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Our route North took us through scenic Bucks County via Route 202 where we stopped at this wonderful French cafe located in the Penn's Purchase outlets in Lahaska PA. We enjoyed our croissant sandwiches and croque monsieurs while sitting at one of several outdoor tables. The chef/owner used to run Zinc in Philly and all items are baked on premises. A great place to stop for lunch whether passing through or shopping at the outlets!
After our stop in Lahaska, we continued North on Route 202 and connected with 287 N near Somerville, NJ then 87 N to Saratoga Springs, NY where we had reserved two rooms at the Harren Brook Inn.
The Harren Brook Inn is a cozy bed and breakfast which overlooks Lake Saratoga, aprox. 10 minutes drive from the center of Saratoga Springs and the racetrack. Our group of four (parents with two teens) occupied Whirlaway and Northern Dancer. The rooms were comfortable though a bit cramped. The rooms and house are decorated with many antiques, knick knacks and pillows.
As far as the inkeepers, we saw more of Eileen than Keith (who cooked the delicious breakfasts). Eileen is very proper and polite, I believe she is a former school teacher and that would fit her personality. The clientele of the inn were mostly retirees who had come for the races (our visit was during the 6 week thoroughbred racing season). I spoke with several guests who had been returing to the Harren Brook Inn for years, obviously satisfied customers. And while we didn't have any real complaints, we'd probably not return just because we prefer an inn with a more relaxed style. Also, I think we would have preferred an inn wtihin walking distance to the center of town and race track, though those were more expensive, or simply had no rooms left, by the time we made our reservations.
The highlight of the stay was the wonderful breakfast. A good size breakfast room was set with china and tablecloths. Our breakfasts consisted of fresh fruit and a choice of hot entrees that included pecan french toast, blueberry pancakes, vegetable fritatta, and eggs cooked to order.Add to this your choice of sausage or bacon, plus toast, orange juice, coffee, and tea. You will not go hungry here! The pancakes were a big hit with my daughters, and I really enjoyed the French toast and fritatta.
I was also impressed that after booking our rooms, Eileen sent us a packet of tourist information about the area, including maps. She was also helpful in directing us to restaurants and shopping, and advising us about our visit to the race track. Overall, she was very efficient and responsive to requests for information.
After checking in to the Harren Brook Inn, we were hungry from our long drive, so we headed up to Broadway, which is the main shopping/restaurant street in Saratoga Springs. It was very lively on a Saturday night, and we put or name down for a table at the Circus Cafe and then window shopped until our table was ready.
The Circus Cafe is a casual eatery decorated with a Circus Theme. A nice touch is that they bring you a basket of popcorn to munch on while you are waiting for your food. Burgers and fries were excellent. We tried both the regular fries and the sweet potato fries which came with a rasberry dipping sauce. We'd never had that before and it was yummy! Other items that were good included clam chowder and chicken pot pie. The only item that wasn't very good was the overcooked veggie burger. Overall this was a good place for a casual family meal.
While walking around Broadway we found this store which has an interesting assortment of merchandise- a large selection of mens and ladies hats was what attracted our attention. A lot of the ladies do come dressed up to the race track, and they often wear big floppy hats! So this is the place to buy one. Also in the store you can find art supplies, toys and odd little items like tarot cards, in English and in Spanish. My teen girls loved this store and bought a black-light poster.
Our next day we were off to the races! The race track was offering free umbrellas that day, and it was a good thing because it rained all day. We bought $3 general admission tickets which allowed us into the track to watch the races and place bets, but if you want a seat you either need to bring your own folding chair ( as many patrons seemed to do) or buy reserved seats in the grandstand or one of the clubhouse restaurants. We opted for the cheaper admission, but if we had not had kids with us, we probably would have bought the more expensive seats in one of the restaurants. The clubhouse does have a dress code, check the website for clothing rules. Make reservations well in advance - we were surprised how well attended the race track was, even on a rainy day. Though we did not get to explore the grounds much due to the weather, on a sunny day I imagine it would be nice to wander among the many tents offering food and crafts and the live entertainment like blue grass bands. On the grounds you can also get up close to the horses and jockeys as they walk from the paddock to the track. This was a great experience, even on a rainy day, defintely a must see in Saratoga Springs!
