Monday, August 17, 2015

Latest New England Travel Articles

Deerfield Inn Bed and Breakfast, Deerfield MA (photo by Eric)

Over at our flagship site, VisitingNewEngland, we have published three recent Massachusetts travel articles focusing on historic Boston, a new Plainville bookstore owned by a famous author, and a beloved old New England inn...

Guest blogger Juergen Roth has contributed a marvelous photo travel essay on historic Boston landmarks. He is an exceptionally gifted photographer and darn good writer, and I encourage you to check the incredible photos he took at twilight.

We also feature an article on An Unlikely Story, a new book store located in Plainville, Mass.  Jeff Kinney, author of the "Diary of a Wimpy Kid" book series is the owner of this great indie bookstore that also has a  side benefit -- that is, bringing life back to downtown Plainville, a small town with good bones.

Also in the spotlight is the Deerfield Inn Bed and Breakfast, a quintessential lodging destination in one of New England most well preserved historic towns.

More New England travel articles on the way, stay tuned!

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Pebbles Restaurant: Good Cheap Eats in Plymouth MA

Let's face it, budget-friendly dining along Plymouth Harbor in Plymouth MA is hard to find -- even at some of the much heralded seafood shacks.

A good cheap eats option is Pebbles, an outdoor seasonal shack with picnic-style seating located right across the street from Plymouth Harbor and very close to famous attractions like Plymouth Rock and the Mayflower II  and the Pilgrim Hall Museum. This unpretentious roadside restaurant hits the spot with surprisingly good lobster rolls, fried seafood, New England clam chowder, burgers, hot dogs, chicken fingers and ice cream. The portions are generally substantial and the service very quick.  It's really a nice spot to watch the pulse of Plymouth with its many tourists from around the world and scenic water views while taking in that nice coastal summer breeze!

Pebbles isn't going to win any culinary awards but for us folks looking for good value and food, this is a good dining choice.

Pebbles is located at 76 Water St., Plymouth MA. Tel. (508) 747-2978

Related articles: 
Walking along Plymouth Harbor
A trip to Long Beach in Plymouth
Budget travel ideas for Plymouth
What makes Plymouth "America's Hometown?"
The Mayflower II in Plymouth

Monday, May 11, 2015

Richie's Slush in Everett MA is Back in Business!

Richie's Slush, Everett MA (photo by Eric)
Richie's Slush in Everett, Mass., announced in mid-May that it would close it storefront after nearly 60 years in business, but  thankfully had a change of heart to reopen the legendary Italian ice landmark.

The Sunday message on the Richie's Slush web site said,"(Due) to unforeseen circumstances beyond our control, Richie's Store on the Parkway will not be opening this season. We apologize for this and hope you will purchase Richie's Italian Ice Products from one of our many other fine locations and retailers."

The new message, posted today, reads,

"Because of hard work and an overwhelming support from our customers, Richie's Original Store on the Parkway in Everett will RE-OPEN this Friday May 15th!

We would like to thank all of you for being such valued and loyal customers of our business for the past 50 years. We have always appreciated and enjoyed serving you and also want to thank you for so many calls and entries in our blog page, plus all the social media comments to us on Facebook and Twitter, etc... As you can imagine, we simply could not do what we do or be as successful as we've always been, were it not for customers like you!

So again, thank you, and we cannot wait to see all our awesome customer's back in line yelling out their favorite flavor. We look forward to seeing you in the near future!

Richie's Slush on the Parkway"

The 2084 Revere Beach Parkway shop location is a local legend  --  in business since 1956. The classic ice cream stand-like storefront, friendly old school service, lines down the street, the humble working classic location and, of course, the delicious slush never fail to create a wonderful summertime experience. Flavors like lemon, banana, watermelon, blue vanilla, cherry, root beer, orange cream, tangerine, mango, lime and sour blue raspberry are all beloved and consumed with great regularity by thousands of customers over the summer!

On a side note, many customers did not know that the Richie's wholesale business and retail store are under different management. According to a Facebook post, "Richie's wholesale had no association with the parkway store closing."

Welcome back, Richie's Slush, after that very brief hiatus.  You are part of a neighborhood and a community that extends well beyond its Everett location and we love you dearly.  At this moment, let's raise a toast to your amazing storefront with a root beer Italian ice mixed with soft serve vanilla ice cream...

Thursday, May 7, 2015

15 Outstanding Boston Travel Attractions

Swan Boats of Boston (photo by Eric)
The good news about taking a Boston, Mass., vacation is that there's no shortage of wonderful travel attractions. The bad news:  there's no way you'll be able to see all of them during your stay, given the city's seemingly infinite rich historical and modern offerings. While the following list is by no means exhaustive, these low and moderate cost attractions represent the best of Boston travel:

Boston Duck Tours - This educational and entertaining excursion allows you to discover  Boston and its incredible history on a World War II style landing craft on the streets of Boston -- and then into the Charles River for great views of Boston and Cambridge.

