ABOVE PHOTO: The Black Cat Cafe
By Renée S. Gordon
Central New York is that perfect destination that combines sites, attractions and a unique history with outstanding scenery and a plethora of outdoor activities designed for all fitness levels. The region is filled with quaint villages, antique shops, both trendy and historic restaurants and several self-guided trails including The Path Through History and the Brew Central Trail. www.mohawkvalleyhistory.com
The Brew Central Trail showcases the craft brewers of beer, hard cider and spirits. Each facility is unique in its heritage, recipes and production. At one time New York was the number 1 beer producer in the country and produced 90 percent of the nation’s hops. A resurgence in hops production has led to a movement to utilize local crops in the creation of artisanal beverages and Central New York has become a destination for those wishing to taste the best the state has to offer. Visitors can tour and taste as well as purchase some of the state’s most singular products. Online you can access member listings and an interactive map. www.brewcentralny.com
Brewery Ommegang is situated on a 140-acre farm and is the first farmstead brewery built in America for more than 100 years. Their award-winning beers include seven Belgian-style ales and four seasonal ales. Tours are offered daily and tastings are on the half hour. www.ommegang.com
The Cooperstown Distillery opened in 2013 as a micro-distillery with a hybrid still that incorporates both a pot and a column. They produce artisanal varietals of bourbon, gin, and vodka. It is a designated Farm Distillery using more than 90 percent New York agricultural products. www.cooperstowndistillery.com
Erie Canal Brewing has been licensed since October 2013. They use hops grown no further than 8-miles away and a traditional three-kettle system to produce 110 barrels. These craft beers have been named around a regional, Erie Canal, theme with “Muleskinner” being their signature brew. Tours and tastings are available. www.eriecanalbrewingcompany.com
Fly Creek Cider Mill dates from 1856, with a series of additions, and it has been producing its famous sweet apple cider since that time. The Fly Creek complex is a family destination as well as a farm winery producing only the finest apple wines. Visitors can meander through the Mill Store Marketplace, sample the wines, cheeses, fudge and other local products. September through November you can watch as an authentic water-powered mill creates cider the old-fashioned way. Have lunch while visiting and treat yourself to fresh baked goods, ice cream and a cider slush. www.flycreekcidermill.com
FX Matt Brewing Company offers outstanding products and four generations of history. The facility was built in 1853 and has been a family-owned brewery since 1888. A comprehensive 90-minute tour features architectural elements, artifacts, antiques and a tour of the production lines. Of special note are a Victorian cardboard ceiling, $1.3-million German-made clock and PT Barnum’s partner desk. In the Beer library, historic bottles are on display and you learn that early labels were pressed into the glass bottle. The switch was made to paper labels because they could contain more information. FX today creates four core beers with the name Saranac, an Iroquois word for “cluster of stars,” being widely recognized. Thirty varieties of grain are used in their beers. Samples are available in a recreated taproom at the end of the tour.
Utica Club Beer was the first beer sold after Prohibition. The brewery had someone waiting in D.C. so that the minute Prohibition ended they could obtain a license. Fourteen trucks immediately began delivery. When it arrived at the Utica Hotel a butler delivered it on a silver tray while “Happy Days are Here Again,” was played. www.saranac.com
Galaxy Brewing Company opened in 2013 and one year later won the Silver Medal in the World Beer Cup from a field of 60 countries and 1400 breweries. The name is a nod to “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.” Twelve GALAXY beers are always on tap and the menu is designed to complement your brew of choice.
Good Nature Brewing Company features “farm to glass” brews with a very personal touch. Every step of the process is done by hand and recipes are meticulously crafted. The produce a signature line as well as a series of limited releases. It was the first farm brewery in the state and the recipes are informed by what is locally available. www.goodnaturebrewing.com
The 127-acre Kymar Farm Winery and Distillery is the first licensed Farm Winery and Distillery in the state since prohibition. They use locally grown barley, wheat and rye in the two still direct fire copper distillation process. Their current output is 100 cases per month. Of the many award-winning spirits two of their most renowned are a handcrafted Schoharie Shine that is triple distilled, sorghum based and hand bottled and gluten-free vodka. Kymar will be open for tours next month. www.ky-mar.com
Owera Vineyards is named after the Mohawk word for wind and air. This 57-acre property is a showcase for destination wineries and features scenic views, award-winning wines, live music, tastings, and a modern events venue. Every detail, from their recipes to the smallest design choice, has been well thought out with an eye to using local products and craftsmen. Café menu items include artisanal plates and their delicious 8-inch brick oven pizzas created from only the freshest ingredients.www.oweravineyards.com
Much of Central New York is part of the Mohawk Valley, considered America’s First Frontier. The Kanonsionni, the league of clans known as the Iroquois Confederacy, occupied the land when the first European traders entered the area in the 1700s. The confederacy consisted of six nations, the Cayuga, Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Seneca and Tuscarora. Each tribe had its own land but considered themselves a single unit. The valley was always strategically important because the Mohawk River provided access from the country’s interior to the Atlantic Ocean. The natives were forced to cede a portion of their land after the French and Indian Wars and even more after the American Revolution.
More than 300 battles and skirmishes took place during the American Revolution, approximately 100 occurred in the state, and Central New York played an important role in the war. The Oneida, “the people of the standing stone,” are widely regarded to be the nation’s first allies because they were the first sovereign nation to recognize the United States. They participated in several pivotal battles and journeyed from their homeland to Valley Forge to feed Washington’s starving troops during the winter of 1777-78. The Oneida carried baskets of white corn, not the yellow corn that the soldiers were used to. When they attempted to eat the corn raw an Oneida woman, Polly Cooper, remained behind to teach them how to prepare and cook the corn. She refused payment but did accept a shawl and bonnet from Martha Washington. In 1777, Congress honored the Oneida’s contribution with the words, “Like brave men, for glory you despised danger; you stood forth, in the cause of your friends, and ventured your lives in our battles. While the sun and moon continue to give light to the world, we shall love and respect you. As our trusty friends, we shall protect you; and shall at all times consider your welfare as our own.”
