Why Summer 2020 Might be the Best Time to Visit Saratoga Springs

So we all well know that the #1 summer attraction in town is the Saratoga Race Track, with Saratoga Preforming Arts Center (SPAC) coming in a close second. And we also know that both of these spots are just about closed this summer with cancelled concerts and spectator-free racing. But what out-of-towners may not be so privy to, is that this is actually the perfect summer to explore the area.

Before getting into the reasons why I suggest you think again before canceling your weekend in Saratoga this summer, there are a few things I would like to mention. First and foremost, there is quite clearly still a global pandemic looming over us all, so please, bring your mask, sanitizer, and manners. Second, I did my best to tailor a lot of these suggestions to outdoor and socially distant activities for a safe and happy summer. And lastly, I will be outlining some of the best places in the AREA, thus not solely focusing on downtown Saratoga Springs. So yes, I know that some of these places may not be in the downtown zip code.

So here we go!

Great Dining and Drinking Experiences

From downtown, to waterfront and beyond, Saratoga has some of the best restaurants and bars. And since it is such a popular summer destination already, there are so many outside options to keep the COVID away! Here are some good ones:

  1. Gaffney’s: This is a restaurant and arguably the most popular bar in the area, offering generous outdoors space with live music, string lights, outdoor bar and fire pits! Located on Caroline St. in downtown Saratoga. Plus, without racetrack travelers you will wait in line a whole 20 minutes less to get in.
  2. Dock Brown’s Lakeside Tavern: This is a fun spot located right on Brown’s Beach on Saratoga Lake. You can drive, or dock your boat for some family fun. Dining is available indoor/outdoor. And yes, you may bring drinks in plastic cups down to the beach. I know you were wondering.
  3. Druther’s: Alongside Gaffney’s, Druthers is another staple to downtown Saratoga. This is a great spot for lunch or dinner, plus they brew their own beer! This spot offers both indoor and outdoor dining space, as well as live music. You can expect a wait here as it is incredibly popular to both tourists and locals, but it certainly will not disappoint.
  4. Longfellows: If you are looking for a great dinner (or hotel) a bit outside the hustle and bustle of downtown, this is the perfect spot. Longfellows offers a very unique and cozy indoor dining atmosphere and delicious upscale food. (My personal favorite restaurant is Longfellows’ sister, The Olde Bryan Inn, located downtown with indoor and outdoor dining. FYI.)
  5. Wheatfield’s: Because you cannot leave out great Italian from this list. Wheatfield’s makes noticeably awesome handmade pasta dishes, my favorite filet minion, and also has the best happy our in town (BOGO free AND app specials).
  6. 550 Waterfront: This spot is brand new this summer, taking the place of the old ‘Lake Local’ restaurant that was taken by fire a few years back. 550 Waterfront is easily the most anticipated summer spot (opening June 25th) by locals. Here you can expect the exact menu you would hope to find waterfront with plenty of indoor and outdoor dining space as well as lounge chairs and fire pits.
  7. The Saratoga City Tavern: This establishment offers multiple levels of themed bars, the most popular being it’s rooftop. It will be a great place to enjoy without the racetrack crowds.
  8. The Night Owl: Last but not least on the list is another bar with plenty of neat outdoors space. This is also a newer bar this year, right to the left of the tail end of the Caroline St. bars. Definitely worth a visit!

Plenty of Outdoor Fun

Within Saratoga and the surrounding area, you can find some really great spots for outdoor fun. Everything I am going to mention below should be within a 20 minute drive.

