New York... New York
Written by Gregg Henglein
Manhattan gets the glory, but as Qatar Airways celebrates five years of visiting New York, Oryx takes a look at the allure of the entire Empire State.
When people say they’re going to New York, usually, they mean New York City. In fact, they generally mean Manhattan, which is one of five boroughs of the City of New York (the others are Staten Island, Queens, The Bronx and Brooklyn).
Don’t get me wrong, as a native New Yorker, I love Manhattan. But if you pass up seeing what’s outside Manhattan, you’ve missed the boat. Here, we’ll go outside the box – an irregularly shaped one though it may be – of Manhattan, and explore the state of New York.
As wealth expanded beyond Manhattan in the early 1900s, the expanse of Long Island became home to many of the region’s rich and famous. The northern shore of Long Island plays host to what are termed the Gold Coast Mansions, homage to a world of elegance and unique architectural style that defined the extravagance of the Gilded Age to the Roaring Twenties. The Vanderbilt Museum gives a glimpse of the history of the Vanderbilt Family, who made their fortune on the rise of shipping and railroad development during the Industrial Revolution.
Looking Upstate yields a different historical view, one of a military nature. Upstate New York has abundant forts from the Revolutionary War and beyond. The French, for example, built Fort Ticonderoga in 1755 at a river portage between Lake Champlain and Lake George. France’s greatest victory in the Seven Years War took place here, as roughly 3,500 French troops defeated 16,000 British troops in 1758. Ticonderoga was also the site of the Americans’ first victory in the Revolutionary War, when Benedict Arnold’s Green Mountain Boys captured the site from the British.
To enjoy the sciences, Long Island’s Museum Row boasts the interactive Long Island Children’s Museum as well as the Cradle of Aviation Museum – as robust a collection of exhibits on air history as there is in the country. The New York Hall of Science in Queens is a marvellous family visit, chock full of hands-on experiments and marked by the Rocket Park, which includes several rockets such as the Gemini Titan II, which towers above a miniature golf course woven among it, and other spacecraft at the site of the 1964 World’s Fair.
My favourite Upstate museum is the National Museum of Play in Rochester, where exhibits explore the evolution of video games, allow users to design their own roller coaster or skate park, and far more playful adventures than can be covered here. The museum also houses the National Toy Hall of Fame, and is the only collections-based museum in the world devoted solely to play!
The almost two and a half million hectares of Adirondack Park is the largest publicly protected area in the United States, more than half of which belongs to the people of New York State and is constitutionally protected to remain a ‘forever wild’ forest preserve. It’s a perfect blend of quaint, friendly villages surrounded by millions of hectares of forest filled with hundreds of pristine lakes and ponds, endless kilometres of rivers and streams, and the famous Adirondack Mountains. There’s no more picturesque site for hiking and walking than the Adirondacks.
It boasts rhythmic waves, high dunes, ancient maritime forests, historic landmarks and glimpses of wildlife — Fire Island off the south shore of mainland Long Island has been a special place for diverse plants, animals and people for centuries. Far from the sounds and pressures of nearby big-city life, Fire Island National Seashore’s dynamic barrier island beaches offer solitude and camaraderie, and spiritual renewal to civilisation-weary people.
The oldest state park in the United States, Niagara Falls State Park hosts one of the great natural wonders of the world – 750,000 gallons a second flows down. The sparkling scenery of the falls has made it a perfect spot for families and has also drawn writers, artists, and prominent figures seeking a spark of creativity that only the park’s breathtaking panoramic views can inspire.
Love golf? Five of Golf Magazine’s Top 100 golf courses in the world reside in the state, all on Long Island, including Shinnecock Hills and National Golf Links of America, both in Southampton, Winged Foot Golf Club in Mamaroneck, Bethpage Black in Bethpage and Garden City Golf Club.
How about the ‘sport of kings’? Queens is home to Belmont Park, host of the Belmont Stakes, the most gruelling leg of horse racing’s Triple Crown. In the late summer, Belmont closes shop and racing moves Upstate to the beautiful and quaint village of Saratoga, whose racetrack is the oldest organised sporting venue of any kind in the United States, having opened in 1863.
Baseball fans can watch the Mets in Queens or the world-famous Yankees play in the Bronx, where a visit to Yankee Stadium may have lost some of its lustre as the old, truly historic park was taken down a few years ago. The best baseball-fan visit is the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Upstate Cooperstown, a small village whose bustle is largely due to the perpetual influx of tourists to this home of the national pastime’s history.
Not only can you watch sports in New York, you can participate, too. Water sports are available in abundance, from fishing the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Montauk on the tip of Long Island, to surfing ocean waves at Jones Beach on the island’s south shore, or tubing, kayaking, and white-water rafting the hundreds of rivers that weave through the state, particularly up in the mountains of the Adirondack range Upstate. And, for those planning to come later in the season, if winter sports are your thing, skiing and snowboarding are rampant from the mountains all the way up to Buffalo in the northwest corner of the state.
New York is the second-largest producer of wine in the United States behind California. Those who live in or have visited New York wine regions know how diverse and unique they are. From the shores of Seneca and Cayuga Lakes (some of the deepest in the country), to the maritime climate of the North Fork of Long Island (not to mention Niagara, Erie, and the Hudson River), New York is an exceptional destination for any wine lover.
The Finger Lakes region of the state has built its reputation on Riesling, but Gewürztraminer, Cabernet Franc and Pinot Noir are also showing potential. Long Island wines lean towards, but are not limited to, elegant Bordeaux-style reds and fresh whites. The least developed wine region in New York is the Hudson River Valley, just north of Manhattan, where Cabernet Franc, Chardonnay, and even Pinot Noir are burgeoning.
New York, USA
Playlandin Rye, less than an hour north of Manhattan: part amusement park, part carnival, featuring a little bit of everything, from haunted houses to upside-down twisters to carnival games and the classic, wooden Dragon Coaster. Riding the Cyclone – placed on the National Register of Historic Places – and Wonder Wheel are must-dos at the legendary Coney Island, as is enjoying the fireworks when the sun goes down.
By the numbers
The record number of tourists who came to visit New York City in 2011, making the city the world’s most popular tourist destination.
Kilometres of rivers of all shapes, sizes, and currents weave their way through New York State, complementing its many lakes and the ocean-bordered Long Island to make New York a water-lover’s dream.
The length in kilometres of the gorge at Letchworth State Park, called by many geologists ‘The Grand Canyon of the East’, as its depth is more than 183 metres in some places.
The River Caféin Brooklyn: voted one of the most romantic restaurants in the US with the best view of the Manhattan skyline. None of that matters without exceptional food, and River Café delivers in myriad ways.
The View Restaurant at the Mirror Lake Innin Lake Placid: expert wine pairings from a wine list recognised by Wine Spectator magazine for 11 years running!
The North Fork Table and Innin Southold (Long Island’s north shore): Seasonally inspired menu featuring locally grown biodynamic and organic produce, the freshest seafood from the pristine Peconic Bay and Long Island Sound, and award-winning North Fork artisanal cheese.