Friday, April 15, 2016


BEYOND THE BOOKS is a weekly meme where KissinBlueKaren throws out a topic (mostly non-bookish), and we blog about it.

Binghamton is in Upstate New York, forty-five minutes south of Syracuse and three and a half hours from NYC.

I was born here and have lived most of my life within the city limits. With the exception of living on a commune in Colorado for a little over four months, I have always lived in what is known as The Greater Binghamton area. My mother and father, and son were born here, too.

I love my city!
It is at the confluence of two beautiuful rivers.

The two most prominent things we are known for are...
We have two vintage merry-go-rounds within the city limits and there are four more in the Greater Binghamton area. Of 150 remaining wood-carved carousels left in the United States and Canada, we have six of them. They are all free to ride for the admission price of a piece of litter.
Here is a video of the one nearest to me in Recreation Park.
Which leads us to The Twilight Zone.
This carousel was the inspiration for one of the most famous episodes of The Twilight Zone, Walking Distance. Here is the full episode.

Rod Serlng, creator of The Twilight Zone, grew up in Binghamton. My son graduated from the Rod Serling School of Fine Arts.

Here is a student made collage portrait of Rod Serling in the Fine Arts wing of the high school.
360° drone video of the high school complex.
Lunchtime Upstate Lightfoot dancing...

We also have our signature food...

They are marinated cubes, usually of pork or chicken, but can also be made with lamb, beef, or venison; cooked on a grill. I have even seen a vegetarian mushroom version at our annual Spiedie Festival and Balloon Rally cook-off. The marinade uses Italian seasonings and the spiedies are served on the dry type of sliced Italian bread, and don't let anyone tell you any different. They were even featured on Food Network.

I love the three day Spiedie Fest and Balloon Rally. There are usually about 20 balloons that launch, and they also host major music artists in outdoor concerts.

Then there is what we call Parade Day...

We celebrate St. Patrick's Day the Saturday before, so we can get all the good pipe bands that would have been playing in NYC on the actual holiday. We get the NYPD Emerald Society Pipe band!

We have a large Irish population so it is a big celebration!
We have our own pipe band. Here they are "getting down" with the Brian Boru Band drummers at the after-parade gathering of the pipe bands.

When J.K. Rowling announced that the North American wizarding school was in Upstate New York, I thought, hey, Binghamton because we are in Broome County and one of our nicknames is the Magic City! Plus, we have this...

It is an empty inebriate asylum, or is it?

We still have our original 1940s Art Deco Greyhound station. There is a 1950s inspired snackbar inside, too.

Then there is this new annual event... The Luma Projection Arts Festival. This was just one of several projection art installations that night. It was breathtaking in person.

For a city our size we are lucky to have so many arts and entertainment activities.
We have the Forum Theater. It is home to our philharmonic orchestra and opera company (which has trained many Metropolitan Opera members). It is also the venue for our large local baroque choral group, The Downtown Singers, and a lot of regional blues concerts. The Forum is also a member of the Broadway Theater League and we get the best and newest traveling Broadway shows.

And the Binghamton Youth Symphony!
Plus, the BYS Junior Orchestra. These are middle school and elementary students! They always make me cry because I am so proud of our youth.

We have a community theater...
which hosts a lot of local playwrites and actors.
The Art Mission Theater plays art films, documentaries, and indie movies. It also has an art gallery and banquet facilities.

The first Friday of every month we celebrate ART! We have a smorgasbord of art galleries, art studios, artisan speciality shops, and music groups in the city and we bring them both together, sometimes with the addition of food and film. It is called a "walk", but for some venues removed from the center of town there is this cute little free trolley.

It has a gift shop!
Also, a snack room with vending machines, a creative arts room, an auditorium, an exibition room, and a computer lab. They have adult coloring night, knitting night, a reading with therapy dogs program, a play reading group, book clubs, discussion groups, and a full time staffed genealogy/history department.
And they have a reading garden!

We have an indie book store!

This is right next to the bookstore. It is the Martin Luther King Jr. Promenade. There are benches on the left overlooking the river. It is a beautiful place to read.

And speaking of beautiful places to read... there is a storybook reading garden at our children's hands-on museum, The Discovery Center, which is located next to our zoo.

We have the fifth oldest zoo in the country.

The exhibits are dispersed along a path that winds through wooded areas. My favorite is the river otter exhibition where there is an underwater viewing area (for the penguins, too), although my favorite animal is the red panda.
This video shows a few of the animals and gives you an idea of the woodland setting.

It is also the location of our other carousel.

We have three museums...
Our Victorian age living history museum.

It houses our planetarium.

They hold an annual SciFi/Fantasy Con.

This museum houses, among other art and antiquities exhibits, The Rod Serling Twilight Zone Collection.
This is a tiny fraction of what they have. There are some television show props you can hold if you put on the white gloves!

We even have a luxury hotel.
The Grand Royal Hotel.

And a baseball stadium.
With a minor league baseball team: the Binghamton Mets.

And a sports and entertainment venue, the Veterans Memorial Arena, which is home to our professional hockey team, The Binghamton Senators.

We even have a rugby team...
The Binghamton Barbarians.

And a golf course.
Please keep in mind that everything I am telling you about is within the city limits!

 We have two micro breweries.

We have had an annual zombie walk for the past eight years.

Here are some of the things that endear Binghamton to me.

We still have an "old-timey" type department store that I adore.

And of course the specialty nut and candy store I am always raving about. They roast their own nuts and the many varieties of fudge are homemade.

I ate here with my dad, and my son had his first french fry here. He still eats there with his friends. Food Network also featured Danny's, but I couldn't find it. In fact they have been here three times, but I don't remember what the third one was about.

This is a classic mom and pop store. It has an old wooden screen door on springs that makes the squeeeeeeeek-slam noise with a tinkling bell. Gosh, and the smell of the place... exactly like all the other long gone neighborhood stores. It isn't my my beloved Mr. Brown's, or Larry and Kay's from my old neighborhood, but the sounds, sights and smells here make all of those memories flood back. It has the old frozen treat freezer and they still sell deli meat and cheese wrapped up in white butcher paper. It has the old wire newspaper rack and bagged chips and snacks racks. It is still owned by the original family. I am lucky to have this store in my current neighborhood.

I played here as a child and it is very much like it used to be back then. The above used to be the kiddie wading pool, but now it is a reflecting pool. 
The carousel enclosure.
Morning test drive, no music, but best view of the horses!
This gazebo is also featured in the Twilight Zone Walking Distance episode and there is a commemorative plaque.

Recreation Park is also home to NY State's LARGEST all accessible handicapped and multi-generstional play park. Four acres!

Describing all the fabulous food would take forever because it is what the downtown area is all about. I will tell you that because we have such a diverse population you can find many different, and authentic, cuisines. From Classic Italian to Thai, Indian curries, Eastern European, Japanese, Vietnamese, Chinese, Middle Eastern, and Latino favorites. And soul food!

We have an urban farm and seven community gardens.
And backyard chickens are a thing!
We have two year round farmers markets and during the summer bands play for lunch time hours. And we are getting a farm-to-market grocery store downtown this year.

We are home to the largest video game arcade in NYS!
They have moved to a larger storefront since this video was taken and have 20% more games. This is where my son takes his girlfriend on dates. How romantic. Ha!

We have a SKATE PARK!

*WARNING: If you watch the entire video, which you probably won't because it is lengthly, there are some obscenities in the rap music after awhile.


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