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BEST OF UPSTATE NY: 9 DESTINATIONS FOR A SPECTACULAR SUMMER ADVENTURE
 
(2023 - Spring/Summer Issue)

Writer: LINDSAY DAVIES



Get Ready to Feast Your Eyes and Prep for a Jaw-Dropping Journey On this Road Trip Next Door

Across the U.S. border, in the clutches of New York state, you’ll soon veer off the main Interstate-90E highway on a captivating road trip that’ll surely get your engine roaring as you discover quaint countrysides surrounded by sun-dappled fresh lakes, rolling hills and many local hidden gems where cyclists, wine lovers, nature enthusiasts and outdoor adventurers readily converge in the heart of Upstate New York!

First Stop, The Finger Lakes

Kickstart your trip with one of the most beautiful areas in the entire state. About two hours after crossing the Canadian-U.S. border from Ontario, you will arrive at the Finger Lakes Region. Named for the cluster of 11 long narrow lakes, this is the heart of New York’s wine country.

In the northern Finger Lakes region of Wayne County, you will be amazed by the towering bluffs of Chimney Bluffs State Park. These large clay drumlins were gouged out by glaciers over 6,000 years ago and have survived the cyclical force of waves and weather. Meander these shoreline trails with a camera in tow for incredible photo opportunities and make your way through dense forests. The trek is worth it! Stunning views of Lake Ontario will be your reward from the crest of these bluffs.

Wayne County is also known for having the largest concentration of artwork along the state’s Mural Mania Trail with a whopping 50 pieces! Beginning in 2007, the purpose of these works was to preserve the history of the Erie Canal through art by portraying what life was like in the early 1800s. Even though the mural themes have expanded, they are still true to historical ties in Wayne County.

Ready to get to the centre of the Finger Lakes region? There are four easy exits off the interstate—from Victor to Canandaigua to Geneva. Ontario County is where arts and culture, wineries and dining mesh with jaw-dropping lakeside landscapes. Bristol Mountain is a major draw among the winter downhill ski set and summer zip line seekers. Nearby Naples is a quaint town, representative of so many of the region. It’s full of farm-to-table food options, special events, craft beverage makers and artists, and lots of friendly residents who welcome you to see the best in their community.

For a bona fide hyperlocal foodie scene, venture to Linden Street in charming Geneva. It’s home to all sorts of food and drink options—from barbecue to Vinifera, a speakeasy to the iconic FLX Table restaurant. No matter which places you pick in Geneva, your tastebuds will be treated.

If you are an avid waterfall chaser, Watkins Glen is the mecca of these aquatic beauties. The 315-hectare state park is at the heart of it and home to a series of 19 magnificent waterfalls. Your jaw will drop as the intricate landscapes along the Gorge Trail unfold in front of you. Once you have tackled the park, take a peek around town and treat yourself to some home-cooked eats or ice cream. You earned it after tackling the Glen’s 800+ steps!

Road trips are meant to take you off the beaten path so head to the quaint town of Burdett along the eastern side of the largest of the Finger Lakes, Seneca Lake. Here you will peer between the ears atop horseback as you soak up the country views with local outfitter Painted Bar Stables. Perfect for riders of all skill levels, gallop along the extraordinary trails past rows of vineyards in the heart of wine country.

Did you know that Upstate New York was where the heroic abolitionist Harriet Tubman lived as a free woman after escaping slavery? Her fearless work as a conductor of the Underground Railroad also helped save hundreds of enslaved individuals in the mid-1800s. Today, around Cayuga County, history buffs can dive deep into the details of her chosen hometown. You will not want to miss the Harriet Tubman National Historical Park where you will learn about the empowered life she built for herself and her family on their three- hectare homestead. Traverse the grounds as you appreciate the dedication she showed to her fellow man in the quest for freedom for all. Then, head to her final resting place to pay your respects at the Fort Hill Cemetery, where she was buried with military honours.

Five kilometres south of downtown Auburn, steps away from the northern shore of Owasco Lake, sits a century-old building. It is a former carousel enclosure that is now named the “Merry-Go-Round Playhouse.” The Playhouse is the home of The REV Theatre Company, one of the premier professional theatre companies in New York State. The Broadway-style theatre season runs from May to October and brings renowned, imaginative, theatrical experiences to the Finger Lakes.

Venture North

It will be hard to pull yourself away from the Finger Lakes but your next destination has just as much natural beauty as it does cultural gems. Tucked along the southern shore of Lake Ontario, St. Lawrence County is surrounded by the magnificence of the Thousand Islands. Leave land behind and board a cruise for Singer Castle, the only complete and fully furnished castle remaining in the area. Your jaw will drop again as you admire the stunning decor of this elegant abode. Take your visit to the next level and feel like a king or queen with an overnight stay in The Royal Suite!

