5 hours if by land: Great getaways close to Albany

5 hours if by land: Great getaways close to Albany
Photo Credit To Finger Lakes Tourism Alliance

Need a vacation but don’t have a lot of time? With mountain, lake and oceanside destinations within a short drive of the Capital District, there’s no reason not to pack your bags for a long weekend.


Burlington, Vermont
Approximate drive time: 3 hours

Burlington boasts a spectacular setting on Lake Champlain with New York’s Adirondack Mountains as a backdrop. Stroll along Waterfront Park, then head to Church Street Marketplace for shopping or dining. It’s the center of all the action with four brick-lined blocks of boutiques, farm-to-table restaurants and brew pubs.

Burn some calories by learning to sail or paddleboard on the lake. Bring your bike (or rent one) to peddle Burlington Bike Path, which runs 7.5 miles from the southern end of town to the northern end at the Winooski River, where it connects to another series of bike trails.

For breakfast or lunch, locals flock to Penny Cluse Café for outstanding homemade fare. Gingerbread pancakes are an all-time favorite for many diners. Lucky Next Door has the same owners and it’s every bit as delicious with an eclectic mix of tacos, soups and homemade desserts. On the way out of town, make a stop at Lake Champlain Chocolates Factory Store for a tour, samples and sweets.

Finger Lakes Region, New York
Approximate drive time: 2.5 hours

Waterfalls, gorges, rolling hills and 11 glacial lakes offer abundant scenic vistas and outdoor adventures. Hike in Taughannock Falls State Park, which boasts a waterfall that’s nearly 35 feet taller than Niagara Falls. Take a dip in the swimming hole or follow the winding gorge for a moderate hike through Robert H. Treman State Park or spend a day at nearby Watkins Glen State Park, with a trail that wends past 19 waterfalls surrounded by 200-foot-high cliffs.

If you prefer a more leisurely pursuit, there are more than 100 wineries dotting the area that you can tour. In fact, the Finger Lakes is the largest wine-producing region in the U.S. east of California. Many varietals thrive in the microclimates created by the lakes. Take a tasting tour or bring a picnic to one of the weekend concerts that many wineries host during the summer.

Some wineries have seasonal bistros, such as Thirsty Owl’s enviable frontage on Lake Cayuga, making it perfect for al fresco dining on a warm day.

For quick eats, grab outstanding made-to-order sandwiches and panini, and soups and baked goods at Ithaca Bakery for a picnic lunch. Just down the street, savor a classic cone in your favorite flavor or design your own banana split or sundae at Purity Ice Cream, a local creamery that still uses its original 1936 recipe.

Kennebunkport, Maine
Approximate drive time: 5 hours

An area settled in the 1600s, Kennebunkport retains the feel of a classic maritime village with elegant mansions built by sea captains and lobster boats bobbing in the water. Enjoy an afternoon of shopping in the boutiques at Dock Square or take a neighborhood stroll past stately historic homes. Spend time in quiet reflection on the village green or in the lovely seaside chapel at St. Ann’s Episcopal Church.

To spend the day at one of the best sandy beaches in Maine, drive a few miles past the Bush family estate at Walker’s Point to Goose Rocks Beach. This three-mile-long expanse of pristine coastline is ideal for beachcombing or spreading out a blanket and watching the waves roll in.

Meander back through Cape Porpoise to eat at the Wayfarer, a local favorite that serves New England fare with a twist, such as whole fried lobster. Just around the bend is Nunan’s Lobster Hut where you can get your hands dirty tearing apart a whole lobster. (Don’t worry—when you’re done, there’s a sink in the middle of the dining area where you can wash up.)

Finish off the evening back in town at Alisson’s and indulge in a blueberry martini made from blueberry vodka distilled in Maine.

By Arricca SanSone

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