Interesting towns or cities to visit in VT, NY or MA?
September 22, 2010 5:24 PM   Subscribe

Wifey and I are on vacation. We’re currently in White River Junction, Vermont and heading towards western New York. We’d like to spend a night in a town or city that has a vibrant downtown with some interesting shops, restaurants, museums or other attractions. Saratoga is a good example of the kind of place we’d like to visit, but we’ve recently been there. Any suggestions? It doesn’t have to be directly on our route but we don’t have time for a huge detour.
posted by someonesomewhere to Travel & Transportation (19 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Ithaca? I'll be watching the answers....always looking for WNY daytrips.
posted by vitabellosi at 5:35 PM on September 22, 2010

Where in Western NY? If you are heady towards Albany to catch I-90, then I would suggest Bennington, VT which would be right on your route. If you feel like diverting from there, Williamstown, MA and North Adams, MA have great museums (The Clark, MassMOCA, etc) and some really good restaurants.
posted by Crashback at 5:39 PM on September 22, 2010 [2 favorites]

Cooperstown, NY
posted by jack.tinker at 5:40 PM on September 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

Manchester VT has lots of shopping and eating, but is much smaller than Saratoga.
posted by Nickel Pickle at 5:41 PM on September 22, 2010

North Adams, Mass - stay at Porches, visit MASS Moca or the Clark. There are good restaurants, a mountain to climb/drive up, Williamstown is next door.
posted by Sukey Says at 5:50 PM on September 22, 2010

Seconding Cooperstown!
posted by jgirl at 5:51 PM on September 22, 2010

Seconding Ithaca and nthing Cooperstown
posted by KingEdRa at 5:57 PM on September 22, 2010

I live in Ithaca right now. I'm not sure how vibrant you want, but Ithaca's downtown is small but pretty lively I guess. It's got a cluster of 10-15 restaurants, including a few fancier ones and a few take out ones.
In Ithaca there are a few good (perhaps not that authentic) Thai restaurants, and a few good higher-end restaurants. Several pubs with good beer selection and some dive bars. I don't have any museum recommendations, although Corning museum is not that far away. Waterfalls and state parks all the way around here. Also winery tours if you are not too picky about your wine. Of course there is also Cornell, which has a really nice campus and has an art museum.
Oh and the Farmer's market on weekends (smaller one on weekdays) is not bad.
posted by bread-eater at 6:01 PM on September 22, 2010

Cooperstown is a great choice. It's around 25 minutes south off the NY thruway (exit 30) and it's absolutely beautiful.

For museums, you have the Fenimore Art Museum (with one of the best collections of Native American art in the country, along with paintings by American greats like John Singer Sargent) and the Farmer's Museum (with a working 19th century village – it's awesome). There is a historic downtown with beautiful old homes and streets, and plenty of shops and boutiques.

It's also right near the Brewery Ommegang (a Belgian-style microbrewery), the Bear Pond Winery (awesome, super friendly folks), and several other sites that are all members of the Cooperstown Beverage Trail. One highlight (especially this time of year) is the Fly Creek Cider Mill. It's about 10-15 minutes outside of Cooperstown, but it's absolutely worth the trip to get some fresh cider off the press. Fly Creek is an autumn necessity!

Of course if you are into baseball, the Hall of Fame is right downtown, and there are more souvenir shops than you can shake a stick at. But baseball is just a small part of what Cooperstown has to offer, and you can certainly visit without seeing any baseball-themed sights.
posted by cvp at 6:05 PM on September 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

Maybe consider Burlington? (I happen to be in Norwich, and if you want to stop by the Inn for a house brewed beer, memail me!).

Other weird things to see along the way to NY include the birth place of Joseph Smith, Long Trail Brewery, and Hanover (dartmouth, town, etc.). Also, in WRJ, try the Tip Top.
posted by gregglind at 6:15 PM on September 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

Woodstock, VT is worth a stop tomorrow if you're not in a hurry.
posted by Quizicalcoatl at 6:18 PM on September 22, 2010

Oh, and Bennington, VT is nice, too. It's further south - like if you're heading toward Albany.
posted by Quizicalcoatl at 6:19 PM on September 22, 2010

Burlington is way out of your way. Ithaca's a good idea if you're going that far.

Basically, you'll need to get out of Vermont, I suspect. I love my home state, but...there's not much there in terms of "vibrant downtowns".
posted by maryr at 6:37 PM on September 22, 2010

If you can swing south, Northampton, Mass., fits your bill; it's 2 hours or less from White River Junction and puts you close to the Mass Pike for your trip to western NY. (I drove from Hadley, 10 minutes east of Northampton, to Buffalo in 7 hours last Friday, with about 50 minutes of break included.)

If you can't do that, North Adams is well worth a visit. It's closer, but you'll be on 2-lane highways for most of the trip, so it might actually be faster to take Route 91 (or I-91, as they say in other parts of the country) down to Northampton and then take 91 south to the Mass Pike (aka I-90) to head west.
posted by brianogilvie at 7:00 PM on September 22, 2010

P.S. If you adore art museums, Crashback has got it: Mass MOCA in North Adams if you like contemporary stuff (much of it bores me to tears, unless the artist succeeds in linking his or her personal vision to a broader cultural language), and the Clark in Williamstown if your tastes are more 18th-early 20th century Western art (with some surprises, to be sure, but think Winslow Homer and sterling table services and you won't be too far off the mark for the Clark). Northampton and the Five College area have some good art museums but nothing to compare with Mass MOCA and the Clark. On the other hand, if dinosaur footprints are your thing, then you must visit Amherst College's Natural History Museum.
posted by brianogilvie at 7:03 PM on September 22, 2010

I vote Northampton, Ma/Amherst, MA, Burlington, VT (these 2 probably have the most happening nightlife), or Lenox, Ma (so many restaurants and galleries).
posted by beccaj at 7:10 PM on September 22, 2010

Well hey, I happen to be in Williamstown right now! If it's on your way, wtown and North Adams could be fun for a night. Museums, the leaves are just turning, good food, and if you know what day you'll be here exactly I could hook you up with any interesting events going on at Williams. Neither town has exactly what you would call a "vibrant" downtown but I'm told the museums and food are the best in the general area. The Berkshires are America's Cultural Resort, after all :).
posted by MadamM at 7:12 PM on September 22, 2010

Best answer: I've got to disagree with those who suggested Cooperstown. I was there recently and I don't think you'll enjoy it unless you and your wife are both big baseball fans. The town does have a lot of shops but there are only about three that aren't focused on selling baseball related merchandise and memorabilia. Also, nearly everything closed at 5 PM, including most of the restaurants. So there wasn't much for us to do in the evening except go for a walk, read a book or watch TV.

To be fair, it is a very pretty little town.

I'd go to Burlington, Manchester, Williamstown or North Adams instead.
posted by 14580 at 11:47 AM on September 24, 2010

Hanover ,NH is nearby. Murphy's Pub.
posted by JimN2TAW at 8:27 PM on September 24, 2010

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