St. Lawrence County is easily the hotspot for those looking to tackle crazy trails. It features almost 200 kilometres of ATV routes that beckon even the biggest of adrenalin enthusiasts. If you would rather keep your feet on the ground for the trails, take it to the next level with one of the region’s new hiking trails, called the Great 8 Challenges. With the Riverside Run, Nature Nuts and Waterfall Crawl categories to choose from, you will enjoy spectacular riverside views, lookouts and waterfalls, respectively.

Go East!

Make a beeline to the Adirondack Coast, where you can explore the natural areas of Upstate New York. Water babies will rejoice as Lake Champlain boasts 950 kilometres of pristine shoreline. You have arrived at watersport central with the cream of the crop being the prime scuba diving opportunities. There are 375 shipwrecks at the bottom of Lake Champlain, 16 of which you can explore in the Plattsburgh area. Not to mention this offers some of the best inland kitesurfing in the entire eastern United States! Or you can enjoy the more tranquil side of the Adirondack Coast as you cruise along the almost 10,000 kilometres of lakes, rivers and ponds that are perfect for canoeing, kayaking and stand-up paddleboarding.

For the foodies, you will certainly want to try a bite of the local delicacy, ironically called “The Michigan.” A juicy hot dog is served snugly inside a steamed bun, smothered with meat sauce and then adorned with mustard and onions. It is an iconic road trip meal that is perfect for you to grab-and-go since more time sitting devouring a meal means less time on the open road!

The Final Bend

Head south along the I-87 towards Ulster County in the heart of the Hudson Valley. Home to New York’s first state capital, you will also find Rail Explorer’s Catskills. Feast your eyes on impeccable views of Esopus Creek as you pedal through the beautiful woods of the Catskill Mountains along a former railroad. This is just one way to enjoy the outdoors, as you’ll find more than 800 kilometres of connected carriage trails, world-famous mountain climbing—the most technical in the northeast, and four Catskill’s fire towers to scale.

Art is everywhere in Ulster County as Opus 40 encompasses 26 hectares of natural beauty. Explore the forested paths and bluestone quarries of this world-famous sculpture park with the crown jewel being the 2.6 hectares of remarkable earthwork sculptures. Many have described the work of pioneering artist Harvey Fite as North America’s Stonehenge!

Rockland County may be nestled in the southern corner of the Hudson Valley Region but it is worth the trek across the Empire Corridor for the second-largest park in the state! Harriman State Park is home to over 350 kilometres of hiking trails. You will feast your eyes on brilliant lake vistas, tackle twists and turns with some of the best mountain biking trails in the area and unleash your inner daredevil as you seek out the park’s abandoned mines. To boot, the county is also home to the longest shared bicycle and pedestrian pathway in the entire United States, the Governor Mario M. Cuomo Bridge.

All that adventure will certainly work up your appetite and what better place to go than New York State’s oldest tavern! The ’76 House has been restored to its former glory when it was the place for Patriots to meet during the American Revolution. Step into history as preserved artifacts adorn its walls, including the original watercolour of Benedict Arnold turned upside down by George Washington himself upon learning his friend betrayed him. This rich history adds to the ambience as you indulge in impeccable eats including not just hearty pub meals but exotic dishes such as alligator, wild boar and Faroe Island salmon.

While these Upstate New York destinations are all incredible in their own right, there is plenty of ground to cover. Whether you take these recommendations or throw caution to the wind, adventure awaits around every turn in Upstate New York.

Fuel Your Fire with the Upstate Eats Trail

As you traverse the I-90, there is no better way to stay fuelled than with the quintessential road trip eats of Upstate New York. Dubbed the Upstate Eats Trail, this sinuous 362-kilometre route serves regional specialties only found at mom-and-pop restaurants, unique food stands, and hideaway cafés, many of which graze the roadside edges with great Americana kitsch.

As you pass through Buffalo, grab a meal at the Anchor Bar. This is where the Buffalo wing was born and is still prepared with the exact secret recipe from when they were originally made in 1964!  Upon arriving in Rochester, order yourself a garbage plate. The name might surprise you, but this dish is a delicious mix of a protein with two sides. Although hot dogs were the original choice, locals typically order a two-cheeseburger plate with home fries and macaroni salad, topped with the signature hot meat sauce. Last on the docket is Syracuse for some Dinosaur Bar-B-Que, which is said to be one of the best barbecue restaurants in the entire country! Sink your teeth into some of their ribs and you will quickly understand why it is not to be missed. upstateeatstrail.com

TRAVEL PLANNER

For trip planning to Upstate New York, visit

goadirondack.com, tourcayuga.com, visitfingerlakes.com,

visitulstercountyny.com, explorewatkinsglen.com,

explorerocklandny.com, visitstlc.com

waynecountytourism.com

 
 
 
 
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