Outdoor Activities

When I was a kid, my Mom’s side of the family often camped on the shores of Lake Ontario.  A day trip to Hamlin Beach State Park brought back a flood of memories… paint-by-numbers and laughter under a tarp as rain drizzled all around us, s’mores and ghost stories by the campfire, sand

My daughters mastermind their moat

castles decorated with shells and pebbles….  So, join me on our trip to Hamlin Beach State Park.

Last Friday was one of those sparkling summer days that delight me to have returned to the Finger Lakes.  My daughters and I gathered beach stuff and headed west on Lake Ontario State Parkway, a wonderfully scenic route that is part of the Great Lake Seaway Trail.

Visiting the Park:

When we arrived at the park, a cheerful gate attendant greeted us and we paid the admission fee. The vehicle entrance fee for the park from mid-May to mid-June and from mid-September-Columbus Day is $6 per car.  From mid-June to Labor Day, it’s $7 per car.  For Non-Profit Buses it’s $35 and for Commercial Buses it is $75.  There is no additional beach fee, and for 2011, the beaches are open June 18 through September 5.

Who doesn't love a snack at the beach?!

We headed to one of the two areas open for swimming.  As I unpacked the picnic lunch, my daughters began masterminding their moat to surround us.  It turns out we could also have purchased goodies at a  snack bars or brought food to grill and eat in the nearby picnic groves. I noticed how attentive the life guards were, and I loved the fact that playgrounds were so close to the beach and picnic area.

As a side note, parents or grandparents should be advised that kids will want shorts or pants on (rather than swimwear) when going down the slides – they’re the vintage metal “hot seat” super fast slides!  Several volleyball nets were set up along the beach and further up the beach, a basketball court stood ready for a game.  I understand that tennis courts are also available.

Hamlin Beach State Park is a biker's haven

The beaches were clean and the water was warmer than we expected, considering the relatively cool weather we’ve had this summer. The swim bathhouses have restrooms, changing and shower facilities and a limited number of lockers.  The beach was fairly empty for such a glorious day, but I’ve heard that it can be bustling on beautiful weekend days.


Scenic vistas and wildlife abound

Swimming is allowed only when Lifeguards are on duty at guarded beach areas from Thursday to Sunday,  11 a.m. to 6:45 p.m. (bathhouse closes at 6 p.m.).

Hikers and nature lovers will enjoy Yanty Creek and the Yanty Creek Nature Trail, where I saw a large bird take loft that  may have been a heron.

Everywhere throughout the park, dozens of bicyclists who’d brought their bikes were enjoying leisurely rides on roads they had to share with very few other vehicles, but I understand that there are also dedicated biking trails.  Boat launch areas and a fishing pier make it easy for boaters and fisherfolks to enjoy their favorite pastimes!

In the winter, snowmobiling and cross-country skiing area also allowed.

Camping Information:

Luke reserves campers sites in a wall map

On our way out of the park, we stopped by the camping office and spoke with Luke and Ann, who were welcoming campers, carefully covering park rules and offering helpful directions and advice.

“It’s pretty busy for a non-holiday weekend,” Ann shared as she jotted down the pricing for me while Luke pegged another campsite as full on the wall-size map of the park.

There are currently 264 camp sites on five loops where tents & RVs are allowed on the wooded and generously-spaced sites that offer electricity.  Some sites are fairly open – great for groups camping

Ann welcomes campers to Hamlin Beach State Park

Ann welcomes campers to Hamlin Beach State Park

together – and others are surrounded by trees, offering more privacy.  Bathhouses are situated close to most sites and the camp store provides the convenience of a laundry.  A rec center is adjacent to the camp store.

We ran into Tricia and Terrance, who have been camping at Hamlin for a number of years. This year, they brought their spirited one year old pup, Cosmo. “It’s a great place to camp and it’s usually pretty quiet,” Tricia shared.  ” When we first came here, they only allowed pets in two of the six loops.  Now, campers can have pets in A, B and C too.”

Tricia loves that Cosmo can camp with her!

Campers are allowed a maximum of 2 pets per site, pets must be kept on a leash of 6′ or less and certificate of current rabies shots is required.  This pertains to the pets of visiting guests as well.

Camping is available from May 14 through October 11, 2011 and the fees are $21/night/site for Sunday through Thursday nights and $25/night/site for Friday and Saturday.  Out-of-state residents pay an extra $5.  Ann was kind enough to clarify that there is an additional one-time fee of $7  to park a second car on the camp site  and a third car would incur a $7 per night fee.

About pavilion rental, events and weddings in the park:

Beautifully rustic shelters offer affordable options for special events and weddings

For those looking for a place to hold a reunion, special event or a wedding, Hamlin Beach State Park has five beautifully rustic shelters that run from $50-$65 for the open shelters and $80 to $110 for the closed pavilions.  The one we saw had a stone fireplace inside and the porch outside had one with three grills. The pavilion was filled with well-tended picnic tables.  Weddings in any of the pavilions can be booked in the Park Office next to area #2 or by calling the Parks Manager during normal business hours between Tuesday and Saturday at (585) 964-2462, who will go over all details of holding a wedding in the park.