  1. Moreau Lake State Park: This is a small lake a short drive north of Saratoga. Here you can find camping, hikes, kayaking, bbq spots, and a beautiful each. I love to bring my dog here for hikes with her long swimming rope, as the distance around the lake is not too challenging but definitely a good exercise. The beach is kept very clean, and there are very minimal motorized boats.
  2. Saratoga Spa State Park: Its not called Saratoga Springs for nothing! Check out Saratoga Spa State Park to explore some of the natural springs the town is known for. Plus, yes there is an actual spa here! Book a fabulous massage and mineral bath if you’d like. In addition, you can find many trails, picnic spots, two public swimming pools, a Farmer’s Market, golf course, and more!
  3. Kayak Shak: This is a super cute spot on Saratoga Lake where you can rent single/double kayaks, and paddle boards for 3 or 6 hour periods.
  4. Malta Drive-In Theatre: Check out the drive-in movies Friday-Sunday for socially distant family fun! There are food and beverage options onsite, but you can also buy a $5 food and beverage permit to bring your own.
  5. Lake George: Of course Lake George is its own town, but only a 25 minute drive from Saratoga it is certainly worth mentioning!

Shopping

If you are a shopper, you will find some really cool spots here!

  1. Broadway-Downtown Saratoga: One of my favorite pass times is walking up and down Broadway and stopping in all of the little shops and boutiques. Two of my favorites are Lola Saratoga and Lifestyles.
  2. Factory Outlets of Lake George: This outdoor outlet mall is a great place to score some great deals at Michael Kors, Yankee Candle, GAP, and more! Plus it is only 25 minutes from Saratoga Springs for a fun day of shopping AND fresh air.
  3. Ballston Spa: Ballston Spa is a great spot for antique shopping, and Milton Ave is the best place to start. You will find a number of cool store fronts for antique treasures. Milton Ave is also home to my favorite furniture consignment shop- Rebuilding Together Saratoga. Milton Ave in Ballston Spa is about a 15 minute drive from Saratoga Springs.

Even though we will be missing the races, the concerts, and the gatherings; Saratoga Springs still has a great summer full of awesome new experiences. Take this opportunity to skip the commotion and craziness that typically is summer in Saratoga and come for a visit!

Plattsburgh, NY Doesn’t Actually Suck

You know how outsiders blatantly disregard the entire state of New York anywhere north of Manhattan? Well, us New Yorkers tend to treat Plattsburgh similarly. Honestly it does have like 13 families and smell like cow poop. However, there is a lot to be said about why this town IS worth a trip.

For those of you unfamiliar with the North Country, Plattsburgh, right outside the northeast part of the Adirondack Park- off exit 38 on the Northway (87). It is about a 2 hour straight shoot from Saratoga Springs, and roughly 4 hours from Central New York. Some may even consider it Southern Canada.

Despite common belief that Plattsburgh, NY is nothing but a frozen tundra of dispair; All the best activities Plattsburgh has to offer are most enjoyed during the summertime. So with that being said, I highly suggest you visit for a summer weekend. You could even make a whole week out of this trip thanks to the proximity to Burlington, VT and Montreal Canada.

Here are some notable spots to point out for your trip…

Lodging

Since I decided for you that you will be staying in Plattsburgh during the summer months, I highly suggest Marine Village Cottages. These cottages are right on Lake Champlain and consist of 3 bedrooms, a full kitchen, bathroom and living area with fireplace and TV. Outside you have another fire pit and picnic table. Also important to note, they are very CLEAN!

Some cottages are lake front like the one I stayed in, others may not have the same access directly, but are still within lake view just across the dirt road. Another awesome perk of staying here is the main office with a general store, fire wood, grills and games for camper use.

The best part is all of this for such reasonable rates! A cottage nightly rate varies from $135-$195, which is at most $390 for a weekend. If you are traveling with family or friends and have say, 6 people in your cottage, that is only $65 each.

Here are some photos from my stay.

Food

We all know how important a good restaurant or two are for a satisfying weekend getaway, and Plattsburgh definitely doesn’t dissappoint. Here are some great options.

Breakfast: Campus Corner is a really great diner with old time vibes, right in the downtown part of Plattsburgh. Locals will not hesitate to point you here for the best breakfast in town. (note: cash only)

Lunch: Valcour Brewing Company is a really cool spot you absolutely should check out when in town. Valcour is located within The Old Stone Barracks, offering history, great beer and awesome food. The dining experience is more casual which makes it great for lunch. (I will note that this is also an optional place to stay as there is also an Inn, which you can check out on their website.)