New England Aquarium  This world class museum seems to get better every year and features the Giant Ocean Tank spanning four floors and featuring more than 1, 000 animals. including Myrtle, a 550 lb green sea turtle.

Fenway Park Tour Knowledgeable and often humorous guides take you through one of Major League Baseball's most historic and cozy parks. From the famous Green Monster wall to stories on Babe Ruth, Ted Williams Carl Yastrzemski and David Ortiz, this tour hits its out of the park!

Prudential Building Skywalk Observatory Amazing 360 degree panoramic views of the Boston skyline and all the way up to New Hampshire (on a clear day) give a height advantage to this Boston attraction.

Museum of Science  More than 700 interactive exhibits make the Museum of Science an obvious choice for a morning, afternoon or day long destination. Not your basic, garden variety science museum, it seems like the adults can learn just as much as the kids from visiting the Museum of Science!

Old State House If you are going to walk the Freedom Trail and had to choose one stop along the way, the Old State House would probably be the best choice.  Interactive guides and staff dressed in Revolutionary period characters offer fun through tours (with a vast display of artifacts) and performances in this stately, historic building

Museum of Fine Arts  Almost 450,000 pieces of art from just about any genre make this a must-stop Boston attraction for all walks of life. One of the most spectacular sections of the Museum is the Art of the Americas, showcasing fifty-three galleries of art and artifacts that have haven't been displayed for decades.

Freedom Trail Walking Tour This one-mile, red brick stretch of Boston featuring 11 national historic sites will give you an great introduction to the American Revolution. Guides go into great detail of this important time in history through the official tour.

Franklin Park Zoo  A good zoo that has become better through the years, the Franklin Park Zoo offers a fine mix of animals that is well worth the price of admission.  Not a world class zoo, but certainly a vital part of one's family visit to Boston.

Paul Revere House As the oldest building in Boston, the Paul Revere House is a popular tourist attraction for those interest in colonial history -- and specifically the story behind Paul Revere's famous "Midnight Ride." Beautiful home, well-maintained, and a national landmark.

Boston's Children's Museum This old yet updated museum prides itself on hands-on exhibits that focus on  science, culture, environmental awareness, health and fitness, and the arts for children and families.

John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum  A well laid-out and defined mix of artifacts and exhibits (including videos) masterfully tell the story of JFK. The waterfront building is stunning in appearance and located on 10 acres with terrific views of the Boston skyline and islands.

Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum Located in  the Kenmore-Fenway section of Boston, the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum might be Boston most charming museum with its 15th century Venetian palazzo architecture, beloved courtyard garden and surrounding galleries. Those galleries feature "significant examples of European, Asian, and American art, from paintings and sculpture to tapestries and decorative arts."

Swan Boats of Boston  Perhaps Boston's most beloved attraction, the traditional Swan Boats take visitors on an affordable 15 minute tour of the scenic Boston Public Garden with its open green lands, spectacular landscaping and serene pond.

Boston Movie and TV Sites Tour Over the past 20 or so years, Boston has evolved into a movie and television hot spot. The Boston Movie and TV Sites Tour takes you on a comprehensive excursion, including neighborhoods that featured Good Will Hunting, Cheers, The Departed, Ally McBeal, Fever Pitch and many more.

Editor's note: The Go Boston Card is a great way to package these Boston attractions, and many more at an excellent discount rate -- and often skip the line!

Related articles and resources:
Wicked awesome Boston travel tips 
Visiting Faneuil Hall in Boston
Best Boston pizza destinations
Free and inexpensive museum admission in the Boston area
Boston Red Sox tickets
Find the best deals on hotels in Boston
20 classic New England family travel attractions
12 reasons to love Central Massachusetts

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Closings and Tear Downs of Beloved New England Businesses

Brown's Ice Cream Stand in York Beach, Maine,
 is on the real estate market for 1.7 million (photo by Eric)
It breaks my heart to see beloved local New England businesses like the Hilltop Steak House, Christo's, Aunt Aleda's Bakery and Country Kitchen, Brown's Ice Cream and Benjamin's restaurant go out of business.

The other day when driving through Saugus, Mass., I saw contractors starting the process of tearing down the Hilltop Steak House to make way for a new shopping plaza. How creative. Hard to believe that America's largest steak house with the two hour waits and the charming plastic cows out front is gone forever. I hear the giant cactus sign will remain, but that's kind of like having a car without the engine.

Christo's, with its Greek salads, famous salad dressing, baked lamb, bar-style pizzas, and the large four color coded rooms (who can forget the Gold Room with that huge golden floor-to-ceiling fountain?), attained legendary status in the Brockton area since its inception in 1964. Owner Christos Tsaganis ran that restaurant with such dedication,  passion and personality but after his death in early 2013, family decided to follow up on Tsaganis's prior agreement to sell the building to Massasoit Community College. After a building tear down last year, an allied health and science building is in the works. The Christo's legend remains in a smaller form, however, as the take-out Christo's to Go in Whitman still serves up some of the past Christo's favorites.

