I remember being invited to a friend’s bonfire a little over 25 years ago. She had told me it was at her parents house in Shushan, NY. I’m not originally from New York, so I had never even heard of that town before. I was living in Schenectady at the time. We didn’t have cell phones or a GPS app back then. She emailed the directions to me, and I printed them out. I remember thinking to myself, “What place is she leading me to?”, I then got in my car and started driving towards Washington County.
As I was driving through towns like Greenwich and Salem to get to her house, I started to feel gratitude about the time it was taking to get there. I drove past barns, horses, farm stands, and country stores. Living in busy Cities around the world and in other US States, I hadn’t experienced a nice drive through the country since I was a little girl in Korea. It was such a peaceful and scenic drive. The ride seemed to fly by and before I knew it I had arrived at her house, greeted by other friends who also made their way there too.
As the night went on, we ate lots of great home cooked food, we sang songs around the fire led by an acoustic guitar, we told stories that made us laugh, and we made memories that I still think about today. For many of us that met at SCCC, this was our first time experiencing Shushan hospitality. I remember heading home and thinking how lucky my friend was to live in such a beautiful place. I remember that night like it was yesterday.
Since then we both have had children, and I’ve been able to bring my boys out to Shushan several times to play with her boys. Riding horses, playing in the mud, chasing chickens…. while us moms sit inside and catch up over cups of tea.
My family has since become familiar with many parts of Washington County over the years, and we always find new spots to explore and sites to visit with the kids. I’m so joyful to be able to share about a few places, out of so many wonderful places, to visit in Washington County.
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FORT SALEM THEATER
In June of 2021 a lovely little theater in Washington County opened to the public….new in spirit, but not new to Salem, NY. In order to share about this theater’s promising future, we have to take a quick look back at their inspiring past.
While being constructed as the countries First Presbyterian Church in 1774, it was taken by patriot forces and used as a staging area for troops. It was then known as Fort Salem. Lost to fire in 1777, the church was rebuilt by the Presbyterian, adding the chapel in 1882. In 1972 the building was privately purchased, a stage added, and the very first show in the Fort Salem Theater was enjoyed.
The theater sold again in 1979, and again in 2006 with major renovations taking place. In 2020, the Fort Salem Theater sold to the current owners Kyle and Jared West who had relocated to Salem from Dallas, Texas. In June 2021 the theater reopened with a sold-out show, and is still open today for all to enjoy in the many years to come.
Locals and visitors from all over the Region attend shows throughout the year to see well performed plays and great live acts. This well loved theater welcomes the community, neighboring communities, and anyone from outside of Washington County to visit and enjoy the variety of performances here.
If you’re looking for entertainment to enjoy with your family or friends, whether you’re staying in Salem or not…. I recommend taking a peek at the playlist for this venue and buying tickets to one of their shows. It’s a nice drive to Salem, NY on your way to the Fort Salem Theater.
11 East Broadway | Salem, New York 12865
Web: fortsalem.com | IG: @fortsalem
SALEM ART WORKS
Whether you’re a master of a brush on canvas, or if you’ve never picked up a creative tool before…. Salem Art Works welcomes you and your curiously creative heart. Located in Salem, NY, on 119 acres, artists from around the globe retreat to SAW for stay, community, inspiration, and reflection.
Locals and out of town travelers come to visit this artists retreat center and tour the grounds that are covered with artists workshop buildings & spaces, an artist created tiny home community, and natural gathering spaces. Incredible and larger than life sculptures greet you as soon as you turn off the main road, and escort you all the way through the grounds and up the drive to the top of the hill….where you will find an incredible view and a peace that makes you pause, in silence, as you appreciate the knowing that this unselfish space was created for you and everyone else who visits.
SAW also offers summer camps and workshops for young artists and any one aspiring to be one to learn a trade like welding, pottery, glassblowing or blacksmith. The retreat center has programs where entire families can stay on site and participate in various workshops together or individually. Live music takes place at the highest point on the grounds, overlooking the entire Town of Salem, and all are welcome.
If you’re looking for a unique day trip experience or week long destination vacation, I encourage you to add Salem Art Works to your creative bucket list of places to visit and contact them today to register for one of their workshops. For a full listing of programs and events visit the website.
19 Cary Lane | Salem, New York 12865
Web: salemartworks.org | IG: @salemartworks
A real old fashioned soda fountain isn’t something that you see anymore these days… but a working one too, while sitting at a vintage inspired soda shop bar? You’ll find that Jacko’s Corner in Salem, NY, has that kind of “bubbly fun” for you to experience in their restaurant on Main Street.
