Though we live in Hoboken (a NJ city just across the river from Manhattan), we tend to spend a lot of our weekends in upstate New York. Maybe it's the promise of fewer crowds and more nature, but piling into the car early on a Saturday morning and sneaking out of town before most people are getting their coffee is one of our favorite rituals. We own a Jetta, so when I found out we'd have the chance to try out a wagon we were excited. We've been considering an upgrade to something bigger, so a trip upstate was the perfect real-life opportunity to try out the Golf SportWagen in all it's spacious glory.
Ease of Parking: For such a long car, it was surprisingly easy. The GolfWagen has a rear-view camera (we discovered the VW symbol on the trunk actually flips out when you put the car in reverse to reveal a camera!) and sensors to let you know if you're too close to a curb or car.
Who should be behind the wheel: Anyone who wants the room of an SUV with the ease of driving a smaller car.
Gas sipper or guzzler: I didn't keep an exact tally of it, but we made it around town, upstate and back (about 350 miles) in medium traffic on just under a tank.
Space for: The trunk would fit anything from multiple overnight bags to a stroller (if that's what you need) and the back seats come down to accommodate say, an antique furniture find you don't want to leave behind!
Dashboard Intimidation factor: It's not so much intimidating as just overwrought.I was able to change the radio settings at a red light, but the touchscreen has a swipe feature that's too sensitive and difficult to control while you drive, not to mention lots of bells and whistles that seem unnecessary. However, all that extra techy stuff allowed us to plug our phones in to stream music and take phone calls through the radio, which was really great on a long drive. So, I guess it's worth it to have the extra gadgetry.
Will make you feel: Prepared and ready for a road trip!
Best for: Singles, couples or small families.
The weather was unpredictable, so we packed a couple of bags with extra coats, rain boots, full size umbrellas and some food and tossed them in the trunk. (I forgot to take a photo of it—whoops!—so this picture is just to give you a sense of how big the trunk is.) As someone who's used to digging through the partially covered trunk of a sedan or standing on tippy toes to reach into a too-high SUV trunk, this trunk is amazingly accessible. It sounds silly, but it just made it feel easy to pack up and get going.
If you've ever driven in Hoboken, you know the streets are narrow with cars parked on both sides and pedestrians with baby carriages or pets on leashes popping into cross walks at any given moment. Cautious driving isn't just courteous, it's necessary here. The bigger your car, the less control you feel like you have in such a tight space. So, I was relieved to find that the GolfWagen maneuvered just like our smaller Jetta, and its sensors alerted us if we were too close to another car or if someone was in the crosswalk in front of us.
We made our way out of town toward our first stop, Blue Hill at Stone Barns in Tarrytown, NY. It's a full vegetable and livestock farm with an on-site restaurant, takeaway food stand, and a beautiful home wares shop stocked with everything from ceramic baking dishes to beeswax candles hand-dipped in Vermont. As I bought a pair of tapers and a farm t-shirt, the girl at the counter told us the farm was open to tour—and they had just welcomed a whole new spring flock of lambs! We darted down to their pen, where we learned that the lambs with blue markings require bottle-feeding. I don't think it gets any cuter than a bottle-fed lamb! We checked in on their chickens, a greenhouse filled with herbs, and then got back in the car to make our way to the next stop.
One of our favorite upstate towns is Cold Spring, which has a beautiful waterfront (accessible by a quaint underground walking path) and a main street filled with cute food, clothing, and décor shops. I stopped into Cold Spring Apothecary to re-stock on my favorite room freshener (their Lavender White Tea scent), then popped by Burkelman for jewelry and Cold Spring General Store for a snack. Just as it started drizzling, we got back in the car and got back on the highway.
Despite brief rain shower, the car felt smooth and unaffected by slicker roads as we made our way to Kingston, our next stop. Since we were getting farther away from NYC, our usual radio stations started fuzzing out so we plugged a phone in and streamed Pandora for the rest of the trip. I can't overstate how amazing this was! We're used to relying on radio stations or a few old CDs, and this made the trip way more rela. Plus, you could take phone calls through the radio or use other apps. Since we were so excited to have access to our phones, we skipped the in-car navigation system in favor of Google Maps and let it speak to us through the car speakers.
We found a spot on the main road in Kingston and hopped out to buy some wine from Kingston Wine Co. I was drawn in by their friendly owner and was pleasantly surprised to find that they label their wines with genius pairing suggestions.
Next we walked up the street to score a beautiful vase from Hops Petunia, a gorgeous little flower and housewares shop (are you sensing a pattern here??) wallpapered in an intricate gold and navy pattern that makes you feel as if you've stepped back in time. As the owner rung me up, I found out she had handmade the sweet vase I was buying.So lucky to have met the artist in person!
We got back in the car and continued on to our final stop, Germantown, NY. Luddite Antiques, a well-known Brooklyn antiques store had just relocated and we popped in, hoping to find a big piece of furniture or something large enough that would help us try out the big trunk we had that day. While we didn't find furniture, I did leave with another pretty vase for just $1!
Our plan was to eat at Gaskins, a pretty restaurant that opened last summer right across the street. Unfortunately, dinner didn't start until 5, so we decided to head back to Hoboken early. Since the sky had cleared, we opened the double sunroof to enjoy the last couple of hours of sunlight and drove back down winding country roads with a trunk full of goodies and our favorite music playing (without commercials!) all the way home.