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.

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Sailing and Wine Tasting on the Hudson


Enjoy the fall weather with a sailing excursion on the Hudson.  Manhattan By Sail offers a variety of sailing outings.  I chose to venture out on a wine tasting sail aboard the Shearwater.  This 80 year old classic schooner can hold 48 people and was a majestic vessel to set sail on.

We departed from the North Cove Marina at 6:30pm just in time to see a beautiful sunset.  There is someone that comes around to see if anyone needs anything such as water or soda throughout your time on the boat.  Already set up on the ship is a plentiful variety of cheeses.  The one thing that was a little bit challenging was maneuvering to get to the cheese platter and serving myself while on a moving sailboat.  But once I had a plateful of cheese and was back in my seat, I could relax again to enjoy the ride.  As we sailed towards the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, we were presented with tastings of 4 different wines.  The wine expert would make her way around the boat to pour each tasting.  It is fall weather now, so when it got a little colder as the evening progressed they were kind enough to pass out blankets to those that wanted them.  All in all it was a very pleasant evening and we were back at the dock close to 8:30pm.

Manhattan By Sail also offers beer tasting sails, brunches, fall foliage routes and many other sailing adventures.  It is not too late to get out there before the season ends!  Check out their website for a full listing of offerings here.

NY Craft Beer Week Begins Today!

The 3rd Annual NY Craft Beer Week officially begins today, September 24th, 2010.  That means there will be numerous craft beer events taking place all over NYC from now through October 3rd, 2010. 

You can even get yourself a NYC BEER PASSPORT book that is filled with coupons good for $3 pints of craft beer and other offers from the numerous participating bars and venues.  Can’t get to every spot in the next 10 days? Some bars even offer a year round special coupon that can be redeemed after Oct. 3rd in case you cannot get to every place that is listed in your passport over the duration of the week. 

Visit www.nycbeerweek.com for all the details on where to pick up your passport booklet and to discover what events are scheduled during this fun-filled week of beer appreciation.  Events are added regularly so they suggest that you check the website often to keep yourself informed on all that is going on.  I am definitely looking forward to using my passport booklet to explore some new spots and enjoy some tasty brews! Cheers!

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!

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.

A Day of Sailing and Wine Tasting on LI

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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.

NYC Pizza History By the Slice!

Whether you have lived in New York forever or are just visiting, everyone can enjoy going on one of Scott’s Pizza Tours. I have lived in NYC for almost 10 years now but aside from having my own favorite pizza spots and knowing some famous locations, that was about as far as my knowledge of pizza history goes. After going on Scott’s Pizza Tour yesterday, I can now say that I know a lot more about the delicious dish and how it came about in NYC.

We began the tour in front of what had once been the very first pizzeria location in NY. From there, we walked to many varied locations so that we could really learn everything there is to know about NYC pizza making. During the three hour walking tour, everyone got to sample three very different slices of pizza. It was interesting to hear all the opinions on which was each person’s favorite. At the first location we ate at, each person on the tour received their own goody bag containing a pizza tasting notebook, some pallet cleansing candies, and a gummi pizza for those who could not bear to wait till the next slice.

Everything we learned in between our tastings though is what made the tour extra special. With Scott’s guidance, we were able to get a look at an original coal burning pizza oven while it was in use, we went to the oldest Italian cheese store in the country to sample some amazingly fresh mozzarella, and we also went to the place where the famous Bari ovens (which are distributed all over the world to make pizzas) are built. From discussing how pizza actually became a popular food to the ingredients that go into making it, I learned a lot!

Scott is an excellent tour guide. His knowledge and enthusiasm are part of what makes this a great tour. His attention to detail really shows throughout the tour. He offers both walking tours like the one I took and a bus tour which will take you to the different boroughs to sample pizza. Most of my fellow tour-goers were from New York and we all had a fantastic time. You don’t have to be a tourist to learn about the great things (or in this case – pizza) that the city has to offer.

Head to http://www.scottspizzatours.com/ for all the information on how to experience “New York’s Cheesiest Guided Tour” yourself!