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All in a day
Explore local attractions, enhanced by fall's beauty
 
By ARRICCA ELIN SANSONE, Special to the Times Union
First published: Sunday, September 24, 2006

 

Whether you've lived in the Capital Region for a few years or forever, fall is the perfect time to play tourist. After all, most of us never visit what's in our own backyards. Yet on less than a tank of gas, you can discover mountain culture, learn about Revolutionary history or indulge in an afternoon of wine tasting -- all within a few hours of home. So grab your camera, pack a picnic and escape on one of these quick and easy day trips:

 
 
Adirondack splendor in Blue Mountain Lake

Where: In the central Adirondacks, on Route 30

Travel time: Approximately 2 hours

Even if you're not a "museum person," you'll fall in love with the Adirondack Museum in Blue Mountain Lake. Nestled in the midst of the Adirondack Park, the museum's 32 acres tell the stories of the people who have lived, worked and played in this region since the early 1800s. The Adirondack Museum is set up as a series of exhibit buildings, historic structures, outdoor displays and gardens. While the museum is worth repeat trips (in fact, your ticket admits you for two consecutive days), you can easily take in the highlights in an afternoon.

You can start your tour at the Boats and Boating building, where you'll see classic Adirondack guide boats, a shop where artisans craft boats and an impressive array of boats for work and play, including a Native American dugout dating to 1425. (It's one of the oldest pieces in the museum's collection.)

As you continue meandering through the museum's grounds, don't miss the log hotel. Built in 1876, it's the oldest surviving structure from the resort that once stood on the museum site. Inside you'll see how 19th-century vacationers may have relaxed on rustic twig furniture. You'll also want to check out the "Age of Horses" exhibit, which features an array of horse-drawn vehicles, including farm wagons, buckboard wagons, a fire engine and a hearse.

At the "Outdoor Recreation" exhibit, learn about 19th-century tourism, camping, surveying, mountaineering, native wildlife and the Lake Placid Winter Olympics. Perhaps the most intriguing display features the tiny camp of the 20th-century hermit Noah John Rondeau, complete with excerpts from his diaries, some of which he kept in his own secret language.

When it's time to take a break, head for the observation deck overlooking Blue Mountain Lake.

The view is one of the best in the Northeast, especially when the lake is ringed by a riot of vivid fall color. You can also grab a bite at the cafe, which offers a good selection of salads, soups, sandwiches and desserts. Make your last stop the museum's gift shop, which has an excellent collection of Adirondack home decor, books and art.

On the weekend of Oct. 7-8, the museum, which is closed to the public during the winter months, holds its Harvest Festival with a farmers market, live music, wagon rides, Model A cars, pumpkin painting and old-fashioned cider pressing with an authentic steam-powered cider press from the late 1800s. Pack up the kids and make a day of it.

American heritage in Bennington, Vt.

Where: On and around Vermont Route 9 in Bennington

Travel time: About an hour's drive

There's a reason people flock from all over the world to see Vermont in the fall: The colors are simply spectacular. And you don't have to trek too far to enjoy the cozy country feel of a Vermont autumn. Bennington is not far from Albany, so it's a perfect day trip when you're entertaining out-of-towners or when you simply need a quick escape yourself.

Head east from Albany on Route 7 through Troy, which eventually becomes Vermont Route 9. As you approach Bennington, you'll spot the imposing Bennington Battle Monument, a 306-foot-high stone obelisk commemorating the 1777 battle. It's well worth a stop to learn about the Revolutionary battle, and take a quick elevator trip to the top of the monument for excellent views of surrounding states.

Drive back down Monument Avenue, which is lined with charming historic homes, and visit the beautiful Old First Church, home to the first Protestant congregation in Vermont, which was originally founded in 1762. The present church, built in 1805, is open to the public most days, so you can peer inside at its simple yet elegant interior. Afterward, spend a few moments in its peaceful little cemetery, filled with the graves of Revolutionary War veterans, founding families and the poet Robert Frost.

Continue your afternoon with a visit to the Bennington Museum, adjacent to the church grounds. The museum offers a wide variety of Americana, including pottery, Revolutionary War relics and firearms, and fine art. But the museum's most famous collection is the folk art of Grandma Moses, who didn't begin painting until she was in her 70s. Kids and adults alike will enjoy gazing at her amazingly complex paintings to find all the little hidden details.

When you leave the museum, ask for a map to the town's three covered bridges. They're all within a few minutes' drive. While there are several good restaurants right in the center of town, you may want to backtrack a few miles at this point to grab some lunch at Bennington Cider Mill on Route 9. This tiny restaurant is always packed, and with good reason. The homemade sandwiches, soups and baked goods have a dedicated following.

