Thursday, June 27, 2013

It's Not the Faroe Islands Themselves, It's How You Can Get There

Across the North Atlantic lie island nations that were reportedly founded by wandering Vikings a thousand years ago.  The islands have distinct similarities in the fact that they are all northern outposts, with lush green tundra landscapes, high cliffs and mountainous terrain.  They all rely on the fishing industry as their main livelihood.  They all used to belong to Denmark.  The Faroe Islands are part of that collection, along with Iceland and Greenland.  Iceland has been independent since 1944, but Greenland and the Faroes have remained as independent commonwealths of Denmark to this day.


The Faroe Islands lie just northeast of the British Isles, off the coast of Scotland.  It is rumored that there were Irish clergymen in the Faroes before the Vikings arrived, but the subject is still in dispute.  What most folks can tell you is that it is one of the most beautiful places you'll ever visit.  My first impression of the Faroes is that it largely resembles Iceland, only without as many volcanoes.

Torshavn is the capital of this fabulous little archipelago of some nineteen islands.  Only one of the islands is uninhabited, although there is one that only has one family residing on it.  That is a tourist attraction, and the family loves to welcome visitors to see how they live.  The uninhabited island is a mecca for bird watchers, and there are companies that will take you on a day trip to do just that.  There are many species of seabirds that only live there, and bird enthusiasts from all over the world come to see them.

Here's one for you.  The Faroe Islanders love music.  All throughout the summer, there are music festivals...big ones.  They are varied from classical to rock and happen all over the islands all summer long.  The largest and most famous is the Gota festival that takes place in the village of Gota around the time of the country's national day of celebration in July.  It's not easy to miss that festival if you happen to be anywhere in the islands around that time of year.

Now, Torshavn is a bustling port city where the fishing industry is alive and well, but don't let the image of a huge city get in your head.  There are only about 50,000 people in the whole country.  There are around 120 villages where the Faroese live, so the tiny population by modern standards covers a huge area.

The Faroe Islands have some of the most scenic drives in the world.  They have far more paved roads than Iceland or Greenland, and even have some subterranean tunnels connecting various islands.  The little villages that make up the country are found just anywhere, in valleys, along inlets and fjords.  It's amazing the way these little towns just pop up in what seems like the middle of nowhere.

The Faroe Islands is one of the far north places that you have to see just for the landscapes.  The people are friendly, the landscapes are surreal in their otherworldly beauty, and the music festivals are some of the most popular in western Europe.
But why do I mention this one in my blog?  What is the adventure?  Well, I always wanted to travel around the world without using commercial airlines.  It's one of the things that I've always wanted to do.  I've always wanted to do it entirely by ferry, train, etc.  The Faroe Islands are accessible by commercial airlines.  They have a beautiful airport.  But they have something else that you just don't see every day.

Denmark felt the need to provide transportation between most of it's outlying commonwealths, and to this day there is ferry service from both Scotland and all the way from Denmark to the Faroes and as far as Iceland.  Not only does this give you the option of bringing your car so that you can drive all the amazingly scenic roads, but it's like going on a cruise.  There are cabins of all kinds available, you can order meals even before you leave online.  It's a great way to get around.  It is time consuming, but this is not the kind of trip that you take in a hurry.
So, the adventure is the travel to get there.  I've found that it's possible to travel around the entire world without using commercial airlines to this day.  It's that bucket list I have going and that trip is on top of the list.  The Faroes are beautiful, friendly, and magical.  Take the time to take a ferry ride.  It's a great way to travel, and the Danes have left this one going all these years.  Come, take a ride, take a drive, listen to some great music, and meet the people of the Faroe Islands.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Day Trips to New York City

Day trips to New York City are some of my favorite little trips.  There's so much to do in that city, that you never run out of ideas.  I'm sure that around the country, people are saying the same thing about their major metropolitan areas, and you'd be right as well.  When I lived out west, I couldn't find enough to do in Detroit or Chicago either.

The thing with New York is that there is literally something for everyone.  It's also a chance to take a walk in someone else's world.  If you ever wanted to try out a new nationality, or a new lifestyle, take a trip to New York. 

