Are you up for some down time? Here's how the Clark family kicks back and relaxes in New York State.
When it’s time for a family vacation, it’s hard for me to justify leaving the state I’ve called home for most of my life. There’s a reason the phrase “I Love New York” is one of the most famous slogans of all time. In fact, there are a lot of reasons to love New York: theres the six-million acre Adirondack Forest Preserve. 520 miles of ocean coastline. The world’s most famous waterfalls. Two of the world’s largest freshwater lakes. One of the country’s most respected wine regions. An international seaway. 11 spectacular, glacially-carved “Finger” Lakes. And, of course, The Big Apple. These attractions (along with countless others) brought over 265 million visitors to New York State in 2019, and they’re why people from around the world—as well as those who live here—choose to vacation in The Empire State.
Living here and loving it
I’ve lived all over New York: I was born (and currently live) in Rochester, I spent my teenage-years in Central New York, and I went to college in Fredonia. Soon after graduating, I moved to Boston, met my wife, and we started a family. But the salt water, Cape Cod, and lobsters were no match for the wide-open spaces of New York. We escaped the crowded towns of eastern Massachusetts to vacation here whenever we could, and then made the decision to return to New York as our children approached school age.
Over the years we’ve vacationed in every corner of the state. Here are five of our favorite places:
The Adirondacks are one of our cherished vacation destinations, in part because there’s such a variety of things to do. We’ve camped, hiked, skied, kayaked and whitewater-rafted. We’ve stayed at campgrounds, wilderness lean-tos, and once or twice even splurged on a high-end resort! There are numerous small towns and villages with shopping and cultural attractions, restaurants and dining for every taste. The Adirondacks is a vast region, and we’re already planning our next trip.
The St. Lawrence Seaway and The 1000 Islands
The mighty St. Lawrence River dominates the expansive region along the New York-Canadian border. We never tire of watching massive cargo ships lumber past, headed for the Great Lakes, Montreal or the Atlantic.
The “Thousand Islands” are actually over 1800 islands stretching for 50 miles in the St. Lawrence River, near Lake Ontario. Wellesley Island, Boldt Castle and the tourist-friendly village of Alexandria Bay all provide fun activities that everyone can enjoy.
One of the world’s most popular attractions is right here in our own backyard—and we’ve visited countless times. One of our most memorable trips happened during a snowy February weekend, when the waterfalls were nearly frozen. The icy falls, illuminated at night by multi-colored lights, is a sight we’ll never forget.
The Hudson Valley and New York City
One of the cool things about New York City is how close it is to the rural vibe of the Hudson Valley. We once took a week-long vacation that included both the bright lights of the city, and the old-fashioned charm of the towns lining the river. We started our trip at a campground in the southern Catskills (which we used as our “base camp”) and then took a short drive to White Plains, where we traveled by rail to Manhattan for an overnight excursion to Central Park, the Empire State Building, and Times Square.
Empty Nesters in The Finger Lakes
Now that the kids are grown up and on their own, we’ve spent a good deal of time exploring the towns, wineries and restaurants of the Finger Lakes. We’ve enjoyed hiking the gorges near Ithaca on cold winter days, kayaking on Seneca Lake on a warm August afternoon, and peeping at the gold and red leaves along Keuka Lake in September and October.
Find relaxing campgrounds here in this guide and at www.CampNewYork.com. Find more down-time activities at www.iloveny.com.
Glenn Clark is a designer and the founder of Crafting a Brand in Rochester, NY. As a long-time CONY partner, he's been responsible for the design of many of our RV guides, as well as the new Camp New York branding and creative development. Photos for this story provided by and copyright of Glenn Clark.