On a recent tour of Downtown Beacon while I was weaving in and out of stores, I came across this unique and quirky shop with a clever name, “Flora Good Times”. What caught my attention was the outstanding window display with its contemporary signage and selection of potted plants and flowers so nicely organized. It looked more like a boutique than a traditional flower shop.
What I discovered when I walked in was the original way they display their potted plants and arrangements. The color scheme is juxoposed and the plants were arranged in a way that gave it a colorful and distinctive look about the way a customer would buy them. The shelves were loaded with all sorts…
Here it is Father’s Day and the Summer Equinox again and I have reached Day Two Hundred. I have walked much more than half the Island of Manhattan, neighborhood’s in the surrounding boroughs, and historical towns and destinations in New Jersey, New York State, Pennsylvania and beyond. It is hard to believe that I have come this far and that I have been doing this for six years. It does take a lot of work to really see these neighborhoods in detail and research all the wonderful things to do and see. This is best part of the blog is sharing it with all of you!
I have recently completed another walk down the entire length of Broadway for the fifth time (Day One Hundred and Thirty Nine: Walking the Entire Length of Broadway) and a second walk around the perimeter of Manhattan (Day One Hundred and Sixty Seven: The Great Saunter Walk), the 32 mile walk that felt much better this time (being in better shape for walking by exploring Kips Bay, Rose Hill, NoMAD, Koreatown, Midtown South, Midtown West/Hell’s Kitchen and Hell’s Kitchen/Clinton before this year’s walk. If you had read the blogs from last summer the City had just opened up on June 10th, 2020 but with the riots and security reasons, I did not enter the City again until June 15th, 2020). I wanted to update both blogs with new things to see and things that I might have missed, which was a lot.
I love walking through the new Riverside Park on my way uptown for “The Great Saunter Walk”. I started at West 23rd Street this year.
The Core of Manhattan and the Perimeter of Manhattan:
Day One Hundred and Thirty Nine: Walking the Length of Broadway from 242nd Street to the Bowling Green:
As I am finishing my walk of the streets of Hell’s Kitchen/Clinton between 10th and 12th Avenues, I am also revisiting neighborhoods that I have walked before adding new restaurants, stores and artworks to the blogs. So much changes but then again you notice things you did not see on the first few trips to that section of Manhattan.
In all my time walking around Manhattan, I never realized that is was itself an ‘open-air museum’ with lots of artwork along all the streets and parks and with that, I have also credited all the artists with their bios and a little history of their careers as well. Even the ‘street tagging’ has gotten interesting again and you really have to look along the walls to admire the ‘taggers’ work.
Don’t miss the Tom Otterness Playground on West 42nd Street. He gives new meaning to the word “Jungle Gym” in his park in Hell’s Kitchen
With the COVID pandemic slowing (it is not over everyone and I still carry two masks and sanitizer with me just in case), the City is opening back up and with the last of the graduations behind us for this year, more people are wondering the streets of the five boroughs and it looks like people are moving back in with more restaurants and hotels reopening. By September, we will hopefully see the Theater District (one neighborhood I will not walk until it reopens for a fair view of it) reopen and the shows start again.
Since last June, most of the bigger museums have reopened but this time only with timed tickets and limits on the people who are attending the shows. This has made for a better experience. If you plan on visiting the museums more than a few times, I would suggest becoming a member and saving the money on the entrance fee. Plus a lot of the museums really need the membership income.
Look over my sister blog, “VisitingaMuseum.com” for ideas of small museums and historical sites that I am revisiting:
I have also been taking many trips up to the Hudson River Valley on outdoor walking tours, patio lectures and farmers market visits. Just driving through these small towns will give you a touch of nostalgia and a wanting for the past. Trust me, all that turn of the last century architecture and quaint storefronts are being brought back to life from the displaced ‘Brooklynites”, who have scattered all over the Tri-State area and are bringing their creativity to small towns in four states, New York State, New Jersey, Connecticut and Pennsylvania. Here and there tucked into these small downtowns, old Victorian homes and storefronts are being renovated and reviving communities that needed support to their downtown cores.
Downtown Catskill, NY was interesting to visit recently
So as I update my long walks around the Island of Manhattan and to the small towns in the Hudson River Valley, I hope everyone has a chance to read my older blogs starting with Day One in Marble Hill in June of 2015 and walk your way through Manhattan with me. COVID has changed so much all over the City but has not ruined the true hearts of New Yorkers and especially the Manhattanites I see everywhere.
Everyone is watching the City heal and will watch it go through a rebirth again. Trust me, it looks far better now then it did in the 1970’s and 80’s when I was growing up and the times I worked in Manhattan. You did not want to see West 34th Street in 1988 when I started at R.H. Macy.
I am also now on my sixth pair of sneakers since starting ‘MywalkinManhattan.com’.