A hidden gem of a museum located in Saratoga Spa State Park. At the time of our visit, they were displaying an amazing collection of antique "woodies." Upstairs are a variety of vintage racing cars. An interesting place even if you are not a fan of cars or racing. Kids enjoyed it! After visiting the auto museum, head across the street to the gazebo where you can taste the natural spring waters of Saratoga.
This museum contains an interesting display of dance memorabilia and art, and while I'm not a huge fan of dance I enjoyed the Hall of Fame exhibit honoring Michael Jackson, and the display of costumes from Dancing With the Stars. The museum is in a building that used to house the "Washington Baths"- a place were people came to get various spa treatments which were considered healthful. In one of the wings of the dance museum, they have an exhibit showing an actual "treatment room" which was fascinating.
We stopped in the nearby Wilton Mall to do some back to school shopping. This is a nice mall which includes a Dick's Sporting Goods, JC Penney and a movie theater. Just a 10 minute drive from Saratoga.
The Local is a casual pub style restaurant a few blocks away from the main drag- the place was crowded when we arrived on a Sunday night but one of the "locals" there assured me it was the best restaurant in Saratoga! Beer drinkers will love this place which has a rotating selection of draft beer- check the chalk board above the bar for what's on tap! We perused the menu and sampled some beer while we waited for a table to open up. The menu offers a variety of salads, sandwiches and entrees many have an "English Pub" flavor-
Our route from Saratoga Springs to Franconia Notch State Park in NH took us across Vermont via Route 4- and we were ready for a stop as we neared Rutland, VT. A short detour took us to the very interesting Vermont Marble Museum. The museum offers a look into the history of the marble industry in Vermont, which provided the huge block of marble used for the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. The exhibits include a room with marble bas-relief sculptures of all the presidents (through Bush). The museum also informs about the chemistry and geology of marble, and contains a display of different types of marble from all over the world. You can also observe, and talk to, the artist in residence who sculpts marble in a workshop on the museum premises. There is also a very nice gift shop! A worthwhile stop, enjoyed by the whole family.
Franconia Notch State Park is a scenic area of the White Mountains that offers much for visitors. Two attraction are especially noteworthy, the Flume Gorge and the Cannon Mountain Aerial Tramway. Take the Flume Gorge walking trail to reach the magnificent waterfalls of the Flume Gorge. Along the way you walk by large glacial boulders and trees which seem to grow straight out of rocks! This is a healthy walk, with some uphill areas and steps. The Cannon Mountain tramway is a few minutes drive north of the gorge. There you can ride up a tram to the top of the mountain for spectacular views. We had originally planned to do Mt. Washington but after seeing Cannon Mountain we decided not to- from the top of Cannon Mt is an amazing view into Franconia Notch and you have great views of the surrounding mountains. There is a short trail loop on top of the mountain that offers amazing vistas. I highly recommend both the Flume Gorge and the Aerial Tramway- buy the combo ticket and see both.
The is a great tent camping spot- sites are rustic (no electric), wooded and secluded. There is a camp store offering trail maps, wood, ice and other supplies plus you''ll need to stop here to get quarters for the showers. The main bath house has toilets, sinks with cold water, and coin operated hot showers. We occupied sites 86 and 88 which were spacious, quiet and secluded. Site 88 was especially nice. The only downside to this campground is the proximity to Rt 93, with its constant background traffic noise. Honestly, I only noticed it when we went to sleep, and even then it was kind of like listening to waves at the beach. From the campground, you can hike up the Lonesome Lake Trail (about an hour and a half walk up a pretty steep, rocky trail). At the top of the trail is a beautiful lake and you can stop into the AMC Hut. On the day we hiked up, we got caught in a heavy rain and were glad to take shelter here. Bring some money with you to buy fresh baked goods, hot drinks, hot soup and freshly baked bread. You can hang out here and play board games and cards too! Another spot to visit near the campground is Echo Lake, a small quiet lake off Route 93 with a sandy beach and canoe rentals. Admission is $4 for the day.
After our rainy hike up to Lonesome Lake, we changed into some dry clothes and headed down to the movie theater in Lincoln. A nice family movie house showing movies on 4 screens, with good fresh popcorn. It seemed like the starting times of the movies are somewhat "approximate" as our movie started 15 minutes late.