Aunt Aleda's in Mansfield was a relative newcomer to the suburban Boston dining scene but quickly gained old-school nirvana status with its huge, quality breakfasts and a tremendous old fashioned bakery on the premises. Wicked Local Norton reported in January 2015 that the restaurant closed due to non payment of taxes. What a great loss, as it seems like so many local breakfast spots inexplicably deliver the improbable: screwing up breakfast with either overcooked eggs, soggy bacon, burnt toast, muffins no better than the supermarket kind, tepid tasting coffee, crummy service, or all of the above. And there was a real artistry to what was coming out of the bakery -- so different than the paint-by-numbers, generic baked good templates used to create mediocre treats by some other local bakeries. Aunt Aleda's always came through -- what a shame they couldn't last. The storefront is now the Looking Glass Cafe -- more on that soon!

Who would have ever thought that Brown's Old-Fashioned Ice Cream in York Beach, Maine, would ever close? Steve Dunne, who leased Brown's from the Brown family for the past 23 years, decided to open up Dunne's Ice Cream ice cream stand virtually right across the street from the entrance to Sohier Park and Nubble Lighthouse. Apparently no one in the Brown family wanted to continue the business, so the ice cream stand and property is up for sale at the price of  $1.7 million, according to Seacoastonline. While it's nice that Dunne's Ice Cream will continue the ice cream tradition near the "Nubble," there's kind of a bittersweet feeling knowing that a business synonymous with a York Beach summer vacation could very well be gone forever. We do wish Mr. Dunne well in his new business, which opened in June, but also hope that whoever purchases the Brown's property will continue the ice cream stand business there. One can never have enough ice cream and tradition.

Two weeks ago, I drove past Benjamin's restaurant in Taunton, Mass., and thought how nice it would be to get back there.  Well, that might not ever happen as the large, landmark restaurant that seemed to please all generations recently filed for bankruptcy and then suddenly closed, according to the Taunton Gazette.  Benjamin's was that proverbial lively "place to go in town" with its time-tested offerings of chicken, steak and seafood, some great entertainment (will always remember a certain band doing a fantastic cover of The Trammps "Disco Inferno!") spacious yet cozy carpeted dining spaces, and a nice dance floor. I will miss the prime rib and many will long for the baked stuffed lobster. Unfortunately, this sad demise of a great family business can now only result in holding onto dear memories. We hold out hope, however, that the next owner of the property keeps the revered Benjamin's restaurant tradition alive.

Related articles:
Gone but not forgotten New England restaurants
More memories of closed New England restaurants
Boston area business memories at Old School Boston

Saturday, January 31, 2015

A Wicked Good Boston Vacation Travel Guide Video

Faneuil Hall, Boston, Mass. (photo by Eric)
Finding a good Boston, Mass., vacation video is about as difficult as navigating its narrow, one-way streets, but we have found an excellent one created by Expedia. In Boston language, it's "wicked good!"

A narrator with a classic Boston accent provides the foundation for a comprehensive video that informs and entertains on history, culture, attractions and sports. Although only five minutes long, this Boston vacation travel guide video seems to cover the most vital basics that, we think, will he, help you greatly with your Boston trip planning.

Kudos to Expedia for producing this excellent Boston video!

Related resources:
Boston hotels
North End of Boston food destinations
Boston vacation and travel ideas
Swan Boats of Boston
Visiting Faneuil Hall

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Norwood Mass. Town Common and Church Winter Scene

The New England winter can be so brutal but the scenes that come out of it can be so soothing and scenic.  Case in point: the Norwood, Mass., town common surrounded by the United Church of Norwood (left) and Saint Catherine of Siena Parish (right).

Norwood center -- about 15 miles southwest of Boston -- looks nice any time of the year, but seems to look best in the winter. The blanket of snow surely adds that extra scenic depth to most New England scenes!

Related articles: 
A beautiful traditional New England winter scene
Meredith NH in the winter
How to save money on ski lift tickets in New England

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Lake Massapoag Sunset in Sharon, Mass.

Lake Massapoag sunset, Sharon MA

Lake Massapoag in Sharon, Mass., might be best known as a summer spot with its swimming beach, and boating and fishing opportunities, but the winter scenery has its own equally special personality.

I recently did a double take when recently driving past Lake Massapoag around 4:15 p.m., as the combination of unique-looking clouds and the way the last glimpses of sun played off the ice was nothing short of spectacular.

Don't make a long-distance special trip to see the sunsets here, but if you are in the area and the potential for good color in the sky seems possible, then Lake Massapoag is surely worth a visit.

Lake Massapoag is located along Massapoag Ave. in Sharon, Mass.

Other points of interest in the Sharon area:
Borderland State Park, Easton
Old Country Store and Emporium, Mansfield
Historic North Easton
Hall at Patriot Place, Foxboro
Bird Park, Walpole

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Turner Pond Offers an Amazing Winter Ice Skating Experience in Walpole, Mass.