Lastly to my father, Warren George Watrel, whom this blog is dedicated to I want to wish a very Happy Father’s Day! I miss our walks around Manhattan at this time of year but I always feel you in spirit!
I love you Dad and Happy Father’s Day!
Blogger Justin Watrel with his father, Warren Watrel in 2013
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 have visited the Philipsburg Manor House and Estate many times over the years. During the “Headless Horseman” Halloween activities, the house is open for tours. You are able to tour the rooms and see the home in a spooky environment. The house was lit by candles and the tour guides lead you through the house.
During a special event at the holidays, the house had seasonal decorations, lit by a combination candles and open hearth fires in the fireplace and tour guides explained a Colonial holiday season.
The Manor House as it was explained to me was a place where the Philipse family stayed when they were away from the…
I was recently travelling through Saugerties, New York recently and saw the small sign for the historical Saugerties Lighthouse and decided to take the road path down to the river. This interesting little site is hidden behind a wetlands area and neighborhood of homes and a Coast Guard station.
The Historical Saugerties Lighthouse in Saugerties, NY
I walked through the wetlands park through a pathway of bridges and paths and suggest by the walk do not go after it has just rained. Also do not go after dark as the path is not lite. Still it is fascinating walk through the wetlands passing streams and patches of beautiful flowers and trees. Take…
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.
This Halloween was very subdued but not entirely canceled this year.
New Jersey still allowed Trick or Treating even though I saw very few children outside on the one nice sunny day we had seen in over two weeks. Because of the recent hurricanes hitting the Gulf Coast, we got the tail of the last two storms. It had been cloudy and gloomy for almost three weeks and Halloween day was the first nice day we had. I could see that people wanted to get out of the house.
In the era COVID, I could not see too many people going out Trick or Treating. It was an unusual Halloween for me as I was usually preparing for a long day of working at the Halloween Parade in Manhattan but because of COVID that parade was cancelled. This on top of pretty much any other Halloween related activity. Things were done on a smaller scale. I saw small children Trick or Treating in our downtown business district and some parents were weaving between businesses to talk to merchants.
Residents in our community really decorated their houses and in some cases overdid it. I felt like I was passing mini cemeteries and houses of horror. I can understand that parents wanted to bring some sense of normalcy to their families in this extremely rough time.
Halloween in Hasbrouck Heights, NJ
I started the day at a drill with the fire department. We spent the morning using the Hurst tools and practicing cutting a van. The department was practicing rescuing people from a trapped vehicle. It was a good training session as we all got chances to cut parts of the van and then get a small lecture on our work. At the end of the day, we had a wrap up session and then a pizza lunch. It was nice to just relax after a busy morning.
Our new coach, Mel Tucker, lead Michigan State University to victory
When I got home I arrived in time to watch the forth quarter of the Michigan State versus University of Michigan game. After the disaster we had the week before with Rutgers, we needed this win badly. I would like to say it was a back and forth game but we dominated them for most of the game and pulled out the win 27-24. Watching the Michigan players leave the stadium with all the arrogance gone was enjoyable. This since their coach practically forced the Big Ten to play when COVID is raging all over the country.
Beating Michigan every year is a pleasure!
Don’t miss the highlights from the game. It was something!
After the game was over, my best friend, Kris and I had a long and very excited conversation about the game which is the bragging rights of Michigan and that is a big deal between both sets of Alumni.
I looked outside on the sunny day and saw absolutely no Trick or Treaters. The Halloween Parade Committee had sent out an email earlier in the week that the Spider Puppet would be ‘crawling out of’ Jefferson Market Library on the corner of Sixth Avenue and 10th Street plus there would be a slide show in Times Square. With no other plans and a beautiful night ahead of me, off I went into Manhattan.
My first stop was Times Square which is a hop, skip and jump from Port Authority. I swear the whole area was crowded with people in costume having a wonderful time. I was surprised with the COVID going on how many people especially young families with children were not wearing masks. They were wearing costumes with no face coverings including the children.
Since the parade was cancelled, people had their own makeshift parade and were laughing, yelling and having a good time talking to one another in the closed off portion of Times Square between West 42nd to West 45th Streets along Broadway. I could see people just wanted to don a costume and forget all their troubles. I never realized how much people enjoyed the parade and how much they missed it.
Times Square on Halloween Night 2020
Try as I might, I could not find that billboard with the pictures of the Halloween Parade on it and I could not remember if they posted a side street with the information so I walked about four blocks around the square looking for the billboard and admiring the costumes.
I decided to head to the Village to see the spider puppet emerge from the library. That was another busy neighborhood. All the side street around Sixth Avenue were jammed with people in restaurants and bars. Here they were wearing masks to a point. When they were seated in extremely crowded restaurants, it was mask off. I could tell though again people were having a good time. Everyone looked fatigued and just needed to let off a little steam.
Pumpkin Men greeted people at the Stonewall Inn on Halloween Night
I watched as the puppet did emerge and dance around the outside of the library, which is a beautiful Victorian structure. The spider crawled out of the tower and I could see the puppeteers from the balcony above directing the spider.
The spider emerges from the Jefferson Market Library on Sixth Avenue
The spider is the creation of artist Basil Twist, a professional puppeteer with a studio on Leroy Street in the Village who constructed the puppet in 1994. He created the puppet as an homage to one of the original puppets in the parade that was founded by Roger Lee in the 1970’s. The artist usually waits until the marchers in the Halloween Parade get to Eighth Street to release the puppet. (DNA Info Danielle Tcholakian).
Artist Basil Twist with his spider in the clock tower of the Jefferson Market Tower
Artist Basil Twist is an American born artist originally from San Francisco and now resides in New York City. He is a third generation puppeteer and is the only American to graduate from the Ecole Superieure Nationale des Arts de la Marionette in France. He is an artist, puppet designer, director and guest lecturer at many colleges.
A video on artist Basil Twist’s work
On quiet Sixth Avenue that only a year before on a 71 degree night where throngs of people walked uptown in the Halloween Parade, I watched the spider dangle from the library and dance down the side of the building. There were very few people to watch the show but the spider did its thing amusing all of us who watched it.
Just as I started to watch the slide show across the street from the library that was being shown of clips of the Halloween Parade, I ran across Grace, our fearless leader of the Parade who checks me in every year before I work the gate. I could barely recognize her under the mask. She and the creator of the Halloween Parade, Jeanne Fleming, were watching the spider too and running the slide show of past parades on the side of a apartment building across Sixth Avenue.
Jeanne Fleming, our fearless leader & Founder of the Halloween Parade
Grace and I talked for a bit while watching the spider crawl down from the balcony about how different a year makes. The Village was still busy with people walking on the streets with costumes and bars and restaurants packed with people enjoying the warm October night. It was definitely strange not to see thousands of people walk up Sixth Avenue after all these years but next year brings hopeful optimism.
The full Moon was in its magnificence that evening
I said my goodbyes to her and Jeanne and took one last stroll around the Village with its outdoor dining and costumed revelers and hoped things would work out. Then I noticed the beautiful full moon overhead. I had never seen one so bright on Halloween Night. No witches crossing the moon but a brightness to light the way into better years ahead.
Still I was also able to sneak up to Croton on the Hudson for the Annual “Pumpkin Blaze” that is sponsored by the Hudson River Historical Society. It was a much toned down event than last year and at 25% capacity was much easier to get through the displays. I had never seen so few people at the event but in the era of COVID it is smarter to have a smaller crowd and have the event than to have nothing. It is the Historical Society’s biggest fundraiser and people were having a good time.
The Van Cortlandt Manor ablaze with sights and sounds in its pumpkin cemetery
The Blaze was amazing with all the music, sites and sounds. I loved the MoMA version of the museum with pumpkin portraits and the Pumpkin Bridge, Ferris Wheel and Spider Webs. There was even a Croton on the Hudson fire truck and ambulance in dedication to all the hard work during COVID. Smaller yes but no less wonderful. I am glad that ran the event.
The Pumpkin Ferris Wheel at the Pumpkin Blaze at Croton on the Hudson
One of the Pumpkin Paintings based on “The Scream”
Van Cortlandt Manor in all its ghoulish delight the night of “The Blaze”
Justin Watrel (the blogger) at “The Pumpkin Blaze” during the Halloween holidays
I had the most amazing Chinese meal at New Happy Garden at 440 South Riverside Avenue #440 in the ShopRite Mall next to the Blaze and I highly recommend the restaurant. The Orange Chicken with Pork Fried and egg rolls.
A much more toned down Halloween than in the past but between the all events it made Halloween a more special time to get my mind off everything going on in the world.
Highlights from the Halloween Parade 2019
The First Annual Miniature Halloween Parade: The gift of the Halloween Parade Committee in 2020
My neighbor’s Scarecrow, Giggles. I think this thing is evil (Ha Ha)
If all else fails, watch the original version of the movie “Halloween” from 1978 on YouTube:
Places to Visit:
Hasbrouck Heights Home Decorations
Drive around our Borough of Hasbrouck Heights, NJ in Bergen County for Halloween and Christmas decoration every October and December
The Halloween Parade
The Parade steps off at 7:00pm on Halloween Night starting at Canal Street in Manhattan
The Jefferson Market Library (to see the Spider Puppet)
Even in the age of COVID I wanted to do something special for my birthday. I had not travelled since last Christmas and the idea of staying in a hotel did not appeal to me with everything going on. Watching enough webinars through my Alma Mater, Cornell University, I found out that everyone was taking all sorts of precautions to make everything safe for guests. Getting tired of not going anywhere but locally I got an invitation to go back to Staatsburgh, NY for another walking tour at the Mills Mansion on the day before my birthday. It was for the “Discovering the Estates Tour” where we walked the grounds of the park to see the abandoned Hoyt and Lee estates that abut the Mills Mansion estate grounds.
Staatsburgh, The Mills Mansion, at 1 Mills Mansion Drive
Add to that wanting to go on the “Cemetery Walk” at the Dutch Church in Downtown Kingston Stockade District that is offered every Halloween, I planned the perfect early birthday present for myself. I thought I would go on the tours and treat myself to a early birthday lunch in Rhinebeck, NY.
The Old Dutch Church cemetery and grounds in Kingston, NY
I checked the weather in Upstate New York and it was going to be a sunny warm weekend with a chance of rain on Monday because of the hurricane travelling up the East Coast from Florida. Being that the foliage was starting to turn in the Hudson River Valley I wondered how it would be further up into the state.
I took a look at my schedule and classes did not resume until that next Tuesday and I made a phone call to the Otesaga Resort Hotel, a hotel that I had always wanted to stay out and visit the National Baseball Hall of Fame while I was there. I don’t know if it was just fate or that I was destined to go there but the hotel was fully booked that week.
The Otesaga Resort Hotel in Cooperstown, NY
The woman from Reservations told me because of the Columbus Day holiday and that being a vacation week for everyone that he hotel was fully booked for the first time since March (remember hotels can only be at 25% capacity at this time). She then said she would put me on the wait list but just as she said this she said to hold on. She came back to me and said that they just had a cancellation for a room for the night I wanted and would I like the room? I was able to book the room with a King sized bed and a partial view of the lake. It was fate and I jumped on it. That and the rooms were half the price they normally are so it gave me a chance to see Cooperstown, NY while keeping within budget.
So off I went to another weekend in the Hudson River Valley and further Upstate to Cooperstown, NY. It was near Halloween and I was going to search for ghosts. The first stop the morning I left for Staatsburgh-The Mills Mansion was the Hyde Park Farmers Market. I was in search of the baker I had met a few weeks earlier who had that terrific peach and blueberry cream cheese pocket. I wanted to get another if he had it.
Don’t miss the Hyde Park, NY Farmers Market on Saturdays in Hyde Park, NY
Luckily enough I found him. I met Tom Greene from Tom’s Heritage Baked Goods & Jams again and told him how much I loved the fruit pocket from my last trip. He said unfortunately the blueberry and peach season was over but he had apple pockets this time. It was delicious. Loaded with a sweet apple mixture and cinnamon in a flaky pastry made every bite melt in your mouth. It is well worth the $5.00 price.
Tom Greene of Tom’s Heritage Baked Goods & Jams
After I walked around the market again seeing all the produce, wines and crafts, I drove up the to Mills Mansion for my next walking tour, “Estates of Staatsburgh”, a tour of the abandoned Lee and Hoyt estates on the park property. A perfect tour as we get closer to the Halloween holidays and search for a ghost.
The tour of the old homes started at the Mills Mansion with a little story about Ruth and Ogden Mills, the owner of Staatsburgh. Their home had only been used for about four months out of the year, usually when they left Newport after the summer was over and before Christmas when they would leave for New York City for the Winter Social season. They were records though that the family did spend some holiday seasons there.
We also toured the grounds where greenhouses, boat houses and ice storage houses once stood and there was a conversation about the role of the staff especially the gardeners and farm staff while the Mill’s were away. Estate was still a working ‘gentlemen’s farm’, where they raised sheep, pigs, chickens and cows for show and for food for the estate.
Then we travelled along the river and through the woods to the Hoyt estate which stood abandoned on a buff overlooking the Hudson River. The Hoyt’s were distant relatives of Ruth Livingston Mills on the Livingston side of her family. They had lived in the home for generations until the State of the New York bought their home and estate through eminent domain back in the early 1960’s. The house and the outer buildings now sit abandoned until renovations can begin for them as Educational Centers and storage.
The Hoyt Mansion does look a little like a haunted house
The Hoyt Estate in its heyday
After a visit to the Hoyt’s home we visited the estate of the Lee Family which was further down the path. The home had burned down in the 1950’s so all that was left was traces of the driveway and the ice house for the estate. It still looked ominous sitting in the middle of the woods.
The Lee Mansion in its heyday before it burned down.
After our tour through the woods, the tour guide told us of the improvements both families had done to their homes before they were either abandoned or burned down. There are still traces of old buildings on the grounds and paths and gardens. We also got to see traces of the old garden shed and cow barn that are now in ruin. Now all of it has let Mother Nature take over.
