Thursday, July 10, 2008

Poll of you New England / Canadian-types and cognoscenti

Under orders from my dear wife:

We're heading thitherwards next month, Lord willing, and would like to know:
  • What are the must-see's in Vermont, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Maine, Ontario, Massachusetts and upper New York.
  • Specifically: Historical sites, areas of great beauty, museums, factory tours, great architecture, fantastic eateries, etc.
  • More specifically: we're looking for stuff, if possible, off the main route. Local favorites; your favorites.
Y'all have always been a terrific resource before (well, except this time; but I'm not bitter).

So thanks in advance!


FX Turk said...

I am always non-plussed by VT. It's a mountain. Prolly an interesting place to hike.

However, in NY, Lake Champlain is nice in the summer and I recommend a visit to Fort Ticonderoga if you are a history buff -- it's one of those places where the people live there as if they were manning the fort against the British. When I was there last they had a cannon competition where two teams would load and fire their cast-iron cannons as fast as possible to see who could hit a target at 100 yards first. Whiteface Mountain has good skiing in the winter, in case you go back.

The Capital Complex of NY (in Albany) is also, at least, worth walking through/around. There is also a bookstore in Saranac Lake, NY, which is owned by the only guy from college I still keep in touch with. 800 sq ft of books. It's a living.

Whilst in MA, see Boston. Park your car out at the western end of the Red Line of the subway -- you could even stay at the Holiday Inn there by the Alewife station and take the train into Boston without having to drive at all. Spend 2 days on the sites, eat great seafood at Legal Seafood, and try to have lunch at least once at Quincey Market. The art museum was good; the tour of the city, I thought, was better.

The drive to Maine can be a drag, but the coast is beautiful; the drive down the MA coast to Cape Cod will be a nightmare unless you leave at 4 AM and try to be there before anyone is awake. One of my favorite day-trips with my wife while we lived in Albany was to Plymouth, MA, to see the replica of the Mayflower and "see" Plymouth Rock.

Connecticut. Eh.

Ontario, Canada, is a big place. Are you going to be near Toronto? You should let Challies know you're coming and he'll give you the top attractions or things to do. When I was a visitor to Toronto, I was an unsaved lad, so my recommendations would be, um, unwise.

DJP said...

Good heavens, man — you're like an encyclopedia! Is there nothing you don't know something about?

Dr. Caligari said...

I concur in everything Frank said about Boston. I have fond memories of Legal Seafood from my law school days.

Stefan Ewing said...

Don't know much about that part of the world on either side of the border, but on the Canadian side:

- The drive north from Niagara Falls downstream along the Niagara River is quite pretty. There's a big bend in the river and a giant whirlpool (not the kind to bathe in!), some stunning vistas, and you end up in Niagara-on-the-Lake, a pretty town on the south shore of Lake Ontario.

- The part of the Eastern Townships in Quebec just north of Vermont border is quite pretty: stereotypically New-Englandy with rustic, windy roads, old churches, that kind of thing.

I can give you more specific information on both places if you choose to go to either place.

And stay away from Toronto. It's ugly.

Rachael Starke said...

We were in Vermont and Maine for our honeymoon (during mud season, no less - I'm from California, what did I know what VT would look like in April!)....

The Ben and Jerry's factory is there of course. Lots of free samples and (when we were there ten years ago) fairly free of the cruncy liberal evangelism

The King Arthur Flour Co. is in northern VT too- a must stop for all foodies of the baking persuasion!

I do also remember a giant old hotel in the middle of the New Hampshire mountains where some treaty was signed but was suffering from Frank Turk mountain-itis and don't remember exactly where.

Ditto on Quebec just over the VT border. It's more beautiful than France, and without the attitude!

Kim said...

Hey, I thought we were the "must see" attraction in Ontario. We're just as close as Challies. Toronto is not a nice place, seriously.

Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario is very nearby, and has some historic sites, specifically the Battle of Queenston Heights. We should take you guys there.

Anonymous said...

In Ontario you can come to my place. It's quite nice this time of year.

In NY about 45v minutes south og Rochester just off the 390 you'll find Letchworth State Park aka the Grand Canyon of the East. Very pretty, some spectacular views.

Stefan Ewing said...

Yes, the Niagara area is great. My wife and I did one road trip from Niagara Falls all the way to Ottawa, then a couple of days later, from there down to Quebec City.

