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Jessie Festa was on the Caribbean island of Guadaloupe last week when her car veered into a ditch. She was by herself, without a working phone, and unable to speak French. She considered her options. Then walked to a nearby farm and through charade-like gestures communicated to the residents that she needed help. After some animated back and forth, the farm crew helped push her rental onto the road and waved her on her way.
“It ended up being no problem,” she says, “but it was a reminder that solo travel helps you grow your relationship with yourself. You realize what you’re capable of.”
Festa, whose two websites — Jessie on a Journey and Epicure & Culture — document her solo travel around the world, has always thrived when chasing the unknown. But after years of vagabonding, things have slowed down as of late. She’s got an apartment in New York City. A fiance. A cat. And she’s been eager to seek out adventures in her own backyard. In doing so, she’s uncovered a wealth of unexpected experiences just a few hours from Manhattan.
Like Festa, Uproxx is on a mission to highlight affordable activities and destinations around the nation. For a full month, we’re focusing on experiences that are off-the-beaten-path and offer alternatives to more touristy locales. When tackling the Big Apple, we turned to the travel expert to guide us to hidden gems beyond the glare of Time Square. Check out her expert advice to experience a side of New York state that too many people ignore.
MUSIC — Woodstock, New York
FROM FESTA: There’s a place in Woodstock called Levon Helm’s Barn Studio. It’s such a cool setup. It’s BYOB, so you can have drinks in your car and use that as your base. (Of course, you should have a designated driver.) You get a wristband when you get there and they give you a cup, like a solo cup, and you just walk in and out of the show as much as you want with the drinks you brought in. There’s a stage inside the barn and you stand all around the stage.
The last time I went, I was above the performance. You’re so close to the music that — if I’d wanted to — I could have reached out and touched the instruments while they were playing.
DETAILS: Concerts at Levon Helm’s start March 1st. Protip: Rental cars are going to be much more expensive in the city than just outside it. Take a train about 30 minutes upstate to a smaller town to rent. Many companies will pick you up at the station. Then, set your GPS to 160 Plochmann Lane, Woodstock NY, 12498.