Dinner: Anthony’s Restaurant & Bistro has the very best sit down meals. Their menu is so unique, and my personal favorite is their Venison Steak when available. Anthony’s does a great job at sourcing local foods in season and has a cozy and classy environment.

Also to be noted… Plattsburgh is home to the Michigan, which is a super incredible version of a loaded hot dog. You can get one of these at McSweeney’s.

Drink

If there is one thing you should never under-estimate it is Plattsburgh’s ability to drink. Here are some good spots.

Daytime Drinking: Because why would you not? There are two spots to be pointed out here. First being Highlands Vineyard for great wine and an even better view (photos below). When not in quarantine, they have adirondack chairs and fire pits for an extra added cozy factor. Plus the family who owns this spot is incredibly friendly.

The next spot to mention is Ausable Brewing. On the weekends, you can find lots of fun and food trucks here. Just in case wine isn’t your thing. (On an unrelated note, in case you haven’t put 2 and 2 together yet, Ausable Chasm is right nearby and definitely worth the visit. It is also pictured above.)

Happy Hour: The best happy hour in town is 2 for 1 at Butcher Block, and if you are feeling a littel hungry before dinner, they also offer really great happy hour snacks. It gets pretty busy though, because all 13 families in town are regulars.

Late Night: Two of my favorite spots for a weekend evening in Plattsburgh are Sip, and Olive Ridley’s. Both are located right downtown among other restaurants and bars. I love Sip for it’s super cool and unique atmosphere, and also they have champagne on draft. Olive Ridley’s is great for a dive bar feel, with lots of space and live music. Green Room should also be noted as a popular night out. Here you can play games like darts, fooseball and pool.

Excursions and Activities

As I breifly mentioned earlier, Plattsburgh is a pretty short distance from some other really cool spots. But also- Farmer’s and Crafter’s Market! Duh!

Burlington, VT is about a 45 minute trip via ferry and has a lot of shopping, and the first ever Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream. To the north, you can get to Montreal Canada in about 1 hour for some exploring abroad to get yourself nice and cultured.

If you are into getting active, there is plenty of your typical lake fun to be found on Lake Champlain. Or, you can get out for a good hike at Poke-o-Moonshine for a rewarding view.

Regardless of your interests, I think we can all agree that Plattsburgh has something everyone can get behind.

First Farmer’s and Crafter’s Market of the season!

Why You Should Visit Your Local Farmers’ Market

There are so many incredible benefits of shopping at a Farmers’ Market, that it just makes sense to start incorporating a trip into your weekend routine. No matter where you live, New York State towns and cities love a good Farmers’ Market, and it is likely there is one (if not multiple) nearby. And yes, even New York City brings in plenty of local farmers and artisans to put on some of the largest Farmer’s Markets I have visited.

Here are some reasons why I think the Farmer’s Market is so underrated and deserves more loving…

The food is fresher AND cheaper…

Just about every stand is made up of fresh, seasonal goods that came right from the local farm. From fresh picked fruits and veggies, to the eggs collected that morning- your local Farmers’ Market offers an avenue to healthier eating.

Eliminating long distance transportation and packaging costs, as well as bulk harvesting, cleaning and preservatives. You will tend to find lower prices as well as healthier options. If you ask me, this already makes it a no brainer!

Plus, the majority of vendors use the square and have no minimum for accepting credit/debit cards. For the few who have not yet made the change, many Farmers’ Markets will offer a portable ATM for taking out cash.

You can probably find most of your grocery list (and some) here…

On a Saturday afternoon at the Saratoga Farmers’ Market or a Sunday visit to the Spa City Farmers’ Market, I can get the majority of what I need for the week.