One of my favorite spots is Brooklyn, and one of my favorite places is Coney Island.  There's no better place on Earth to spend a summer day.  The beach is great.  The pier is great.  The rides are great.  The people are great.  And this year, there's a favorite that was ripped from our world, but has been reincarnated with another name.  Shoot the Freak has returned as Shoot the Clown.  We thank you clown, for bringing back our one and only favorite boardwalk game.  You can also still ride the Cyclone and the Wonder Wheel, go to the New York Aquarium, see the Coney Island Freak Show, and in general have a great time.  It's one of those places that gets overlooked sometimes, but Coney Island is a great day trip.
Now, the trains in New York City are the greatest in the world.  I'm convinced of this.  I've ridden many subways from Moscow and Paris to Washington D.C., Chicago, Atlanta, and Boston.  I love the trains in New York.  They go everywhere.  They go to several burroughs, and all the best attractions.  Instead of sitting on a musty old bus or getting run down by a taxi, you have to take the subway and trains.  It's the best.
Another great thing about the New York Subway is the one thing that drives us all nuts on most subways.  I love the street performers.  New York has some of the best buskers around, and some of them have regular gigs right in the subway stations.  It can be a really great way to kill some time while you're waiting for you train home.
The museums are great, and the greatest one of all is the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  You'd think that you'd spend the whole day looking at paintings and sculptures, but that's not true.  There's a lot of stuff there.  They have rooms set up to look like France and centuries ago in America.  They have military exhibits and even musical instruments.  There's way more than paintings there.  It's not as exciting as some of the interactive museums around, but it's a great way to learn a lot about a lot of historical things.

One of the best things about NYC are the ethnic neighborhoods, and none is better than Brighton Beach or Little Odessa.  Russian folk have settled here for decades, and there are still places where the printed materials are only in Russian.  The locals don't really expect tourists, since this is hands down the toughest neighborhood in the city to find.  It is an interesting way to spend the day, with Russian restaurants, grocery stores, other shops, and another great beach.  More and more they are sharing the neighborhood with the folk from India and the surrounding area, but it's still just like being in Russia without all the trouble with visas.

Chinatown in New York is famous.  And, it's one of the best places in town to shop for meaningless stuff.  If you want a purse or a pair of sunglasses, this is your dream spot.  On the other hand, if you want to try some fabulous Asian food of any kind, come on down to Chinatown.  I've had Chinese, Thai, Vietnamese, Burmese, Korean, and a whole lot more.  After I eat and shop, I like to take a walk over to Columbus Park and watch the guys playing Mahjong and the folks practicing their Tai Chi.  It's always best there in the spring when the cherry trees are blooming.

If Chinatown is something that you find entertaining, go to the center of it and you will find the world's most famous Little Italy.  If you like Italian food, you need to go there.  If you like a great atmosphere, come on a warm summer weekend night when the fronts of the buildings are all opened  onto the street and the tables and chairs are spilling out into the street.  You can eat by candlelight while being serenaded by street musicians.  It's fabulous.

Then there's DUMBO (Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Organization).  This little neighborhood is gaining a lot of popularity.  This place is pretty, quiet, artsy, and has great food.  If you want to get away, you can go down there, browse some art galleries and high end stores, stop at a great deli and go to what has become one of the best parks in the city.  The park alone has stretched under the Brooklyn Bridge to the far side with playscapes, gardens, and even an old time carousel.  The views of the bridges and the Manhattan skyline are fabulous.
It's hip, it's edgy, it's got all the best literary agents and comic book places.  It's Greenwich Village, where it's okay to be who you are.  The clubs here cater to many different groups, yes, including the gay and lesbian community.  The coffee houses are great, the bars are cutting edge, and the music still comes on vinyl.  Beat that.

And then, there's the parks.  New York City has some of the greatest parks in the world.  Of course, Central Park is it's shining pillar.  You can do all kinds of things here from boating to biking, to checking out the zoo, and watching Shakespeare.  There's so much to do that it would be an entire blog on it's own, but it is one of the best places in any city anywhere to spend your time.

So, this is just some of the great things to see in New York City.  I'll hit you some more later with this one, because there's always so much to say.  Enjoy!

Kaliningrad...enough said

If there's anything that I'm a sucker for, it's anything Russian.  I love the country, the history, and the culture.  The other day, and I don't remember the arena that I was in at the time, I heard the word Kaliningrad.  I hadn't thought about the place in a few years, but it is one of the most intriguing places in all of Russia.  Ever since Michael Palin went there on a documentary series about the new Eastern Europe, I've been interested in this place.  Is it part of Russia?  You bet it is, even though it's no where near there.

