When I tell people that I’m from New York they immediately get so excited. “Wow, I loveeeee New York City!!!” But wait, it’s a STATE with 40 million people. I guess it’s kinda like when I just came and moved to England- many Americans straight up act like England is only London. I’m like…. giant pause. I get it. I get it. I’m not travel or geography shaming. It’s natural to associate with things we are familiar with. But I hope to give you a few suggestions so next time you head to New York you expand your horizons and don’t think the only thing to do is go to New York City! There is room for so many activites in NY state. A huge shout out to my friends from my Facebook page who helped me answer what their favorite things to do were in Upstate!! Couldn’t have thought of everything without you. Writing this brings back so many fond memories and makes me miss home, especially the people that make it my home. No matter how far I go– New York is always so close to my heart.
My hometown– Syracuse, NY- I gotta show ‘Cuse some love. Although I hate the winters there, fall and summer are pretty amazing. And winter is cool for winter sport lovers (which I am not.) Although, I never plan on living back in Syracuse, it’s a wonderful place to visit and call home. The best time to visit Syracuse is the fall– drive around and admire the changing leaves, apple picking at Beak and Skiff and make sure to eat all of the apple cider donuts and Honeycrisp apples. Trust me on this one. Pumpkin picking. Corn mazes. We have it all. If you can head up to the Syracuse University campus and watch a game at the Dome, go eat and drink on Marshall street or Armory Square. That is a blast. You have never seen so much orange in your entire life.
Food– When I brought my boyfriend to my hometown this summer, I had a list a mile long of food he MUST try. Just like NYC is famous for pizza and bagels- Upstate has some epic meals and specialities you can’t really get other places. Some of my favorites include: salt potatoes, Dinosaur BBQ(the original), Pastabilities, Gannons(best ice cream ever), chicken riggies, Just Donuts and of course– WEGMANS. I kid you not– my father gave my boyfriend a 40 minute tour of our local grocery store. If you have ever been to Wegmans, you understand. It is the best grocery store I have ever been to and I have to visit every time I go home. My Dad was touring us around every aisle, we were eating samples around every corner and he was introducing us to all of his worker pals. It was a true initiation and sounds hilarious when I say it out loud.
Hiking– If you love the outdoors Upstate, New York is perfect for you. Ithaca has Buttermilk Falls and Taughannock Falls( don’t ask me to pronounce it.) and lots of gorges. If you go to Ithaca you MUST eat at the Moosewood Grill. It’s my mom and I’s favorite place! It’s one of the first fully vegetarian restaurants that opened decades ago and they change up the menu all the time. The carrot cake is truly life changing.
Other great hiking spots are the Catskill Mountains, Adirondack Mountains, Watkins Glenn, Letchworth State Park, Clark’s Reservation, and Green Lakes State Park which has some of the bluest water you have ever seen. It was so special to bring my boyfriend there when we were visiting my hometown this summer because I grew up there! Every summer– from about the age of one– you could find us at the lake side beach (I was eating sand even though my mom packed Wegmans subs or Brooklyn pickle as a picnic.) Going back as an adult it’s even more beautiful than I remember.
Get onto the water– The lakes, rivers and bodies of water in Upstate are incredible. The lakes are like OCEANS! Niagara Falls is a MUST DO. The Finger Lakes region, Skaneateles Lake, and the St. Lawrence River are some of my personal favorites. In Skaneateles–make sure you visit Anyela’s Winery, eat at the Blue Water Grill or The Sherwood Inn for an incredible meal right on the water and walk out onto the pier. Bonus points if you can get out onto a boat. There is a whole wine region in the Finger Lakes with tons of wineries and companies that offer many tour packages. You can always hire a giant school bus and build your own tour like we did for my 25th birthday. It was epic. Wine slushies and all.
Music– The outdoor music scene in New York is awesome. There are concerts happening all over the state in beautiful outdoor venues, stadiums, amphitheaters and even music festivals springing up too. One of my personal favorite venues is Saratoga Performing Arts Center(SPAC) where I have seen Dave Matthews Band perform more times than I can count. There are endless parking lots and campgrounds for tailgating and the outdoor venue is perfect for a feel good summer concert night! A friend of mine also mentioned the Norwood Village Green concert series as a good one to check out.
The Thousand Islands– On our summer trip visiting my family, we went back to a place our family used to own a summer cottage- Wellesley Island. After 13 years- 20+ family members(introduced them to my boyfriend all at once– whoops) spent a week there soaking up the sun, jumping in the ice cold river, and slowing down to enjoy life. I’m scared to write about this hidden gem because it is truly somewhere that remains untouched. All of the victorian style cottage homes are painted beautiful bright colors and they all have their own name. This year we rented out The Last Resort and it was truly magical. Again, it felt so special to bring my love here and share it with my family– passing the traditions down to my niece and my nephew and little cousins. We took day trips to Boldt Castle, Alex Bay and even across the border to Canada to a little place called Gananoque. If you’re looking for a perfect summer getaway spot or family reunion hubb- check it out! I’m sure you will be captured by the beauty just as much as we were.
Spots closer to the City– All of these places I’ve talked about are closer to where I grew up which is about 4 hours from NYC. If you don’t have time to make it up up state- check out beautiful parts of New York closer to the city like the Hamptons, Long Island, and Woodstock. There is a lot of green & beach diversity, wine and of course, delicious things to eat.
What are your favorite spots in New York state? Have you been to any of these places? Anything you really love that you think is missing? I would love to hear from you! Happy travels! xxx