At the end of the tour they finally opened the bathrooms for us (none of the men were too thrilled by this) and then we were left to tour the Mills estate or relax on the lawn and talk with other guests (socially distanced of course). I just relaxed and admired the beautiful views of the river on a warm sunny day.
The Mills Mansion back lawn facing the Hudson River
After my tour of the old estates, I travelled back to Downtown Poughkeepsie to take a better tour of the older historical sections of the City including Little Italy again, the Historic Union Street section and the older part of downtown. I never realized what a beautiful city Poughkeepsie is and the potential it has for a turnaround. The ‘Walkway Over the Hudson State Park’ is really bringing people back to the City. Plus it is one of the last towns along the Hudson River to gentrify.
Downtown Poughkeepsie is quite interesting in that none of the colleges that surround it ever opened a campus building in the downtown. Marist, Dutchess Community College, Vassar, Bard and the Culinary Institute of America are all located around the City. I can see by walking around the area closer to the Hudson River this is all beginning to change. It seemed that all the homes and businesses in area are being snatched up quickly as they are coming onto the market.
I parked in the Historic Union Street and started to walk around the neighborhood. There are a lot of old brick homes and mansions in the area. There are also a series of businesses that are being renovated in the area. People are really fixing the neighborhood and you can start to see by the beauty of the architecture.
Historic Union Street is changing fast
I then walked up the Main Street from the river to the historic part of the downtown and looked up at all the awnings of the buildings and you can see that many were built in the late 1880’s. These formerly boarded up buildings are being fixed up and turned into lofts and the store fronts are now art galleries and small restaurants.
The lower part of Downtown Poughkeepsie has its charms
The cast iron buildings of Downtown Poughkeepsie are being renovated
There are now three art galleries downtown, an arts building and now a fancy French restaurant and two upscale bars. Once you go about five blocks past the old Luckey Platt & Company Department Store building then it starts to get a little seedy. This is where most of the urban renewal most have happened and knocked the old area down. Still there are a lot of changes going on here too.
I then walked around the old Little Italy which I had explored a few weeks earlier. There is not much left to it. There are two restaurants, a pizzeria, a bakery and a hair salon. There is an Italian Cultural Center in the neighborhood as well. Now artists and ‘hipsters’ are moving in with new arts centers flanking the area and there is a lot of renovations of homes going on here.
This lower part of Poughkeepsie is changing fast
Before I left Little Italy for Kingston for the Cemetery Walk, I stopped at Emiliano’s Pizza at 111 Main Street for a quick lunch (See my review on TripAdvisor). The pizza was quite good. It was really cheesy and gooey but the sauce could have used more spices. Their selection and prices are very fair and the service is really good.
Emiliano’s Pizza at 111 Main Street
I arrived in the Kingston Stockade around 5:30pm and started to explore the historic Stockade and the changes that are happening there too. Kingston is going through a transformation as well. All the old what I would call ‘granola’ businesses like the all natural coffee shops and restaurants and old clothing stores have since closed. There was a lot of empty store fronts since last Halloween when I visited for the Puppet rehearsals at the Rokeby estate.
What has started to replace them is an incredible amount of smaller restaurants which are really expensive and a few furniture galleries that looked like they got priced out of Hudson, NY. I can see that this part of Kingston is getting more expensive like the Roundout section.
I wanted another quick snack before the Cemetery Walk, so I stopped at Wing Shui Chinese Restaurant at 53 North Front Street which is one of the last of the ‘old’ businesses left in this section of the neighborhood. I just ordered a few egg rolls and I have to tell you they were some of the best I had eaten in a long time.
Wing Shui Chinese Restaurant at 53 North Street
They were loaded with chopped roast pork and fresh vegetables and fried to perfection. I have to go back in the future. I have not had egg rolls this good since we went to Chan’s in Dunellen, NJ back in the 1980’s. They made a real impression on me when something is this good.
The egg rolls at Wing Shui Chinese Restaurant are excellent!
I wish I could have said as much for the ‘Cemetery Tour’ at the Old Dutch Church. I had been to the church in the past for Sinterklass fundraisers so I had been inside many times and just walked around the cemetery during the day. I was hoping this would be a more spooky type of event with the actor giving an approach from the dead’s point of view.
The Lantern Tour of the Cemetery
The problem with the actors who were playing the roles of the people buried at the Old Dutch Church cemetery was that they wanted it both ways. They wanted to play the roles of people in their own era and this spread out in a three hundred year period and then they wanted to bring modern politics into it which I did not want to hear their opinions and would not what someone would have thought in their time frame.
The actors who played the roles of Emily Chadbourne, Father Divine and slave Jenny started to equate their characters to modern times which took the twist out of it. It made it less spooky and more political. The only actor who stayed in character was the one playing Calvert Vaux, the landscape designer of Central Park and a architect of many buildings.
