in the waves wanting to impress these two twin sisters and all I did was tumble in the waves. They and my older bother dove into the waves with no problems. The other thing I remember is the planes going by and saying to eat at “Tilly’s Pizza”. So we begged for it one night for dinner. It was terrible pizza and we ordered this cheese pizza that was just dried out and no flavor. It is funny the things you remember as a kid.
Touring The Barnegat Lighthouse Park is a nice way to spend the morning
I returned to Long Beach Island last summer on my way to the Firemen’s Convention in Wildwood, NJ to visit the Long Beach Island Historical Society, which I had read about in a beach magazine for my blog, VisitingaMuseum.com. I had a long visit at the museum and it was nice afternoon. I had not realized that the NJ Maritime Museum was a couple of blocks away but I did not have time that afternoon to visit. I said that I would go back later. Later was September 2020 over a year later. Hey better late than never. In the age of COVID, it has been a pleasure and escapism.
The Long Beach Island Historical Society
After visiting the museum for my blog and then visiting the Barnegat Lighthouse, I gained a new found respect for Long Beach Island and all it has to offer. I also realized how much it had changed in 45 years. It went from a sleepy somewhat ‘honey tonk’ working class resort to an upscale community with the growth of Wall Street in the late 90’s and the rebuilding after Hurricane Sandy in 2012.
Many of those small little cottages that once lined the streets were long gone and they have been replaced by stilted ‘McMansions’ by the sea. The whole town has been practically knocked down and completely rebuilt. Even the stores were more upscale in their wares and the restaurants were expensive. I did not see too many tee shirt stores or beachy knick -knacks being sold. These are not Boardwalk businesses.
The NJ Maritime Museum
Still there are some great stores and restaurants to visit, cultural and natural sites to see and of course the beautiful beach with its calming sounds and gorgeous sunsets. You never know the complexity of a place until you visit a few times and find the true beauty of the surroundings and people. The downtown of Beach Haven has a lot to see and do as does the surrounding areas of Long Beach Island.
I started my last two visits to Long Beach Island exploring Beach Haven, a small beach hamlet towards the southern part of the island and where I had spent a few summers when I was a child. I do not remember much of the trips except visiting the beach and how rough the waves were to swim. I don’t remember venturing out that much.
When I returned 45 year later, the town changed so much especially in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy flooding the island as well as the rest of the Jersey Shore. It leveled homes and tore though businesses with a vengeance. What it left was a chance to build the island again from the ground up. Everything is so new all over the island. Still there are a lot of older homes and businesses that did survive. Some adapted and some just changed.
I walked the whole town and it was a interesting visit over the past two summers especially on two recent tours of the town in the late summer and early fall. My first stop on my recent trip is where I started touring last year at the Long Beach Island Historical Society at 125 Engleside Avenue in Beach Haven for their Ghost Fest, a family event that the Historical Society was running that afternoon for local families.
The ‘Ghost Fest’ at the Long Beach Island Historical Society
The Historical Society had not opened yet when I got to Long Beach Island so I started my tour of the island at the Barnegat Lighthouse State Park on the northern part of the island. Even on a gloomy morning in October, the park was very busy.
The cloudy weather did not deter the fisherman from casting and boats were dotting the bay. It was still a warm day and people were out and about. I joined other visitors to the park on the breakers watching the fisherman discuss the days catch and politics about the upcoming election. Some people were admiring the boats or just relaxing to the sounds of the waves. I just enjoyed the salt air and the sound of the waves crashing.
After I left the walkway, I took a tour through the woods in the sand dunes. It was what is left of some virgin woods at the shore. The woods are very interesting because of all the native plants that can live in a sandy shore and survive the winds are harsh winters. Plants such as Jersey Pines, Beach Plum and American holly are native to the area and played an important role in Colonial New Jersey especially during the holidays.
The lighthouse itself was built in 1859 replacing another lighthouse that fell into the sea with the changing tides (see my review on TripAdvisor). The lighthouse has been closed since March with the onset of COVID but the grounds around it were still open and people, masks and all, were walking along the trails and conversing at the picnic tables. Families were walking the trails and paths along the bay. For an early morning in October the park was busy.
The lighthouse and surrounding park is a nice to tour in the early morning
My next stop was the Barnegat Light Museum but it had been closed all season due to the COVID pandemic. I was able to call one of the Board Members of the museum and I would have to tour it later that afternoon. So took another tour of the park and drove back down the island.
Maybe it was the salt air or maybe it was the two hour drive down the shore but I was getting hungry again. Not wanting to eat another breakfast, I stopped at an old time restaurant, Surf City Pizza for a slice. They had just opened for lunch and I could not believe I was eating pizza this early in the morning but it was good.
Surf City Pizza at 1017 Long Beach Boulevard in Surf City, NJ
The pizza here is really good
I got to the Long Beach Island Historical Society as they were in full swing of their Ghost Fest and what a nice event it was that afternoon.
The Museum was decorated for Halloween
They had a pony ride, marshmallow roasting and smores by the fire pit, corn hole games, a maze, games of chance, a small gift shop, tours of the museum and even a costume parade with the Jersey Devil. The museum had a nice turnout on a somewhat gloomy afternoon but by the end of the event the sun started to shine.
The ‘Jersey Devil’ lead the Costume Parade that afternoon
I had a while before I had to meet the President of the Barnegat Light Museum so I decided to explore the downtown strip of Beach Haven. What an interesting downtown for a shore community. The days of tee shirt shops and beach gift stores has given way to a collection of interesting restaurants, upscale boutiques and gift stores, small specialty shops and art galleries. When you are selling million dollar homes in the area, you need places for those residents to shop and Long Beach Boulevard has an eclectic group of stores to choose from.
When I first visited Beach Haven after my 45 year absence, I discovered The Woo-Hoo around the corner from the museum. On my first trip to Beach Haven last summer, I came across this impressive little ice cream and lunch stand around the corner from the Historical Society and on a recommendation from the staff had lunch that afternoon. It was excellent!
The Woo Hoo at 211 South Bay Avenue in Beach Haven, NJ
I had one of their Classic Burgers with hand cut French Fries which was just excellent. The burgers have a rich juicy flavor and the mix of ingredients was delightful to eat. The fries were perfectly cooked and salted. I was so impressed by the lunch I went back later for their homemade ice cream that is just excellent.
I had the most amazing Strawberry Cheesecake which was rich and creamy and a Cinnamon Toast Crunch, which was loaded with the cereal. On a recent trip, the hot food had closed for the season but the ice cream was still going. I have this amazing holiday special called ‘Cookies & Scream” for Halloween. It was made with holiday M & M’s and Halloween oreos. It was worth the trip to Beach Haven just for that.
The burgers at the Woo Hoo are delicious
What I love about walking around downtown Beach Haven is the interesting array of stores and food establishments they have on the strip. They are fun to explore on a nice sunny afternoon. I lucked out on my two most recent trips here. The weather broke both days and it ended up a sunny warm afternoon. So I set out to explore the town and I discovered a small community that was much than the beach.
My first stop when I exited Engelside Avenue onto South Bay Avenue is the unique little gift store, “How to Live” at 7 South Bay Avenue, which has a great selection of local artisan gifts, artwork, children’s clothes and books, women’s clothes and art and book items created by the owner, Sandy Gingras. Her whimsical books and art work dot the store.
‘How to Live’s’ owner, Sandy Gingras
Walking into the store is an experience with the smell of fragrant smells of body products and the musical sounds of the 1980’s. It is a step back in time to when people took time to decorate their homes and give small host gifts. I really loved the homemade Christmas ornaments by a local artist.
How I Live at 7 South Bay Avenue
Further up North Bay Boulevard, the main artery of the town is Chicken or the Egg at 207 North Bay Boulevard with its constant crowds, popular outdoor dining and creative menu. The menu is stocked with interesting sandwiches, burgers and sides. The outdoor seating on a nice day is the way to dine. I have not had a chance to try the restaurant but it is on my bucket list on my next trip to town.
The Chicken or the Egg is at 207 North Bay Boulevard
North Bay Boulevard has a long stretch of eating establishments that are opened at various times of the week.
I stopped at Fourchette at LBI at 511 North Bay Avenue to enjoy the smells of the array of cheeses and look at their assortment of host gifts. They have a lot of interesting cheeses in the case line and the woman behind the counter was eager to explain them all to me.
