Here are some more fun photos from my Jamestown, New York trip to the Lucy Comedy Fest!
Recognize these from I Love Lucy.
I’ve been an ‘I Love Lucy’ fan for as long as I could remember. As a kid, I wanted to stomp grapes and wrap chocolate. I would hold bottles of cough syrup and pretend to do a Vitameatavegamin commercial (the drunk version). I also wish I had a dollar for everytime I said “Lucy, you got some ‘splainin’ to do’ or ‘Luuuccccy I’m home.’ No, I didn’t know anyone by the name of Lucy. I just made sure to say these famous phrases whenever it fit. I know every word of every episode of I Love Lucy. I only disliked a few episodes (the visit to Scotland is one of them). I wanted to meet Lucille Ball. I wanted to ‘be’ Lucille Ball. She was my idol and I admired all the work she did to pave the way for other female comedians, writers, producers, etc., after her. I read whatever I could on her and saw her on whatever show she was on.
Years ago, when I went to Atlantic City, New Jersey there was an ‘I Love Lucy’ exhibit with memorabilia from the show, including clothes, awards and props. I remember turning a corner at the exhibit and seeing a re-creation of both the Manhattan apartment and the California hotel room. My eyes welled up and I couldn’t control the tears that flowed. I felt that I stepped back in history and right through my television set. It was THAT good. I felt like I was in the Desilu Studios watching a taping of ‘I Love Lucy.’
When I found out that Lucille Ball was born in Jamestown, New York (only a five-hour drive away from my own home), I added a trip to this small town to my must-see list. I wanted to see where my idol was born and raised. Then, I found out about the Lucy Comedy Fest, an annual event in Jamestown where there are comedy shows, grape stomping (yes!), candy wrapping (yes! yes!), tributes to Lucy and tours of “Desilu Studios” which is more of the re-creations and memorabilia.
For several years I tried to get to this Comedy Fest, but the stars didn’t align until this past August when I finally went with my honey (who isn’t an ‘I Love Lucy’ or Lucille Ball superfan per se, but had a great time nonetheless).
I went to a panel where Peter Farrelly (There’s Something About Mary (1998), Me, Myself & Irene (2000) and Dumb & Dumber (1994)) told really funny stories about his career (Bobby was sick with the flu but was scheduled to appear) and then took a lucky winner for a ride in the Mutts Cuts van from the movie ‘Dumb & Dumber.’
I went to both the Babalu Cafe and the Havana Cuban Cafe & Pizzeria (where I had my first Cuban sandwich — YUM! — thanks Ruben!, who also happened to have the best flan around).
I finally lived out my dream of grape stomping and chocolate wrapping too! The volunteers dressed us up similar to what Lucy wore (even my honey let them wrap a ‘skirt’ and a bandanna on him) and we stepped into a basket filled with grapes. Stepping into the bucket felt cold and goopy and absolutely wonderful. I couldn’t wait to start. For two minutes, we stomped in circles and crushed the grapes. The lady next to me really got into it and threw the grapes at me, just like it happened to Lucy in the episode. Can I say ‘so much fun’ too many times?
The chocolate wrapping was a hoot. My honey and I did it together (I’m Lucy, he’s Ethel) and it was much more difficult than I thought it would be. Speed it up a little! they did! and before you know it there were chocolates flying everywhere and we just couldn’t keep up and we kept laughing. I resisted the urge to hide the ‘chocolates’ down my shirt and in my hat.
Recording a Vitameatavegamin commercial was awesome. I want to give props to the Museum because after I recorded my first (non-drunk) commercial, I accidentally deleted it and they let me in again to record it. Afterward, I had some regrets about not doing the drunk one, but hey at least I gave it a shot. Cut me some slack, I got stage fright with others watching me. LOL).
I’ve told so many people about this comedy fest that the attendance should go up next year. Hopefully I’ll come back and see it again. The professional comedians who were there this year included Brian Regan, Trevor Noah, and Lewis Black. There were Lucy & Ethel shows and tours of Jamestown.
