I love visiting the Hudson River Valley so any event or tour that I can go on is an excuse to come up here. I had visited all the sites that I wanted to see on a trip two weeks earlier but wanted to see them in more detail plus I wanted to take some pictures. The weather finally broke, and it was a much more pleasant 83 degrees as opposed to the 96 degrees the trip before. That makes the trip much nicer.
I asked my aunt along so that we could share in the experience, and I could use her phone to take pictures of the all the sites. It is a much nicer trip when you have someone along who enjoys these things. The one nice thing about traveling to the Fishkill, New York area is that it is only an hour away and a straight run up the New York Thruway to Route 84 and then to Route 9. Just a couple of quick back streets and you will be there.
On my first trip up, I got there so early that no one was at the first site, The Brinckerhoff Homestead Historical site, the home of the East Fishkill Historical Society at 68 North Kensington Drive in Hopewell Junction, NY. I double back and stopped for a quick snack at G & R Deli Cafe, a small deli at 2003 Route 52 in a strip mall near the old IBM campus. I needed a snack.
Since I already had dinner plans, I ordered a Sausage, Egg and Cheese on a roll ($5.95) which was a bit more expensive than in the City but it was delicious. The sausage had a nice taste of sage and gave it a lot of flavor. I just relaxed outside in the parking lot and ate breakfast.
After my snack, I got back to the Brinckerhoff Homestead at 12:00pm when it was supposed to open but around 12:30pm there was still no one there and I kept knocking on the door. That’s when one of the county members let me know that they did not open until 1:00pm. Since I had a list of places to visit that day and the time had been posted all over the internet, I asked if we could please start early. He agreed and I got a personal tour of the house. When I came back two weeks later, I better timed it for the 1:00pm opening to take pictures.
The Brinckerhoff family is prominent in the Fishkill area and family members still visit the homestead so the house’s history is ongoing. The house is broken down into three sections as you can see by the picture. The original part of the home was built by John G. Brinckerhoff in 1755 and it consisted of the “Everything Room” on the lower floor with the hearth for cooking, a beehive oven and the large room upstairs for family living.
As John Brinckerhoff’s family grew, they moved out of the house and his brother, George G. Brinckerhoff moved into the home with his family. After the Revolutionary War was over and George G.’s assignment was over in the army, he returned to the house and in 1785 added the middle main addition of the house with four additional rooms. The larger rooms and high ceilings showed the family affluence in that they could heat the home.
When George died in 1812, his brother John and his family moved back into the house. In 1814, the family sold the house to the Purdy family. They lived in the house for the next 60 years and added the final addition onto the house to the left with a summer kitchen and an outdoor oven. It remained in the family until 1875 when it was sold to the Palen family who used it again as a farm. It was then again sold to the Moore family in 1926 and lastly sold to East Fishkill Historical Society in 1974 by developer Gustav Fink who was a developer in the area (East Fishkill Historical Society).
The rooms are decorated in period furnishings and when we started the tour, you begin in the oldest section of the home with the original kitchen area.
The “Everything Room” in the Brinckerhoff Homestead
This is where the family would cook, eat, do their work on farm affairs and socialize. There was also a small general store on the property as well. The upstairs was closed to the public.
You next moved into the main rooms of the 1785 addition which brought it the into then modern era with high ceilings and larger rooms so that the family had more living space and could entertain.
The Main Dining Room of the home which was set for Hot Chocolate service which again showed the family’s affluence as chocolate was very expensive then
We also toured the Living Room which was set for socializing and work women did for the home with needlepoint, weaving, and clothes making. There was still room for people to gather and entertain.
The Living Room of the 1785 addition to the home
Along the main corridor of the home in the addition was all sorts of artifacts from the Revolutionary War period and items from the time.
Our last part of the tour was the latest addition by the Purdy family when we toured the ‘Summer Kitchen”, which showed how the home had progressed over the years. Little by little each family brought it into the next ‘modern era’.
Both times I got to tour the grounds and the beautiful gardens that the volunteers maintained. Rock gardens and flower beds line the three acres of land around the house. Along with the flower beds, several historical buildings have been moved to the property including the one room schoolhouse from District 9 in East Fishkill that was built in 1826, the 1870 Icehouse which once supplied another home with its ice for the home to keep food fresh before the advent of refrigeration.
The Schoolhouse and the Icehouse and gardens
Another building that is still in use and is open when the house is open for touring is the John Hyatt Blacksmith shop from 1880. It still has some of the original tools and the blacksmith on duty still works the fire and performs tasks in the building.
The last building on the property is the Van Wyck Carriage Barn from 1845. It had been built by Judge Theodorus Van Wyck for his home that was built in East Fishkill that was torn down by the development of the IBM Campus in 1984. IBM paid to have the carriage house dismantled and moved to this property.
The East Fishkill Historical Society with the Brinckerhoff home in the center, the schoolhouse to the right and the blacksmith shop and the carriage house to the left
We took our time to tour the house and the grounds and on my initial visit I got to tour the schoolhouse, the ice house and the blacksmith shop to see the inner workings of these buildings and how they operated.
The docents had told me that they had recently held a ‘Strawberry Festival’ recently promoting the local fruit crops and serving complimentary strawberry shortcake that everyone enjoyed and was gone quickly. There are also Revolutionary War reenactments done on the property and for the holiday season the home will be decorated for the period Christmas holidays with an open house, so there will be things to do and see in the future.
Our next stop on the tour of homes was the Van Wyck Homestead Museum at 504 Route 9, the old Albany Post Road. The house had stood on the main transportation line during the Revolutionary War period and it had served as General George Washington’s northern supply depot during the war because of this location.
Van Wyck Homestead Museum at 504 Route 9 (the Old Albany Post Road)
In 1732, Cornelius Van Wyck bought 959 acres of land from the original Rombout Patent and built the smaller section of the home to the right in 1732. As the family gained affluence in farming and trade, the larger section of the home to the left was built in 1757 with larger rooms and higher ceilings again to show a family’s wealth.
Because of the location of the house in Fishkill on the main road of transportation and the strategic location near the mountains to the south, General George Washington requisitioned the home as the northern supply depot for the Continental Army in October of 1776. Here supplies were run through, army regiments passed and people were buried who died during the war. The house was also used as the headquarters and court marshals and punishments took place on the property (Van Wyck Homestead Museum pamphlet). After the war was over, the house and farm was returned to the family.
The historical marker of the original home
The way the house was furnished was slightly different from the Brinckerhoff Homestead that looked more like you were walking into someone’s actual home. The old Living Room of the Van Wyck Homestead is being used as a meeting room and a place to display items from the Revolutionary War.
The Living Room and Meeting Room at the Van Wyck Homestead
The Revolutionary War Collection at the Van Wyck Homestead
Towards the back of the home is a Library/Research area and we were able to see all the old books and records that are part of the home’s collection. This is where most people do their genealogy work and family research.
The Research Library at the Van Wyck Homestead
What both my aunt and I thought was interesting was when we entered the older part of the house and the old Dining Room area. Many of the artifacts were old Van Wyck family heirlooms that had been donated over the years.
The Dining Room of the Van Wyck Homestead
Some of the recent additions were the crib which had been in the family for five generations and had just been donated to the home as well as the painting over the fireplace had just been collected by the home. Like the Brinckerhoff Homestead, there are many members of the Van Wyck family who come back to visit and still live in the area.
The Colonial kitchen and hearth are in the oldest section of the home from 1732. This is where the “Everything Room” was located. Back when this was the only section of the home, this is where all the cooking, dining, family business and social activities were located. All sorts of kitchen equipment lined the walls and shelves to show life in colonial times. It was funny that much of it has not changed over the years, just modernized.
The original family kitchen in the 1732 section of the Van Wyck Homestead
Outside the home, the organization planted the outside gardens and there is a recreation of the old beehive oven aside the home. It gave you a glimpse of how food came about for these large families before supermarkets.
The Van Wyck Gardens showed how the house was self-sufficient at one time
After touring the grounds, we walked back to see the displays one more time. On my initial trip, the tour guide let me see the upstairs rooms. In the newer part of the home, they had been turned into storage and offices for the docents. In the older part of the home, the old loft area was used for storage, and it was pretty dusty.
After touring these two homes, we were off to Wappinger’s Falls further up Route 9 to visit the Mesier Homestead in Mesier Park just off the beginning of Downtown Wappinger’s Falls. There was a concert going on in the park and my aunt said she needed a break from visiting these old homes. Too many arrowheads and Revolutionary War furniture so she stayed and listened to the concert while I toured the home.
The Mesier Homestead is the home of the Wappinger Falls Historical Society, who maintains the home. The Mesier home is much like the other homes in that it had been added onto as the family grew and became more affluent. The original part of the home is currently going through a renovation and the President of the Wappinger Falls Historical Society explained that they just discovered the old hearth and oven and are currently restoring the historic windows.
The original part of the home is currently under renovation
Starting the tour at the front entrance of the home that leads to the formal Living Room that is decorated with Victorian decor. Again the large rooms and high ceilings showed the family affluence by showing how they could afford to heat their home.
The Living Room at the Mesier Homestead
The copies of the Mesier family portraits in the Mesier Living Room
The Living Room leads to the back Library where many additions of older books are held and where visitors can do research on their family history in the Wappinger Falls. Many are trying to trace their family’s history.
The Mesier Homestead Library and Research Room
The back area of the house is closed for renovations, but you can climb the stairs to the old bedrooms on the second floor. Here is where both the family and the family slaves then servants lived on the same floor.
The Adult’s Bedroom set during Victorian times
A woman’s boudoir during Victorian times
The rooms also showed a child’s place in the family where during Victorian times were treated like ‘little adults’ being trained for their future lives. Toys not just sparked the imagination but also prepared children for domestic life
Children’s playthings during Victorian times spurred imagination
On top of the recreations of the family life in both Colonial and Victorian times that the family lived through, there was an extensive collection of Native American items showing the original settlers of the region when the Lenape Indians lived, fished and hunted in this area before the arrival of the Dutch in the late 1600’s.
The Native American collection on the second floor of the Mesier Homestead
The last part of the tour ended in the formal Dining Room where the entertainment was done and the family took their meals. When I asked why these homes seemed so much smaller than homes like the Vanderbilts and Mills families, it was explained that these families were older more established and did not have to show off their wealth. Since these were God fearing individuals, it was not acceptable to be ‘showy’. People knew they were affluent so they could show off but not flaunt it.
The formal Dining Room at the Mesier Homestead set for dinner
During the Christmas holiday season, the house is beautifully decorated for a Victorian Christmas with garlands and bows and period decorations. Most of these old homes are elegantly decorated as the families once had done during the holidays.
During Colonial times, Christmas meant church services in the morning or afternoon and then a formal dinner in the afternoon. You might have pine, garland and berries decorate the house whereas during Victorian times, it was a much more elaborate affair. There would be a Christmas tree, garland and pine all over the home and gift giving. Christmas cards would have also decorated the home as well.
The Mesier Homestead at Christmas time (Wappinger Falls Historical Society)
After the tour, I took a quick walk into downtown Wappinger Falls which has a great downtown with terrific restaurants and a great view of the river and falls.
Downtown Wappinger Falls has such a unique look to it.
Our last part of the tour was visiting the First Reformed Church of Fishkill at 717 Route 9 at the beginning of Downtown Fishkill, NY. This elegant old church with its historic cemetery was built in 1732 on land that had been set aside for the church.
The Fishkill First Reformed Dutch Church at 717 Route 9 with the DuBois House next door
The church was closed for the afternoon as services are at 10:00am on Sundays so I toured around the church and the cemetery. What was interesting about the cemetery is all the family plots and who was intermarried into whose families.
The cemetery behind the church is full of family plots including the Brinckerhoff and Van Wyck families
After touring the church and the cemetery grounds, I took my time and walked Downtown Fishkill which is lined with small but interesting restaurants and stores. The street had been lively the two times that I visited with people enjoying the outdoor dining and the perfect 80-degree weather.
While walking around Downtown Fishkill, I came across the Fishkill Creamery at 1042 Main Street and needed a quick snack on a hot afternoon. The store was really busy with people eating outside on the benches and tables. I stopped in and had a scoop of Strawberry Cheesecake and a scoop of Birthday Cake ice cream. Did it hit the spot! The Strawberry Cheesecake was especially good with chunks of fresh strawberries in it.
The Fishkill Creamery at 1042 Main Street in Downtown Fishkill
After the ice cream, it was time for dinner (I always believe in saving room for dessert). Both times I tried Antonella’s Pizzeria & Restaurant at 738 Route 9 in Fishkill. You really have to search for the restaurant as it is located in the strip mall in the Shoprite Mall.
Antonella’s Pizzeria & Restaurant at 738 Route 9
The food here is really good. When I came up on my own, I just wanted something small, and I ordered the Cheese Calzone ($8.95). The thing was huge! The Calzone was so large that it could have fed two people easily. It was loaded with Ricotta, Mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses and they make a terrific marinara sauce that accompanied it. By the time I finished devouring the thing, I was stuffed. This after all that ice cream.
We returned to Antonella’s when my aunt and I returned to Fishkill for the touring since I was so impressed with the food and service. My aunt had the Sausage, Pepper & Onion Roll ($8.50) and I had the Stromboli Roll ($8.50) which had ham, salami, pepperoni, Ricotta and Mozzarella cheeses wrapped in a perfectly baked pizza dough. Both were served with their flavorful marinara sauce. After a long day of touring, it was just what we needed. We also took plenty of time to relax and digest on this trip.
The Cheese Calzone’s at Antonella’s are excellent
It was really a nice day and there is so much to see and do in this part of the Hudson River Valley. I had not really explored Fishkill, NY so it was fascinating to see all these old homes and historic sites and know their place in history. Take the time to tour these homes and hear the family stories. Remember to head back during the Christmas holiday season and explore these homes and the downtowns when they are decorated for the season. There is a special magic in the Hudson River Valley during the holiday season. Check their websites for more activities during the year.
(Please read the accompanying reviews on VisitingaMuseum.com to see a full description on these homes).