Fourchette at LBI at 511 North Bay Avenue
The Cheese case at Fourchette
Another interesting store was Sandy Banks Art Store at 515 North Bay Avenue in which the first afternoon I visited a local artist was having an art show in the small courtyard adjoining the store. The art was vibrant and the artist was proud of the paintings she was showing off.
Sandy Banks at 515 North Bay Boulevard
Anchoring the main part of the downtown is the local shore department store, B &B Stores, which has been a Jersey Shore staple since 1932. Located in many well known beach communities, B &B stocks not just bathing suits and swim gear but an array of clothing, gifts and accessories for the local community. I have been in the store during the summer months and it is wall to wall swim suits, tee shirts and shorts but as the cooler months approach and the rushing of the holidays, I saw my first Christmas tree down the shore.
B & B Department Store at 835 North Bay Avenue
That afternoon there was a nice rush of locals and tourist grasping the last days of warm weather down the shore and even though we were all in masks (COVID is big down the shore too), people were going about their shopping with a vengeance. It was nice to see a crowd of people enjoying a shopping trip and conversing with one another talking over their masks.
The selection of merchandise at B & B Department Stores give me faith in the department store industry.
Crossing the street , there is a tiered mall, The Seaman’s Village, stocked with small stores and restaurants that is big with the beach going community on a rainy afternoon. During the two trips to Beach Haven that I made most of the stores were closed or has partial hours during the week and weekends. It seems though with the warmer weather extending into November and the exodus of people out of the cities, the stores are staying open much longer than usual.
Another homegrown store that I have enjoyed visiting on my last few trips to town is the Crust & Crumb Bakery at 9 North Bay Boulevard. This old fashioned bakery has the usual assortments of cookies, cakes, pastries and doughnuts and an array of Italian pastries as well. I have enjoyed their jelly and custard filled doughnuts and their seasonal pumpkin glazed doughnuts are delicious.
Crust & Crumb Bakery at 9 North Bay Boulevard
Trust me, after a day at the shore or just walking around enjoying the beautiful weather, a trip here can satisfy any sweet tooth. The selection is extensive and don’t miss the giant cinnamon elephant ears.
There are a lot of delicious items to choose from at Crust & Crumb
Walking back down North Bay Boulevard, passing Fantasy Island Amusement Park reminds you that this is still a shore town. On my first trip to Beach Haven in September the park was still open just very quiet. On a warm sunny Friday afternoon, there were not too many people walking around and the staff spent most of their time on their cellphones or chatting amongst themselves.
Fantasy Island Amusement Park at 750 North Bay Avenue
On my second trip in late October, the park was closed but the arcade was open. Talk about bells and whistles with lots of music, lights and excitement. There were only about a dozen of us in the arcade but it was a lot of fun taking a step back into time when I used to visit the pinball and skeetball machines when I was in high school. There were a lot of the old machines that I remember including a version of PacMan and Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory.
The arcade at Fantasy Island Amusement Park brings back memories of a simpler time.
Walking around the arcade before dinner was an experience. The few people who were playing games were laughing and having a good time. The adults were having just a good time as their kids and I saw that it brought the kid back in them.
I stopped for a snack before venturing further at Slice of Heaven Pizza at 610 North Bay Avenue. The restaurant was closed for indoor dining so I ate outside with the pizza chef who was taking a break. The pizza was pretty good and when I was talking to the pizza cook he said how sporadic the business had been all summer. It was just starting to get busy by the end of the summer.
Slice of Heaven Pizzeria at 610 North Bay Avenue
Another wonderful gift, design and furniture store is The Spotted Whale at 500 North Bay Avenue. The store has a light and breezy beach feel to it with light colors and a lot of nautical looks. This store is more geared to the shore customer.
The Spotted Whale at 500 North Bay Avenue has some interesting looks about it
Walking further south, I took detour into the Coffee Nest at 106 North Bay Avenue to see what their baked good were like. The store is a combination gift store, coffee shop and bakery with some floral arrangements up front. There was not much left in the bakery area when I got there but they have a nice assortment and the prices are a bit high. I liked the music playing though. A step in here and your would think you are in Williamsburg or Bushwick and not Beach Haven.
The Coffee Nest at 106 North Bay Street
The interior at the Coffee Nest is very Bohemian
When I visited the first time, I came to see the NJ Maritime Museum that is located around the corner from the Coffee Nest on Dock Road towards the bay. The NJ Maritime Museum is located across the street from two very popular restaurants facing the bay at 528 Dock Road.
The NJ Maritime Museum is located at 528 Dock Road by the bay
This small but interesting museum contains not just the history of the towns of Long Beach Island but also has the history of the hotels that once dotted the shore, shipwrecks, the Coast Guard and the 1916 Shark Attack that inspired the movie “Jaws”. Several cruise disasters have interesting displays with documented accounts and all sorts of memorabilia. The museum was founded in 2007 by collector Deb Whitcraft.
The museum’s nautical displays are very detailed
Take time to explore each room and read the details of the displays. You will delve deeper into the history of Long Beach Island and its rich history as a fishing and hunting area for the Lennape Indians, then the Dutch and English traders to its time as a resort community to the new morphing during COVID as a full time community catering to the residents on their exodus out of New York City and Philly. The museum is rewriting history again in the era of COVID.
For lunch on my recent trip I had to find a place to watch the Michigan State versus Rutgers game. It was depressing watching us get tapped danced on by Rutgers during the third quarter. What made it less depressing was the food at Tuckers Tavern, a restaurant facing the bay at 101 South Bay Avenue( see review on TripAdvisor).
Tuckers Tavern at 101 South Bay Avenue
The bar area was socially distanced and they had plenty of TV’s to watch the game. We ended up losing 38-27 but I knew the game was over pretty much by the end of third quarter and I did not travel two hours to sit at the bar and get depressed.
Michigan State lost to Rutgers that afternoon
What perked me up though was the food. It it was excellent. I had a crab cake sandwich that was out of this world. It was loaded with crab and was so sweet. The fries were freshly cut and deep fried to perfection. The whole meal was delicious and picked me right up to keep going for the rest of the afternoon.
Do not miss the Tuckers Tavern’s Crab cake sandwich
It was nice after lunch to just walk around the bay area and admire the sunshine. The views from the restaurant that lined the bay was just amazing. It was so nice to just walk off lunch and admire the views. I watched the boats coming in and out of the docks.
The bay side restaurant row is breathtaking
After visiting both museums on the lower part of the island, I headed back to the northern part of the island for an appointment that I had to see the Barnegat Light Museum at 501 Central Avenue in Barnegat Light, a tiny museum that housed the original Barnegat Lighthouse light.
The original Barnegat light from the lighthouse
It was an old schoolhouse built in 1903 that had been converted into museum. The museum housed interesting artifacts like dinosaur bones found on the island, housewares from local residents, notes from the students who went to school at the schoolhouse and nautical items.
The Barnegat Light Museum at 501 Central Avenue
The President of the museum took me on a private tour of the museum and she told me about all the pieces in the space. I also got to tour the gardens that surrounded the museum that were tended by the Long Beach Island Garden Club who did a wonderful job.
The gardens at the Barnegat Light Museum
As the day wore on, I walked the Barnegat Lighthouse State park one more time and admired the inlet and enjoyed the breezes. People were walking along the pathways before the park closed at 4:00pm.
As I walked the around the area, exploring Andy’s at the Lighthouse at 202 Broadway, an old general store that had a lot of handmade wood works by a local artist and has a nice selection of tee shirts and gifts.
Wildflowers by the Lighthouse at 410 Broadway
Another store that stood out was Wildflowers by the Lighthouse by owner and artist, Cricket Luker and the store really stands for it innovative clothing and accessories. The owner is a local artist who took her art studio and turned it to a clothing store over time. She also opened Wildflowers Too! an art gallery at 506 Broadway that shows local and metropolitan artists with a collection of paints, sculpture and gifts.
Wildflowers Two! at 506 Broadway
It was later in the afternoon when I headed back down to the southern part of the island to Beach Haven and I had some dinner. When I was walking past the NJ Maritime Museum, I came across Polly’s Dockside and Clamhouse at 112 Northwest Avenue. The restaurant is a small establishment right on the dock facing the bay and has the most amazing fried clams and clam chowder.
