Big Chuck: Local attractions bring back memories

I had a recent visit from my daughter Katie and our grandchildren. Since Katie’s top choice for a place to take the kids was no longer around (temporarily, I hear) there would be no Fly Creek Cider Mill this visit.

So where to go?

After thinking it over and considering places far and wide, I fell back on two old reliables to show them. And they were a big hit.

Howe Caverns never disappoints. My grandchildren are ages 7 and 3, so this was quite a sensory overload for them. The elevator to the “center of the world,” the colorful lights on the glacial displays in the cavern, the underground boat ride. It all is just as I remember it from 20 years ago when my own kids went for the first time. One new thing I learned is that Howe Caverns is the second most-visited natural wonder in New York state just after Niagara Falls. Did you know that? I didn’t.

After we packed up our goodies at Howe Caverns, including the precious stones they uncovered after they swished dirt in a water sluice, it was off to The Farmers' Museum in Cooperstown.

The Farmers' Museum is a snow globe of Americana. All of us, children and adults, enjoyed our two hours there immensely. You can only imagine that after Big Chuck got them all cranked up about a giant made out of stone, well, it was a slow walk up to the little white picket fence that surrounds the Cardiff Giant for my grandchildren. They peered over with eyes as big as saucers. I think every baby boomer made the mandatory field trip to see this sad man made out of stone at least once. I’m sure I did in the 1950s. He is still as impressive as ever.

Under beautiful sunny skies we wandered the impeccably maintained grounds and went into all the buildings and enjoyed all the exhibits. The blacksmith was working mightily to fashion a nail out of an orange-glowing piece of metal. He succeeded and handed the new nail to one of the kids. We had snacks at Bump Tavern and enjoyed seeing all the animals in their habitats.

Two special mentions must be given. In the Print Shop, docent Mark Simonson (and fellow Daily Star columnist) was a friendly and informative host who informed and entertained the small ones with his colorful inks, vintage leather apron, and unwieldy old printing press. I am sure the red-white-and-blue handbills that he made for each of the kids will quickly find frames and be put up on their bedroom walls as a reminder of their trip here.

And Matt Gregory was our host at the New York State Empire Carousel. This magnificent merry-go-round is an eye-popper. Colorful, tuneful and whimsical all at once, it features dozens of hand-carved icons representing New York state. Images of people, such as Eleanor Roosevelt, foods such as New York apples, and animals including the deer, rabbits and bears known to roam our area. Trish and I took a seat along with the wee ones and around and around we went. Charming doesn’t even come close to describing this ride. Thank you, Matt and Mark, for being excellent and personable guides down the footpaths of history for our little group.

Come to think of it, I cannot even remember the last time I took a ride on a carousel. Twenty years ago? Fifty?

After we left, we traveled down Route 20 for a stop at a place where time has stood still since the 1950s. The TePee Gift Shop in Cherry Valley is one of the last nostalgic remnants of the “old Route 20,” when it was the major east-west road in upstate New York. I bought a Davy Crockett coonskin cap there 65 years ago. My grandson Connor bought the same-style cap last week. So great.

I have to say, had the grandkids not been here for a visit, neither Howe Caverns nor The Farmers' Museum were on my bucket list for this summer’s vacation spots. But I am glad we went.

So, when you are trying to think of places to go this summer, with little kids or just the adults, you don’t have to look too far to find exciting and interesting places to visit. And if you are like me, these places are venues we visited years ago, maybe even decades ago, but they are still there and they are still worth stopping by this summer.

I’ll catch you in two …

Chuck D’Imperio can be reached at All of his columns can be found at

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