Places to Visit:
Brinckerhoff House Historic Site/East Fishkill Historical Society
I really enjoy my trips to the Hudson River Valley to attend weekend events. When I read about the series of County Fairs that will be held during August upstate, I wanted to start visiting them. I have been to the Dutchess County Fair for many years, but I never ventured outside that fair. I have never really explored Ulster County, so I decided to head upstate and visit the Uster County Fair for the afternoon. It was an eye opener.
I found that the Ulster County Fair was about half the size of the Dutchess County Fair across the river. The fairgrounds are smaller than Dutchess County’s so you could tour the fair much quicker. There were lots to do at the fairgrounds and I explored the whole fair over the next three hours.
I first visited the Volunteer Fire Museum and the Police Museum that are only open when the fair is open. The Police Museum was stocked with equipment that law enforcement has used over the last hundred years that includes batons, handcuffs and how a police station works. They even had a small jail display. The Volunteer Fire Museum was stocked with equipment that volunteer fire departments had donated, pictures and patches of local departments and like The Police Museum staffed by volunteers from the departments who could describe the objects in the museum and what their position was in their departments.
It was a nice to talk to other volunteer fire fighters who face the issues we all face, changing ranks in the volunteers with a generation gap and trying to recruit new fire fighters. All of us still have the pride of being a fire fighter but the role seems to be changing. The museum reflected that with new ways of firefighting are being practiced but keeping the traditions alive. Both museums should be a bit more updated.
After I left the museums, I toured the 4H displays. There were barn pens filled with cows, horses, rabbits, pigs and chickens. The 4H members were taking care of their animals, washing them and feeding them and the animals seemed to know that they were on display. Some of them looked like they were showing off by the way they moved around in their pens. The kids showed their pride by the way they cared for them. The way they cleaned and brushed them and cared for their pens.
What I liked about the 4H stand was their food station. They had the most reasonable food at the fair. Their hot dogs were $2.00, their sodas were $1.00, and their milkshakes were $5.00 as opposed to the higher prices of the food vendors. I had a vanilla shake that the kids made, and I will tell you that there is nothing better than a fresh vanilla shake made with fresh milk and fresh ice cream made from their cows. I really enjoyed it.
I looked around at the food vendors and I could not believe the prices. Everything was so expensive. The hamburgers pulled pork sandwiches and cheesesteaks were between $12.00 to $15.00 and I thought that was too high. The zeppole and fried dough not only were $8.00 for six small zeppole but all the fried foods were sitting under heat lamps. If there were seventy or eighty people at the fair that afternoon, it was a lot. There was no reason for them to cook so much food in advance. I stopped at one pizza stand and had a slice of pizza for $6.00 and a Coke for $3.00 and it was a lot for a slice of pizza with no flavor.
I walked around all the booths that were selling local wares and there were people selling arts and crafts and food items. There were some interesting food stuffs like local honey, jellies, syrups and baked items but again they priced them so high that it was cheaper to buy them in a grocery store. Maple syrup should not be $14.00 for a small jar. I think these vendors priced out the customers that were coming to the fair.
I walked around the amusement area of the fair and that got busier by the end of the afternoon as families started to arrive during the early evening. As I walked around the rides, more and more kids were on the rides. Most of the rides were geared towards small children and I could see the teenagers watching their younger siblings enjoying themselves. They would go off with their friends as soon as the parents returned.
The Ulster County Fair Amusement area
After I had visited all the attractions, amusement areas and walked around the fair about four times, I ventured out of the fair to get dinner. The options were just too expensive, and the selection was not very good. I decided to head into downtown New Platz for dinner.
As I was leaving at 6:00pm, the crowds really started to come in as the entertainment was going to start at 8:00pm. Singer Allie Colleen was headlining that night and it looked like she was going to have a big crowd. What I did not realize until later is that she is Garth Brook’s daughter and a noted Country music singer.
Trying to leave the fair was an experience as the traffic started to increase and you had to leave the way you came in. I could not believe that the entrance was the exit as well.
The funny part of the Ulster County Fair Grounds is that it is in the middle of farmland as opposed to the Dutchess County Fairgrounds that are on the edge of Rhinebeck. Two different fairs with two different vibes. I really felt that I was among the locals at this fair whereas the Dutchess County Fair gets people from the City and from New Jersey as well. I really did feel like a visitor.
I parked up in Downtown New Platz and have to admit that it has not changed much since my first visit during Christmas of 2014. Parts of the downtown have attracted more expensive restaurants and there are some newer stores but the downtown still has that college vibe to it with a ‘New Age’ feel. It’s like a bigger version of Woodstock.
I walked all around the downtown area to see all the new places to eat and shop. I got into the downtown just before things started to close. Like many other towns, New Paltz has taken a hit in their businesses when the SUNY Campus closed but it looks like new businesses are starting to open in their place. What surprised me was the prices for meals. These restaurants were not catering to the artists or the college students but more to out-of-town visitors. I have this thing about $34.00 entrees in a college town.
I went to McGillicuddy’s restaurant at 84 Main Street for dinner that night. I had been there many times before when visiting New Paltz and I love the college vibe of the place. Plus, you can watch the games on the big screen TVs.
I ordered one of their Original Hamburgers with a side of Waffle fries and I have to tell you it was one of the best burgers that I had had in a long time. Their burgers are large and juicy and have a wonderful beefy taste (order it medium well to get a well-done burger) and it was accompanied by a large portion of waffle fries ($12.95). Everything was delicious and the service was great.
The burger and fries were delicious
What is nice about New Paltz is that it is on the opposite side of the river from all the places I normally visit like Rhinebeck and Red Hook and once out of town, you immediately get to the New York Thruway, and I was home in just over an hour.
It was a nice experience and fun visiting the fair. Now off to visit the Dutchess County Fair in two weeks!
My day at the Dutchess County Fair:
Day One Hundred and Nineteen-Visiting the Dutchess County Fair:
I cannot believe that another Christmas has come and gone and COVID is still raging around. Talk about having to adapt to a new world a lot wiser and more aware. I have just become more careful over the last year and kept my activities to a minimum (yeh right, I still run all over the place for work and keeping people informed about happenings all over the place). I just try to stay safe. I put my walk of the Garment District on hold for the Christmas holidays and all that came with it.
Christmas started right after I came home from Thanksgiving dinner in Lambertville when the next morning, I had to wake up at 6:00am to get ready to go to the Christmas tree lot for the Annual Hasbrouck Heights Men’s Association Christmas Tree Drop Off of the trees. We had 390 trees being delivered and it was all hands-on deck.
Setting up the Christmas trees
Who knew that the truck would arrive at 8:00am and we got caught off guard. No one expected it to come until at least 10:30am. So, at 9:00am, over thirty members and their children emptied all 390 Christmas trees off the truck (they shorted us ten trees), got them tagged and ready to sell. We had not even finished tagging the trees and our first tree sold at 10:30am.
The Hasbrouck Heights Men’s Association at Christmas tree set up 2021
I stayed on the site until 4:30pm and we had already sold the first twenty-one trees. I could not believe how fast the trees sold that day. The only reason why I left is that I had to help with the Hasbrouck Heights Fire Department on the town’s Annual Holiday Parade. God did it get cold that night.
The night after Thanksgiving, the Hasbrouck Heights Chamber of Commerce holds the Annual Holiday Parade and the Hasbrouck Heights Fire Department is always a participant from helping Santa enter town in the Parade to setting up the sound system for the Tree Lighting Ceremony. I swear it got so cold that night by the time the town lit the tree it must have gone down to 35 degrees. Thank God we bundled up!
The Hasbrouck Heights Fire Department at the Annual Hasbrouck Heights Holiday Parade
After the tree was lit, I never saw a place empty out so fast. People were so cold! Even with all our layers, we were cold too.
I did an about face and the next morning left for Beach Haven, NJ to attend some of Long Beach Island’s Christmas activities. The day ended up being much nicer and was a bit warmer. It is a two-hour trip to the shore and you would think that a beach community is not the place to spend an early Christmas weekend but you would be amazed at the activities they had planned all over the island that day.
I left the house around 8:30am on what started out as a gloomy morning that turned sunny and clear by the time I reached Long Beach Island. I decided to visit the Barnegat Lighthouse first to see if it was decorated with lights like the lighthouse at Montauk Point. That was always impressive the years I went out to visit my friend, Lillian.
The lighthouse was not decorated for the holidays but was finally open to walk in and climb the stairs. It was over a hundred steps up and back down. What a view all the way up. There were small stops on the way up with views on each level landing. By the time I reached the top of the stairs there were only three of us up there and God was it windy. I only lasted at the top of the lighthouse a few minutes before I almost blew off. What views of the waves coming in!
The Barnegat Lighthouse at the tip of Long Beach Island
Before I made the journey to the southern part of the island on my November trip, I stopped by the “Santa’s Viking Christmas Village” to see the arts and crafts festival at Viking Village at 19th and the Bay Barnegat Light. It was a sunny but cool afternoon but the winds had calmed down and I was able to walk the booths with no problems. I was in search of homemade Santa’s for my mother’s upcoming birthday. I found them in two different booths, one made of a conch shell and another made of wood.
The local seafood restaurant was open for takeout and you could smell the fried fish in the distance along with the horrible singing by a guitarist who could not carry a note. Thank God he took a break in time for the Barnegat Light Fire Department to bring Mr. and Mrs. Claus to the Village for a visit to the local children.
Santa’s Viking Christmas Village at dusk at closing
After touring the Village, I made my way back down Long Beach Boulevard to the LBI Foundation of The Arts & Sciences Holiday Market 2021, which was mostly full of more expensive artwork and home decor products. It was not as festive as the Village Market and all our mask wearing steamed up everyone’s glasses which was a big complaint.
My next stop was the Long Beach Island Historical Society which sponsored an “Elves Workshop” for kids and their parents with all sorts of arts and crafts happening at twelve different tables lining the front room of the museum. There was cookie decorating and Christmas tree creation with beads and cloth and gingerbread house making. To end the evening, they had Smores and Marshmallows roasting over open firepits in the park across the street.
The Elves Workshop at the Long Beach Island Historical Society
The museum knows how to welcome in the holiday season.
The Christmas display at the front of the Long Beach Island Historical Society
After my visit to the Historical Society, I went down the road and revisited the NJ Maritime Museum 528 Dock Road right by the water. I had read so much at the shark attacks in New Jersey back in 1916 and wanted to see the exhibition again. I also wanted to see the exhibition on shipwrecks again so I spent the rest of the afternoon at the museum and then walking down to the harbor to watch the sun set. The sun sets on that island are amazing.
For dinner that night, I went back to the Chicken or the Egg at 207 North Bay Avenue in the Beach Haven downtown. The food and the selection here is just excellent and the perfect place for comfort foods on a cool night. My waiter could not have been nicer and recommended the White Clam Chowder, which was so thick and rich and you could taste the cream and fresh clams in every bite. God the seafood was so sweet.
The Chicken or the Egg at 207 North Bay Avenue in Beach Haven, NJ
For dinner, I started with the New England Clam Chowder and did it hit the spot. Loaded with clams and potatoes in a rich cream soup. It warmed me up inside. I ordered the Chicken Pot Pie for the entree, which was delicious as well. Chunks of chicken and fresh vegetables in a flaky crust and a rich gravy. On a cool night by the shore, there is nothing like it to warm you up. Talk about making the perfect choices for dinner.
After dinner on my visit in November of 2021 at the Chicken or the Egg, I finished dessert at The Woo Hoo and walked up through the downtown to see the last of the people roasting marshmallows in the park and walked to Kapler’s Pharmacy at 1 South Bay Street. The drug store was sponsoring horse drawn carriage rides around the neighborhood. I thought what a nice way to end the evening with a twilight view of the sun setting and watching the Christmas lights going on at houses around the neighborhood. The Jersey Shore at Christmas can really surprise you.
Kapler’s Pharmacy event at 1 South Bay Avenue in 2021
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? Visiting at all times of the year in warm weather and then returning for the Christmas holiday events. Who says the Shore closes at Labor Day?
Later that day I found out that Michigan State beat Penn State 30-27. What a way to end the day on my November trip!
After a short trip down to my mom’s for her birthday and two Private Member Nights in New York City at The Met and the Museum of the City of New York (see blog below):
Day Two Hundred and Eight: Private Members Nights in NYC:
it was back to Rhinebeck, NY for the Sinterklaas Parade and Celebration on Saturday, December 4th. I swear I was running from one place to another the whole week but was looking forward to the parade that had been cancelled last year because of COVID.
I travelled back up to Rhinebeck again for the festivities and got there by 10:00am in time to help unload the truck at the Starr Library. That brought back a lot of memories from parades past and it was so nice to walk around the cool air of Upstate New York. What started off as a very gloomy morning cleared up and it ended up being a clear, sunny and mild day in Rhinebeck.
We unpacked the familiar floats and puppets from years past and put together the bees, owls, geese, knights and dragons, horses that would lead Sinterklaas down his route and Children’s puppets that had children hoping for better times ahead. I always enjoy the comradery of the morning of putting the puppets together for the parade. Our theme this year was “Miss Mouse and Mr. Toad get married” so our events were based on the two characters getting hitched.
(I wanted to thank volunteer Jonathan Green for these pictures)
Me (in the jacket and khakis at the set up for the ‘Sinterklaas Parade’ in Rhinebeck, NY
Setting up the puppets for the parade is interesting
All the latest puppets ready to enter the parade
Mr. Toad preparing for his marriage to Miss Mouse
Miss Mouse preparing for her marriage to Mr. Toad in the Sinterklaas Parade
The Dragon is preparing for his duel with the knights of the parade
The puppets were set up in record time and we were finished by 11:45am
After we were done with the puppets, I drove down to Downtown Rhinebeck and parked a few blocks away and walked over to Main Street and joined in the opening festivities at the Beekman Arms. The restaurant was already packed with customers when I got there and the banquet room was full of visitors at the Opening Ceremony.