Polly’s Dockside & Clamhouse at 112 Northwest Avenue
I sat at the bar facing the water and watching the sun set. I ate the richest clam chowder while watching boats come in and out of the dock. The sun set right in front of all of us as we ate and it was like watching a movie. Mother Nature can really treat you to the most beautiful things in life. I swear I snacked so much during the day that I could barely finish my fried clam appetizer which was much larger than I expected so it came home with me.
The food is just as good as the sunset at Polly’s Dockside & Clamhouse
I left when it got dark much later than I thought I would leave and I had a two hour drive home. I stopped at the Custard House at 6403 Long Beach Boulevard for some vanilla custard that settled my stomach. It was the right pick me up after all the food, touring and walking. This popular little stand has plenty of outside seating on a warm evening.
Custard Hut at 6403 Long Beach Boulevard
It was treat to come to Beach Haven and Long Beach Island again after a forty year absence. Who knew that the island in its transformation from working class resort to high class residential community offered so much in the way of shopping, restaurants and cultural sites packed onto one island. There is something for everyone here including the beach.
I thought it was a nice group of visits to get my mind off what is going on in the world. What’s better than the Jersey Shore in warm weather?
This Halloween was very subdued but not entirely canceled this year.
New Jersey still allowed Trick or Treating even though I saw very few children outside on the one nice sunny day we had seen in over two weeks. Because of the recent hurricanes hitting the Gulf Coast, we got the tail of the last two storms. It had been cloudy and gloomy for almost three weeks and Halloween day was the first nice day we had. I could see that people wanted to get out of the house.
In the era COVID, I could not see too many people going out Trick or Treating. It was an unusual Halloween for me as I was usually preparing for a long day of working at the Halloween Parade in Manhattan but because of COVID that parade was cancelled. This on top of pretty much any other Halloween related activity. Things were done on a smaller scale. I saw small children Trick or Treating in our downtown business district and some parents were weaving between businesses to talk to merchants.
Residents in our community really decorated their houses and in some cases overdid it. I felt like I was passing mini cemeteries and houses of horror. I can understand that parents wanted to bring some sense of normalcy to their families in this extremely rough time.
Halloween in Hasbrouck Heights, NJ
I started the day at a drill with the fire department. We spent the morning using the Hurst tools and practicing cutting a van. The department was practicing rescuing people from a trapped vehicle. It was a good training session as we all got chances to cut parts of the van and then get a small lecture on our work. At the end of the day, we had a wrap up session and then a pizza lunch. It was nice to just relax after a busy morning.
Our new coach, Mel Tucker, lead Michigan State University to victory
When I got home I arrived in time to watch the forth quarter of the Michigan State versus University of Michigan game. After the disaster we had the week before with Rutgers, we needed this win badly. I would like to say it was a back and forth game but we dominated them for most of the game and pulled out the win 27-24. Watching the Michigan players leave the stadium with all the arrogance gone was enjoyable. This since their coach practically forced the Big Ten to play when COVID is raging all over the country.
Beating Michigan every year is a pleasure!
Don’t miss the highlights from the game. It was something!
After the game was over, my best friend, Kris and I had a long and very excited conversation about the game which is the bragging rights of Michigan and that is a big deal between both sets of Alumni.
I looked outside on the sunny day and saw absolutely no Trick or Treaters. The Halloween Parade Committee had sent out an email earlier in the week that the Spider Puppet would be ‘crawling out of’ Jefferson Market Library on the corner of Sixth Avenue and 10th Street plus there would be a slide show in Times Square. With no other plans and a beautiful night ahead of me, off I went into Manhattan.
My first stop was Times Square which is a hop, skip and jump from Port Authority. I swear the whole area was crowded with people in costume having a wonderful time. I was surprised with the COVID going on how many people especially young families with children were not wearing masks. They were wearing costumes with no face coverings including the children.
Since the parade was cancelled, people had their own makeshift parade and were laughing, yelling and having a good time talking to one another in the closed off portion of Times Square between West 42nd to West 45th Streets along Broadway. I could see people just wanted to don a costume and forget all their troubles. I never realized how much people enjoyed the parade and how much they missed it.
Times Square on Halloween Night 2020
Try as I might, I could not find that billboard with the pictures of the Halloween Parade on it and I could not remember if they posted a side street with the information so I walked about four blocks around the square looking for the billboard and admiring the costumes.
I decided to head to the Village to see the spider puppet emerge from the library. That was another busy neighborhood. All the side street around Sixth Avenue were jammed with people in restaurants and bars. Here they were wearing masks to a point. When they were seated in extremely crowded restaurants, it was mask off. I could tell though again people were having a good time. Everyone looked fatigued and just needed to let off a little steam.
Pumpkin Men greeted people at the Stonewall Inn on Halloween Night
I watched as the puppet did emerge and dance around the outside of the library, which is a beautiful Victorian structure. The spider crawled out of the tower and I could see the puppeteers from the balcony above directing the spider.
The spider emerges from the Jefferson Market Library on Sixth Avenue
The spider is the creation of artist Basil Twist, a professional puppeteer with a studio on Leroy Street in the Village who constructed the puppet in 1994. He created the puppet as an homage to one of the original puppets in the parade that was founded by Roger Lee in the 1970’s. The artist usually waits until the marchers in the Halloween Parade get to Eighth Street to release the puppet. (DNA Info Danielle Tcholakian).
Artist Basil Twist with his spider in the clock tower of the Jefferson Market Tower
Artist Basil Twist is an American born artist originally from San Francisco and now resides in New York City. He is a third generation puppeteer and is the only American to graduate from the Ecole Superieure Nationale des Arts de la Marionette in France. He is an artist, puppet designer, director and guest lecturer at many colleges.
A video on artist Basil Twist’s work
On quiet Sixth Avenue that only a year before on a 71 degree night where throngs of people walked uptown in the Halloween Parade, I watched the spider dangle from the library and dance down the side of the building. There were very few people to watch the show but the spider did its thing amusing all of us who watched it.
Just as I started to watch the slide show across the street from the library that was being shown of clips of the Halloween Parade, I ran across Grace, our fearless leader of the Parade who checks me in every year before I work the gate. I could barely recognize her under the mask. She and the creator of the Halloween Parade, Jeanne Fleming, were watching the spider too and running the slide show of past parades on the side of a apartment building across Sixth Avenue.
Jeanne Fleming, our fearless leader & Founder of the Halloween Parade
Grace and I talked for a bit while watching the spider crawl down from the balcony about how different a year makes. The Village was still busy with people walking on the streets with costumes and bars and restaurants packed with people enjoying the warm October night. It was definitely strange not to see thousands of people walk up Sixth Avenue after all these years but next year brings hopeful optimism.
The full Moon was in its magnificence that evening
I said my goodbyes to her and Jeanne and took one last stroll around the Village with its outdoor dining and costumed revelers and hoped things would work out. Then I noticed the beautiful full moon overhead. I had never seen one so bright on Halloween Night. No witches crossing the moon but a brightness to light the way into better years ahead.
Still I was also able to sneak up to Croton on the Hudson for the Annual “Pumpkin Blaze” that is sponsored by the Hudson River Historical Society. It was a much toned down event than last year and at 25% capacity was much easier to get through the displays. I had never seen so few people at the event but in the era of COVID it is smarter to have a smaller crowd and have the event than to have nothing. It is the Historical Society’s biggest fundraiser and people were having a good time.
The Van Cortlandt Manor ablaze with sights and sounds in its pumpkin cemetery
The Blaze was amazing with all the music, sites and sounds. I loved the MoMA version of the museum with pumpkin portraits and the Pumpkin Bridge, Ferris Wheel and Spider Webs. There was even a Croton on the Hudson fire truck and ambulance in dedication to all the hard work during COVID. Smaller yes but no less wonderful. I am glad that ran the event.
The Pumpkin Ferris Wheel at the Pumpkin Blaze at Croton on the Hudson
One of the Pumpkin Paintings based on “The Scream”
Van Cortlandt Manor in all its ghoulish delight the night of “The Blaze”
Justin Watrel (the blogger) at “The Pumpkin Blaze” during the Halloween holidays
I had the most amazing Chinese meal at New Happy Garden at 440 South Riverside Avenue #440 in the ShopRite Mall next to the Blaze and I highly recommend the restaurant. The Orange Chicken with Pork Fried and egg rolls.
A much more toned down Halloween than in the past but between the all events it made Halloween a more special time to get my mind off everything going on in the world.
