Biking and Wine Tasting with Outdoor Connections

I recently went on my first event with Outdoor Connections for a day of biking and wine tasting.  I had such a wonderful experience and couldn’t wait to write about it.  Anytime you try a new company, you know anything is possible.  Luckily, Outdoor Connections is well organized and ready to get city dwellers out of the concrete jungle to enjoy some fun adventures.

Once everyone had gathered near Port Authority, our group was divided into two vans.  A benefit of going with Outdoor Connections is that they provide a wide assortment of breakfast goodies for everyone.  The options included chilled juices and an assortment of fresh muffins and pastries.  What a great way to start the day.  Approximately 2 hours later, when we got to our starting point on the Delaware Canal Bike Path, all our bike rentals and helmets were ready for us.  It was time to start biking! Our organizer, Jim, made the trip both informational and fun.  He shared some history of the canal at a few of the stops and made sure everyone was comfortable with the pace and that no one was left behind.  Lunch is also provided with this trip which was another nice touch. 

Biking down the Delaware Canal is something I would definitely do again.  The canal path was flat and well groomed so I never felt overwhelmed and there is so much to see along the way.  We biked a total of 15 miles and then some of us did an additional 3 mile loop before it was time to drive to our next stop – Sand Castle Winery.  A well organized and thorough tasting (which included chocolate pairing for some of the wines) followed by some cheese to snack on and our day was almost done.  It was time to head back to NYC.

Outdoor Connections does a variety of trips and would be a great way to get out and enjoy the lovely fall weather.   You can also find out what they are up to at meetup.com by clicking here.  I look forward to joining them on another trip sometime soon.

Ski Season is Here!

I lived in New York for a while before finally hitting the slopes and we have some great local mountains to ski on!   You can even sign yourself up for a day trip or weekend trip from NYC to Vermont.  There are many ways to get yourself to a mountain to enjoy a snowy ski day even if you don’t have a way to drive yourself.  Below is a list of companies that can help get you to where you want to go during this ski season:

Urban Sherpa:  www.urbansherpatravel.com

Zogsports: http://www.zogsports.org/nyc/Trip/Ski.aspx

Catskills Ski and Bus Packages: http://www.catskillhighpeaks.com/trailways-ski-new-york-bus.php?PHPSESSID=5e5734473f74831ecc0c7b0d3248202f

Emilio’s Ski Shop:  http://www.emiliosskishop.com/pipedreams_schedule.html

Catch the Homage Bus: http://nybustrips.com/

A friend just told me about another bus option – Blades Bus:  http://www.bladesny.com

Meetup.com: www.meetup.com Find local ski groups or start your own!

These were just a few options and hopefully one of them will get you on your way to the slopes.  Happy Skiing and Boarding!

Paintball Is a Blast!

Up until last weekend, the only gun I have ever fired was a water gun.  That all changed when I joined Urban Escapes on one of their Paintball and Beer Tasting day trips.  We met at 9am close to Port Authority and arrived at the NJ paintball park at around 11am.

We had been told to wear lots of layers for padding and the only items we were given were a face mask, a paint gun and 500 paintballs each.  Once our group was divided up into two teams, it was time for the first game (where the rules were set that if you got shot once then you were out).

In all, we played on three different terrains: a junk yard, a castle, and the forest (my favorite area was the junk yard).  During these games, each team would get a chance to start at different sides of the terrain and we discovered there were definite advantages to certain areas.  After the official games were over, it was time to finish off all of our paintballs by playing a wilder game.  In this last round, you were out when you called yourself out, so you could get shot as many times as you were able to stand it.  This is where I got a little frustrated because some trigger happy players shot me after I had already called myself out (and that’s when I got my worst battle wounds).

All in all though, paintball was intense at times but lots of fun.  Urban Escapes does a great job at planning the perfect day trip.  After we changed out of our paint covered clothes and into something more presentable, it was time for lunch.  Included in the cost of the trip, we enjoyed a salad bar, pizza, pasta and beverages.  To make things even better, as our welts made themselves more visible, we were able to help numb our pain at our next stop – beer tasting at Cricket Hill Brewery (also in NJ).

The beer selection at Cricket Hill was great and the brewmasters were really fun while being informative.  We were able to sample quite a bit of their selection, relax and mingle, and then make our purchases before it was time to get on the bus and head back to NYC.  If you ever wanted to try paintball, this is a great way to do it.  Urban Escapes has other dates scheduled for this popular trip, so definitely sign up before they sell out!

Day Trip to Atlantic City

Recently MMA hosted their first annual day trip to Atlantic City.  If you are interested in discovering what Atlantic City has to offer than this is the trip for you.  Departing from NYC at 12 noon, our private bus arrived at Resorts Casino by 2:30pm.  Everyone was given $22 to spend at the Resorts Casino to get the day started.  Hopefully it was a lucky day for everyone!

