You might think the warmer months are the best time to plan a weekend getaway to the Finger Lakes, but I say “Not true!” If you want to get a taste of life in a small town surrounded by breathtaking scenery, then the tiny village of Trumansburg should top your list of places to explore in 2014.
If you’re adventurous enough to brave the cold and discover the real character of an area, then hop in your car and head toward Cayuga Lake. When I discovered Trumansburg as a college student in the 1980s, it was love at first sight. Once you get to town, everything you’ll want to do is only a short walk down Main Street or a five-minute drive away.
Don’t forget to pack winter gear and your bathing suit because you’ll need both during your stay at The Inn at Gothic Eves. The central location of this architectural gem will give you a real feel for the village, along with easy access to nearby shops and restaurants. The main house has been an inn since 1928 and the adjacent Potter House became a B&B in 2006. Innkeeper Rose Hilbert has been running her hospitality business for 19 years and her motto is “I’m here to pamper you.” The nonsmoking rooms are tastefully decorated and Rose provides all the modern amenities you’ll need, including Wi-Fi in both houses. If you‘d rather spend your weekend in Trumansburg unplugged, there’s a game room, a wet bar and rooms with fireplaces to relax by.
Kick-off your winter escape by treating yourself to a massage in the comfort of the Inn. When booking your reservation, simply choose this service as one of your “extras.” There’s a traditional massage, a couples massage or, for the more daring, a “four-hands” massage where two masseuses alleviate your tensions simultaneously.
Start your evening with a wine tasting. I’m a chardonnay girl (and theirs is excellent) but their varieties range from Rieslings to Baco Noir. Americana’s Crystal Lake Café’s menu offers some unusual pizzas and healthier options like my personal favorite, butternut squash soup — perfect for a cold winter’s night. Local bands perform every Friday, including the popular Purple Valley, and owner Joe Gober and his canine winery mascots (aka wine dogs) Max and Ruby, are usually on hand to answer questions or be petted.
Conclude your evening with a dip in the private outdoor hot tub, one of Rose’s most popular offerings. Reserve your hourlong private spot for a $25.00/couple fee in the 6-7 or 7-9-person hot tub when you book your room and you’ll have a phenomenal experience. Here’s how Rose describes it to me: “It’s decadence to the max … The snow might be falling around you and the dark sky is filled with more stars than you could possibly imagine above you. There’s no better way to heat your inner core in the winter than by taking an outdoor hot tub.”
Breakfast at Gothic Eves might include French toast with blueberries that are picked in the summer at Glenhaven Farm Winery, or an omelet with Swiss chard, spinach, Feta cheese (from the family-run Lively Run Goat Farm) and garlic scape pesto. Native “T-Burgers” love bartering, and Rose frequently trades her compost for her friend Lisa’s homegrown potatoes!
When you step out to explore downtown Trumansburg, the first thing you’ll notice is its compelling vibe and upbeat energy. Service businesses coexist side-by-side with nonprofits on Main Street and business owners are ready to talk about anything on your mind, along with sharing their own opinions on various issues, from hydrofracking to the latest Cornell hockey score (Ithaca is a mere 20 minute drive away). The walkability of the village is extremely appealing, not just for pedestrians, but for dog walkers, stroller-pushers, joggers and cyclists, even in the winter. Some years ago, the Trumansburg Main Street Project received federal, state and local grant monies to improve the village’s sidewalks. Landscaping and the upgrades have inarguably improved Main Street’s character. You’ll find large natural rock seats, wrought-iron benches created by local blacksmith Durand Van Doren, and commemorative bricks and historical blue stone markers scattered wherever you look. You’ll also frequently find diverse works by local artisans displayed in Main Street businesses.
Speaking of which, if you want a weekend souvenir Sundrees is the place to go. Co-owner Diane Richards stocks fashion accessories, art, furniture and other assorted gift items that are quirky, colorful and useful — the perfect trifecta.
Next door you’ll find Life’s So Sweet Chocolates where you can purchase homemade truffles and my preferred Sea Salt Caramels. Anyone who appreciates natural foods should eat lunch at Good to Go! Trumansburg Market. Owner Nana Monaco’s store is a vibrant orange, and the moment you step through her front door you’ll feel your spirits lift. Nana, her mother Patricia and their enthusiastic employees serve up daily specials, including their very popular lemony and garlicky kale salad. I always order the Waldorf chicken salad, which is sprinkled with apples, walnuts and cranberries. Combined with a hot cup of tea or a crusty roll, it’s just plain irresistible.
You can’t visit Trumansburg without making a side trip to Taughannock (“Tuh-GA-Nick”) Falls. The trailhead to the waterfalls is located on Route 89 at Taughannock Falls State Park. At 215 feet high, the Falls are taller than Niagara Falls, and also are the highest waterfalls east of the Rockies. It’s an easy 1.5 mile walk, with plenty of interpretive signage to help you learn more about the geology and history of the area. Since it’s open 365 days a year, I frequently take my dog there during the winter months to enjoy the daily-changing view. Ice formations in the creek and at the waterfall itself are breathtaking so don’t forget your camera.
After your hike, head back to Main Street to warm up at Gimme! Coffee, where people tend to congregate, sometimes for hours on end. It’s a great spot to hang out, especially when I need an idea for an article or don’t feel like making phone calls. Sitting at Gimme!, sipping on my Leftist or Fracktivist blend, I’m more than likely to run into most of the people I need to talk to without ever having to lift a finger!
For a memorable Saturday night dinner, I recommend the Hazelnut Kitchen. You’ll need a reservation, as the Main Street restaurant is popular, seating is limited, and most people tend to linger over their meal. Owners Justin Paterson and Lisa Jonckheere have made it their business to elevate fresh, local ingredients into unusual signature dishes, and their wait staff is the perfect combination of knowledgeable and nice. Hazelnut’s menu changes regularly but one thing you can always find there is the “charcuterie board” with artfully arranged items like smoked trout rillette and bacon spuma, which the couple prepares in-house. My family loves traditional Canadian poutine, and we all agree that Lisa’s Italian sausage poutine is a compelling twist on an old favorite: the spicy sausage adds unexpected heat to the creamy gravy that tops the crisp potato fries. Conclude your meal with a Finger Lakes favorite, a small crystal goblet of “ice” wine. Made from grapes that are harvested once they’ve frozen on the vine, true ice wines have high sugar content, giving them an intense taste that lingers in your mouth long after the last sip.
On your way out of town, check out historic Smith Woods, a tract of old-growth forest on the edge of the village that’s never been touched by human hands. Some of the trees there are more than 200 years old so taking a hike through it is akin to stepping back in time.
Come visit us this winter and discover what T-Burgers have known all along — if you can’t beat the cold weather, you might as well cozy up and enjoy it!
Eliminating the Guesswork:
Celebrate: Relax with a dip in the hot tub or an indulgent massage at The Inn at Gothic Eves.
Curate: Stroll down Main Street to see the outdoor art of Durand Van Doren.
Decorate: Pick up some accessories (for home and yourself) at Sundrees.
Epicurate: Lunch on Waldorf chicken salad at Good to Go! Trumansburg Market; snack on Sea Salt Caramels at Life’s So Sweet Chocolates; perk up with Fracktivist java from Gimme! Coffee; and enjoy poutine made from locally-sourced ingredients for dinner at Hazelnut Kitchen.
Innovate: Devour “ice” wine. The local specialty is somewhat scientific: made from grapes that are harvested once they’ve frozen on the vine. The high sugar content gives them an intense taste that lingers in your mouth long after the last sip.