Highlights from the Halloween Parade 2019
The First Annual Miniature Halloween Parade: The gift of the Halloween Parade Committee in 2020
Places to Visit:
Hasbrouck Heights Home Decorations
Drive around our Borough of Hasbrouck Heights, NJ in Bergen County for Halloween and Christmas decoration every October and December
The Halloween Parade
The Parade steps off at 7:00pm on Halloween Night starting at Canal Street in Manhattan
The Jefferson Market Library (to see the Spider Puppet)
Even in the age of COVID I wanted to do something special for my birthday. I had not travelled since last Christmas and the idea of staying in a hotel did not appeal to me with everything going on. Watching enough webinars through my Alma Mater, Cornell University, I found out that everyone was taking all sorts of precautions to make everything safe for guests. Getting tired of not going anywhere but locally I got an invitation to go back to Staatsburgh, NY for another walking tour at the Mills Mansion on the day before my birthday. It was for the “Discovering the Estates Tour” where we walked the grounds of the park to see the abandoned Hoyt and Lee estates that abut the Mills Mansion estate grounds.
Staatsburgh, The Mills Mansion, at 1 Mills Mansion Drive
Add to that wanting to go on the “Cemetery Walk” at the Dutch Church in Downtown Kingston Stockade District that is offered every Halloween, I planned the perfect early birthday present for myself. I thought I would go on the tours and treat myself to a early birthday lunch in Rhinebeck, NY.
The Old Dutch Church cemetery and grounds in Kingston, NY
Knowing I would be updating my blogs on my sister site to this one, “VisitingaMuseum.com” with these events, I decided to make this a working vacation/birthday weekend.
I checked the weather in Upstate New York and it was going to be a sunny warm weekend with a chance of rain on Monday because of the hurricane travelling up the East Coast from Florida. Being that the foliage was starting to turn in the Hudson River Valley I wondered how it would be further up into the state.
I took a look at my schedule and classes did not resume until that next Tuesday and I made a phone call to the Otesaga Resort Hotel, a hotel that I had always wanted to stay out and visit the National Baseball Hall of Fame while I was there. I don’t know if it was just fate or that I was destined to go there but the hotel was fully booked that week.
The Otesaga Resort Hotel in Cooperstown, NY
The woman from Reservations told me because of the Columbus Day holiday and that being a vacation week for everyone that he hotel was fully booked for the first time since March (remember hotels can only be at 25% capacity at this time). She then said she would put me on the wait list but just as she said this she said to hold on. She came back to me and said that they just had a cancellation for a room for the night I wanted and would I like the room? I was able to book the room with a King sized bed and a partial view of the lake. It was fate and I jumped on it. That and the rooms were half the price they normally are so it gave me a chance to see Cooperstown, NY while keeping within budget.
So off I went to another weekend in the Hudson River Valley and further Upstate to Cooperstown, NY. It was near Halloween and I was going to search for ghosts. The first stop the morning I left for Staatsburgh-The Mills Mansion was the Hyde Park Farmers Market. I was in search of the baker I had met a few weeks earlier who had that terrific peach and blueberry cream cheese pocket. I wanted to get another if he had it.
Don’t miss the Hyde Park, NY Farmers Market on Saturdays in Hyde Park, NY
Luckily enough I found him. I met Tom Greene from Tom’s Heritage Baked Goods & Jams again and told him how much I loved the fruit pocket from my last trip. He said unfortunately the blueberry and peach season was over but he had apple pockets this time. It was delicious. Loaded with a sweet apple mixture and cinnamon in a flaky pastry made every bite melt in your mouth. It is well worth the $5.00 price.
Tom Greene of Tom’s Heritage Baked Goods & Jams
After I walked around the market again seeing all the produce, wines and crafts, I drove up the to Mills Mansion for my next walking tour, “Estates of Staatsburgh”, a tour of the abandoned Lee and Hoyt estates on the park property. A perfect tour as we get closer to the Halloween holidays and search for a ghost.
The tour of the old homes started at the Mills Mansion with a little story about Ruth and Ogden Mills, the owner of Staatsburgh. Their home had only been used for about four months out of the year, usually when they left Newport after the summer was over and before Christmas when they would leave for New York City for the Winter Social season. They were records though that the family did spend some holiday seasons there.
We also toured the grounds where greenhouses, boat houses and ice storage houses once stood and there was a conversation about the role of the staff especially the gardeners and farm staff while the Mill’s were away. Estate was still a working ‘gentlemen’s farm’, where they raised sheep, pigs, chickens and cows for show and for food for the estate.
Then we travelled along the river and through the woods to the Hoyt estate which stood abandoned on a buff overlooking the Hudson River. The Hoyt’s were distant relatives of Ruth Livingston Mills on the Livingston side of her family. They had lived in the home for generations until the State of the New York bought their home and estate through eminent domain back in the early 1960’s. The house and the outer buildings now sit abandoned until renovations can begin for them as Educational Centers and storage.
The Hoyt Mansion does look a little like a haunted house
The Hoyt Estate in its heyday
After a visit to the Hoyt’s home we visited the estate of the Lee Family which was further down the path. The home had burned down in the 1950’s so all that was left was traces of the driveway and the ice house for the estate. It still looked ominous sitting in the middle of the woods.
The Lee Mansion in its heyday before it burned down.
After our tour through the woods, the tour guide told us of the improvements both families had done to their homes before they were either abandoned or burned down. There are still traces of old buildings on the grounds and paths and gardens. We also got to see traces of the old garden shed and cow barn that are now in ruin. Now all of it has let Mother Nature take over.
At the end of the tour they finally opened the bathrooms for us (none of the men were too thrilled by this) and then we were left to tour the Mills estate or relax on the lawn and talk with other guests (socially distanced of course). I just relaxed and admired the beautiful views of the river on a warm sunny day.
The Mills Mansion back lawn facing the Hudson River
After my tour of the old estates, I travelled back to Downtown Poughkeepsie to take a better tour of the older historical sections of the City including Little Italy again, the Historic Union Street section and the older part of downtown. I never realized what a beautiful city Poughkeepsie is and the potential it has for a turnaround. The ‘Walkway Over the Hudson State Park’ is really bringing people back to the City. Plus it is one of the last towns along the Hudson River to gentrify.
Downtown Poughkeepsie is quite interesting in that none of the colleges that surround it ever opened a campus building in the downtown. Marist, Dutchess Community College, Vassar, Bard and the Culinary Institute of America are all located around the City. I can see by walking around the area closer to the Hudson River this is all beginning to change. It seemed that all the homes and businesses in area are being snatched up quickly as they are coming onto the market.
The original section of Poughkeepsie by the river
I parked in the Historic Union Street and started to walk around the neighborhood. There are a lot of old brick homes and mansions in the area. There are also a series of businesses that are being renovated in the area. People are really fixing the neighborhood and you can start to see by the beauty of the architecture.
Historic Union Street is changing fast
I then walked up the Main Street from the river to the historic part of the downtown and looked up at all the awnings of the buildings and you can see that many were built in the late 1880’s. These formerly boarded up buildings are being fixed up and turned into lofts and the store fronts are now art galleries and small restaurants.
The lower part of Downtown Poughkeepsie has its charms
The cast iron buildings of Downtown Poughkeepsie are being renovated
There are now three art galleries downtown, an arts building and now a fancy French restaurant and two upscale bars. Once you go about five blocks past the old Luckey Platt & Company Department Store building then it starts to get a little seedy. This is where most of the urban renewal most have happened and knocked the old area down. Still there are a lot of changes going on here too.
I then walked around the old Little Italy which I had explored a few weeks earlier. There is not much left to it. There are two restaurants, a pizzeria, a bakery and a hair salon. There is an Italian Cultural Center in the neighborhood as well. Now artists and ‘hipsters’ are moving in with new arts centers flanking the area and there is a lot of renovations of homes going on here.
This lower part of Poughkeepsie is changing fast
Before I left Little Italy for Kingston for the Cemetery Walk, I stopped at Emiliano’s Pizza at 111 Main Street for a quick lunch (See my review on TripAdvisor). The pizza was quite good. It was really cheesy and gooey but the sauce could have used more spices. Their selection and prices are very fair and the service is really good.