With this one, I'll have to start with some history.  Kaliningrad used to be Konigsberg.  It has been under several rulers over the centuries from German to Polish to Prussian to Soviet and currently is Russian.  When the Soviets took over the area after WWII, they renamed the city Kaliningrad in honor of Mikhail Kalinin, one of the presidents of the Supreme Soviet and Russians migrated to the area, subsequently replacing most of the Germans.  They started to speak Russian and turned it into a Russian area.  Once the Soviet Union fell, most of the area went to original countries like Lithuania and Latvia.  All around this tiny area no larger than Connecticut, countries were forming.  They had to decide what to do in their own right.  They decided not to join any of the new countries and to remain loyal to Russia.  So this tiny area of the RSFSR (Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic)  was formed.  No where near Russia, but very Russian indeed.

This tiny republic sits on the Baltic Sea, between Poland and Lithuania.  To get to Russia, you have to go through any combination of Lithuania, Latvia, and/or Belarus.  It's very isolated from it's mother country, but it's a very important part of Russia.

Kaliningrad is a bustling international port.  The shipping industry is huge there.  Merchandise from all over the world travels through this northern port.
Just looking around this city is fascinating.  Most of the old town was destroyed during WWII, and there are several Soviet style buildings around town.  However, there are also buildings, or pieces of from many other times.

Konigsberg was known for having six gates to the city.  Most of them are still around, being some of the few surviving structures from before the war.  There are tours that you can take to go and see them all.  Each one is different and unique.  They were all built as protection for the city in ancient times.
Some areas along the waterfront show their European flair from the pages of history in that they resemble Amsterdam, more than they do anything in Russia.

One of the best known and most unique things about Kaliningrad is the bridges.  Part of the oldest part of town is located on an island, which means that there needs to be a bridge.  Well, in the old days there were seven of them that went to this island.  A guy by the name of Euler produced a theorem that proved that there was no way to cross all seven of Konigsberg's bridges without crossing any one of them more than once.  This theorem went on to solve all kinds of routing problems throughout the world, and made Mr. Euler a famous scientist.  What happened to the bridges was that they were destroyed in battle during WWII and were replaced by five bridges that are equally noted by the people who live in today's Kaliningrad.  The island that the bridges connect to the rest of the city is a beautiful place to see, with a cathedral, a great park and a wonderful river walk.

But what if anything makes this place an adventure that's worthy of my blog?  It's existence makes it an adventure, but there's more.

For one thing, Amber.  This little area is the home of the world's largest Amber mine.  The Kaliningrad Conglomerate mines three to four tons of Amber a day.  Catherine the Great had a whole room made of it.  Amber is a beautiful stone formed from petrified sap.  I'm not joking.  It makes beautiful jewelry and Kaliningrad is one of the best places to buy it.  You can take a tour of the mine and see how the gem is extracted.  Then you can go to the workshop and see how it's processed.  It's one of the only places on Earth where you can see where Amber comes from and how it's worked.  It's a great way to spend the day.
Now, if that's not enough for you, and you haven't gotten enough of a vacation from all the museums, architecture, culture, history, and shopping...there's more.

How about a trip to the beach?  Here's something that always makes me cringe and intrigues me at the same time.  It's the Curonian Spit.  Here there are beautiful beaches along the Baltic Sea.  This region is also a World Heritage Site, because of it's dunes.  This place has the highest dunes in Europe.  Epha is the highest at an average of 64 meters.  That's a big dune.  This is one of the few places that you can go for a swim with seals.  People find them along the beach sunning themselves.  It's really different, I only recommend it in high summer, and you have to be a hearty soul, but it's an adventure you'll never forget.

I always say go to a place that you will never forget.  Kaliningrad is that.  There are two train stations and an international airport to get you there.  There are also some cruises that go along the Baltic Coast that stop in the city for a little bit.  Remember, you will need a Russian Visa, and that means working with a tour company.  Also remember that if you're going to other parts of Russia on the same trip, you will need a two entry visa, which is tricky and you definitely will want to work with a Russian tour agency.  If you actually want to swim in the Baltic on the Curonian Spit, I would only go in late July or August.  Barring that, come and see a little world of it's own along the Baltic.  Kaliningrad and the RSFSR is an amazing little piece of a much larger country that's truly unique.  The voice of a people has created a once in a lifetime spot in the world to visit.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Many Wonders of Scranton, PA

Scranton, Pennsylvania is a tough one.  I spent 20 years avoiding it like a plague, because of the road construction back in the 1980's and 1990's.  Yes, the project that they were doing on I-81 and I-84 took forever and made a real mess.  Therefore, I never went there.  I didn't want to go there.  I didn't want to hear about the place.  It had driven me nuts for years, and I wanted to go anywhere else.
Then one day, years after all that, when I'd forgotten all about Scranton, PA, I was searching for waterfalls.  That was what I did in my spare time back in the early 2000's.  My son and I loved to go hiking to a good waterfall.  Anyway, I found some information on a lovely state park called Rickett's Glen.  It was supposed to be wonderful for waterfall enthusiasts like me and my son.  It reported at least 20 waterfalls, most of them on a waterfall trail.  One of them was supposed to be 94 feet high.  It sounded great.  As I read on, I learned that this park is only a few miles outside of Scranton, PA.

