Ready to visit some place new this year? Consider this 48-hour escape — I think it's a great choice for a quick weekend jaunt that you will find quite rejuvenating; visit Elizabethtown, or E’town as it is affectionately known by locals.
A Welcoming History
Elizabethtown is a quaint community located on the fringes of the High Peaks. Much of the hamlet’s current architecture is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Its original name was Pleasant Valley. Quite appropriate as this picturesque community is located in the valley that straddles the banks of the Boquet River. When the town was formally established in 1798, a major county landowner and the first settler of neighboring Willsboro, William Gilliland, chose to change the name to Elizabeth after his wife and daughter.
As the community began to thrive and populate, centrally located Elizabethtown became the county seat for Essex County — and still is today. Becoming a county seat meant more growth and population, principally from those moving to the area to practice law and be involved in the county government. By the mid-19th century however, the principal industry was tourism. Visitors, artists, and musicians flocked in to breathe the fresh mountain air and become inspired by the scenic Adirondacks.
The hospitality of Elizabethtown has had generations and years of practice. Today they excel at welcoming visitors.
Find Elizabethtown by going west on Route 9N off Exit 31 of I-87, also known as the Northway. The distance from the exit to the hamlet is merely a couple of miles.
Where to Stay and Eat
You will find unique, delightful lodging options within this community. All have significant personality and amenities. I recommend merely one because of its ability to give you a historic place to rest your head and enjoy a fantastic dining experience at the same location.
The Deer’s Head Inn, on Route 9N, Court Street, directly across the road from today’s Essex County Government Center, began welcoming visitors in 1808. It boasts being the oldest tavern in the Adirondacks. Recently it has been entirely reworked and renovated. It is bright, fresh, and absolutely charming while retaining much of its historic character.
Aside from the lodging, the Inn includes a market and a first class pub/restaurant. Menu offerings including everything from traditional pub fare to fine dining all done with the artistic, creative magic of Chef Josh Cunningham. The market, tavern, and menu all highlight organic locally grown and produced products. Even the tavern’s specialty drinks often include these local products. You couldn't ask for better quality or freshness — and wait until you experience the chef’s creative flair!
Frequently the restaurant will feature themed events, gatherings, and seasonal celebrations like Cinco de Mayo or Oktoberfest. They often host live music performances featuring regional and local talent. Throughout the winter months the Inn features “Wonders of the World” Culinary Adventures on Wednesday evenings and they also offer a Sunday Music Series through the winter beginning at noon and extending to 6 p.m. to cap off the weekend.
It’s pretty much one-stop-shopping. During the winter months they do not offer breakfast however. But, don’t despair. A few invigorating early morning steps west on Court Street will reveal some options.
Mountain Mamas Bakery and Cafe is an unexpected find in this quaint little community. They are located at 7567 Court Street, a couple of blocks from the Inn. They are open from 6 a.m. until 3 p.m. and offer a choice selection of pastries and baked goods, quiche, breakfast rolls, and sandwiches. They also do take out, so you can grab a hearty sandwich for a picnic lunch later. Bring a thermos because you will want some of their homemade soup to tote along as well. A few steps further west on Court Street you will find the Arsenal Restaurant; also very popular with the locals. There you can have a more traditional breakfast if that is your choosing.
What to Do
For certain, you are going to want to get out into that “fresh mountain air” that centuries of visitors have sought for its therapeutic benefit and spirit rejuvenation. Let me reveal a great consolidated package of an outdoor recreational opportunity called Blueberry Hills Trails.
Just a few miles away from your lodging, you will find a collection of interconnected trails that offer a variety of terrain experiences. The Blueberry Hills Trails will give you the opportunity to connect with nature and enjoy incredible vistas with Adirondack scenic beauty. Plan ahead and check conditions, this will help you decide whether to pack your micro-spikes, snowshoes, or cross-country skis. These trails will provide you a variety of options, dependent upon conditions.
Plan on easy to moderate routes; so you are all set regardless of skill levels. These 30 interconnected trails are waiting for you to explore and find their secrets — a lean to, sugar house, and summit views are all there. You will be able to fill the day with fresh, new, winter-wonderland experiences.
Do a little homework and call the Inn to make reservations (518-873-6514). You will find everyone there friendly and most helpful, be sure to ask to what specials may be offered in their restaurant and what entertainment may be planned for the weekend of your visit. Also check weather conditions.
Arrive Friday evening, check in, and enjoy dinner. Saturday, stroll down the street for your breakfast, choose a picnic lunch to go, and head for the trails. Return tired, but refreshed, with an appetite for another fabulous meal and specialty cocktail or local brew. Sunday morning you can take your time, enjoy a leisurely breakfast, explore the community and return to the Inn for their Sunday Music Series starting at noon.
Forty-eight hours later it will be time to head home, but you will already be planning your next visit.