If you plan meals for the week around fruits and veggies currently in season, you should have no trouble finding just about everything you’ll need. Beyond the typical fruit and vegetable stands, you can also get so much more. I get my peanut butter, pickles, honey, milk, eggs and seasonings at my local market. There are also meat stands, fresh herbs, baked goods, coffee, condiments, cheeses, alcohol and already prepared meals if you so desire. And of course, this list is not exhaustive and there is much much more the Farmer’s Market has to offer.

A trip to the Farmer’s Market on a beautiful Saturday or Sunday afternoon should get a nice chunk of your grocery list checked off, making a trip to the grocery store to get any extras pretty quick and painless.

You are supporting local farmers, artisans and community members…

So I have already explained how you will find fresher, healthier, cheaper goods at the Farmer’s Market which is already a pretty good reason to skip out on your heavy duty grocery run, but you will also be supporting members of your local community. And in today’s world this is more important than ever and in itself, should be a reason to visit.

The purchases you make at your local market are directly and immediately impacting the pockets of families in your neighborhood. Families who work hard for and rely on you to stay afloat and express their immense appreciation for each and every visit.

So why not feel GOOD about your grocery shopping that you already need to do anyway?

It is WAY more fun than the grocery store…

Obviously, but if you need me to explain…

A lot of Farmers’ Markets (Spa City Farmers’ Market in Saratoga is one) offer live music, samples at just about every stand, fresh hot lunches of all kinds, and a family and pet friendly atmosphere.

The Farmer’s Market is a fun outing for the family to get used to and excited for- which is something I know you don’t say about Price Chopper. So, instead of dreading the jam packed Sunday afternoon grocery haul, enjoy your Saturday or Sunday afternoon at the Farmers’ Market and save the extras for a quick stop Monday after work.

You make connections, bonds and learn new things…

Once you begin to frequent the Farmers’ Market and shop at the same vendors and see the same faces, it is inevitable to start new relationships within your community.

Plus, these people are EXPERTS at what they sell, so you can ask questions about what you are buying, learn best uses and new recipes. You’ll find veggies you never new existed. I learned about white beets last week.

And again, you are not going to find these perks at Price Chopper anytime soon.

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This weekend I challenge you to put on your mask, pack your reusable bags, and head to the Farmer’s Market. Many times, you can even check out their website to see which vendors you can typically expect to see there.

You can also follow my Instagram page @Conexsu as I share some of my favorite local goods and why I love them so much!

The Post-Quarantine Adventure Everyone Should Try

Obviously there are a lot… but let’s start here.

I recently bought a dollar store draw erase board for my fridge, and made a list of all the things I’m super excited to do after quarantine. It’s crazy the simple pleasures we so easily take for granted- dining out, grabbing a drink with someone you care about, the farmer’s market…a ‘quick’ trip to TJ MAXX! So I guess some sort of a thank you is in order to COVID for the unnecessarily tough reminder to slow down and smell the freaking flowers.

It isn’t new news I’m sharing when I say that this time has been tough; financially, and mentally. A lot of us have fallen off the wagon one way or another. Whether it be a halt to the routine you finally got rolling, or maybe the gym membership you actually started using. Could just be more frequent liquor store trips than you’d like to admit. I’ll say that all of the above applies to me. And it’s pretty tough on my anxiety (as I type this during day #51 of quarantine).This is why one of my top post-quarantine to do list items is an opportunity to unplug and relax to get back on track.

Adirondack Airbnb Staycations

If you ask me, I think the use of Airbnb staycations close to home is generally very underrated! And one of the best Airbnb staycation spots is right in our backyard; The Adirondacks.

This is a really awesome way to explore new spots at truly any price point, with an array of options in terms of driving distance.

We first gave the idea a go this fall (you can see a snap of where we stayed right below), and it was such a great way to disconnect and make great memories without losing vacation time or over-spending. I’d suggest this for a fun girls trip (or friends in general), or as just a nice getaway with your significant other.