The group was provided with an email and a printout of the detailed itinerary, as well as, contact information for all three hosts so that no one would be lost if they got separated for any reason.  Since there is so much to do and we only had a day to do it in, the itinerary was very flexible for this trip.  Everyone had the option to go their own way or to pick and choose from the schedule provided.  

Throughout the day, I chose to go to different casinos and walk along the Boardwalk while others in the group spent the day at the outlets or spent more time at certain casinos before meeting up at the bus.  After starting the day at the Resorts Casino, I was able to vist the Trump Taj Majal, Caesars Casino, and the new Pier Shops to see the water show.  My last stop along the Boardwalk was the Tropicana Casino where they have a newly renovated section to explore called the Quarter.   We finished the day as a group at the Borgata Casino before heading back to NYC at around 9:30pm.  Our bus got back close to midnight and we were dropped off near Penn Station.

This trip was a fun introduction to Atlantic City and I now know where I would like to spend more time when I make a return visit.  MMA has been scheduling new trips such as this one into their list of events, so visit their website at www.meetmarketadventures.com to see what you might be interested in.

Extreme Snow Tubing Day Trip

This day trip is not your average snow tubing event.  I went with Urban Escapes this past weekend on their extreme snow tubing and beer tasting day trip.  Having been to snow tubing areas that went straight down on narrow tracks and got a bit tiring after an hour, I can honestly say that this extreme snow tubing track was never anything but an adventure! 

After meeting in the city at 9am, our bus arrived at the Woodbury, CT  snow tubing area at around 11:30am.  Our group was given colored bandanas to wear so that we could identify who was in the group and mingle with each other throughout the day.  There were many tracks to choose from.  Most of the tracks were on one side of the street, which had all different track levels from beginner to black diamond.  Since this was the main area, the line got long rather quickly.  Luckily, Urban Escapes had reserved a track  that only our group could access.  After waiting through the long line for the other tracks, I decided to head to the other side of the street to try out the area reserved for the group. 

The track reserved for our group was longer than the others and was labeled both green for beginner and black diamond depending on where you launched yourself.  Even at the beginner launching section, I still found myself flying down the hill through the twists and turns.  From the black diamond launch, the momentum down the hill was intense.  There were turns where you would fly and catch air as you made your way down.  At this particular snow tubing park, they recommended that you go face first and so that you could drag your legs on the ground if you wanted to slow your speed.  I found that even when I dragged my legs, I was still going quite fast down the track.  We had a few people in our group that really embraced the speed of the track and kept their legs up, tried running starts and really flew in the air on the way down.  Helmet rentals are offered for $10 and I highly recommend them.  There is a lot of speed involved in extreme snow tubing and you want to be as safe as possible. 

We stopped for lunch as a group at 1pm.  Everyone had been given a choice of two different sandwiches that were provided by Urban Escapes while there was also a grill serving fries and grilled cheeses at the lodge if you were craving something warmer. After lunch we went back out to snow tube until it was time to depart for our next destination at 3pm.  Our day was only half over because now it was time to go beer tasting! 

About an hour away from Woodbury, CT, you will find the Captain Lawrence Brewing Company located in Pleasantville, NY.  The tasting room was full of people but we were ushered straight to the back area of the brewery where the beer is actually brewed.  Prior to the actual tasting, we heard an overview of microbrewing and how beer comes to be.  Our tasting included 5 different beers and we were given the opportunity to order growlers of our favorites.  As a beer lover, I thought Captain Lawrence Brewery had some fantastic offerings.  This explains why the tasting room was so full of other happy beer tasters.  Once the growler orders were complete, it was time to head home.  For our group, the bus ride back to the city was very festive as many chose to enjoy their growlers on the trip back.  We arrived back in NYC at approximately 7pm.

This was my first trip with Urban Escapes and it was a lot of fun.  Our guides were very friendly and fun to hang out with during all of the activities.  This is a relatively new company and I will plan to go on more adventures with them in the future.  There are other future snow tubing and beer tasting events that you can sign up for but I recommend doing so quickly as they usually sell out.

Getting to Belleayre Mountain for A Ski Day

After having a great time on last year’s day trip to Belleayre, I was eager to return for a visit during this ski season.  Since it appears that Zogsports is not offering a day trip to this location, I was happy to find out that there is a bus you can take from NYC Port Authority to and from Belleayre for a day or weekend of skiing.  Adirondak/NY/Pine Hill Trailways has a ski package for a round trip bus ride and 1 day lift ticket for $81.  If you would rather stay for more than one night you can also look into their weekend packages combining lift tickets, bus transport and lodging.  I did not see an option to buy my ticket online and was informed that I just needed to go to the Adirondak Trailways sales terminal at Port Authority.  They recommended arriving early and I had no problem buying my ticket that morning. 

Departing at 7am, the bus arrived close to 10:30am.  The scheduled departure time directly from Belleayre to head back to NYC is 4:15pm.   One thing to know is that there are some local stops along the way and we switched buses at Kingston, NY.  However, we were on schedule with the timing estimates we were given.  This mode of transport is perfect if you are someone like me who does not have a way to drive but would still like to get out of the city for some local skiing. 

