Escape NYC and Head to the Tri-State Area's Best Summer Festivals

By Robert Firpo-Cappiello
June 12, 2015
Denise Rizza/Dreamstime

A short drive or train ride out of New York City, you can find some of the metro area's best summer festivals, where they are serving up heaping portions of local food, craft beer, great wine, world-class art, music, and the all-American county fair experience. Click here to see me share these top festival picks on PIX11 Morning News this morning, and read on to learn more about these great summer events:

Beer, Bourbon & Bacon: The Hudson Valley Brew Festival. June 20. This tasty event at the Dutchess County Fairgrounds in Rhinebeck, NY, can be reached by a scenic drive up the Hudson River. The grown-ups-only festival lets you pig out, literally, all day, with a pig roast, fresh craft bacon (don't worry, there's other great food too), your own beer-tasting glass, and live music all day long. Tickets from $45 in advance, $55 at the gate

Art Southampton, Long Island, NY. July 9 -13. Sure, the Hamptons are expensive this time of year, but a ride on the Long Island Railroad isn't, and daily admission to this spectacular art show is just $25. Top artists and galleries from NYC and beyond will be showing their work, and while we can't promise you'll see Diddy, Southampton is prime celeb-spotting territory. If you stick around for a trip to the beach, remember the sky-high parking rates drop to $0 after 5 pm.

New Jersey State BBQ Championship & Blues Festival. July 10 - 12 in North Wildwood, NJ; It almost sounds too good to be true: This FREE festival celebrates the best BBQ cooks, live blues music, and is located on one of America's most spectacular stretches of surf and sand. If you're driving down from the city, make your escape in the early morning to beat the inevitable traffic to shore points off the Garden State.

Connecticut Wine Festival. July 26 & 27, Goshen, CT. Yes, Connecticut is an up-and-coming wine region and this festival pops the cork on a great selection of locally sourced wines and wineries. A tasting ticket will get you your own wineglass, tote bag, access to some free food samples, with plenty of other quality foods, wines, and crafts on sale all weekend long. Tickets from $25.

Ulster County Fair, NY. July 28 - August 2. If you want an "editor's pick," this one is my personal favorite and I take my kids every summer to enjoy the farm animals, fun rides, upstate food specialties like fresh ice cream and an array of apple-inspired fare, plus nightly concerts all in the heart of the Shawangunk Mountains (one of New York State's lesser-known knockout travel destinations, with gorgeous peaks that rival the Catskills and Adirondacks for natural beauty and hiking opportunities) in New Paltz, NY; $15.

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Ireland Definitely Wants to Be Your Top Gay Wedding Destination

This article was written by Sophie Forbes and originally appeared on Yahoo Travel. On May 22 the population of Ireland voted, by a large majority, in favor of legalizing same-sex marriage in their country.  And now, just a week and a half later, the Emerald Isle is being pegged as the next big destination for gay weddings. Tourism Ireland has already launched a campaign to attract same-sex couples to the island to wed. Just hours after the referendum result was announced, the agency released a video to YouTube called “Ireland Says YES to Love!” The video ad shows a montage of some of Ireland’s most spectacular landscapes and landmarks—all potential wedding venues—from Lough Eske Castle to Carrowmore and Smock Alley Theatre.  The video also promotes the country’s famous Lisdoonvarna matchmaking and music festival, which has been a popular tradition for almost 160 years. In 2013 they launched the Outing, which is purely dedicated to the LGBT community. This year’s Outing takes place Oct. 2 to 4.  The gay marriage campaign has already generated huge international interest, and the ad has been viewed 30,000 times on YouTube alone. It is targeting nine international markets including Britain, the U.S., Canada, the Nordic countries, Australia, France, Germany, Italy, and Spain. “Ireland is in the international spotlight and trending for all the right reasons across social and international media,” explained Tourism Ireland CEO Niall Gibbons. “It’s not often you get a blast of publicity like that.”  Ireland has a lot to offer couples looking for the perfect wedding destination and already has a booming wedding industry. Currently around 24,000 weddings a year take place in the country, in an industry worth more than $400 million.  The World Travel Market estimates that the annual spend on travel by the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender community exceeded $200 billion for the first time last year.  This creates massive opportunities for all the local businesses now extending their services to same-sex couples—and tons of choice for couples themselves. Luckily, Tourism Ireland has a few helpful suggestions for soon-to-be brides and grooms to aid them on their quest for the perfect Irish venue. Kinnitty Castle Hotel, County Offaly A medieval castle situated on more than 650 acres of stunning parkland: This spot is simply perfect for a couple looking to add some dramatic flair to their event. Sirius Arts Centre, County Cork Overlooking a quaint fishing village, this classic but modern space gives couples the option to have a more minimalist look or dress the venue up to their liking.  Smock Alley Theatre, Dublin This restored 17th-century theater, one of the world’s oldest, is elegant but rustic and right in the heart of the City Centre. Couples will feel immersed in history while enjoying the building’s incredible acoustics. “The same sex Marriage Referendum was a watershed moment in Irish history for so many reasons. And as a gay man it was an incredible moment in my own life also. It is indescribable." "As an event manager I've spent several years helping couples plan their weddings. Straight couples who never had to consider the legality of their union as it was an automatic right. Now that the referendum has passed things have utterly changed and changed for the better. As seen by the jubilant scenes in the courtyard of Dublin Castle on May 23rd.” All of our weddings are bespoke and unique and we do our best to give the couple the day they have always dreamed of,” says Conor Byrne the Events Manager at Smock Alley. Whether it is a small simple intimate service or a large elaborate reception. We are an equal opportunities venue.” Byrne hasn’t seen an influx of new bookings, but expects that to change after the new law officially goes into effect. “The referendum has only just passed and is not due to be signed in to law until later this summer,” Byrne added. “I wouldn’t say that there has been an increase in business for weddings for same sex couples but I have met some a few so far and I’m sure this number will only increase.” Lough Eske Castle, County Donegal This spectacular castle, which dates back to the 17th century, is situated on 43 acres of perfectly manicured grounds and is now home to a five-star hotel and spa. Rosedale House, County Dublin Close to Dublin’s City Centre, this gorgeous Georgian property sits on magical wooded grounds complete with its own rose garden, beautifully designed bedrooms, and even its own nightclub. It is also a short walk from the seafront. This spot is divine for those who want a little of everything.  "We have always engaged with same-sex marriage couples going way back, however now they can get married officially we are seeing an increase in viewings, said Patrick Reade, an event planner at Rosedale House. “We don’t provide anything the same regardless of who is coming to Rosedale and will create that exclusive, unique, special day for all our guests.” More From Yahoo Travel 9 Reasons Why County Mayo, Ireland, is the Perfect Family Getaway I Hate Being Wet and Cold. So Why Did I Go Surfing in Ireland in October? Watch: Meet the World's Friendliest Dolphin in Ireland