Basically, there are two ways you can go about planning your Airbnb staycation…

One option is to open up Airbnb, and type in “Adirondacks” as your destination. Then select ‘stays’. Next, choose your filters to find the ideal Airbnb for you. For example; I would include my budget, entire place to myself, fireplace, hot tub, etc. Once you find the perfect stay that excites you, you really just wing the rest from there. Some suggestions….

  • Research the surrounding area for a new small town to explore. Go shopping, grab a meal, try a tiny little dive bar.
  • Message your Airbnb host! There is no better way to find the best things to do nearby.
  • Have a bonfire… its called glamping.
  • Make dinner together (and also your favorite drink-this simply can’t be left out). Airbnb options frequently have full kitchens.
  • Hike around. Find a keepsake, like a cool leaf or rock.
  • Make the trip out, and the trip home part of the experience. Stop at every cool/intriguing spot you see, you won’t regret it.
  • Stargazing. With wine.
  • Sunrise coffee… followed by sunset cocktail?
  • Bring games. Don’t forget the games.
  • Or maybe bring a craft?
  • Find somewhere to swim. Or kayak. Paddleboard if you’re coordinated.
  • Whatever it is that helps your mind relax, do that.

If the above isn’t the route you want to go. Understandably a spontaneous one. You can flip your planning around the other way and first find a cool little town you’d love to explore. Chances are there is going to be an Airbnb nearby. Plus, there are a lot of people ready to brag about their cute little Adirondack towns so you should have no trouble finding someplace great. Either way, the above bullets all still apply.

Whichever direction you choose, this is an experience that will not disappoint. The cool part about these trips like I said, is that time and expenses are so low and there are so many spots to discover. You can collect these memories and experiences and find what might be your new favorite place.

So get the babysitter on queue for after quarantine, and let me know if you decide to give it a try!

^^Some more snaps of our last Adirondack Airbnb staycation.

Beekman 1802

Beauty in goat milk

As I quickly approach 25, I have been increasingly focused on a healthy body. Currently, my very favorite products for taking care of my skin and hair, are ones I found during a visit to the Beekman 1802 store in Sharon Springs (during an impromptu day trip for the Schitt’s Creep pop up). And, as a side note, Sharon Springs is a quaint town worth a really great trip to explore and enjoy impressive food and shopping. I highly suggest lunch at the American Hotel.

The Beekman 1802 Story…

Beekman 1802 is a mansion and farm turned neighborly business by founders Brent Ridge and Josh Kilmer-Purcell. The property was first established back in 1802 by William Beekman- and thus we have, Beekman 1802. However, the star of the show really ought to be highlighted… the goats. And by the way, you can check out their website for a baby goat cam. Thank me in the comments.

The Beekman 1802 brand boasts an array of clean products from hair and skincare to sweet and savory foods (foods this blog post is not about- but you should definitely still give a try). Much of what is produced at the mercantile centers around the goat milk ingredient, and definitely does not disappoint.

There are of course, many benefits of goat milk that I will now very professionally explain. Goat milk is high in nutrients for your skin to soak up- such as vitamin A and a couple B’s. It also maintains a similar pH level as natural human skin, which, in very unscientific terms, is good. Additionally, goat milk itself is made up of fatty acids which aid in locking down moisture- outside of any added ingredients also known to ensure a smooth finish.

Potentially the most important aspect of this company, is that the founders of Beekman 1802 go the extra mile in establishing a warm and welcoming atmosphere around their business. All customers are referred to as ‘neighbors’, and they are also community involved. In the wake of the current COVID-19 crisis, Beekman 1802 is doing their part to spread community joy. They have been taking daily nominations for nurses in the front lines (my Dad being one) who deserve a little hand-washing luxury, and sending soap and lotion sets to our medical professionals.

My Favorites…

Though I haven’t yet had the opportunity to try all that Beekman 1802 has to offer, I have been able to explore a variety of products and added some new staples into my routine. Before sharing my favorites, I will preface this by saying, everything I buy is in the scent Ylang Ylang & Tuberose. I also enjoy the smell of the Honey & Orange Blossom line as well as the Schitt’s Creek tribute, Rose Apothecary scent.