I love the trails and view at Belleayre and now that I know how to get there on the weekend, I look forward to a few more visits before the winter ends.

Day Trip to Hunter Mountain

This weekend, I celebrated the arrival of 2010 with my first ski outing of the season.  On January 2nd, the weather was perfect for a ski day!  Snow was lightly falling in the city and continued throughout the day.  There was a dusting already on the ground when I headed to the Times Square pick up location.  

I signed up for this day trip through Outdoor Bound and prior to the day of the trip they sent an email noting the two pick up locations available, what to bring and who our guide would be.  While waiting for the bus to arrive, I received a message from the trip leader that he was on a different bus at the alternate pick up location near Union Square.  So I was on my own heading to Hunter Mountain but since it was mostly a sleepy ride that was fine with me.  The bus company we went with was Urban Sherpa and it turns out you can also sign up directly through them for numerous ski day trips.  Even though my Outdoor Bound guide was on the other bus, everything was still handled properly and I left the bus with my lift ticket and rental pass in hand ready to get on the mountain.

The main mountain (Hunter West) had many extremely difficult slopes, so I spent most of my time on the intermediate slopes at Hunter One.  Since we left the city at 6:15am, we arrived at the mountain early enough to enjoy some of the freshly fallen powder before the slopes got more crowded.  As the afternoon went on, conditions got a bit colder and icy, so I headed inside to warm up before the bus ride back.  Our Outdoor Bound guide sent us a message that he was doing the same, so we were all able to meet up and hang out for a bit before the return to NYC.

Since I went alone on this day trip, I would have to recommend that anyone going alone should prepare to spend the day that way.  Most people on the Urban Sherpa bus were with their own friends and there was no real mingling that I was aware of.  Even alone though, I still had a lot of fun and enjoyed some great time on the slopes.  And because I had signed up for this trip with Outdoor Bound it worked out well as I had people to hang out with for a bit towards the end of the day which I would not have had otherwise.  Outdoor Bound and Urban Sherpa have many upcoming dates available if you would like to plan a day to get out of the city and onto the slopes.

I am very excited for more skiing and other winter adventures in 2010.  Happy New Year everyone!

Experience Fall with a Biking Adventure

S1052658

Get away from the city and immerse yourself in fallOutdoor Bound has a new event that will have you exploring mountain trails both on a bike and by foot.  I went on this event during the first weekend in October.  The fall colors were just beginning to peek through.  There is another outing scheduled in late October when there will be even more colorful views, so sign up now if you are interested!

The event was described as a day of leisurely biking, including a hike to a scenic view.  This was all to be followed by a visit to a local pub before returning to NYC.  After meeting in the city at 10am, our van ride lasted for an hour and a half before we arrived at Cromwell on the Hudson.  Our bike and helmet rentals were arranged through Storm King Adventures whose staff was very helpful.  

Once the group and the bikes were driven to the start of the trail, it was time to get our equipment and begin the ride.  A lot of us had not been on a bike in a while, but once we reminded ourselves how to shift the gears, etc., we were ready to go.   Now, since some of us had not been bike riding for a long time and were under the impression based on the trip description that this would be a leisurely event, we quickly learned that there was more hard work getting through the trail than expected.  There were a lot of uphill portions on the trail which took their toll after a while, even though we were all in pretty good shape.  So there were times when those of us who were tired would just walk our bikes until the ground was more even.  

The hiking portion was rather steep but not too lengthy of a walk.  Once we reached Eagles Cliff though, the view was spectacular and it was a perfect spot to rest and enjoy our lunches.  After we returned to the bike trail, the last portion of the ride was a lot more downhill which was an exhilarating way to end the day.  After our biking workout, we went to a local restaurant for some delicious treats.  They served beer and wine, but most of us were more eager to enjoy their menu.

While the trip was a lot more demanding physically than expected (Outdoor Bound has since revised the event description), it was still a lot of fun.  The scenery was gorgeous and I took a lot of great pictures along the way.  I can only imagine how glorious it will be during peak fall colors.  If you are looking for an active way to view the fall foliage, then this is a great way to do it.

A Day of Sailing and Wine Tasting on LI

christeen

macari

 

 

 

 

 

 

I went on a day trip this past Sunday with Dynamic Outdoors.  The itinerary included a sailing outing on Long Island and a wine tasting in the North Fork region.  How could I say no?

There were four pick up locations in different areas of the city and protocol was that you would email the hosts with your preferred pick up spot.  After everyone was rounded up, the group departed for Long Island in two separate vans and headed for Oyster Bay.  Once at the bay, we set sail on the Christeen which is the oldest oyster sloop in America and a National Historic Landmark.  Everyone on board got to participate with some of the sailing tasks if they wanted to and that was a lot of fun.  The rest of the time aboard was quite relaxing as we passed amazing houses and other impressive ships along the way.  I really enjoyed the change of scenery.  After a 2 hour sailing journey we returned to the vans so we could head to our next destination, the North Fork wineries!

