A Worthwhile Road Trip To Celebrate Veterans Day

Few public inns in the United States can boast the patriotic pedigree of the Thayer Hotel at West Point.

We drove to visit the award-winning Thayer Hotel during the holiday season, and felt it especially appropriate to write about this unique hotel on Veterans Day, when we honor the members of the military that have gallantly served our country.

General Douglas MacArthur stayed at the Thayer whenever he visited the military academy. Dwight D. Eisenhower did the same – both as a general and as president of the United States. Four other presidents including John F. Kennedy enjoyed visiting the hotel – you will too.

The beautiful Hudson River Valley

It is little more than a one-hour drive along the Hudson River Valley to reach West Point from New York City. At the entrance to the military academy, you are required to stop at a small stone guardhouse. There you advise the sentry of your intentions to visit the hotel, and he or she will direct you to your destination atop a steep driveway to the right.

As you slowly drive up the hill, you are drawn to the many leaded glass windows of the fortification like building. You immediately sense that this is a special place, and it is.

The Thayer Hotel

Completed in 1926, the hotel is situated on a prominent bluff that offers breathtaking views of the Hudson River far below. As you walk the manicured lawn towards the adjacent woods on the riverside of the hotel, you will see many stone outcroppings – an assurance that the hotel, like the academy, is built on very firm ground.

There is a short marble staircase leading from the old wooden front door to the grand reception lobby. Flags decorate the overhead between the first and second floor of the hotel. There is a large fireplace directly across the room from the top of the entry stairs.

The whole picture is that of the interior of a castle or military fortification – yet at the same time, there is an extraordinary warmth about the lobby that is quite inviting.

Guest Room Dedication Program

We were at the Thayer to attend a ceremony where a guestroom is named after a distinguished graduate of West Point. Honorees are selected from academy graduates that have made significant contributions to the United States and the world.

The dedication program is part of a recent multi-million dollar renovation at the hotel. The program is a work in slow and deliberate progress of the hotel’s 151 guestrooms.

Honoring outstanding United States Military Academy graduates

The officer being honored with a dedicated room at the Thayer at the time of our visit was General Roscoe Robinson, Jr., a 1951 academy graduate, and the first four-star African-American general in the history of the U.S. Army.

General Robinson served in both Korea and Vietnam. He was the recipient of many service awards in his 34 years of service to his country. In April 2000, the USMA named a new auditorium in his honor. General Robinson died at the age of 64 in 1993.

We had an opportunity to chat with a few of the cadets that attended the dedication. The experience was refreshing and left us with an appreciation for the caliber of our future military leaders being schooled at West Point. They are bright, dedicated, and most impressively, patriotic.

The room we occupied during our stay was dedicated to Dr. Thoralf M. Sundt, Jr. of the class of 1952. The walls of this guestroom are filled with great period pictures of Dr. Sundt as the cadet that later became a pre-eminent brain surgeon at the Mayo Clinic. Other photos include Dr. Sundt’s family and one of him with President Ronald Reagan who was a patient in 1989. Dr. Sundt was the subject of a segment on “60 Minutes” before his death in 1992. He was just 62 years old.

Great place for conferences and reunions

While we were there, we also had an opportunity to talk with several alumni of the 101st Airborne who were attending a reunion at the hotel. It was an honor to meet these retired soldiers and defenders of our American way of life. Humble to a man, they came to celebrate life, but also to remember fallen comrades.

The Thayer has eight meeting rooms and six boardrooms and has become a favorite location for corporate conferences. What better place to instill team spirit and inspiration!

Duty, Honor, Country

Walking the Thayer’s historic hallways is a lesson in patriotism and heroism. There are pictures and mementos everywhere to remind visitors of the motto of West Point – Duty, Honor, Country.

Dining at the Thayer

The hotel’s MacArthur’s Restaurant is a stately dining room with leaded glass windows that in daytime cast an oneiric light on the walls and the historic photos of soldiers past, and in evening, add to the rich ambiance of the dining experience.