The campsites are wooded, well-spaced and have picnic tables, grills and electricity

Hamlin Beach State Park is located at 1 Camp Road in Hamlin, NY.  For those whose GPS does not recognize the address (mine did not), simply take Ontario State Parkway to the Hamlin Beach exit and follow the signs.  GPS coordinates are Latitude 43.355236 Longitude -77.946754.

Whether you stay a day or a week, Hamlin Beach State Park is a great family outing!

P.S. For those who enjoy historic re-enactment, there will be a Civil War Re-enactment at Hamlin Beach State Park from August 19 – August 21, 2011.  CLICK HERE FOR DETAILS

All photos and text copyright 2011 © Carol White Llewellyn. All rights reserved.


Friday was a beautiful day for the start of Rochester’s Lilac Festival.  I saw many people carrying lilacs back to their cars and I plan to pick up several myself when I return to the festival on Tuesday as a bus tour guide.

Festival locations to purchase lilacs

If you’re thinking of planting lilacs this year, or you’re looking for a good source for other plants and expert information, you can find it all at the festival.  The Cornell Cooperative Extension has a tent set up outside their building located on Highland Avenue, as well as a larger tent set up behind their building.  There you can find lilacs as well as a large variety of beautiful and healthy other plants and flowers for purchase.  Master Gardeners are available on site to answer your questions.  All of the plants have been cultivated by the gardeners and proceeds go to support the Master Gardeners’ Program.

There are many ivaldifferent varieties of lilacs available for purchase at the fest

Just outside Lamberton Conservatory in Highland Park, you’ll find a tent set up with a wide variety of lilacs for purchase.  When I was there on Friday, I had the good fortune to speak with Kent Millham, Horticultural Aide for Monroe County’s Department of Parks. Kent is responsible for caring for the lilacs in the park and also works designing and caring for the seasonal exhibits at Lamberton Conservatory.  He is well known among lilac lovers because he edits to journal of the International Lilac Society.

In case you’re coming in from out of town and wish to purchase lilacs that will thrive in southern states, be sure to take Doc Lilac’s list of lilacs for warmer climates.  If you can’t get them at the festival, you can order them directly from Doc Lilac.

Bob White captivating a family at last year's event

For those looking for a fun night out on Thursday, May 12, check out City Newspaper’s Best Busker Contest taking place from 5 – 9 p.m. in Rochester’s East End District.

This is the second year that City Newspaper has held this event and if last year’s Contest holds any clues, you can expect a “sell out,” according to Eric Rezsnyak, City Newspaper’s Features Editor and Director of New Media.  In his prior position at a Syracuse paper, some of their community events had been very successful, so he was keen to launch similar types of events at City Newspaper that would involve the community in Rochester.

Because of Rochester’s rich musical heritage, they chose to do a Best Buskers Contest of musical performances. This year’s 30+ performers  will line the main and side streets of East Avenue from Alexander Street to Chestnut Street. In addition to great music, this event also offers the opportunity to visit your favorite restaurants and sample new fare at some that are new to you because most area restaurants are offering specials that’ll make your mouth water and your tongue tingle, such as: $2 for British chips and gravy from The Old Toad (277 Alexander St.), $2 for 6″ chicken or hummus pitas from Pita Pit (311 Alexander St.), $1.50 for two spring rolls (meat or veggie) at Golden Port (105 East Ave.), $5 for chicken or beef quesadillas and $3 margaritas at Mex Restaurant (295 Alexander St.), $5 for 10 wings and 2-for-1 pitchers of Labatt Blue and Labatt Blue Light at Anchor Bar (355 East Ave., $2 shots of Jameson and $2 bottles of Bud and Bud Light at Dub Land Underground (315 Alexander St.) and many more.

This is an event that the whole family will enjoy! Get there early to pick up guitar picks at City Newspaper’s Tent to drop a pick in your favorite busker’s basket.  Not only do the winners of this contest get some great prizes (First prize winner receives a $500 gift certificate from event sponsor, Bernunzio Uptown Music) but you win a great  evening of music, food and fun on the town!

P.S. After 7 p.m., there’ll be free parking at the East End Garage, bordered by Main Street and Scio Street.

Looking for information on the 2012 Maple Sugar Weekends? CLICK HERE to read “A Sweet Time at NYS Maple Sugar Weekends 2012” on our new Finger Lakes Travel Maven blog.


Warming weather causes maple sap to flowWhen I was a kid, my family occasionally vacationed in Vermont. A treat I always looked forward to were the little packages of maple sugar candy found in most gift shops that were formed into shapes. The heavenly taste melted on my tongue, all too fast. Fast forward many years, and I realize we could as easily have purchased the candy here in New York State, since we're the third largest producer of maple products in the U.S., following Vermont and Maine.

