Photo: Lori Van Buren, Albany Times Union
MANCHESTER, Vt. — In this small tourist Vermont town, Manchester Designer Outlets reopened this week, and Hildene – the Lincoln family home – opens Thursday.
In Saratoga Springs, the Saratoga Auto Museum opens Monday, with members getting a preview on Sunday. Morton’s the Steakouse is open as well, while harness racing resumed two days a week — on Thursday and Sunday, with post time at noon each day — on June 18. And the Saratoga Casino Hotel will begin accepting guests on July 10, although the casino remains closed.
Meanwhile, the motels and inns surrounding Lake George are filling up as the Capital Region has entered phase four – with only certain venues, such malls and amusement parks, remaining closed as part of separate New York pandemic restrictions.
As Independence Day approaches, the Capital Region’s attractions are coming to life. And this year, with quarantines and COVID-19 hotspots popping up globally, local residents may just find this the perfect opportunity to discover and enjoy what’s right in their backyard.
“There’s demand out there,” said Darryl Leggieri, who heads Discover Saratoga. “We’re seeing reservations from the local region as well as from (areas within) a three-hour drive.
“It’s an opportunity to enjoy all our destination has to offer,” he added.
In Lake George, Gina Mintzer, who heads the Lake George Regional Chamber of Commerce, said bookings for the upcoming weekend are strong, especially for hotels that are physically on the lake. While Six Flags Great Escape remains closed, vacationers can kayak or parasail on the lake, or hike one of the surrounding mountains, she said.
The outlet stores just south of the village also are open, Mintzer said.
In Manchester, the only two outlets not yet open are Brooks Brothers and Tumi, said Lana Hauben, president of Manchester Designer Outlets.
Plastic shields are in place around the registers to protect both shoppers and employees, she said.
“Everyone is following the (social distancing) guidelines. Everything is crystal clear and clean,” Hauben added.
In a normal year, the areas surrounding the Capital Region are a major draw for tourists. But with the pandemic, nothing this year is normal. Events ranging from the annual induction ceremonies at the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown to thoroughbred horse racing at the Saratoga Race Course have been disrupted.
Large, dense crowds — the perfect petri dish for a the coronavirus — are forbidden. So concerts at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center and Tanglewood have been canceled. Restaurants are limiting the number of bookings, and shops are regulating how many customers can be accommodated at a time.
And face masks are required everywhere.
“We feel wearing a mask is the least you can do and yet the most important thing you can do,” said Hauben.
While induction ceremonies at Cooperstown have been delayed a year, the museum is now open, with timed ticketing to maintain social distance. The Otesaga Resort Hotel is also open.
Vacationers this summer will face restricted mobility. New York wants airline passengers from 16 states with community spread of COVID-19 to quarantine for 14 days. Meanwhile, the border between the United States and Canada remains closed. About 12 to 18 percent of vacationers in Lake George are Canadians.
Farther afield, the European Union is closed to Americans, as are most Asian countries.
Businesses stress that that is why local tourist destinations will still do well. After all, gasoline prices remain affordable, and hotels are offering a number of deals. “It’s our chance to enjoy our backyard,” said Leggieri.