Glowing light from the vintage chandeliers enhances the pleasing sensation of a comfortable setting that is equally fit for a romantic rendezvous or an elegant social gathering.

There is also a cozy bar/restaurant at the Thayer. It is appropriately named “General Patton’s Tavern.”

The U.S. Military Academy at West Point  

We learned some interesting trivia while at the Thayer Hotel:

The military academy at West Point dates back to 1802. Since its inception, West Point has been in the center of U.S. history.

George Washington paraded his troops on these very grounds.

The USMA encompasses 25 square miles – a piece of real estate just a bit smaller than the island of Manhattan.

West Point graduates commanded troops on both sides of 55 of the 60 battles of the U.S. Civil War. Of the remaining five battles of the war, a West Point graduate commanded the troops on one of the sides.

Edgar Allen Poe attended one semester at West Point, and General George Armstrong Custer is buried there.

Two U.S. Presidents graduated from West Point, as did 18 NASA astronauts, 74 Medal of Honor recipients, and 3 Heisman Trophy winners – and scores of great statesmen, diplomats, business leaders, doctors, and engineers.

A hotel for all seasons

Our visit to the Thayer Hotel and West Point was in December, and even in the cold of winter, the terrain is magnificent to behold. We plan to return to West Point so we can savor the woodland setting in the green of summer – and the fall when the cool air creates a kaleidoscope of changing colors. This is a truly beautiful part of the eastern United States.

If you go

When you walk the land at West Point, you walk in the footsteps of many who gave all for their country. If you are an American, you are on hallowed ground.

The Thayer Hotel is a Historic Landmark Hotel. Staying at the Thayer is like living inside history.

Their website is full of information about the hotel and surroundings. Check it out at http://www.thethayerhotel.com

Happy travels!

*************************

“Get out there, but be prepared.”

Whenever we travel, we are protected by Allianz Global Assist travel insurance.

You can plan your trips with Google Maps.

The opinions expressed in our articles are the journalists’ alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any entity.

© Travels with Wayne and Judy Bayliff

Photos © Judy Bayliff. Photo of General Robinson courtesy of U.S. Army

Advertisements

Stay at the Saratoga Arms During the Upcoming Racing Season

©Travel Photo Interact – Place your cursor over any photo to enhance it – click to enlarge.

18-Saratoga Race CourseHistoric Saratoga Springs, in upstate New York, is a fun place to visit any time of year. However, there’s a special excitement in the air with the approach of another annual opening day at the historic Saratoga Race Course – the oldest thoroughbred racetrack in America.

Health, History, Horses

That’s Saratoga’s slogan. The earliest recorded history goes back to the mid-1700s when the area’s Native Americans were said to be using the healing powers of the naturally carbonated mineral springs that dot the area. The springs became even more famous when General George Washington drank from the High Rock Spring in Saratoga in 1783.

The naturally carbonated springs soon made Saratoga a popular venue in which to be seen. Visits from the likes of JP Morgan, Cornelius Vanderbilt and Diamond Jim Brady, made Saratoga famous. Important people from across the globe came to socialize and soak in the bathhouses featuring the healing effervescent mineral waters. However, it soon became evident that horse racing was destined to play an equally important role in the city’s future.

As untimely as it seems, just one month after the famous Battle of Gettysburg in 1863, the Saratoga Race Course for Thoroughbred racing was opened, and became the first sports venue in America.

Six weeks of racing

19-Saratoga Race Course - CopyThis year, the world-renowned Saratoga races, will begin on Friday, July 24, 2015 and conclude on Labor Day, Monday, September 7, with racing conducted six days a week, Wednesday through Monday.

Sports Illustrated calls the annual Saratoga Race Course summer meet, one of the top ten must see sports events in America. The track is also considered by many to be the most beautiful racetrack in the United States.

Iconic name dropping

Familiar Thoroughbreds that have raced at the Saratoga Race Course include Man O’War, Secretariat, and Seattle Slew. Famous movies featuring the race course are “Billy Bathgate,” “Ghost Story,” ” Diamonds are Forever,” “Saratoga,” “Seabiscuit,” “The Horse Whisperer,” and “The Way We Were.”

