The State of New York has endless activities and destinations to explore throughout the year. From camping and hiking in the Adirondack Mountains, to touring the largest city in the nation that is New York City, to exploring the historical Erie Canal across Central New York, to walking beneath the world-famous Niagara Falls–your options for entertainment, history and educational experiences in the Empire State are endless! Whether you’re in an urban or rural area–there is always somewhere new to explore!
Summer is in peak season, and now is the perfect time to explore some of these gems. Students who are home from school or visiting friends can find an opportunity to visit a location they don’t have easy access to during the school year. And prospective students who may be visiting SUNY schools to gauge their future interests can find time to combine two trips in one. I have updated a list of 30 attractions/places that every college student in New York should visit and explore this summer of 2014.
9/11 Memorial & Museum: The newly built 9/11 Memorial and Museum is now open to the public. Visitors are encouraged to explore the area, specifically the Memorial and Memorial Museum, which was created to remember and honor those who died in the attacks of February 26, 1993 and September 11, 2001. There are two pools with man-made waterfalls set where the Twin Towers used to stand in tribute.
Central Park: Central Park is visited by 38 million people each year. If you have never been to Central Park before, you’re probably thinking “what’s the big deal? It’s just grass and trees.” The park is 843 acres split into 5 quadrants, each with their own plethora of activities, sights to see, and places to relax. For more information on visiting the park or taking a tour, visit the official website of New York City’s Central Park.
Luna Park at Coney Island: There is nothing better than visiting Coney island in the summer time. The City’s most famous beach and boardwalk is the home to numerous rides and attractions like the legendary Cyclone Roller Coaster. The boardwalk’s premier attraction, Luna Park, features 28 rides, 13 carnival-style games and an arcade for kids and adults. And while you’re there be sure to visit the famous Nathans–where you can enjoy your summer day by eating one of their notorious hot dogs.
Beaches: Having a beautiful and relaxing day in the sun, are what our Long Island beaches are most known for. Each beach offers activities such as horseback riding, scuba diving, kayaking, surfing, and lighthouse visits. The most infamous hot spots of Long Island are Jones Beach and the Hamptons, but there are dozens of beaches to choose from.
The Gold Coast: The Gold Coast on the North Shore from Nassau County to Suffolk County is an area with great history. Some of the wealthiest families in the country once called the Gold Coast home, which inspired F. Scott Fitzgerald in the writing of his notorious book, “The Great Gatsby.” Former estates have been converted into art galleries and museums for the public to tour. Popular homes to tour include those of President Theodore Roosevelt and Walt Whitman.
Montauk Lighthouse – Montauk Point State Park: If you travel towards the eastern tip of Long Island you’ll discover this hidden gem. Offering stunning views of the Atlantic Ocean– this spot provides a unique experience for any visitor looking to experience scenic adventures the coast has to offer. Commissioned by George Washingtonin 1792, the Montauk Lighthouse is the oldest in New York State history. This location has everything form scenic hikes, nature trails, surf fishing and even views of seals among the rocky shore.
Empire State Plaza: The Nelson A. Rockefeller Empire State Plaza is centrally located in the heart of downtown Albany. Consisting of unique architecture like the Egg and the Corning Tower Observation Deck as well as historical hot spots like the New York State Capitol, the Executive Mansion and the New York State Museum, the Plaza offers a quintessential Albany experience for visitors, locals and state employees alike.
Saratoga Spa State Park and Golf Course: The city of Saratoga Springs is upstate New York’s summer place to be. Saratoga Spa State Park is a major reason for people to visit with their 18-Hole Championship Golf Course, a driving range, and a Park Restaurant that overlooks their beautiful Victorian pool. Fans of golf will be happy to know that this course was ranked one of the top 10 Best Courses in the US under $55. The parklands are also home of the Saratoga Performing Arts Center (SPAC), the National Museum of Dance and the Gideon Putnam Hotel. Visitors looking to relax can partake in mineral baths that are available at the newly-renovated Lincoln Baths and Roosevelt Baths. Also available are a variety of pools and tennis courts for use by visitors. The Saratoga Race Track is even right nearby for top quality horse racing.
Thatcher State Park: This destination is a college student’s dream! Thatcher Park is packed with scenic views of limestone cliffs, rock-strewn slopes, woodlands and open fields –as well as various attractions like a variety of volleyball courts, playgrounds, ball fields, numerous picnic areas and hiking trails. Pictures from the Helderberg Escarpment will have you on the popular page of Instagram in no time! And here there are approximately 140 campsites that allow you to experience the true nature of upstate New York.