Scoharie County is the only place in the country where the Iroquois gifted settlers with land. A large number of Palatine Germans left Germany for the Netherlands in 1709 fleeing religious persecution, war and a poor economy. Shortly thereafter they migrated to England where in 1710, Queen Anne sent 2800 of them to the wilderness in Upstate New York. They formed seven communities but did not fare well. The Iroquois pitied them because of their poor circumstances and gave them land and taught them how to survive in their new environment.
Route 20, passing through Scoharie, became the Great Wagon Road and the place where the Wild West began. Nearby Cherry Valley was the first place where Indians ambushed settlers. www.upstatevacation.com
Sharon Springs, New York is a jewel of a village with a long and storied history. The town was originally known as New Dorlach and was founded in 1797. It was eventually named after Sharon, Connecticut. The Iroquois visited the area for hundreds of years prior to the 1700s because of the healing sulfur, magnesia and chalybeate springs. In 1825, a boarding house was constructed and visitors began to avail themselves of the springs. By the end of the 19th-century, there were more than 10,000 visitors annually including Oscar Wilde. The Depression heralded the beginning of the end of Sharon Springs golden era. The 374-acre Sharon Springs Historic District was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1994. A walking tour has been developed and interpretive plaques are placed throughout the district. www.sharonsprings.com
The oldest extant hotel, designed by Nicholas LaRue, is the 1847 American Hotel. It was completely renovated in 2003 and provides luxury accommodations and gourmet dining. It has been featured on “The Rachel Ray Show.” www.americanhotelny.com
Delectable casual fare is on offer at The Black Cat Café. It opened as an Internet café and bakery and then added soups and sandwiches to the menu. CNN featured the “Wild Julia” sandwich as an absolute must eat. www.blackcat-ny.com
Beekman 1802 is situated on Main Street. Josh Kilmer-Purcell and Brent Ridge, previous winners of the 2012 “Amazing Race”, established their flagship mercantile to feature unique and handcrafted products. Many of the items are the Beekman’s own brand. Located a few miles away is the Beekman Farm. www.beekman1802.com
The largest show cave in the northeast is Howe Caverns Adventure Park. This affordable family destination offers a four-tower, 900-ft., zipline, Sky Trail, 25-ft. rock wall, 12-ft. H2OGo Ball that plunges 1,100-ft. into water, gemstone panning and the 6-million-year-old Howe Caverns. This is one of the most accessible cave systems in the country and the general tour is informative and not at all strenuous.
Guided tours begin with an animatronics figure of the cave’s founder, Lester Howe, who explains how he stumbled upon the caverns on May 22, 1842 and an accompanying video further explains the site’s history. Visitors take an elevator 16 stories, or 156-ft., to the cavern floor. Guides lead you along the “Winding Way” and point out various formations. Visitors then board boats to sail .25-mile deeper into the cavern on the Lake of Venus. One of the stops on the path is a chapel-like cavern where weddings have been taking place since 1854. www.howecaverns.com
The Northeast Classic Car Museum began with 34 cars and now showcases more than 160 roadworthy classics in the largest museum of its type in the region. The cars are housed in an unassuming structure but upon entering prepare to be awed. Vehicles are displayed thematically and chronologically with an emphasis on educating the public. Each display consists of a detailed sign that lists the year the car was made, the original cost, a full description and how many were made.
Tours begin with early 20th-century, handmade, classic cars. Highlights of this area are a 1929 Duesenberg, 1910 Waverly electric car, 1937 Cord and 1908 Mora, one of only two in existence. The most expensive care in the collection is the $2-million 1908 Mora and the oldest car is the 1899 Leggett. “Car Tunes” is a special exhibit that displays cars that are featured in songs in a diorama with a soundtrack. Plan to spend several hours at this museum. www.classiccarmuseum.org
In 1835, a stone gristmill was erected near the Mohawk River in St. Johnsonville. Today, the mill, the 1894 Mill House B &B and the 1888 Hog’n Haus Cottage are part of the Inn by the Mill luxury complex situated near a waterfall in a natural stone gorge. The mill retains elements of its past and beneath it is a 1,000-ft. Underground Railroad tunnel. It offers accommodations in the form of guest cottages or rooms within the Mill House, spa facilities and a meditation garden. A bountiful breakfast is provided and gourmet baked goods are available during your stay. The inn is in an ideal location from which to visit all the sites in the region. www.innbythemill.com
Central New York is an ideal vacation destination for Philadelphians. Start planning now to take the journey and make some memories. www.iloveny.com/places-to-go/central
I wish you smooth travels!
The Franklin Institute debuted the Nicholas and Karabots Pavilion with several stunning new exhibits, Your Brain, 101 Inventions That Changed Your World and Circus Science/ Under the Big Top. The signature exhibit, Your Brain, is totally interactive and allows visitors to actually see the brain at work. Circus is complete with 18 interactive experiences including walking on a high wire. Spend a day at the institute and leave with an entirely new skill set. www.fi.edu
If predictions are true this promises to be a long hot summer. One way to keep cool and fresh is by keeping ecologically friendly wipes close at hand. La Fresh has created a series of individually packaged antiperspirant, facial cleansing and body soothing wipes designed to help you maintain your glow throughout the day. These portable natural products are available online. www.LaFreshGroup.com