Macari Vineyards was our first stop, where we each enjoyed a wine tasting flight.  There was an optional chocolate tasting available although I personally did not try it.  Following the wine tasting, our group sat outside to eat lunch, relaxed with a newly purchased bottle of wine and mingled while enjoying the scenery.  After a while, our trip leaders took a vote to see who wanted to stay for one more vineyard visit or who wanted to return to the city.  Luckily, the group split up evenly enough that one van could return and the other could take those who stayed across the street to Martha Clara Vineyards.  Since this second visit was not included in the trip cost, each person was responsible for paying for any tastings they chose to do.  We were all having so much fun, that is was hard to get back in the van to return to city life.

I would definitely go on another day trip adventure with Dynamic Outdoors.  The leaders were organized but also allowed those in the group to add to the itinerary with another vineyard visit which I really appreciated.  We had a fun mix of people on this particular day so it was great to continue the activities for a little while longer.  Dynamic Outdoors hosts a variety of trips and I look forward to going with them again.

Surfing Day Trip with ZogSports

S1052397

After last weekend’s day of surfing at Rockaway Beach which was organized through one of my meetup groups, I was really looking forward to getting an actual surf lesson and seeing if I could improve during my day trip with Zogsports.  For this outing, we met in the city at 7am to begin our bus ride to Long Branch, NJ.  I was surprised at how quick the bus ride was and we arrived before the beach was officially open.  This worked out well because we had our pick of were to set up our blankets on the beach.  The weather was absolutely perfect and our surf instructors said these were great conditions for learning to surf.

The surfing lessons were organized through Billabong Surf Camps.  They had a tent set up on the beach where all the boards, rash guards, and wet suits were kept throughout the day.  They were also kind enough to provide super strength waterproof sunblock (which was greatly appreciated!), as well as some cold water and snacks for our group.

Since we had so many people who had signed up for surfing lessons, the day was divided as follows: there were three different groups of surfing lessons and then after those were over there would be time for people to get back out on the water with the instructors there to assist as needed.  I was disappointed that I would not be able to go out on the water as much as I wanted to during the day, but that was how this trip was organized.  I was in the first surfing lesson group where we had three instructors for each group of six students.  The lesson consisted of half an hour on land and then an hour on the water.  For this official lesson, everyone was instructed to try to stand instead of use some of the less difficult positioning that I had started learning the other day. 

Once on the water with our instructors, we were dependant upon the ocean to provide us with some great waves.  There were some frustrating lulls (since time was so limited) but there were also some nice opportunities to try our hand at standing up on our boards.  I caught some waves and got really close to standing up although I usually wiped out immediately after getting on my feet.  I only wished that I had more time on the water to keep working at it. 

After the lesson was finished, I stayed in the water for a bit before resting and relaxing with my friends on the beach.  Due to the wave conditions and the lesson schedule running over, I never did get back in the water with a board.  Instead, I joined other people from the group for the planned happy hour. We ended up at a place called Tiki Bar which was located nearby. Surrounded by palm trees with a nice view of the ocean, they served some excellent frozen drinks while a band played some reggae tunes.  It was the perfect way to cool off after lying in hot the sun most of the afternoon.  At 6pm it was time to head back to NYC.  This time there was some traffic but that is to be expected on a Sunday evening in the summer.

All in all, I had a great time on this trip.  I loved hanging out on the beach and not having to worry about getting myself there.  I would prefer to have access to a rental board for the entire day in the future, so I am not sure I would sign up for actual surfing lessons again if that is not something that can be arranged.  With Zogsports, there is the option to sign up without the lesson and just pay for transportation and a day at the beach.  This is something I hope they offer again this season as I would definitely sign up.

Long Branch, NJ was quite beautiful and very clean.   There were some amazing houses that we passed by on the drive in.  The main area where we spent most of the day had a variety of nice shops and places to eat, although some leaned towards a higher price range.  If you are looking for a beautiful, well-kept beach that is not too far from the city, this is a fantastic place to go.

Surfing at Rockaway Beach

surfgenblog

I had never been surfing before, but I am a member of a meetup group that has scheduled outings during the summer for people of all skill levels to hang out and work on their surfing skills.  In this particular group, those who have been surfing awhile generously offer to help the beginners get started with some basic instructions.  As you can guess, it is extremely difficult to surf so just getting the basics down is a challenge.  But I must admit it is a fun challenge, as I discovered this past Saturday! 