Emiliano’s Pizza at 111 Main Street
I arrived in the Kingston Stockade around 5:30pm and started to explore the historic Stockade and the changes that are happening there too. Kingston is going through a transformation as well. All the old what I would call ‘granola’ businesses like the all natural coffee shops and restaurants and old clothing stores have since closed. There was a lot of empty store fronts since last Halloween when I visited for the Puppet rehearsals at the Rokeby estate.
What has started to replace them is an incredible amount of smaller restaurants which are really expensive and a few furniture galleries that looked like they got priced out of Hudson, NY. I can see that this part of Kingston is getting more expensive like the Roundout section.
I wanted another quick snack before the Cemetery Walk, so I stopped at Wing Shui Chinese Restaurant at 53 North Front Street which is one of the last of the ‘old’ businesses left in this section of the neighborhood. I just ordered a few egg rolls and I have to tell you they were some of the best I had eaten in a long time.
Wing Shui Chinese Restaurant at 53 North Street
They were loaded with chopped roast pork and fresh vegetables and fried to perfection. I have to go back in the future. I have not had egg rolls this good since we went to Chan’s in Dunellen, NJ back in the 1980’s. They made a real impression on me when something is this good.
The egg rolls at Wing Shui Chinese Restaurant are excellent!
I wish I could have said as much for the ‘Cemetery Tour’ at the Old Dutch Church. I had been to the church in the past for Sinterklass fundraisers so I had been inside many times and just walked around the cemetery during the day. I was hoping this would be a more spooky type of event with the actor giving an approach from the dead’s point of view.
The Lantern Tour of the Cemetery
The problem with the actors who were playing the roles of the people buried at the Old Dutch Church cemetery was that they wanted it both ways. They wanted to play the roles of people in their own era and this spread out in a three hundred year period and then they wanted to bring modern politics into it which I did not want to hear their opinions and would not what someone would have thought in their time frame.
The actors who played the roles of Emily Chadbourne, Father Divine and slave Jenny started to equate their characters to modern times which took the twist out of it. It made it less spooky and more political. The only actor who stayed in character was the one playing Calvert Vaux, the landscape designer of Central Park and a architect of many buildings.
The Old Dutch Church in the daytime is very interesting
The cemetery itself was very lurking after the event was over and everyone had left. The actors were gone as well as everyone else in about an hour and the church was locked up. Then it really did look gloomy with only the moon light and street lights to illuminate it. I was parked outside the church (did I luck out with parking that evening) and passed it again as I walked the downtown one more time. There are more changes coming to Kingston.
I spent the night in Hyde Park again and I highly recommend the Quality Inn. In the era of COVID I want to say that I was not too keen about staying in a hotel. The hotel does a great job in protocols and the place was as clean as a whistle and followed all the standards set by the CDC. The room was spotless (I have stayed here many times and the hotel has excellent standards) and there was a air purifier in the room as well as the window was open and smelled very nice. I also had a nice view of the woods and the rock wall outside.
I highly recommend the Quality Inn at Hyde Park, NY
I swear though trying to find an open restaurant after 9:00pm in Red Hook, Rhinebeck or Hyde Park was next to impossible. Everyone seems to roll up the carpet at 10:00pm. I ended up at the Hyde Park McDonald’s (see review on TripAdvisor) trying the new Spicy Chicken McNuggets which I highly recommend. They were really delicious especially with the new Spicy Sauce.
Don’t miss the Spicy Chicken McNuggets; they will make you want to come back to McDonald’s.
All that running around and driving on the first day of my trip wore me out. It was just to the Rhinebeck and Kingston areas and I was pooped. I was running from one thing to another and when I got back from McDonald’s, I hit the pillow and slept soundly. This hotel is so comfortable.
I checked out early the next morning. Talk about a good night’s sleep, I was ready to go. I went back to Downtown Poughkeepsie again to try Alex’s Restaurant at 1 Market Street which has been a fixture in the City since 1911. I wanted to go someplace different for my birthday breakfast.
Alex’s Restaurant at 1 Market Street in Poughkeepsie, NY
The one complaint I had about the restaurant was that when you are a single person they give you the worst table. With COVID, we were not even allowed to eat at the bar and I was stuck at a table in the back by the bathroom. That made the meal less enjoyable.
Still the food here is really good (See review on TripAdvisor). I had a dish called a “Breakfast Sampler”, which was two slices of French Toast, a pancake, two scrambled eggs, two slices of bacon and a rather big sausage patty. Everything was delicious and the waiter, Michelle, was really nice and was able to handle the crowd that morning.
I took more walk around Downtown Poughkeepsie before I had to cross the river again to the Kingston Roundout. As part of a gift to myself, I wanted to explore sites on my bucket list. My first stop was the Trolley Museum of Kingston. I had missed it on my last trip to the Roundout. Between the cruise and the Maritime Museum, it took up the whole day.
The Trolley Museum at 89 East Strand Street
The Roundout was busy that morning. It looked like New York City had emptied out and everyone came up to Kingston for brunch. The Trolley Museum at 89 East Strand Street is a unique little museum that tells the history of the trolley car not just in Kingston but all over the country.
The first part of your visit is the trolley ride up the Hudson River which on a beautiful clear sunny day is just amazing. We took a small trip to the center of town to pick up more people and then we took a ride through the woods and followed the river up to Kingston Point Park.
The ride up the river was fun
We were able to take a break and just walk around Kingston Point Park, looking at the foliage along the river and watching the sailboats go by. It was another cool morning but I learned my lesson and bundled up. It was just breathtaking.
The views are breathtaking
We only had about a half hour to enjoy the park and then it was back to the Roundout. I was able to explore the displays around the small museum and then walked through the subway cars and buses that were on display outside. I know that the kids seemed to loved it.
I wanted to stop back at the Dorsky Museum at SUNY New Paltz again to finish seeing the ‘Artists of the Hudson River’ exhibition so off I went again to New Paltz. When I left Kingston you literally could not find a parking spot as that’s how busy it was all getting at the Roundout.
The Dorsky Museum on the SUNY New Paltz campus
The Samuel Dorsky Museum at New Paltz is one of those terrific college museum’s that is tucked inside a campus building. The museum opened early that morning so I saw the exhibition with no one else around. The local artists had a nice showcase for their art. The college did a nice job mounting the display. There were some interesting pieces in the exhibition. This one below is made of locally made bricks from an old building.
The “Artists of the Hudson River Valley” is a great exhibition
After a quick tour of the exhibition, it was time to take the trip of to Cooperstown, NY. I had taken instructions from Google maps and took the trip up the local highways. What should have been a two and half trip ended up taking four hours. I went from Route 9 North past Saugerties and Catskill and then headed up Route 145 where I went through every small town in all the farming communities. I had never seen areas so depressed before. These were areas where progressed passed by.
The one thing I started to notice in all these small towns along the highway that in each of the towns I saw old Victorian homes being fixed up with rainbow flags outside of them. Either people were coming home or the reaches of people moving out of New York City reached these lengths. The only positive thing coming out of this pandemic that I noticed was that by people leaving the City and moving into these small communities is they will progress, new businesses and money to these small towns.
Even thought many of these towns were falling apart they had their charms as well. There were small downtown’s surrounded by Victorian homes telling the story that these were once prosperous farming towns with their own businesses and social lives. The town that stood out the most was Middleburgh, NY right near the end of Route 145 near the Interstate 88 turn.
The farms of Middleburgh, NY meet the Catskills with the most colorful foliage
Downtown Middleburgh, NY is really cute with great views of the mountains
Once I got off Route 145, I got on the Interstate and then went on a back road maze of streets that the directions sent me until I decided to just stay on the main road and drove up Route 7 to Route 18 to Cooperstown. I must have seen every small town in Upstate New York.
I finally arrived in Cooperstown at 6:00pm almost four hours later and I was exhausted from all the driving. I stopped in Downtown Cooperstown for directions and then it was off to the hotel. I got into town before it got dark so I got to see the views of the hotel. The Otesaga Resort Hotel at 60 Lake Street is right on the bend of the southern most part of Lake Otsego.
The Otesaga Resort Hotel is a grand hotel
The Otesaga Resort Hotel was taking every precaution as well. The hotel was only at a 25% occupancy and you could tell by the parking lot it was not that full. When I entered the lobby there were only a few people there and the front desk gentleman was behind a Plexiglas sheet with a mask and gloves on. Sterile but smart.
