Blogs > Millennial Traveler

New and traditional ways of exploring the globe, and your own backyard.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Snuggies at Foxwoods, Pizza at Mohegan Sun

Considering I’ve lived in an area only a couple hours from Connecticut, you would think that I would have gone to CT more than twice. But, after this last trip, I might start going more.
Aside from the coastline, with the must-see Mystic Seaport, some of the largest casinos in the world are in this tiny state. And, lucky for us, Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun are less than an hour apart from each other.
The first night staying with friends in Connecticut, we went to check out Mohegan Sun. I wasn’t sure what to expect before we got there, but whatever was in my head, the casino surpassed it.
The parking was very easy, though it didn’t hurt having people with us who knew where they were going.
We followed the multi-colored carpet of Native American designs into a Vegas-like oasis. I loved how the casino followed in the Sin City path by picking a theme and sticking with it in the whole facility. There were large wooden canoes welcoming us followed by towering beautiful, colorful pillars. I never realized arrowheads could look so pretty on a gigantic chandelier either.
That first night we just walked around and took it all in, since there was a lot to see.
Along with elegant shops, there were waterfalls and a bar inside what looked like a rock lookout with a star-infused dome imitating a clear night sky. The bar had a good vibe and a great view of the casino floor.
There were also world-class restaurants and nightclubs, but we settled on a quaint-looking Irish pub in lieu of the club next door which I was told had scantily-clad dancers and a line down the corridor on weekends. The pub truly did remind me of an Irish establishment with a mock fire place, wooden benches and wrought iron decorating, though I do not remember ever visiting a place quite like it in the Emerald Isle.
The following day, my boyfriend had a hankering for good pizza and had seen a show on the Food Network about a local pizzeria called Frank Pepe’s. Luckily, there was a location at Mohegan Sun.
As I looked to the second level of the casino and saw inebriated youths dancing in line to a very loud bass that seemed to come from one of the bars, our group waited in a long line of our own at Pepe’s. The food was good though the pizza was cut in a way that I had never seen before with random lines throughout the pie instead of the traditional triangular pieces.
Before we left Connecticut, I wanted to go to what I had heard was the largest casino by square footage in the world – Foxwoods. The night before, was a long night of debauchery at a friend’s party so everyone was in the mood for hangover food, like burgers.
Along with being the largest casino at 4,700,000 square feet, Foxwoods is also home to the largest burger available for purchase at Fuddruckers’s. We didn’t order that particular burger, though my friends said they have before, but I did get a pretty awesome burger with avocado and a chocolate milkshake.
While waiting in line there too, we were surrounded by people carrying Snuggies. They asked us if we were there for the Snuggies too. I guess it was a giveaway day.
I was not as impressed with Foxwoods’ décor as I was with Mohegan Sun’s, but maybe that could change with another visit to the immense shopping mall or the nearby MGM Grand.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Happy Turkey Day to all, and to all a good flight!

It's the start of the most wonderful, and sometimes hectic, time of the year: the holidays.

Today, in particular, has been dubbed by most experts as the most travelled day of the year, for Americans.

At the Albany International Airport, they are expecting 9,000 people (that's how many people Equinox expects to feed tomorrow). Some airport travelers will take advantage of the Opt-Out and others will go through what some call the intrusive TSA security checks.

I actually have yet to deal with holiday air travel. I'm usually with the vast majority of people who drive to their destinations for Thanksgiving. Normally, it's over the Hudson River and through the woods along I-88 to my grandmother's house in Binghamton.

This year, however, we're opting out of traveling and spending a quiet holiday at my parent's beautiful Victorian house in Troy's Eastside neighborhood.

I try not to forget that beyond the good food, friends and family...and an excuse to have a day off....Thanksgiving is about giving Thanks and I like to remember that first journey the pilgrims took that brought us to where we are today.

I wish everyone traveling happy travels and, of course, happy Turkey Day!

You can call me a (travel) dreamer

Am I a complete weirdo or do other people also fall asleep thinking about future travel plans?
Last night, as my eyes grew tired while watching Easy A, I started thinking about a conversation I had with a friend at my roommate's birthday party. She said how Las Vegas was a great place to base yourself out of while doing outdoorsy things in Nevada and Utah.
My friend, who just got married this summer, went to California and Vegas for her honeymoon, and while in Sin City went to Death Valley, Zion National Park and Red Rock Canyon.
I had no idea these were so close to Vegas. Well, I knew Death Valley was a day trip from Vegas because I had hoped to go this past summer myself - but I guess you always have to leave stuff to do for when you come back.
So, now I'm thinking I'd fly in Vegas, rent a car and do a few days trips out of there including to Zion and Death Valley. Then, drive to Arizona and maybe finally see the Grand Canyon from the Northern side which I hear is phenomenal. Followed by another day of driving to the Monument Valley, not too incredibly far from the Four Corners. From here, go to Mesa Verde in Colorado which I also missed on this past road trip.
The trip would conclude in Denver where I'd probably do another day trip or two in the Rockies for hiking and seeing friends in the area.
I even figured out a tentative budget.
Yes, this is what I think about when I'm about to drift off and fall asleep....

