Upstate New York: The Hidden Gem that Nobody’s Talking About

July 29, 2012


When did New York become synonymous with New York City? That’s a question that’s been puzzling me ever since I was a teenager and made annual trips to visit my extended family in the Adirondack mountains of Upstate New York.

No more has this matter puzzled and frustrated me than on my recent trip to New York. Upon informing people that I would be heading out to New York for a week’s vacation, these were some of the responses:

“Oh that’s nice. Are you going to the Statue of Liberty?”

“My sister lives in Manhattan.”

“I was there a couple of years ago and went to a Broadway play. You’re going to love it!”

Indeed, when you say New York nowadays, people automatically assume that you’re talking about New York City. If you want people to understand what you are referring to, it’s necessary to clarify with terms such as “Upstate New York” or “New York State.” What few people consider is that New York has much more to offer than just skyscrapers and flashing lights. In fact, the state of New York has an area of 54,566 square miles. That’s a lot of space – more than the entire area of the country of Bulgaria.

So what does Upstate New York have to offer that the big city doesn’t? Well, the stunning Adirondack mountains for one. The Adirondack Park actually forms the largest protected area in the 48 contiguous states at 6 million acres. Within this area are hundreds of freshwater lakes, miles upon miles of beautiful forests and rivers, and good ‘ol peaceful solitude.


Getting there isn’t quick or easy, but it’s worth it. Syracuse has probably the most convenient and closest airport to access the Adirondacks. From Syracuse, it’s another few hours drive to the town of Old Forge, which serves as a good base for exploring the area. Old Forge is popular with tourists, but once you get past the mini golf courses and shops touting customized overpriced key chains, the town has a real charm that’s contagious. If you’re there, don’t miss a visit to the local candy store, which sells a pumpkin fudge that’s so delicious it’s sinful.

This brings up a very important and favorite subject of mine: food. It’s popular knowledge that New York is famous for its conies. However, anyone who has ever tried a genuine New York fish fry will soon forget that conies ever existed. Now, I’m not a big fish eater. In fact, the smell of fried fish has been known to make me nauseous. So the fact that I drool over the mention of a New York fish fry is a clear indicator of just how good Upstate New Yorkers make their fish and chips. In my family, going to the Buffalo Head Restaurant near Old Forge for their fish fry special on Fridays is a firmly cemented tradition, if not a religious ritual. After indulging in a crispy yet flaky bite of haddock with tartar sauce, you might just start singing hallelujah to the god of fish too.


So, if you’re going to be eating so much (which you will), you are going to need some way to burn off all those calories. That isn’t a difficult task to accomplish in the Adirondacks. Kayaking, swimming, hiking, canoeing, tubing, and boating are all in a day’s fun there. When I think back to my time spent kayaking along the forested shores near my uncle’s cabin, or jumping off the dock into the crisp, refreshing water, the swimming pool in my apartment complex in Texas which I used to worship seems like a practical joke.


New York has a solid lead on my list of places that I’ve visited and am dying to go back to. If it’s not on your list, it should be. No, not the rush-hour-traffic-filled, conie-eating, smog-covered New York that we’ve all heard about – the other one! Who knows, maybe I will see you there over a plate of fish and chips!


Do you know of any amazing places that are overshadowed by their famous neighbors?

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About Hannah

As a self-professed travel junkie, I have found that the only remedy to my addiction is travel itself. I am in the stages of launching an indefinite journey around the world with no goal other than to explore this small planet called Earth.

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3 Responses to “Upstate New York: The Hidden Gem that Nobody’s Talking About”

  1. Brenda Says:

    A native New Yorker (New York City-er) once told me that specifying “upstate” didn’t narrow things down much. To her, upstate was anything outside of NYC.

    Being a native of Washington, I’ve spent a fair amount of time clarifying with “the State, not DC”. Occasionally, I get blank stares from people who’ve never left the thirteen original colonies.

    But I guess we all have our geographic blind spots. I must admit, I recently had to check an atlas on the difference between Tanzania, Tunisia and Tasmania. 🙂


    • Hannah Says:

      While I was writing this article, the confusion between Washington DC and Washington State also popped into my head. You’d think that the politicians who were coming up with the names of places would have been wise enough to avoid giving the same name to a state AND the capitol city of the United States. Oh well, it figures, right? 😀


      • Brenda Says:

        You’re giving a lot of credit for foresight and common sense to politicians that they might not deserve.


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