New York State’s long history and natural wonders provide weekend getaway ideas for families, history buffs, singles and travelers who simply want to take a break. Metropolitan areas are served by airports and train stations, so visitors can rent a car or explore on foot. Smaller towns and country destinations are reachable by car.
Albany, visited by Henry Hudson in 1609 and soon thereafter settled by the Dutch, has preserved 400 years of architecture and culture. Make the Albany Heritage Area Visitors Center, open seven days a week, your first stop. The restaurant next door occupies a building that is one of the oldest Dutch buildings in the city. The Nelson A. Rockefeller Empire State Plaza, comprised of 11 buildings on 98 acres in downtown Albany, is home to “The Egg.” This performing arts center resembles a tilted bowl on a pedestal. The State Capitol took 32 years to build, and tours of the huge 19th century building include its grand staircase and the State Assembly chambers. Self-guided tours of America’s first Shaker settlement include buildings, a museum, herb garden and the cemetery where the society’s founder is buried.
Adirondack Train Ride
The Adirondack Scenic Railroad operates a High Peaks Wilderness Train between Saranac Lake and Lake Placid between Memorial Day and Columbus Day. The ride through the High Peaks area of the Adirondacks takes 45 minutes and snacks and beverages are available on the train. Passengers who choose Saranac Lake as their getaway destination stay at the Hotel Saranac, an historic property that opened in 1927 and was the first fireproof hotel in New York State. The town lends itself to leisurely strolls and lakeside picnics. The depot and downtown Saranac Lake are within walking distance. Robert Louis Stevenson, author of “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” took the cure in Saranac Lake in 1887. His cottage is now a museum.
Albany’s City Hall was designed by Henry Hobson Richardson and completed in 1883.
Oswego, on the shore of Lake Ontario, was settled in 1722 by the Dutch and French as a trading post. During the French and Indian War, five forts were built around the city to protect supply routes. These forts continued to play a role in American military history through the War of 1812. Tours of Fort Ontario are given May through October. The Richardson-Bates House, completed in 1890, is now a museum decorated with period furniture, and contains the records of the city’s historical society. Harborfest, a three-and-a half-day celebration every summer, features live musical performances and a huge fireworks display, and in October, growers display squash weighing hundreds of pounds at the Great Pumpkin Festival. The city also has marine and firefighting museums.
Western New York
About 25 miles southwest of Rochester, the Genesee Country Village & Museum re-creates a 19th century working village with live demonstrations. An art gallery exhibits wildlife art and nature trails wind through a variety of habitats. Batavia, farther to the west, calls itself the “Birthplace of Western New York.” The city has made a concerted effort to restore and save historical buildings. Forty-four buildings are marked by bronze plaques noting their importance. Midway between Batavia and Lake Ontario, the Erie Canal Schoolhouse Bed & Breakfast is housed in a 1907 schoolhouse. Continue to the end of the road at the Oak Orchard State Marine Park, a small park with boat launches, fishing access and picnic tables on Lake Ontario.
Oneida Lake, north of Syracuse in central New York, is the state’s largest inland lake at 22 miles long and five miles wide at its widest point. Watch the sunset from Sylvan Beach at the eastern end of the lake or park your RV lakeside. An amusement park at the beach has classic rides, skill games and an arcade. Nearby, Verona Beach State Park has picnic areas and campsites on the waterfront. The Woods and Wetlands trail traverses the park’s variety of ecosystems. Alexis de Tocqueville wrote of his visit to Frenchman’s Island, on the western end of the lake, in his book Democracy in America. He was searching for the Frenchman and his family who reportedly lived there, but were gone when he arrived. He wrote his name on a tree and departed. Frenchman’s Island is reachable by boat, but there are no services on the island, just a few ruins and a lighthouse built in 1918.
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