Featured image is of Portland Head Lighthouse in Maine – credit to Jeff Gunn
Spring is near, ushering in new beginnings and resuscitation of the natural world. We begin to pack our bags with great expectations. Much like the natural world, we awaken and ready to experience new things. If you’re in the Northeast, the snow begins to thaw and the spring’s glow beckons. And if you’re not in the region, now might be a good time to start thinking about coming here. I’ve compiled a short list of great, lesser known gems and one that you should know about for you to fancy. Have a look.
1. Beacon, New York
An hour’s drive north of New York City, Beacon plays host to many events, like the Second Saturday Night Out, which is where shops, galleries and restaurants stay open late and special attractions are set up. But no matter when they visit, travelers can look through some interesting antiques, grab a bite to eat or listen closely to live music. On Sundays you have the Beacon Farmers Market where you can pick up good quality, local produce and support the community there. A walk through the riverside lets you take in from the beautiful scenery – pay attention to the historical sites there. For example, the mysterious ruins of Bannerman’s Castle, just round the Hudson River – it once housed ammunition and military surplus (visitors can still spot the holes where cannons were placed throughout the towers).
2. Rosendale, New York
Less than a couple of hours from New York City, Hartford and Albany, Rosendale is an idyllic small-town getaway for people of all ages. With comfy and unpretentious cafés, taverns and boutiques and the looming Catskill Mountains and Rondout Creek winding about the background, civilization and nature work in perfect harmony. Most of these buildings were constructed at the beginning of the 1900s after a major fire in 1895 destroyed half the town. Since the Woodstock music festival days, an increasing number of artists and entrepreneurs are moving from New York to Rosendale, establishing a thriving arts culture and online business community – it will be the only place to catch a form of art performance in the abandoned limestone mine. The town also hosts frequent town-wide street festivals, mixing historic attractions with new community-minded businesses.
3. Hammondsport, New York
Hammondsport, N.Y., stands out as the recycling capital of America – not garbage recycling (though they do that, too). We’re talking about the vintage seaplanes restored and flown with the Glenn H. Curtiss Museum. This town knows how to repurpose: the birdhouses made out of scrap wood before the Aroma Coffee Art Gallery; the cypress panelling (repurposed from old wine barrels) in the Bully Hill Vineyard’s lower diner. It’s not just about loving history. You get the sense of who the individuals here are.
The city is full of history. For example, the Pleasant Valley Wine Company was the first inside the Finger Lakes region. Another winery, Dr. Konstantin Frank Vinifera’s Wine Cellars innovatively planted European grapes in the colder New York climate. Today, both those wineries—and several more—are mainstays of the landscape. Dr. Frank’s winery, for example, sits through an impossibly green chunk of property overlooking its vineyards and sparkling, Y-shaped Keuka Lake. After all these years, tastings at Dr. Frank’s are still free. In fact, many of the best things in Hammondsport are: sunbathing on condo-less Keuka Lake, kicking back around the town square for outdoor summer concerts on Thursday nights, and jam sessions in the basement of the Union Block Italian Bistro which also provides delicious meals like the linguini and clam sauce. For a place to stay, the spiral staircase, crown mouldings, and pieces of vintage wallpaper in the octagonal 1859 home converted into the Black Sheep Inn will ensnare visitors with intrigue and history.
4. Ohiopyle State Park, Pennsylvania
The South western Pennsylvania’s Ohiopyle State Park is the place to visit if you’re looking for all-inclusive activities. Looking for waterfalls? It has four! Trails? Hikers get 79 miles of them—plus 27 miles for cyclists, 11 for all those on horseback, and nearly 40 more for cross-country skiers. And why not add in a natural water slide or two? The lifeblood through the 20,000-acre park, however, is the Youghiogheny River Gorge—a.k.a. the Yough. The Middle Yough, which flows to Ohiopyle from Confluence, Pa., is the gentler section, with Class I and II rapids for rafters and kayakers; the Lower Yough, downstream, gets more aggressive as Class IV white-water runs tempt adrenaline seekers. It’s no wonder that the park attracts over a million visitors each year.
The quietest campsites in Ohiopyle’s Kentuck campground include the walk-in sites; however, many people have found the camp’s firm 9 p.m. quiet hours too restrictive. If your crew is likely to get livelier deeper into the night, look at a vacation rental in Hidden Valley, Pa., or Seven Springs, Pa. – both are under 30 miles on the northeast. These two ski towns have a solid selection of rental condos and homes that might be deeply discounted in the off-season.
5. Southern Maine
Southern Maine is the perfect spring holiday spot: have beautiful, peaceful, and well-maintained beaches with numerous coastal towns brimming with shops and restaurants. And while there, why not indulge in fresh lobster? Getting hungry yet? To get away from the popular and touristy areas, head over to Portland or Kennebunkport.
With New York on the north and D.C. to the south, springtime vacationers often overlook Philly. The city is brimming with history, including Independence Hall, where the Declaration of Independence was signed, as well as First Bank of the U.S. While there, try cheesesteaks at both Pat’s King of Steaks and Geno’s Steaks and pit these rivals against each other – let your taste buds do the judging.
7. Falmouth, Massachusetts
It’s a quaint New England town with beautiful beaches and harbors, especially at sunset. It’s quiet, but there’s a lot to do here: surfing, kite-surfing, sailing, swimming, and paddle-boarding throughout the great beaches – spring might be a little too cold but you can start a polar club and get in the water anyway! Here, you’ll discover many historical landmarks such as the old house of Katharine Lee Bates, author of “America the Beautiful.” There’s also a wonderful bike path named after her here. Can you find it? The world’s first aquarium, in Woods Hole, is also be nearby. And if you wanted to get some shopping done, downtown Falmouth will surprise you with its many cute shops.