Where to stay

17-36-36-IMG_6579When it comes to lodging, the choices are many in the Springs. On a recommendation, we stayed at the historic Saratoga Arms – a brilliant choice.

12-04-04-IMG_6547Operated as a luxury concierge hotel by the Smith family since 1997, the historic (circa 1870) brick building on downtown Broadway in Saratoga Springs, had been a rooming house during the 1950s to the 1990s when it hit its proverbial bottom. There were pigeons living in the third-floor rooms.

04-84-IMG_6506We love to see such old structures repurposed, refreshed, and preserved. The Smith’s restored this old building with loving care and a flair for turn of the century ambiance. It now has every modern comfort, but retains its yesteryear charm.

08-98-IMG_6520In addition to the elevators, there’s a beautiful old staircase that leads to the upper floors (see pictures). As we climbed the steps, we reflected on the many thousands of people who had preceded us in climbing these same stairs over the past 145 years – we wondered about their circumstances and lives – all so different from our own.

03-82-IMG_6504The restoration was obviously calibrated to gain a sense of sophistication with informality. It was well done. Urbanity now dominates and permeates throughout.

01-68-IMG_6490

02-72-IMG_6494Hotel guests have a choice of 31 sleeping rooms that will suit the most discerning of tastes.

The entire hotel is lavishly decorated with beautiful antique furnishings and just-right décor.

A B&B hotel

05-87-IMG_6509We had breakfast in one of the hotel’s elegant dining rooms complete with white tablecloths, fine china, and fresh cut flowers. Very cheerful.

10-05-03-03-IMG_6534The buffet breakfast is an occasion full of local farm fresh goodies like honey and homemade muffins and jams, delicious cereals, assorted berries, bagels, yogurt, and freshly squeezed orange juice. The coffee is also extraordinarily robust and flavorful.

11-19-10-10-IMG_6543Our main breakfast dish consisted of locally smoked Canadian bacon, and a mushroom and gruyere cheese scramble – accompanied by home style potatoes. We had never tried the gruyere cheese and egg mix before – delicious idea!

06-92-IMG_6514Care for an afternoon snack?

07-94-IMG_6516There is an abundance of treats and beverages in the guest services pantry.

Our recommendation

The Saratoga Arms is a lodging we wholeheartedly recommend, and we are in good company, because it is also TripAdvisor’s #1 current choice hotel in Saratoga Springs.

For more information about the Saratoga Arms look at their website at www.saratogaarms.com

Planning a trip? Make your reservations now to avoid disappointment.

If you go

Saratoga Springs is an easy 45-minute drive from Albany, and less than four-hours from New York City, or Boston. It is also five-hours from Niagara Falls.

The closest major airport is in Albany, New York.

Closing notes

Today, there are 18 mineral springs throughout Saratoga Springs for free public tasting, and two places to enjoy a mineral bath, the Roosevelt Baths and Spa, and the Crystal Spa.

Probably the most famous, and still active, of the mineral water springs is the Big Red Spring located right at the Saratoga Race Course. This spring is named after Man O’War, and Secretariat, the two famous thoroughbred champions. Both horses were chestnut in color, and each in its time was called “Big Red.”

15-29-29-IMG_6572

14-13-13-IMG_6556In 2014 Yahoo listed Broadway in downtown Saratoga Springs (the location of the Saratoga Arms) as one of best main streets in America for its architecture, restaurants, shops, and people watching.

There’s more to enjoy in Saratoga Springs than water and racing. Look *here* for a list of other activities in this happening area.

Happy travels!

*********************

“Get out there, but be prepared.”

Whenever we travel, we are protected by Allianz Global Assist travel insurance.

You can plan your trips with Google Maps.

The opinions expressed in our articles are the journalists’ alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any entity.

Copyright © 2015 Visit great vacation destinations with Wayne and Judy Bayliff

Photos Copyright © 2015 Judy Bayliff – unauthorized use strictly prohibited.

Sports photos courtesy of Saratoga Arms.