Depending on where you live, it is only takes a short drive or a subway ride on the A train to get to the Rockaways where there are at least 2 designated surfing beaches (between 67-69 Streets and between 87-92 Streets).  This past weekend, my group went to the less populated 67th Street area.  When we arrived it felt like it was our own private beach!  There was plenty of space to lie out on the sand and no real crowding when in the water.  The waves were pretty great this particular day too so we were very lucky!  I have not yet been to the 92nd street surfing area other than to rent a board at Boarders Surf Shop, but I would guess it is very similar.  You can check out the surfing conditions before you go at: http://www.surfline.com/surf-report/rockaway-beach-90th-northeast_4270/

As a kid, I would spend most of my beach time in the water and I used to love boogie boarding.  In the more recent years though, I have usually just waded near the shore and tried not to get too covered in salt water.  For this visit to the beach, I had signed up to try surfing so avoiding the water was not an option.  As I was led into the water lugging my rental surf board, it was an abrupt reminder of how powerful the ocean is as the waves crashed against me.  There is nothing more humbling then getting knocked over and tossed about by a strong wave.  After listening to some basic pointers, it was then time to see what I could do on my own.  As the day went on, I kept trying to catch waves and work on developing my surfing skills.  It was the most invigorating feeling when I was able to stay on the board during those times when I didn’t wipe out.    I wasn’t able to officially stand up on the board this time but I did have some successful attempts at the more beginner level surfing positions.  Later in the afternoon, the waves got a little too rough for me so I finally ended my surfing efforts.

As this was my first time to try surfing, I was not sure how it would go.  Now I can say that I am a definite surfing fan and eager to go again.  Luckily, I am already signed up for an official lesson next weekend during a day trip to the Jersey Shore.  This weekend’s informal meetup was an amazing time with a fun group of people.  I look forward to seeing how it goes with ZogSports on their surfing day trip next Sunday.

Not Just For Tourists!

110_1017grimaldis

This past weekend, I had family visiting from out of town.  When people visit, it is a chance to get out and enjoy the city by breaking away from the everyday routine.  Especially in times when money might be a little tighter, it is always great to be able to have adventures right in your own backyard! 

Even though I have lived here in NY for many years now, I still always love a trip to Brooklyn Promenade Park.  Here is my recommended route to get there: Take the 2 or 3 Train to the Clark Street stop, walk all the way down Clark St. towards the water and it is always a breathtaking, scenic view of Lower Manhattan and the Brooklyn Bridge once you get to the end.  Turn right and keep walking  along and past the promenade till you get to Old Fulton Street. 

Once you reach Old Fulton Street, you will have no trouble finding Grimaldi’s Pizzeriaas there is always a line of people patiently waiting outside.   I have heard it said from people passing by that they would never bother to wait in line for pizza, but personally I am happy to wait every time I go to Grimaldi’s because the pizza is definitely worth it.  It is my favorite in the area, although I love many of the pizza offerings throughout NYC.  When you are finally seated inside it will not be long until a mouthwatering pizza is in front of you ready to be devoured.   

After you have enjoyed your fill of pizza, walk over to the Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory right near the waterfront for a tasty dessert.  Even if there is a line for ice cream, it usually goes pretty fast.  While you are enjoying your frozen treats, you can take in the majestic views of the Brooklyn Bridge and Manhattan skyline. 

If you have the energy after indulging in all that delicious food, I highly recommend walking over the Brooklyn Bridge to get back to Manhattan if that is where you are returning to.  Day or night, it is an exhilarating walk and something every New Yorker should do at least once if they get the chance.  The entrance to the Brooklyn Bridge walkway is only a short distance from Grimaldi’s.  Just beware of the bike lanes and stay on the walking path while you walk across!  Once back in Manhattan, there are a few nearby subway stops to help you get to your next destination wherever that may be.

Even though it might put a few more people in line, I definitely wanted to share one of my favorite ways to enjoy the Brooklyn waterfront.  After all, visitors should not be the only ones experiencing all that our great city has to offer!

Sign Up for Some Summer Fun!

Things have been a bit crazy for me, so I haven’t been able to plan my activity schedule as I had hoped to.  But that doesn’t mean there aren’t a lot of things to get out there to do now that the weather is warming up.

Something I plan to sign up for this summer is a day of white water rafting.  You can read about my experience white water rafting last summer with MMA here.

There are also some wine tasting day trips to the North Fork of Long Island coming up.  I have gone with two different companies and each was a very fun experience.  You can read about my last wine tasting trip with ZogSports here.

Both MMA and ZogSports have upcoming wine tasting and white water rafting trips scheduled.  Head to their websites to see if there is one you would like to sign up for.  It will definitely be a fun time!

A Ski Day at Windham Mountain

I finally went on my long awaited ski day last weekend and it was most likely my last one of the season. Once again, I had signed up to go with Zogsports and this time the group was headed to Windham Mountain for the day. Our bus was scheduled to depart from the city at 6:30am and after some interesting subway detours to get there, I was in my seat and ready to go!

It just so happens that this particular day in March ended up being unseasonably warm. Windham, NY was supposed to go up to 45-50 degrees which is not your usual ski weather. Since I was so cold last time I went, I still brought all my cold weather gear just in case but when I stepped out into the sunny, warm weather on the mountain it became immediately evident that I would not need any of it.