My room was everything that I hoped for. I had a third floor partial lake view room on the third floor which I found out after I left the hotel is one of the haunted floors. The hotel’s bio said that there the voices of small girls laughing in the hallway. I heard dead silence of a floor that was not that full. I settled in before I left to find a restaurant for my birthday dinner.
The Hawkeye Bar & Grill , one of the signature restaurants of the hotel, was the only one that was open with a very limited menu. I decided to come back later for a drink at the bar and headed into downtown a block away. There was not much open on a Sunday night at 7:00pm. It looked like the whole downtown closed up.
It was a cool night and I wanted simple comfort food. I was in the mood for a hot turkey sandwich and I found it at the Doubleday Cafe at 93 Main Street. Talk about being socially distanced there were only about ten people in the restaurant and a few more walked in after I got my dinner. Like I said, there was not much open. The restaurants were either too expensive or had boring menus.
The Doubleday Cafe at 93 Main Street in Cooperstown
The service here is really friendly and personable. After that long trip, I really needed this. The food was delicious (see review on TripAdvisor). The hot turkey sandwich really hit the spot. It was loaded with fresh turkey on white toast with a side of mashed potatoes. I got to watch the end of the Giants-Dallas game while I was eating (Giants lost again) and watched the last of the stragglers walking around the downtown.
The Hot Turkey Sandwiches here are delicious
After both the game and dinner were over, I took a long walk around the downtown. My family and friends had been calling me all day to wish me a happy birthday so I ended up talking to my brother while I was walking around. There was no one around that night and I swear there must have been about ten people walking around Downtown Cooperstown. The place was so quiet.
I walked back to the hotel that evening and it was all illuminated for the evening. The hotel looked busier than it was and in the lobby people were talking by the fire, working on their computers by the couches and the fire pit bar was packed with people who were socially distanced.
I had talked with one of the waiters earlier who said a friend of hers had seen a ghost in the hotel and said the Fifth Floor made people working at night a little uncomfortable so off I went to the Fifth Floor to search for a ghost.
All I saw was an empty hallway and people talking in rooms. Nothing going bump in the night. So I headed down to the Hawkeye Bar & Grill on the lower level of the hotel for a drink. I had a Cosmopolitan that really knocked me out. I was tired from all that driving. I was going to sit out at the fire pit but no one else was outside at that point and they were ready to close. They closed the bar at 10:00pm. At least I got my birthday drink in with a cheery hello from the bartender (see review on TripAdvisor).
The Fire Pit bar was very popular that night
If there was a ghost in my room, it could not have waken me with a atom bomb. I went into such a deep sleep that I awoke at 8:30am rested and refreshed. I had a 9:30am breakfast appointment in the Glitterglass Room, the hotel’s dining room for breakfast. What I loved about the package I chose was breakfast was included.
I had the best waiter. He said to me that since the buffet could not be done, I could order anything from the A La Carte menu and as much as I wanted. BIG MISTAKE! I love breakfast and I was starved. I started with a three egg omelet with ham and Cheddar with a side of bacon, potatoes, rye toast and tea and orange juice. After I ate that, I also ordered Fresh Waffles with blueberry compote. I think I shocked the waiter by eating everything.
The Glitterglass Room for breakfast is beautiful
After breakfast was over and before I checked out of the room, I walked around the grounds to admire the foliage and the lake. It cleared up outside and it was sunny with blue skies. The grounds of the hotel are just breathtaking. The views of the mountains and the lake are so scenic and graceful. The golfers, COVID or not, were out in force and already playing rounds of golf. It would have nice to use the pool or swim in the lake but that was out of the question.
The grounds of the Otesaga Hotel are glorious
I dropped my bags in the car and walked down to the National Baseball Hall of Fame for the morning. The downtown area was still really quiet and I had timed tickets for 12:30pm. I thought I would be there for about two hours. I was there for almost three.
National Baseball Hall of Fame
The National Baseball Hall of Fame is a true testament to the sport. There are artifacts from every era of the sport starting with early traces of bat and ball sports going back to the Egyptians and Greeks. The progress of the sport since the end of the Civil War to today is reflected in the memorabilia that has been donated over the year by teams, players and fans.
“The Captain” Derek Jeter
The museum opened in 1939 and has been growing every since. I really liked the Hall of Fame room with all the plaques of celebrated players. Recently Derek Jeter was inducted into the Hall of Fame but because of COVID, the ceremony was cancelled. I was looking for Reggie Jackson, “Mr. October”, who was induced in year ago. I just remember the thrill when he went in as a Yankee.
The Hall of Fame Room
I wondered through all the exhibitions of old player uniforms, displays of many of our most famous players and exhibits of the Negro and female leagues. There were interesting displays on Babe Ruth and Hank Aaron. There was a complete collection of baseball cards and collectibles.
Lockers of the famous teams
There was even displays of Hollywood films such as “The Bad News Bears” and “A Field of Dreams”. There was a complete history of the ball and bats and the progression of uniforms over the years. There was even a history of the teams playing globally in Japan and the Dominican Republic.
The one thing I did notice that for a holiday weekend (it was Columbus Day) how quiet the museum was that afternoon. There must have been barely fifty people in the museum walking around at any one time. Even when I left the museum at 2:30pm, there were not that many people walking around outside.
Before my next stop the Fenimore Art Museum up the road, I stopped for lunch at Sal’s Pizzeria at 110 Main Street right near the National Baseball Hall of Fame for a quick lunch. After the breakfast I had I was not that hungry. I can always fit in a slice of pizza and a Coke. The pizza was pretty good, crisp on the bottom and gooey on the top. The sauce did not have much flavor though. It needed more spices.
Sal’s Pizza at 110 Main Street
The owner seemed worried about business. There were very few people walking around the downtown at 2:30pm and it did not look like it was going to get any busier. Even I was surprised for a holiday weekend it was so quiet. He confided it had been like this for awhile. Still the pizza is very good and the service is friendly.
I had stopped earlier in the morning at Schneider’s Bakery at 157 Main Street for a jelly doughnut. I just had to see the inside of this traditional old fashioned bakery.
Schneider’s Bakery at 157 Main Street
I highly recommend coming here for an early morning snack or for dessert later in the afternoon. Their cinnamon jelly doughnuts are delicious and the service is so friendly.
The selection of baked goods is extensive
After lunch, I walked back to the hotel, picked up my car and took one last look at the Otesaga Hotel. God, was a beautiful place it is with all the foliage and views of the lake. I was just spell bound by it all.
My last stop on this adventure was the Fenimore Art Museum at 5798 Route 80, right up the road from the hotel. This wonderful little museum is packed with interesting American Art from the Revolutionary and Colonial era, family heirlooms from the Cooper and Fenimore families who once owned all the surrounding land and developed the town, Native American Art from the Thaw Family and several pieces from the Hudson River School set of painters.
The Fenimore Museum at 5798 Route 80
The upper floors hold the special galleries which have revolving shows as well. I thought the Native American galleries were interesting. There are were all sorts of artifacts from all eras from ceremonial masks and religious objects to clothes and jewelry. There was an facinating amount of objects from different tribes.
The Thaw Collection of Native American Art
The historical family pieces show how much the family had a hand in the development of Cooperstown.
The Cooper Family Collection
I spent the rest of the afternoon touring the galleries by myself. There were not too many other patrons at the museum. I was surprised like at the National Baseball Hall of Fame that they were so quiet. It was myself and just a few other people. I left when the museum closed at 5:00pm.
Before I took the long road home, I took one more tour around the downtown and admired its beauty with all the foliage in full color. It was quite a site The ride home was so much quicker as I took Route 88 to Route 90 and then to the New York Thruway to Route 17. I was home in three and a half hours which really shocked me with the traffic I hit.
It was an amazing and relaxing weekend of interesting museums and cultural sites, beautiful point of nature to communicate with and wonderful food at restaurants that did a wonderful job in keeping me safe. I may not have found a ghost for Halloween but it was a great birthday weekend anyway.
Just as New York City is starting to open back up slowly to visitors and tourists, the Hudson River Valley has opened its restaurants, farms, wineries and historical sites to visitors who need some fresh air and escape from their worries. It has been a tough last couple of months for everyone all over the country and especially in New York City that depends so much on their office workers and tourists to keep the economy of the City thriving.
