Summertime Fun in New York State

asiseeit_fayette_headshotThroughout the northeast, Summer is always welcomed with open arms, ready-to-spend wallets, and a desire to wear bathing suits whenever and wherever possible. With its four distinct seasons, from Memorial Day to Labor Day those in the New York State area attempt to squeeze every available sun-shining moment into their schedules.

So without further delay (because I think the sun is coming out to stay), here are some ideas I’d like to share with you for your summertime fun in and around New York State.

In Syracuse, Saturday mornings are reserved for hundreds to pay a visit to the Regional Market. Now this is open nearly all year round, but it’s a nice way to spend a summer Saturday morning as you stroll through locallySYR Regional Market grown fresh fruit, vegetables, and flowers. The Regional Market is open until 1pm on Saturdays. My wife and I usually start our Saturday out that way a couple of times during the summer. From there we head a few miles to the south, to the Armory Square district. This section of Syracuse boasts several restaurants, quaint pubs, along with specialty stores and boutiques. You can typically catch us enjoying lunch and a pint at The Blue Tusk. One of the largest attractions found in Syracuse when it’s not SU Orange basketball season is a trip to Destiny USA. Filled with hundreds of well-known stores, restaurants, and attractions, Destiny USA has something for everyone. Besides hours of shopping, this mega mall has indoor simulated golf, go-cart racing, comedy clubs, and museums. Popular eateries at Destiny USA include the Cheesecake Factory, Cantina Laredo, PF Changs, and Gordon Biersch.

Oswego Harborfest fireworks by GrucciDuring the last weekend in July the City of Oswego shows off its Lake Ontario lakefront beauty with its Harborfest celebration. From Thursday to  Sunday the city is transformed into a carnival atmosphere, mixed with great food, second-to-none free concerts, and traditionally Chamber of Commerce weather. Whether you want to taste regional wines, buy locally created crafts, take in a concert from top name acts, or just appreciate how lucky Oswegonians are to live alongside Lake Ontario, Harborfest weekend is a date you don’t want to miss.

Speaking of wine tasting, Central New Yorkers are blessed to have some of the world’s finest wines within a short drive. I enjoy taking a day, or sometimes even a weekend, to skip from winery to winery between Cayuga and Seneca Lakes. Part of the Finger Lakes Wine Trail, these wineries have fun employees, great tasting wines, and many now have overnight accommodations and restaurants. I prefer FingerLakes mapstaying at The Inn at Glenora at the south end of Route 14 or Belhurst Castle, located at the north end of Route 14 in Geneva. Some of my favorite lunch and dinner locations are Fox Run Farms Winery (found on the west side of Seneca Lake), Stonecutters (located in Belhurst Castle), and Sheldrake Point (along the west side of Cayuga Lake). As far as wine tasting goes, I have my favorites, but wine tasting is like that of music or food taste- it varies with each individual. That being said if you haven’t experienced the Finger Lakes Wine Trail some must-see stops are Swedish Hill, Hazlitt’s, Bagley’s Poplar Ridge, Three Brothers, and Fox Run Farms. You can find great interactive maps and descriptions by Googling ‘Seneca Lake Wineries’ or ‘Cayuga Lake Wineries’.

More family-oriented travels may see you spending the day at Rochester’s SeaBreeze Amusement Park, along Lake Ontario or the Darien Lake Amusement Park, located midway between Rochester and Buffalo just off the Thruway. Located in Sterling, NY (near Fair Haven Beach State Park) is the Renaissance Faire. Open for the months of July and August, the RenFaire takes visitors back to the Middle Ages with jesters, joustings, and the beloved fried turkey legs.

Niagara_FallsIf you have a weekend or a few days to spare, expand your travels to Niagara Falls. Whether you stay on the U.S. side or venture to the Canadian side, one of the great wonders of the world never disappoints. (Remember- a passport in now needed when traveling to Canada.) Besides that big waterfall that everyone goes gaga over, both countries boast casinos and plenty of entertainment. On the Canadian side they have the famous Clifton Hill, otherwise known as the ‘Hill of Fun’, with restaurants, attractions like Ripley’s Believe It or Not museum, and the Hershey Chocolate store. Of course don’t forget an unforgettable ride on The Maid of the Mist, as you get closer to the falls than you ever thought imaginable. Also over the border sits the City of Kingston, Ontario is a great weekend getaway! This quaint Canadian city offers tons of food and shopping along its famous Princess Street and Ontario Street.

Heading into the northern part New York, one fun stop can include Lake Placid, with a trip to the summit of Whiteface Mountain mixed in with a casual walk down their wonderful Main Street along Mirror Lake. Bobsledding in the summer is possible at the Olympic training center located just outside Lake Placid.

Back in NYState are the Lake Ontario towns of Alexandria Bay, Clayton, and Sacketts Harbor. All are perfect for that much needed day-trip. Whether traveling by boat or car, these lakeside towns offer breathtaking views, fun shopping, and aBoldt Castle in 1000 Islands variety of restaurants and taverns.

If you feel like traveling a little to the southern part of the state, a great day trip or weekend getaway can be found in Cooperstown. Known of course for its Baseball Hall of Fame, Cooperstown also is home to the Farmer’s Museum, Fenimore Cooper art museum, and the Leatherstocking golf course alongside the historic Otesaga Resort.

saratoga starting gateIf horse racing is more your guilty pleasure, check out Saratoga. During the summer months Saratoga comes alive with thoroughbred horse racing and an atmosphere of yesteryear. Saratoga is also home of SPAC (the Saratoga Performing Arts Center), which brings in top name talent in the music industry for great concerts in a perfect setting.

Of course NY City is always a fun place to make memories. Whether strolling along along Broadway or taking in views at the top of the the Empire State Building, the Big Apple is loaded with great attractions, incredible shopping and one-of-a-kind food options.

So let the thousands flock to Mickey’s Florida home or jam the roundabouts of the Cape, a trip into New York State can have you criss-crossing the Empire State and never running out of fascinating things to. The state’s traditional tourism slogan isn’t one of the most popular and long lastings phrases anywhere for nothing. This summer experience all that NY State has to offer and find out for yourself why everyone is always singing, “I Love NY!”New York Times Square

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R & R at Belhurst Castle

Located along the shore of Seneca Lake in Geneva, the majestic Belhurst Castle awaits your visit. Meaning “beautiful forest”, the castle on the grounds of Belhurst was constructed over a four-year period. Finally in 1889 the four-story mansion known as Belhurst Castle was complete.

From 1933 to 1952 Belhurst Castle became a favorite casino and restaurant of the well-to-do around the area and Northeast. The Golden family purchased Belhurst in 1975 and began to turn it into an upscale inn. Most recently, Belhurst Castle was purchased by the Reeder family, and improvements have not stopped since.

The grounds of Belhurst consist of three high quality hotels- the Chambers in the Castle, the Vinifera Inn, and the White Springs Manor. Two beautiful ballrooms, the Meritage and Castle, are perfect locations for breathtaking weddings, holiday parties, or other get-togethers. Two distinct restaurants can also be enjoyed while at the Belhurst Castle.

Stonecutters is a warm and casual restaurant/lounge, serving dishes such as Shrimp Bruschetta, Pulled Pork Sandwich, and my favorite, the BBQ Chopped Steak Burger. I promise you, you may never have a better burger in your life! For elegant dining, a visit to Edgar’s should be included in your stay. From appetizers that include Escargot and Lobster Bisque to such scrumptious main entrees of Filet Mignon, Lamb, or a medley of seafood called Fruits de Mer, a dining experience at Edgar’s promises to be a meal not only to enjoy, but also to remember. And while at Belhurst Castle be sure to stop by their Winery and Gift Shop and enjoy wine tastings from the many selections the Belhurst Winery has to offer.

Whether you reserve your stay for the winter, spring, summer, or autumn, Belhurst Castle is sure to provide you with the rest and relaxation you deserve. From their Castle rooms to their Vinifera suites the overall mood of the surroundings is calm and serene. My wife and I recently stayed in a third-floor room in the Vinifera Inn section of the grounds. The main area of our room included a comfortable bed, gas fireplace and large Jacuzzi tub. The suite also included a mini-bar area and roomy bathroom, complete with large double shower, and several comfortable chairs. The décor was clean, modern, and not overbearing. Needless to say, our stay was just what the doctor ordered: peaceful, calming, and rejuvenating.

Located just south of NY State Thruway exit 42, on Route 14 south, Belhurst Castle sits poised to welcome you with its beautiful scenery, fine food, and a lot of R & R. For more information or to make reservations, visit their website at www.belhurst.com or call them at 315-781-0201.

A Gentelman’s (Survival) Guide to Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day is one of those holidays that is typically difficult for most men.  It’s not that we don’t care for the women in our lives; it’s more that we just don’t get the whole pink hearts and chocolate thing. I blame Hallmark.

Nonetheless, let me take this time to pass along some helpful ideas to assist in this year’s preparations. And oh, Rule 1- regardless of your feelings of the day, do not forget it, or deliberately ignore it. Remember the saying that goes something like, ‘…nothing worse than a woman scorn…’. 

So let’s tackle this Valentine’s thing head on, and keep in mind, this year is going to be different. Women love the ‘original’ stuff. Dinner out, a heart-shaped box of chocolates, and a two-dollar card are a thing of the past. Not to mention, our better halves really don’t buy the idea that getting lingerie is truly for ‘them’. My Valentine’s Day idea has been created by using, appropriately enough, the KISS-method (Keep It Simple Stupid).

 First, organize your plan at least one day ahead of time. Some shopping is going to be needed. The evening will include music, a home-made dinner (yes, by you…), a bottle of wine, and a movie at home. Creating a ‘Mix CD’ has never been easier. Go to I-tunes, or your favorite music download site, and put together a catalog of twenty meaningful songs. I highly recommend Prince’s “The Most Beautiful Girl in the World” and “Anniversary” by TonyToniTone to lead off your selections. Even some soft jazz is a nice change up. And please promise you’ll stay away from songs created by head-bangers and rappers.

 For dinner I’ve got two easy and impressive possibilities. First, an entrée of pork tenderloin, cooked either on the grill or under the broiler. You can marinade or season it to your liking. The key to great taste, sear it on the outside to bring out the flavors of the seasoning and seal in the juiciness. Serve it with shrimp cocktail as an appetizer and a side of sweet potato and vegetables. A perfect wine to complement this meal would be Hazlitt’s Cabin Fever. A second entrée possibility would be to serve tilapia with brown rice and broccoli, with a drizzle of honey mustard dressing. Tilapia is a farm-fish and is extremely light and not fishy at all. Whether you purchase it fresh or frozen, it’s always easy prep and ready to cook. It can be purchased fresh at most markets, and after some seasoning and light breading, fry it up or broil it. It doesn’t take long, 3-7 minutes at the most, so keep your eyes on it. We don’t want to have to be making a last minute call to Domino’s. I love a Niagara wine with my seafood; and few glasses in, she will too.

 End her special dinner (notice I said ‘her’, not ‘your’…remember, make this evening all about her) with a simple, yet elegant dessert. Brownies are easy to make, and even easier to buy at a bakery. Warm the brownie in the microwave for 15 seconds, then drizzle it lightly with her favorite yogurt. Side it with fresh fruit (same as the yogurt) and sprinkle the top with confectionary sugar. I like using red raspberry yogurt and setting the berries around the plate. The raspberries and the chocolate have a great taste together.

 Of course, to make this whole dinner event a smashing success, be sure to plate her food away from the table and serve it to her. Having a hand towel over your shoulder when you serve it will only enhance the personalized touch. One candle is all that is really needed on the table, and go ahead break out the ‘good plates’.

 Following dinner pop in one of these three ‘guaranteed success’ movies: The Lake House, Chocolate, or Serendipity. Romantic, yes. Sappy, no. All three are easily watchable, though nothing blows up in any of them. The Lake House takes place in a serene, country retreat, Chocolate’s setting is in a small European town, and Serendipity is set in NY City. So take your pick. You can’t go wrong with any of them, and all are available to rent or buy at Blockbuster.

 If all of this sounds a little overwhelming, remember a two-day getaway is always a great idea. Road trips to Geneva’s Belhurst Castle, Dundee’s The Inn at Glenora, or Cooperstown’s The White House Inn are all fabulous and elegant retreat destinations.

 Regardless of how you celebrate this year’s Valentine’s Day, be sure to not forget the card and some kind of token gift, on top of what you have already planned. A certificate to a spa or jewelry is always sure to be a hit. But then again, a Victoria’s Secret gift card would also be nice. Hey, I always love a ‘win-win’ situation.