This trip was really well organized – something I have come to expect from my past experiences with Zogsports. However, this time I felt like our group leader took some extra steps to encourage everyone to mingle and come together as a group. We all had the option to put some colored tape on our ski jackets or pants to help us recognize other group members throughout our day on the mountain which was helpful. Since I had come alone on this trip, I was not sure if I would have anyone to ski with this time and I had made my peace with that going into it. But before we left the bus to get into our gear our trip leader helped people to pair off this time so that no one had to go it alone. Because of that, I got to spend the day skiing with a great group of girls. I had way more fun than I had expected!

The challenge on this day was the ski conditions. Because it was so warm, there was less snow, melting slushy areas, and sections that were a lot more difficult to maneuver through than they ordinarily would be in colder weather. Later in the afternoon some of the slush had turned into ice. I had some fantastic wipe outs (luckily I didn’t get hurt) and my muscles were definitely feeling all the extra work I was doing to try to stay upright down the slopes. I was going to be sore the next day for sure!!! I certainly missed the powdery snow I had enjoyed on my last skiing adventure!

Like my last ski trip with this company, everyone was welcome to meet up for lunch at 1pm. It was great to take a break and hear how other people had been enjoying their day. We then hit the slopes for a while longer before finishing the day off with an Apres Ski at the lodge bar. Our ski day ended at just the right time since it actually started to rain heavily once I had already returned my skis and was back inside. After some drinks and snacks with the group, it was then time to get back on the bus and return to the city.

For this day trip, rentals were not included in the price but I was really pleased that a group rental rate had been arranged for us. There is one weekend trip remaining with Zogsports for this ski season. Next year, I am hoping I will be able to sign up for one of these longer trips and I would also like go on more of the day outings. It really is a great way to actively enjoy the winter season. You can head to www.zogsports.com for all the details on their upcoming trips and their numerous sports leagues. For all the information on skiing at Windham, please go to their website at www.windhammountain.com.

The end of the ski season does not mean the fun is over, however. It only means it is time for a different variety of activities! There are still plenty of things to look forward to in 2009 and I can’t wait!

Don’t Let Winter Pass You By!


As I eagerly await my next ski trip, I am still on the look out for other fun winter activities to sign up for. There are so many options out there that I thought I would share some links for anyone who would also like to get out and enjoy the snow before the season ends.

Check out ZogSports for ski trips. They have both day trips and weekend trips offered. I enjoyed my ski day with them so much that I signed up for another one. All the details are at http://www.zogsports.com/.

Outdoor Bound is a great company for anyone who wants to really get out there and be active. Some of the activities they offer include snow shoeing, cross country skiing, even ice climbing! I have enjoyed my hiking experiences with them and look forward to trying more of their events in the future. Check out their event calendar at http://www.outdoorbound.com/.

For those singles out there who want to enjoy an activity with the prospect of meeting someone new, head to Meet Market Adventures. They host a variety of indoor and outdoor activities so there is something for everyone. Some of their activities are even co-hosted with Outdoor Bound. I recently went Snow Tubing with them and it was a lot of fun! Their website is http://www.meetmarketadventures.com/.

I hope these links will help you find something fun to sign up for! You can read about my experiences with all of these companies in some of my past entries which will help you know what to expect.

A Ski Day at Belleayre Mountain

This past Saturday I went on my first visit to Belleayre Mountain for a day of skiing. I had signed up through Zogsports and this was listed as a beginner friendly trip. Since I have not gone skiing for many years, I thought it was the perfect way to get back onto the slopes!
The day started off quite early. The bus left the city at 6:30am (!) and I had to wake up super early in order to take the subway from Astoria to get myself there on time. The good news is that we had a drive of approximately 3 hours to rest up before we got to our ski destination.
Once at the mountain, it was time for everyone to go their separate ways depending on their skiing expertise. Many had brought their own equipment and went straight from the bus to the slopes. Then there were those who needed to rent equipment. I was in that category. I was so excited to get on the slopes that I could barely wait to get my ski equipment on!! The benefit of signing up for this trip was that lessons were offered for whatever ski level you were. The beginners and first time snow boarders had a place to go on the lower part of the mountain for their lesson. And for those of us who were intermediate or advanced, the place to find instructors was higher up on the mountain.
Once I got on the slopes, I started out cautiously to see if I could remember what I was doing. Luckily, I was still able to go down the intermediate level slopes to get reacquainted with the sport again. I loved it! Having only been to ski slopes in either MD or Pennsylvania before, it was refreshing to be in NY where there was more snow and less ice. This particular mountain was really nice since it was less crowded than the other places I had been to. I loved that I had the chance to move more freely without so many people speeding past and of course less crowds meant less lines at the lifts! There was a beautiful trail for intermediate skiers that started at the top of the mountain and the view from this slope was incredible the entire way down. It was definitely my favorite trail and I kept going back to it.
Even though our group had gone in many different directions, the day was organized so that we could still meet up during the day if we chose to. Members of the group had the option to meet for lunch at the Overlook Lounge and then after the lifts stopped at 4pm we also had time for happy hour and a bit of relaxing. Then at 5pm it was time to return our equipment and head for the bus.
Now, this particular Saturday had snow in the forecast. And snow it did. It began coming down at around 12:30pm and didn’t slow down before it was time for us to go. We had about 3-4 inches of snow on the ground when our bus started the trip back to NYC. I was nervous but luckily our group leader had a movie for us to watch during the drive back which helped to distract me. Due to the road conditions, we had a much longer trip home but we got back safely which is all that mattered to me. I made sure to tell the bus driver a very appreciative thank you for driving so well in such crazy weather – some of the roads on the mountain didn’t even have lights and it was snowing hard up there! Of course, when we got to the city there was barely any snow on the ground so it was a very different scene than where we had just been.
To summarize, Belleayre is a great day trip since it is a short drive from the city. It has a variety of beginner and intermediate slopes so if you are wanting to learn how to ski, it is a great spot to try. There are plenty of difficult slopes for those advanced skiers too! For all the info on Belleayre, you can go to their website at http://www.belleayre.com/.
Zogsports did a great job of organizing this day trip. I had so much fun that I signed up for another day trip to a different mountain in March with them. In addition to day trips, Zogsports also offers some weekend ski trips and a week long ski trip this season too. Spots fill up fast so if you are interested definitely head to http://www.zogsports.com/ and sign up sooner rather than later.