The Old Dutch Church in the daytime is very interesting
The cemetery itself was very lurking after the event was over and everyone had left. The actors were gone as well as everyone else in about an hour and the church was locked up. Then it really did look gloomy with only the moon light and street lights to illuminate it. I was parked outside the church (did I luck out with parking that evening) and passed it again as I walked the downtown one more time. There are more changes coming to Kingston.
I spent the night in Hyde Park again and I highly recommend the Quality Inn. In the era of COVID I want to say that I was not too keen about staying in a hotel. The hotel does a great job in protocols and the place was as clean as a whistle and followed all the standards set by the CDC. The room was spotless (I have stayed here many times and the hotel has excellent standards) and there was a air purifier in the room as well as the window was open and smelled very nice. I also had a nice view of the woods and the rock wall outside.
I highly recommend the Quality Inn at Hyde Park, NY
I swear though trying to find an open restaurant after 9:00pm in Red Hook, Rhinebeck or Hyde Park was next to impossible. Everyone seems to roll up the carpet at 10:00pm. I ended up at the Hyde Park McDonald’s (see review on TripAdvisor) trying the new Spicy Chicken McNuggets which I highly recommend. They were really delicious especially with the new Spicy Sauce.
Don’t miss the Spicy Chicken McNuggets; they will make you want to come back to McDonald’s.
All that running around and driving on the first day of my trip wore me out. It was just to the Rhinebeck and Kingston areas and I was pooped. I was running from one thing to another and when I got back from McDonald’s, I hit the pillow and slept soundly. This hotel is so comfortable.
I checked out early the next morning. Talk about a good night’s sleep, I was ready to go. I went back to Downtown Poughkeepsie again to try Alex’s Restaurant at 1 Market Street which has been a fixture in the City since 1911. I wanted to go someplace different for my birthday breakfast.
Alex’s Restaurant at 1 Market Street in Poughkeepsie, NY
The one complaint I had about the restaurant was that when you are a single person they give you the worst table. With COVID, we were not even allowed to eat at the bar and I was stuck at a table in the back by the bathroom. That made the meal less enjoyable.
Still the food here is really good (See review on TripAdvisor). I had a dish called a “Breakfast Sampler”, which was two slices of French Toast, a pancake, two scrambled eggs, two slices of bacon and a rather big sausage patty. Everything was delicious and the waiter, Michelle, was really nice and was able to handle the crowd that morning.
I took more walk around Downtown Poughkeepsie before I had to cross the river again to the Kingston Roundout. As part of a gift to myself, I wanted to explore sites on my bucket list. My first stop was the Trolley Museum of Kingston. I had missed it on my last trip to the Roundout. Between the cruise and the Maritime Museum, it took up the whole day.
The Trolley Museum at 89 East Strand Street
The Roundout was busy that morning. It looked like New York City had emptied out and everyone came up to Kingston for brunch. The Trolley Museum at 89 East Strand Street is a unique little museum that tells the history of the trolley car not just in Kingston but all over the country.
The first part of your visit is the trolley ride up the Hudson River which on a beautiful clear sunny day is just amazing. We took a small trip to the center of town to pick up more people and then we took a ride through the woods and followed the river up to Kingston Point Park.
The ride up the river was fun
We were able to take a break and just walk around Kingston Point Park, looking at the foliage along the river and watching the sailboats go by. It was another cool morning but I learned my lesson and bundled up. It was just breathtaking.
The views are breathtaking
We only had about a half hour to enjoy the park and then it was back to the Roundout. I was able to explore the displays around the small museum and then walked through the subway cars and buses that were on display outside. I know that the kids seemed to loved it.
I wanted to stop back at the Dorsky Museum at SUNY New Paltz again to finish seeing the ‘Artists of the Hudson River’ exhibition so off I went again to New Paltz. When I left Kingston you literally could not find a parking spot as that’s how busy it was all getting at the Roundout.
The Dorsky Museum on the SUNY New Paltz campus
The Samuel Dorsky Museum at New Paltz is one of those terrific college museum’s that is tucked inside a campus building. The museum opened early that morning so I saw the exhibition with no one else around. The local artists had a nice showcase for their art. The college did a nice job mounting the display. There were some interesting pieces in the exhibition. This one below is made of locally made bricks from an old building.
The “Artists of the Hudson River Valley” is a great exhibition
After a quick tour of the exhibition, it was time to take the trip of to Cooperstown, NY. I had taken instructions from Google maps and took the trip up the local highways. What should have been a two and half trip ended up taking four hours. I went from Route 9 North past Saugerties and Catskill and then headed up Route 145 where I went through every small town in all the farming communities. I had never seen areas so depressed before. These were areas where progressed passed by.
