Go, Keem, Go

to philly and beyond

Tag: Connecticut

Waterworld & Wedgies: Brownstone Park, Portland, CT

What if I told you that there’s a magical place, where swimmers and non-swimmers can both have the time of their lives in complete, equal harmony? What if I told…

What if I told you that there’s a magical place, where swimmers and non-swimmers can both have the time of their lives in complete, equal harmony?

What if I told you that it’s only roughly five hours away from Philly? I tell you what, five hours or not, you better find a way to get here.

As part of another adventure weekend with my nieces, we made an absurd promise that if they survive a four or five hour car ride from Philly to Connecticut, their wildest water park dreams will come true. We based this promise off of Brownstone Exploration & Discovery Park’s OK website, which contain OK-quality-but-extreme-enough action videos. Zip lines? Into water? Giant slides? LIFE JACKETS REQUIRED? We couldn’t pack our swim suits fast enough.

IMG_8513

 

 

 

Brownstone E & D Park is an abandoned rock-quarry turned adventure land. Once a construction resource in the 1690’s, its grounds now boast a variety of activities to please your average outdoorsman, and tucker out your average seven-year-old. We’re talking, as mentioned, zip lines across the giant body of water, a 100-foot slide, inflatable obstacle courses for both kids and adults, wakeboarding, cliff jumping, and of course, the non-water or less-extreme sports we didn’t observe that day, like kayaking, canoeing, mountain biking and rock wall climbing.

Screen-shot-2015-08-17-at-9.08.06-PM

For a pittance of $22, you can get an all-day “DIY activities” pass, for swimming, hiking, biking, snorkeling and kayaking, plus a pretty beaten-up, tattered life jacket; I’d suggest BYO for comfort. For $10 more, you can access the basics, plus the extreme activities, like inflatable obstacle courses, zip lines, and life jacket, as well. The girls insisted on the extreme pass to which we, the spoilers of weekend, agreed. And thank goodness, because they had a blast on the squishy log-spinner, and obstacle courses, which ended with jumping off of a squishy, non-threatening cliff, and into the dark quarry water, seaweed tangling their ankles.

Michael and I were happy to watch the girls together for two hours, but switched off an hour each for separate adult time. Michael had taken one of the girls to the 100-foot water slide. It was around noon, with about a 20-minute wait in line. Before I knew it, my little niece was flying down the slide from a cliff, shooting out at the end like a little bullet. She bobbed up effortlessly in her life jacket.

IMG_8520

 

For my own adult activity, I wanted to take the zip line without harnesses, so I could drop myself in the water, mid-line. The wait time was miserable at that point (maybe 30-45 minute wait, around 2 PM?) so I eyeballed the shortest line: the cliff jump.

Being such a weak swimmer, I’ve never done anything of this sort. But I figured with the life jacket, why not? A note about the park, important to mention: there is no height, weight, or age restriction for any activity. You sign a waiver and plunge at your own risk.

Thus, I, the adult, should have no problem, right? I skipped the smaller cliff, assuming it was for children, and chose the 25-foot cliff.

I stood at the edge and immediately regretted it. I needed an adult. I needed my nieces. Either of them. It looked so scary. What if there was a rock no one saw? What if I fell on a kid? What if —

“C’mon, lady!” a kid whined. Lady? It was my birthday weekend. Lady, already? This sort of bravado and peer pressure was not unusual at Brownstone, I learned. Despite the mandatory life jackets, more experienced swimmers were inclined to be more impatient, obnoxious (pushy and pushing, for a good laugh), and less sensitive to those, ahem, who needed a little more time.

I jumped before I was ready, hands crossing my life jacket and legs straight, like the park employee instructed.

It felt like forever. My friend told me afterwards that paratroopers train to jump from heights at 33 feet high, because mentally, 33 feet ignites the same fear you feel at 10,000 feet. Well, I was scared. In a little less than a militant way.

I hit the water and immediately felt my left butt cheek bruise. That was nothing compared to the next pain I felt, which can only be described as the most extreme wedgie I’ve ever experienced, or ever will experience, until my next cliff jump. I screamed underwater until I bobbed back up for air. Swimming back to the pier, I avoided eye contact, convinced that everyone knew what I just went through.

We spent almost four hours there. I think if it were only just us adults, we’d have spent a whole day, plus rented out one of their private pier picnic areas. Otherwise, we had to secure a spot underneath some trees on our beach towels, close to other families who smartly brought their own food. I paid an arm and a leg for a veggie burger and chicken nuggets. Never mind the Dip n’ Dots, was exactly what I said to my nieces. They pouted but complied. Can’t complain much, though, free parking!