Home of Franklin D. Roosevelt: The 32nd President of the United States famously once said, “All that is within me cries out to go back to my home on the Hudson River.” You, too, can visit Springwood, FDR’s Hudson Valley estate in Hyde Park, NY and see the place he called home. The site of several of the President’s iconic fireside chats, Springwood is preserved almost exactly as it was at the time of his death in 1945. Walk the hallowed grounds where the President and First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt are buried, and visit the first US Presidential Library as you stroll the 211 acres of park land framed by stunning Hudson River and Catskill Mountain views.
West Point Museum: As the country’s oldest federal museum, a visit to the West Point Museum is truly a visit through American military history. Visitors can see artifacts including weapons, uniforms and memorabilia of American soldiers from the 17th century to the present. The weapons collection even includes pieces belonging to George Washington, Napoleon I and Dwight Eisenhower.
Walkway Over the Hudson State Park: While their are an enormous amount of state parks in New York State, none are like this one. The park provides access to the Hudson River’s breathtaking landscape for pedestrians, hikers, joggers, bicyclists, and people with disabilities. The bridge deck stands 212 feet above the river’s surface and is 6,768 feet (1.28 miles) long, making it the longest, elevated pedestrian bridge in the world.
Adirondack Scenic Railroad: Once a major transportation system for travelling loggers, trappers and hunters in the 19th century, Utica’s Adirondack Scenic Railroad now runs for fun rather than function. Starting in Utica, the scenic trip makes stops in Old Forge, Saranac Lake and Lake Placid. Ride by forests, rivers and over bridges as the train passes through the Adirondack region or experience a themed ride like the Polar Express, a winter trip hosted by Mrs. Clause, or the Doo-Wop Train, a 50s themed ride complete with a stop at an authentic soda fountain. There’s plenty more to see both inside the train car and out the window on this historically significant and fun adventure!
Howe Caverns: Interested in a new type of adventure? This original cave tour is a popular tourist attraction, which provides cave-goers with a sense of exploration without needing the advanced equipment and training usually associated with such adventures. This cave, composed mainly of limestone and which lies 156 feet below the ground is a unique location that you will never forget.
Herkimer Diamond Mines: For those searching to unearth riches and fortune, there’s no better place in Mohawk Valley than the Herkimer Diamond Mines. Though you won’t find any actual diamonds, visitors can get down and dirty hammering away at the rock in pursuit of quartz crystals, nicknamed “Herkimer Diamonds” due to their unique natural diamond-like geometric shape. Gemstones found in the Herkimer Mine are close to five hundred million years old, making the souvenirs you’ll take home a true piece of Mohawk Valley history. To learn more about the origin and collection of the Herkimer Diamonds, stop by the Mine’s Museum to see a collection of gemstones from Herkimer and from around the world.
All Things Oz: Chittenango, New York is home to the mastermind behind “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz”, L. Frank Baum. The “All Things Oz” museum showcases over 1,000 items ranging from Oz memorabilia to pieces honoring Baum’s life. There is a $3 entrance fee and guided tours are also offered.
National Baseball Hall of Fame: America’s favorite pastime is honored in Cooperstown, New York at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. The museum has over 38,000 pieces within several exhibits and three floors. You will learn about the players, managers, and journalists who helped define baseball into the staple of American culture that it is. And with the 2014 All-Star Game just ending and a great Hall of Fame class this being inducted this year, what a perfect time to go. To plan your trip, visit Cooperstown’s official website for hotel and area information.
The New York State Fair! As New York’s economic driver, SUNY is a proud sponsor of the Great New York State Fair. This year’s Fair, themed “Summer’s Best in Show!,” will run for 12 days and nights from August 21 through September 1, 2014. The fair features the best food, music, rides, games, exhibits, animals, agriculture and so much more of all the things that make New York State special. You can come visit SUNY at the Science and Industry Building to learn all about the 64 campuses, Open SUNY, Smart Track and more!
Vineyards: The Finger Lakes region is home to some of the best wineries and vineyards in the world. Composed largely of family owned and operated wine producers, the Finger Lakes region takes its wine very seriously. The regions popular Rieslings, when coupled with fresh, local, and organic food, are sure to have a delicious time. And if by chance you are near Cayuga Community College, drop by and ask some Wine Studies students there to give you a tour!