So, I decided that for the sake of seeing a boatload of waterfalls, I would suck it up and go to Scranton.  So I booked an inexpensive hotel in Wilkes Barre, because I was really reluctant to go to Scranton, and off we went.
By the way, the park was beautiful.  We spent two days, or the better part of them, hiking the falls trail.  It's in two parts, so we did one side one day, and the other the next.  It's a waterfall lover's dream.  That's for sure.  But, we were there for a few days, so we needed something else to do.
What to do in Scranton, PA?
For one thing, we went to the Lackawanna Coal Mine.  That's right, Pennsylvania is one of those towns of old.  Back in their heyday, they were the center of the universe.  Pennsylvania overall was ground zero for coal, oil, and steel back in the days of the huge magnates like Vanderbilt, Rockefeller, and Carnegie.  This was where their power struggles happened and where dynasties were built.
From New York and Pennsylvania to New Jersey, you will see the name Lackawanna on a lot of things.  In Pennsylvania, it's a county and everything named for that county.  Lackawanna is a word from the Lenape Indians which were located originally in this area of the country.  Lackawanna means two streams or where two streams fork.  I learned that from touring that wonderful mine.
While on the tour of the mine, you will see how they worked and how they extracted the coal from the mine.  It was harsh back in the day, and a lot of people died working in those conditions.  It is a fascinating little tour, however and a great ride in one of the old mine trains.  There are other mines in the area which you can tour.  Back in the day, they had a few different ways of mining, and you can learn about different ways by visiting different mines. The Pioneer Tunnel Mine will show you all about drift mining, which is pretty unique by today's standards.
So, then what?  Now what do you do in Scranton?

The Scranton area has way more outdoor stuff to offer.  They have almost a dozen well maintained extensive trails that you can hike.  They have it all, and it's all around town.  They have a beautiful river walk that you shouldn't miss.  It's great, and it's a beautiful walk.  River walks are one of the fastest growing trends in the Northeast.  I don't know about the rest of the country, but we sure do love them here.
Here's an interesting fact and a fun thing to do, that tells you how unique Scranton is.  You can take a tour and visit the Houdini Museum.  That's right.  These folks will take you to see all the things that scream Houdini.  It is the most extensive collection of things pertaining to Houdini, and they also have a great show with well known magicians for you to go along with your tour.  If you like, you can take a haunted tour as well.  Harry Houdini's wife spent years trying to reach him through seances, and now you can experience the whole thing right here in Scranton, PA.
There are many wonderful things to do in Scranton, PA.  No one was more surprised than me.  My son and I went to a wonderful place called Lahey's Family Fun Park, just outside of town where we rode go karts and played mini golf, rode bumper boats and had a great time.  We went to a McDonald's that looked like a 50's diner.  We went to a great downtown mall that had as much entertainment as they did shops.  They have a great modern art scene there as well.  They have a well known night life.  It's an amazing town.  You can even take a tour that highlights all the landmarks that they use on the TV show The Office.  The place is one of a kind.  Until I got off the road and visited the place I had no idea.  While it has plenty to be unique, why did I mention it as one of my adventures for anyone?
The trains.
Scranton had several rail lines running right through it back in the day.  Pennsylvania was the home of the country's first railroad.  But, in the heyday of trains and coal and oil and steel, Scranton was a hub.  Today they have Steamtown.  This is a great indoor and outdoor museum with an old fashioned roundhouse that still operates.  While you're there you can visit all the museum buildings, see all the trains that are still there and take a ride on a train.  It's not a long ride, but it's great for the kids. 
One of the great things about Steamtown is that you can go in everything and wander around.  It's the most accessible outdoor museum I've ever been to.  You get to see how everything works and what it felt like to sit in a real caboose, or mail car, or whatever.  It's a lot of fun.  If you like trains, this place is for you.
Now, here's the best part.  Several times a year, Steamtown offers specialty tours.  Some of these things last for more than one day.  You can book a real train trip on an old style train.  All you have to do is check their website for a schedule and book a trip.  They take a few every year through the beautiful Pocono countryside.  It's a great way to spend a weekend.
 There is also the Stourbridge Line.  That is another local train company that offers sightseeing rides in the Scranton area.  They are currently postponed.  That's what they say, but they do hope to be up and running soon.  Once again, just check the website.  They'll keep you posted.
Trains are something that not everyone appreciates, but to those who love them, they are the best thing in the world.  Scranton is known as Steamtown, and the reason is the trains.  There's a lot to do once you get past the constant road construction surrounding the city.  It's an amazing place to be.  Come see the trains and the mines and the waterfalls and the river walks.  Come and experience something that you never hear about on television.  Scranton has so much to offer that you could spend a whole week there taking it in.  It's that great.  I was wrong about Scranton.  It's a great place that I now go to whenever I get the time.  So, for anyone out there that hasn't visited Scranton, because of the way it looks on the outside, get off the highway and take a look.  Scranton will surprise you.  Enjoy!

