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There is a vast and under-appreciated tract of land on the eastern seaboard that goes by the name of New York state, and my family’s wanderlust for seeing more of it was ignited during a recent jaunt to Rochester and its magnificent Strong National Museum of Play.
I’m almost ashamed to admit that my knowledge of New York geography is so inferior that it hadn’t even dawned on me until after we left Rochester that I should have tacked a visit to Niagara Falls – a mere two hours west of Rochester by car – onto the end of our vacation. The good news is that we now have incentive to head back upstate – to see the falls, explore Albany, and pay our respects to Cooperstown’s Baseball Hall of Fame.
If you too have been contemplating why you don’t know New York state better than you do, think seriously about doing something about it this summer. Not only are many parts of the state perfectly outdoorsy and beautiful in the summertime, it’s also difficult to turn around without bumping into a festival or two that will likely yield quirky and highly memorable moments (see photo). Read more
At midnight on February 2, Grand Central Terminal, one of New York’s most beloved landmarks and one of the most splendid transit hubs in the world, will mark its 100th birthday, and the Big Apple is throwing a big party in its honor.
A year full of commemorative events kicks off today, with a “Grand Centennial” celebration that includes 1913 pricing at many of the terminal’s restaurants and stores (10¢ shoe shine! 5¢ coffee!), giveaways of all sorts of goodies, including centennial luggage tags and vintage train whistles, musical performances, and appearances from notable New Yorkers such as Caroline Kennedy and the Vanderbilts, the family who originally built and owned the world’s largest train station.
Highlights from the yearlong event calendar include a historic train parade, art exhibits, and book launches. And although 750,000 commuters a day whiz through the building (that’s four times as many passengers that come through JFK Airport, by the way), Grand Central Terminal is a memorable spot to stop and linger for a while. Here’s what not to miss.
And that’s fine, because after recently reassessing the museum, I’ve revised my opinion. The Strong is not the best kids museum you never heard of; it is perhaps, the best kids museum ever.
Parents Play, Too
During my nearly 14 years of parenting, I have grown to dislike children’s museums. I had just assumed I was burned out, as most kids museums these days try to do the right thing. Most have engaging exhibits as well as play areas scaled for younger children. And in many cases, these museums have subdivided spaces so that toddlers, preschoolers, and tweens can enjoy age-appropriate activities.
While at the Strong with my family a couple weeks ago, I realized soon after arriving what my problem was with most children’s museums: They don’t encourage the parents to play, too, and the Strong takes a decidedly more inclusive and integrated approach to family play.
The sport of climbing has gained remarkable momentum as of late, with young stars like Chris Sharma and Alex Honnold sparking unprecedented participation, especially among wide-eyed newbies. If you’re among them (I sure am, after being mesmerized watching climbers scale Yosemite’s world-renowned El Capitan), then why not take your next trip to new heights by visiting one of these great climbing towns?
The following destinations are great picks for climbing enthusiasts of all levels, whether you’re an aspiring novice or expert rock hound.
Albany, the real capital of New York, has become practically synonymous to Northeast families with two words: “class trip.” To me, that’s a shame, since unless you’re a student (or a chaperone) on an outing from a local school, you may think you’ve got no reason to visit. But that’s simply not true.
If you and your chattering pack of friends were ever dragged to Albany as children and hustled along the downtown capitol building’s Great Western Staircase (pictured) you know you probably were less than equipped to fully appreciate its unique history. Return to the site (popularly known as the Million Dollar Staircase, due to its then-exorbitant cost of construction from 1883 to 1897) as a parent with your kids and have them examine some of the 77 faces carved into the sandstone. Among the likes of Lincoln, Washington, and Susan B. Anthony, you and your child will likely come across a face provoking a “Who is that?” and for good reason: once the famous faces were sculpted, architect Isaac Perry allowed his carvers to chisel the faces of their friends and relatives. Also a peek into the assembly chamber should get an appreciative “Whoa” for its sheer vastness. (Free walk-in tours of the capitol, lasting about an hour, are offered Monday through Saturday). Read more
The area around Lake Placid is a top destination for lovers of the outdoors, with miles of thrilling rapids, crystal clear ponds, and many spectacular nature trails. At the High Peaks Resort on Mirror Lake, guests enjoy lake-view accommodations just a few minutes away from scenic Whiteface Mountain. Ride the gondola to the 3,676-foot-high summit for a stunning glimpse of the surrounding peaks, or head to the nearby Emerald Springs Ranch for an exciting horseback ride through picturesque woodlands. This fall, visitors can take a few extra days to explore the scenery with a special package honoring New York State’s 400th Anniversary. A 3-night stay costs just $400 from now through November 25.
Book a long weekend away at a variety of exciting locales throughout New York State. With the special summer promotion now available from the state’s department of tourism, visitors who book two nights in any number of landmark destinations will receive their third night absolutely free. Try a stay at the Diastole Bed & Breakfast in historic Cooperstown, just minutes away from the Baseball Hall of Fame, and enjoy rates from just $159/night. Or, consider a historic retreat at the Mohonk Mountain House, a Victorian castle in New York’s Hudson Valley, with nightly rates from $530. This special offer lets you choose among hundreds of world-class hotels, secluded cabins, and remote campground sites . Summer rates start from just $45/night.
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