Think of New York, and New York City springs immediately to mind: that big, brash, 24/7 metropolis where those who dare to sleep run the risk of missing something. True, Manhattan offers such icons as the Statue of Liberty, the Empire State Building, Central Park and Broadway theaters, but the state of New York is so much more than that one celebrated 305-square-mile city.
The only U.S. state to touch the Great Lakes and the Atlantic Ocean, New York harbors some 19.5 million people. Its capital, Albany, hugs the shoreline of the Hudson River. Here, the New York State Capitol, completed in 1899, holds sway downtown on the northern end of quarter-mile-long Empire State Plaza.
With 47,126 square miles of land, New York enfolds a varied topography ranging from the lofty peaks of the Adirondack Mountains to the low-lying beaches of Long Island. This natural wonderland overflows with things to do. Who hasn’t wanted to hear the thundering waters of Niagara Falls, or take in the brilliant fall foliage on a hike in the Adirondacks? Even the nation’s wealthiest entrepreneurs flocked to the Adirondacks; visit luxurious Great Camp Sagamore to see the Vanderbilt family’s idea of camping.
The bucolic Hudson River Valley was another favorite haunt of the Vanderbilts, Rockefellers and other elite families. Many of the sumptuous manor houses they erected along the river in the 19th and early 20th centuries now welcome visitors. Situated roughly in the middle of the valley, Hyde Park is home to the Culinary Institute of America. Plan a stop for lunch in one of their five student-run restaurants.
In the northwestern part of the state, the 11 slender Finger Lakes dangle like glittering jewels from a chain formed by Highway 20. Their shores cradle more than 100 wineries, breweries and distilleries, the former known for Riesling and Gewurtztraminer. Natural mineral springs drew 19th-century socialites to Saratoga Springs, north of Albany. Though you can still indulge in a mineral bath at Saratoga Spa State Park, more people come to town today for the six-week racing season, which begins in late July.