The day was perfect. The ladies agreed that the car ride was completely worth it, and that it exceeded their expectations (even though one of the girls seemed a little bored towards the end and just wanted ice cream. Sorry, girly.) An A++ from the kids, and an A+++ from this adult. We’ll definitely be back next summer!
Where to?
Brownstone Exploration & Discovery Park: 161 Brownstone Avenue, Portland, CT 06480

No Comments on Waterworld & Wedgies: Brownstone Park, Portland, CT

CT Residents’ Special: Candlewood Lake, Stew Leonard’S, & Pepe’S!

Summertime always ignites the urge to jump into water. Directly related, being stuck in a car with two seven-year-olds will also present this urgency. ‘Tis the season for family roadtrips!…

Summertime always ignites the urge to jump into water. Directly related, being stuck in a car with two seven-year-olds will also present this urgency. ‘Tis the season for family roadtrips! After five hours of being on the road from Philly, the moment we pulled into Connecticut, I felt I owed it to my nieces for sitting patiently in their car seats while enviously watching the gorgeous scenes of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York, fly by.

It was around 5 P.M., and while antsy, by golly we wanted our money’s worth if we were going to find a good spot to cool down. With Candlewood Lake’s fingers visible and sparkling at every turn along the road, we first took time to investigate the free alternative. It didn’t work out.

CT-roadtrip-8455

That wasn’t what we were looking for, so we consulted a Visitors Center list of swimming holes. Squantz Pond: reputedly sizable and budget-friendly. Closed for flooding. New Fairfield Town Park? On top of the absurd amount of money they wanted us to shell out for only 30 minutes of swim time left in the day, non-locals are also required to pledge their first born. PASS. I wasn’t too impressed with the small beach area, anyway. It was mostly grass. Sour grapes, probably.

The kids were wriggling in their seats, trying not implode. Michael checked the map, and drove towards our final, saving destination: Candlewood Town Park. Behold:

CT-roadtrip-8500

There were many families in the water, but we all seemed to have enough dedicated space for our aquatic antics. After a good solid hour of swimming, we all got out and dug holes in the sand, or smacked around the wiffle ball set we brought. Everyone kept to themselves, no one seemed to mind our scrambling; not even the bro-ish lifeguards, who were so eager to call out unruly “little dudes” in the water, and perhaps some snuck in some mild slurs to their buddies in jest over their intercoms. Meh, kids.

What a refreshing feeling, leaving that dreadful, confined car ride and stretching out in the infinite waters of Candlewood Lake, Bear Mountain sprawling before us. For as much as I’ve enjoyed exhausting our explorations in Philadelphia and the New Jersey-area this summer, there’s no denying that you’ve got to travel pretty far to catch a view like this. And it’s worth it.

CT-roadtrip-8504-1024x768ESPECIALLY if you’ve got dinner plans. Simple solution for dinner in the hotel: grab salads and ice cream/free entertainment at Stew Leonard’s, a local grocery store featuring animatronic, singing livestock, fruits and veggies, and other standard kitchen products. Now that’s a sentence I never thought I’d try to put together, but as a childhood memory of Michael’s, it is apparently not very unusual. Not so far from there is the old-trusty, a chain location of Pepe’s! And if there’s anything you’ve learned from this blog, if not travel for the nature, travel for Pepe’s.What a refreshing feeling, leaving that dreadful, confined car ride and stretching out in the infinite waters of Candlewood Lake, Bear Mountain sprawling before us. For as much as I’ve enjoyed exhausting our explorations in Philadelphia and the New Jersey-area this summer, there’s no denying that you’ve got to travel pretty far to catch a view like this. And it’s worth it.

Where to?

Candlewood Town Park: 36 Hayestown Rd. Danbury, CT 06811

Stew Leonard’s: 99 Federal Rd, Danbury, CT 06811

Pepe’s: 59 Federal Rd, Danbury, CT 06810

No Comments on CT Residents’ Special: Candlewood Lake, Stew Leonard’S, & Pepe’S!

An Unlikely Pilgrimage: Holy Land, Usa, CT

I’m finding that most adventures we go on (almost every weekend in the summer, loving it) I make sure to consult Atlas Obscura for a unique or kooky recommendation. On a…

I’m finding that most adventures we go on (almost every weekend in the summer, loving it) I make sure to consult Atlas Obscura for a unique or kooky recommendation. On a recent trip up to Connecticut, after hitting our usual spots like Modern Apizza and seeing family friends, I added a quick, not-so-roadside attraction on the way home.