The one thing I started to notice in all these small towns along the highway that in each of the towns I saw old Victorian homes being fixed up with rainbow flags outside of them. Either people were coming home or the reaches of people moving out of New York City reached these lengths. The only positive thing coming out of this pandemic that I noticed was that by people leaving the City and moving into these small communities is they will progress, new businesses and money to these small towns.
Even thought many of these towns were falling apart they had their charms as well. There were small downtown’s surrounded by Victorian homes telling the story that these were once prosperous farming towns with their own businesses and social lives. The town that stood out the most was Middleburgh, NY right near the end of Route 145 near the Interstate 88 turn.
The farms of Middleburgh, NY meet the Catskills with the most colorful foliage
Once I got off Route 145, I got on the Interstate and then went on a back road maze of streets that the directions sent me until I decided to just stay on the main road and drove up Route 7 to Route 18 to Cooperstown. I must have seen every small town in Upstate New York.
I finally arrived in Cooperstown at 6:00pm almost four hours later and I was exhausted from all the driving. I stopped in Downtown Cooperstown for directions and then it was off to the hotel. I got into town before it got dark so I got to see the views of the hotel. The Otesaga Resort Hotel at 60 Lake Street is right on the bend of the southern most part of Lake Otsego.
The Otesaga Resort Hotel is a grand hotel
The Otesaga Resort Hotel was taking every precaution as well. The hotel was only at a 25% occupancy and you could tell by the parking lot it was not that full. When I entered the lobby there were only a few people there and the front desk gentleman was behind a Plexiglas sheet with a mask and gloves on. Sterile but smart.
My room was everything that I hoped for. I had a third floor partial lake view room on the third floor which I found out after I left the hotel is one of the haunted floors. The hotel’s bio said that there the voices of small girls laughing in the hallway. I heard dead silence of a floor that was not that full. I settled in before I left to find a restaurant for my birthday dinner.
The Hawkeye Bar & Grill , one of the signature restaurants of the hotel, was the only one that was open with a very limited menu. I decided to come back later for a drink at the bar and headed into downtown a block away. There was not much open on a Sunday night at 7:00pm. It looked like the whole downtown closed up.
It was a cool night and I wanted simple comfort food. I was in the mood for a hot turkey sandwich and I found it at the Doubleday Cafe at 93 Main Street. Talk about being socially distanced there were only about ten people in the restaurant and a few more walked in after I got my dinner. Like I said, there was not much open. The restaurants were either too expensive or had boring menus.
The Doubleday Cafe at 93 Main Street in Cooperstown
The service here is really friendly and personable. After that long trip, I really needed this. The food was delicious (see review on TripAdvisor). The hot turkey sandwich really hit the spot. It was loaded with fresh turkey on white toast with a side of mashed potatoes. I got to watch the end of the Giants-Dallas game while I was eating (Giants lost again) and watched the last of the stragglers walking around the downtown.
The Hot Turkey Sandwiches here are delicious
After both the game and dinner were over, I took a long walk around the downtown. My family and friends had been calling me all day to wish me a happy birthday so I ended up talking to my brother while I was walking around. There was no one around that night and I swear there must have been about ten people walking around Downtown Cooperstown. The place was so quiet.
I walked back to the hotel that evening and it was all illuminated for the evening. The hotel looked busier than it was and in the lobby people were talking by the fire, working on their computers by the couches and the fire pit bar was packed with people who were socially distanced.
I had talked with one of the waiters earlier who said a friend of hers had seen a ghost in the hotel and said the Fifth Floor made people working at night a little uncomfortable so off I went to the Fifth Floor to search for a ghost.
All I saw was an empty hallway and people talking in rooms. Nothing going bump in the night. So I headed down to the Hawkeye Bar & Grill on the lower level of the hotel for a drink. I had a Cosmopolitan that really knocked me out. I was tired from all that driving. I was going to sit out at the fire pit but no one else was outside at that point and they were ready to close. They closed the bar at 10:00pm. At least I got my birthday drink in with a cheery hello from the bartender (see review on TripAdvisor).
The Fire Pit bar was very popular that night
If there was a ghost in my room, it could not have waken me with a atom bomb. I went into such a deep sleep that I awoke at 8:30am rested and refreshed. I had a 9:30am breakfast appointment in the Glitterglass Room, the hotel’s dining room for breakfast. What I loved about the package I chose was breakfast was included.
I had the best waiter. He said to me that since the buffet could not be done, I could order anything from the A La Carte menu and as much as I wanted. BIG MISTAKE! I love breakfast and I was starved. I started with a three egg omelet with ham and Cheddar with a side of bacon, potatoes, rye toast and tea and orange juice. After I ate that, I also ordered Fresh Waffles with blueberry compote. I think I shocked the waiter by eating everything.