Friday, November 19, 2010

Northern Ireland-bound!

It’s still nearly a year away but I’m extremely excited that a friend just asked me to be a bride’s maid in her wedding. That may not sound very exciting to you, but it’s one of my best friends and the wedding happens to be in a country I’ve never been to: Northern Ireland.
Back story: I met my friend Clementine my freshman year of college. We were all in the same “First Year Program” at St. Lawrence University and therefore were all in the same section of a dorm.
Through the years, despite distance and changes in our lives, I’ve stayed close with Clementine and a few other good friends from SLU.
It was with Clementine that I did my first (and only, thus far) East Coast road trip from NY to Florida.
And it was with her that I tried my first absinthe, which may or may not have been a good idea in hindsight.
Since her family is from the Czech Republic, she always had interesting and new food and drinks to try.
While I have had an interest in international cultures for as long as I can remember, it was probably her friendship that helped me evolve my passion for travel and learning about new parts of the world.
Being a British citizen, she gave me advice when I did my study abroad in London. In turn, I helped out as best I could with my past experiences in Egypt and Turkey when she decided to take trips to those locations.
It does not surprise me at all that she is having an international wedding. In fact, it would have surprised me if she didn’t.
But, besides that adventurous and fun part of her personality, it was also in Ireland that she fell in love with her fiancé where they met as graduate students.
She told me when she got engaged that they were looking at locations in Ireland, but they came across a few problems with this as well – she wanted to have an outdoor ceremony and it tends to rain a lot in the lush, green, beautiful country.
After looking at a few locations, they have decided on the Crom Estate in Northern Ireland. And they were told that May and September are the best times to try to avoid rain so…I’m Northern Ireland-bound in September! I haven’t been to Northern Ireland before so I am looking forward to being the perpetual tourist that I am and maybe go down to some parts of Ireland I missed on my last trip.
I’m pretty sure my boyfriend will enjoy the beer and jovial Irish people as well.
I know I’ve read some bad things about Northern Ireland, I think one of the blogs on this site focused on that, but I’m hoping to look on the bright side of this since it is a wedding and the pictures of the ceremony site are beautiful.
Still, tips are always welcomed from the peanut gallery…cheers, in advance….

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Saranac Brewery: More than just beer

I’ve been to a lot of breweries (mostly in the northeast), and the F.X. Matt Brewing Company’s Saranac Brewery Tour has been the most memorable thus far.
There was a large crowd there for the tours this past Saturday. I’m sure some of them were going for the beer since you get two glasses of the beer of your choice at the end of the $5 tour. Just getting those two beers is a good deal for the $5, but you get to learn about the history and beer process as well.
The tour hour starts in an oddly-ornate room, for a brewery.
There’s imported dark green wallpaper, detailed ceiling work, and antiques adding to the ambiance. The desk where I signed in was once owned by P.T. Barnum. The grandfather clock next to it is worth more than $1 million.
Then the walls in the room have display cases of past and present beer-related items – steins, Utica Club oilcan beer cans, bumper stickers.
The next room showcases the former and current owners of the brewery that started in 1888.
This is where it starts to turn into every other brewery tour I have been on, but with a twist. Every tour apparently has to include basic background on beer: what’s in it, how to make it. What I liked about this tour was that the rooms we entered to learn about these topics were beautiful.
There’s a Prohibition room, complete with an antique music player and security door to see who is on the other side before opening it. And the room with barrels of hops and grains and Saranac merchandise had one of the most beautiful colorful glass chandeliers I have ever seen.
The actual brewery area was also impressive with huge copper components and tubs of ingredients.
Since we went on a Saturday, the assembly line was not running but we got to see the new parts of the factory that were destroyed in a fire two years ago.
The only mistake I made that afternoon was not eating beforehand. I was definitely a bit tipsy after the two beers at the end of the tour.
The reason I liked this tour was that they focused on their unique history, which is why I go to breweries – not to learn what’s in the beer. I already know that: alcohol J.

The Brewery Shop& Tour Center830 Varick StreetUtica, NY 13502

June - AugustMon. - Sat.1 p.m. & 3 p.m.
Sept. - MayFri. & Sat.1 p.m. & 3 p.m.
Gift Shop HoursMonday through Saturday10 a.m. to 5 p.m.