A nod to my youth (13 awkward years of Catholic school, whatwhat) as well to my adulthood (didn’t play enough as a kid, so now I’m climbing shit, whatwhat), Holy Land, U.S.A. delivered the exploration we were looking for on a creepy, rainy day. Tucked away on a hill past a crumble of seemingly unsuspecting residential row homes, this once bustling religious theme park now exists as the demolished relic of one man’s dreams, and a devastated community’s modern-day nightmare.

holy-land-8021

Did you get shivers yet? At this point, picture me holding a flash light up to my face.

But it’s all true. In 1955, an attorney Waterbury, CT named John Baptist Greco started the construction of what he intended to be a universal place of comfort and worship, across all religions — despite, of course, the emphasis on Christianity. In its hey day, the park attracted up to 40,000 visitors annually. Had my parents known about this, I bet they’d be in that crowd.

holy-land-8024

In 1984, Greco closed the park for further renovations but these plans never reached fruition; he died in 1986, as did his vision.

Visitors came and went throughout the years, mostly vandals and mischief makers. Unfortunately, in 2010, an incredibly sad crime took place in the holy hills, bringing attention once again to Greco’s creation. But not much came of it, except for morbid interest. In 2013, the post-Greco-era caretakers, the Fillipini sisters, sold the property to the Mayor of Waterbury, CT. There are plans for community revitalization efforts, and touring the grounds (past the not-so intimidating “Trespassers Will Be Prosecuted” sign, and despite the handful of deer we saw running through the ruins), there are some indications that this intention lives.

holy-land-8032

For now, I’m glad we caught it in its current state. Technically, it is closed, and as I mentioned, the front gate bears a warning to keep out…never mind that you can actually very easily walk around the gate with no problem.

holy-land-8043

Abandoned spaces often have a long, interesting, and complicated life cycle. A chance for rebirth, a second chance, or a new life is always exciting, especially for the tragically misunderstood Holy Land, U.S.A. If you visit, be respectful, don’t vandalize, and just take in the beauty.

holy-land-8046

Where to?

Holy Land, U.S.A.: Slocum Street, Waterbury, CT 06706

No Comments on An Unlikely Pilgrimage: Holy Land, Usa, CT

Fools for Foliage: An Overview of 3 Days in Connecticut

Around this time last year is when I dove headfirst and committed to a more, well, fearless and adventurous sort of traveling. Michael had his motorcycle. We wanted to go…

Around this time last year is when I dove headfirst and committed to a more, well, fearless and adventurous sort of traveling. Michael had his motorcycle. We wanted to go places. So, we hopped on his bike and together embarked on a long weekend to Connecticut, starting from Philly. That’s about 500 miles roundtrip on a motorcycle, and yes my butt did hurt. Now, this past summer we rode to Ithaca and enjoyed the warm sunlight on our backs, enduring the occasional breeze through our light layers. Motorcycling at the height of foliage season last year, well, you bet it was chilly some moments, then abso-freaking-lutely freezing other times!While the motorcycle provided more spontaneous freedom and room for merry mischief, we decided to skip the cold weather exhaustion/recovery period and rent a car this year. And luckily it proved to be the more superior choice for our accumulated cargo in the end.

Below you can find a list of suggestions of places to stop, starting from Philly (well, NYC in this case). My blog posts on the left are a more thorough breakdown with brief reviews of our experience over the long weekend. Even though this is a foliage/autumn-specific trip, if you’re ever in those parts, these places are still highly suggested.

Enjoy!

Where to?

The Cloisters: The Metropolitan Museum of Art: 99 Margaret Corbin Drive | New York, NY 10040

Frank Pepe’s: 163 Wooster St. | New Haven, CT 06511

Modern Apizza: 874 State St. | New Haven, CT 06511

Yale University Art Gallery: 1111 Chapel St. | New Haven, CT 06510

Yale Center for British Art: 1080 Chapel St. | New Haven, CT 06510

East Rock Park:  41 Cold Spring St. | Hamden, CT 06511

Bishop’s Orchards Farm Market & Winery: 1355 Boston Post Road | Guilford, CT 06437

Essex Town Docks: 9 Ferry St. | Essex, CT 06426

Udupi Bhavan: 749 Saybrook Road | Middletown, CT 06457

Avon Old Farms Hotel: 279 Avon Mountain Rd. | Avon, CT 06001

The Adventure Park at Storrs Connecticut: 2007 Storrs Road | Storrs, Connecticut 06268