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Day Trips for Nutmeggers!

I've been doing this for quite a while now, and some of my friends have asked me to put in some things that they might find interesting to do on a day trip from right here in Connecticut.  So, here you go.

1.  One of my favorite walks in the world is the cliff walk in Newport, Rhode Island.  It can be a little drive from home, but it's so worth it.  You have the views of the ocean, the views of the mansions and a great walk.  It runs about seven miles around the little peninsula that is the city of Newport.  It connects to at least two beaches as well.

2.  It was the playground of the Vanderbilts and all their friends.  The mansions of Newport, Rhode Island are some of the most amazing homes to tour in the country.  There are many of them to tour.  There is a fee, but there also is a day pass that will allow you into multiple homes.

3.  Someone in Montville, Connecticut at some point discovered dinosaur tracks.  They're the real thing and it's since become a very popular state park.  There are exhibits, trails, and activities for the kids.  It's a great way to spend a day.

4.  Gillette Castle is one of those places that you have to see to believe.  It was built about 100 years ago by William Gillette.  Now, I won't get into his idiosyncrasies that led to him designing his house the way he did, but it is a beautiful spot, an interesting home, and a great view of the Connecticut River.  During the summer on the weekends they also do some outdoor skits from the period of the actor William Gillette.  If that doesn't fill your day, Devil's Hopyard State Park is right up the road and has some great scenery and trails.

5.  Quechee Gorge, Vermont is a small, but very dramatic gorge pretty much in the middle of flatlands.  It's a great little hike through the gorge.  There are beautiful meadows and lakes above, and in the summer they have a hot air balloon festival that's amazing.  There's also some great restaurants around there, shopping, and there's mini golf all over the place for the kids.

6.  Lake George is not normally seen as a day trip, but most of the time it is when I go.  There's something about a resort area that just begs to be visited for the day.  When I go up there we like to take a ride on the Mini Ha Ha around the lake.  Then we hit the go karts and mini golf.  If you like, in the summer there are horse and buggies around and a great beach right in the village.  It is Lake George, so the food is fabulous too.  There's also Fort William Henry right in the middle of the village that's great to visit.

7.  Ocean Beach Park, New London, Connecticut.  I don't care what anyone says about their great beach and board walk, this one rules.  I've been up and down the Eastern Seaboard and this place is great.  There's all kinds of things to do from rides, to waterslides, to pools, to arcades, to food, to bands on the weekends, and there's the beach.  It's a great way to spend a summer day.

8.  Yes, that's Thomas the Train.  Actually, it's the Essex Steam Train in Essex, Connecticut.  It doesn't always look like that.  They only do that for special occasions.  This is a great all around trip.  The train ride is great.  They have a special lighted tour at Christmas as well.  They also have a combined train and riverboat ride in the summer.  It's a great time for everyone.  Afterwards, stop off in Essex for some really great ice cream and a maritime museum that's pretty interesting.

9.  The Connecticut Science Center in Hartford is our newest attraction in museums.  This place is great.  They have 3D Imax for a theater.  You can make a film of yourself doing a weather broadcast.  There are so many things to do in this science center, that it will keep you and the kids busy all day.  If it doesn't, there's an amazing river walk right outside on the Connecticut River that you shouldn't miss.