It’s already well known by the locals that they have a great menu, but what also makes this spot a great destination spot for out of towner’s is that they have great food AND an awesome concert series featuring talented musicians around the region. Described by Jacko’s as “Cozy vibes, flowing wine & beer at Jacko’s”. You can enjoy a nice meal, good drinks, and great live music with your family, friends or even make it a date night.
They have wonderful artwork created by local artists hung around the restaurant too, and for sale. Many of the pieces share the story of Salem, NY and the community that has embraced and inspired them. Jacko’s supports the community and the creatives within it, and enthusiastically shares about them with all of their guests that visit.
If you’re desiring to go on a day trip…. I recommend exploring Washington County, and setting your GPS to stop at Jacko’s Corner Restaurant for a good meal, soda fountain drink, and don’t forget to take some local artwork home as well.
190 Main Street | Salem, New York 12865
Web: jackoscorner.com | IG: @jackoscorner
ANNUAL SASQUATCH CALLING CONTEST & FESTIVAL
Have you ever heard a Sasquatch call out in the wild? Well, if you’re curious about how one might sound, you can hear a variety of individuals share out loud what they think one might sound like.
I attended the very first Sasquatch Festival in Whitehall, NY, back in 2016 with my youngest son who at the time was fascinated by the Sasquatch. A friend who lives in Whitehall messaged me about the new “Sasquatch festival” that was being created by their town. Of course we had to go. Now in their sixth year, this has become a much anticipated annual event.
There are vendor tables around the festival set up who have plaster molds of Sasquatch footprints on display, and photos of Sasquatch sightings. You can even photograph yourself behind a giant Sasquatch cutter, and send it to your friends showing them what you’d look like a giant life sized Sasquatch.
The best part of the event in my opinion, is the Sasquatch calling contest that everyone waits for all year long. There’s an adult contest and even one for the kids to sign up and do their own version of a Sasquatch call. I had never imagined what a Sasquatch sounded like, but now I have about dozens of variations in my mind of what one could sound like. LOL. It’s really just a community gathering together and having a lot of fun.
If you’re looking for a family friendly event to take the kids too in Washington County, or if you’re a serious Sasquatch hunter yourself, I recommend marking your calendar and heading to Whitehall, NY for the day for their annual Sasquatch Calling Contest & Festival.
DATE: Saturday | September 24, 2022 : Sasquatch Calling Contest & Festival
TIME: 11:00 AM – 6:00 PM | Calling Contest at 5:00 PM
Highlights Include: Over 50 Vendors. Over 10 Bigfoot presentations with experts and research, Live Music, Beer Garden, Bounce House and Face Painting for the kids! Bigfoot Calling contest, delicious food, Bigfoot statue Raffle. Fun for all, rain or shine.
Skenesborough and Riverside Parks | 130 Main Street | Whitehall, New York 12887
Web: Whitehall Chamber of Commerce
BLIND BUCK VALLEY FARM
Chickens greet you before you can make it to the front door of the Blind Buck Valley Farmstead House, where you are welcomed in by the Parker family. As soon as you drive up the dirt road leading to the 180 acre farm, you’ll see aged red barns and a big white farm home that invites you to stay. The five bedroom farm house is filled with books and games, and play spaces for children. There’s a spacious living room where adults and friends can gather. Unplugged, so you can enjoy all the memorable moments of the time you spend here.
You can also opt to experience Glamping and stay in a teepee on their teepee campsite.
The Blind Buck Valley Farm offers a beautiful and quiet vacation experience for individual families, couples, groups of friends, wedding parties, and even bridal showers. There are goats and donkeys, and ponies and other farm animals on the grounds that kids and adults can interact with while staying on the farm. There’s a pool in the back of the house, open in the warmer season. There’s lots of ground to walk and explore.
There’s a large hill near the house, that tempted the inner child in me to climb up it and roll down it. I resisted during my visit, but the next time I come to this wonderful family friendly farm, I may have to let the kid in me run free.
If you’re looking for a getaway destination that is a hidden gem, less then 45 minutes from Saratoga Springs, NY, I recommend adding the Blind Buck Family Farmstead to your Salem, NY vacation stay list.
116 Riley Hill Road | Salem, New York 12865
Web: bbvfarmstead.com | IG: @blindbuckvalley_farmstead
Nellie Ackerman-Vellano is a freelance brand development professional, writer and photographer who writes for a variety of periodicals including 518 Profiles Magazine. | IG: @FeedMe518 | @BonVivantPhotographe