I had already checked in to my hotel, so I did not have to come back to the hotel until later that evening. This time I stayed at the Marriott Poughkeepsie which was much closer to Rhinebeck than staying at the one in Fishkill. I have to say that both hotels were wonderful when I was visiting the area.
The Marriott Poughkeepsie at 2641 South Road/Route 9
The Opening Ceremony at the Beekman Arms is always a lot of fun. All the costumed characters are introduced like the Pocket Lady, Mother Holly (who is always feeling jolly), the Queen Bee and the Snow King and Queen. They also introduced the Mayor of Rhinebeck and his wife, who portrayed Mr. Toad and Miss Mouse and reconfirmed their wedding vows in real life in front of the whole crowd. I thought that was very touching and I told her this later when I ran into her at another event.
After the marriage ceremony and the traditional Polar Bear Dance, Jonathan Kruk, a well-known storyteller, told the story of Sinterklaas. Mr. Kruk is a wonderful speaker and knows how to tell a story. He always captivates a crowd. Even though I have heard the same stories for years, I still enjoy listening to him speak.
No one is better at storytelling then Jonathan Kruk at Sinterklaas
Because I said that I would help with the checking in with the volunteers for the parade, I had to be back to the library by 4:00pm so that only gave me about a little over two and a half hours this time to enjoy the festivities.
What was nice was the policy blocked off the Downtown area so that everyone could walk in the streets and watch the performers do their thing. There were bands on stilts performing rag time music and holiday classics, the Polar Bear danced around and greeted visits with a quick spin on the street and I visited the Toad Stool where Mr. Toad and Miss Mouse greeted each visitor with a bundle of ribbons so that you could give them to strangers for good luck. I had never heard of that tradition before but it was interesting to walk through a giant toadstool.
I also walked around the businesses that were open and admired the store window displays. It was as if each store was trying to outdo the other for creativity and beauty of the Christmas season. My favorite was Samuel’s Sweet Shop at 42 East Market Street in Downtown Rhinebeck.
I watched the Grumpuses, Sinterklaas’s helpers do their traditional dance, singing groups entertain the outdoor crowds (Keeping COVID safe) and performers with sticks doing their routine. What I liked about Sinterklaas this year is that there were a lot of outdoor venues, so people were not cooped up inside wearing masks.
By 3:00pm I was starved and knowing that I would not be able to eat until way after the parade was over, I stopped at Pete’s Famous at 34 East Market Street. I love dining here and like their generous portions and the friendly service. I had my favorite Turkey Club sandwich with French Fries which is always good. They roast their own fresh turkey every day for their sandwiches.
The day started to fall into dusk and the whole town was being lit up. This is when Rhinebeck shows its true beauty as a Christmas village. All the trees in the Downtown are lit with white lights and adorned with paintings of the Sinterklaas Festival and ribbons. Also, all the stores light their windows and it makes the whole town look like a Currier & Ives woodprint.
Downtown Rhinebeck at dusk
Downtown Rhinebeck at night when its magic comes to life
I got back to the library at 4:00pm and assisted the staff in getting everyone ready for the parade, explaining how to work the puppets and hold them and making sure that everyone knew to listen to the marshals who were running the parade when it started.
It had been two years since we had a parade but it felt like time had not even passed by. I love to watch the parade come to life. As everyone lines up, the lights go on at each puppet and the bands get into high gear. Then there is the excitement of walking down the hill into Downtown Rhinebeck to the adoring crowds of the parade.
The crowds have tripled in the decade that I have been volunteering for the parade. The first time that I volunteered it was in 2010 with my father on my first trip up to Rhinebeck since being at the Culinary Institute and then I started volunteering again in 2014 when I started working on the Halloween Parade in the City. Just like that parade, excitement builds as the parade starts.
Walking down that hill is an amazing thing as people get so excited to see the floats and hear the music especially at this time with COVID raging on. Things seemed more festive as this is an outdoor event and it was two weeks before the omicron outbreak raged the country. It was a night of revelry and welcoming in the holiday season.
Sinterklaas is a magically evening in Downtown Rhinebeck
Because the positions in the parade and the puppets were all filling myself and the other person, I worked with on checking people in took the “Follow the Banner in the Parade” banner down the hill to get everyone to the staging area for the conclusion of the parade. We were right behind the drumline of women who concluded the parade and whipped spectators into a dancing frenzy. I watched as people literally danced in the streets happy to be outside enjoying this evening. It was so nice to see families have such a good time.
This wonderful view of the parade that was posted online of ‘Sinterklaas 2021’
The parade ended in the community parking lot with all the characters are introduced and the well wishes to Sinterklaas and his entourage. There was music and the fire eaters showing their talents off to the large crowd who were looking towards a much happier holiday season. It was just nice to see everyone having a festive evening.
After the ceremony was over, I just walked around Downtown Rhinebeck, admiring the beautifully decorated windows and admiring the white lights adorning the trees. I love this downtown at Christmas. I stopped at Village Pizza for dinner and it was nice to just warm up. God is their pizza delicious.
After dinner, it was another quiet walk around downtown Rhinebeck to admire the lights and the window displays. I love walking around this town.
Downtown Rhinebeck before nightfall
Downtown Rhinebeck before dusk
The next morning, I was off early to join some of the other members of the Bergen County Firemen’s Home Association for a modified Christmas hello to all our retired firefighters living in the NJ State Firemen’s Association.
Since our party was cancelled for the residents due to COVID, we gave our gift to the residents the week before (we got each resident a long-sleeved shirt that was monogramed with their name on it which I heard they all loved) and we also had a special Jersey Mike’s lunch for the residents the month before to ring in the holiday season.
Because of COVID regulations, we could only have a few members come but myself and the President of the Bergen County Firemen’s Home Association talked with our fellow firefighters during ‘Holiday Bingo’ or walked around to greet them and wish them a ‘Merry Christmas’.
Santa greeting guests at the NJ Firemen’s Home in Boonton, NJ in 2019 in better times
It was just for a short time that we were allowed to stay but the members of the home appreciated it. We wanted to let our fellow firefighters know that we did not forget them during the holidays.
Members of the NJ State Firemen’s Home enjoying the Jersey Mike’s dinner we sponsored
Classes took up most of next week for me as we prepared for my Introduction to Business class to make their big presentation to me for their final grade. So, I was running around most of the week working with both my online class and my live class as we were getting ready for final exams.
On Thursday, December 9th, I took a break from all of my grading and went to see the production of “A Christmas Pudding” at Bergen Community College where I work. The students were putting on a Christmas retrospect of songs and readings which was a very nice performance.
The Theater students sang many traditional and contemporary songs from the American songbook with one student singing a very emotional version of “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” from the movie “Meet Me in St. Louis”. Considering everything that was going on with COVID, I thought it was very touching. The students did a good job with the production and it really put me into the Christmas spirit.
The Play “A Christmas Pudding” at Ciccone Theater at Bergen Community College on December 9th
Another thing that put me into the Christmas spirit was all the new songs coming out this year. Did we need some Christmas cheer this year! I wanted to share two of my favorites that came to me via YouTube.
These two songs appeared on the Internet when I was writing this blog and I thought they were very symbolic of what is going on right now during the holidays as we try to resume to a new normal. I wanted to share them with all of you.
John Legend’s new Christmas song: “You Deserve it All”
Nora Jones new Christmas song: “Christmas Calling”
Kohmi Hirose did this great version of “Sleigh Ride” in English
On December 10th, my students presented their Class Group Project entitled “I’ve got a Golden Ticket to Bergen Community College-Homecoming 2022” and the students did a terrific job with the project.
The students logo to “I’ve got a Golden Ticket to Bergen Community College-Homecoming 2022”.
Here is the presentation with all the commercials:
Day Two Hundred and Nine on my “MywalkinManhattan.com” blog:
This “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory themed project was inspired by the 50th Anniversary of the film. I had the students watch the film for inspiration and ideas, then put the framework for the project together and they took it from there.
There is a message from me their CEO as well:
A welcome from CEO/Co-Founder of Bergecco-Parc Consulting Inc.
I could not have been prouder of my students both in my live class and in my online class who created the individual Class Project, “Market Street Candy & Confections”, reopening a 100-year-old candy store with a modern twist.
Here is the project with all the graphics that the students created:
Day Two Hundred and Ten on “MywalkinManhattan.com”:
With the major class projects over with, I prepared the students final exams and emailed off my online students their exam first. While they came in, I was able to grade along the way. Taking a break from that over the weekend, I visited Hope, NJ for a Lantern Walking Tour of the town and then a Candlelight Church Service at the Methodist church.
The Hope Annual Moravian Christmas Tour and Church service in Hope, NJ
I discovered this tour when I was traveling out to the Delaware Water Gap when I was updating my blog on “Visiting Budd Lake” and I stopped in Hope before heading to Blairstown, where I had wanted to visit the Blairstown Museum at the end of the day (it had closed by then). I saw this flyer when one of the shopkeepers in town handed it to me and I thought it would be an interesting event. What an eye opener!
I never heard of the history of the Moravian religion before and how they founded the town. We toured all the former factories and homes that had been built around the turn of the last century and then heard actors talk about that time during Christmas. Life just seemed slower then.
This is also where the opening scenes of the cult film “Friday the 13th” were shot. The initial scene where Annie arrives in Crystal Lake for her journey to the camp. I included the clip from the opening scene and the what the current locations look like now.
“Friday the 13th” from 1980 filmed in Hope, NJ
The famous opening scene from the film “Friday the 13th”
The inside of the Hope Junction Antiques with one of kind artwork and antiques.
This unique store carries an array of local and regional artists work, the owner’s personal art pieces and a selection of decorative items and antique pieces. It had an interesting selection of holiday items when I visited the town both on my journey through Budd Lake and Route 46 and when I took the walking tour on December 11th. The store was open still right before the tour.
Burgdorff Realty at 2 Walnut Street where Annie enters the truck
The cemetery is the ‘crossroads’ but is actually right down the block from the antique store and the realty company. This is now part of the St. John’s Methodist Church. This is where the Candlelight Services were held.
But I was not there for a movie tour but a cheerful Christmas tour of Moravian history. I met my tour group at the Hope Community Center which was beautifully decorated for Christmas. Before the tour started, the Hope Historical Society who was running the tour was selling food and Christmas items as a fundraiser. We started the Lantern Tour from this location.
The Hope Community Center at 5 Walnut Street decorated for Christmas
When we finished visiting some of the old factories, we visited ‘Trout Alley’, where people used to travel to get around the toll booth when they arrived in Hope. The path is now used to get to the antique store at the end of the path.
The Hope Historical Society was the sponsor of this program and was open the evening of the tour. We got to walk inside and look at old pictures of the town, old maps and artifacts that have been donated over the years by local residents that are part of the history of the town. The small one room building also houses vintage furniture and household and dress items. Please look at my blog at VisitingaMuseum.com above.
Looking down the street from Downtown Hope, NJ to the Inn at Millrace Pond where the Festival of Trees was located.
The house on High Street where we heard about Moravian Christmas traditions
Costumed characters sat on the porch that evening and reminisced about life at the turn of the last century as they prepared for the Christmas holidays. They talked about the hours needed to prepare the decorations and food for the legions of relatives and friends that would be visiting.
It was more spectacular at dusk when it was lit for Christmas
The First Hope Bank and Moravian homes that are now private residences
The bank was called the Gemeinhaus, which was the church/community center of the village. It was built in 1781. The house next door which is part of the bank is the Caleb Swayze House that was built in 1832.
Moravian Residences by the bank
The Caleb Swayze is the house towards the right and it was built in 1832. It is now part of the bank.
The homes and the current bank at dusk lit for Christmas
The Toy Chest Toy Store at 335 High Street a former Moravian home
I have been to the Toy Chest Toy Store many times on my journey to Hope, NJ and it has the most amazing selection of toys, games and collectibles in the area.
Moravian home where the Manger program was performed and after it was over, we visited many local homes of prominent residents from the area. To end the tour, we visited the back of someone’s garage where there was a live nativity scene performed that evening with actors reading from the Bible.
This interesting little barn/garage is across from the church and I thought looked quite festive
St. John’s Methodist Church at 354 High Street and the former Moravian Church where the Candlelight services were held. The service is posted on their Facebook page below.
I attended the Candlelight Christmas services at St. John’s Methodist Church which had once served as the Moravian Church and the service was followed as it would have been at the turn of the last century. The visiting priest had once been head of the church here and gave a very inspirational talk on the holidays that was followed by the lights being dimmed and caroling by candlelight which gave the whole church an interesting glow (you can see the whole service on the church’s Facebook page attached).
Afterwards I took one last walk around Hope to admire all the lights and decorations. After a quick slice of pizza at Hope Pizzeria at 435 Hope Blairstown Road, I was on my way home through the darkness. It really does get dark on these back roads until you hit Route 80. The little pizzeria is tucked into a small strip mall on the side of the road and has great pizza. It really was a festive and interesting evening.
Hope Pizza and Catering at 435 Hope Blairstown Road
For my Christmas present to myself every year, I go to Carnegie Hall for the NY Pops Christmas Concert but it ended up being on the night of my final exam and there was no way to cancel it, so I had to miss it again this year (COVID cancelled it last year).
When I visited the City the Sunday before for the “Shark” exhibition at the American Museum of Natural History, I walked back to Port Authority through Lincoln Center and I wanted to see what was going on this Holiday season and I saw that Kristin Chenoweth was performing a one woman show to promote her new Christmas album that Monday night. I was on the Internet that night to see if there were tickets left for the show.
The “Shark” exhibition at the American Museum of Natural History at Central Park West at 79th Street
The next night I had tickets in hand and off I went to Lincoln Center which I had not been to in two years since I had seen “Whipped Cream” in December of 2019 for the holidays. It was so nice be dressed up and going to the Met again. The theater was packed with people with the same idea. The City was ablaze with Christmas colors and lights.
Lincoln Center in all its glory at Lincoln Center Plaza
What a concert! Talk about being in sync with the holidays and just what the doctor ordered after a long semester. I needed a good concert and this really put me into the holiday spirit. Ms. Chenoweth was really in great spirits that night and brought the house down with these two songs from her album plus playing from Broadway shows and the Great American Songbook. It was a great Christmas concert and I left humming down Eighth Avenue.
