BY JEN GRANEY
Summer blows by all too quickly, and unless you make specific plans, you can pretty much blink and miss it. Planning a day trip, especially to somewhere you've never been, gives you and your chosen travel companions something to look forward to, and basically guarantees fresh material in the way of stories and memories. Here are a few destinations east of Rochester to get you out of town and exploring somewhere new. It's a short list of interesting spots plucked from a much, much larger list. Visit iloveny.com for tons more daytrip possibilities, or visit rochestercitynewspaper.com to tell us about your favorites.
Drive time: 3 hours, 15 minutes
This microbrewery is based on Belgian farmhouse architecture and tradition, which means, among other things, that its workers practice "cellaring" and open fermentation. The folks at Ommegang see brewing beer as a culinary art, and regularly brew such familiar and tasty concoctions as Rare Vos, Ommegang, Hennepin, Three Philosophers, and Witte ales. The brewery creates seasonal and specialty beers too, including 2009's "Obamagang" brew.
Walking tours of the facility and tastings are available daily 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Memorial Day to Labor Day, and there's a Belgian shop that offers not just the beer brewed on premises, but Belgian chocolate, artisanal cheeses, and Belgian glassware as well. Upcoming special events: Belgium Independence Day Celebration w/The Felice Brothers (July 24), and Belgian Comes to Cooperstown 2010 (July 30-31), with food, music, camping, and tastings from more than 50 breweries.
Brewery Ommegang is located at 656 County Highway 33 in Cooperstown. For more information call 800-544-1809 or visit ommegang.com.
Drive time: 3 hours, 20 minutes
Back in 1843, the tours at Howe Caverns were eight- to 10-hour-long torch-lit affairs. Now they're 80 minutes or two hours, depending on how you order up the experience: walking tour with boat ride, spelunking, or by lantern on Friday and Saturday evenings. During the tour, you'll view and learn about limestone formations, stalactites, stalagmites, and flowstone, and see how the caverns are being preserved for future generations. Plus, you're 156 feet underground, which is pretty cool.
Traditional tours cost $11-$21, free for children 4 and younger. Get on the website and read about weather and recommended clothing before you go. Other attractions here include gemstone mining, geode cutting, a cafe, museum, and sweetshop.
Howe Caverns is located at 255 Discovery Drive in HowesCave. For more information call 518-296-8900 or visit howecaverns.com.
Stone Quarry Hill Art Park
Drive time: 2 hours, 7 minutes
Think naturally occurring art meets sculptures purposefully placed to harmonious, or possibly jarring, effect. Sculptures blend with and offset natural landscapes: "Water Maiden" emerges from a pond; "Stacks" consists of bookshelves that have toppled over, books spilling from them.
Besides the outdoor installations, the Art Park contains a more conventional gallery that exhibits new works monthly, and has 104 acres of conserved land and groomed trails to explore.
Stone Quarry Hill Art Park is located at 3883 Stone Quarry Road in Cazenovia. It is open daily from dawn to dusk and has a suggested donation of $5 per car. For more information call 315-655-3196 or visit stonequarryhillartpark.org.
Drive time: 2 hours
This turn-of-the-century themed amusement park has everything on a carnival-goer's checklist: Tilt-a-whirl, bumper cars, kiddie rides, cotton candy, ice cream, arcade games, and way more. New to SylvanBeach this year is the 40-passenger high-speed, high performance speedboat called "The Screamer," that gives rides on Oneida Lake.
The park is located at 112 Bridge Street in SylvanBeach. It is open daily noon-10 p.m., until 11 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, through September. Admission is free. For more information call 315-762-5212 or check sylvanbeachamusementpark.net.
EversonMuseum of Art
Drive time: 90minutes
With a permanent collection that counts 11,000 art objects and an ever-shifting exhibition schedule, the 100-plus-year-old Everson Museum of Art is a must-stop for any art enthusiast, especially those interested in ceramics, in which the museum specializes. Last year's "Turner to Cezanne" exhibit drew record crowds; check the museum's website for current and upcoming exhibitions such as "Fantasies and Fairy-Tales: Maxfield Parrish and the Art of the Print," up through July 11.
The Everson is located at 401 Harrison Street in Syracuse. Hours are daily noon-5 p.m., opening at 10 a.m. on Saturdays. There is a suggested donation of $5. For more information call 315-474-6064 or visit everson.org.
Museum of Science & Technology (MOST)
Drive time: 90minutes
This interactive museum has floor upon floor of wonders for kids of all ages. Its "Life Sciences" exhibit invites you to crawl through a giant replica of the human heart; in the "EarthScienceDiscoveryCave" you can explore a life-sized cavern and dig for fossils. The new exhibit "Flight & Space" lets kids "fly" an F-16 jet, land a plane at an airport, and check out a scale model of Atlas V. And there's so much more, like the five-story "Science Playhouse" equipped with multi-sensory special effects and a sound tube. The MOST also houses a planetarium, and the Bristol IMAX Omnitheater. Check the website for current movies and showtimes.
The MOST is located at 500 S Franklin Street, Syracuse. It is open Wednesdays-Sundays 10 a.m.-5 p.m., with extended hours for Saturday night IMAX movies. Admission costs $5-$11.50. For more information call 315-425-9068 or check most.org.