University of Connecticut: Storrs, CT 06269

Mansfield Hollow State Park: Mansfield, CT

Logee’s Plants for Home & Garden: 141 North Street | Danielson, CT 06239 ‎

No Comments on Fools for Foliage: An Overview of 3 Days in Connecticut

CT Day 3: Huskies Who Lunch, Getting Weird in Parks, and Bingeing on Rare Plants

For the past two nights, we had watched spooky movies before passing out under the fluffy comforter at the Avon Old Farms Hotel. A steal through Priceline, we scored a discounted…

For the past two nights, we had watched spooky movies before passing out under the fluffy comforter at the Avon Old Farms Hotel. A steal through Priceline, we scored a discounted room for two nights in the Annex building (dubbed the “Economy” option on the website). There was supposedly a 24-hour hot tub somewhere on the lovely premises, but we were too beat take advantage. Before we knew it, Monday had arrived and it was time to journey back to Philly.

But of course it wasn’t just a straight shot (it never is). There were sights to be seen along the way (there always are).

First stop, past the cool zip line park we didn’t have time for, was University of Connecticut, Michael’s Alma Mater. He thought it’d be fun to grab lunch in the cafeteria, and I got to immerse myself in the rural state school experience. I had a good time listening to his stories as a mischievous graphic design student, and marveled at the gorgeous, sprawling campus and resources available to the students. We paid for our lunches as outside guests but somehow still got reprimanded for leaving the cafeteria without bathroom passes. Yikes.

Further down the road, we stopped for a 10-minute hike underneath a pretty bridge with the backdrop of oranges and yellows softly waving in the breeze. Despite my awful choice of shoes for the weekend, we crossed the wide creek, teetering on smooth rocks and boulders, then stepping back to enjoy the view. A perfect break, so good that when we took a wrong turn down a magical autumn scenery, we had to jump out again to get a little goofy. I’m not 100% exactly where we were, but the closest geotag I could find via Instagram was Mansfield Hollow State Park.

jump3

Onward, and down to business. We’d been searching for some plants to decorate the super-sunny front window at the new house, and Michael found an amazing online vendor called Logee’s Plants for Home & Garden. By a happy coincidence, the company is located in Connecticut, 30 minutes from UConn! So we wrapped it up into our long-weekend plans and spent a delightful 2 hours shopping in Logee’s expansive greenhouses, feeling like we were somewhere hot and tropical. Everyone was really friendly, and gave us a map to find our way through their 4 large hothouses! Michael’s main objective was a Meyer lemon tree, and a pineapple guava. But the whole backseat ended-up crammed full of more than just that. Our total haul from the shopping spree cost an embarrassing amount of money, but made us so happy. Here is a list of the green preciousness we took back to Pennsylvania:

  • Meyer lemon
  • Blood Orange ‘Sanguinelli’
  • Synsepalum dulcificum “Miracle Fruit”
  • Black Gold Philodendron ($1!)
  • Black Pepper (Piper nigrum)
  • Sweet Bay (Laurus nobilis)
  • Pineapple Guava (Feijoa sellowiana)
  • Tea (Camellia sinensis)
  • Rosemary ‘Logee Blue‘ (Rosmarinus officinalis)
  • Tillandsia x6 (Air plants)
  • Synsepalum dulcificum “Miracle Fruit”

Status update: They’re all still alive. Thank goodness!

We left the greenhouse as the sun was setting, so we booked it towards Philly, stopping for dinner and a latte in New Haven. I think we finally arrived home around midnight, somewhat exhausted but pleased with our loot and another amazing trip to commemorate our original bonding over travel, adventure, foliage, food, and friendship. Can’t wait for next year, I’ve already got ideas!

Where to?

Avon Old Farms Hotel: 279 Avon Mountain Rd. | Avon, CT 06001

The Adventure Park at Storrs Connecticut: 2007 Storrs Road | Storrs, Connecticut 06268

University of Connecticut: Storrs, CT 06269

Mansfield Hollow State Park: Mansfield, CT

Logee’s Plants for Home & Garden: 141 North Street | Danielson, CT 06239 ‎

No Comments on CT Day 3: Huskies Who Lunch, Getting Weird in Parks, and Bingeing on Rare Plants

CT Day 2: Idyllic Autumn at Bishop’s Orchards and the Small-town Charm of Essex

The next morning we visited lovely friends for brunch and catch-up in the South Hampton area, then set off in search of fresh apples, cheese, and classic visions of autumn….