We saw the homes where Lucille was born and raised and heard stories about the couple who bought her childhood home just to make sure that nobody remodeled it (they were outside waving to our tour bus). We went to the cemetery where Lucille is buried. I admit that I cried a little. I cried the day she died too.
We were there for her 105th birthday celebration (Lucille died in 1989) and saw the ‘ugly’ Lucille Ball statue. We also saw the unveiling of the beautiful new Lucille Ball statue and sang ‘Happy Birthday’ to her (again, got choked up). I paid homage to the woman who meant so much to me growing up — she made me laugh and thanks to her hard work inspired me to achieve whatever I wanted and not let being a woman stop me.
Jamestown will also become home to the National Comedy Center, which is currently being built. It is a 50 million project funded by public-private partnership and has been awarded more than $3.5 million from New York State, Empire State Development and I Love NY™. Many of the professional comedians who came to the Festival went on a private hard-hat tour of the future site.
“Comedy is one of the most overlooked of all the arts–it’s usually the dramatic stuff that gets all the attention & recognition,” said Peter Farrelly in a release. “So to have a place that will celebrate comedy and the comics of the past is a great thing.”
In case you were wondering, we stayed at the Red Roof Inn in Falconer, New York. A shout out to the manager there because we were accidentally double-billed for our entire stay (if you’re on a tight budget, things like that can hurt). She did everything she could to make sure it was fixed right away, so thanks! This was my first experience with a Red Roof Inn and it was very clean and comfortable. The staff was extremely pleasant as well.
If you’re interested in going to the Lucy Comedy Fest in 2017, go to the website and sign up for the newsletter so you know when they announce the dates. Book your hotel AS SOON AS the dates are announced, but be forewarned that the rates of some of the hotels will double. We got a decent rate and the Red Roof Inn was only about 10 minutes from town so it was very convenient. There was plenty of parking around for every event, so I recommend staying here if you’re going and, if you’re a Lucy fan, GO!
I’ll post more of the Lucy pictures, plus my foodie photos in another.
Are you a Lucy fan???! Tell me about it!
Hotel Pennsylvania is located around the corner from the Empire State Building and directly across the street from Madison Square Garden (MSG) at 401 Seventh Avenue and 33rd Street in New York City. It’s very easily accessible and right in the thick of things. It’s only a short walk to Times Square and a slightly longer walk to Grand Central Terminal. Penn Station is directly across the street with MSG.
I’ve been to Hotel Pennsylvania before, but never stayed overnight. Once or twice a year, I participate as a panelist for the National Publicity Summit and it’s held at Hotel Pennsylvania. According to their website, Hotel Pennsylvania is a landmark hotel that opened in 1919. It was built by the Pennsylvania Railroad and operated by Ellsworth Statler nearly a century ago.
The hotel offers your standard rooms and suites that offer separate seating areas to single, double, triple and quad rooms. There is also the Penn 5000 Club rooms that has extra benefits, including a mini-refrigerator and a flat screen TV. We stayed in a Penn 5000 Club room that was graciously upgraded to us after the manager found out we were there celebrating my honey’s birthday.
We walked down the hall and then down another long hall (okay maybe it wasn’t so long, but remember our legs were sore from our long day that we had) to our room. The room was nice and comfortable and we had the refrigerator and the flat screen TV. It was definitely a suitable accommodation for our night and affordable for us, which is always a plus. Combined with the great location, it’s a good choice for those who are visiting NYC.
A few doors down from the hotel was an all-night store that had a buffet, sandwiches and a wide variety of drinks and snacks.
Virgin Traveler Tip: This is a great hotel to stay at if you’re in town for a sporting event or concert at MSG. It’s also pet friendly!