Thinking about maple products, who would imagine you could get a sweet tasting liquid from a tree? According to Iroquois legend, it happened by accident one spring when Chief Woksis planted his tomahawk in a tree above a spot where the family always left a container for water. Sap from the gash dripped into the bucket and when his wife retrieved it, she thought the liquid it contained was water. When she  cooked with the unsuspected ingredient, the family discovered the delightful sweet taste of maple sap.

Now, maple producers across New York State celebrate the arrival of spring and maple sap collecting season with Maple Weekend, which will be held this year on March 19-20 and March 26-27.  The event is free, fun and educational for the whole family because at each participating producer, you’ll have a chance to watch the process of maple sugaring, from tapping the tree through to boiling the maple sap down into syrup. This is a long process because it takes 45 gallons of sap to make just one gallon of maple syrup! You’ll discover that some producers continue to use the traditional method of bucket and spigot, called a “spile”, while others have adopted more contemporary and efficient methods involving vacuum pumps and plastic tubing that leads to a central collection location.

Many of the locations also offer traditional pancake breakfasts with prices varying by location.

Because there are over 100 participants across the state, I won’t list them here, but you can discover the maple syrup producers nearest you by clicking on the following link and looking up participants in your county: Maple Weekend Participants by County.

Click on the following link to discover the closest pancake breakfast: Maple Weekend Pancake Breakfasts.

The event runs on March 19-20 and March 26-27 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. both days, but times for some participants may vary,  so be sure to confirm hours for the destination you plan to visit.

As a kid, I loved riding my bike. Mostly, my sister and I rode our bicycles around our yard, pretending they were horses and we were cow girls rounding up cattle. I went off to school and it was many years until I owned a bike again, and that was in New York City.  There are very few safe places in New York and an incident where I was sandwiched between a parked and moving tractor trailer caused me to swear off biking for many years.

The Finger Lakes Region is rich in beautiful and varied bike trails

Now that we’ve moved to the Finger Lakes, we find there are many safe and amazingly beautiful trails for biking here.  One terrific resource for biking in this region is Foot Print Press’ Take Your Bike – Family Rides in New York’s Finger Lakes Region, written by Sue and Rich Freeman. This book maps out 43 different trails ranging from easy flat terrain to rugged hills for mountain biking. The surfaces vary from paved, to hard-packed stone dust, dirt, and mowed-grass.

These bike paths take you on trips…

-to the beautiful shores of several Finger Lakes
– on graveled canal towpaths where you can discover how canals shaped this region’s history
– across rail-trails where steam locomotives once hauled coal from Pennsylvania to ports on Lake Ontario
– for quick urban rides or on jaunts across the pristine countryside
– to places of discovery with waterfalls, sculptures and historic relics
– on explorations of the remains of mills and factories from the 1800s

Each trail is GPS mapped for accuracy, with directions and GPS coordinates for easily locating trailhead parking. This guidebook indicates the length of the ride, difficulty of the terrain, variety of uses allowed, type of trail surface, markings to look for, and even whether your dog is welcome to ride with you!

Take Your Bike – Family Rides in New Yorks’s Finger Lakes Region may be purchased online for $19.95 plus $3.50 shipping and handling (no matter how many books you order, if it’s done online).  This guidebook makes a great gift for the avid biker!

P.S. If you look for outdoor activities in New York State, you may want to subscribe to Sue’s New York Outdoors Blog.

Enjoy the great outdoors with new friends!

Do you love outdoor activities and live in or around Syracuse, NY?  If so, consider jning the Syracuse Outdoor Adventure Club.  This active group is organized through Meetup.com, and simply by registering on the site, you can be privy to the group’s many adventures that includes almost any outdoor activity you can imagine. Most recently, I received a meetup invitation that a member was hosting a weekend meetup at his camp for “hiking, snowshoeing, x/c skiing, or just sitting around drinking and relaxing!”

There is no fee to register for notifications from this group, which has over 1400 adventurers.  You’ll receive meetup invitations in your inbox regularly and you can also invite others to an adventure of your own design. It’s a great way to meet new people and get out and enjoy the great outdoors!

Discover the best places to X-country ski and snowshoe

If you’re an avid cross-country skier or snowshoe fans, you’ll be delighted to hear about a new resource developed by our expert friends at Footprint Press. They’ve turned their book, Snow Trails – Cross-country Ski and Snowshoe in Central & Western New York, into a new e-book for those of you who prefer to have electronic access.  The e-book gives coverage of 78 snowshoeing and cross-country skiing trail systems between Chautauqua, Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, and Binghamton by providing maps and in-depth detail.

You can download this authoritative e-book now, for only $9.99, by clicking on: Footprint Press’ Cross-country Ski and Snowshoe
in Central New York & Western New York

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