This song opened the show at the Metropolitan Opera House on December 13th, 2021
I was starved when I left for the theater since I was in a rush to get into the City that afternoon with enough time to make the concert and still grade quizzes that were coming in from my online class at the Cornell Club.
I had a sudden craving for Linguini in White Clam Sauce so off I went to Amore Pizza Cafe at 370 West 58th Street which I had visited over the summer. I ordered their Linguini in White Clam sauce which ended up being a piping hot almost pound of pasta with a quarter pound of clams on top ($10.95) with a Coke. Talk about excellent and the perfect dinner on a cool night. The sauce was so flavorful and the clams were so sweet and fresh. I ate contently and the manager was so happy when I told her the food was excellent. Talk about an end to a wonderful evening.
The Linguini with White Clam Sauce was just superb that night at Amore Pizza Cafe
For the rest of the week, I had visited the Met and the Museum of the City of New York for private events and while seeing the new “Shark” exhibition at the American Museum of Natural History, I went to see the “Origami Tree”, that has been a staple of the museum for years. All of these events really put me in the Christmas spirit and put the ghosts of last Christmas behind me. It was not too last.
The Origami Tree at the American Museum of Natural History
I wanted to visit the Hudson River Valley again before the holiday season was over and I saw on the Dutchess County Tourism site that Mount Gulian, a mansion near Beacon, NY was being decorated for the holidays and December 15th was the first day it would be open for touring.
I grabbed my aunt and we decided to spend the day visiting decorated homes and towns for the Christmas season. Our first stop was Beacon, NY to visit some of the stores on my website, LittleShoponMainStreet@wordpress.com, Colorant and Flora a Good Time both located in the downtown area and then off to Mount Gulian, a decorated mansion up Route 9.
Downtown Beacon, NY at Christmas
Mount Gulian was the home of the Verplanck’s for generations, the original house burned to the ground in 1938 and this house is a replica of the original sitting on the original home’s foundation. The house is decorated in many of the Verplanck’s family heirlooms donated by branches of the family over the years.
The main rooms on the first floor of the home including the former living room, dining room, sitting room and library were all decorated for the Victorian Christmas holidays. The hallways and doorways were also adorned with garland and bows and lights giving a festive and warm appearance to the house.
The tour took about an hour (see my blog on VisitingaMuseum.com) and the history of the house was discussed at various times and how family members called it home. Our tour guide also gave us interesting facts on the family and their connection with the house today. It is so nice to hear that various members of the Verplanck family still take an interest in the home.
Mount Gulian’s Dining Room decorated for Christmas Dinner
The sitting room at Mount Gulian
After the tour was over, the tour guide invited us to enjoy refreshments of hot cider and home baked goodies. Since there were only three of us on our tour, it gave us a chance to discuss the history of the families in the Hudson River Valley, the status of these famous homes and the future of historic sites of the region. It was really an engaging and interesting afternoon and the tour guide could not have been nicer. The whole event really represented what the Christmas experience is in the Hudson River Valley.
Between the Sinterklaas Parade in the beginning of the month, visiting the decorated homes of the region and walking the festive downtowns of the area giving them a “Currier & Ives” look about them. Dutchess, Ulster, Greene and Columbia counties really know how to convey the holiday spirit.
Downtown Rhinebeck, NY at Christmas
Our next stop was visiting Rhinebeck, NY which we arrived before dusk. The town was just lighting the trees and all the storefront windows were beautifully decorated for the holidays as they were on the night of the Sinterklaas Parade. The only town I know that can compete with Rhinebeck for the title of ‘Christmas Village’ is Cape May, NJ.
Rhinebeck has a magical look at nightfall
Samuel’s Sweet Shop at 42 East Market Street gets into that spirit every year
I love the way they merchandise the store for the holidays and their prices are very fair on their candies and desserts. You have to try their doughnuts.
Our next stop after leaving Rhinebeck was downtown Red Hook, NY which to me represents the best in small towns in the Hudson River Valley with excellent reasonable restaurants, creative store owners and a blend of old and new in architecture. Plus, everyone is so friendly when you shop and dine there.
Downtown Red Hook, NY
I have written about my many trips to Red Hook in my blog “MywalkinManhattan.com” and discussed visiting the downtown and its proprietors.
The Red Hook town Christmas tree is such a great addition to the downtown and it more amazing at night as is the rest of the town when it is lit. When it gets dark in town, Red Hook gets that classic Americana feel to it.
Downtown Red Hook’s Christmas Tree
Downtown Red Hook, NY at dusk is so beautiful
After the walk around Red Hook (most of the stores closed early that night), my aunt and I crossed the Kingston Bridge and visited the ‘Stockage District”, the historical and shopping district of Downtown Kingston, to see how the town prepared itself for the holidays. It really was beautiful even with the light rain.
Downtown Kingston, NY at Christmas
The businesses had garland and beautiful white lights adorning them and the windows were very festive as in the other towns. Large snowflakes decorated the main streets which were lit brillantly.
Downtown Kingston, NY Christmas tree
The Kingston, NY Christmas tree is right in the middle of the downtown shopping district and gives off such a holiday vibe. It is also so beautifully decorated. It really brightens up this stretch of the street.
Our last stop that evening was visiting Woodstock, NY, where I had spent three wonderful Christmases and is a place that I highly recommend spending the holidays. The Christmas Parade every year is so festive and well organized. The town is also so nicely decorated for Christmas and the square always has the most unconventional Christmas tree. They are usually oddly shaped and decorated and that’s their charm.
By the time we got to town that evening, all the stores were closed for the night and we dined for our early Christmas dinner at Shindig at 1 Tinker Street.
The love the Christmas tree in Downtown Woodstock, NY. It always looks so unusual.
Downtown Woodstock, NY square and Christmas tree
My visits to Woodstock, NY during Christmas meant a lot to me and I always loved going to the town’s Christmas Parade on Christmas Eve night. Santa always makes such interesting entrances.
Shindig has the best hamburgers and some of the most delicious mac & cheese. Talk about great comfort food on a cool misty night in the Catskills. We were the last customers to dine there that night, so they did not rush us as they were cleaning up for the night. Don’t miss their Cowboy burger. I highly recommend it.
We had such a wonderful time visiting all the towns with their Christmas decorations and beautiful window displays. The Hudson River Valley is a wonderful place to get into the Christmas spirit. Who knew with all this Christmas cheer that all hell would break loose two days later.
Thank God I did all these events when I did because by Friday, December 17th, the night of my final exam, there was panic all over the country with the spread of a new variant of COVID, Omicron. All of a sudden, this new variant from South Africa started to move like wildfire all over the country and New York City was inundated by it.
I had to stay home all weekend and grade final exams because grades had to be posted by Tuesday. All I heard on the Internet and on TV was the rapid spread and the almost panic mode that everyone went into. I hauled up in the house and concentrated on school and getting the students emailed with their grades so that they could relax and enjoy their Christmas break.
I posted all my grades by Monday night and had to drop off all the paperwork on Tuesday at the college. I was just glad that they had not cancelled classes on Friday night when I was giving my exam. That would have been too much on me scrambling to get the exams done. Since I was the only one teaching on a Friday night, I was hoping they just forgot about me and the class would just happen which it did. Thank God!
Tuesday afternoon, we had a sparsely attended Faculty Party which I thought was very nice considering what was going on all over the country. We kept our masks on while we were walking around the room and enjoyed a lot of finger foods made by our Culinary Department and soft drinks. It was nice to just talk to people through our masks and catch up with people I had not seen all semester.
On the Sunday, December 19th, the Sunday before Christmas, the Hasbrouck Heights Fire Department held its Annual “Santa Around Town”, one of the highlights of the holiday season for both the town and the department. Last year because of COVID rules, we could only drive down each street slowly waving at residents.
This year we were able to go back to making stops and greeting each resident and taking pictures with children and their families. Even a family dog decked out in its Christmas jacket joined in the fun. It was nice to see people outside and engaging with their neighbors.
The Hasbrouck Heights Fire Department’s ‘Annual Santa Around Town’
The Hasbrouck Heights Fire Department’s “Santa Around Town” 2021
By Monday, December 20th, it seemed that the whole country was going crazy with the new COVID variant. Flights were being cancelled, people were putting get togethers on hold and families were abandoning their plans for the holidays. Our family seemed fine until one by one, things kept happening the whole week and everything was derailed by Christmas Eve.
First my brother’s flight was cancelled and he could not get another flight until late Christmas Day so he nixed coming to Delaware for Christmas. Then a family member got sick so my mother cancelled all Christmas plans including our family dinner. She did not want anyone at the house who was not vaccinated. This derailed the plans even more as family members and friends were not vaccinated so no one was going to visit her house that day.
So when my mother called me to tell me that everything was being cancelled, I immediately looked into going back to Woodstock, NY where I had spent many happy Christmases. These plans were abandoned when my other brother’s flight was fine and he was coming for Christmas and he did not want to spend it alone in Rehoboth Beach.
So, I changed my plans again and booked a room at the Chalfonte Hotel’s Southern Annex and Thank God was able to book the last room at the resort. The main hotel was closed for the season but the Southern Quarters is the small B & B concept they have next door, which serves guests all throughout the winter months (the main hotel will not reopen until May).
This was the weird part about the eve before Christmas Eve, it snowed overnight which it was not in the forecast and it looked like we would have a white Christmas. Since it was supposed to rain all day on Christmas, I looked at the weather and thought ‘great having to walk around with wet weather on Christmas’ but like the rest of the holiday season, Christmas Day brought its own surprises. After paying my respects at the cemeteries, it was off to Cape May to start the holidays.
My Christmas Eve was spent as it had three years earlier, going to dinner at the Boiler Room at The Congress Hotel for dinner. I love their coal-burning oven pizzas and their fresh salads. The dinner was really amazing and the restaurant was pretty busy all things considered. I guess some people were not going to be spooked by everything going on around us, myself included. I figured I was fully vaccinated and if I wore my mask every place, I needed to I would be fine.
The Boiler Room Pizzeria at The Congress Hotel in Cape May, NJ at 200 Congress Place
I had the most wonderful dinner. I started with a Mixed Green salad with Balsamic dressing and chopped strawberries which had the most complex flavor with the sweetness of the strawberries playing off the Balsamic vinegar. The greens were so fresh that they crunched when I bit into them. For the entree, I had the Prosciutto and Arugula Pizza with fresh mozzarella. Talk about a crisp pizza and the sauce could not have been more delicious with the fresh tomatoes and olive oil.
After dinner was over, I walked all over The Congress Hotel which is always so beautifully decorated for the Christmas holidays. The halls are lined with white lights and garlands and a fire roaring in the fireplace in the main hall. Outside on the lawn, there a colorfully decorated tree and decorated tables with pool heaters for people to sit under.
Seeing the casual and engaging conversations the other guests were having you would have never known that there was a major outbreak going on. Most people walking around the hotel were not even wearing masks.
After walking through the grounds and through all the gift shops to see what was for sale (their gift shops are really nice and they have an interesting bakery), I walked the Washington Mall which serves as the Cape May downtown. All the stores were closed by this point but I got to admire all the beautiful window displays and the white lights adorning the trees. The only town that can rival Cape May at Christmas is Rhinebeck, NY. Both have that Christmas feel to them.
The Gazebo in Downtown Cape May
After my walk around Downtown Cape May, I went to 9:00pm Christmas Eve mass at Our Lady Star of the Sea Church in Downtown Cape May at 525 Washington Street. I needed some spiritual guidance at this time of the year as well as the rest of the congregation did as well. What really surprise me again was that 95% of the parishioners did not wear masks. I guess people in Cape May thought they were away from the danger (I wore mine through the whole service, hey you never know).
Our Lady Star of the Sea Church at 525 Washington Street in Cape May, NJ
It was a beautiful service with the choir singing and a very inspirational Christmas talk from the priest. The service could not have been more perfect and the church was so beautifully decorated with Christmas trees with white lights and poinsettias all over the place. Very secular but still in the spirit of the holidays.
The next morning, I had to be on the Cape May ferry at 10:15am and there was literally nothing open for breakfast without going to one of the hotels and there was no time for that. There was no food service at the ferry and the woman at the ferry was unsure if food was going to be available on the boat (it was we both found out later), so I left the ferry and had to go to the local WaWa around the corner at 3719 Bayshore Road.
If there was ever a meeting place on Christmas Day that everyone congregated at it was the local Wawa. The place was mobbed with people socializing with one another and wishing everyone else a Merry Christmas. You would have thought I was at City Hall or a Town Square. Everyone knew everyone else in the store and they were all ordering their breakfasts, getting coffee or their takeout orders or filling up on gas for a trip somewhere. I felt like I was in Mayberry.
The surprising part was I ordered a Bacon, Egg and Cheese omelet on a fresh hoagie and it was really good! I was amazed. The All-Berry Smoothie that I ordered with it was also terrific. I was blown away on my Christmas breakfast which I ate on the back of my car since there was no place to sit down.
After breakfast, I noticed the gloomy morning was starting to clear up and by the time the ferry left Cape May for Lewes, DE, it was becoming sunny and bright. When we got to Lewis by noon, it was sunny, clear and going up into the 60’s. It ended up being 65 degrees and sunny the whole day. God answered my prayers for a warm Christmas!
By the time I got off the ferry at noon in Lewes, De, it was a bright sunny and warm day. This is when the forecasters predicted rain all day. The entire afternoon was in the high 60’s, sunny and clear. It was the perfect day to be at the shore.
After dropping some presents off at my mom’s and wishing her a Merry Christmas, my brother, niece, my brother’s girlfriend and I went to Dos Locos in Downtown Rehoboth Beach for Christmas lunch. Unusual choice but it was the only place open. I had the most delicious Shrimp Quesadilla for lunch and that was more than enough after the big breakfast I had two hours earlier.
Before we left the restaurant, we took a memorable group shot in front of their Christmas tree. As we were leaving, I was amazed by how many people had the same idea we had and the restaurant really started to fill up.