Virgin Traveler Tip: When you find a hotel you are interested in, follow them on Facebook and Twitter and check their sites on a regular basis for specials. Once, I found a hotel special for a different hotel that was posted for, literally, 90 minutes. By the time I could tell others about it, it was gone. My savings? $300 for the night.
Address: New York’s Hotel Pennsylvania, 401 Seventh Avenue at 33rd Street New York, NY 10001; Toll-free: 1.800.223.8585.
It’s only about two hours from my house, but Lake George had never really been on my list of places to visit. I’m not sure why, but I’m not really a lake person. I prefer to watch the ocean or swim in a pool. The last memory I have of being in a lake was when I was really young and in summer camp and the counselor wanted me to stick my head under the water to see if I could swim. Then, based on how well I did, I would be put into either the A, B, or C swimmers’ group. I’m not sure, but I think I was in the C group which, in my young mind, stood for “Can’t swim, get me out of here!”
I always wanted to be a good swimmer, but I never really mastered it. When I was told to get in the lake, I remember feeling fish swimming around my feet. It didn’t feel good to me and I was already scared about the swim test so I told the counselor I wasn’t putting my head in that water. Since then, well my feet haven’t touched lake water.
But my honey had been to Lake George at least 12 times and kept telling me he wanted to go back. So when we had business in the area, it was a good chance to check it out for just a little while. And no, I didn’t have to dunk my head. As a matter of fact, I still haven’t gone back in the water.
Remember, though, that a Virgin Traveler doesn’t just go straight to the destination. It’s important to maximize your travel opportunities and, if possible, stop and see things along the way too. Remember how I have a Parks passport that gets stamped each time I go to the park? Well, we found out that we would pass the Martin Van Buren historical home in Kinderhook so we stopped, took the tour and got another stamp. Van Buren was the eighth president of the United States.
My only disappointment with this tour was that we couldn’t take pictures, except this one outside (the house is in the back). We’ve taken photos in the other homes, but not this one. Bummer.
Tip: If you’re seeing historical homes during the summer, THEY ARE HOT. Most of the old homes of course had no air conditioning. Yes, they had fans on this tour, but we were still overheated. I might consider seeing some of the other homes when the weather gets cooler.
We also stopped at the Fort William Henry Museum. We were already overheated from the Martin Van Buren tour, but honestly I was really excited about going to this museum. I was disappointed in the property itself. We didn’t stay for the tour after all because we were truly overheated and wanted to get to the hotel, so instead we did some touring on our own. Displays needed repair and were a bit boring, but if you have kids, they might enjoy this. It was definitely kid friendly, but we didn’t have any kids with us.
The ONE THING that took my breath away was seeing the dungeon. My imagination took over when I opened the small door that had a tiny hole to peek at the prisoner that would be kept in there. The first door I opened had chains on the floor and the rooms were barely 3 feet x 3 feet. I got chills.
Tip: If you’re going to visit, and you should stop by just for the historical aspect of it, check Groupon. We got a buy one get one free coupon before we left, which saved us money.
After we were done, we finally headed over to The Sagamore.
We were only in Lake George for a little more than 24 hours, so we can call this a ‘sample’, but I still enjoyed myself. We were guests at The Sagamore for the evening and I can’t say enough about this resort. It’s GORGEOUS. The rooms are beautiful (ours was a suite with a balcony that overlooked the entire property and came with an amazing lake view), the staff is extremely nice and the amenities are great. The kids have activities of their own on the property and there are family activities as well. We enjoyed the outdoor pools and the Jacuzzi.
They also have their own boat, The Morgan (the picture is on the right) and you can hop on it during one of the scheduled times for a ride around the lake.
Tip: Book your boat reservation when you book your stay. Don’t wait to do it until you get there. Someone who tried to get on the boat before us didn’t realize that they needed a reservation and his daughter was so disappointed when they were turned away. It’s free for the guests of The Sagamore, but the public can pay a fee to come on board as well. I enjoyed this ride so much. The views were fantastic and it was an hour and a half of pure relaxation (although the breeze went away on the way back!). Throw in a daiquiri and we were good to go.
