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Screw Black Friday. We’re going handmade gift shopping.

Inaugural edition of FESTIVE in 2017; photo courtesy Greylock WORKS.
Inaugural edition of FESTIVE in 2017; photo courtesy Greylock WORKS.

The days of packing on the layers, piling into the station wagon, and schlepping to the local department store the day after Thanksgiving to do all of your holiday shopping in one marathon swoop are over. (And thank whatever higher power is in charge for that one. Nobody really wanted those Christmas-tree sweaters with light-up ornaments, monogrammed towels, nose-hair trimmers, or jumbo boxes of Whitman’s Samplers, anyway.)

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Snapshot Travel Guide
Hoosick Falls, New York

Mural based on Anna Mary Robertson's, a.k.a. Grandma Moses, 1960 painting Wagon Repair Shop; photo by Robin Catalano.
Mural based on Anna Mary Robertson's, a.k.a. Grandma Moses, 1960 painting Wagon Repair Shop; photo by Robin Catalano.

A curious village with a tenacious history, Hoosick Falls is located in the town of Hoosick, between the Capital Region of New York and Bennington, VT. Originally settled in the mid-1700s, it was torched during French and Indian War. Settlers returned and rebuilt, and it became an industry powerhouse during the Victorian era. Like many once-prosperous industrial towns in the Hudson Valley, it eventually declined in the mid-1900s. But this sleepy village is on the verge of a major wake-up and shake-up, with a concerted effort in economic development currently under way.

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Weekend Picks: The Haunt: Forest Frights in New Lebanon; FilmColumbia

The Haunt Halloween Trail; photo by Robin Catalano.
The Haunt Halloween Trail; photo by Robin Catalano.

For this edition of our Weekend Travel Pick, we’ve got a Columbia County, New York, twofer: one of the region’s best film festivals, and some spooky pre-Halloween fun.

The Haunt: Forest Frights in New Lebanon

Go ahead. Ring the doorbell.

Then push open the creaky gate—the one with the blinking eyeball—and be plunged into the darkness, with only an itty-bitty flashlight, some caution tape, and your own sense of self-possession to guide you. You’re in The Haunt, Columbia County’s newest spookfest. For the next 40 minutes, you’ll wander a twisting haunted Halloween trail in the woods of New Lebanon—which, if I’m being honest, can be pretty hair-raising all on their own at night.

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Best of Hudson Shopping: Clothing, Jewelry & Accessories

Much of the great shopping in Hudson, New York can be found on Warren Street; photo by Dan Region.
Much of the great shopping in Hudson, New York can be found on Warren Street; photo by Dan Region.

Best of Hudson Shopping: Clothing, Jewelry & Accessories

Living in a quiet rural region has its perks. There’s plenty of room to spread out when you want to make like Greta Garbo and be alone. There are dozens of farm-to-table restaurants and farm-to-bottle beverage producers serving some truly inspired food and drink. It’s beautiful, even when it’s -10 degrees F and the wind is howling, and especially during the parade of color in the fall. And it’s rare to spend more than a few minutes in traffic, even when there’s a jam (or, more likely, endless road construction).

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Snapshot Travel Guide —
Castle Hill, Ipswich, Mass.

Robin doesn’t stop moving for long. She’s in Europe at the moment, and we can’t wait for her to share some of the stories and images she’s picking up in her travels. Just before she went abroad, though, she toured one of America’s “castles” in Ipswich, Mass.

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The Finger Lakes: A Composition in Three Movements

Dr. Konstantin Frank vineyards overlooking Keuka Lake. Frank ignited the “Vinifera Revolution” in the FLX; photo by Nancy Koziol.
Dr. Konstantin Frank vineyards overlooking Keuka Lake. Frank ignited the “Vinifera Revolution” in the FLX; photo by Nancy Koziol. 

It never fails: If I see a piano without a sign that specifically says not to play it, I play it. Not for more than a few seconds. Not more than a quick dash over the keys. Usually it’s a bit of Chopin or Clementi. I keep it light. No one likes the attention seeker who sits down and plays an entire recital. For me, it’s something that I just need to do, while standing, for a few seconds.

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Unsung Eats: The KShack in New Lebanon

The KShack, which opened on the Fourth of July, 2019 in New Lebanon, serves up seasonal delights, locally sourced when possible; photo by Robin Catalano.
The KShack, which opened on the Fourth of July, 2019 in New Lebanon, serves up seasonal delights, locally sourced when possible; photo by Robin Catalano.

Drive through New Lebanon on Route 20, and you may notice something a little different: a colorful, comics-esque sign for The KShack. It’s easy to pass if you’re on a mission from Pittsfield to Albany or from New York City to the Berkshires, but this roadside food stand, set off the main drag on Tilden Lane, is worth a stop. In each travel direction.

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Beyond the Witches: 48 Hours in Salem

For locals and tourists alike, Salem Willows has been the heart of Salem for generations; photo by Robin Catalano.
For locals and tourists alike, Salem Willows has been the heart of Salem for generations; photo by Robin Catalano.

And now a Halloween-bubble-bursting PSA: there were never any witches in Salem.

At least not in 1692, and not in the cauldron-stirring, body-snatching way Hollywood would have us believe. And while this minor thrill—that something wicked supposedly this way comes—might seem like a reason to visit Salem, it’s not the best one, not by a mile. The real reason to make a weekend getaway to Salem is because this quirky, energized city has evolved from its roots as a maritime trading power into an eclectic destination with dozens of options for exploration—most of them affordable and accessible, and nearly all of them memorable.

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Treading a Spiritual Path:
Hiking Shaker Mountain

Shaker Reservoir in late Summer; submitted photo.
Shaker Reservoir in late Summer; submitted photo.

In this place, footfalls seem softer. The air somehow seems easier to breathe, and the rays of sunshine that stream between the birches and pines more brilliant. The soil even smells sweeter. In this place, where water shushes through rock-strewn brooks and the wind plays the trees like tambourines, centuries-old history comes alive like a heartbeat.

This place is Shaker Mountain.

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Snapshot Travel Guide — Exeter, New Hampshire

A view of Exeter from across the banks of the Squamscott River, a popular body of water for canoeing, kayaking, boating, and fishing along some sections; photo by Robin Catalano.
Exeter was founded in 1638 by a group of Puritan rabble-rousers who were tossed out of the Massachusetts Bay Colony for their dissident religious views. It’s also the birthplace of sculptor Daniel Chester French; photo by Robin Catalano.
You won’t want for food choices in Exeter. Our top pick at hip-and-healthful Laney & Lu: Thai peanut noodles with carrots, beets, cabbage, avocado, beet-pickled egg, and watermelon radish; photo by Robin Catalano.
The Ladd-Gilman House, originally built in 1721, was the state treasury during the Revolution. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, it’s now a museum, and houses one of only 26 surviving copies of the Dunlap Broadside (the first reproduction copies of the Declaration of Independence) and two rare drafts of the U.S. Constitution; photo by Robin Catalano.
Lest you think Exeter is all crusty historical stuff, every Labor Day Weekend, the town hosts a UFO Festival, to commemorate a mysterious incident. In 1965, a young man was hitching a ride home when he noticed flashing red lights that seemed to hover over a farm, then move toward him. The same evening, a woman was found sitting in her car along Route 108, visibly shaken from having been followed for miles by a “huge object with flashing red lights.” Two police officers later testified to having seen the same unidentified object. Virtually all shops and restaurants in the Downtown Area Commercial District get in on the alien-invasion fun.
Despite its small size and walkability, downtown Exeter has a surprising number of shops. Serendipity is a great choice for housewares, gifts, and clothing; photo by Robin Catalano.
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We always think of you when we’re off adventuring — wouldn’t it be great if we could ALL go touring together?

On second thought, that might look like an invasion from Greylock Nation! But we can share snapshot moments that let you in our fave finds in both near and far–flung locales (is “near-flung a thing?) If you’ve been to this destination, leave a comment below to share your favorite restaurant, shop, attraction, or other feature.

The Sea Is All About Us

VIDEO: However many whale watches you’ve enjoyed, a whale watch in Gloucester is a don’t-miss. Here, a humpback dives for a meal; video by Floren Garcia.

Driving along the boulder-strewn coast of Gloucester, Massachusetts, gives the impression of endless shoreline. Beach rose, summersweet, and milkweed bloom in tight clusters above towering cliffs, their tops desert hues of clay and sand, their bottoms turned inky by millennia of ocean swells. Scenic beaches, where foamy waves slurp against the shore and seagulls trawl the water’s edge for reckless crabs, appear regularly along coast-hugging Route 127. The air is heavy with salt, slightly tacky on the fingertips and damp against the throat. Massive hotels and the homes of the not necessarily famous but certainly capable of dropping a cool few million jut out over the ocean like patrician jaws, glossy and studiously lived-in.

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Weekend Travel Pick: Hudson Valley Hot-Air Balloon Festival

Image of Hot Air Balloon. Caption: Ever wonder what a hot air balloon ride feels like? Why not treat yourself to a tethered launch? You might get hooked on the feeling! Photo by Robin Catalano.
Ever wonder what a hot air balloon ride feels like? Why not treat yourself to a tethered launch? You might get hooked on the feeling! Photo by Robin Catalano.

A few facts you might not know about hot-air balloons: it’s hot—as in, skin-prickling hot—riding directly beneath their burners. Hot-air balloons also rise off the ground a lot faster than you’d think, and can vertically travel 10 feet or more per second. And once you’re up, you feel weightless and free-floating, as if you’re suspended over the landscape on the gentle breath of the breeze.

Another fact: the Hudson Valley Hot Air Balloon Festival, now in its 28th year, returns—bigger and more aww-inspiring—to the Dutchess County Fairgrounds in Rhinebeck, New York, this weekend. Dubbed “Little Albuquerque” by insiders (after the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, the largest in the world), the Hudson Valley festival started out as a 10-balloon event with 3,000 spectators. Last year, 35,000 people came out to watch more than twice as many balloons. This year, with more than 100 morning and evening launches of 30 invitation-only balloons helmed by both national and international riders, attendance may tip the scale at closer to 50,000.

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