“For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel’s sake. The great affair is to move.” – Robert Louis Stevenson
We need not travel far to get a small respite from the day-to-day routines and stresses of life. I believe that this is one of the great benefits of where we live here in the Northwest Corner of Connecticut. There are so many exciting, and relatively close, places to visit for the day or a weekend. Especially at this time of year, I find myself desiring to drive to different places to gaze at the trees ablaze with color, step out into crisp air scented with wood smoke, and stop at a new eatery. My husband and I particularly love the Great Barrington and Stockbridge area of Massachusetts, and often make day trips there. The area is loaded with wonderful hiking and biking trails, and lots of scenery in each town’s center. There are some quaint cafes in Great Barrington, and two of our favorite restaurants: a Mexican grill (the food tastes very authentic) and a brewery in an old barn. We also enjoy visiting the National Shrine of Divine Mercy in Stockbridge, set way up high on a hill and surrounded by meadows. Even if you are not a religious person, the area is quite lovely to walk around and quiet your thoughts. Located just down the hill from the Shrine, is Naumkeag, the Choat family home. Joseph Choat, a prominent lawyer with McKim, Mead and White in the 19th century, built this Gilded Age “cottage” for himself and his family. His daughter, Mabel Choat, lived at the home in her later years and eventually turned it over to the preservation society in 1958. The home is gorgeous inside, but not over the top like some Gilded Age mansions. When touring it, I felt at home and comfortable in the house, and could imagine myself coming down the dark wood stairs into the foyer with the large pane glass windows overlooking the Berkshire Mountains. I highly recommend a visit there in the fall, or during the summer months when flowers in the garden are blooming.
Another great day trip is Hyde Park, New York. It takes about an hour and a half to get there, but driving through Duchess County New York is well-worth the time spent on the road. I love driving past the open fields and farmlands. Tucked away in this little town are two major attractions. If you weren’t looking for them, you might just miss them. One of the Vanderbilt’s many homes is tucked away here right on the Hudson. All you can see is the gated entrance way which you enter through to get to the house. It is of course stunning, sitting right on the banks of the great river, and surrounded by an expanse of meadows and gardens. There are some really nice hiking trails in the back of the property, which border the railroad. You can still hear the train going by at certain times, but catching a glimpse of it is difficult with all the tree growth. Down the road from the Vanderbilt’s is Franklin Roosevelt’s Hyde Park home, also tucked away down a long-tree lined driveway. They have a museum, gift shop, rose gardens, and gorgeous hiking trails. I’ve never actually been inside the home, but from the outside it is relatively modest in size and ornamentation.
Also located in Hyde Park down from the Vanderbilt’s is the Staatsburg mansion. Edith Wharton’s Bellomont in The House of Mirth was claimed to have been based on this house, as Wharton was a friend of the Staatsburgs and often visited the home on the Hudson. It is a stunning home with dark wood paneling and rose colored drapes and carpeting, augmented by the rolling hills leading to views of the Hudson River.
No trip to Hyde Park is complete without a trip to Eveready Diner! I love diners, and this one in particular because of its fab fifties deco and ambiance. Not to mention, the food is great and you can get just about anything, including my favorite: the classic Root Beer Float. It’s a real treat, and the perfect way to end your day trip in Hyde Park.
Lee and Lenox Massachusetts are two great spots. The Mount, the home of Edith Wharton, is located in Lenox. You might remember another blog I devoted to Wharton’s tranquil location tucked in the woods. Don’t forget to visit her pet cemetery, devoted to her dogs, nestled amongst the trees. Route 7 through Stockbridge and up to Lee and Lenox is a lovely drive, and you might want to explore a side road or two. Their town centers each offer some nice browsing in quaint stores and cafes. If hiking is your thing, there are many trails to choose for your walk. Right before the Red Lion Inn in Stockbridge is a “rail trail” of sorts, right down the road from the old Stockbridge Train Station. The Mary Flynn Trail brings you parallel to the tracks and is a nice, easy walk. Cross the footbridge and you can do the Ice Glen trail or Laura’s Tower Trail. At the summit of Laura’s Tower trail at 1, 465 ft you can climb up the tower (steep, but worth it) and gaze at the amazing views of the Catskills, Mt. Greylock and Monument Mountain. Check out the Massachusetts Trail Guide for more information and more trails, like Bash Bish Falls and Bartholomew’s Cobble, two of my favorites for their scenery!
If you have a whole day and a sense of adventure, you can make it up to Manchester Vermont. I usually spend a weekend when I go, but I have done it in a day if I leave early in the morning. It is a beautiful drive, and Manchester is just so picturesque with Mt. Equinox rising to the west. In addition to lots of cute shops to explore and many hiking trails, my favorite spots include Hildene, The Vermont Country Store and Emerald Lake. At Hildene, the former home of Todd Lincoln, part of the property is a farm now and you can hike there and explore the museum or the beautiful home. The Vermont Country Store in Weston, Vermont has hard to find “old time” products and goodies. Be sure to visit Emerald Lake or Equinox Hiking Trails to take in some clean, Vermont air and relax in the beauty of the land.
Here are some books to get you started on your day trip:
Rail-Trails New England– Your guide to the beautiful rail-trails in Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont. This book includes maps, photos and descriptions of each trail.
Short Bike Rides in the Berkshires is a go-to travel size book that gives you some great rides ranging in length from short to long. Get those bikes loaded on the car and make our way to one of these trails.
AMC’s Catskills and Hudson Valley and Off the Beaten Path Upstate New York offer you hiking advice and unique places to visit, like the Walkway over the Hudson, the longest and highest walkway bridge in the world. I have been on this and the views are breathtaking. Head over to Amenia New York for a truly unique and gorgeous rail-trail.
New England’s Best-Loved Driving Tours from Frommer’s has beautiful photographs and easy-to-read maps of some fabulous mini road trips. Included is one of my other favorite day-trip destinations, Newport Rhode Island. Although it seems more of a summer destination, being close to the ocean and all, this is a great time of year to see the mansions with the colored leaves surrounding them. While summer is often crowded, take advantage of the cooler weather and more peaceful setting to walk around the town, cliff-walk, or the mansion properties.
If your going to go all the way and do Vermont, you’ve got to take Vermont: An Explorer’s Guide. I love this little travel companion because it is so detailed, but well-organized. I’ve used it many a time on my travels to Vermont. Reading through the book is going to make you want to stay longer than one day…so go ahead, make it a weekend :-)
Sarai is the Library Assistant and is currently looking forward to a full moon, pumpkin bread, and day trips of her own.