Turner Pond, Walpole, Mass. (photo by Eric)
A local well-known television reporter once covered the Turner Lodge at Turner Pond in Walpole, Mass., for a nighttime segment and told me: "If I lived around here, I'd be out here every night."

Turner Lodge and Pond have that effect, being so close to Boston (18 miles) but coming across as a place you'd expect to find on vacation in, say, Vermont or New Hampshire.

The Turner Pond Lodge (photo by Eric)
The scenic pond, just outside Walpole center, is ideal for ice skating and the cozy, rustic red-colored lodge features sofas, a fireplace, television, books, board games, snacks, hot chocolate and a dining table where locals bring in, and sometimes share, home-cooked meals. There's really a great community feel at this little cabin situated by the pond and alongside beautiful forest land. The experience is especially incredible at night (when officially open) as locals of all ages skate along with the cold, crisp air under the stars with a hint of wood burning in barrels to provide some warmth near the benches.

Not too long ago abandoned but fortunately brought back to life by Walpole volunteers, Turner Pond is now a much-needed Boston area winter destination, bringing in hundreds of "Walpoleans" and non-residents that, up until recently, had no really good choices for supervised pond ice skating. There's enough room set aside on the 17 acre pond for the hockey players, figure skaters, beginners and others looking forward to this idyllic ice time.

Ice skating at Turner Pond is only open when the thickness of the ice is deemed at an acceptable level by onsite managers and volunteers are available for supervision. Walpole residents can sign up for $20 a season, non residents $30, by downloading and signing forms ahead of time. For more information, log onto the Walpole Ponds Facebook page.

The rustic, cozy Turner Lodge (photo by Eric)

Related article:
Visiting Walpole, Mass.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Zagat Writes about Anticipated 2015 Boston Restaurant Openings

Scott Kearnan, of Zagat, just wrote an informative post about "Boston's Most Anticipated Restaurant Openings of 2015."

Perhaps a sign that the economy is finally coming around, the myriad Boston restaurant openings  should add diverse dining options to the "Hub of the Universe." Restaurants serving upscale pizza, contemporary American, farm-to-table, as well as a brewery and Japanese pub are amongst those many options.

I am especially looking forward to Blackbird Doughnuts -- with its chocolate covered treats -- scheduled to open at 492 Tremont St. in Boston!

Related articles:
Sullivan's coming to Hingham?
Wahlburgers set to expand
Student Prince and Fort Reopens in Springfield
Jimmy's Steer House in Arlington, Mass., not closing

How to Find the Latest New Hampshire Alpine, Nordic Ski Conditions

If you're looking for the latest New Hampshire ski conditions, SkiNH offers a terrific online resource for Alpine and Nordic skiing destinations.

Updated frequently, SkiNH not only posts on ski conditions, but also features a weather forecast resource and weather blog, as well as resort webcams. Some webcam locations include Bretton Woods,  Cannon Mountain, Cranmore, Dartmouth Skiway, Gunstock Mountain Resort, Mount Sunapee Resort,  Pats Peak and Waterville Valley.

We are quite impressed with the comprehensive nature of the site, in general, and recommend it as a prime New Hampshire ski trip planning resource.

Related articles, resources:
Purchase New England ski lift tickets in advance and save
The best New England ski resorts for kids
The top winter vacation destinations

Obnoxious Boston Sports Fan Writes on Sledding at Robbins Farm Park in Arlington, Mass.

The Obnoxious Boston Sports Fan wrote an absolutely fantastic article on about the joys of sledding at Robbins Farm Park in Arlington, Mass., and the importance of never banning this revered winter pastime.

Full of humor and wonderful memories while focusing on the timeless fun of this activity, the Obnoxious Boston Sports Fan also crafted this post with a cautionary tale about political correctness potentially impeding this recreational rite of passage into the winter. Some communities have banned sledding, feeling that physical harm outweighs kids and families just enjoying the great outdoors in this form.

Whether you agree with this article -- and, in general, the Obnoxious Boston Sports Fan's innate conservative perspectives -- this "real" journalist has the rare ability of hitting a home run with each article.  He often draws the reader into his articles by employing laser sharp focus on the matter of hand, writing in descriptive detail, and not wavering from his true beliefs.  The "sledding" post might be one of his best, in my opinion.

I hope you get the read the article, it's really a journalistic gem!

Related article:
The best sledding in New England

Friday, January 9, 2015

Romantic Dining at the Top of a Newburyport Mass. Lighthouse

The Phantom Gourmet has a terrific presentation on a most unusual food experience: dining at the top of Newburyport Lighthouse in Newburyport, Mass.

Greeted outside by a waitress, guests then climb the 55 stairs through the hatch to the 8X8 sq. ft. glass enclosed dining room that yields incredible panoramic views of the Merrimack River Valley, Atlantic Ocean and Downtown Newburyport. Visitors get to choose their high-end, gourmet meal from several local restaurants that service the Newburyport Lighthouse. It's not cheap and you have to reserve several months in advance, but neither comes as a surprise -- where else can one dine in such a setting?