Niagara I mentioned above, and it sounds like Kim knows a lot more about it than I do, being a native. And of course, you have to check out the Falls! Just stay away from the Casino strip nearby.

This is probably far too off-track for the trip you're envisioning, but Kingston (halfway between Toronto and Montreal), Ottawa with its Houses of Parliament and museums, and Quebec City are all interesting places to visit. Quebec City is by far the most exotic, since the old town resembles a walled 18th-century European town (which it is, except for the fact it's not in Europe). They just had their 400th birthday celebration last week. There's the Upper Town, surrounded by the city wall; the Citadel—the old fort; the Chateau Frontenac, a turn-of-the-century hotel and the prime example of the grand old Canadian Pacific Railway hotels of years goneby; the Lower Town, which again feels like something out of late mediaeval Europe; and even a funicular railway connecting the Upper and Lower Towns.

Montreal is a pretty cool city, too. It was Canada's largest city and social and economic centre until the 1970s when many corporate head offices moved to Toronto due to the rise of the Quebec independence movement. It still has a lot of fascinating architecture, a great subway system, and a mountain (Mont Réal, or "Mount Royal" in ancien régime French) smack-dab in the middle of the city with commanding views of the surrounding region—with a gigantic neon cross on top. On the topic of gaudy Catholic edifices, it also has the fascinating Notre-Dame Basilica, which is stunningly beautiful, but would have been the subject of Luther's 96th Thesis, had it been built in Wittenberg.

But closer to the border, both Niagara country and the Eastern Townships are definitely worth seeing (though not necessarily both on the same trip).

CR said...

In Boston, Old North Church and the USS Constitution and the Cheers Bar (at least where the exterior location shots were taken which was named Bulls Finch bar or something now named Cheers).

Do the Freedom Trail (marked by a red line painted or bricked sidewalk) - a 3 mile walking tour around historic Boston.

Neil said...

Are you sure? How much time have you got? You've just sketched an area bigger than Great Britain.

Niagara Glen, about 10 acres of rocky forest inside the Niagara Gorge just downstream of the whirlpool rapids. A must must see.

Queenston Heights, as Kim said. The invading Americans were soundly thumped here in 1812.

Welland Canal, where ships detour around Niagara Falls. My grandma use to take us to watch the ocean freighters pass through the locks.

Old Fort Erie (south end of the Niagara River), or Old Fort George (north end of the Niagara River) if you want to see how the British defended against the Americans, or Fort Niagara (north end of the river) if you want to see how the Americans defended against the British.

These sites all keep you close enough to the border to escape Canada within 40 minutes.

Simcoe / Port Dover. 1. We live there. 2. offbeat agriculture (ginseng, tobacco, peanuts). 3. The invading Americans thumped us and burned Port Dover in 1812. 1.5 hours west of Buffalo.

Long Point World Biosphere Reserve and the neighbouring Backus Mill, which was built by United Empire Loyalists (one of my ancestors), fleeing the yankee rebels in the late 18th century. Also close are the Sand Hills. 2 or 2.5 hours west of Buffalo.

Toronto? No. Not if you're looking for offbeat stuff. But if you want to go the new opera house which has the entire theatre sitting on computerized shock absorbers to gain acoustic perfection... then Challies can take you.

Western NY:
Clarkson Community Church, just west of Rochester, built in 1820's, and still the original wood structure. But the pews look like possibly an art deco reno. It's reformed with a Masters grad as pastor. Tony will give you a great tour.

Crazy Louie's place (not his real name) between Rochester and Clarkson. He keeps a bunch of vintage fire trucks on his land. They are just begging for a closer look. But don't let him catch you.

Erie Canal. The biggest engineering project of the 19th century, so they say.

Buffalo. They have a lot of fires there, which are always fun to watch.

MassachusettsWe stayed in a nice Hampton Inn in the northern suburbs of Boston once. There is a nice Texaco station nearby also.

FX Turk said...

If you said, "We're visiting FL, AL, GA and we need some tourist info," I got nothin'.

I grew up in Upstate NY (born in Buffalo) and lived there the first 30 years of my life. I know from NY.

BTW, I wasn't sure what the end-points of your journey was, so let me say this about Niagara Falls: except for the falls itself, and maybe the Robert Moses Power Dam (you have to be a real geek to really enjoy that, but to take a tour of a massive engineering feat like that is flabbergasting), it's a complete tourist trap -- especially the Canadian side. The ferry ride actually under the Falls is stunning but pricey. The NY side of the falls is, um, not great except for the park which actually goes out into the Niagara River.

