New York itinerary – More than just NYC
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New York city is one of our favourite destinations. The hustle and bustle of New York City with its world famous landmarks such as the Empire State Building, Chrysler Building, Statue of Liberty and Central Park make it a city that we never tire of visiting, a city that truly never sleeps.
However, as we recently discovered there is so much more to see during a New York itinerary including the nearby towns and regions such as the Catskills and Hudson Valley region.
- 1 Planning a New York Itinerary Guide
- 2 Catskills & Hudson Valley
- 3 Visiting Bethel Woods Center for the Arts
- 4 Visit the town of Woodstock NY
- 5 Include in your New York itinerary a luxury Resort stay
- 6 Rejuvenate at a Wellness Center in the Catskills
- 7 Are you daring enough to try a Zipline?
- 8 New York historical places of interest
- 9 Foods of New York State
- 10 Visit a Buddhist Monastery
- 11 Last thoughts on planning a New York itinerary
Planning a New York Itinerary Guide
New York State has a wealth of places to visit. With award winning wineries to historical landmarks and adrenaline seeking attractions such as the longest Zipline in northern America, it’s a state that offers so much and well worth taking the extra time to fully explore this beautiful part of America.
New York State covers as area of approximately 140,000 Kilometres and the best way to explore is by vehicle, where you can take in the spectacular scenery of the lakes, mountains, and forests. If your fortunate to visit New York State around October when the trees are in full bloom you will be in for a treat, with the scenery a kaleidoscope of different colours.
Starting the New York Itinerary – Finger Lakes District
Did you know the finger lakes district of New York State has world class wineries? When the topic of world class wineries come to mind people immediately identify with France, Italy, Australia, Chile or New Zealand, but the Finger Lakes District of New York State is one of the top wine producing areas of the United States and produces award winning wines that rank amongst the best in the world.
Wineries however, are only some of the attractions of the Finger Lakes district. We started our journey through New York State with a visit to the city of Corning. Approximately 4 hours from New York City by vehicle and with a population of around 11,000 it is best known as the headquarters of the world renowned Corning Incorporated.
The Corning Glass Museum is the centrepiece of the city and together with the cultural attraction of the Rockwell Museum has a wealth of both modern and ancient history.
The Corning Museum of Glass houses exhibitions from contemporary glass making with its modern glass museum showcasing outstanding works by local and international artists, to historical exhibits tracing the history of glass from ancient times to present.
Our travels have taken us to many museums all of which are outstanding, but the Corning Museum of Glass would have to rate for us as one of the most interesting we have visited. When planning a visit to Corning be sure to spend a couple of days as this museum will take a full day to fully explore. You can even try your hand at glass blowing with classes available daily. You can check out our video of the museum below.
The nearby Rockwell museum should also not be missed. It showcases exhibits from native American history to present and is a visual showcase of history from the early days of white settlement and the landscape changes that followed.
Where to stay in Corning
The city of Corning has a range of accommodation available and is well serviced by well appointed hotels such as the Radisson which was our choice for our short but memorable visit.
Catskills & Hudson Valley
From Corning we parted ways. Ros went off to explore New York City as a solo female traveller while I explored more of the stunning regions of the Catskills Mountains and the Hudson Valley.
Visiting Bethel Woods Center for the Arts
The legendary 1969 Woodstock festival was held at Yasgur’s Farm in Bethel Woods, and the original site located next to the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts has attracted thousands of visitors who come in search of a slice of music history.
Visiting Bethel Woods is a must when exploring New York State. Located approximately 2 hours drive from New York city the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts houses the award winning “Woodstock and the Sixties” exhibit.
The Woodstock and the Sixties exhibit allows you to immerse yourself in the vibe of what this ground breaking three day music event was like. It’s a time capsule of what took place leading up to and during that August 1969 event that showcased many of the leading performers of the day.
The line-up of artists was extraordinary and for the 400,000+ people that descended on Yasgur’s Farm for the free concert it left lasting memory’s knowing that they witnessed a truly magical event.
The exhibit takes in the rise of popular music from the late fifties through the swinging sixties with multiple displays of music memorabilia, including fashion styles, history of the popular artists of the time, and culminates with the lead up to, and detailed history of the 1969 Woodstock festival. A highlight of the exhibit is the 20 minute condensed film of the concert.
The Bethel Woods Center for the Arts also has live performances throughout the year, and many world renowned artists have played at the concerts, which are still regularly performed at the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts. Located on site is a souvenir shop and dining options so I would recommend planning a full day to fully explore.
Following a guided tour of the centre we were taken to the part of the farm which was the location of the concert and were fortunate to meet a gentleman that was at the concert who gave us a first hand account of what it was like attending the event.
A visit to Bethel Woods should definitely be included in your itinerary of best places to visit New York State.
Visit the town of Woodstock NY
Located approximately 1.5 hours drive from Bethel Woods is the town of Woodstock. Although not the original site of the Woodstock festival, it shares the name, and was the original intended site of the music festival before a last minute change to Yasgurs Farm.
Reports of the time say that as word got out about the artist line up and people started descending from across the nation to witness the event, the local town folk realised that Woodstock town was not equipped to handle the influx of people.
Max Yasgur the owner of a dairy farm in Bethel then decided to lease part of his land to the organisers of the festival, and it was his farm in Bethel that then became the location of the 1969 Woodstock festival.
Many people however still associate the town of Woodstock as the location, and it’s not difficult to see why as the name of the concert bears the name Woodstock as does the original iconic Woodstock poster.
Today the town of has embraced the Woodstock Festival and this small town attracts visitors from around the world. The main street is lined with many 60’s styled memorabilia shops and it’s a fun place to explore and take in the atmosphere. To spend time wondering the streets of Woodstock and taking in the sights of this town is a delight and well worth visiting.
Woodstock has a range of accommodation options to suit all budgets and for a list of popular hotels near Woodstock NY Click Here.
Include in your New York itinerary a luxury Resort stay
Approximately 1 hour from Woodstock, at Monticello in Sullivan County, is the Resorts World Resort. This state of the art resort in the Catskills opened in 2018 and is an all suite resort designed to 5 star standards.
It features 9 exclusive bar and restaurant experiences and multiple spa, and relaxation options. For those who enjoy gaming entertainment, it also houses a large Casino with the latest machines and a large selection of gaming tables.
If you are looking for an upmarket stay in a luxury resort, then Resorts World Resort is well worth considering. My room at the resort was luxurious and featured the largest bathroom I have ever seen in a hotel. The room was stylishly decorated with all the amenities you would expect is a 5 star suite with writing desk, Large flat screen TV, Lounge area and very comfortable bed. Multiple power points were available as was many USB device charging ports.
The bathroom featured double sinks a very large shower and even a makeup area with well let mirror and seat.
Rejuvenate at a Wellness Center in the Catskills
Monticello is also home to the YO1 Wellness Centre. An all inclusive retreat that allows guests to revitalise mind and body by employing Eastern practices.
The YO1 Wellness Center is situated amongst the lush countryside of the Catskills mountains and spanning over 1300 acres it offers guests the opportunity to destress from everyday life, with a huge selection of wellness packages that can be tailored to individual preferences. The centre has qualified instructors of many Eastern herbal, holistic and spiritual health and wellness practices.
After the indulgences and excesses so readily available in our everyday life a visit to the YO1 Wellness Center offers the ideal getaway for anyone wanting to step back from the hustle and bustle and rejuvenate.
Although my visit to the YO1 Wellness Center was short, it was enough time to take in a tour of the many treatment’s and therapies guests have available. A first for me was a Yoga class. I had never done Yoga before but after trying it made me realise that a stay at this resort would be beneficial.
The resort employs expert chefs specialising in vegan food, and although at the beginning, I was a little apprehensive, as vegan food would not be my first choice at a restaurant, I was pleasantly surprised and could definitely try again.
Are you daring enough to try a Zipline?
A visit to the Hunter Mountain Zipline at Hunter Mountain boasts the longest and fastest Zipline in North America. Being a four-season destination, the site also offers hiking, winter skiing, and snowboarding so there is something for everyone all year round.
My visit being in September meant that there was no snow, which was fine, as the visit was to try the Zipline, and what an adventure it was. The preparation begins with suiting up with harnesses and a helmet and then detailed instructions on the safety procedures. Once you are suited up, it’s time to take the journey to the top of the mountain via chairlift to the starting point of the highest Zipline.
Different Zipline adventures are available depending on length of visit and budget. The package I was on had a total of 5 different Ziplines. The first of which is the highest and longest. For an extra thrill you can also opt to descend one of the sections located high in the mountain via a suspension bridge instead of the Zipline. It’s surreal walking along the bridge and really gets your heart pumping.
At all times including the suspension bridge section, you are safely attached to guide ropes and the instructors are well trained and dedicated to ensuring a safe and fun time.
Standing on the platform as you take that first step off the landing is a little daunting but that feeling soon gives way to excitement as you slide down the Zipline above the trees. At the end of each Zipline section an instructor is waiting to assist you off the Zipline before making your way to the next section.
I thoroughly enjoyed the Hunter Mountain Zipline and would have no hesitation in doing it again.
New York historical places of interest
For history buffs New York State has a wealth of National Historic Sites. During this visit I managed to visit 3 sites of national significance including the Thomas Cole National Historic Site. The Franklin D. Roosevelt National Historic Site, and Washington Irvine Sunnyside residence.
Check out the home of Thomas Cole
The Thomas Cole National Historic Site is located in Catskill and recounts the life of Thomas Cole an early 19th century painter, poet and environmental protection advocate. His home an Historic landmark and studio are open to visitors and set amongst peaceful gardens.
Thomas Cole is best known for his paintings of landscapes. He was also the founder of the Hudson River School of painting and his uniquely American style of painting inspired many future artists.
Guided tours of the Thomas Cole home and studio are available and give an insight not only of Thomas Cole and his important cultural paintings, but also the residence which has been preserved as a time capsule of life of in the early 19th Century
For more information and tours of the Thomas Cole National Historic Site click here
Visit the home of Washington Irving
Situated on the banks of the Hudson River in the town of Greenburgh, is the Sunnyside residence. Home of America’s founding father of literature, Washington Irving, who is best known as the author of such classics as Rip Van Winkle, and The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.
Sunnyside residence is a whimsical estate that transports you back in time and has been charming guests for generations. Set amongst tall trees with a backdrop of the Hudson River and beyond, the home has a magical charm and is a delight to visit for young and old.
The home is open from early May to early November, and has guided tours outlining the history of the Sunnyside Residence and life and times of Washington Irving.
For more information on visiting Sunnyside click here.
See the Franklin D. Roosevelt National Historic Site
The estate of Franklin D. Roosevelt (President of the United States 1933 – 1945) including his residence “Springwood”, the Henry A. Wallace Visitor Center, and the world renowned Roosevelt Library and Museum, is located in Hyde Park New York State. Being a site of cultural significance it’s a major tourist attraction and a must see when visiting Hyde Park.
When planning a visit my suggestion is to allocate a full day to explore this fascinating site. Guided tours of the main residence, gardens and library are available.
I enjoyed my time visiting the Roosevelt estate, and came away with a better understanding of the history of America during Roosevelt’s presidency and personal life, and would highly recommend including the Franklin D. Roosevelt Historic Site in your itinerary of one of the best things to see in Hyde Park.
Other things to see in Hyde Park include the Eleanor Roosevelt Historic Site, and the Vanderbilt Mansion National Historic Site. Make sure to set aside a couple of days to visit all major places of interest in Hyde Park.