My family at Dos Locos for our Christmas Dinner
To work off lunch (and my earlier breakfast), we walked all over the boardwalk that afternoon. Being such a nice day, again everyone had the same idea and we were wishing other families a “Merry Christmas” as they walked on the beach and walked their dogs around the downtown area. It was also ideal to go window shopping. By 3:30pm, it had reached almost 67 degrees and we walked along the beach and watched as one brave soul took a Christmas swim in the ocean. I know it was warm but it was not that warm outside.
My family by Santa’s House on the Rehoboth Beach Boardwalk
We took a lot of family shots around the Rehoboth beach Christmas Tree and at Santa’s House. He had left for the North Pole, so he was not around at this point. Still, everyone on the boardwalk was taking pictures by the tree.
My brother and I by the Christmas tree in Downtown Rehoboth
My brother and I in the bandstand in Downtown Rehoboth Beach
Me at the holiday displays in the Bandstand in Rehoboth Beach
The Manger at the bandstand in Rehoboth Beach with Santa’s House in the background
It started to get dark by 5:45pm at that point (the days are starting to get longer) and we headed back to my brother’s hotel as they prepared for dinner and I had to head back to the ferry to go back to Cape May.
I was surprised on how well Christmas had turned out. For a day that started off as the original ‘Clusterfuck’, it is amazing how plans change and the day can still turn out to be pretty good. I got on the 7:45pm ferry back to Cape May and we were in by 9:00pm. Again, not much was open on Christmas Day for dinner and I refused to have dinner at WaWa.
When I got back into town, the only two restaurants were the Chinese restaurant in the mall but they were closing for the night. So, I went to the Ugly Mug at 426 Washington Street in the Washington Mall for a snack. It was the only place open besides going back to Congress Hall.
Talk about crowded for a Christmas night! All the locals either had tired from their families, tourists need to get out of their hotels or people had just gotten off their shifts from work, people lined the bar having a good time eating, drinking and laughing. The Christmas games were going on and the bar was in full swing.
With only five minutes left to order, the manager of the restaurant who was eating right next to me was eating a cheesesteak and highly recommended it. So, it was a cheesesteak and a Coke for me on Christmas night. It was nice to sit back and talk with the other patrons and bartenders in a relaxed environment.
The Cheesesteaks at The Ugly Mug are fantastic. Just like Philly!
I spent the rest of Christmas night walking along the shore, listening to the waves hoping to get a glimpse of Santa on his way back to the North Pole. For the craziest Christmas Day with twists and turns, it ended up being a really great day. Not at all what we had planned but sometimes things work out for a reason. I ended up getting the best night’s sleep.
The day after Christmas my plans changed when a friend of mine who came into town changed the plans again and I decided to go to the theater at the Cape May Stage at 405 Layfette Street. I saw the final show of the season “Adopt a Sailor: The Holiday Edition”, which was performed by the Theater Director and his wife who are professional actors.
The Cape May Stage: Adopt a Sailor: The Holiday Edition
It was a clever story about a Manhattan couple that ‘adopt’ a sailor from the deep south for Christmas Eve. I thought it was a bit predictable with the stereotype of the uptight Upper West Side couple and the ‘naive’ sailor from the South but it ended up being a very bittersweet story about the couple looking within on their own relationship with this sailor shipping out on Christmas to a dangerous part of the world. It made them think about how small their own problems were and what Christmas was all about.
After the show was over, I decided to spend my last night in Cape May watching the sunset at Sunset Beach in West Cape May at 502 Sunset Boulevard. If you ever want to see the most spectacular sunset in the world and I have literally seen them all over the world, this is the most fantastic location to see the sunset over the Delaware Bay.
I stayed until after 5:00pm to watch the sun dip below the bay in most spectacular fashion. It really does amaze the way it slowly disappears into the bay and then the whole sky is a brilliant variety of colors. People were literally applauding the sun setting. I left Cape May for home after this.
You have to see the sun set at Sunset Beach at least once
In the week between Christmas and New Year’s, I spent the night in the City before the Ball dropped museum hopping between the Met and the MoMA trying to see the current exhibitions before they closed and taking the long ride up to Inwood to see the Cloisters decorated for Christmas and the current exhibition “Spain: 1000-1200” and taking a second look at the Christmas decorations all over the City.
I wanted to explore the neighborhood for changes since COVID and my last trip to the area since the summer, so I walked from The Cloisters to West 155th stopping for lunch and visiting stores and bakeries that I had written about in the past.
I stopped for lunch at the New Golden Star Chinese Restaurant at 4247 Broadway, a restaurant that I had passed many times on my walks down Broadway and had wanted to try. The food is excellent and the service could not have been nicer. I had a Chicken with Broccoli ($11.95) with Hot & Sour Soup and an eggroll.
New Golden Star Chinese Restaurant at 4247 Broadway
The Chicken with Broccoli was delicious and the sauce with a combination of Hunan and Soy really made the dish. The Hot & Sour Soup was one of the best I have had recently. The chili peppers added some kick to the soup and it was loaded with vegetables and sliced pork. The service could not have been nicer.
After lunch, I continued my walk down Broadway. I had originally planned had planned to go the Met on Fifth Avenue but it was too late for that and then I decided to walk down Broadway but by the time I got to West 155th Street near the cemetery I was pooped. I needed something sweet, so I stopped at one of my favorite bakeries uptown Five Star Estrella Bakery at 3861 Broadway for a snack.
I had the most amazing Vanilla and Strawberry Iced Doughnut ($2.00) and between the sweet thick icing on top and the rich dough, every bite was heaven. I was reenergized but my feet were beginning to kill me. I stopped at Ilka Tanya Payan Park and sat down to finish my doughnut and relax.
I just admired the Christmas tree in the park for a bit before taking the subway back to midtown. I never knew that the park was named after the actress and activist, Ilka Tanya Payan. I thought it was nice of community to set such a beautiful tree up for the holidays and it was nicely decorated. I was finished for the day.
Ilka Tanya Payan Park at Edward Morgan Place & Broadway
New Year’s Eve this year was a quiet evening at home watching the ball drop on TV. There was no way I was going back to the City with those crowds in that cold. Thank God that 2021 is now over and hopefully better days ahead!
This was not the Christmas I planned but things took so many twists and turns that I just went with the flow. This is why I am fully vaccinated. Life needs to go on as normal in these unnormal times.
Merry Christmas & Happy New Year!
My three favorite Christmas songs: These are the songs that I wait to hear on the radio.
The Ronette’s: Sleigh Ride:
Ray Parker Jr.: Christmas Time is Here
The Waitresses: Christmas Wrapping
I also thought these Christmas songs in Chinese were interesting when I found them on YouTube:
I find it intriguing how other countries see Christmas and interpret it.
With the holidays now in full swing, I decided to usher out the Halloween holidays with its haunted houses and cemetery walks and usher in the Christmas holiday season with cheerful music and almost too much holiday decorating and shopping which gets more rushed earlier and earlier after midnight on Halloween. It gets to be over-whelming!
After a holiday of house decorating contests, visiting local farms to take pictures for my retail blog and the Halloween Parade in the City, the Midnight hour hit on Halloween night and I swear there was Christmas. I was even at one merchant’s store on Halloween morning and he was changing his Halloween window display to Christmas on the morning of the downtown merchants ‘Trick or Treating’ event. When I asked him why, he said, “This is the nature of the business right now.”
My weekend morning meant setting up for the Hasbrouck Heights Men’s Association Christmas Tree sale on Jefferson and Terrace in Hasbrouck Heights, NJ. This annual rite is our biggest fundraising of the year and has become part of a tradition in many families as the whole family will come to the site even with baby carriages and dogs to buy a tree so that everyone gets a choice. It is nice to see the same faces every year and now I even hear from people that I sold them a tree when they were kids and now, they are buying one for their apartment in the City (thanks for making me feel ‘old’ everyone).
Hasbrouck Heights Men’s Association Christmas tree set up
Day One Hundred & Twenty-Six: Christmas Tree Sales:
We got there at 8:00am in the morning, cleaning the site of leaves and branches and setting up the Christmas shed and all the tree stands. We worked until noon and then finished with a pizza lunch as a group. Christmas trees will be arriving next Friday and then it’s off to the races in selling 400 trees, a new record for us.
I went home and then it was off to the City to watch the end of the Michigan State versus Ohio State football game. What a bloodbath! They walked all over us. By the time I made it up to Blondies, the bar on the Upper West Side that the Alumni meet at everyone was gone but a small handful of people who are the hangers on to the end. The final score was 56-7 and it was a disaster with many of our players hurt. So much for the playoffs.
Since I got to the bar with only two minutes left in the game and getting there just in time to see Ohio State score again, I left after the game ended. There were not that many people left in the bar at that point and only two Ohio State alumni were in the bar singing their fight song. I was off to Brooklyn to go to the “Lightscape” show at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden and the “Andy Warhol” show at the Brooklyn Museum. Getting to Brooklyn was a labor in love as all the subways were rerouted for maintenance.
“Lightscape” is a new event at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden
I had to change subways twice before I finally got the Number 2 into Brooklyn. Then it was a quick run to the Brooklyn Museum. Once I got to the museum, it was no problem getting in once I passed the COVID protocols.
I went to see the “Andy Warhol: Revelation” which was combination of his later works, his movies and his personal life both in Pittsburgh and in New York.
I never realized first how religious he was in his personal life and how it affected his art later on. Also, I knew that he had a close relationship with his mother and she lived with him but never knew she had assisted him with his art and how talented she was as an artist.
Andy Warhol and his mother in portrait in the “Andy Warhol: Revelation” exhibition
The exhibition featured some of his paintings from his “Last Supper” collection which he painted before he passed away. These interesting large pastel paintings again showed his religious side and portrayed Di Vinci’s “Last Supper” in a more exaggerated form. He kept the context but added color.
Warhol’s “Last Supper”
I finished my tour of the exhibition by watching part of “Chelsea Girls” one of his most famous films (I still have to admit I do not understand the movie and I watch it at the Museum of Modern Art for a couple of hours) and still did not get the point of the film. I have sat through a retrospect of his films and I have to admit, you really need to think about what he is saying because it can be challenging.
A clip from “Chelsea Girls”
After I left the Warhol exhibition, I walked around the American Galleries and then went down to see the rest of the museum. Several floors either were not open or you had to pay for the ‘Dior’ exhibition. I never remember the Brooklyn Museum charging people to see special exhibitions but I suspect COVID has changed it. Still, it was nice to see the Warhol exhibition before it opened to the public.
I got to the Brooklyn Botanical Garden right on time at 7:00pm to start the “Lightscape” tour of the garden. It was amazing!
Highlights from the “Lightscape”:
This video gives just a short glimpse into what “Lightscape” showcased in the Gardens
It was an hour long walk in the gardens following a path around the perimeter of the Gardens starting at the new Washington Street entrance. What an amazing way to walk the Gardens at night. The lightshow really showcased the beauty of the gardens and its layout. Visitors were guided on a path around the gardens that was cordoned off and then lit with colorful lights and music. Here and there props were added to open spots in the gardens for an experience of lights and sounds.
When you entered the Gardens, you were greeted by light jazz museum to colorful yellow and purple lights adorning the trees. As a group of us rounded the corner into the Japanese Gardens, we were greeted by a lightshow of multiple lights and spotlights enhancing both the garden’s trees and pond. It really lit up the water.
As you exited the Japanese Gardens, more lights lit the pathway to the Greenhouses and pools where interesting water sculptures that looked like floating Locuses lined the pools and kept lighting up to appear to be a flower opening.
The restaurants and cafes in this section of the Gardens were open that night but the lines were tremendous and the menu limited plus it was so cool out that I did not want to eat a meal outside but many people did not have a problem with this. The tables at the Yellow Magnolia Restaurant were packed with people eating.
I proceeded through the Gardens past light features of what looked like surrealist flowers lit in all sorts of colors with the sounds of Christmas jazz in the background. The flowers changed colors as the music played and I took my time to watch the flowers change from vibrant color to another.
These floral sculptures sway to light Christmas Jazz music
As I rounded the edge of the southern section of the Gardens, I walked past more trees that had been lit in green, purple and yellow showcasing trees that just a few months ago had been surrounded by crocuses, daffodils and tulips in all their beauty as Spring moved into Summer.
The path led to the Cherry Tree lawn where the best part of the lightshow took place. A light show awash with colors and sounds as the entire section of the lawn was lit and twinkled of lights and Christmas music and light jazz as all the trees and lawns created a spectacular display that entertained everyone who stopped. I was so taken by the display that I stayed for three entire shows of lights and sounds.
The Cherry Blossom trees were ablaze with lights and music
We exited up the hill that overlooked the Cherry Blossom Lawn so that you could see the lightshow again from another perspective. It was even more interesting as you walked up the sidewalks that line the hill and could sit in the benches watching the show from above the lawn. Amazing!
This video of the Gardens by Caty Exterior really captures the show (I credit the blogger on this amazing video):
I exited the Gardens from the original entrance on Eastern Parkway and like everyone else who was leaving that evening, totally mesmerized by the light show we had just experienced. I was glad that I had seen the show early as the reporters and bloggers who I had probably been touring with had seen the show as well and everyone reported on it the next week. Online reviews were extremely enthusiastic.
After the show was over, I walked down Washington Avenue to find a place to have a snack. I came across Gino’s Cucina Brick Oven Pizzeria at 723 Washington Avenue. for a slice of pizza. The pizza was excellent with such a crisp crust and bottom and the sauce really tasted of fresh tomatoes. The only problem with the restaurant was that there was no place to eat inside and I ended up eating at one of the small tables outside and it had gotten cold as the evening progressed. It was nice to eat outside but my pizza got cold fast.
Gino’s Cucina Brick Oven Pizzeria at 723 Washington Place
After my snack, I took another walk around the neighborhood to see the lights of the Brooklyn Museum and the Brooklyn Botanic Garden in the distance. It really had been a wonderful evening and I was glad that I experienced the light show and the art opening before they reached the general public and tickets then became hard to get. Not even a week after I visited both shows, they had been heavily reviewed in all the New York City papers so try to get tickets now.