The Hudson River Valley started to slowly open back up in June and sites have been cautious about keeping everyone socially distanced and keeping events to a smaller scale. Of course you have to wear masks to everything so it does make it difficult to be outside sometimes. Still it was nice to pass people stopping at farm stands to buy fresh produce, visiting farmers markets to see all crafts people with baked goods, prepared foods and artworks. It was just a nice change of scenery.
After finishing the Murray Hill section of Manhattan, my first neighborhood visited since the City reopened on June 10th, 2020, I wanted to visit the sites of the Hudson River Valley. The Staatsburgh Historical Park and the Friends of the Mills Mansion put together a series of smaller events for members and their guests over the weekend so I travelled up to Staatsburgh, Poughkeepsie, Rhinebeck and Red Hook to visit historical sites and see the farms. There was a lot I wanted to cover that I was not able to visit last year because of my schedule.
I started on Saturday at 9:00am in Hyde Park, NY where I have once lived while attending the Culinary Institute of America in the late 1990’s. I had plenty of time to visit since my tour was not until 10:00am in Staatsburgh so I visited the Hyde Park Farmers Market. They had just finished setting up when I got there and having a whole hour before the tour of ‘Historical Staatsburgh’, I decided to stop off and visit the market.
The Hyde Park, NY Farmers Market
It was a cool morning when I arrived but most everyone had already set up their booths and it was a nice selection of baked goods, fresh vegetables and fruits, homemade items like pickles and jellies and a lot of crafts and skin care products. Apples are just starting to come in and there were all sorts of varieties available.
It was nice talking to the merchants about their wares and about business. The COVID pandemic has really affected the farmers markets like everything else and people are just getting used to walking around with masks on even in outdoor spots. The customers like myself put on the their masks and start exploring the booths.
One bakery I stopped at, Tom’s Heritage Bakes Goods & Jam by baker Tom Green, made a pastry that was cross between a pocket and turnover filled with fresh peaches, blueberries and cream cheese. It was $5.00 but it was amazing. The fresh fruit and the buttery pastry was a great combination. Another merchant was selling beautiful wooden snowman and Christmas trees and his wife was selling hand products. I was blown away by the craftsmanship of both of them. It was nice just being outside talking to people who looked happy to see another adult outside the house.
After the Farmers Market, I headed to Staatsburgh State Park and downtown Staatsburgh (which is about six buildings) to take the walking tour of “Historical Staatsburgh” that the park and the Friends group were sponsoring. While I waited for the tour to start, the local Episcopalian church was having their monthly soup and baked goods sale from 9:00am-12:00pm. It was not even 10:00am, they were almost all sold out. The weather had changed over the weekend and it was about 50 degrees when I got to Rhinebeck and had not warmed up that much. It was soup weather.
St. Margaret’s Church was having a wonderful Soup Sale before the tour
Also before the tour, I got to visit the Staatsburgh Library which is housed in the old church chapel. That was a really interesting library. It was lined with beautiful light fixtures and had a nice selection of books that was well organized and had a cosy Children’s Room that was off to the side for the kids. They also had public bathrooms which was very convenient before an afternoon of touring.
The Staatsburg Library was originally the church and then the chapel
We just outside the church at 11:00am and then started our tour of Staatsburgh. We started our walk at St. Margaret’s Episcopalian Church and were lucky enough to be allowed inside. We had to keep socially distanced but got to see the graceful woodwork and the beautiful stained glass windows. The Mills family had donated them to the church and were parishioners here.
The stained glass windows here are hundreds of years old
On the tour through the town, we got to see the homes of various servants and merchants who worked with the Mills family. What I was impressed with was how well the Mills family compensated their employees so that they could have a nice and comfortable life. The homes the servants lived in were really nice even by today’s standards. I could see why everyone stayed with the family a long time.
Many of the homes have been renovated since but still you could see how nicely they were designed and built. The gardens of these homes were in full bloom with zinnias and daisies so the colorful rock gardens accented the homes nicely.
Staatsburgh up until the end of WWII was a factory and industry town that mostly closed down after the war. It was explained to us that when Route 9 was built and bypassed the town, it went from a large working community to the sleepy little town it is today which I did not think was such a bad thing. Staatsburg has such a nice hometown feel to it now.
As we walked through the neighborhoods, we walked past the railroads where society would stop in their Pullman cars and attend society events at the Mills and other Hudson River families homes. It was mostly in ruin now but once this is where High Society gathered before they arrived at their summer homes or as guests.
The last part of the tour was visiting what was left of the small downtown which included a Coach facility for horses and an old elegant department store which now is a store that sells sails for sailboats. A real sign of the times how much a town can change.
The old department store in Staatsburgh now is a sail shop
After the tour finished, I took a ride around the side roads of the old town and admired the houses and gardens one more time. I liked the combination of stone gardens and old homes that make up this part of town. It gives it such a classic Hudson River town look about it.
For lunch after the tour, I went back to Del’s Dairy Creme at 6780 Albany Post Road for lunch. What a nice place for a relaxing lunch. The old ice cream stand has been renovated and the food here is excellent. I had their Roadside Burger which is a simple burger made with freshly ground beef with lettuce, pickle and tomato on it. God, was it delicious. You could taste the richness of the beef with the fresh vegetables. The Pint of Fries were freshly cut potatoes that had deep fried and salted to perfection. The only disappointing part was the milk shake made out of vanilla soft serve. It had no flavor to it.
Del’s Dairy Creme has the most amazing burgers and ice cream
I sat at one of the many tables on the lawn behind the stand. It was cool that afternoon so I wanted to get as much sun as I could. I also noticed all the families that were eating there that afternoon who looked they needed to get out of the house too. The kids ran around and played corn hole while their parents talked.
After the tour, I rode to my next stop the “Walkway Over the Hudson State Historical Park”, an old bridge in Poughkeepsie that you can walk the span of the bridge and see the views of the Hudson River and the surrounding valley.
The “Walkway Across the Hudson” was originally opened as the Poughkeepsie-Highland Railroad Bridge, the first train crossed in January 1889. Known as “The Great Connector,” the bridge linked the industrial Northeast with the developing Midwest and at one time the span was the longest in the nation(Walkway Over The Hudson pamphlet). It was a beautiful sunny day and the view was amazing.
The views over the Hudson River were beautiful
You can cross the river both on the Highland NY and Poughkeepsie, NY and I parked on the Poughkeepsie side. Please be careful when parking in the parking lot with all the bumps and pot holes.
The walk across the walkway was just breathtaking. You could see all the way up and down the river and the views of the riverside with the foliage changing. This on top of watching sailboats going by the bridge and there were some kites in the air on this cool, windy afternoon. You really have to take your time to walk both sides of the bridge. On the Highland side, there is a beautiful park with trails.
The beauty of the Walkway Across the Hudson needs to be appreciated on both sides of the bridge.
After I exited the Walkway, I decided to take a walk around Downtown Poughkeepsie, which I had not visited in almost 25 years since I went to college in Hyde Park. It was being gentrified then and now is going through another wave of gentrification right before COVID hit the country.
The Walkway Across the Hudson and the historical surrounding neighborhoods
The Little Italy section of Poughkeepsie must have been greatly reduced since its heyday. While walking around the Mill Street section of the neighborhood, all that is left is two restaurants, a bakery, a hair salon and a pizzeria. The pandemic has closed several businesses.
Still some of the food establishments stand out. Don’t miss La Deliziosa, an Italian pastry shop at 10 t. Carmel Place. I had an eclair that was delicious. It had a rich creamy custard filling with a thick chocolate icing topping that was a pleasure in every bite. I know that I had a big smile on my fact when I was walking back up Mill Street.
Little Italy and the Historic Downtown are being gentrified quickly
I could see the borders of the old neighborhood but I noticed was that the artists and ‘hipsters’ were moving into the neighborhood. Art galleries and studios were moving into the neighborhood as well as the old Victorian homes were being or had been renovated back to their glory days. The nearby Barrett Art Center is the hub of activity.
I walked from Little Italy to the Historic Downtown with its cast iron and stone carved on the first four blocks which are now housing art galleries, new restaurants and clothing stores. I could see by the new windows and sandblasting that the buildings have already been flipped and the artists are turning these into loft. This part of downtown will soon look like Downtown Beacon, NY soon. It looks like the artists are escaping the City and settling up here.