Foods of New York State
Part of the joy of exploring new destinations is sampling the various cuisines on offer. New York State has no shortage of places to try, and for the foodie it’s got everything. During my stay in New York state I sampled fine food from many restaurants, and in all towns I visited was impressed by the variety of cuisines available in New York State. Sure, the usual fast food places are everywhere but so too are small to medium size family establishments, run by staff that take real pride in the work they do.
Culinary Institute of America
One place that certainly knows about cooking is the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park. I was thrilled when I discovered I was to be included in a behind the scenes tour of the institute. Students from around the world come to the institute to be trained in the many styles of food preparation, helping them to move onto rewarding careers with an endless choice of options in the food service sector.
State of the art training facilities and attention to detail are evident and it’s no wonder it has achieved the title of Best Culinary School in America.
The tour concluded with a meal at the Institutes own Restaurant and with a sampling from the Institutes own craft beer. I can highly recommend taking the time to visit the Institute and sample the offerings available. You certainly won’t be disappointed. Another reason to take some extra time exploring Hyde Park.
While on the topic of my favourite pastime, food, I have to mention one special place that truly stands out amongst many of the fine establishments visited during my short but memorable New York State visit.
Sampling the delights of RiverMarket Bar and Kitchen
The village of Tarrytown in the town of Greenburgh, is located on the banks of the Hudson River and a relatively short distance from New York City. Tarrytown was the final destination of my stay in New York State. Not only is Tarrytown centrally located for exploring many nearby attractions but is also home to the RiverMarket Bar and Kitchen.
The title of bar and kitchen really doesn’t do it justice, as it’s far more than just a bar and kitchen and judging by the amount of people being served on the night we visited, many others also agree.
The RiverMarket Bar and Kitchen takes great pride in delivering the best locally sourced produce from throughout the Hudson Valley and beyond and is one of the best places to eat in Tarrytown. The food and service are outstanding and a credit to the staff. The meals are reasonably priced, and something is available to suit all budgets.
Apart from the extensive menu options, for those wanting a little extra or to celebrate a special occasion it also boasts a wine list which includes a selection of wines from around the world. A truly outstanding range of wines, including rare vintage wines you would normally only expect to see at very high-end restaurants. I have visited restaurants around the world, and I have never seen such a large selection of wines available.
The RiverMarket Bar and Kitchen has everything you want for a memorable experience, and I would definitely return if visiting Tarrytown in the future.
Visit a Buddhist Monastery
The Chuang Yen Monastery in the Carmel Hamlet in Putnam County is a Buddhist temple set amongst peaceful surroundings. This place of worship is open to the public and is well worth visiting, not only to gain an insight into the practices of Buddhism but also to take in the surrounding memorial gardens. It also has the largest indoor Buddha in the Western Hemisphere.
Know as the great Buddha Hall the structure is the centrepiece of Chuang Yen Monastery and can accommodate up to 2000 people. Surrounding main Buddha statue inside the great hall are 10,000 small Buddha statues on a lotus terrace. The smell of incense, lit candles being placed on the alters, and Monks going about their daily business gives you an insight into the life of residents of the Monastery.
We spend part of the year living in Chiang Mai Thailand, which is also home to many Buddhist temples and visiting a Monastery in the State of New York was a reminder of the many temples we have visiting during our travels throughout Asia.
Last thoughts on planning a New York itinerary
My time travelling the Catskills and Hudson Valley gave me a glimpse into the culture and natural beauty that encompasses the Catskills mountains, and Hudson Valley region.
Passing through small towns with that undeniable American architecture proudly displaying American flags as testament to the proud patriotism of the nation, was a unique insight to life outside the major epicentre of New York City.
Have you visited the Catskills or Hudson Valley region? What was your favourite attraction?
I was a guest of NY State Tourism for this trip. The views and opinions expressed are as always entirely the authors own, based on personal experiences when travelling.
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