Buffalo NY has great eating, and I can't possibly name all the places worth stopping at. You will find authentic Spanish (not Mexican) and Greek there, and your best bet is to drive around the perimeter of the University of Buffalo and just see what you can see in terms of eateries and whatever. If you were going later in the year, I'd recommend going to the Erie County fair which is to county fairs what TeamPyro is to blogging. There was a time when it was a bigger to-do than the NY State fair, but I think that day is long gone. And I personally have enjoyed the Buffalo Zoo, but it has been decades sine I was there last.

You could take a wine tour in the Finger Lakes if you are going to be that far west in NYS; if you travel to the south of the state, you could tour the Corning Glass museum. If you pass through Rochester, NY, you must eat at Nick Tahou's and have a garbage plate (google it). The Strong Children's Museum is good for a lark for kids under 10. While you can fine one in Rochester, you should try the very stunning Dinosaur Barbecue in Syracuse (the only reason to stop in Syracuse).

There is nothing between Syracuse and Albany.

North of Syracuse, Pulaski, NY, has stunning salmon fishing in season. Back up toward Lake Ontario, historic Sackett's Harbor is on the lake near Watertown, and that's the gateway to the Thousand Island/St. Lawrence Seaway region. I actually have a cousin named Gary Delorme who owns a seafood restaurant up there in Potsdam, NY, called the Lobster House.

Tara says that driving through Saratoga would be interesting for the architecture -- it's sort of Victorian, but aside from the races there's not much there.

That would be the "A" attractions as far as I'm concerned. I am sure there are "B" attractions that you might see in the impossible line you'd have to follow to see all this stuff. I suggest you make a Google map with your starting point and ending point marked first, then lay in all the things I have listed (as well as other readers, of course), then pick the route that suits you best.

Neil said...

Oh I forgot one. A tour of Nanticoke, the largest coal fired electrical generating plant in North America is also always fun.

CR said...

Bugblaster: MassachusettsWe stayed in a nice Hampton Inn in the northern suburbs of Boston once. There is a nice Texaco station nearby also.

Carlo: That's cold dude. If I were an administrator I would delete this comment! :=) Nice Texaco Station...that was funny.

But seriously, yes, albeit MA has been become wacked, there is great history there. Maybe watch John Adams on DVD to inspire you again of the great history.

I was born in New Bedford, so I'm partial to MA, but as wacked as it is, there are some great historical sites to see.

JackW said...

Buffalo has some great chicken wings I hear.

... actually, I know as I grew up in north eastern PA and that was the second biggest reason to go to NY state. ... the other being the drinking age.

Now if you're going a wee bit further south I could help you with what to see around the Commonwealth. Of course it would take much longer than a Frank Turk post I'm afraid. ;-)

Chris H said...

If you're in Toronto, check out the CN Tower, the NHL Hall of Fame, Canada's Wonderland (amusement park). If you can get there, Quebec City is absolutely beautiful, and one of the oldest settlements in Canada for sure, and maybe North America.

I'm also a fan of Ottawa. Nation's Capital, and a tonne of museums and galleries.

My two cents.

Stefan Ewing said...

I think we're prepping Dan for the Mother of Great North American Circle Tours:

Albany-Buffalo-Toronto-Ottawa-Montreal-Quebec-Boston via Maine.

Okay, semicircle tours. Add Philly in there too, maybe.

A. Yepiz said...

Thanks for reminding me of how I can't go to those places...yet.

Have fun. And as a historian, please visit historical places.

By the way, when you are in Vermont, please let me know how many people you encountered that were "packing," practicing their constitutional right to do so.

Be warned. Don't mess with a green mountain may get shot!

Anonymous said...

Here's the deal - just skip all that northeastern stuff and come visit us in Nebraska. "The Good Life" as we like to say.

Where else can you find Carhenge, a replica of Stonehenge made completely of junk cars? Priceless...

candy said...