Ready to Hit the Slopes this Winter?

I have been living in NYC for many years now. I have always wanted to go skiing at one of the nearby mountains but for many different reasons it has not happened yet. Well, this year I am determined to go skiing on at least one day trip. The company I went wine tasting with in October, Zogsports, also offers a few day and weekend ski trips during the winter season. On Wednesday I went to their Pre-Season Happy Hour to get more information about the trips they have available. I decided to sign up for the one in January that includes a one hour lesson (in the ski level of your choice) and rentals. Your transportation to the mountain and lift tickets are also included. Of course if you already have your own skis there is a way to sign up without renting. If all goes well with my first trip, I also hope to sign up for another one later in the winter too!

You can find out what trip might work for you on their website at www.zogsports.com. This is a great way to go skiing with other fun NYers without the hassle of arranging your own transportation, etc.! The wine tasting was so much fun that I am sure I will have a blast skiing with this company as well.

While learning about these great ski trips and meeting people, I was enjoying the setting at the Black Bear Lodge. This is a great Happy Hour spot! During Happy Hour you can get $3 Guinness(!!), drafts, and frozen margaritas in addition to $4 well drinks. What a great deal!

Black Bear Lodge is located at 274 3rd Ave (Btwn 21st and 22nd Streets). Check out their website for all the details at www.bblnyc.com.

A Day of Fall Wine Tasting

It is the perfect time of year to get away from the city and head to the North Fork Vineyards on Long Island for some wine tasting and farm fresh produce. This Saturday I had the pleasure of going on a fun filled day trip organized by Zogsports. Our agenda featured tastings at three vineyards, lunch, a hay ride and pumpkin picking.

We left from the Penn Station area at 8am and made excellent time to our first destination, the Peconic Bay Winery. It was a perfect sunny day and our group of 50 was set up at 2 long tables outside. The presentation was rather formal but also comfortable. Our host gave us an enthusiastic, detailed description of each wine and what distinguished it from the others. As someone who has limited wine knowledge I feel like I learned quite a bit. The wine was of excellent quality and most of us were eager to buy a few bottles to bring home.

After taking in the views of this vineyard and snapping some pictures it was time for our next destination, Harbes Family Farm. This is the perfect place to go in the fall season. There were large wagons full of pumpkins, lovely mums lining the walkways everywhere you look and a real country feel to everything you saw. The first thing our group did was to sit down for some lunch. I wasn’t sure what to expect and based on past group trips I didn’t have any high hopes regarding the food. Luckily, I was quite surprised with how appetizing this lunch was. We started off with fresh roasted sweet corn – a Harbes specialty. It was so delicious and fresh! Then we had mozzarella and tomato sandwiches followed by an apple. Overall, I was really impressed and quite happy with this lunch.

Next up we had a combination hayride and educational wine tasting. While a local farmer drove the tractor, guiding our wagon around the farm, we heard about and sampled some of the local wines produced at Harbes Farm. Their vineyard is relatively new and it was fun to be doing our tasting while driving by pumpkin patches and the actual vineyards where the grapes are grown. After the hayride tasting we went into the Wine Barn to taste their more reserved wines. We then had an hour of free time to pick pumpkins, run through the corn maze, buy some produce and just enjoy the Farm.

Our last destination was the Jamesport Vineyard where we not only had our group tasting but we also got to partake in the Oyster Festival going on this particular day. There was live music and a variety of fresh oysters to sample for $1 per oyster. I have not had them before (except the fried kind which is definitely not the same) so I made sure to try a few oysters. They were quite good. It was a different type of eating experience than I am used to but I was definitely glad I tried them!

At 5pm it was time to get back on the bus and return to city life. While we drove back many of us enjoyed some of our new wine purchases. I even saw someone dig in to the pumpkin pie they had bought. It was a relaxing trip home after such a fun filled day.

