Never thought I’d say “thank you” to an American Girl. No surprise that the image of little girls with their mini-me’s getting their hair done and having tea in the American Girl store kind of creeps me out. But after a trip to New York’s Finger Lakes, I have a new appreciation for the profits being pumped out of the doll empire. Turns out, Pleasant Rowland, the founder of the toymaker, has been on a personal mission to put Aurora, New York back on the travel map. So far, the delights include the gorgeously decorated inn E.B. Morgan House a revitalized stop at whimsical designer MacKenzie-Childs, and cooking classes hosted at the historic Aurora Inn.
Why the focus on a little town on the shores of Cayuga Lake? Rowland is a graduate of nearby Wells College, the formerly all-women’s school, one of the first universities for females in the U.S. Her financial gifts to her alma mater have included funds to renovate and manage some of the town’s most storied establishments. My favorite: E.B. Morgan House, home of one of the founders of a couple of companies you might have heard of—New York Times, American Express. The stately home has been turned into a lovely inn just steps from the lakeshore. Best part, Pleasant has loaned pieces from her spectacular modern art collection that add a bright punch to the design.
Just down the road, make a pit stop at the headquarters of MacKenzie-Childs. This homegrown pottery company, known for its checkerboard pattern and fancy chickens in its Manhattan showroom, got a much needed lift from Pleasant’s investment. Don’t miss the behind-the-scenes video detailing how each handmade creation is brought-to-life, and then shop hard-to-find patterns in the store.
Over at the Aurora Inn, sip on one of the delicious Finger Lakes Rieslings on offer, perhaps something from the famed Hermann J. Wiemer vineyard. For a truly hands-on experience, make sure to sign up in advance for one of the special culinary classes the inn offers. Truthfully, I was pretty lousy at the vegetable carving class I took. But I’m blaming it on the wine.
Thanks to Ms. Rowland, Aurora is quite a pleasant little experience. She’s created a setting to make all American Girls—including me—truly proud.
Dishin’ Tip from your GBF (gay best friend): for a taste of the local scene, head across the street from Aurora Inn to Fargo Bar & Grill—grab a beer and a truly delicious veggie burger.
For more of Jon Paul’s writing check out his blog Poptimistic.com.