The next morning we visited lovely friends for brunch and catch-up in the South Hampton area, then set off in search of fresh apples, cheese, and classic visions of autumn. Enter Bishop’s Orchards Farm Market & Winery in Guilford. The place was swarming with families inside and out of the market, which I’m sure is normal. However, on the weekends is a Family Fun day in the fall, where kids can enjoy a huge corn maze, face-painting, even stuffing scarecrows. Truly magical and idyll. We did not partake in the activities (supposedly it’s weird to do so without a kid) but we did buy some local road snacks.

bishops

Onward. The favorite game of the trip was gushing at every single gorgeous house we spotted, which was pretty much every one we passed throughout our drive. CT was killing it on both architecture and decor. However, one town in particular we deemed a classic Halloween small town: Essex. Having arrived around 5pm, the sun was already setting, which, fortunate for us, let us enjoy this amazing scene at the town’s docks. I was taken by the stillness of the water. It was as if the boats were not on water, but on clouds, air. After marveling at the stretch of pinks and blues, we turned around and strolled through the town’s main street, admiring the nostalgic spooky decorations and pristine historic brick homes.

Afterwards, we tried to hit up the Riverton Fair to pay homage to last year’s trip. By the time we got to the parking area around 7pm, it was completely empty. We missed it!

Indian food for dinner. We Yelped Udupi Bhavan and decided it was far better than fried dough and the greasy snacks we had originally envisioned for the evening.

 

 Where to?

Bishop’s Orchards Farm Market & Winery: 1355 Boston Post Road | Guilford, CT 06437

Essex Town Docks: 9 Ferry St. | Essex, CT 06426

Udupi Bhavan: 749 Saybrook Road | Middletown, CT 06457

No Comments on CT Day 2: Idyllic Autumn at Bishop’s Orchards and the Small-town Charm of Essex

CT Day 1: The Cloisters, Pizza & Galleries in New Haven, Sunset at East Rock Park

With no solid plans or places to be that Saturday afternoon (day 1 of the trip), we stopped by the Cloisters when we hit New York. It was my first…

With no solid plans or places to be that Saturday afternoon (day 1 of the trip), we stopped by the Cloisters when we hit New York. It was my first time there, and I was delighted. A branch of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Cloisters is comprised of five European abbeys, which contain an amazing collection of Medieval art, including herbal gardens and carefully-trained trees. It was chilly and rainy looking through the gardens, but inside it was surprisingly toasty. We followed a tour guide for a bit, who told stories of women saints, and how to identify figures in stained glass windows. It was like I was in Catholic school again, but better.

Back on the road, we needed to find lunch. No fear, of course we had a plan. Last year I was inducted into the Frank Pepe’s school of hard noms — Pepe’s is one of the oldest pizzerias in the United States, and its coal-fired ovens deliver that nostalgia straight to the taste buds for proof. This year we decided to hit up Modern Apizza and went for the Margherita, and eggplant pizzas.  The restaurant was too packed for a sit-down even at 3pm, so we parked a few blocks from Yale, and inhaled our slices in the car. It’s a tough call, Modern or Pepe’s? Modern had that perfect amount of grease and debilitating crust, all combined to burst with flavor and sense-stopping mesmerization. Or maybe I was just starving. Either way, I’ll have to go back for Pepe’s for a truly fair comparison.

It was almost 4pm, so we dashed over to the Yale University Art Gallery, where I was immersed in my art school foundation year all over again. All of the who’s who were there, up close and personal — Mondrian, Pollack, Picasso, and all those we try to mimic in our first year. I was impressed because for a school collection, it was comprehensive and easily accessible. Good job, Ivy League.

My favorite gallery though, despite having only spent about 15 minutes perusing before closing time, was the Yale Center for British Art. Realism at its absolute finest, that’s all there is to say. All of the paintings were breathtaking, but for some reason I particularly enjoyed this painting, Vesuvius from Posillipo by Joseph Wright of Derby. I’ll definitely go back for a longer session.

We came here for foliage, right? I was getting cranky and tired, but Michael insisted on one more site before heading to the hotel. Of course, it totally cheered me up. Can it get any better than a sunset at East Rock Park?

eastrock-1040x440

NOPE. What a big, beautiful earth.

Where to?
The Cloisters: The Metropolitan Museum of Art: 99 Margaret Corbin Drive | New York, NY 10040

Frank Pepe’s: 163 Wooster St. | New Haven, CT 06511

Modern Apizza: 874 State St. | New Haven, CT 06511

Yale University Art Gallery: 1111 Chapel St. | New Haven, CT 06510

Yale Center for British Art: 1080 Chapel St. | New Haven, CT 06510

East Rock Park:  41 Cold Spring St. | Hamden, CT 06511

No Comments on CT Day 1: The Cloisters, Pizza & Galleries in New Haven, Sunset at East Rock Park

Type on the field below and hit Enter/Return to search