The next evening, I drove up to Croton-on-the-Hudson for the last night of the Great Jack O’Lantern Blaze at the Van Cortlandt Manor. I have been to the show for many years and I even renewed my membership again to see the show one more time. This was the last night of the show before it closed for the season. Seeing a Christmas light show the night before made this visit rather strange as Halloween was over three weeks earlier. Still, it was an amazing walk through the grounds and the best part was there were no crowds!
I started the evening with dinner with my favorite restaurant right near the Van Cortlandt Manor, Dong Happy Gardens at 440 South Riverside Avenue. This wonderful Chinese restaurant is tucked into the Shoprite Mall next to the supermarket. The three times I have eaten here the food has been excellent (See review on TripAdvisor.com) and the service very friendly. The rules have been relaxed at the restaurant so you can eat in the booths now.
I had the Chicken and String beans with a side of Pork Fried Rice and an Egg Roll and everything was excellent. They served me a large portion of Chicken with freshly cooked string beans in a soy and Hunan sauce with had a nice hot and tangy flavor to it. The egg roll was filled with lots of chopped roast pork and cabbage and was perfectly fried. The combination plate was a nice sized dinner portion and warmed me up on a cool night.
The Chicken and Broccoli is excellent here
With the Christmas holidays in full swing, the festivities of Halloween are long behind us and since I chose the last night of the show at the last entry time of 8:00pm I pretty much had the walk all to myself. There must have been about fifty other people walking through the same time as myself and I could take extra time to look at the displays and enjoy the music.
The Van Cortlandt Manor is memorizing with the site of hundreds of lit pumpkins
Being so close to Thanksgiving, the newest pumpkins that had been carved were in the shape of turkeys and horns of plenty. You were still greeted by the mysterious faces of Halloween but the last week of the event was themed to the upcoming holiday.
The “Tappan Scream Bridge” leads you into the displays
The show had not changed much since I had visited in late November last year. I entered through the Tappan Scream Bridge and saw all the carved pumpkins of fish swimming. I then passed the Ferris wheel of mysteries animals as they made their way around a circle.
The Headless Horseman Bridge was another bridge of wonder at the entrance of the grounds
Walking through the tunnel of lights is a fantastic sight
I made my way through the display passing the Headless Horseman Bridge and the Museum of Modern Art display which I thought was one of the most original parts of the show three years ago.
Their version of Van Gogh’s “The Scream”
Their version of Di Vinci’s “The Mona Lisa”
Their version of Andy Warhol’s “Soup Cans”
I continued my walk through the display looking that the Ghost Circus Train that lead the way through the next part of the display showcasing all the circus animals that followed.
The Ghost Circus Train ablaze with animals
Once past the Ghost Circus Train I walked past the Ferris Wheel of Animals going round and round as it played an eerie tiny music. The animals grinned as they went through the cycle over and over again.
This ghostly Ferris Wheel shocks and memorizes
The path led past the Ferry House that once greeted guests on the Old Albany Post Road and then led to a series of Zodiac signs. I search for Libra and found it right in the middle of the display showing the balance that our sign represetns.
The Pumpkin sign of Libra
The paths lead past creatures from the deep and the past as our crowd of visitors was greeted by the Lock Ness Monster and a series of dinosaurs that guarded the path on the way to the Van Cortlandt Manor House.
The Loch Ness Monster guards the paths to the deep
The dinosaurs roared and nodded as you walked past them showing their strength of character and lore.
The dinosaurs led the path to the next part of the display
As I got closer to the main house, there was a big display of the skyline of Manhattan with a display of the New York City skyline starting with the statue of Liberty and the Lower Manhattan skyline. I thought that was very creative.
The Statue of Liberty was very impressive as well was the skyline
I finally reached the Van Corlandt Manor lit to the hilt with colorful lights and a dazzling light show that was continuous. Before you entered the front of the manor, you are greeted by a mysterious clock that chimed and churned as it greeted you.
This grandfather clock chimes it way through the tour of the Van Cortlandt Manor
The manor house, which closes in September for the set up of the Blaze, was lit with a entertaining Light Show and music that greeted guests with a sinister undertone and greeting welcoming in the Halloween season. You have to wait to see the show twice not to miss anything.
Van Cortlandt Manor in all its dazzling glory for the Halloween holiday
Before leaving the last part of the Blaze, there is a well lit path of ghosts and ghouls and things that go bump in the night as you pass the Van Cortlandt cemetery and things from the past that guard them. There are all sorts of creatively carved pumpkins all over the lawn in front of the manor.
The Van Cortlandt Cemetery is on display as you exit the family home
Ghosts and Ghouls and things that go bump in the night
Paying respects to the Van Cortlandt Family patriot Steven Van Cortlandt
Pay respects to Catherine Van Wyck and Pierre Van Cortlandt
Pay respects to Pierre Van Cortlandt
Exiting the Blaze, you will see all sorts of craved pumpkins and the rest of the Blaze in the distance. It will be another year to until the Blaze comes again but what a way to see it on its last glorious night. This is something you should not miss when coming to the Hudson River Valley during the Halloween season.
Me on the night of the Blaze. It was rather warm for this time of the year.
When I was visiting Rhinebeck for the recent Sheep and Wool Festival (See day One Hundred and Forty-Nine on “MywalkinManhattan.com), I decided to visit Bard College and their contemporary art museum, the Hessel Museum. When approaching the museum, it almost appears to be a fortress with several large pieces of contemporary sculpture on the grounds outside the building.
Once upon entering the museum, you are greeted by many welcoming volunteers who will check your vaccination card and ID and your mask and then you can enter the museum for viewing. At the time I was there, NY State still had a lot of their mandates.
There were a couple of interesting exhibitions going on…
On a recent trip to the Hudson River Valley for Fall events I took a tour of Bard Campus to visit their campus and tour Montgomery Place which the college bought from the Hudson River Historical Society in 2016. It is now part of the campus and you can tour the grounds but not the inside of the house.
Montgomery Place on the Bard College Campus
Before 2016 when the house was owned by the Hudson River Historical Society who used to have tours of the mansion. When the family sold the mansion and all its contents to the Society, they left the house untouched when they moved out you got to see how the Livingston family lived not just in current times…
With classes being over and having the Summer Break ahead of me, I thought it was time to start exploring more of the Hudson River Valley region and continue my walk around the City. Instead of heading deeper Downtown into the Flatiron District, I also decided start exploring more of the West Side and started in Midtown West/Hell’s Kitchen/Clinton (Days One Hundred and Ninety Ninety-Six and Ninety Seven).
In the middle of exploring the neighborhood, I had an opportunity to leave the City and head upstate to see the Lindsey Webster Band perform at the Bearsville Theater on Saturday, May 22nd. I have written about seeing the band perform at the Woodstock Christmas Parade years ago when I used to spend Christmas in Woodstock from 2014-2017. When I saw the band in concert in December of 2014, I had not realized how huge the second album was going to be and a number one hit would come from it. It was nice to see the band in the very beginning when it was getting well known.
The concert was at the Bearsville Theater at 291 Tinker Street in Woodstock, NY, which again I had not been to since the concert in 2014 and that was a very low key but lively concert.
Somehow I got to Hyde Park where I was spending the night, which is my headquarters in the Hudson River Valley when I am visiting the area very quickly. I checked in and dropped my bags off at the hotel before I drove to Woodstock which is about a half hour away over the bridge.
Since I had time before the concert started, I decided to stop at The Little Bear at 295 Tinker Street B, a Chinese restaurant within the complex for some dinner (see review on TripAdvisor). I have been many times when I have been up for a visit during Christmas and the food has gotten more uneven over the years since my first time.
The Little Bear Chinese Restaurant at 295 Tinker Street
The window seats at The Little Bear are the best for views of the woods and stream
I started my meal with the Fried Dumplings and they were fried. They tasted as if someone had deep fried them. They were crisp! They still tasted good but they were really well-done. The Lemon Chicken had a nice sauce but again the chicken breasts were over cooked. The Lemon Sauce was delicious and tasted really good. The Mixed Fried rice was the best part of the meal. It was loaded with all sorts of meats, seafood and vegetables and they make it so good.
The Fried Dumplings at Little Bear
The biggest problem that I have with Little Bear as a restaurant (see review on TripAdvisor) is the service. The family who runs the restaurant always seem so overwhelmed. At Christmas time, it was one of two restaurants that were open in Woodstock and the surrounding areas so it was mobbed and the phone would not stop ringing with take out orders. It was chaos! The people that run the restaurant are really nice but it gets to be too much for them when it is busy.
The Fried Rice at The Little Bear was the best part of the meal
After dinner, put the leftover fried rice in the car and headed over to the concert. This is when the State of New York needs to get their protocols together. I had to take a COVID test to go inside the building because I did not have my vaccine card on me. So I had to spend another $15.00 to be tested (negative of course) again. Thank God I have had all my vaccine shots. The concert started late because a lot of people had to take the test. Still it was worth it as the concert was excellent and the best part was that no one had to wear a mask.
The concert was of course excellent! I had not seen the band play live since 2014 and a lot of good things have happened to them since including a number one song. This is not the concert from that night but the songs you can enjoy just the same.
The Concert has not yet made it to YouTube but this concert from Daryl’s House is close:
The Lindsey Webster Band
What made the concert so special to all of us was not just the excellent vocals and music but it was the first time everyone was allowed to the Bearsville Theater without masks. It was nice to see people dancing and just enjoying themselves. It had been such a long time for everyone. It makes you appreciate life more.
The drive from Woodstock to Hyde Park was not that long and I got one of the best nights sleep in a long time. The hotel was so relaxing after a long drive. What I love about staying up in the Hudson River Valley is the quiet of it all. That and people do not seem that much of a rush (unless you get those City visitors).
The next day I started to explore the surrounding area and visit the small towns that make up the character of the Hudson River Valley. There has been much talk about the “Brooklynization” of the Hudson River Valley and I wanted to see those changes. In retrospect of the towns I visited, it depends on a couple of things: how close is the town to a train station to the City, how closed it is to Route 9, the corridor on both sides of the Hudson and how close to a college is the town.
What I like about so many of these towns is that the classic turn of the last century architecture that makes up the character of these towns. Also how carefully the new owners go to renovating these buildings back to their former glory. Town by town a lot of work has been done to refit these buildings and bring life back to downtowns that may have been forgotten by tourism.
My first stop was Rhinebeck, NY just above Hyde Park about a half hour up Route 9 depending on how fast you drive. Rhinebeck has changed a lot from I went to the Culinary Institute of America in the late 1990’s. It has transformed from a town of local stores and restaurants to a high end town of more expensive stores and restaurants. A lot of the mom & pop stores I remembered and galleries in the first wave of development are now gone. Still it is a very vibrant town with lots of activities.
Downtown Rhinebeck, NY is always fun to walk around in
I love to walk around the town and admire the stores. There is such a nice collection of businesses that cater to every taste. I still have my favorites that have been around for a long time and are staples in Downtown Rhinebeck. Many of these can be found on my websites:
The stores I love to visit are Pause Dog Boutique at 6423 Montgomery Street Suite 3 in the Montgomery Row Shopping Complex. This store formerly of Red Hook carries all sorts of pet products to pamper your pooch with from collars to snacks (see my review on LittleShopOnMainStreet@Wordpress.com). There is a unique merchandising approach to their items that showcases all the things that your dog could desire.
Pause Dog Boutique at 6423 Montgomery Street Suite 3
Another great store I love to visit is Samuel’s Sweet Shop at 42 East Market Street, a wonderful little candy and dessert store (see my reviews on TripAdvisor and LittleShoponMainStreet@Wordpress.com). I love the way they merchandise the store with all sorts of colors and displays. When I was walking around the store, admiring the shelves of candies and sweets, I eyed a glazed doughnut under one of the glass domes ($2.00) and had to have one. God with was soft, chewy and had a nice sugary glaze. Talk about waking you up!
I walked the Farmer’s Market which is held in the municipal parking lot and I have to say that their wares are much more expensive than the surrounding towns. When a pastry is $5.00 or homemade soap or jelly is over $10.00 you are pricing yourself out of the local market. When I used to stop at the Farmer’s Market in Hyde Park, NY, the prices of everything were very fair. I guess post COVID people are trying to make their money back.
After finishing my walk around Rhinebeck, I drove further north to Red Hook, NY which is a quaint little downtown that I love. What I enjoy about the town of Red Hook is that it is not geared towards tourists as opposed it is a place that locals do their shopping. On a Sunday afternoon, it is really quiet as by the late afternoon a lot of things are closed.
Downtown Red Hook, NY
Check out my blog on Exploring Downtown Red Hook for more information on the town:
One store that was open and I was able to visit was Petals & Moss at 6 East Market Street. This wonderful little flower shop treats its plants and flowers with such respect and they are merchandised like a piece of art. I was talking with the owner and she said that even though she goes into the flower markets to buy things, when in season she will grow flowers in her own year for the store.
Another store I love to visit and it is such a whimsical and well decorated place is Little Pickles at 7505 North Broadway. This delightful little toy and clothing store has everything a child could desire from jars of candy and balloons to wooden toy and experiments to clothing and shoes all in a playhouse environment. It is what you would expect a toy store catering to the Lilliputian set to look like.
Some of my other favorites such as Equis Gallery and Village Pizza III were closed that day but I was able to have another snack at Annabelle’s Village Bake Shop at 7501 North Broadway (right next door to Little Pickles) and I had a jelly doughnut that said to me “buy me”! They know how to make a good doughnut. The jelly was so tangy and the doughnut was soft and fresh. The store has that classic bakery look almost like you are visiting an old General Store.
Annabelle’s Village Bake Shop at 7501 North Broadway
Since a lot of the stores and restaurants were closed that Sunday morning, I headed up Route 9 to Tivoli, NY. Tivoli has a very small but quaint downtown in the middle of an area with large farms. Since visiting a few years ago, more restaurants and shops have opened and there is a good arts representation with the Tivoli Artists Gallery at 60 Broadway.