Bottom line: You need a slightly larger budget for this place, but if you have a little extra money to splurge on your Lake George vacation, especially if you have kids or grandkids that you’re taking with you, consider The Sagamore. It’s such a treat.
While we were there, we went shopping on the strip near The Sagamore and opted for a less expensive pizza dinner at Palazzo’s Pizzeria in town and it was very good (I’m very picky about pizza, so this is truly worth noting).
Lake George made it back on my list for a possible longer visit next time.
A few weeks ago, I posted a status on Facebook about “one of the coolest things I’ve ever done in my life.” Keep in mind that I run in circles with writers – travel writers especially – who have done so much more than I think I ever will. They’ve scaled mountains, gone to foreign countries where they’ve spent time interviewing some of the coolest people and stayed in the most luxurious hotels in the most exotic locations. I didn’t do any of that. But what I did literally took my breath away. I have such an appreciation of Mother Nature and its beauty and I think that appreciation gets even bigger as I get older.
Just a few weeks ago my honey, Ej Garr, and I took a trip to Niagara Falls, New York, (my first) which lead to one of the coolest things I’ve done so far. First, I cannot even describe the emotion of seeing the Falls for the very first time.
When we walked into the park, the first thing you see is the calmer, yet still pretty moving, part of the Falls which lead up to the biggest drops. And I got a little emotional. Then we made it down to the bigger part of the Falls and they are absolutely stunning, magical and breathtaking and I got even more emotional.
The only part about Niagara Falls that I didn’t expect – and I don’t know why I didn’t expect it – was how ‘touristy’ it was. I thought that it would be filled with people who were there to appreciate the splendor of it all and I’m sure that many people were, but those who weren’t were the people who threw trash over the railing. Disgusting. Come on people!
Refreshments were ridiculously high inside the park and in many of the restaurants outside of the park. We are travelers on a budget. Thinking that pizza would be a good, affordable option when we first arrived — when isn’t it?! — we went to Mario’s NY Pizza and bought a few slices at $3.50 a pop. They were smaller than a standard slice and, sorry, not very good. I’m very particular about my pizza and I’ve eaten a LOT of pizza over the years. It was suitable for a quick meal, but nothing special and waaaay overpriced.
We were in Niagara for only two full days, so we went to TGI Fridays the next night (it’s right next door to the brand new Rainforest Cafe, but we got smacked again when the burgers were twice as expensive as the TGIF in my hometown. We did go to the Seneca Niagara & Casino and found a more affordable restaurant for a quick lunch, but of course you get what you pay for and it wasn’t great either. I did go to my first Tim Hortons Cold Stone Creamery in the casino where we found extremely affordable coffee, muffins and other sweets. Our hotel had a free breakfast, but the muffins made a good late night snack.
So if you are going to see the Falls and you are on a budget, think about going to a local grocery store, buying some sandwiches and having a picnic in the park otherwise the food inside will definitely drain your wallet.
We were also guests of The Giacomo Hotel in Niagara Falls and I have to say that the staff was absolutely wonderful. They helped us with every question we had about the area and we had great little chats about coffee and tea and the work that we do. The hotel is also in walking distance to the Falls.
Most importantly to me, the rooms were extremely clean and the art deco design was beautiful. I wished that my bedroom at home could be that pretty.
By the way, the building is historic. Check out one example of the designs that you’ll see on the outside. Cute! By the way, how many people really look at their hotel like this? LOL
The Niagara Tourism Bureau provided some tickets for us to see a few sites, which included the movie on Niagara Falls – and that is a must see because of the behind-the-scenes stories it tells– and the Maids of the Mist – ONE OF THE COOLEST THINGS I’VE EVER DONE.
