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When you think “New York,” it’s likely that Times Square, the Empire State Building and Broadway come to mind. But truth be told, we think it’s about time that other areas of New York State get the attention they deserve; with so many amazing and accessible activities for Canadian travellers to enjoy, it’s time to turn the spotlight. And while the Big Apple will always be a part of the mix, here are a few great experiences awaiting just across the border:
RIDE THE RAILS WITH AMTRAK
Watch the changing landscapes of north and south of the border from onboard Amtrak’s Adirondack, with an itinerary that takes travellers from Montreal through to New York City, with several stops in between, including Albany. Rated a “Top 10 Most Scenic Train Ride in the World,” spend some time in the Lake Champlain region, hiking, paddle boarding, or birdwatching. This hub for outdoor activity will no doubt appeal to adventure enthusiasts, with two notable destinations being the Coon Mountain trails or the LaChute Walkway. That said, a stop at Fort Ticonderoga also comes highly recommended because of its historical significance in the American Revolution. A sunset visit to Crown Point State Historic Site is also a must-do in this corner of the Adirondack Coast.
A tale of two cities
Given Amtrak’s Adirondack’s route from Montreal to New York, why not enjoy the contrasting scenes of two of North America’s greatest cities? From cobblestone streets and classic French flair to bright lights and Broadway, there’s no better way to enjoy different cosmopolitan experiences with such ease and comfort. Travellers typically disembark at Penn Station upon arrival in the Big Apple, but for summer 2018, they will be arriving and departing from Grand Central Terminal – smack-dab in the heart of the city and a perfect jumping-off point to great accommodations and attractions. Check-out the Brooklyn Bridge, Central Park or eat your way from one Borough to the next. Whatever it is, soak up the beautiful, vibrant energy that is New York City.
Empire state of mind
For a more in-depth look at the different areas of New York State, plan a hop-on, hop-off journey with Amtrak’s Empire Service. Begin in New York City or Niagara Falls, but either way, explore the small but wonderful destinations in between. For example, stop in Yonkers, where the art scene abounds, with great attractions like the Carpet Mills Art District, the Hudson River Museum, and an annual film festival every October. Then, make your way to Hudson, a burgeoning area with awesome boutique hotels, quick access to the Catskills for hiking and wine tasting, and great food and drink.
Closer to home
Empire Service also ventures further north, perfect for Canadian travellers seeking to explore areas of the State closer to home. Why not spend a few days in Rochester, where history, arts and culture can be found around every corner (we recommend the Susan B. Anthony House and Eastman Museum). From there, make your way to the Finger Lakes for awesome outdoor adventure that can be capped off with a great glass of wine from local vineyards. It’s a quick ride onto Buffalo, which continues to evolve as a tourism destination, as more Canadians discover its historic architecture, unique neighbourhoods and classic entertainment. Check-out the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra and the seven Frank Lloyd Wright structures before immersing yourself in the area’s craft brew scene.
A DIFFERENT PERSPECTIVE WITH BLOUNT
Get out and a-Blount
If you’re looking for a lengthy, immersive New York State experience, why not try it from the waterways? Blount Small Ship Adventures has a number of journeys that showcase the various destinations worth visiting, offering views from the Hudson River, the Erie Canal and other channels, and connecting on to neighbouring States or into Canada. The common thread of itineraries through New York is, of course, New York City, where you can enjoy expansive views of the famous skyline from Chelsea Pier before venturing out to explore with a professional guide. That said, travellers will get up close and personal with lesser-known ports in Rome, Oswego, Alexandria Bay and more.
A legendary trip
From a visit to Hyde Park and Springwood, to the estate of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, to a daytime tour of nearby Saratoga Springs, the Locks, Legends & Canals itineraries have a lot to take in, with six days in New York State before cruising into Quebec along the St. Lawrence. Sail the Hudson River before a stop in Kingston, NY, and then move onto the Erie Canal. You’ll have the chance to experience the Saratoga Battlefield, site of the first major American victory during the American Revolution, as well as an excursion to Fort Stanwix in the Mohawk River Valley.