Yankee Magazine summed up the Lighthouse dining experience very nicely: "If you're romantically inclined, it doesn't get much better than this...the dining room at the top of the lighthouse is a glass-encased love nest...that feels like the top of the world."  

The Lighthouse Preservation Society originally created this novel dining out idea as a fundraiser but the idea really took off and has remained wildly popular to this very day -- and open year-round.  Profits from the dining experience help save and preserve the Lighthouse.

The Newburyport Lighthouse is located at 61 1/2 Water St.,  Newburyport, MA. Tel. Reservations can be made by calling 1-800-727-BEAM

Sullivan's Castle Island Food Stand Seeks Second Location in Hingham

Sullivan's comfort foods. Photo credit:
The Boston Herald is reporting that the legendary Sullivan's food stand at Castle Island in South Boston, Mass., is looking to expand into Hingham, Mass.

Sullivan's, which has been in business since 1951, is in talks with the Hingham Bathing Beach Trustees about possibly opening a second seasonal location at Hingham Bathing Beach that would offer "the same food and affordable prices as in Southie," according to the article. Brendan Sullivan hope that if all goes well, he'd like to open Sullivan's in Hingham by the end of next summer, although hinted that "might be pushing it."

While the original Sullivan's is known for its rock bottom prices on tasty hot dogs and hamburgers, Sullivan's goes well beyond that dynamic duo with other good-value-for-the-money comfort foods including lobster roll, fried clam strips, clam chowder, fish sandwich, egg and cheese sandwich, fries and onion rings, soft serve ice cream, Hoodsies and Richie's Italian Ice.

Opening Sullivan's at the Hingham Bathing Beach would be a great addition for local beach goers, so hopefully negotiating a lease and permit will result in this landmark food landmark's first expansion. Stay tuned, we will update you as soon as we hear more information!

Related articles:
Hingham-based Wahlburgers expansion
Stars on Hingham Harbor restaurant
World's End scenic walking trails, Hingham, Mass.
Richie's Italian Ice, Everett, Mass.
Kelly's Roast Beef, Revere Beach, Mass.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

New England Ice Cream Stands That Stay Open During the Winter

New Englanders have a true love for ice cream. How else could one explain several ice cream stands remaining open during the frigid New England winter?

To top it off, you wouldn't believe the steady traffic these ice cream stands get even during the coldest days.

When ice cream is great, it's great and when it's bad, it's still pretty good. Here, however, we will only focus on the top New England ice cream stands that remain open during the winter because you deserve the best for putting up with the freezing temperatures!

Gray's Ice Cream (photo by Eric)
Gray's Ice Cream, Tiverton Four Corners, R.I. Gary's has been in business since 1923 and is open 365 days a year -- the reason being, as they state, "Because ice cream is good everyday!" Featuring more than 40 flavors, as well as some excellent sundaes, Gray's is one of the few places in Rhode Island to make its ice cream on the premises. You can never go wrong with chocolate, strawberry and vanilla, but we strongly recommend cherry vanilla, strawberry cheesecake, pistachio, ginger and frozen pudding (how appropriate for a cold winter day!). USA Today once featured Gray's in its USA's best ice cream parlors.  Hours vary during the year, so call ahead at (401) 624-4500.

Gray's is located in a pastoral farm setting in the Rhode Island FarmCoast region at  16 East Rd., Tiverton.

Ice Cream Machine flavors.
Click to enlarge.
(photo by Eric)
Ice Cream Machine, Cumberland, R.I.  The Ice Cream Machine might just have the best tasting ice cream we've sampled in the region, so it's nice to know that this classic ice cream stand remains open, year-round. Located across the street from Diamond Hill Park in a semi-rural section of Cumberland, the Ice Cream Machine offers some really wonderful flavors like cinnamon, key lime pie, raspberry truffle, s'mores, and cherry chocolate chip. Winter hours, at this writing, are Wednesday-Friday 12 p.m.-6 p.m. and Saturday-Sunday 11 a.m.-5 p.m.

The Ice Cream Machine is located at 4288 Diamond Hill Rd., Cumberland RI. Tel. (401) 333-4513

Crescent Ridge Dairy Bar
(photo by Eric)
Crescent Ridge Dairy Bar, Sharon, Mass. Once ranked as one of the top 10 ice cream places in the world by National Geographic, Crescent Ridge Dairy Bar features some rich-tasting, truly amazing flavors -- especially black raspberry, toasted walnut fudge, peppermint stick, coconut and one of the best tasting vanillas anywhere. Hours, at this writing, are 11 a.m.-6 p.m., seven days a week.

Crescent Ridge Dairy Bar is located at 355 Bay Rd., Sharon MA. Tel. (781) 784-2740

Peaceful Meadows, Whitman, Mass. Going to Peaceful Meadows is like having a comforting, best friend. Perhaps the busiest of the ice cream stands in the winter mentioned here, Peaceful Meadows is also the most welcoming and friendliest from order to window delivery. Most importantly, the ice cream is as good as ever. This ice cream stand that has been around since 1962 is located in a farm setting, and turns out frozen gems like coffee, coconut chocolate almond, maple walnut, and grapenut. They also offer huge sundaes, and you can design your own.  Like Gray's, Peaceful Meadows make its ice cream on the premises. and the farm setting is scenic and, well, peaceful, any time of the year. Peaceful Meadows winter hours, at this writing, are from 10 a.m.-10 p.m. seven days a week. 