Before heading home, turn back toward the town center and visit Bennington Potters at Potter's Yard. The pottery has been creating attractive, durable Vermont stoneware for more than half a century. The stoneware has a practical appeal, but because it's not mass-produced, each piece retains an artisanal appeal as well. You can take a free self-guided tour of the facility and shop the expansive showroom (don't miss the discount room). Perhaps a little early Christmas shopping would be in order.

The wine country

of the Hudson Valley

Where: In the Hudson Valley from New Paltz to Warwick

Travel time: About 1 1/2 hours, plus travel time between wineries

Winemaking is certainly nothing new in this part of the world. The craft was established in the valley more than 300 years ago by early French Huguenot settlers. Today, the picturesque Hudson Valley landscape of rolling hills dotted with farms and edged by mountains looks much the way it always has. Presently, 11 wineries comprise the Shawangunk Wine Trail; they all welcome visitors to their tasting rooms.

Whether you visit just one winery's tasting room or several wineries in a day, a slow ramble through the valley may be just what you need to unwind. The wineries are mainly family affairs, relaxed and unpretentious, so don't fret if you don't know a thing about wine. You certainly don't have to know a merlot from a cabernet to enjoy the trip, as every winery is dedicated to teaching visitors about wine.

If you're pressed for time, you'll get a good feel for the valley by starting at the northern end of the trail in New Paltz. Here you'll find Adair Vineyards, located in a 200-year-old dairy barn with lovely views of the white cliffs of the Shawangunk Mountains. You can wander the vineyards adjacent to the winery and learn about every part of winemaking, from the grape to the harvest to bottling.

Also in New Paltz is Rivendell Winery, which offers panoramic views of the valley from its glass-enclosed tasting room, as well as a cozy fireplace and a nice selection of regional artisanal foods. The winery has received numerous accolades, including awards in 2006 for its Riesling. It produces 15 different dinner wines and seasonal specialty wines.

Further south, Brotherhood Winery in Washingtonville is the oldest winery in continuous operation in the United States and has some of the largest underground wine cellars in the country. The winery once produced altar wines. Nowadays, its cabernet sauvignon, pinot noir and Rieslings have taken many awards, but its seasonal specialities are also interesting. Don't forget to select a few bottles, especially the spiced wine, for the upcoming holidays.

Arricca Elin SanSone is a freelance travel writer.

If you go

* Adirondack Museum, Route 30, Blue Mountain Lake. Open 10 a.m.-5 p.m. daily through Oct. 15, Oct. 21-22 and Oct 28-29. Admission: $15 ages 13 and older; $8 ages 6-12; free for those under age 6. Family discount applies for up to 2 adults and all dependent children ages 6-17. For information, call (518) 352-7311 or visit http://www.adkmuseum.org/.

* Bennington Monument, Monument Circle on Monument Avenue, Bennington, Vt. Open 9 a.m.-5 p.m. daily through Oct. 31. Admission: $1.50 adults, 50 cents children younger than 14. Tickets are available at the gift shop. Bus tours are welcome with prior reservations; call (802) 447-0550.

* Old First Church, Route 9 and Monument Avenue, Bennington, Vt. (802) 447-1223; http://www.oldfirstchurchbenn.org/home.html.

* Bennington Museum, 75 Main St., Bennington, Vt. Open 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday-Tuesday, Thursday-Saturday. Closed Wednesdays, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's Day. Admission: $8 adults, $7 students/seniors, younger than 12 free. Family $19. Group rates available. (802) 447-1571; http://www.benningtonmuseum.com/.

Bennington Cider Mill, Route 9 (West Road), Bennington, Vt. Open daily from 8 a.m. (802) 442-4459; http://www.hungryvt.com/southern/pop_up/vt_details_southern.php?recordID=594.

* Bennington Pottery Potters Yard, 324 County St., Bennington, Vt. (800) 205-8033; http://www.benningtonpotters.com/potters-yard.html.

* Information: http://www.historicvermont.org/ or http://www.travel-vermont.com.

* Shawangunk Wine Trail. (845) 255-2494; http://www.shawangunkwinetrail.com.

* Adair Vineyards, 52 Allhusen Road, New Paltz. Open 11 a.m.-6 p.m. daily through Oct. 31; 11 a.m.- 5 p.m. Friday-Sunday, November-Dec. 19. (845) 255-1377; http://www.adairwine.com/.

* Brotherhood Winery, 100 Brotherhood Plaza, Washingtonville. Open 11 a.m.-5 p.m. daily except Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's Day. Guided wine-tasting tours: $5 adults (includes unlimited free wine-tasting tours for one year and $1 off coupon for a bottle of wine); $2 15-20; younger than 15 free. (845) 496-3661; http://www.brotherhoodwinery.net/.

* Rivendell Winery, 714 Albany Post Road, New Paltz. Open 10 a.m.-6 p.m. daily. (845) 255-2494; http://www.rivendellwine.com/.