Okay, so here we go: It was pouring rain when we went on the ride and we almost didn’t get there. The day before it was shut down because of too much water (if you can believe it) so we thought that more rain would keep the boat docked, but it was open and I knew that I HAD to do this. Unbelievable. The boat takes you right up to the Falls and the noise, the power of the water and the view were all just so amazing — AH-MAZ-ING. I ranked this as one of the most fun things I’ve ever done (okay, so I’m the Virgin Traveler and haven’t done a ton yet, but this is a great start. DO THIS. If you do nothing else at Niagara Falls other than see the Falls, DO THIS. Ride the Maid of the Mist.
Also, when I told people I was going to Niagara Falls, they would ask if I was visiting the Canada or US side? I kept being told that Canada is the better side, but when you take the Maids of the Mist trip, Canada or US side doesn’t matter. Plain and simple – it’s awesome.
Five Virgin Traveler Tips About Niagara Falls, New York.
1. See the Falls as often as you can. Once just isn’t enough. Go during the day, again at night and again before you have to leave. Soak it all in.
2. Bring a picnic, the food inside the park is extremely expensive.
3. See the movie about Niagara Falls in the park’s theater. Very cool.
4. Maid of the Mist — find a way to do it.
5. The fireworks show was nice, but very short. It’s still fun though.
On the way home, we stopped at the Theodore Roosevelt Inaugural Historic Site in Buffalo and got another stamp in our passport! More on that in my next blog post.
Until then! WHAT’S THE COOLEST THING YOU’VE DONE SO FAR?
Several times a week, before my daughter bought her car, I drove her to work in Rhinebeck, New York. On the way, I passed through the town of Hyde Park. It’s literally 11 miles from my house. Each time I drove her to work, I passed by The Home of Franklin D. Roosevelt National Historic Site. My kids went there a few times on school field trips to learn about the 32nd president who served four terms, but I never went. There were events that they hosted that I was ‘kind of’ interested in, but I thought ‘history’? Ugh. Nope, I passed those courses in high school and didn’t want to look back.
You know the funny thing about learning something when it’s not something you’re being tested on? You actually might enjoy it. That’s what I learned when we went to the site for my 50th birthday celebration. My honey had taken me out for the day and I knew I wanted to see different things now, so I picked the FDR site. I enjoyed it more than I thought I would.
First, the view behind the house is absolutely breathtaking. The Hudson Valley is filled with these amazing views, especially of the fall foliage, and this was no exception. I could’ve just sat there all day and just relaxed, shut off the technology, read a book or wrote a story. I’ll go back during the fall when the leaves are changing. I know it will be unreal. I can understand why FDR was quoted as saying, “All that is within me cries out to go back to my home on the Hudson River.”
Second, the tour of the home is definitely worth it. There isn’t any air conditioning inside, so if you’re doing this tour during the summer, keep that in mind. I just thought it was so cool to know that FDR STOOD WHERE I WAS STANDING. I mean, how amazing is that?! He lived in that building. See what I mean that I loved learning about it more than when I just read it out of a textbook in school.
The most emotional part for me — and I couldn’t believe I had one — was this display of actual artifacts of his and I saw his braces that he wore when he had polio. There is a bar next to it that tells you to lift it so you can see how heavy the braces were. I could barely lift it. I don’t understand how he did it.
The grounds are host to many events, including actual reenactments of battles with soldiers dressed up in authentic costumes that really take you back in time. There are celebrations of his birthday as well as a museum. There is a cafe on the premises too. You can watch a film on FDR and even just walk the grounds. The National Park Service is restoring the Roosevelt Home Garden and establishing a Victory Garden Education program for park visitors and youth around the country. It will be worked on over the next few years.
I”m also trying to combine my trips with what I do on Sports Palooza Radio. Do you know the connection with FDR and baseball? Okay you probably do because you read about it in your textbooks in school — I guess I should have paid closer attention, right? LOL But I didn’t know or didn’t remember (I’ll take the latter). We talked about it on our show in case you’re interested, but FDR loved baseball and made sure it continued even during war times.