Peaceful Meadows is located at 60 Bedford St. (Route 18), Whitman MA. Tel. (781) 447-3889

Editor's note: we do recommend calling ahead before visiting these ice cream stands to ensure consistent hours of operations.

Related articles:
Mystic Drawbridge Ice Cream, Mystic, Conn.
Abbott's Frozen Custard, Needham, Mass.
The Best New England Ice Cream Stands
Kimball Farm Ice Cream, Westford, Mass.
Kool Kone, Wareham, Mass.
Bubbling Brook Ice Cream, Westwood, Mass.
Ben and Jerry's Factory Ice Cream Tour, Waterbury, Vt.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Going Green in Walpole, Mass., at Three Downtown Irish Pubs

If you can't get to Ireland any time soon,  try downtown Walpole, Mass.

No, you won't find any low lying mountains, lush vegetation, rolling green pastures or sea cliffs in this small, often quaint southwest Boston suburb, but three authentic Irish pubs within a few hundred yards of each other will surely conjure up visions of the Emerald Isle.

Three pleasant native Irish gentlemen with brogues of varying degree own Finnegan's Wake, The Raven's Nest and Napper Tandy's Walpole. It's impossible to compare one Irish pub with another, as each has its own special personality, but, ultimately, they are all superb pub destinations.  Walpole, with nearly 60 percent of its population of Irish descent, has more than a few people that know Ireland well, and tell me that Finnegan's, The Raven's Nest and Napper Tandy's would all fit in quite well if located in Ireland.

Finnegan's Wake, Walpole, Mass. (photo by Eric)
Finnegan's Wake is located in the basement of an old former foundry building on a hard-to-find side street. Cozy doesn't even begin to describe the bar and dining areas as the lower level setting, ambient dim lighting and a casual, mellow vibe makes Finnegan's seem like one's own private discovery. It's a great place to watch the game, or enjoy a quiet conversation farther away from the bar. Owner Tom Kirwan, who used to own Kirwan's Kitchen breakfast restaurant on Main St., took over the former Rebel bar several years ago, and put his own stamp on the place with a pub straight out of Ireland. He works a lot of hours, but always remains kind and sincere -- and often personally making sure the customer is having a good experience. He also gives so much back to the community. Kristen Smith is a business partner and the long-time chef, and really has a firm grasp of mastering every dish available to customers. Together, Tom and Kristen and a generally well chosen staff (especially the young man also named Tom who works there) help make Finnegan's such a special place.

The look of Finnegan's Wake is rather understated -- certainly not one of those over-the-top Irish pubs that are more cartoon-like than authentic. Finnegan's has lots of character, a few characters at the bar, and an overall demeanor that is family-friendly.   There's more of an accent on Irish fare here including fabulous, true-to-tradition shepherd's pie, bangers and mash, Gunness Beef Stew (unbelievably good!) and toasties. The roast turkey dinner, steak tips and fish and chips are, also, recommended, too. The beer selection is great, the pizza surprisingly good, and there are enough televisions to comfortably watch the game. What a hidden gem! Finnegans Wake is located at 7 Glenwood Ave., in Walpole MA. Tel. (508) 668-1189

The Raven's Nest. Photo Credit: The Raven's Nest
Mark McAuliffe and his wife Maura took the former Paddock and Barleycorn restaurants -- or perhaps dives would be a better word -- and transformed the place into a design that would even make Restaurant Impossible host Robert Irvine proud. Mark had each brick on one wall handpainted, and created an incredibly, picture-perfect attactive bar and dining room that looks like something out of a movie with large windows that open up in the summer and views of the beautiful Walpole town common. Mark has told me, with the utmost pride, more than a few times that The Raven's Nest offers the "coziness" and "warmth" of traditional Irish pubs in his native land. Mark should know, being from County Cork and as a veteran of the restaurant scene as he also owns The Mad Raven in Waltham, Mass. He and Maura also own The Coffee Perch, a few doors down -- really a fabulous little coffee shop. I love the casual, friendly atmosphere at The Ravens' Nest, and can't say enough about the excellent contemporary cuisine and pub fare like pistachio chicken, apple goat cheese salmon, beef and bacon chili, mac and cheese, steak tips with bourbon marinade, grilled pizza, mac and cheese, fresh chicken pesto sandwich, roasted wings, and mouthwatering burgers. Have no fear, though, if you think The Raven's Nest doesn't have enough Irish fare: the flavorful Shepherd's pie and chicken curry dinner confirm the owner's culinary roots. Add plenty of large TV screens to see the game, 15 different draft beers, an extensive wine list, many signature cocktails, live music on weekends, and an outdoor patio for those laid back summer nights, and The Raven's Nest seems like the prototype for a classic pub. This brings up the following question: why put up with the hassle of driving into Boston for just a meal when you have a place in the suburbs that is as good, if not better, than some of the higher profile, more expensive urban spots -- and with plenty of parking spaces in the downtown district? The Raven's Nest is located at 998 Main St., in Walpole MA. Tel. (508) 734-9377

