Anybody who knows me or reads this blog often knows that as much as I love talking about travel world-wide, I am also quite passionate about local travel. There is a lot to be said for discovering what’s in your backyard (in my case the state of New York), and going on an adventure need not mean you have to go somewhere far away, or spend zillions of dollars.
You may have also heard me quote my grandparents before. They were world-class travelers, but had a saying: “Get to know your own country first”. Those words have forever stayed with me. It’s important to teach our children about their roots as much as it is about the world.
My grandparents’ words got me thinking about my home state of New York. When I think about all the places we’ve visited, I feel lucky to live in such a beautiful state with so much to offer. From big city life in NYC to farmland to beaches to the cutest of country towns, New York covers a vast region. In fact, when I went onto Google maps to look at the state of New York, I realized just how many more places we have yet to explore.
So let’s get started. Below is a summary of some of our favorite spots in New York, broken up into region, as well as a “wish list” at the bottom. There is a lot to see in the great empire state of New York!
New York City
How do I even begin to break it down, as there is so much to see in this beast of a city. For starters, I’ve written posts on the Top Things to See and Do in Manhattan as well as Top 5 Family Friendly Attractions in the Bronx, some of which include museums, parks, Broadway, Governors Island and tourist attractions such as the Statue of Liberty, the Bronx Zoo and more.
Some Highlights include:
New York Water Taxi – seriously, next time you’re in NYC, you have to do this! This hop on/hop off water taxi is the best way to tour the city, as you can get off at the different stops and walk around the neighborhoods, as well as cruise through the harbor and get those important skyline views.
One World Observatory – not only with phenomenal views, but the entire experience in this World Trade Center building is awesome from beginning to end, including the elevator ride. A wonderful tribute to this great city.
The Highline – this is one of the more unique places to explore in all of New York City. Old elevated railroad tracks converted into a public park running along the Hudson River – could there be anything cooler?
Exploring Brooklyn Bridge Park and the neighborhood of DUMBO – with Jane’s Carousel, the Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory, possibly the best views of Manhattan in all the city, and acres of park to explore, families FLOCK to this park. It’s amazing.
Wave Hill – I can’t say enough about this total gem of a space on the Hudson River in the Bronx. Beautiful gardens, beautiful views, beautiful buildings.
New York Hall of Science – I don’t know any families that don’t love this amazing science museum in Queens. One could spend all day there.
A Trip Through Classic New York – spend a day visiting some of New York’s classic sites, including the Empire State Building, Serendipity 3, Dylan’s Candy, the Plaza and MoMA!
This region of New York stretches along the Hudson River from Westchester County all the way up to Albany. Farmland, river towns, artist colonies and vineyards lend itself almost a Cali-vibe. We love exploring the Hudson Valley for its beauty, farm-to-table food and low-key atmosphere.
Some of the towns definitely worth checking out are Cold Spring, Rhinebeck, Hudson, and Red Hook, to name a few. They all have charming main streets, fantastic antiquing, good restaurants and an overall picturesque look and feel. We happen to love Cold Spring and could go there again and again. It’s the type of place that makes you feel like you’re on vacation while you’re there, with its impossibly quaint atmosphere.
The Hudson Valley is known for being artsy and has many great galleries and museums. Storm King Art Center is one of our favorite places ever – it is an outdoor sculpture park in a stunning setting of fields, meadows, woods and grassland. All ages love it as you can run around freely and seemingly forever.
Dia: Beacon is a renown modern art museum housing large scale art works in an old Nabisco factory.
Olana State Historic Site was the home of Frederic Erwin Church, a painter and major figure in the Hudson River School of landscape painting.
Also located in the Hudson Valley is Walkway Over the Hudson, the world’s largest elevated pedestrian bridge. I know, who knew?! A great spot to go for a leisurely and picturesque walk.
The Catskill Mountains are located in south-eastern New York, about 100 miles north of New York City. Due to its close proximity to the city, the Catskills are a popular retreat for many New Yorkers both in the summer and winter. It actually makes up a huge part of New York, and is comprised of 4 counties – Sullivan county, Ulster county, Delaware county and Greene county.
Windham, Hunter and Belleayre mountains are here for skiing, and in the summer months this woodsy and forested area is good for hiking and walking trails, and spotting wildlife. It is also known for its variety of summer musical and arts festivals, as well as wineries. Nature lovers love the Catskills. It’s like a set out of Dirty Dancing. Actually, it was the set for Dirty Dancing! With cute towns like Woodstock, Tannersville and New Paltz, people continue to visit the Catskills year after year.
Long Island and Fire Island
Beach anyone? Some of the U.S.’s best beaches are in the Hamptons on Long Island. We personally love Montauk for its mellow, surfer vibe, but you really can’t go wrong no matter where you are, whether it be Amagansett, Shelter Island, Sag Harbor or South Hampton, to name some of the towns. They’re all beautiful, with fabulous beaches and pretty towns with good restaurants and shopping. In case you live under a rock, just know that this is where the rich and famous head to so if you’re not into that, you’ve been forwarned.
The North Fork is a section of Long Island that is known for its wine vineyards, farmland and charming towns, which all make for a great weekend of exploring, excellent food, and of course fun wine tasting. This is a really fabulous area of L.I, and one I definately recommend visiting for a weekend. Being on the water too, it has all the ingredients of the perfect weekend away.
Fire Island is another popular and beautiful summer escape, and very chill. It has to be if it’s a place that doesn’t allow cars!
Upstate New York
Our favorite place in upstate New York is the Thousand Islands, thousands of islands you can explore by boat on the border between New York and Canada. It’s one of the most unique, adventurous and intriguing places in the U.S., I think.
We haven’t done a lot of exploring in upstate New York, so look out for a bunch of places listed in my “wish list” below.
My home county of Westchester has some of our most favorite places and activities, and for that I’m grateful.
Spend a day at Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture. This is a New York classic and a must-visit for all ages. Walk the beautiful grounds, go to the farmers market, visit with the farm animals, and check out their amazing gift shop…but most importantly feast on their renown farm-to-table food.
Explore the grounds of Untermyer Museum and Gardens and be taken back to another era. This is my new favorite place in Westchester and I cannot believe it took me until last year to discover it! Known as “Eden on Hudson”, this historical estate set on the Hudson River in Yonkers is like no other place you’ve ever been to. Go and see for yourself.
Visit with wolves at the fascinating Wolf Conservation Center and learn every factoid there is to know about wolves. Oh, and howl to them too. It’s lots of fun! And educational.
Spend the day at any one of the numerous farms in Westchester, including the popular Muscoot Farm. In the fall, go apple picking – see my 2016 guide for ideas (2017 coming out in September).
Go hiking or for a walk at Ward Pound Ridge Reservoir and feel like you’ve truly gotten out and into the great outdoors.
It goes without saying that one of the pretties parks in all of Westchester is in Larchmont at Larchmont Manor Park. This is my local, and sometimes I have to pinch myself that it is so, with its beautiful setting on the Long Island Sound.
New York State Wish List
Watkins Glen Park and the Finger Lakes
Mohonk Mountain House in New Paltz (when I win the lottery)
Saratoga Springs (to see a horse race)
Rocking Horse Ranch
Lake Placid (random fact about me: I used to figure skate when I was younger and competed in Lake Placid a couple of times and have always wanted to go back as an adult!)
That’s it for now. What are some of your favorite places in New York? Please leave your recommendations in the comments below. I’d love to hear!
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