We decided this camping trip we would treat ourself to dinner out every night. On our first night, we headed south on Rt 93 to Lincoln. I had researched a few places online prior to the trip, but the only one we could find that was open was The Common Man. I'm so glad we found it! We loved this restaurant so much we ate dinner here all three nights of our camping trip!
The Common Man is a homey sort of place. Comfort food, great service, reasonable prices, what more could you ask? How about complimentary cheese and crackers before dinner? Some items we especially enjoyed here were: amazing mac-n-cheese; fresh whole maine lobsters (a Tuesday night special), stuffed mushroom appetizer; pigs in a blanket; prime rib; key lime pie; and tollhouse cookie pie. I'm getting hungry just thinking about it! We loved this restaurant so much, it was worth the trip all the way to NH from PA!
The next leg of our trip we drove from NH to Lenox Mass, taking Route 93 S to Rt 9 W, connecting with Rte 91 south in Brattleboro VT. It was time for a break to stretch our legs. Brattleboro is an interesting town with a kind of "hippie" feeling to it. My husband was interested in seeing Sams Outdoor Outfitters, which he dubbed "the greatest outdoor store I have ever seen" and believe me he's seen everything from Orvis to Cabelas.
Amazing selection of beads in this cute shop in Brattleboro! Great place for beaders and other crafty people. The store also sells some pre-made jewelry. Toys and trinkets in the back room too. Unique merchandise makes this a fun place to browse.
From Brattleboro we headed south on Rte 91 then east on 90 to Lenox, where we had rooms booked at the Yankee Inn Home Comfort. This hotel was easy to find in a good location- about 5 minutes drive to the quaint part of Lenox and about 10 minutes to Stockbridge. We had booked to adjoining king bed rooms on the second floor of the main building, overlooking the back of the property. The room was spacious, clean and the bed and pillows were very comfortable. The desk clerk was extremely helpful in providing local information. The kids enjoyed the indoor pool and hot tub. The free breakfast was served in a room on the 2nd floor, and included bagels, cold cereal, juice, coffee and make your own waffles. My only complaint is the breakfast room was noisy. We were only here for one night, but our experience was good and we would return.
We decided to splurge and have dinner at a nice restaurant in Lenox. Made a reservation at Alta but our table was not ready when we arrived. We waited 10 minutes to sit down, and it seemed like there was no good place to wait - we felt in the way as servers went back and forth. We were finally seated at a table in the back room. It seemed like the place was understaffed on a very busy night- all our food took forever to come and we decided not to stay for dessert.
Some of the food was very good, other things not memorable. We enjoyed the salads and stuffed portobello appetizer. Rack of lamb and salmon were very tasty, my husband ordered the morrocan tagine which he found not spicy enough for his taste, but on request he was given some harissa to spice it up.
A nice thing about this restaurant is the main courses have suggested wine pairings. The wines by the glass were good but expensive, about $12 each.
Overall I was disappointed in this restaurant. The slow service at every stage really took away from the experience. Would try somewhere else next time in Lenox.
One of our main reasons for stopping in the Berkshires was to see the Norman Rockwell Museum. And it did not disappoint!
Whether or not you think you are a fan of Normal Rockwell, he is an American icon and was prolific beyond belief! This museum contains an exhibit of every Saturday evening post cover, a short video about the artist's life and work, and upstairs an exhibit of full size oil paintings. You can also visit the artist's studio, which have been relocated to this property. A worthwhile visit!
My teen girls love exploring gardens and taking photos, so we planned to stop at Naumkeag, a historic home known for its magnificant gardens. This is truly a hidden gem (we had a hard time finding it) and from the road you can't get a sense of the beautiful landscaping. Many unique garden features including the Blue Steps and a Chinese temple. The audio tour provides many interesting details. Well worth the $15 price of admission, and we did not even do the inside tour!
You might miss this little restaurant because its tucked down an alley, but it is well worth seeking out. We stopped in for lunch after visiting the Norman Rockwell museum. The lunch menu offers soup, sandwiches, omelettes and quiiche. We had the best clam chowder her that I've had anywhere, ever!! Not to be missed!
After lunch, we stopped into Seven Arts, an unusual little store which would appeal to pop culture collectors. Upstairs is full of memorabilia including old copies of LIFE magazines. Worth a stop if you are in the area.
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