I also got my Passport to the National Parks stamped for being there too! It was my first stamp!
After we finished at the park, we went to Coppola’s for a nice birthday dinner for me. The food was OUTSTANDING and it’s only located right up the street from the park. If it’s spring or summer and you’re looking for something else to do at night, how about a movie at the Hyde Park Drive In across the street?
Okay Virgin Traveler confession time…I’ve never been to a drive in. Adding it to my list of things to see/do in my travels.
My honey and I had such a nice visit here that we added in the Teddy Roosevelt Inaugural Site in Buffalo on our way home from Niagara Falls, NY. More on that trip in an upcoming post.
Things I Learned
1. I can’t stress ‘wear comfortable shoes’ enough, especially if you have bad feet or legs. The grounds aren’t huge, but you’re walking in the tour and up the stairs in the house. You want to be comfortable.
2. If you want to tour the home, do not wait until last minute to buy your ticket, especially on popular weekends, like Memorial Day Weekend. They book up fast.
3. I live in driving distance, but if you don’t The National Park Service operates the free “Roosevelt Ride” shuttle service from Poughkeepsie Metro-North Station 7 days a week and will take you to your choice of the Roosevelt Sites and the Vanderbilt Mansion from May through October.
4. If you’re spending a few days in the Hudson Valley, you should combine this trip with the Vanderbilt Mansion and Eleanor Roosevelt Estate. I admit, I haven’t been to either one of these yet, but I will this summer.
5. Don’t worry if you don’t do everything. Even on smaller trips closer to home, I feel like I’m trying to jam everything in. That’s where research comes in. Learn about the place you are visiting and then rank what you want to do first, second, etc., so if something happens, you know you got in your preferred things to do. I’m now happy if I do a few really great things than do EVERYTHING and leave absolutely exhausted.
What I learned on my trip to Cooperstown, New York:
1. If you are driving, follow these directions to Cooperstown and avoid Route 7 directions. A drive through some of the smaller towns before you get to Cooperstown can be depressing, since many towns are struggling economically.
2. Unless you want to see every shop on Main Street, visiting during the off season is okay.
3. If you have children, visit the Farmer’s Museum. Not only will the baseball museum give them a look back in history, but the Farmer’s Museum also shows them what it’s like to step back in time.
4. If you do visit in the off season, make sure you go to the store for snacks or a late night meal since not everything is open late at night.
5. I really need to buy a GPS (I have one on my phone, but could use a better one).
As a Virgin Traveler who loves film and television, I was thrilled to find out about Brewery Ommegang.
After walking around for hours at the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York, we headed over to this Belgian-style local brewery for a beer and some snacks. There’s actually an entire brewery beverage trail in Cooperstown if you have time to check it out. I had to go here because it is the only place you can find Game of Thrones beer! I definitely left with my own bottle of Game of Thrones Three-Eyed Raven beer.
I had a chance to speak to Allison, who works in the marketing department at Ommegang, and she told me about that awesome moment that HBO called asking the brewery to make a special one-of-a-kind brew based off of the show.
“The response to the beer has been phenomenal,” she said. The April release of the Three-Eyed Raven, a dark saison ale, marks the fifth of six brews, with each beer being a different taste. Named after the motto of House Targaryen, Fire and Blood is inspired by Daenerys Targaryen and her three dragons, Drogon, Rhaegal and Viserion. To celebrate the rebirth of dragons, different labels were created and each depicts a Daenerys’ feared dragon.
“Once they are gone, they are gone and each beer gets more popular,” she said. The final beer in the series comes out in the fall.
While we were there, we also enjoyed frita fries (delicious), a bratwurst sandwich (wasn’t my favorite), a Witte beer (yummy) and a Johnny Ryan soda (seriously better than any Pepsi or Coca Cola). We weren’t big fans of the taste of the Game of Thrones beer that we got to sample (we’re not really into dark beer), but that doesn’t mean we didn’t leave with a souvenir bottle!