Any recounting of the attractions to be found in the State of New York is bound to leave something out. How can you give a capsule description that does justice to a state that encompasses the wild beaches on the far tip of Long Island, includes the whirlwind of activity and culture that is New York City
, revels in the tranquility of the Catskills, encompasses the natural wonders of the Adirondacks and Finger Lakes region, and ends with the roar of Niagara Falls? There’s just too much state to take in all at once.
As it’s one of the most popular destinations in the world, it seems fitting to start with New York City. At 8.2 million residents, it’s the largest city in the US, and its diversity and cultural importance make it both a bellwether and a driving force in defining the US character as a whole.
The New York City most people know from television and movies is, essentially, the borough of Manhattan – the dense, skyscraper-shaded, narrow streets and teeming foot and vehicle traffic most closely associated with NYC are a Manhattan trademark. While the other four boroughs – the Bronx, Staten Island, Queens, and Brooklyn – have their own flavors, it’s Manhattan’s landmarks that most visitors come to see.
They say that New York is the quintessential walker’s city, and that’s really the way to go if you’re visiting. While a walk from one end of Manhattan to the other is doable (if you’re in great shape and have good shoes and a few days to spend), you may want to break it up into sections for your own comfort.
Start in Lower Manhattan, down by Battery Park. Visit Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty to get a sense of history. From there, it’s a short cruise up Broadway toward the Financial District, where you can see Wall Street and make a somber pilgrimage to the site of the World Trade Center and the 9-11 attacks. Go farther north through Tribeca (the “Triangle Below Canal Street”) and visit the art galleries and boutiques that make the area famous. Take side trips off into the worlds of Greenwich Village and Soho (“South of Houston”) for a taste of the counterculture life that so many artists have come to New York for, and don’t forget to stop at one of the many, many ethnic restaurants that showcase the city’s diverse population.
Grab a cab at some point and head up to Midtown, where the Empire State Building and Chrysler Building welcome you to the bustling heart of New York. Ride up to the observation decks on these icons and see the city spread before you. Go deeper into Midtown and take side trips to Central Park, Fifth Avenue, and the Metropolitan Museum; visit Times Square (once a seedy wonder, now a family friendly destination) for the staggering animated billboards and the many restaurants and theaters.
Uptown, you can see Harlem and its rich history, and visit the areas around Columbia and Fordham Universities – only two of the many fine schools to be found in the city.
Trips to the outer boroughs are also in order – in the Bronx you can see the Grand Concourse, take in a Yankees game, and stop into a Dominican restaurant for an inexpensive meal. Brooklyn, much maligned by Manhattanites for years but now having undergone a transformation into the “cool” place to be, has neighborhoods and art galleries that offer the sophistication of Manhattan with fewer pretenses. Queens and Staten Island, residential communities for the most part, still offer pockets of fine dining and plenty to see.
The city’s a destination in itself, and probably more than you can do in one trip. It’s said that it takes a lifetime to truly know the city. But there’s so much more to the state than just the city.
The beaches of eastern Long Island, out by the Hamptons, are well known as a playground for the ultra-rich. Here are mansions and estates on the water that rival anything you might find in Newport RI. The dunes of the farthest eastern section, Montauk, are relatively unspoiled and house the fourth oldest working lighthouse in the US, commissioned by President Washington in 1792 – but did you know that you’ll also find the oldest working cattle ranch in the country there? Deep Hollow Ranch has been in continuous operation since the 1800s and trail rides and a Texas-style barbecue are standard attractions.
Go north from the city and in short order you’ll find yourselves in the Catskills, long a vacation resort for the city dweller looking for peace and quiet. The hotels whose dinner entertainment provided the launching pad for an entire generation of comics and entertainers are still there, but the dairy farms that long provided the staples of the local economies are abandoned for the most part, leaving in their wake a landscape of open meadows and tall hills that teem with deer (watch out driving at night, as entire herds of 50-60 deer are not uncommonly found in the roads).
Farther north, above the Hudson River Valley, you’ll find the Adirondacks. These mountains offer kayaking, white water rafting, hiking, and rock climbing. Out west, south of the historic cities of Syracuse, Ithaca, and Rochester, you’ll find the Finger Lakes region. Glaciers in the last Ice Age carved long, narrow gouges into the land, leaving behind perfect lakes that serve as yet another natural destination for those looking for an outdoor getaway.
In the west of the state you’ll also find Buffalo, a city with a thriving art scene and close proximity to the natural wonder of Niagara Falls, a legendary destination for honeymooners (and barrel enthusiasts – visit the museum there for a look at the elaborate and sometimes poignant equipment people have used to try and make it over the Falls intact).
There’s so much to see in New York State that it’s hard to think of it as one destination. It’s easy to fly into almost any of the major cities from almost anywhere, so it’s easy enough to make New York State and its many regions a destination for more than one trip. New York City
Hudson River Valley
Bronx International Wildlife Conservation Park (Zoo)
Thousand Islands Seaway
New York City has a continental and humid type of climate. Maximum precipitations usually occur in July and August which are also the hottests months. It often snows in winter but it often rains too.