Napper Tandy's Walpole. (photo by Eric)
Like Kirwan and McAullife, Napper Tandy's Walpole owner John Jacob is from Ireland -- Kildare to be exact. He is an extremely hard worker and a personable sort that enjoys a good conversation and has an ambitious nature that makes him a well respected local restauranteur. His wife, Niamh, is a co-owner, thus making Napper's Walpole a true family-run business.

In the past several years, John has opened Napper Tandy's in Norwood and Roslindale, and Eugene O'Neill's in Jamaica Plain. The Walpole location is the newest and my personal favorite. There's a strong focus on the food and the atmosphere is so much fun: 10,000 square feet that includes a charming pub with oak bar and high top tables, a large dining room/lounge with a beautiful mahogany bar, and a downstairs pool hall with nine pool tables, four dart boards, a jukebox and full bar. The food quality is almost always outstanding including some one of the best burgers I have ever tasted, sirloin Shepherd's pie, tenderloin steak tips, fish and chips, edamame stir fry and baked Haddock Nantucket with herb breadcrumbs and New England clam chowder served with rice and sauteed broccoli. Napper's also offers some excellent pizzas, salads with fresh greens and an impressive appetizers menu including coconut curried mussels, fried calamari, fried onion petals, wings, and fried pickles. The drinks selection is outstanding with all the usual suspects, plus a great selection of craft beers including several IPAs on tap.

Napper Tandy's Walpole is certainly large in size, but that doesn't take anything away from the intimate, cozy charm of the restaurant. The upstairs bars and dining areas truly have a quaint and relaxed yet vibrant feeling and the historic cottage exterior adds further layers of personality. Napper's Walpole also offers a patio for outdoor seating during the summer and, at this writing, free pool on Monday nights, paint and sip bar nights on select Tuesdays, and trivia night on Wednesdays at 8 p.m. Napper Tandy's Walpole is located at 1065 Main St., Walpole MA. Tel. 508-668-1191

So, which Walpole pub would I recommend? The answer is "All of the above." It's almost unheard of to have three pubs with an Irish feel so close to each other in such a small town, but their presence not only helps make downtown Walpole a nice destination, but gives locals some very appealing dining options.

Related articles: 
O'Connors Restaurant and Bar, Worcester, Mass.
Best Irish pubs from Boston to Worcester
Google Virtual Tours of Irish pubs in New England
Visiting Walpole, Mass.

Prisoners Create Wood Products for Sale at the Maine State Prison Showroom in Thomaston, Maine

If you feel imprisoned by a world of generic faceless shopping destinations, then the Maine State Prison Showroom in Thomaston, Maine, will surely free you from these retail constraints.

Maine inmates from the Maine State Prison get to acquire valuable job skills while creating unique wood products, including furniture, toys, wooden model sailing ships, jewelry boxes, chests, desks, dressers, wardrobes, birdhouses and more.

Maine State prison personnel and inmates run the showrooms, which features several hundred items. The prices are reasonable and many online reviewers postitively comment about the quality workmanship of many of the products for sale..

The Maine State Prison Showroom is part of the Maine Department of Corrections Industries which "highly regulated program enables participating prisoners to earn money which goes toward reimbursing the state for their room and board expenses, as well as paying victim restitution and child support," according to the Maine Department of Corrections Web Site.

The Maine State Prison Showroom is located at 358 Main St. (Rt. 1) in Thomaston, Maine. Tel. (207) 354-9237

Monday, January 5, 2015

Eagle Trading Company Sells Old, Rare, Out-of-Print Cookbooks in Assonet, Mass.

If you love unique independently-owned book stores, here's one of the best kept secrets in New England: Eagle Trading Company, a small bookshop that sells cookbooks in the Assonet neighborhood of Freetown, Mass.

Chuck, the gracious owner of Eagle Trading Company, possesses an amazing selection of old, rare and out-of-print cookbooks. His store is open on Mondays and Tuesdays, 10 a.m.-5 p.m., so you'll have to make a phone appointment at (508) 644-9880 if looking to visit any other time of the week. Still, I would call even before embarking on a Monday or Tuesday trip just to make sure the book store is open.

Eagle Trading Company is located at 4 Elm St., Unit 1, in Assonet MA about 10 minutes outside Fall River on the Southcoast.

Editor's note: do you have a best kept New England travel secret? Write us and we'll consider your feedback for inclusion at the New England Travel and Vacation Gazette.

