When I was a teenager, we would spend several weeks each summer visiting my grandparents in New York. For some of the time, they would take us on road trips. We visited Cooperstown, the Catskill Game Farm (which no longer exists, so far as I can tell), Howe’s Caverns. Sometimes we’d venture into New Hampshire or other New England states. This was in the 1980s, before the Internet, before smart phones (or any cell phones, for that matter), and before I was driving. To entertain myself, I looked out the window.
I loved it when we passed through farm country. I grew up in mostly urban areas: New York, New Jersey, Los Angeles. My 4-year stint in Rhode Island was more suburban, but it was certainly not rural. So driving into upstate New York always fascinated me. A few hours outside New York City and here was all of this farm land. In my fourteen year old’s memory, all of the colors were bright. I would watch fields of corn pass by, and couldn’t imagine people eating that much corn. There were cows and horses in the fields. There were great bit red barns–how I loved those barns!
This is why, when we took our recent road trip, I stuck to the blue highways. I wanted to see these things all over again. I thought it might be nice for our kids to see them, too, but it wasn’t the same for them. They took their eyes off their device for a few seconds if I pointed out some grazing cows, or a particularly beautiful barn, but that was about it. I didn’t try to convince them otherwise. Scenery like that either resonates with you or it doesn’t. Alas, since I was driving, I didn’t snap any photos of the scenery along the way that I can post here. But I’ve got those pictures in my head and when I close my eyes, I can still see them.
The day after we visited Cooperstown, we headed across the state of New York for Niagara Falls. But on the way, we detoured to a small town in the Fingers Lakes region, called Seneca Falls. We picked the town because it is believed to be the model that inspired the fictional town of Bedford Falls in Frank Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life. Indeed, the fact that there was an “It’s a Wonderful Life” museum in the town seemed like a fun place to stop.
The town is set along Cayuga Lake and the Seneca River runs through the town. We drove directly from our hotel, about 20 miles away in Auburn, to Cafe 19 for breakfast. I indulged in a Monte Cristo sandwich which was delicious, filled as it was with strawberry jam. We sat outdoors and the weather was perfect. It turned out that the parking lot for the restaurant, which was across the river on the edge of town, served as one of the town lots, and so we walked from the restaurant into town to find the It’s A Wonderful Life museum. When we got there, around 10 am, we learned they didn’t open until 11. That was fine because it meant we had an hour to wander the town.
We visited the Visitor Center, which also served as museum of waterways and industry. From there, we walked along the river to the “It’s a Wonderful Life Bridge” that spans the river.
From the bridge, we wander back to the town and toward the Women’s Right National Historical Park, which is a National Park unto itself. Much of the movement for women’s suffrage started here.
At 11 am, we headed to the It’s a Wonderful Life museum. It was a wonderful place. They have an incredible amount of memorabilia from the movie. It’s not a big museum (yet) but they are looking to expand. As a project manager, I am fascinated by the complexity involved in making movies, and they had several original call sheets from the films which illustrate just how complex a single day of filming can be.
Outside the museum is a sign that reads: “Welcome to Bedford Falls” and it seemed as if all of the visitors (and there were quite a few) wanted there pictures taken in front of it.
We spent a couple of hours in the town, before we headed back to the car for the 2 hour drive to Niagara Falls. It was a delightful town and I’m really glad we decided to stop for a visit. When my cousin said they’d be doing a road trip across New York the week after we did and asked for recommendations, Seneca Falls was at the top of my list.
Did you enjoy this post?
If so, consider subscribing to the blog using the form below or clicking on the button below to follow the blog. And consider telling a friend about it. Already a reader or subscriber to the blog? Thanks for reading!