The Historic Downtown of Poughkeepsie has its Victorian charms
The Cast Iron buildings of Downtown Poughkeepsie are being made into lofts
After my tour of the historic part of Poughkeepsie, I took a drive up to Downtown Red Hook for a slice of pizza before I headed home for the evening. I love going to Village Pizza III for dinner. They make the absolute best red sauce that they use in their pizza and entrees. After having such a big lunch, i just settled on a slice of pizza and a Coke. I then walked around Downtown Red Hook before the trip home. Most of the stores were closed but it was fun to just work off lunch and dinner before I left for home. I would be back the next day for a tour of the Hudson.
Village Pizza III in Downtown Red Hook, NY is outstanding for pizza
Yum! Their pizza is excellent!
The next morning, I made my way back to the Hudson River Valley for the Hudson River Cruise in Kingston , NY at the Kingston Roundout. It was a quiet morning in Kingston as I got there about an hour and a half earlier than the cruise. It was also much colder than the day before and I learned my lesson from the day before and wore long pants on the cruise.
Hudson River Cruises run through the end of October and should not be missed
Before my 11:00am cruise, I got to walk around the Kingston Roundout, the riverfront section of the City of Kingston. This area of the City has seen a lot of action lately as the exodus out of the City up to Kingston has been tremendous. On another trip I took to Kingston one of the women at the Trolley Museum told me that they have 11,000 new residents in Ulster County.
I have to admit that it was not the greatest day to go out on the Hudson River. The temperature really dropped over night and even at 11:00am it was still only 48 degrees. It did warm up a little as the cruise went one but it was still cool the whole trip.
Don’t miss a trip on the Rip Van Winkle II before it closes down at the end of October
The boat, the Rip Van Winkle, was not that full at 11:00am in the morning, there were about 50 of us on a boat that normally holds about 200. So there was plenty of places for us to ‘socially distance ourselves from one another on the boat and most of us chose to sit on the top deck.
Even though it was cold, at least it woke us all up. When we pulled out of the Roundout, the first thing we saw as we exited to enter the Hudson River was the Roundout Lighthouse at the mouth of where the canal meets the Hudson River. Talk about picturesque.
The first stop on the cruise is the Roundout Lighthouse
There was a tape recording of the history of the lighthouse and the people that lived there. It seemed that the lighthouse keeper died on the way back to the lighthouse and his wife carried on the job for many years.
As we passed the lighthouse, continued south down the river until we started to see the mansions along the Hudson River like Wilderstein and the Mills Mansion at Staatsburgh. I have seen these estates many times from land but never from the view of the river and now know why they built the houses where they did. What views! Also the foliage was just starting to change Upstate and the colors were so vibrant.
The foliage is just starting to change in the Hudson River Valley
Our next point of interesting was the Esopus Meadows Lighthouse further down the Hudson River where we heard a recording of that lighthouse keeper as well. The lighthouse was built in 1871 and has been going through renovations and upgrades over the last several years. Sitting in the middle of the river with a backdrop of the foliage made the whole effect picturesque.
The Esopus Meadows Lighthouse sits majestically in the Hudson River
As we rounded the lighthouse, we heard the history of the lighthouses place in the Hudson River before automation and the changes in shipping over the next hundred years. Even though the Hudson River is still a major place of commerce and shipping it is not to the extent it was a hundred years ago. The coming of the railroads and then airplanes changed all that.
We headed back to the Roundout with a history of the mansions that lined the Hudson and our last home was the beautiful Wilderstein, the home of Daisy Suckley who was a relative and confident of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. The Queen Ann home sits on a buff with a beautiful view of the river.
Wilderstein sits on a buff with a beautiful view of the Hudson River
We made our way back to the Kingston Roundout by 1:00pm and it gave me plenty of time to explore the neighborhood. The Kingston Farmer’s Market was still going on when we returned and I do not know where these vendors get their prices. $5.00 for three cookies and a small bundt cake for $8.00? Were they kidding us? These prices were higher than the Farmer’s Market in Hyde Park and more inline with Union Square in Manhattan. Bypass this one folks!
The museum than covers the creation of the Erie Canal and the immense changes to shipping down the Hudson River and the growth of New York City due to shipping. It then covered the modern times with sailing, boating and rowing and its use today.
Hudson River Maritime Museum at 50 Roundout Landing
My next stop was the Hudson River Maritime Museum at 50 Roundout Landing right next to the cruise ship dock. This interest museum covers not just the nautical aspect of the Hudson River but its history from it’s creation by the glaciers and its indigenous population by the Lennape tribes and their life on the Hudson to the the coming of the Dutch settlers and the changes of population.
The history of the shipping and trade on the Hudson River
The museum also covers the development of industry and pollution on the river and how environmentalists have worked to clean it up. There is so much that has happened on the river and its history is extensive. There are also simulated rooms that had been once shipping offices and the complete history of the pleasure rides up and down the Hudson River in steamships. I was at the museum for over two hours.
The shipping industry has been extensive
After another quick tour of the Kingston Roundout shops and restaurants (which I may add are getting more expensive), I left Kingston for a quick trip to SUNY New Paltz to the Samuel Dorsky Museum. The campus had been closed since March and it was the first time since last year I was able to visit the museum.
In between both museums, I stopped for a snack at the Apple Bin Farm Market at 810 Broadway in Ulster Park, NY. This cute little farm stand is right next to their orchards and has all sorts of produce, gardening supplies and grocery products to purchase.
The Apple Bin Farm Market is typical Upstate Hudson River Valley
The market is really nice
I stopped and had a apple turnover which was pricey at $3.50 but was out of the world. It was loaded with apples and cinnamon and topped with a thick icing that I gobbled down in the parking lot. I will be visiting here again soon.
The SUNY New Paltz campus was open on a limited basis and the museum had just reopened. The Dorsky Museum was having a two exhibitions at the time that were carried over from the Spring when the school closed. Artist Jan Swaka, a local artist who had moved from Poland to the Hudson River Valley, was being featured. His works had the influence of change and turmoil coming from a Communist country.
Jan Sawka’s ‘Mother in Law portrait
The other exhibition called “Local Hudson River Artists 2020”, that featured local artists that really showcased the developments in the local art world. It was quiet at the museum and I had the galleries to myself. The campus was quiet during the weekend.
Local Hudson River Artists 2020 exhibition
After I toured the museum and part of the campus which there was no one around, I headed to the Mills Mansion for an outdoor concert that the were having for members. It was the first social event we had had since the Afternoon Tea for Masked Balls in February. I have been taking walking tours around the mansion recently (see VisitingaMuseum.com) but this was really nice.
Staatsburgh State Park-The Mills Mansion
The park and home are the former home of Ruth and Ogden Mills and is a really nice place to tour when it is open. We had the concert out on the portico in the front of the house. It was nice nice to see some of the other members again some since last Fall and some since the winter. We were treated to a concert by the duo ” Acute Reflections”, a jazz duo who looked like they were freezing in their costumes. It had dipped down to 50 degrees at this point and was going in the high 40’s by time the sun went down.
The duo “Acute Reflection” performed that late afternoon.
The concert was really nice as people were bundling under blankets to keep warm or enjoying light snacks that were provided by the Friends of Mills Mansion. The concert went on for about an hour with classic hits from Cole Porter and other known artist from that era plus some original songs they wrote. The duo had a lot of light banter between the two of them during the concert that we were picking up on. Still they were terrific.
Acute Reflections video
It was nice to see the sun set behind the mansion and admire the foliage. It was a nice way to end the evening and then watch the sun set over the Catskills in the distance.
After I left the mansion that evening, saying goodbye to other member of the Friends group, I stopped by Giacomo’s Pizza at One Spakenhill Drive by the Marist College campus for a slice of pizza. Talk about not socially distancing! Marist students were coming in and out all night and the place was packed with people ordering pizza and taking it back to campus.
There was not much of a selection that evening as their normally is so I just had a quick slice of Cheese and went on my way.
Giacomo’s Cheese pizza is really good
Even in the era of COVID, many of us are finding ways of adapting to what is going on in the world. With me, I just throw a mask on and go about my business. This is what life is all about just living it.
I will be making more trips to Upstate New York before Halloween.
Places to Visit:
The Staatsburg State Historical Site (The Mill’s Mansion)
I am still promoting my novel, “Firehouse 101” the story of Hotel Executive Alex Livingston, who moves from Honolulu to Brooklyn a year and a half after the 9/11 attacks and the people he meets along the way and how they change his life for the better.
It’s available on IUniverse.com and all online book sites: