Hot Fun in the Summertime!

Central New Yorkers have weathered through another winter and unpredictable spring, and are poised to welcome Summer with open arms, ready-to-spend wallets, and a desire to wear bathing suits whenever and wherever possible. Summer is special in the northeast with our four distinct seasons, and from Memorial Day to Labor Day we attempt to squeeze every available sun-shining moment into our schedules.

So without further delay (because I think the sun is coming out), here are some ideas for your summertime fun in and around the Central New York area. Every Saturday morning Syracuse has its 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 locally 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 area. This section of Syracuse boasts several restaurants, quaint pubs, and specialty stores and boutiques. Rachel and I enjoy lunch and a pint at The Blue Tusk.

During the last weekend in July the City of Oswego shows off its 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, and skipping 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 staying 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, 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) is the Renaissance Faire. Open for only a handful of weekends each summer, the RenFaire takes visitors back to the Middle Ages with Jesters, Joustings, and fried turkey legs.

If 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 resturants, 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.

Heading north from Central New York, one fun stop can include Lake Placid, with a trip to the summit of Whiteface Mountain and a casual walk down their wonderful Main Street along Mirror Lake. Again crossing the border, the City of Kingston, Ontario, Canada is a great weekend getaway! This quaint Canadian city offers tons of food and shopping along its famous Princess Street and Ontario Street. A little closer to home are the Lake Ontario towns of Alexandria Bay and Sacketts Harbor. Both are perfect for that much needed day-trip. Whether traveling by boat or car, these lakeside towns offer breathtaking views, fun shopping, and a variety of restaurants and taverns.

If you feel like traveling a little to the south and east, 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 Otesaga Resort. If horseracing 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.

Central New Yorkers are also fortunate to only be about five hours away from two of the greatest cities in the world- Boston and NY City. Whether strolling along Newbury Street in Boston or along Broadway in NYC, or taking in views at the top of the Prudential Building in Beantown or the Empire State Building in the Big Apple, these two cities speak for themselves- Fun, fun, fun!

Throughout the summer and autumn look for future columns as I travel to many of these locations and offer up what’s hot and what’s not. And I invite you to ‘Leave a Response’ to this and future columns with stories of your own, as you travel around this summer at .


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.