Related articles:
Montague Bookmill, Montague, Mass.
Park Street Books, Medfield, Mass., the largest children's book store in New England
The Book Bear, West Brookfield, Mass.
The Traveler Restaurant, Union, Conn., offers three free books with each meal
Assonet Inn restaurant, Assonet, Mass.

Maine Bed Racing, Whoopie Pie and Lobster Festivals in 2015

Bed Races in Bar Harbor.
Photo credit: Maine Office of Tourism
New England has its share of unique public festivals with Maine arguably leading the way in creativity. Bed races on a main street, the Maine Lobster and Whoopie Pie Festivals and help prove the point.

These traditions are thankfully scheduled to continue for 2015...

The 21st annual Early Bird Sales and Bed Races will take place on Nov. 7 in downtown Bar Harbor. Local merchants offer shopping from 6 a.m.-9 a.m., at the attractive Village Green while the traditionally silly yet fun bed and pajama parade and race begins at 10 a.m. on Cottage St.

Maine Lobster Festival parade.
Photo Credit: Maine Lobster Festival
Over in vibrant downtown Rockland, the 67th annual Maine Lobster Festival is scheduled for July 29- Aug. 2 with 20,000 lbs. of lobster on the premises, a lobster crate race, the Main Eating tent with lobster dinners, lobster rolls, lobster Caesar wraps and lobster Caesar salads, professional cooking contests, a parade, a road race, fun run and walk, arts and crafts and coronation of the Maine Sea Goddess. The Lobster Festival has become a world-renowned event and is not only a fun time, but also helps support hard-working local businesses.

Maine Whoopie Pie Festival.
Photo credit: Maine Whoopie Pie Festival 
The Maine Whoopie Festival started as an idea tossed around the kitchen that turned into an incredibly popular event, thanks to Patrick Myers, founder and organizer. This year's festival will take place on June 27th in downtown Dover-Foxcroft with local bakers selling their versions of whoopie pies, as well as competing in contests where judges determine the best whoopie pies. Several thousand are expected to attend this fun festival that also features 25 cent samples, music, merchandise for sale, and the Whoopie Pie Festival Mascot, Sweetie Pie.

FYI, the whoopie pie is the official state treat as the Maine Legislature wrote this into law in 2012 (Maine blueberry pie is the official state dessert). Who would have known?

Editor's note: if you know of a unique Maine event, please email us! Additionally, please check for updates on each web site to ensure these events will happen.

Related articles and resources:
All about the Maine whoopie pie
Hotels in Rockland
Hotels in Dover-Foxcroft
Hotels in Bar Harbor

Saturday, January 3, 2015

How to Purchase New England Ski Lift Tickets in Advance and Save

Liftopia, a novel platform for ski resorts in North America, is offering discounts on New England lift tickets up to 79% off, at this writing, when purchased in advance.

Whether a one-day lift ticket or multi-day package, we are finding some amazing deals at major ski resorts in Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut (yes, contrary to popular belief, those last two states do have ski destinations!).  Because New England is compact, many ski resorts are within driving distance from New England cities like Boston, Providence, Hartford and Portland

Some of the major ski destinations found on Liftopia, at this writing, include Mount Snow, Attitash, Killington, Gunstock, Smugglers' Notch, Wildcat Mountain, Cranmore, Jiminy Peak, Wachusett and Bretton Woods.

File this one under "Isn't 21st Century online technology amazing?"

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Diary of a Wimpy Kid Author to Open Bookstore in Plainville, Mass.

Construction in downtown Plainville, Mass., where
new bookstore will open (photo by Eric)
Jeff Kinney, author of the popular children's book series, "Diary of a Wimpy Kid," and his wife Julie will be opening a bookstore in a new building that is sure to change the look of downtown Plainville, Mass.

Construction at the corner of 2 East Bacon and South Streets is well underway with the new three-story building taking over the former Falk's Market site, which through the years, turned from a beloved landmark into an out-of-business eyesore. That suburban blight is now a past chapter with a new story unfolding as a historical Federal architectural style can be already be witnessed driving by this central Plainville location.

The Sun Chronicle is reporting that the bookstore, along with plans for a cafe on the first floor, could be open by the spring 2015. Specific plans for the rest of the building are yet-to-be-determined but there is office space available.

I believe that this new building will be a game changer for downtown Plainville.  The district already has some wonderful elements, including Don's Diner and Norm's  Seafood, Purple Rooster Cafe, an old-time independently-owned pharmacy, a nice public library, terrific town park and very attractive tree-lined streets with beautiful older homes off the main drag. Adding an independently-owned bookstore and cafe within a nice-looking new building that blends in well with the look of this small town will surely potentiate the good bones of the downtown.

Kinney and his wife reside in Plainville, so this is really a wonderful way of them making their hometown even better. Kudos to them!

This is what the final project should look like:

2 East Bacon St. project. Photo credit: 2 East Bacon Facebook page
It is indeed a very exciting time for Plainville. Stay tuned, as this corner of Plainville is about to have a long-awaited makeover!

For updates on the building, log onto the 2 East Bacon Facebook fan page.



Popular Posts