How can you get away from it all and not travel very far from home?
Three prominent Central New Yorkers have some “staycation” suggestions
By Margaret McCormick
By now you are no doubt sick of every inch of your house, but still concerned about the threat of COVID-19. The pandemic scuttled our collective travel plans in 2020, and even as concerns dissipate and travel restrictions are eased, caution is advised.
In a recent survey by The Points Guy, a credit card review website, one-third of respondents said they have a trip planned for 2021. For survey purposes, a trip was classified as traveling several hours by car, bus, train or plane.
Travel increases our chances of spreading or contracting COVID-19, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). But as more people of all ages get vaccinated, national and international travel is expected to rebound.
How can you get away from it all and not travel very far from home? We asked a couple prominent Central New Yorkers for staycation suggestions in our own back yard. Here is what they had to say.
“I love nothing more than traveling to new communities and exploring what makes them so unique.”
Megan Coleman, WSTM-TV
Megan Coleman feels fortunate to live in an area that’s rich in history and filled with beautiful scenery. “There are so many amazing places to explore in Central New York that I find myself struggling to select my favorite,’’ says Coleman, who anchors the 5, 5:30 and 6 p.m. newscasts on WSTM-3 in Syracuse and serves as news content manager for the CNYCentral media group.
One of Coleman’s favorite staycation getaways is Lake Placid. She has visited the charming Adirondack Mountain village on multiple occasions for both work and pleasure — and would go back again.
What makes Lake Placid special?
“This idyllic community is in the heart of the Adirondack Mountains [about three and a half hours from Syracuse]. Lake Placid is the ultimate escape throughout the year, offering visitors ways to get outside and explore the community during any season. I can still vividly recall my first visit to Lake Placid for a ski weekend at Whiteface Mountain with my now-husband. Since then, I have visited many other times and have enjoyed exploring many of the Olympic venues that are still intact, giving visitors a glimpse back to the 1980 [and 1932] Winter Olympic Games, which were hosted there. The summer months provide a wonderful escape and a time to enjoy the sheer beauty of the Adirondacks through hiking, biking, boating and other activities.’’
Things to do while you’re there…
“I love nothing more than traveling to new communities and exploring what makes them so unique. Lake Placid offers visitors a chance to try something new each time you visit. I love browsing through the shops along Main Street, eating at one of the many delicious restaurants, finding serenity during a hike, visiting the Olympic venues and curling up next to a warm fire with a glass of wine and a good book after a day of skiing.’’
For more information on the Lake Placid region, visit https://visitadirondacks.com/regions/lake-placid
Alice Maggiore, Downtown Committee of Syracuse
Alice Maggiore, director of communications for the Downtown Committee of Syracuse, spends her workdays promoting all that downtown Syracuse has to offer and her leisure time taking day trips and exploring the region. She lives for the State Fair each year and loves to get away to Cooperstown and the Finger Lakes.
“Both places have all of the ingredients that make me feel like I’m on vacation, even though I’m very close to home: the beautiful outdoors, storied history and delicious treats,’’ Maggiore says. “They’re family friendly, while offering activities for couples or a group of friends to explore, too. And, better yet, both places can be enjoyed from a safe social distance.’’
What makes Cooperstown special?
“Cooperstown may be the home of baseball, but a visit to the village delivers a home-run experience for all. By day, a stroll down Main Street makes me feel like I can simultaneously play the part of a tourist, while tricking myself into believing that I actually live in an idyllic, television-esque setting of a town, where everyone knows each other. With its one stoplight, variety of boutiques — including collectors’ memorabilia, clothing and fine jewelry — a distillery, bakery, half a dozen eateries and more along the path to the Baseball Hall of Fame Museum, Cooperstown boasts a comforting ‘Stars Hollow’ vibe, which complements the excitement around visiting the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. [Stars Hollow is the fictional town in Connecticut featured on ‘The Gilmore Girls.’] Neighbors are friendly and food is delicious.’’
Things to do while you’re there…
“On Saturday mornings, the Cooperstown Farmers Market offers fresh produce, artists’ works, crafts and other specialty items [such as granola and cheese] produced around the area. Online ordering and curbside pickup were popular last year. The village is also rich in history and folklore. With the Fenimore Art Museum, The Farmers’ Museum [featuring the Empire State Carousel, a hand-crafted merry-go-round which celebrates New York State’s history], and the Hyde Hall historic site just minutes away, the village is full of cultural places. After dark, the Cooperstown Candlelight Ghost Tours highlight more friendly ghosts than spooky spirits and a walk through the Christ Church Graveyard [day or night] will deliver new appreciation for the famed Cooper family. Any summer visit to Cooperstown must include a meal — or drinks — around the fire at The Otesaga Hotel. The hotel’s grandeur and view of the beautiful Otsego [Glimmerglass] Lake is timeless. Last summer, I even got to watch a storm roll in and that was magical.’’
For more information on Cooperstown and Otsego County, visit www.thisiscooperstown.com
As for the Finger Lakes, Maggiore recommends visiting during harvest and leaf-peeping season. “With trails to hike, waterfalls to chase, wine to taste [more than 100 wineries] and beautiful views of lakes, the area is the epitome of a staycation getaway. Though the Finger Lakes are pretty any time of the year, the fall is my favorite. There is something about the way the changing leaves come to life and they look stunning along the lakeshores.’’
For more information on visiting the Finger Lakes, visit www.fingerlakeswinecountry.com
George Kilpatrick, “Inspiration for the Nation’’
George Kilpatrick likes to get outdoors, get some exercise and take in scenery. That could mean a walk with his family at Green Lakes State Park or Clark Reservation State Park, a hike at Chittenango Falls State Park in Madison County or a waterfall-chasing day trip to the Ithaca area, home to Buttermilk Falls and Taughannock Falls, among others.
But the ultimate destination for chasing waterfalls, Kilpatrick says, is Niagara Falls. Last summer, after talking about it for 28 years, Kilpatrick and his wife finally made the drive west to visit Niagara Falls. COVID-19 restrictions were in effect and the border was closed, limiting their trip to the New York side of the mighty falls. Still, it quickly became his top staycation.
“One day we just made a plan to go,’’ says Kilpatrick, creator and host of “Inspiration for the Nation,’’ a radio show that airs Sunday mornings on Power620 AM. He also serves as men’s outreach coordinator for Vera House. He and his wife, Gloria Matthews Kilpatrick, have four children. “It was so replenishing. It was just the two of us and that made it really special.’’
What makes this place special?
“Niagara Falls is one of the Eight Wonders of the World and I didn’t want to have that experience with anyone other than my wife.”
Things to do while you’re there…
The Kilpatricks spent part of a day in Buffalo’s revitalized waterfront neighborhood, a formerly deserted stretch of the Buffalo River that now hums with activity. They dined outside at Big Mood, Buffalo’s first vegan restaurant. The next day, they headed to Niagara Falls, visited the Aquarium of Niagara and took in multiple panoramic views of the falls from the New York side. They considered taking the Maid of the Mist boat tour, which offers powerful views of the falls from the Niagara River. The line was long and they had concerns about being in close contact with others. “It was thrilling to be there,’’ Kilpatrick says. “We have to do part two when Canada opens. Next time we’ll do the Maid of the Mist.’’
For more information on Niagara Falls USA, visit www.niagarafallsusa.com
Note: Travel smart in the age of COVID-19. Do your homework before leaving home. Plan ahead, make reservations in advance and check for restrictions/limitations at your destination.
Photo: George Kilpatrick, creator and host of “Inspiration for the Nation” on Power620 AM, visited Niagara Falls last fall. “It was so replenishing!” he says.