In the last three years, I have seen a change in the quality of the restaurants and again they have gotten pricey. Creative but pricey. I ate lunch at a local restaurant, Tivoli Broadway Pizza at 49 Broadway. The pizza and the service were really good and it was nice to sit back and relax and read the local paper.
What I love about Tivoli is the charm of the village. It is such a nice little town to walk around and just admire the farms and the woods. You can walk the downtown quickly but it is fun to take your time and let it all soak in.
After leaving Tivoli, it was time to cross the river at the Kingston Bridge and explore the other side of the river. I have written about Kingston , NY many times over the years so it was time to explore other towns. I headed up Route 9 for my next destination, Catskill, NY.
Catskill, NY on the other side of the Hudson River. I had only driven through Catskill about seven years ago when I explored the towns surrounding Rhinebeck and it was the other side of the river that I visited. Downtown Catskill is pretty amazing when it comes to architecture and I can tell that other people think so as well as all the buildings seemed to being snatched up and renovated.
Downtown Catskill, NY
Most of the businesses in Downtown Catskills were closed on a sunday with the exception of a few gift stores and a couple of restaurants. Even walking around the downtown after crossing the bridge there were maybe a handful of people.
The downtown is absolutely beautiful and it was interesting that the urban renewal that hit so many of these towns in the late 60’s and early 70’s did not come to Catskill so all the 19th and early 20th century architecture still dominates the main street.
Weaving in and out of a lot of the stores and provision shops I was most impressed by Cat on the Corner, a tiny store dedicated to everything cats at 362 Main Street. I was impressed by the variety of merchandise starting with items for everyone’s favorite feline to gifts and decorative items for the home.
Among all the objects I found was a magnetic with a lot of dirty words on it that I had to get for my mom (who loves cats) and to spend the $10.00 credit card minimum, I also got her a cat cookie by a local baker from the area, which I thought was really cleaver. She ended up loving both. What I also like about the business is that the owner was helping a lot of small women owned cottage businesses with their wares and I found that good business.
These clever cookies are baked locally
Another business that stood out to me was a Left Bank Ciders at 150 Water Street. What made me walk into the Tap Room was the sign and location. It was down a alleyway and then tucked into an above ground basement area. The inside of the Tap Room was exposed walls and ceilings. The selection of ciders looked terrific as well.
Left Bank Ciders at 150 Water Street’s Tap Room here is so unique
After walking the entire downtown both sides and the local park plus the entire other side of the creek area, I just relaxed by the car. I can tell they are starting to renovate the other side of the creek as well as some of the homes. It will take time to bring life back to this part of the neighborhood.
My last stop was Saugerties, NY, a quirky little downtown right by the Hudson River and again another downtown with a lot of charm and interesting architecture. It had not changed much since I visited and had lunch here seven years ago. The prices of everything have gone up significantly though over the years.
Downtown Saugerties has a interesting vibe
I drove through the downtown last when I went up to Cooperstown, NY back in October for my birthday and saw that there had been changes in several of the buildings. After my trip to Catskill, I made this my final stop of the day.
Before I stopped in downtown to walk around, I made a detour to see the Saugerties Lighthouse at 168 Lighthouse Drive, which I had always seen signs for but never stopped to see. It is nice when you have the time on your hands to detour to all these special places.
I have to say it was a drive off the main road of Route 9 down several hills and winding roads. When you come to the small parking lot, there is not a lot of space to park on a busy day but it was the late afternoon when I got here so it was quiet.
The pathway to the lighthouse is surrounded by woods and flowers and a few streams so in the Spring and Summer months, it is very beautiful to walk down the path. Many flowers were in bloom and it was very colorful. You have to stay on the path though as there is water everywhere.
The lighthouse sits on the end of the path with a small dock on one side and a small beach at low tide. I did not realize that it is being used as a B & B and you should check out the Friends website for details if you want to stay there. The lighthouse was built in 1869 and was decommissioned in 1954. It is an elegant old building with the Hudson River in the backdrop which makes it very impressive. (There are tours available by appointment). After my tour around the lighthouse and park, it was back to downtown.
A slice of pizza at Slices at 71 Partition Street went up to almost $4.00 and an ice cream cone at several places will set you back over $5.00. I know these things are gourmet but not when they are more than New York City prices. The rents must have really gone up over the years. Even my favorite restaurant, Miss Lucy’s Kitchen at 90 Partition Street was more than I remember. Their food was mind-blowing the last time I ate there years ago.
Miss Lucy’s Kitchen at 91 Partition Street was a favorite of mine years ago
I was able to walk the entire downtown and it was also slowly changing as well as buildings were being renovated all over the downtown and homes were getting a facelift. I had never seen so many potted plants and wreaths on doors. A younger crowd was moving downtown with many bars opening and an increase in nightlife that I did not remember on my last few visits.
Before I left that evening, I took a walk down by the river to the Saugerties Village Beach Park at 47 South Partition Street and watched all the kids running around the park and some people actually taking a dip in the water (I thought it was too early). It was so nice to watch the sun shine and sit back under a tree and just watch the world go by. It is such a relaxing park.
Saugerties Village Beach Park at 47 South Partition Street is a the bottom the downtown area
On another trip to the Hudson River Valley, I visited both Downtown Pine Plains and Downtown Millerton to check out their downtown districts. Pine Plains is quaint but has a lot of businesses that are currently closed due to the pandemic. I can see this rebounding in the future with its interesting architecture and picturesque look.
Downtown Millerton’s businesses were closing for the evening the afternoon that I arrived but encouraged me to stop by again on the next trip Upstate. Each of these little towns offer so much charm and interesting shopping and eating establishments.
Don’t miss taking a trip to any of these small towns lining the Hudson River. COVID has driven people out of the City and it has brought a new vibe and built on improvements made to these once small manufacturing and shipping towns. New restaurants, art galleries and stores have brought not just new customers but new ideas on ways to reach customers. It is so nice the times of good service and a friendly local atmosphere have not given way in the Amazon era.
There is still a relaxed and creative buzz to these towns that was always there but now being added to with new members of the community. COVID did not kill this spirit in the Hudson River Valley.
*Bloggers Note: In fairness to stores, restaurants and parks I visited on my journey are mentioned below. The others I have added their links so that you all can choose the places you want to go. I will keep adding to this blog with more small towns.
I was walking around Downtown Red Hook to update a blog I wrote on the town and I passed Petals & Moss, a local flower and gift shop. What attracted me to the store was the unique window display of arrangements of flowers and the very simple and rustic look of the display. It really showcased the flowers in their simplest form and showed off their beauty. It was also the elegant wreaths that showed the creativity of the owner, Nancy Lee.
Petals & Moss has such a welcoming and artisan look to it from the outside
When I went inside to see the store I was greet by the owner in a very friendly and…
I was exploring downtown Catskill, NY one afternoon after reading an article about the ‘Brooklynization’ of the Hudson River Valley and wanted to see how true it was. A lot of these small Upstate New York towns are indeed changing and I can see it in the historic buildings being renovated, the amount of restaurants and shops that are opening that cater to tourists than to locals and the caliber of merchandise being carried.
Cat on the Corner is located at 362 Main Street in Catskill, NY
I found it in one unusual themed store called “Cat on the Corner”, a unique little store run by owner and proprietor Kira Goldfarb, a Catskill native. She has really opened a really interesting store because it is part pet…
Well, Christmas is finally officially over for me. It was one for the books. The holiday season just came and went without much fanfare or activities. Nothing like last year which was a lot of running around visiting decorated homes or running to the next cocktail party or dinner. Those things just did not exist this year. This season was all about the outside walking tours and small get togethers.
The whole holiday season became a blur and I started to attend a lot of outdoor activities that became available. Anything to get out of the house and see people or go do something out of the ordinary. I really had to search things out.
They started closest to home. I was trying to split my time between places that were just a drive away, going back and forth to the Hudson River Valley, which gave me a change of scenery and walking the neighborhoods of Manhattan, which gave me a sense of purpose as I felt I was supporting the City by being a cheerleader for all it had to offer even in the era of COVID.
My holiday journey started with the delivery of 375 Christmas trees for the Hasbrouck Heights Men’s Association. It was a big undertaking for a major charity that supports graduating high school seniors with scholarship money for college. I sometimes wonder if these students know what we go through to get the funds.
The trees were really nice this year
I have never seen so many Christmas Trees fly off a lot so fast. The membership of the Men’s Association got there at 9:00am and the truck arrived at 10:15am. We sold our first tree at 11:30am as we were tagging them. I stayed the entire day from 9:00am to 10:00pm when we closed the lot down for the evening. In the three shifts that I was there with the other guys, we sold 45 trees which we have never done our first day of sales.
The Hasbrouck Heights Men’s Association at set-up 2020
We were completely sold out by December 11th which I have never seen before. It seemed in the era of COVID everyone reverted back to the 1970’s and wanted a fresh Christmas tree for their home. I thought this was wonderful and people could not have been more supportive to our organization.
Please read my blog on “Christmas tree sales in Hasbrouck Heights, NJ”:
Please watch the commercial I did in 2015 to sell our trees
The first week of December means “Open Houses” at some of our merchants in Downtown Hasbrouck Heights. I look forward to seeing all the Christmas merchandise being offered, all the bouquets created for the event and the beautiful Christmas windows that our florists in town have done.
Bill O’Shea’s Florist at 231 Boulevard in Hasbrouck Heights, NJ always has a nice gathering the weekend before Thanksgiving. This year was like no other but it did not keep a nice crowd of residents from coming out and looking over ideas for floral displays, house decorating ideas and listening to festive holiday music all while nibbling on prepackaged treats and bottled drinks.
Bill O’Shea’s has some of the nicest displays at the holidays
In a normal year, it would be hot chocolate and coffee with freshly baked goods but COVID has changed the way these businesses are run. Everything had to be prepackaged and most people at it outside as juggling and shopping with a mask on was tough.
The weekend after Thanksgiving, the same weekend we set up the Christmas Tree lot for the Men’s Association, Heights Flower Shoppe at 209 Boulevard in Hasbrouck Heights, NJ had their Open House and that was equally as nice.
Heights Flower Shoppe is housed in a turn of the last century home that dates back to the original founding of our downtown and has a very classic boutique look to it. The store was stocked with all sorts of Christmas decorations, homemade candies, decorative household gifts and beautiful floral displays as well as outside had decorated wreathes and grave blankets.
The homemade candies and Christmas decorations adorn the store
Like Bill O’Shea’s, there was all sorts of packaged holiday treats to enjoy including Italian sodas, small bags of homemade Christmas cookies and candies. Last year they had a nice assortment of cookies and small sandwiches with coffee, tea and punch so there are always holiday treats to nibble on too here as well.
All of Downtown Hasbrouck Heights was beautifully decorated for the holidays with wreaths on all our lamp posts, Christmas lights on the trees, merchants display windows decorated to the hilt and Christmas music playing.
Downtown Hasbrouck Heights, NJ is always so nicely decorated for the holidays
This year because of COVID, the Annual Holiday Parade and Christmas Tree Lighting were cancelled in town but they did have a small get together at the Circle in Hasbrouck Heights to light the town Christmas tree. It was lit from Thanksgiving until the Epiphany on January 6th. It is always a beautiful site when entering town from the west side of town.
The Christmas Tree on the Circle in Hasbrouck Heights, NJ
Even the little Neil Parrot playhouse, a local landmark in Hasbrouck Heights, was decorated for the holidays and was lite up at night as well.
The Neil Parrot Playhouse on the Circle in Hasbrouck Heights awaiting Santa
There were several nights of my aunt and I exploring the town and driving block by block to see all the decorated homes. Hasbrouck Heights and the surrounding towns of Lodi and Wood Ridge always do a wonderful job decorating for the holidays but with everyone being home and COVID hitting the area hard, people wanted to really decorate and make this year even more festive. Between the merchants and home owners, they made this time of year in Hasbrouck Heights very festive.
Please read my blog on Visiting Downtown Hasbrouck Heights, NJ:
I did not just celebrate Christmas in Hasbrouck Heights. I ventured into other parts of New Jersey, to New York City and my usual haunts in the Hudson River Valley but like New Jersey, New York State was on a lock down as well and all the decorated mansions and holiday gatherings were all cancelled as well. So everyone did their best to celebrate outdoors and have all sorts of tours and small get togethers. You had to move fast when reserving these events as they did fill up because everyone wanted to get out of the house and see things.
The Sinterklaas Parade that I have participated and volunteered at for so many years was cancelled because of COVID but like the Halloween Parade, the committee put together a video of the parade to share with the world. Still it did not compare to the excitement of walking down the hill with stars and music lighting up Downtown Rhinebeck, NY.
The noble Frog was to be our mascot for this year’s Sinterklaas Parade
It was not the same as the year before where the crowds kept getting larger and larger every year. The whole town came to life with activities, songs, lights and laughter but was silent that weekend except for people having dinner in town. I was able to sneak up during the week. The entire town was decorated with white lights and beautifully decorated store windows. Rhinebeck is one of those towns in the Hudson River Valley that looks straight out of a Currier & Ives woodcut.
Downtown Rhinebeck, NY at Christmas
Since all the Christmas parties and get togethers were cancelled, it gave me more time to look into other outdoor events. I went to a special “Historical walking tour at the Holidays” at the Bergen County Historical Society in River Edge, NJ. The tour was lead by Historical singer and lecturer, Linda Russell, who explained the traditions of the Dutch Christmas all while singing Colonial Christmas songs in between the talks at each historical house on the property.
The Steuben House at Christmas
Actors dressed in costumes (and masks of course-COVID is still going on) danced in the Steuben House ballroom as colonialists celebrating the holiday, Dutch housewives putting their children to bed while awaiting Sinterklaas. There was a Dutch wooden shoe with carrots for his horse outside the door and mistletoe on the ceiling.
Linda Russell performing and lecturing at the Bergen County Historical Society
There was a discussion on the Pagan traditions of bringing ‘greens’ from outside inside to have a bit of ‘live nature’ into the home. So mistletoe, pine and holly adorned homes during the winter months as these things were green and brought a bit of life into the dead of winter.
