If you’re anything like me, You’ve been to New York City but never ventured out further into the state.
That all changed for me last week when I took an epic road trip from New York City to Niagara Falls, winding through Upstate New York and discovering the myriad of waterfalls, vineyards, trails and museums along the way.
Now that I have experienced more of the State, I urge you to add four nights (More if you can) on to your next New York City visit (Which of course has to have at least one Broadway show… This time for me was Kinky Boots) and behold the wine, water and wonders of upstate New York.
Here are my top tips to make your road trip amazing, or if you are not comfortable driving you could organise private transfers or catch public transport between these places – A car really does open up options though to go at your own pace, That is my first tip.
We made a bee line straight to the Corning Museum of Glass and spent a couple of hours watching live glass blowing demonstrations and exploring the history of glass… I was skeptical that this would be more for the older crowd but it was really interesting, You can even get super hands on and sign up for classes and longer workshops.
We stayed at Radisson Hotel Corning for the night which is in the perfect location to walk the city and take in the Gaffer district. This area is brimming with boutiques, breweries, restaurants and museums.
We ate at Sorge’s restaurant which is well known for its handmade pasta and has been a Corning dining institution since 1951… One word… HEAVEN! After dinner we ducked across the street to Hand & Foot for all the drinks (It was Cinco de Mayo and our drivers birthday… It would be rude not celebrate right). Soul Full Cup is where to get your espresso hit in the morning too.
I will dub today, Thee day for all of the wine… In thirty minutes you can be in Watkins Glen State Park which is not only home to the gorge, but 19 waterfalls too.
The Finger Lakes region itself is home to more than 140 wineries, cideries and distilleries and it is one of the largest wine producing regions in North America! Once you get here you will want to stay an extra week in the area, I can promise you that.
We tried ‘a few’ wineries and my highlights in this area were Fox Run Vineyard and Glenora Winery. Special mentions to Ravines, Bloomer Creek Vineyard, Boundary Breaks, Heart & Hands, Sheldrake Point and Liten Buffel… Now you know I take my job very seriously… But I do need to come back and rate the other 131+ I missed this time!!!!
Hopefully you don’t draw the short straw and end up as designated driver because after that ‘mouthful’ you’ve got a quick thirty minute drive to Ithaca for the night OR you could organise a day trip to fit your needs so everyone can enjoy… Speak to Laura at Experience Finger Lakes. (PS. Laura is a certified sommelier and wine educator with a PhD in Food & Nutrition… She has got your back for an incredible culinary adventure)
I recommend staying ten minutes out of the city at La Tourelle , you can even try your hand at glamping on site at Firelight Camp in the summer… You must have a treatment at August Moon Spa while you are at this property too. If you would rather be in the city to walk around, Check out Hotel Ithaca where we also stayed.
Make sure you set aside some time to explore Ithaca too as Ithaca is GORGES, It has over 150 waterfalls running through the town and 28,000 acres of public forest to ski, bike, hike and explore. There are also so many amazing places to eat and drink here as well. We had dinner at Coltivare which is a culinary centre a block back from The Commons. It runs on a farm to table principle and is professionally staffed by students partaking in their four degree programs.
In under 2 hours you can be in Rochester… Depending on how many more wineries you stop at on the way that is.
Rochester is another destination in itself, The thriving culinary scene, festivals and museums give you an excuse to come back here in every season.
The Strong Museum of Play is a must for the kids and the big kids at heart… We spent hours hopping between the interactive exhibits. When is the last time you rode a carousel, played pinball and Mario Kart, turned yourself into a virtual superhero and danced through a butterfly garden? All while being immersed in the world’s largest museum dedicated to the history of PLAY.
After all that play you need to eat, and lunch at Genesee Brew House is the ticket to my stomach… and it has the best view of the waterfall in the middle of the city from their roof top terrace and restaurant / bar.
The George Eastman Museum is another space you need to visit if you love cameras and film, like me. Mr Eastman created Kodak and even if you’re not a camera fan, It is just as inspiring to hear his entrepreneurial life story and wander through his palatial mansion and gardens.
We stayed fifteen minutes out of Rochester at Woodcliff Hotel & Spa which was a complete oasis… The food and views are TO DIE FOR and you’re also only 5 minutes way from Casa Larga Vineyard… I am happy to receive your Thanks for the hot tip in form of wine from them please.
Thirty minutes out of Rochester on your way to Niagara Falls you will find the Genesee Country Village & Museum… The largest living history museum in NY State and third largest in the US. Two hours here was enough for me to break up the drive and discover this working village but if you’re a US history buff you could spend all day here… even longer with all of the demonstrations and events they have on offer.
One hour and eleven minutes from here (1:11, you know those angel numbers mean to keep your thoughts positive and that you’re in alignment) you will find yourself at the Fashion Outlets of Niagara Falls… I am not usually a shopper but this place is awesome. We only had two hours here and everyone was running around like they were on a game show, trying to nab all the bargains they could (Coming from Australia, The savings are next level). They have a pretty extensive food court here too, but no time to eat, shopping won out due to time constraints.
You deserve a rest after all of that and you’re only ten minutes away from where we stayed at Doubletree by Hilton Niagara Falls which is right on the lake and a ten minute walk down to the park entrance and town centre, The hotel is brand new and the staff are exceptional. The dining options in Niagara are all your normal chains and we chose to eat at Hard Rock Cafe which was the most exciting of the bunch. I know there is a culinary institute here too which I would of loved to try, I’ve heard great rumours about it. After dinner, make sure you stroll down to the falls to experience them lit up by night.
If you’re looking for something a little more off the tourist trail, Stay in the nearby village of Lewiston. It is only fifteen minutes drive from the falls and filled with cute bnbs, restaurants and charm… I loved the Orange Cat Coffee Company here.
There are hundreds of things to do at Niagara Falls and my absolute favourite is to experience a thrilling hour on board with Niagara Jet Adventures. You will skim the raging water, through class five rapids at the Devil’s Hole in Niagara Gorge and dance in your seat to the awesome tunes while being expertly spun up and down the river. Upgrade to a co pilot seat if you can or brave the wet deck… Take a change of clothes for that one 😉
From here, You can either fly out of Buffalo, cross the border into Canada and make your way to Toronto or my favourite option… Turn around and head straight back into the Finger Lakes region to do it all again.
11 Howard… Even just saying the name makes me want to jump on the next Delta flight back there. Nestled in the heart of Soho and designed by Anda Andrei and Space Copenhagen, The rooms are all oak floors and natural colours that accentuate the custom crafted furniture and Katie Yang sculptures. If you pick a Howard Suite you might even glimpse your neighbour RiRi on her terrace. The Blond is their onsite bar which is a seductive space to start your New York night out after a french dining experience at Le Coucou downstairs. The next day you can rejuvenate in one of their infrared spas, HigherDOSE.
You can also book this exact itinerary or we can make a variation to fit your needs by speaking to me directly HERE, With over ten years experience in designing travel experiences you know I have the contacts to enrich your next adventure and make it seamless.