The great escape
Though the journey begins in Illinois, travellers onboard Blount’s 16-day Great American Waterways tours move on to Wisconsin, Michigan and Ohio before eventually cruising into New York State. Enjoy some time in Buffalo and visiting Niagara Falls before making your way to Rochester and onto Oswego. Enjoy the historic towns and villages throughout the journey, which includes stops in Amsterdam – the National Baseball Hall of Fame, Farmer’s Museum or Fennimore Art Museum are there to be explored – and West Point days later, where you can opt to tour the United States Military Academy (and be sure to see the Gothic Revival-style Chapel).
Fall for it
If you’re a fan of fall foliage, perhaps postpone your summer visit to New York State slightly and opt for an autumn escape. Enjoy the colourful and scenic views from various waterways, starting in New York City and onward to Quebec City. Unique attractions for this particular sailing include an onboard historian who will share the history of the Erie Canal, a night on the shores of Lake Oneida in Sylvan Beach, a visit to the Antique Boat Museum in Clayton, and a stop at Dark Island in Chippewa Bay in the Thousand Islands, followed by a cruise past the historic Singer Castle.
EXPLORE DIVERSE OSWEGO COUNTY
Get those engines revving
Are you ready to race? Oswego County is all about the need for speed. A strong bond has existed since the 1960s between the legendary Oswego Speedway and its loyal fans from north of the border; Ontario is only a few hours away via Toronto from the west or Kingston from the east. Plus. the Speedway has had many great Canadian champions over the years including Kenny Andrews, Warren Coniam, and Doug Didero to name a few. Alternatively, MotoMasters Park is one of the most popular national motocross racing tracks, consisting of two kilometres of sand and a 62-foot downhill that is known as “Devils Drop.” Bikes, quads and minis are welcome to attend the frequent open practices, but if you want to test your inner daredevil, they also host USMX races. If you like to get your adrenaline pumping from the sidelines, NAPA Auto Parts Super DIRTWeek is for you. This five-day event is ‘racing’s biggest party,’ showcasing the best DIRT car drivers in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic as they tackle the historic Oswego Speedway, which will transform into the "Clay Palace" for a week. If you find yourself driving home with a lead foot, you’ll know why.
Blast from the past
Fort Ontario is built on the ruins of fortifications dating to the Colonial War, Revolutionary War, and War of 1812. The fort served as the only refugee camp in the United States for mostly Jewish victims of the Nazi Holocaust under an Executive Order from President Franklin D. Roosevelt. The nearby Safe Haven Holocaust Refugee Shelter Museum is dedicated to preserving their little-known but compelling story. A post cemetery contains the graves of 77 officers, soldiers, women and children in remembrance of those who served at Fort Ontario. The star-shaped fort offers unparalleled views of Lake Ontario, along with underground stone casemates and galleries. Another popular historic destination is the Richardson-Bates House. In 1896, the Oswego County Historical Society was formed and gifted an architecturally stunning, 19th century Italian Villa to serve as the permanent headquarters for a public museum. This distinctive landmark offers a unique glimpse into the opulent lifestyle of a prominent Oswego family, as well as a museum dedicated to interpreting the vast history of the people, places and events of the County.
Here fishy, fishy
The Salmon River is internationally renowned as one of the top fishing spots in the world. Grab your wellies, hip waders and pole and get to casting! If you want to visit solely for the thrill of the catch, consider one of the numerous charter services that depart daily from Oswego, Mexico Bay and Selkirk in the spring and summer months in search of championship salmon, trout, bass, and steelhead. Other options include select fishing spots in Oswego and along the Salmon River, or hire an expert charter captain or river guide for an unforgettable experience. In case you tire of a day on the water, restaurants, shops and hotels are only a few blocks away, making it the perfect family outdoor adventure.