For the face… Every morning I start my day with ‘The ONE Bar’, which combines properties from goat milk as well as egg whites for a very gentle cleanse. I have always been told by skincare professionals to use a gentle cleanser in the mornings, and a more targeted approach at night. This bar comes in a cute ceramic dish and leaves my skin feeling squeaky clean. ($15)

For the full body… My two go-to products for head to toe moisture and fragrance are the ‘Goat Milk Hand & Body Wash’ (which I keep in the shower but chose for its dual capabilities), and the ‘Goat Milk Lotion’. I love these two because they feel so clean, leave my skin noticeably softer than other name brand products, and the smell is very much not “perfumey” yet lasts long after applying. ($20 each)

For the hands… I try to keep Beekman 1802 hand cream in my purse, and it is definitely a must at my desk. Again, I absolutely love smelling like the Ylang Ylang & Tuberose line, but this product also does its job. I get dry hands in the winter and I find that a lot of hand lotions ware off quickly and I have to re-apply every hour. This stuff keeps my hands smooth for hours, and thus one tube lasts a while. ($15)

For the hair… Another product I like to keep in my shower is the ‘Apple Cider Hair Rinse’ for a more gentle clean in between full washes. In my opinion, this has allowed me to space out days between shampooing which makes my hair less puffy. ($30)

In addition to the products I like to keep around, Beekman 1802 also has full skincare lines including masks and eye creams as well as shampoo and conditioner options in the same scents as their body care.

I encourage you all to check out this brand in person for a day trip to Sharon Springs, and you can also check them out at www.beekman1802.com. In addition to testing their products, Beekman 1802 also offers farm tours. If you do give them a try, please share with me your feedback!

As always, thank you for reading and continuing to follow along. Two weeks from today (May 3) will be my next post. I hope you continue with me!

Behind the Blog

CONESXU: Connect.Explore.Support.

I wanted to write my very first blog post as an introduction to the ideas and passions that I built this entire adventure on. In doing so, I felt it important to break down the ‘CONEXSU’ title and the three words it represents; Connect, Explore and Support.

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Connect. The word ‘connect’ is the first and most applicable to the blog function of this experience.

My vision for this blog is to connect my friends, family and hopefully others across the state in sharing all that I learn through my adventures in this process. Ideally, my blog will serve as a source of new ideas that inspire others to explore and support the communities around us.

In addition to connecting my readers to new experiences, I am hopeful that you can all connect me to some of your favorite parts of your local communities. Whether it be a small business in your area, a favorite day (or overnight) trip, or a community organization deserving of a bit more recognition. I aim to experience and share them here with others.

Explore. I chose the word ‘explore’ as it encompasses the idea of finding and learning more about the ways in which we can all do more.

We each have local adventures that make our souls happy. We also have local organizations that we choose to go the extra mile to support, whether it be a restaurant, small shop, or non-profit. And I feel that we can all benefit from exposure to new and different adventures as well as organizations to experience.

My goal is to explore these spots and share them here with others to also experience and love.

Support. The word ‘support’ is certainly the most essential part of this experience, and most directly connected to the passions behind my idea to begin this adventure.

I have long felt a strong pull towards supporting others. Never knowing (and still not clear) the shape this takes or the path meant for me. However, I know that I need to start somewhere. And what better place than exploring what is out there within our own communities?

I hope that through the experiences I gain from this blog, I will learn about and subsequently share ways in which we can support others, starting in our backyard.

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I appreciate everyone who is starting out with me and taking the time to read what I have to share. I hope you continue along, and please share with me your ideas and feedback.

I hope you visit for my next post on Monday April 20th, where I will share with you my very favorite local beauty company! This business has provided me with a healthy way to feel great in my skin while contributing to the local economy.

“The greatness of a community is most accurately measured by the compassionate actions of its members.” -Coretta Scott King