From town to the country

Sample the Empire State's diverse beauty, says Chris Coplans

They don't call it the Empire State for nothing. New York State, named after the Duke of York and future King James II, stretches northwards from New York City, Long Island and the Hudson River Valley, through the Catskills to the rugged Adirondack Mountains, Great Lakes and Niagara Falls more than 350 miles away. Long Island is best known for a string of upscale resort towns in Southampton and East Hampton, collectively known as The Hamptons, but the island has far more to offer.

East of the Hamptons, you can visit Jackson Pollock's studio at Springs and stay on secluded, brooding Shelter Island. And the Montauk Preserve on the eastern tip of Long Island seems like it's a million miles from the city. The Gold Coast on the north shore is where F Scott Fitzgerald set The Great Gatsby. A number of impressive mansions are open to the public.

Goin' up the country

Half-an-hour north of New York City and you're in the country. In the scenic Hudson Valley, picturesque small towns bristle with history. Just outside Tarrytown is Sleepy Hollow, where Washington Irving's famous legend is set, and Irving's enchanting cottage, Sunnyside, which is gently falling into the river. Beacon is a small river town that has been transformed into an "art" town by the arrival of the Dia Art Foundation. Nine years ago, this NYC-based contemporary arts organisation set up a museum here (diabeacon.org).

Following the river road northwards is the Franklin D Roosevelt Home and Library and the Vanderbilt Mansion at Hyde Park.

The right bank

The west bank of the Hudson leads to the Catskills and much of the west and north of the state. West Point, the military academy, is located close to the river. Woodbury Common, probably the best outlet mall in the USA, is close by. The Catskills, part of the Appalachian Range and an area of rolling hills, farms, small towns and villages, are a couple of hours' drive from New York City.

Woodstock is the most celebrated town, but far more interesting is the tiny village of Bethel, 60 miles away, where the iconic festival took place in 1969. There is now a fabulous museum that chronicles the story of the Sixties (bethel woodscenter.org), as well as a fine concert arena.

Lakemania

Just 150 miles north and west of the Catskills are 11 glacial lakes, known as the Finger Lakes. This is the prime wine-growing area in the state and the second-biggest wine producer in the USA after California. Apart from the lakes and wineries, the area is best known for its wealth of National and State Parks.

The 215ft Taughannock Falls – higher than the better-known Niagara Falls – are protected by the State Park that takes their name. It is just outside the charming university town of Ithaca, which overlooks Lake Cayuga.

Grand Canyon East

At the western edge of the Finger Lakes is Letchworth State Park, known locally as the Grand Canyon East. The Genesee River roars through a deep gorge, with three large waterfalls. Featuring 66 miles of hiking trails, spectacular views, rustic cabins, hot-air ballooning and white-water rafting, it's a great place to spend a day or two.

Northern exposure

A five-hour drive north from New York City is the beautiful and remote Adirondack region. The Adirondack Park is the largest outside Alaska, and covers more territory than the state of New Jersey. It includes 46 mountains, 2,800 lakes and ponds and 600 miles of river, in one of the least densely populated regions in the USA. The vast, rugged area is ideal for camping, hiking, biking and river trips into the wilderness. Lake Placid, which hosted the Winter Olympics in 1932 and 1980, is the best-known lake. Others include Lake George, Long Lake, Blue Mountain Lake and the Fulton chain of lakes. Those with an interest in Native American culture shouldn't miss the Six Nations Indian Museum, close to Saranac Lake.

Saratoga Springs, on the south-east fringes of the Adirondacks, is best known for its mineral springs and thoroughbred horseracing. An elegant town, with Victorian architecture, spas and museums, it's a great place to pamper yourself and unwind for a couple of days. Less than 40 miles south of Saratoga Springs is Albany, the state capital. It has some great architecture and if you're a fan of the Hudson River School of artists, then head to the excellent Albany Institute of Art (albanyinstitute.org).

Buffalo billing

Most visitors head up to the Canadian border just to see the spectacular Niagara Falls. Nearby Buffalo, which was once seen as a decaying industrial relic, has undergone a renaissance in recent years. Art galleries, cafés and restaurants have sprung up in the city and architecturally it has some real treasures, including homes by Frank Lloyd Wright, a park by Frederick Law Olmsted and the Prudential Building by Louis Sullivan, the father of the skyscraper.

Ballpark figures

Every year, 400,000 Americans make the pilgrimage to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum (baseballhall.org) in Cooperstown, population 2,300, about three hours' drive north from Manhattan. The village sits beside Lake Otsego, one of the most underdeveloped and exquisite lakes in the state and is graced with elegant period architecture, fine hotels and B&Bs, and the fantastic Fenimore Art Museum (fenimoreartmuseum.org).

On the trains

The Metropolitan Transit Authority website offers a wide selection of day and overnight trips. Trains to the Hudson River Valley leave from Grand Central Terminal. Trains to Long Island destinations depart from Penn Station. Amtrak trains venture further upstate. The Adirondack takes you on a spectacular ride through the state to Montreal.

The road less travelled

One of the best ways to enjoy the state is to avoid the highways and take the back roads through bucolic landscapes and small communities. The Taconic Parkway beats Interstate 187 hands down. One scenic drive upstate is on Route 2 along the southern shores of Lake Champlain and the picturesque village of Essex. US 6, the highway on which Sal Paradise tries to cross America in On the Road, is worth a spin around the Shawangunk Mountains and Harriman State Park.

Travel Essentials

More information

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Recruitment Genius: Personal Trainer / PT - OTE £32,000 Uncapped

    £22000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The fastest growing fitness cha...

    Recruitment Genius: Membership Sales Advisor - OTE £10,000 Uncapped - Part Time

    £7500 - £10000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The fastest growing fitness chai...

    Guru Careers: Marketing Executive / Digital Marketing Executive

    COMPETITIVE: Guru Careers: A Marketing / Digital Marketing Executive (CRM, Eve...

    Recruitment Genius: Receptionist / Sales / Customer Service Assistant

    £8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: The role is likely to be 4on 4 off, days and ...

    Day In a Page

    Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

    Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

    But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
    Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

    Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

    Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
    Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

    Britain's 24-hour culture

    With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
    Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

    The addictive nature of Diplomacy

    Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
    Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

    Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

    Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
    8 best children's clocks

    Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

    Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
    Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

    Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

    After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
    Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

    How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

    Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
    Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

    'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

    In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
    Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

    The Arab Spring reversed

    Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
    King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

    Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

    Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
    Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

    Who is Oliver Bonas?

    It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
    Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

    Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

    However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
    60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

    60 years of Scalextric

    Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones