Best of New York State
24 April 2015 by Debbie Mayger
From the Big Apple to Woodstock, the Hamptons to the Finger Lakes, New York State is a diverse and captivating destination, offering iconic architecture, cosmopolitan cities, world-class culture and pastoral landscapes.
The state has inspired artists and writers to produce many great works. F. Scott Fitzgerald's rip-roaring tale of upper-class excess in the Twenties boom period, The Great Gatsby, was set in prosperous Long Island. In the mid 19th century, the Hudson River School - led by Thomas Cole - produced a series of romantic landscapes inspired by the rolling, lush and bountiful scenery. And, of course, from Warhol to Basquiat, de Kooning to Koons, the list of great artists inspired by New York City is unmatched.
Whether you're interested in outdoor activities such as hiking the trails around the Finger Lakes Region, indulging in Buffalo's delicious American cuisine, or visiting the laid-back galleries of the Catskills, then New York State will have something for you. Visit, and see why so many have been inspired by this distinctive state of rolling countryside and towering skyscrapers.
Without doubt New York City is one of the major draws of a holiday in New York State. The city that never sleeps, the Big Apple - whatever the cliché the city is bound to defy expectations.
With its world-famous skyline, and more than 8 million international inhabitants, New York City has an unmistakable energy attracting millions of visitors every year. There are five boroughs - each with its own distinct character, and over 300 neighbourhoods with unique identities.
Immerse yourself in a city that's inspired so much literature, from JD Salinger's Catcher in the Rye, Jan Morris's Manhattan, to Teju Cole's famous Open City. It's full of iconic architecture and attractions, from the Empire State Building to the Statue of Liberty. There are also world-class museums and galleries, from MoMA to the Smithsonian, the Guggenheim to the Met. Enjoy shopping on Fifth Avenue, dining in excellent restaurants, or getting absorbed in the city's quirky districts such as Chinatown, Chelsea or Williamsburg.
To visit New York City, take our New York State - An Outdoor Adventure tour
The Finger Lakes Region gained its name because of its eleven glacier-gouged lakes, like the fingers of a splayed hand, that extend southward from a 75-mile-long line stretching roughly from Syracuse in the east to Rochester in the west. The area is an outdoor paradise, and is famous for its vineyards, rolling hills, and long vistas of blue water.
If you enjoy outdoor activities, then the Finger Lake Region is for you. There's excellent boating, fishing, cycling, hiking and cross-country skiing in the winter months. There are also a number of state parks located throughout the region: visit Watkins Glen State Park to see beautiful gorges and waterfalls, or Letchworth State Park, known as the Grand Canyon of the East, for incredible vistas, deep scenic gorges and campgrounds, rafting, hot air balloons, swimming, and 66 miles of hiking trials.
The area is also famed for its wine, and it has hundreds of vineyards. Don't miss the Glenora Winery and Dr Konstantin Frank's vineyards, which produce an award winning Riesling. The Finger Lakes Region is also steeped in history and tradition - the area has strong ties to glass making, aviation and motorcycling, literature and the Civil War. Don't miss the Corning Museum of Glass, which is home to the largest collection of glass in the world.
To visit the Finger Lakes Region, take our Lakes, Wines & Waterfalls tour
The majestic Niagara Falls is a world-famous natural wonder that draws crowds of tourists each year. Crossing the border between Canada's Ontario and New York State, the falls are made up of three waterfalls that form the southern end of the Niagara Gorge.
Despite some kitsch tourist attractions springing up around the falls on the American side, their beauty and drama is barely marred. Make sure to take your passport, as you'll be able to cross freely between Canadian and American sides.
There is an extensive wine region just minutes from Niagara Falls that spans across Niagara, Orleans and Monroe counties, which you can explore on a wine trail. Geographically located between the Niagara Escarpment and Lake Ontario, the wine region has a unique microclimate and the second longest growing season in New York State. Enjoy many interesting towns, restaurants, historical sites, farm markets and antique shops along the trail.
To visit the Niagara Falls, take our Lakes, Wines & Waterfalls tour
Long Island, the Hamptons and North Fork
Long Island is known for its white-sand beaches, opulent Gold Coast mansions, cookie-cutter suburbia, excellent shopping and moneyed resorts. Its most famous holiday destination is the affluent Hamptons and the South Fork, known for their windswept sand dunes and magnificent beaches.
A less visited part of Long Island is the beautiful North Fork region. A world away from the Hamptons, it forms the top half of Long Island's crocodile jaws, spreading 80 miles east of Manhattan. This is the perfect place to beat the crowds, as its roads are quiet, and beaches sparsely populated. A top destination on North Fork is Southold, full of lovely, small, independent wineries.
With some 40 wineries in the North and South Forks, enjoy celebrated regional wines, freshly caught seafood, and locally grown produce. On the South Fork, the East Hampton's Main Beach and Cooper's Beach are widely recommended and an excellent place to enjoy swimming, sailing and bike rides. Visit Bethpage State Park for world-class polo or a round of golf.
To visit Long Island, take our The Great Gatsby self-drive tour
Hudson Valley and the Catskills
Hudson Valley is located immediately north of New York City, providing a well-needed green retreat for fatigued New Yorkers. Defined by the Hudson River - that runs at nearly three miles wide - it calves up mountains and promontories, and weaves between sharp peaks, deep valleys, woodlands and farms. The valley is also designated as a National Heritage Area, and is steeped in history, natural beauty and culture with a burgeoning food and farmers' market scene.
In the 19th century, the countryside inspired the Hudson River School, a group of artists who painted the area's lush, pastoral and expansive landscape. Extending 150 miles above the tip of Manhattan and north to Albany. It has a long heritage, and its many grand estates and picturesque villages are well preserved.
Even today, the area - especially the Catskills mountainous region - is home to a community of bohemian artists who have moved out of New York in search of a more relaxed pace of life. Many of the galleries they've set up maintain Manhattan sophistication, avoiding chintz and kitsch. Enjoy fine cuisine and boutiques in its charming small towns.
To visit Hudson Valley, take our New York State - An Outdoor Adventure tour
The city of Buffalo is located on the eastern shores of Lake Erie, at the head of the Niagara River. Established by the French in 1758, the city has an illustrious history as a trading post and later as a booming manufacturing centre. Today, the post-industrial city has blossomed into a vibrant student town, and offers a high standard of life for thirty-somethings at low cost. It is also well known for its affordable and tasty cuisine - take a Buffalo Bites walking tour through Elmwood Village and sample a plateful of delicious Buffalo chicken wings.
The city is also famous for its 19th and 20th century architecture, including one of the world's first skyscrapers - the Guaranty Building - designed by Louis Sullivan. There are also several buildings by Frank Lloyd Wright - who famously designed the Guggenheim in New York - as well as some beautiful examples of Art Deco. Don't miss the the Albright-Knox Art Gallery that has a world-class collection, including Matisse, Pollock and Mariko Mori.
To visit Buffalo, take our The Great Gatsby self-drive tour