10.  The Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk, Connecticut.  The seals are the main attraction here, it's true.  Everyone loves to gather for feeding times.  There are so many other things to see and do here that I can't list them all.  They have Imax.  They have all kinds of maritime life.  Sometimes you can even play with penguins in this place.  You can always pet the rays.  It's a great time for adults as well as the kids.  It's not as well known or as big as Mystic, but it's my favorite.  It sits right in the middle of Norwalk, so there's wonderful shops and restaurants right outside as well.


11.  The Berkshire Museum in Pittsfield, Massachusetts is one of those places that I didn't expect to be so interesting.  It's a little museum in a small town in western Mass, but it's full of surprises.  They have mummies, gems, Ansel Adams photography, fine art from around the world, and an aquarium in the cellar.  I'm not joking.  They also have a tortoise named Chuck that will come out and visit with you and the kids.  It's a great little place to spend some time. 

12.  The New England Air Museum at Bradley International Airport, Connecticut is fabulous.  There are planes indoors and outdoors to see.  There are all kinds of exhibits and there are flight simulators to ride in.  It's not as exciting as some of the other museums, but it's really interesting.


13.  Jiminy Peak Mountain Park in Hancock, Massachusetts.  This place is a great ski resort.  That being said, in the summer time this place has it all.  It makes traditional theme parks seem boring.  They have alpine slides, mountain coasters, segway tours, bungee jumps, smaller rides for little kids, zip line adventure parks, and great food.  It's a must see.  You can also ride to the top of the mountain on the ski lifts for the view.  It's a great fun way to spend the day.

14.  Mount Greylock, North Adams, Massachusetts.  This is the highest point in the Berkshires.  You can climb it, drive it, and camp on it.  It's a stop on the Appalachian Trail, so there's a hiker's cabin right next to the parking lot.  There's a gift shop and snack bar at the top as well.  The tower is open most days and gives an amazing view of four states.

15.  Natural Bridge State Park, North Adams, Massachusetts.  This is a great little park that was found when they were using it as a quarry.  The natural bridge is small, but it's real, which is something that I've almost never run across.  There are a couple of little waterfalls, and some odd little bridges to run around and take pictures on.  It's fun, and a great addition to a day out in northwestern Mass.

16.  Battleship Cove, Fall River, Massachusetts.  This place is awesome.  They have a PT Boat, a submarine, a battleship, and so much more.  You get to roam around on these things.  You can climb ladders, sit in gun turits, and eat in the mess hall.  It's great fun.  After you can stop and take a ride on the carousel at the building next door, and you can spend some time in the riverside park on the opposite side of the parking lot.  Fall River is also known for it's Portuguese food restaurants, so make it a day.

17.  The Children's Museum in West Hartford.  The center piece here is the Gengras Planetarium.  There is also a small zoo that doesn't thrill me.  They do have an interactive children's museum and they have classes where the kids get to work in a lab.  It's a lot of fun, and the planetarium is great.

18.  Hublein Tower sits high atop Talcott Mountain in Simsbury, Connecticut.  This place is a hike, but the views alone are worth it.  This is the place that the elementary schools take the kids to on field trips to work in the academy labs with the teachers there.  The overall place is sprawling with trails, the academy and the tower area.  Inside the tower is an amazing home museum.  The walk is exhilarating and the view is worth all the trouble.

19.  Hunter Mountain, New York.  This is the Catskills, and this is the best place to go to a festival in probably all of New England.  They have all kinds of music festivals, Scottish festivals, Octoberfests and a lot of others.  There's always something going on there, and the scenery is unmatched.  There are ski lift rides up the mountains, plenty to do in the town, and great food.  There also is one of my favorite waterfalls, Kaaterskill, on the road to the town.


20.  Great Barrington, Massachusetts is just a great town to go to.  Whenever we get bored, we end up there.  It doesn't have anything particularly thrilling, it's just the atmosphere.  There's great food, great shopping, great antiquing, and a bohemian feel that just keeps us coming back.  They have a little river walk that they're still working on behind the downtown area that's really cute.  They have a regal looking academy there that has a great rare book sale  every July.  Just north of town they have Monument Mountain which is a tiny little mountain that you can climb in 20 minutes and gives you just as dramatic a view as if you'd climbed a real mountain.  It's a wonderful place to spend your time.  They also have access to the Appalachian Trail for two interesting sections.

So, I hope this helps with those around me looking for day trips for the summer.  I've done all these things, most of them more than once.  I've always had a great time in these places, and I hope all of you do too.  Enjoy!