Yogi & Boo Boo
Chances are if you’ve ever driven through Oswego County, you’ve seen the giant Yogi Bear statue waving at you on Route 16. For fun for all ages, look no further. Yogi Bear's Jellystone Park is located near Lake Ontario and the Little Salmon River flows right through the park, providing the chance to tube, catch crayfish or lounge in the sun. The place is packed to the brim with activities from inflatable obstacle courses, miniature golf, a jumping pillow and so much more. If you want to leave the kids at home (we don’t blame you), pitch your tent at Selkirk Shores State Park and enjoy the peace and quiet. With a mix of lush meadows and woodlands, you can spend your day hiking new trails and cooling off with a dip in the lake. Make sure you book in advance to guarantee a campsite overlooking the bluff and spend your evenings nestled up by the campfire as the sun sets over Lake Ontario.
LOVE THE OUTDOORS IN ORLEANS COUNTY
Sailing into the sunset
Nestled between Niagara Falls and Rochester lies the magical waterways of Orleans County. This charming part of New York will exhilarate you as you cruise along the country byways and scenic channels. The best way to enjoy life on the water? By sailboat, of course. Oak Orchard Yacht Club offers adult and youth sailing programs throughout the summer months, guaranteeing you’ll be a master of the mainsail and jib in no time. If you’re more for the outdoors, rent a pontoon boat from Captain’s Cove Marina or Sandy’s Oak Orchard Marina. Top off your day spent on the water with a beverage from a local winery (there are four award-winning wineries on the Niagara Wine Trail, after all) and enjoy the fiery colours of a Lake Ontario sunset.
Eat your veggies
Orleans County is bountiful with rich soil, lush forests and natural waterways. The moderate weather and the county’s sunny disposition make it ideal conditions for growing plentiful crops of apples, peaches, pears, grapes, berries and a wide variety of vegetables. Your inner chef will delight in the colourful selection of fruits and veggies you can find at popular weekend farmers markets. Partyka Farms is the hidden gem of Orleans County, one certainly not to be missed. And to continue with the fresh indulgence, try a farm-to-table restaurant to indulge in the latest harvest. There are plenty of options that offer-up a daily breakfast and lunch menu, and during the summer months, you're sure to find a good scoop of ice cream to sweeten the deal.
Back in time
If historic preservation and education is your jam, you’ll revel in the notable Albion’s Cobblestone Museum. This national historic landmark is rooted in the history of cobblestone masonry and committed to the preservation and promotion of Western New York history, art, and culture. Experience a day in the life of a Cobblestone family with a visit on July 13, 2018, for a guided tour of the grounds and enjoy a taste of the 19th century. To step further back in time, marvel at the jewel of the Great Lakes Seaway Trail, the Oak Orchard Lighthouse. To end your historical tour, visit the Medina Railroad Museum, just blocks from historic Erie Canal. The railroad museum is filled with railroad artifacts, has one of the biggest model-train layouts in the country, and features fun train excursions all year round.
Planes, trains and…bikes? The Erie Canalway Trail is one of the most popular biking trails in the State of New York. From Buffalo to Albany, the trail is 580 kilometres of mostly flat land, making it an ideal path for beginner cyclists to the very experienced. If you enjoy a more leisurely ride, you’ll be pleased to know shopping, theatres, museums, locally sourced food, wine and beer are all accessible just off the trail. For something of a slower pace, rummage through the endless antique collectible shops in Orleans County. Pop into Jeddo Mill Antiques to enjoy the rustic ambience, while browsing through the eclectic selection of vintage treasures. Or, for new finds, discover speciality boutiques and handcrafted items in the historic downtown villages. You can also bring home a little piece of the County by visiting the rural Amish and Mennonite communities in the area, where you’ll find quality craftsmanship and unique finds galore.
This article is brought to you by the New York State Tourism Industry Association.