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.
The AdirondacksThe Adirondacks, which covers an area larger than Connecticut and Rhode Island combined, are said by locals to be named after an Iroquois insult for enemies they’d driven into the forests and left to become “bark eaters”. For sheer grandeur, the region is hard to beat: 46 peaks reach to more than 4000ft; in summer the purple-green mountains span far into the distance in shaggy tiers, in autumn the trees form a russet-red kaleidoscope.
Until recent decades this vast northern region between Albany and the Canadian border was almost the exclusive preserve of loggers, fur trappers and a few select New York millionaires; these days mountaineers, skiers and dedicated hikers form the majority of visitors. Outdoor pursuits are certainly the main attractions in the rugged wilderness of the Adirondack Mountains, though a few small resorts, especially the former Winter Olympic venue of Lake Placid and its smaller neighbour Lake Saranac, offer creature comforts in addition to breathtaking scenery.