Do Upstate New York Like A Local

15 June 2017

How do you spot the true New Yorkers? They’re the ones making regular plans to flee the crowded city and head “upstate”. The state of New York has much to offer, from wineries to mountain ranges, and outlet shopping to artsy communities where fossicking for antiques and gourmet delights is the order of the day. Here are our top five daytrips from New York City

1. Culinary Institute of America

pastries Chefs-in-the-making will wow you with their creations at CIA. Image: Getty

Foodie fact: many of the best chefs and sommeliers in the US – indeed, in the world – are trained at the Culinary Institute of America in upstate New York. Paris has Le Cordon Bleu and North America has the CIA, where the next generation of gourmand supremos receive training in everything from front-of-house presentation to pastry-making and beer brewing. Visitors are encouraged to tour the beautiful landscaped grounds and to dine at the CIA’s student-run restaurants, including fine dining spot The Bocuse Restaurant, and Italian-focussed Ristorante Caterina de’Medici. Bookings are highly recommended. Hyde Park, where CIA is located, can be reached from Manhattan in less than two hours by car, or about two-and-a-half hours by train.

2. Halloween Ghouls

Jack-o-lanterns in a field Tarrytown is the place to be at Halloween. Image: Getty

Heading to NYC at the end of October each year for Halloween is guaranteed fun (and candy). If you really want to scare yourself silly, plan a side trip to Tarrytown. Just 30 minutes by express train from Grand Central station, the Hudson Valley town is home to Sleepy Hollow and the spooky legend of the headless horseman. The community gets behind the Halloween scarefest, with cemetery tours, costume parades and Blaze, one of the biggest jack'o'lantern displays in the world. Take the time to visit the former home of Washington Irving, the author of the Legend of Sleepy Hollow. Hailed as the father of American literature, his 1835 home has been preserved as a museum and fitting tribute to his literary contributions.

3. Shopping and Wine Tasting

two glasses of wine Picking up a whole lot of bargains can be thirsty work. Image: Getty

Did somebody say outlet mall? Savvy shoppers love Woodbury Common, a mall of more than 250 premium outlets in upstate New York’s Central Valley. Expect to find deep discounts – up to 80% off – on popular brands including Swarovski, Samsonite, Coach, Polo Ralph Lauren, Nike and much more. Discount coupon books can be purchased from the concierge desk. Buses to Woodbury Common depart regularly from Port Authority Terminal in midtown; the drive can take up to 90 minutes, depending on traffic. If you’re self-driving, take a detour to Brotherhood Winery, America’s oldest winery. Here you’ll find premium New York wines, including a top-notch Riesling that is good enough to be served at the White House. Tastings, tours and special events make this a winery worth visiting.

4. Take a Hike

Bear Mountain Bridge Bear Mountain Bridge includes pedestrian walkways on both sides. Image: Getty

New York State boasts some of the best parks, hiking trails and nature reserves in the United States. If the concrete jungle is making you crave the great outdoors, get out of town for a meet-up with Mother Nature. The town of Poughkeepsie has Walkway Over the Hudson, a linear state park spanning the Hudson River and built on an abandoned railroad bridge. Think of it as an upstate High Line, on water. Take the Metro-North train from Grand Central; travel time is approximately 1 hour, 45 minutes.

Traipse around the paddocks of Storm King Art Center (about an hour’s drive north of the city, near the town of Cornwall) for a dose of sculptural art on a grand scale. The featured sculptures are designed to be enjoyed as part of the natural landscape. Instagrammers at the ready: the site is a dream for photographers. Bear Mountain State Park (about an hour north of NYC) is a favourite with hikers and bird-watchers. Come October, it’s the place to be for annual Oktoberfest celebrations, with makeshift beer halls, German brews, sausage sizzles and hundreds of people in traditional Bavarian dress.

5. Small Town Sophistication

country road through forest Upstate New York is known for its charming scenery. Image: Getty

For a taste of small-town America, head 100 kilometres north of NYC to Beacon. This artsy Hudson River town is home to Dia:Beacon, a much-loved art museum and centre for public programs. Artists flock here to enjoy the creative community spirit and the opportunity to exhibit at local galleries (not to mention the more affordable rents) and in turn they bring life and flavour to the town. Don’t miss Hudson Beach Glass on Main Street for glass-blowing demonstrations and exhibitions. To get there, take the Metro-North train from Grand Central; the journey is approximately 90 minutes.

Another great choice for a daytrip is Rhinebeck, the country escape of many triple A-list celebrities, including actor Paul Rudd, photographer Annie Liebowitz and the Clinton family (First Daughter Chelsea Clinton was married on an estate in the town). History lovers will enjoy a visit to Beekman Arms, the oldest operating inn in America. Anybody with a sweet tooth is advised to cross the street to chocolatier Oliver Kita’s delectable emporium.


Visit your local Flight Centre store or call 131 600 for more advice and the latest deals on travelling to New York.


Kristie Kellahan

Kristie Kellahan is a travel writer and photographer, editor and volunteer. In more than 20 years of professional travel, she has reported on destinations from the Cook Islands to KL and Antarctica to the Outback. There’s always another destination to be explored and she keeps her passport at the ready.