However much exists to attract visitors, the vast state of NEW YORK stands inevitably in the shadow of America’s most celebrated city. The words “New York” bring to mind soaring skyscrapers and congested streets, not the beaches of Long Island to the east or 50,000 square miles of rolling dairy farmland, colonial villages, workaday towns, lakes, waterfalls and towering mountains that fan out north and west from New York City and constitute upstate New York. Just an hour’s drive north of Manhattan, the valley of the Hudson River, with the moody Catskill Mountains rising stealthily from the west bank, offers a respite from the intensity of the city. Much wilder and more rugged are the peaks of the vast Adirondack Mountains further north, which hold some of eastern America’s most enticing scenery. To the west, the slender Finger Lakes and endless miles of dairy farms and vineyards occupy the central portion of the state. Of the larger cities, only Buffalo and Rochester hold much of interest, but some of the smaller towns, like Ivy League Ithaca and the spa town of Saratoga Springs, can be quite captivating.
In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries semi-feudal Dutch landowning dynasties held sway upstate. Their control over tens of thousands of tenant farmers was barely affected by the transfer of colonial power from Holland to Britain or even by American Independence. Only with the completion of the Erie Canal in 1825, linking New York City with the Great Lakes, did the interior start to open up.