Bummer. My comment disappeared. So to rehash. Freedom Trail in Boston IS great. Get off at Fanuel Hall/Quincy Market. Across the street is the sobering amazing Holocaust Memorial. Try to walk through without crying. Down the street is State St. where the Boston Massacre took place. On the Freedom Trail you will see the USS Constitution, first Naval tall ship, The North Church where your secret favorite Preacher preached, the graveyard where Ben Franklin, John Adams, MOther Goose and many more are buried, Little Italy, and so so so much more. Park in some outlying area and take the T. Boston is not very car friendly.

I did not find the coast from Boston to Maine all that impressive compared to the Pacific Coast. Stop in Portsmouth NH along the coast. One of the first settlements. Strawberry Banke is a museum settlement of houses where people dress up in different periods, and become a person from the past. The ship's captain had never heard of Nevada, a storekeeper was knitting mittens for soldiers in WWII, a Jewish family had meal together. It is a great place for kids. I had more to say but will do it later.

Stefan Ewing said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Stefan Ewing said...


So Vermont is a state full of socialists—with guns?

We'd better keep an eye on those guys....

(I jest.)

Lori said...

I'm having problems posting so I hope this is not a repeat...
CT-If you are driving up I 95 to Boston, stop in Mystic (seaport and aquarium). The coastal town of Stonington is also nice. If instead you are driving up through Hartford, consider taking a small detour to the Berkshires (northwest corner of CT,southwest corner of MA). There is some sort of Norman Rockwell museum in one of the towns.
VT-Ben & Jerry's tour is fun. It is near Stowe which is also a nice ski town. There is a Green Mountain hiking info center on Route 100 between Ben & Jerry's and Stowe. The Shelburne Museum near Burlington is excellent.
If you are in southern CT on a Sunday, please come to our PCA church in Greenwich (or Tim Keller's church in NYC although I don't think he will be preaching until the end of August).

Lori said...

Food-American Flatbread in VT (original is at a farm in Waitsfield open only Fri and Sat nights but others --Burlington, Middlebury) are open regular hours).

DJP said...

My wife and I thank EVERYBODY for these great thoughts. Frank started out setting the bar pretty darned high, and everyone's kept it up. Thanks, all.

candy said...

Oops. I think Sam Adams is buried at that graveyard. We are watching the series on John Adams and he and his wife are buried at his church.

Also, I wanted to mention Mt. Washington in NH also. The drive to the top is scary. There is tundra near the top, and it has the highest recorded winds of 230 mph. The weather station is chained to the granite rock. It looks how I imagine mountains in Scotland looks. You can hike up Mt. Washington also. It is a six mile hike. I want to warn you though. Lots of black flies, mosquitos, deer flies, horse flies, house flies, and other sundry and pesky bugs. We were going to hike to the top, and Bruce's daughter wanted to come too. She was about 16. She really wanted to wear cleats for some reason. I thought...hmmmmm. Sure enough, we got about a mile down the trail and had to go back. We drove up to the top instead.

CR said...

The series John Adams, is a GREAT miniseries. In my opinion...

PS - if you do get a chance to eat at Legal Seafoods (I only eat there on business trips), the food is real good, but the Boston Creme Pie they have is to die for (figuratively speaking of course)!

Dawg Doc said...

Being from New England (and actually posting from there now) I heartily recommend a few places, not necessarily in this order:

1) The Mark Twain House in Hartford, CT.

2) The Berkshires area of Western, MA depending on the time you are there. When the leaves start changing it is a wonderful place full of lots of great walking towns.

3) Boston, of course. Take the tour of Fenway Park if you have any interest in baseball. Others have mentioned their favorite sites in the city so I won't repeat those. I like to eat at Boston Beer Works right across from Fenway. Also, Durgin Park at Faneuil Hall makes the best strawberry shortcake on the planet.

4) Lake Winnepausakee (sp?) in New Hampshire and the White Mountains...there is an interesting cog rail trip up Mt. Washington. If you're heading for the beach my favorite is Hampton Beach...I'll be staying there from August 3rd to the 8th.

5) Newport Beach, Rhode Island. The harbor tour is wonderful and there isn't a nicer harbor in New England.

I would avoid Cape Cod until after Labor Day as traffic jams abound, but if you do go, it is worth the drive to the tip at Provincetown where there are some delicious Portuguese bakeries...but I'd probably take the fast boat from Boston to P'Town and then get out of there.

Have fun!

Malcolm said...

I see I am getting to this late, but if you are spending time in the Plymouth, MA area I would strongly recommend you make the time to go to Plimoth Plantation - an outstanding historical site.