The Glitterglass Room for breakfast is beautiful
After breakfast was over and before I checked out of the room, I walked around the grounds to admire the foliage and the lake. It cleared up outside and it was sunny with blue skies. The grounds of the hotel are just breathtaking. The views of the mountains and the lake are so scenic and graceful. The golfers, COVID or not, were out in force and already playing rounds of golf. It would have nice to use the pool or swim in the lake but that was out of the question.
The grounds of the Otesaga Hotel are glorious
I dropped my bags in the car and walked down to the National Baseball Hall of Fame for the morning. The downtown area was still really quiet and I had timed tickets for 12:30pm. I thought I would be there for about two hours. I was there for almost three.
National Baseball Hall of Fame
The National Baseball Hall of Fame is a true testament to the sport. There are artifacts from every era of the sport starting with early traces of bat and ball sports going back to the Egyptians and Greeks. The progress of the sport since the end of the Civil War to today is reflected in the memorabilia that has been donated over the year by teams, players and fans.
“The Captain” Derek Jeter
The museum opened in 1939 and has been growing every since. I really liked the Hall of Fame room with all the plaques of celebrated players. Recently Derek Jeter was inducted into the Hall of Fame but because of COVID, the ceremony was cancelled. I was looking for Reggie Jackson, “Mr. October”, who was induced in year ago. I just remember the thrill when he went in as a Yankee.
The Hall of Fame Room
I wondered through all the exhibitions of old player uniforms, displays of many of our most famous players and exhibits of the Negro and female leagues. There were interesting displays on Babe Ruth and Hank Aaron. There was a complete collection of baseball cards and collectibles.
Lockers of the famous teams
There was even displays of Hollywood films such as “The Bad News Bears” and “A Field of Dreams”. There was a complete history of the ball and bats and the progression of uniforms over the years. There was even a history of the teams playing globally in Japan and the Dominican Republic.
The one thing I did notice that for a holiday weekend (it was Columbus Day) how quiet the museum was that afternoon. There must have been barely fifty people in the museum walking around at any one time. Even when I left the museum at 2:30pm, there were not that many people walking around outside.
Before my next stop the Fenimore Art Museum up the road, I stopped for lunch at Sal’s Pizzeria at 110 Main Street right near the National Baseball Hall of Fame for a quick lunch. After the breakfast I had I was not that hungry. I can always fit in a slice of pizza and a Coke. The pizza was pretty good, crisp on the bottom and gooey on the top. The sauce did not have much flavor though. It needed more spices.
Sal’s Pizza at 110 Main Street
The owner seemed worried about business. There were very few people walking around the downtown at 2:30pm and it did not look like it was going to get any busier. Even I was surprised for a holiday weekend it was so quiet. He confided it had been like this for awhile. Still the pizza is very good and the service is friendly.
I had stopped earlier in the morning at Schneider’s Bakery at 157 Main Street for a jelly doughnut. I just had to see the inside of this traditional old fashioned bakery.
Schneider’s Bakery at 157 Main Street
I highly recommend coming here for an early morning snack or for dessert later in the afternoon. Their cinnamon jelly doughnuts are delicious and the service is so friendly.
The selection of baked goods is extensive
After lunch, I walked back to the hotel, picked up my car and took one last look at the Otesaga Hotel. God, was a beautiful place it is with all the foliage and views of the lake. I was just spell bound by it all.
My last stop on this adventure was the Fenimore Art Museum at 5798 Route 80, right up the road from the hotel. This wonderful little museum is packed with interesting American Art from the Revolutionary and Colonial era, family heirlooms from the Cooper and Fenimore families who once owned all the surrounding land and developed the town, Native American Art from the Thaw Family and several pieces from the Hudson River School set of painters.
The Fenimore Museum at 5798 Route 80
The upper floors hold the special galleries which have revolving shows as well. I thought the Native American galleries were interesting. There are were all sorts of artifacts from all eras from ceremonial masks and religious objects to clothes and jewelry. There was an facinating amount of objects from different tribes.
The Thaw Collection of Native American Art
The historical family pieces show how much the family had a hand in the development of Cooperstown.
The Cooper Family Collection
I spent the rest of the afternoon touring the galleries by myself. There were not too many other patrons at the museum. I was surprised like at the National Baseball Hall of Fame that they were so quiet. It was myself and just a few other people. I left when the museum closed at 5:00pm.
Before I took the long road home, I took one more tour around the downtown and admired its beauty with all the foliage in full color. It was quite a site The ride home was so much quicker as I took Route 88 to Route 90 and then to the New York Thruway to Route 17. I was home in three and a half hours which really shocked me with the traffic I hit.
It was an amazing and relaxing weekend of interesting museums and cultural sites, beautiful point of nature to communicate with and wonderful food at restaurants that did a wonderful job in keeping me safe. I may not have found a ghost for Halloween but it was a great birthday weekend anyway.