Do Airport Screeners Know What They’re Doing?

The Department of Homeland Security’s Office of the Inspector General had a good idea: It conducted 70 tests of Transportation Security Administration (TSA) airport screeners to see how easily banned items such as explosives and weapons could make it through the screening process. Turns out the answer was pretty darn easy: In 67 out of 70 cases, banned items passed unnoticed. Homeland Security’s report on the tests will be published later this year, but the reporting of details by ABC News and CNN have already let the cat out of the bag, leading to the reassignment of TSA’s current administrator and a statement from Homeland Security assuring the public that the screening process is safer than the 67/70 results may suggest. My favorite quote about this comes from a Homeland Security spokesperson, reported by CNN: “the numbers in these reports never look good out of context.” (On second thought, my actual favorite quote about this came from The Onion: "TSA Agents to Now Simply Stand at Checkpoints and Remind Passengers That We All Die Someday.") My hope is that the “context” is that the 70 tests were targeted to airport screeners already suspected of lax practices. But if that were the case, why doesn’t Homeland Security just say so, instead of reassigning TSA’s leader? WE WANT TO KNOW: The U.S. has spent hundreds of millions of dollars on airport screening. Does this news about inadequate screening practices make you rethink your vacation plans?


WATCH: Wild Animals in Africa See Themselves in the Mirror and Freak Out!

Can you really blame a silverback gorilla for trying to attack its own reflection? In a fascinating experiment, French photographer Xavier Hubert Brierre placed mirrors and hidden cameras in the Gabon rain forest in Africa to capture the reactions of wild animals, the New York Post reports. Caught on tape: leopards, monkeys, birds, elephants, and a huge silverback gorilla who was none too pleased about seeing a "competitor." Watch how the animals react below, and read on for tips on how you can visit Africa on a budget: Want to go on a safari in Africa without cleaning out your savings account? Go during low season: • East Africa's two rainy seasons are March/April through May/June, and October/November through December. • South Africa's low season is when it's cold and drizzly in Cape Town, May through September. • Namibia's and Botswana's shoulder months are May and November. For more BT safari tips, read How to Find an Affordable African Safari, or check out our current travel deal for five nights in Kenya, including airfare and safaris, for less than $2,400.


Awesome Summer Food Festivals

Ready to get an early start on your summer travel? Some of the world's tastiest food festivals are happening over the next few weeks in some of the world's most beautiful spots. Pack a bag, and an appetite. EXPO MILANO Milan, Italy, is hosting this world's fair event from May through October. The theme is Feeding the Planet. You can sample food from 20 regions of Italy, not to mention more than 100 nations. Top chefs are doing demonstrations, top architects have designed stunning pavilions, and there are cultural events all day and night, including a brand-new show by Cirque du Soleil. And don't miss the expo's mascot, Foody, designed by Disney. STAY: Milan Hilton, from around $120. (The exchange rate with the euro gets you a bargain.) NATIONAL CHERRY FESTIVAL Traverse City, in northern Michigan, is a beautiful place to visit any time of year, but when the cherry harvest is in, it's heaven on the lakeshore beaches. From July 3 through 11, a half-million people will visit the festival. Of course there's a parade and a pancake breakfast with cherry syrup, preserves, and pie. But there's also an amazing air show, "Blues, Brews, and BBQ" and on the Fourth of July... the Cherry Pit Spit Contest. STAY: Great Wolf Lodge, from $180. GILROY GARLIC FESTIVAL Four words: Free. Garlic. Ice. Cream. A day trip from San Francisco, the "World's Greatest Summer Food Festival" celebrates Gilroy's aromatic crop July 24 through 26. The Bay Area has some serious foodies, and they flock to Gilroy each summer to sample the garlicky concoctions on the festival's Gourmet Alley (with its "flame ups" by its famous "pyro chefs") and a bunch of cook-offs and demonstrations. STAY: Hotel Del Sol, San Francisco, from $120.