NEW YORK — The Big Apple is undeniably one of the world’s greatest cities, and within New York City’s 302.6 square miles, there certainly are enough day trips to last into infinity. Sometimes, though, the open road calls.
Within the 54,555 square miles of the Empire State are something like 3,849 named mountains, more than 30 breathtaking waterfalls, pristine lakes in Upstate New York, charming small towns, and 215 state parks and historic sites.
Any one of these destinations is worthy of a road trip. Here are five to keep in mind:
1. Get soaking wet at Niagara Falls: The spectacular waterfalls are often called the unofficial eighth wonder of the world. With more than 3.5 million posts, Niagara Falls State Park is the “most Instagrammed” state park in the country, according to Travel Lens. The Cave of the Winds should be part of your itinerary. You’ll hop on an elevator at Goat Island, a park designed by famed architect Frederick Law Olmsted, and plunge 175 feet into the Niagara Gorge. You’ll be able to go up as far as you want on the “hurricane deck” that puts you within 20 feet of the billowing Bridal Veil Falls. (You’ll get a yellow rain slicker and sandals to take home.) Also on the U.S. side of the falls, visit Three Sisters Islands, where you’ll be able to see the rapids as the water races toward the falls, and Terrapin Point, where you’ll get a good view of the Horseshoe Falls.
2. Breathe deeply in the Finger Lakes region: A five-hour drive from New York City, the area boasts 11 pristine lakes, multiple state parks and impressive waterfalls. There’s something for everyone — hiking trails through scenic gorges, horseback riding, gambling at a casino, an amusement park, museums, historical sites and wine tours. Don’t miss the primal beauty of waterfalls, including Taghannock, or the fairy-like landscape of Letchworth State Park.
3. Drive the length of Long Island: There are 118 miles of experiences to be had on Long Island, including exploring wine country on the North Fork (Wine Enthusiast named Long Island one of the top 10 wine regions in the world), relaxing in the Hamptons on the South Fork, enjoying one of Long Island’s iconic beaches, or visiting museums featuring the works of legendary 19th, 20th and 21st century artists who have lived on Long Island. Among them are Jackson Pollack and his wife, Lee Krasner, whose masterpieces are displayed at Pollack-Krasner House. The historic and still-working Montauk Point Lighthouse, commissioned by President George Washington in 1792, offers panoramic views over Block Island Sound, the Atlantic Ocean and points west. The first suburb in the United States, Levittown, was built in 1947. If you can, squeeze in a visit to the Nassau County Museum and LongHouse Reserve.
4. Take a trip worth more than a grain of salt: The Salt Museum, located on the shore of Onondaga Lake in the village of Liverpool, pays tribute to the industry that built Syracuse and once supplied the entire nation with salt. Attractions include the original boiling block where brine was turned into salt, the kettles used to boil it and the barrels used to store it before more modern processes were introduced in the 1920s. The museum itself is constructed from timbers taken from the salt warehouses. There are plenty of other diversions ‚ outdoor activities; scenic waterfalls; craft breweries, wineries and cideries; a vibrant downtown; and a rich arts and culture scene. If you like grand architecture, be sure to stop by Syracuse City Hall and the Robert Gere Bank Building, two distinctive buildings designed by architect Charles E. Colton that reflect the style that became known as Richardsonian Romanesque. Also worth seeing are Clinton Square and the Niagara Mohawk Building. This is a foodie destination, too, with copious options that range from brunches and dining in establishments ranging from farm-to-table to upscale restaurants.
5. Peace out in Woodstock: You may not be able to imagine your grandparents — or someone they knew, or someone they knew who knew someone — dancing in the mud at Woodstock in 1969, but you may be able to conjure up the image in a behind-the-scenes tour of the festival grounds. The legendary music festival was actually held in Bethel, but as a bustling artists’ haven and the originally planned location of the festival, Woodstock got the billing. The area is 110 miles north of New York City in the Catskills, where there are copious resort and lodging opportunities and enough activities to keep you busy for a weekend or longer Be sure to check out the 1960s-themed Museum of Bethel Woods, the natural beauty of Lake Superior State Park and, if you’re planning ahead, the Catbird Music Festival Aug. 19-20 at the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts.
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