Each year we travel to the Finger Lakes region of New York state. Normally, we stay in Ithaca and hang out there, after all Moosewood Cafe and the Ithaca Bakery are big attractions. We even posted about it a few years back~ Far Out: Ithaca. Watkins Glen is the next town to the west, and it turns out to be a little slice of vegan heaven, from rescued farm animals to an all-veg B&B to vegan ice cream.
Come on, let’s check it out, starting with the scenic rolling views as you drive through the mountains towards your destination…
Our Watkins Glen adventure started at the Ginger Cat Bed & Breakfast. Nestled in 15 acres of naturalized forest and garden, the B&B is truly a quiet, peaceful respite. It’s located at 2475 Altay Road, Rock Stream, NY 14878 and offers only two rooms, so it’s quite private and restful. Opening in 2008, the B&B hosts guests to the area from bridal parties to race car drivers to just those passing through who don’t even know it’s a vegan inn. Ginger Cat is also a certified green facility.
The inn is named after Wally, who is the famed Ginger Cat. He was super friendly and ready to pose for pictures.
Innkeeper Gita Devi made wonderful vegan breakfasts! Which is a big part of the B&B experience and part of what you are paying for. We missed her much-loved weekend brunch, but the regular breakfast included a chocolate cake parfait with fresh local berries and soy yogurt and chocolate chip muffins, as well as a selection of apples, cherries, peaches, blackberries and pineapple. The spread was complete with wheat toast, your choice of peanut or almond butter, and of course, tea, coffee and juices. The breakfast nook was bright and cheerful and there was a communal fridge, as well a microwave, sink, coffee pot and toaster for guests to use ay any time of day. There was also a large selection of brochures for local attractions, including lists of vegan eateries and wineries in the area. The dining area opened onto a large deck that offers spectacular night time star gazing, as well as lovely sunsets.
Upon arriving at our room, we found two freshly-baked chocolate brownies waiting for us. Didn’t we mention already… this is a vegan B&B, so ALL the food is vegan! Score! Our room was the Zachary room. It’s the dog-friendly room and we found it to be sunny and pleasant. The other room is the Ariel room, which faces the sunrise and has a matching sunny personality. The rooms each boast a few of the innkeeper’s own original photographs, too. That’s her – Gita Devi with her beloved ginger cat, Wally. You know, it was Wally’s cute face that caught our eye in an ad in VegNews magazine – that’s the whole reason we discovered the B&B! There are not phones or TVs in the rooms, but we got perfect cell reception and Gita will welcome you into the residence to watch television if you are lost without your programs. She doesn’t have wifi yet, but if your laptop or iPad has its own link, you can connect easily – i.e., you’re not too far into the wilderness, despite how it feels. But honestly, we thought it was nice to unplug a while.
The other residents of the B&B are all quite purr-fect. (Hee hee… too corny? I couldn’t help it!) We enjoyed hanging out with Wally (right); Moses (top center); Hannah (middle center); Indiana Jones (bottom center); and Sebastian. Each feline had her or his own plan, personality and agenda during our visit. You can learn more about them here. The kitties stay in the main residence, though, and aren’t allowed into the B&B. We enjoyed seeing them prowl the windows and glass doors – watching us watching them. 🙂
Overall, we really enjoyed out time at the Ginger Cat B&B. We have recommended it to friends and plan to visit again soon. The room was clean and cozy, the other guests were pleasant and polite, and we loved talking with Gita and her pack of kitties about the area, recipes and more. Call Gita at 607.535.9627 for more information or to plan your stay.
Gita recommended that we try a nearby deli called Glen Mountain Market, at 200 N. Franklin Street, Watkins Glen NY, 14891. So we stopped for lunch. This place has lots of vegan options and we knew it was popular with other plant-eaters because when we arrived, they were already out of the house made seitan and vegan cream cheese because they’d sold over 40 of each that day. So we tried the homemade tofu burger, called “Jackson’s Revenge.” The burger was nutty and fresh, and the spicy mustard really packed on the flavor. The deli’s fresh bread was a standout, too.
We were delighted to find the pastry case had several vegan options, including sugar cookies, chocolate chips, oat bars and peanut butter cookies – all of which were solid and tasty treats. If you check the regular menu, there are a good number of vegan options, including a Healthy Hoagie, Veggie Chili, Vegan “BLT”, the “Sanctuary” Special and even a vegan breakfast bagel with Tofutti cream cheese and veggies. Just don’t get there late! Cuz the other vegans in Watkins Glen are apparently ravenous and will beat you to the food at Glen Mountain Market. Basically, we are saying run don’t walk to this deli.
One evening in Watkins Glen we decided we needed a cold, creamy treat. And Great Escape Ice Cream Parlor was calling out to us from 221 S Franklin St, Watkins Glen, NY 14891. You see, Great Escape offers VEGAN ice cream. And sorbets. And ice cream sandwiches on fresh baked vegan cookies. I kid you not. There are toppings and everything vegan is clearly labeled, as well as gluten-free options. We just about peed our britches with happiness. They even have vegan soft serve in 27 rotating flavors. You really have to stop here when you visit the area. Everything wonderful you remember about being a kid on a hot summer night and eating ice cream – that sweet sticky stuff, melting down your fingers – it will come flooding back to you in a rush of joy. Great Escape is even open till 10pm every night in the summer.
After all that eating, it’s time get your shopping fix. We stumbled upon a cute boutique called at Wags to Riches, 313 north Franklin Street, Watkins Glen. We adored this place! Not only was it a resale shop, so you are staying green by re-using or up-cycling old stuff, but every purchase benefits the local Schuyler County Humane Society and helps animals in needs. This was a win-win! There were countless treasures inside, from men’s, kids’ and women’s clothing, dishes and glassware, books, purses and scarves to furniture, fine jewelry, sorting equipment, tools, and handmade items.
There were tote bags made from re-used animal feed bags and hand-beaded bracelets and necklaces as well. Really impressive at Wags to Riches were the incredibly low costs and well-know designer names like Talbots, Tommy, Express, Guess, Express and more. I picked up a cute LBD by Anne Klein for less than $20 in like-new condition.
At the register, you can see exactly where your funds are going: $10 covers a rabies/distemper shot; $25 pays for a cat to be neutered and $35 for a dog to be neutered; $45 pays for a feline spay and $75 for a canine spay. Everything in the shop is donated so that the Humane Society can raise money for their varied needs. And really, it’s a fun place to both browse and buy. We found not only the dress, but some jewelry, books & a book mark, a feed-bag shopping bag and some pretty dishes we brought home. Be sure to call ahead to Wags to Riches, as their hours can vary: 607.210.4263.
There’s more to do than this, even, in the Watkins Glen area. Farm Sanctuary makes it home here – and this place is so amazing, it needs its own blog (coming soon!). The nearby Seneca Lake Wine Trail is home to many wonderful wineries, breweries and distilleries – some of which are vegan-friendly. There are lots of gorgeous parks – many with waterfalls in the area. And of course, there’s the NASCAR track for race fans. Need more places to eat? Check out this veg-guide to Watkins Glen from Farm Sanctuary (or just get on Happycow.net, which is always helpful!) and munch your way across the county.
You’re sure to fall in love with Watkins Glen, NY just like we did. Enjoy your stay and be sure to tell Gita and Wally we said hello!