The last part of the lecture was done in front of the Campbell-Christie House with a visit from Sinterklaas himself. We had a short talk about who Sinterklaas was and his part in the holiday season. Then all the members of the tour enjoyed refreshments and got a goody bag when we left with holiday sweets. The lecture and songs were a nice way to enjoy the beginning of the holiday season.
My favorite song by Linda Russell “I saw Three Ships”
As I was finishing up the semester at the College, I was getting holiday preparations done at the house, having small gatherings of family and friends and trying to be COVID safe. I was also running in and out of the City finishing my blog on Kips Bay before the holidays started getting busier. I learned a lot of New York’s Colonial past from walking around this area of the City.
My blogs on the Walking the neighborhood of Kips Bay:
The next weekend I made my last trip of the season to Long Beach Island to visit Beach Haven and the tour the rest of the island one last time before winter set in. It had really closed down since Halloween. I expected it to be much busier with more people moving down there on a permanent basis. Driving up to the lighthouse, I saw more dark homes then lite ones.
I wanted to take one more tour of Long Beach Island to see how they celebrate Christmas at the shore. They do things very quietly in Beach Haven. I went to the Surflight Theater to see the only play I had seen since I attended Carnegie Hall last Christmas to see the play “We need a little Christmas” which I had seen advertised at the theater over the summer.
“We need a Little Christmas” at the Surflight Theater in Beach Haven, NJ
After the theater, it was surprisingly warm that afternoon hovering around 58 degrees so I walked to the beach one block away and walked on the Jersey shore for my only time that year and for the first time on Beach Haven beach since 1975. It has been a long journey since that time.
The Beach Haven beach was beautiful that afternoon
The town’s Christmas trees were across the street from the theater on the square just off the downtown. Even they had a subdued Christmas at the shore and the whole event welcoming in the season was done virtually.
Christmas in Beach Haven, NJ adapted like the rest of the world
My holiday dinner was spent at the Chicken or the Egg that evening and it was really good. The menu is so extensive and innovative. It was hard to make choices.
Cinnamon Bun Ice Cream sandwich at Chicken or the Egg
Their fried chicken sandwiches are really good and their Cinnamon Roll Ice Cream sandwich should not be missed.
The Chicken or the Egg at 207 North Bay Avenue in Beach Haven
I was able to tour the whole island that afternoon before it got dark and even at twilight here and there were signs of Christmas in small trees lit in the shopping areas and decorated homes. It is an interesting place at the holidays with the waves crashing in the background.
My blog on “Exploring Downtown Beach Haven and Long Beach Island, NJ”:
The next week was finals week at the College and I had to give my final exam. The students also finished work on their case study, “Bud N’ Mud”, a simulated flower/coffee shop I had the students develop. It was interesting to see how a group of student entrepreneurs would create a store with their own ideas on how to grow the business. This project ended the Fall semester.
One of my favorite logo’s from the “Bud N’ Mud” project
With the Christmas trees selling out by December 11th, we held our annual Christmas party at the Christmas tree stand site for the Men’s Association. It was a cool not cold night and we all huddled around the fire taking alternate turns hitting the makeshift buffet table and enjoying good conversation. It was a great way to end the year successfully and there will lots of scholarships being given out at the end of the school year.
The last big event before Christmas came was the Sunday before Christmas with the Hasbrouck Heights Fire Department holding our Annual “Santa Around Town”. Because COVID was growing, the event was revamped from previous years and instead of stopping at sites all over town, we drove down each street in town slowly, having Santa wave and greet people who were on their lawns, driveways and porches. The residents of Hasbrouck Heights seemed touched by it and I could tell from the safety of the fire truck that the kids got a kick out of seeing Santa. People really needed the pick me up in holiday spirit at the time.
The Hasbrouck Heights Fire Department at “Santa Around Town” 2020
On the Tuesday before Christmas after I finished work with my other job I needed a break and wanted to go on a road trip to the Hudson River Valley again. I was nostalgic for Christmas’s past and decided to visit some of the towns Upstate.
I explored Downtown Woodstock first seeing their very unusual Christmas tree in the square. I have to say one thing about Woodstock, they do pick out the most interesting tree to sit in the square. It always looks more surreal than traditional. Their annual “Santa Parade” was cancelled this year as well and they did a drive by with Santa at the Woodstock Fire Department who runs the parade.
Downtown Kingston, NY was next on the list. Talk about a town in transition. In the almost three years since I have been visiting Kingston, I have never seen a downtown change so rapidly. The businesses there have gone from all this ‘hippie granola’ businesses to all these antique furniture stores and art galleries and some really expensive restaurants. One of the locals told me the new residents are “Brooklynizing” Kingston.
Still the downtown was nicely lit for the holidays and their Christmas Tree while small is nicely lit for the holidays on the edge of the downtown “Stockade” district. The Dutch Reformed Church on the other end of downtown was nicely lit with wreaths on the doors.
I crossed the river and drove to Red Hook, NY which I love. Their downtown looks like an old fashioned shopping district straight out of another Currier & Ives print. All the little stores were decorated with garland and white lights and the merchants decorated their windows to the hilt.
My last stop on my search for the perfect picturesque Hudson Valley River town was returning to Rhinebeck, NY for the day. Rhinebeck was quiet on this Tuesday evening as most of the restaurants were closed and the shops had closed for the evening. Still it was nice to walk around and admire the while lights on the trees and admire the display windows.
The Christmas lights and windows of Downtown Rhinebeck, NY
Even the way I celebrate Christmas changed this year. Instead of spending time with my family, I spent three days in Manhattan with my best friend, Maricel, at a hotel in Times Square. Neither of us had the time to travel and we both had to work in the City, her at her hotel and me working on my blogs so both of us needed the rest.
AC Hotel New York Times Square at 260 West 40th Street
We stayed at the AC Hotel New York Times Square at 260 West 40th Street. What the room lacked in size, it made up in the view and in the location. We were one block from Port Authority, two blocks from Times Square and within walking distance from all the Christmas attractions from Saks Fifth Avenue’s Christmas windows and the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree.
While Maricel worked on Christmas Eve, I walked around the City. I saw the tree at Rockefeller Center which was loaded with people not keeping socially distanced. I admired the windows at Saks Fifth Avenue which had a New York City theme with Christmas scenes from around the City “This is how we Celebrate”.
Saks Fifth Avenue’s Christmas Themed window “Over the East River and Through the Neighborhoods to Grandfather’s House We Go”
Rockefeller Center’s Christmas Tree was even more special this year
I thought the windows at Bloomingdale’s and Bergdorf-Goodman really lacked in creativity. Bloomingdale’s was having a bad year and Bergdorf’s had just gotten sold again (forth time since I worked there in 2004) so I did not expect much. With Lord & Taylor declaring bankruptcy earlier in the year and closing the main store on Fifth Avenue and B. Altman’s long gone and Macy’s going mechanical for the last few years, the excitement of seeing the windows has been less than enthusiastic.
Still it was nice to walk around Midtown after leaving the Rockefeller Center area and just walking around Third, Park and Madison Avenues. By 7:00pm, everything had shut down for the night and the streets were really quiet. What was eerie was when walking down Park Avenue and looking up and seeing so many dark buildings. The area looked abandoned with so many apartment lights out. I wondered where everyone went?
When Maricel got off work, I brought in dinner 9th Avenue Deli at 769 Ninth Avenue. I brought in a juicy cheeseburger and chicken fingers which we shared and then dug into. The perfect comfort food on a cool night. Christmas Eve was a mild 59 degrees and it was nice to walk around.
9th Avenue Deli at 769 9th Avenue
We just hung out the whole night and watched movies in the hotel room. I went to bed early and sunk into the wonderful Marriott hotel bed. Marriott had the best hotel beds and every time I stay at one of their hotels, I slept like a log.
Christmas Day we just relaxed in the room and I called many members of my family to wish them a Merry Christmas. While Maricel went to work, I decided to start touring neighborhoods like Kips Bay, Rose Hill and NoMAD in preparation in my walks there. It started out being a cold, cloudy day and there was barely anyone on the street. I saw a few people walking their dogs and that was about it until about 3:00pm. It them cleared up and was a mild 55 degrees until it got dark and then cooled down.
What really shocked me about Times Square was how dirty it was on the streets. They had not picked up the garbage on Christmas Eve day and did not pick it up until after Christmas Day so between the theaters being boarded up and the ply boards filled with graffiti, hotels closed and restaurants shut, the whole Theater district looked like NYC circa 1975. It was creepy how the pandemic was affecting the business of this neighborhood.
Neighborhoods like Kips Bay, Murray Hill, Rose Hill, NoMAD and the Flatiron District were really quiet that morning and early afternoon. All the restaurants and stores were dark, three hotels had closed in the district and I saw just a few people milling around. Things changed as I got closer to Macy’s Herald Square.
When walking around Koreatown, which runs between Sixth and Fifth Avenues between 35th to 32nd Streets, the side streets were teeming with Korean couples and groups of family members dining in the outdoor restaurants and cafes. This neighborhood was really jumping and full of life.
As the day wore on by 5:00pm, the rest of the City came back to life and more restaurants and stores opened up. Christmas morning and afternoon were now over and I could tell that people wanted to get out of the house (probably to get away from the family celebrations). When Maricel returned, I ordered in dinner from Golden City Chinese Restaurant at 423 Ninth Avenue, one of the few neighborhood restaurants open and we our dinner in the room. The food was okay. It was nice to just eat in the room and relax.
Christmas dinner was Lemon Chicken and Fried Rice from Golden City Chinese Restaurant
We checked out at noon on the 26th and she left for work that afternoon, I headed into Brooklyn to visit the Brooklyn Botanical Garden and the Brooklyn Museum. Both were really quiet that day. The Brooklyn Botanical Garden was mostly dormant for the winter and most of the garden was closed off because of COVID. The “Studio 54” exhibition had long closed at the Brooklyn Museum so I just wondered the halls and looked at some of the changes in the permanent exhibitions that they had. I left the City for home early that evening.
The last week of the holiday, I entertained family at a Lasagna and Champagne dinner I had a the house. Since I was not able to spend time at home during the holidays, my aunts came over to my house and we had a three course meal with champagne and wine. We spent the whole night laughing and enjoying the evening.
New Year’s Eve was a quiet evening at home alone talking with other friends who were staying home alone as well. Times Square was empty that evening with the exception of the 350 first responders who were invited to the ball drop. When I watched it on TV it was eerie to see it so quiet. There was no one for blocks except police guarding Times Square.
I headed back up to the Hudson River Valley again on New Year’s Day to go on two walking tours in Staatsburgh, NY at the Mills Mansion. It was the Annual “First of the Year” walking tours and it was a cool, crisp morning for a walking tour of the property. There were two tours that morning, one was on “Winter Activities in Victorian Times” with us learning about all the winter activities that the residents here enjoyed like skating , sledding, ice boating and horse drawn sleigh rides.
Staatsburgh, the Mills Mansion in the winter
The other tour later that afternoon was on “Ice Harvesting in the Hudson River Valley” , where we learned about how the ice harvesting of the Hudson River was a big business before the advent of refrigeration. Large slabs of ice were cut from the river, floated down stream and then packed in straw awaiting sale over the metropolitan area for peoples ice boxes throughout the year. It just gave me anther excuse to visit the region I love so much.
My blog on the Mills Mansion on VisitingaMuseum.com:
Another local event that was COVID safe was a driving tour through the “Holiday Lightshow” at Demarest Farms in Hillsdale, NJ. This was the first time that the farm opened the apple and peach orchard across the street from the farm stand. I saw this display the last week it was open and even after the holidays, it was a special treat as we awaited the Epiphany.
Driving through the display only took about forty minutes but was a delight in the senses and sounds. I played the classical music station as I drove through and admired all the colorful lights on the now dormant trees while Santa’s and Snowmen winked and waved and toy soldiers lit the way through the dark field. Even the Demarest homestead was ablaze with lights.
Demarest Farms at 244 Werimus Drive in Hillsdale, NJ
My blog on “Visiting the Farms of Bergen County, NJ at Christmas”:
Don’t miss this holiday lights ride through the orchard in 2021
The holiday event I visited was the Bronx Zoo for their “Holiday Lights” event at the zoo. It was the last night of the event and I arranged for the tickets that afternoon. The zoo gave me a 30% discount to go that evening and I was on the subway ride up to the Bronx.
The Bronx Zoo Light Show
I was really impressed by the display. The entire park was decorated with white lights, with different sections of the park decorated with different themes such as jungle animals, aquatic mammals and all sorts of assorted elephants, seals, penguins, lions, tigers and bears (oh my haha). There were costumed characters to take pictures with and they even had the Bug Carousel open that evening. I got a kick out of riding this since I had not done this since I was a little kid.
The Bronx Zoo musical Christmas Tree in the old part of the zoo
In the older section of the park, they had zebras on stilts and a musical Christmas trees that had an interesting soundtrack of contemporary Christmas songs. Even though Christmas had been over now for almost two weeks, it me back into the Christmas spirit.
So there was the Christmas holidays in the era of COVID. Lots of outdoor activities in hot and cold weather. Many walking tours and more subdued events. Gone were the cocktail parties and big formal dinners and in their place were many more smaller outdoor events and communicating with nature.
Maybe we all needed to take a break from the more formal traditions and go back to the basics of family and friends. I think this was a reflective year and realizing what is important. It had not changed that much for me. I just adjusted to the times, wore a mask and got going. Staying safe and keeping others safe is what is all about.
Hours: Open Thursday-Sunday: 11:00am-5:00pm (the last tour is at 4:00pm)/Open Monday Holidays from April 19th to October 28th. The mansion then closes to prepare for the holiday season. Closed on Thanksgiving and Easter. There are special programs from January to April so please see the website.
Admission: $8.00 for adults/$6.00 for groups and Seniors/Children under 12 are free. Special events have separate fees and can run from $8.00 to $10.00 and above.