Keuka Lake: If you happen to be in the Finger Lakes region make sure you make time for this destination. Keuka Lake is a beautiful and enjoyable getaway where visitors can experience warm waters, excellent fishing and lakefront restaurants. This lake is the most unique of all the finger lakes in that it has a “Y” shape–causing its waters to be warm compared to the others. So if you love enjoying beautiful water and views, but would rather water temperatures be like your heated pool at home; this location might be the best for you.
History Tours: Are you a history buff? The Finger Lakes region has a rich and colorful history, from the Erie Canal and the boom towns of the early 1800’s, to the religious revivalism during the Second Great Awakening, the region has many stories to tell. Visitors or natives interested in women’s right to vote should consider visiting the National Susan B. Anthony House & Museum in Rochester, where Anthony spent the most politically active part of her life fighting for civil rights. Another important civil rights site, Seneca Falls, which hosted the Seneca Falls Convention in 1848, is held by many to be a beginning milestone in the women’s suffrage movement.
Watkins Glen: At the picturesque southernmost tip of Seneca Lake, The Watkins Glen International boasts a long history of auto races. Hosting grand prix, Formula One, Grand Prix, and NASCAR races, “The Glen”, as it is nicknamed, is a New York State historical icon. Nowadays “The Glen’s” best known event is now its annual NASCAR race, which usually takes place in early August.
The Corning Museum of Glass: The museum, located in Corning, NY near the Pennsylvania border, is dedicated to glass art, history, and science. The museums displays show contemporary glass art, allow visitors to attend and participate in glass blowing workshops, and see works of ancient glass, the oldest of which is 3,500 years old. The museum, founded in 1951 by what is now Corning, Incorporated has grown steadily since its birth, and now has a collection of over 45,000 objects.
Binghamton Carousels:Did you know that of the fewer than 170 antique carousels remaining in the United States and Canada, six are in the Greater Binghamton area? Because of the uniqueness of these carousels and the incomparable circumstances of their survival and existence, all six are placed on the New York State Historic Register and the National Register of Historic Places. And what does it cost to take a spin on each of these historical landmarks? There is no charge, but an admission of “one piece of litter” is appreciated.
Mount Marcy: For all of you looking to accomplish a goal this summer, Mount Marcy happens to be the highest point of NYS–with an elevation of 5,343 feet. Climbing up this mountain has been a tradition for many generations. While it hasn’t made the list of most challenging hikes, you most definitely will not make it home for dinner.
Lake Placid: Did you know that Lake Placid is home to the only Olympic Games ever held in New York? The 1932 Winter Olympics and 1980 Winter Olympics, which is best known for the United States Men’s Hockey Team defeating the Soviet Union, transformed the small Adirondack village into a hotspot for sports year-round. Visitors can hike up the ski jump, ride down the bobsled run, mountain bike Whiteface Mountain, ride in the equestrian facility, ice skate in the Olympic ring, and much more!
The Adirondack Museum: Centered in the heart of the Adirondack Park, 22 modern exhibits showcase life in the Adirondack region for the past 300 years at the Museum. From exploration to massive logging to entertainment, the Park’s colorful history complements its fresh “getaway” atmosphere and interactive activities. You will be sure to walk away intrigued!
Sky High Adventure Park: This fun filled amusement park has a plethora of attractions ranging from New York’s highest aerial park to forest climbing and even their famous “Mountain Coaster”. Their aerial park has 13 different courses with varying levels of difficulties. Their forest climbing also allows you to become the amazing tree climber you always wanted to be. And their Mountain Coaster is not your average roller coaster, keeping you tense with zigs, zags and spirals down a mountain through trees.
Niagara Falls: Did you know that Niagara Falls actually consists of three separate waterfalls? The falls account for the largest flow rate of any waterfall in the world–over 160 vertical feet. You can visit the falls on the United States side at Niagara Falls State Park and appreciate the tremendous power that they generate by turning on a light in Western New York!
Albright Knox Gallery: Located right across the street from SUNY Buffalo State– this art attraction is a major showplace for modern and contemporary pieces. Its collection has works of art ranging through the centuries–dating back all the way to the 1700’s. This Art Center just recently completed a transformation to install massive permanent video and audio on the exterior of the building as a collaborate project between the University at Buffalo and Buffalo State. And if you’re looking to impress , this destination might even just be the perfect place to bring a close friend or even a date.
Steven was a student assistant in the Office of Communications of the State University of New York in summer 2014. He is an undergraduate political science student at Binghamton University.