So that concluded our day trip to the North Fork of Long Island. I highly recommend signing up with Zogsports because it was so well organized and so much fun! You get to enjoy the vineyards and farms without any stress and all transportation is arranged for you. This particular group was not as inclined to mingling as other groups I have been in but we all still had a lot of fun. I spoke with someone who had gone on other trips with this company and they said past outings had more mingling so I guess it just depends on who signs up for your trip. Zogsports also offers ski trips, hiking and white water rafting outings. I plan to go skiing with them at some point this winter. They also have numerous sports league teams you can join. Check out their website for more info at http://www.zogsports.com/ .

White Water Rafting Adventure

Looking for an adventurous day trip? How about going White Water Rafting! I signed up to go through a joint Outdoor Bound and MMA day trip and there were about 40 of us departing from NYC. Our NY group also met up with 20 people from Philadelphia at the location so we had a pretty good number of people.

The bus ride out took about 2 hours and we went to an area in the Poconos for our day of river rafting. The rapids were said to be a class 3 and it was during a weekend dam release so there would be enough water for our trip down the river.

Once we went through basic instruction on land and were split into 6 people per raft it was time to head to the water. This ended up being a short nature hike through the woods to the place where we got our rafts. It was more of a challenge than I anticipated to carry our raft through a rocky creek path to get to our departure point. It was a relief to finally get it into the water!

This is where is got quite interesting. Since most of us didn’t know anyone else on the raft, we had to get ourselves working together as a team quickly. This proved to be a bit of a challenge in the beginning for our rafting team but we finally started to get the hang of things. Even with the dam release there were lots of rocks that got in the way of a perfect trip down the river. We got stuck many times but got better and better at maneuvering our way out of the rough spots. Some of us even fell off the boat at times – myself included! – but as a team we were able to work together to get everyone back on the boat where they belonged. We also had some great guides following along to help us through all the water challenges.

Half way down we all pulled over to take a break and eat lunch. Our muscles were sore and it was nice to relax for a bit. Before we knew it, it was time to get back on the water. The good news was that the break was all we needed to really get our act together. The second part of the journey was much better than the first and we had gotten so much better at working as a team and overcoming obstacles as they came along. When we got to the end it felt like quite an accomplishment!

So, if you too would like to head out on a white water adventure, there are many ways to get out there and do it! Outdoor Bound and MMA offer great day trip options. There are also meetup groups that go on white water rafting trips so you can also sign up through them. Most of these options will meet in a central location in the city so anyone in the Tri-state area can partake in the fun! Even one of my local bars has group outings including white water rafting days so just research around your area. I am sure you will find a way to get out and enjoy the water yourself. It is definitely worth it and lots of fun!

Hiking to Van Slyke Castle Ruins

I had wanted to sign up for a hiking adventure for a while but was looking for the right one. Luckily, I found it at the MMA site for a Hike and Swim Majestic Ruins of the Van Slyke Castle in NJ. I couldn’t say no! I have not hiked since I was a kid at camp so this would be a new experience for me to do this as an adult. Having had fun at every event I participated in with MMA so far I didn’t think I could go wrong.

I showed up with my mom’s hiking books (which thankfully she lent me), a new cooling water bottle and a standard water bottle which together amounted to my minimum 2 liter water requirement, and a bagged lunch. I was ready to go! The drive was approximately 45 minutes outside of midtown Manhattan over the GWB. Once we started I immediately started to realize what I was in for… lots of uphill on what I thought was a very rocky terrain. We hiked first to Ramapo Lake and then made our way onto a trail around one of the neighboring mountains. With the hot and humid weather and lack of previous hiking experience, I found the uphill sections feeling a bit endless at times and rather difficult for me without some breaks in the middle. However, once you got to a lookout point you felt the reward of the heights you have climbed to get there. I was immensely thankful for my cooling water bottle too! I definitely needed it and had some envious fellow hikers.

After a lunch by the lake, we finally made our way towards the Van Slyke Castle Ruins. This was what I had been looking forward to the most so I was quite excited, even though I knew it meant more uphill climbing. It was well worth it. As an avid photographer, I took advantage of all that remained of this once glorious building. I would love to come back to view it in the fall or winter when there is less greenery and it will be more exposed.

Once we descended that mountain, our hiking day finished off with a brave swim in the lake. I say it was brave since there was some plant life that seemed to have taken over the water so that if you went in, you would have some interacting with you while you were swimming. I must say though, after all the hard work we did during our hike, most of us quite enjoyed the refreshment of the lake.

All in all, it was a fantastic day. I was encouraged by our trail leader that the more I hike the better I will get at both the uphill climbing and the effect on my knees. I took a rested the following day and my knees were fully recovered from the pain I was feeling immediately after the hike.

This hike was a combined outing with Outdoor Bound and MMA participants. Everyone was really nice and made the experience that much more fun. I would definitely recommend this to someone just starting out with hiking and anyone with an interest in taking pictures of the castle ruins. As I said earlier, I definitely plan to go back sometime!