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New York State of Mind: 14 Can’t-Miss Discoveries

by Laura Grimmer
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Wednesday May 14, 2014

Upstate New York - any place above Westchester County for city folk - is bursting with interesting travel, food and drink options, if you're willing to make the journey.

A Brew Odyssey
The heart of New York State is currently celebrating the renaissance of craft beer, hard cider and spirits. Once the hop capital of the United States, Central New York is emerging as a destination for beverage attractions.

1. Makers of the trailblazing Saranac beers, F.X. Matt is celebrating 125 years and an ongoing four-generation legacy. The tour and tasting room in Utica are worth a visit and a sip or two.

2. Brewery Ommegang in Cooperstown enhances its bespoke beers with food pairings. Their website includes suggested recipes and dishes for each of their beers (clams steamed with Hennepin?), and the Café Ommegang behind the brewery serves all six of the year-round Belgian-style ales alongside Belgian-themed food faves such as mussels, frites, aioli, stews, crepes, ice cream and waffles.

Check out for more information on the area's tap-based brews.

More than Baseball in Cooperstown
Sure, to many, the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum makes Cooperstown synonymous with baseball. But the rural setting in the foothills of the northern Catskills is also a unique stage for art and culture lovers.

3. The world-famous Glimmerglass Festival presents internationally acclaimed opera, lectures and other performances throughout the summer season. The season begins July 11 with "Madame Butterfly" in repertory with "Carousel."

4. The Cooperstown Summer Musical Festival kicks off its 16th season with performances ranging from classical to contemporary, jazz to bluegrass, cabaret to kids' concerts.

5. For art lovers, the Fenimore Art Museum on the shores of Otsego Lake houses permanent collections of American Indian and folk art as well as works from the Hudson River School. (Note: Cooperstown is named for the father of author James Fenimore Cooper, of "Leatherstocking Tales" and "Last of the Mohicans."

Revolutionary War Buff?
6. While New York is rife with Revolutionary War history, Central New York’s Mohawk Valley has introduced a fun and easy website called the Mohawk Valley Region Path Through History to celebrate the region’s role in America’s early history. Of the nearly 300 battles fought during the American Revolution, almost 100 were waged in New York.

7. The Mohawk Valley also has a strong focus on its roots in Iroquois Native American culture and especially their role in America’s fight for independence.

Niagara: The Falls Are Just the Tip of the Iceberg
8. The so-called Greater Niagara Region includes nature’s bounty above and beyond the famous Falls. Stretching through Erie, Genesee, Niagara, Orleans and Wyoming counties, the area is renowned for its agricultural wares.

9. Like goat cheese? Stop by First Light Farm & Creamery in pastoral Genesee County to explore the art of cheese-making. Tastings at nearby Kutter’s Cheese Factory Store give a snapshot into upstate’s cheese industry.

10. The area also includes wineries, a restaurant scene that celebrates local farm-to-table and historic Erie Canal ports and quaint rural villages like Medina, with its unspoiled storefronts and unusually wide expanse of the Erie Canal. A breakfast at the Shirt Factory Café is not only delicious, but also a creative showcase of its industrial past.

Home of Thousand Island Dressing and Castles of the North
11. For scenic and architectural sights, look to the north. New York is divided from Canada by the St. Lawrence River and eastern Lake Ontario. The area, known as the 1000 Islands, is home to amazing natural beauty and manmade Gilded Age retreats.

12. Real-world castles built by early 20th century industrialists are eye-popping. Boldt Castle and Boldt Yacht House was millionaire hotel magnate George C. Boldt’s Taj Mahal-like homage to his beloved wife, Louise, who died just before its completion.

13. Singer Castle on Dark Island was built by Frederick Gilbert Bourne of the Singer Sewing Machine Co. Both castles have guided tours with boats coming from both sides of the St. Lawrence.

14. River towns like Kingston and Alexandria Bay make excellent pushing-off points for scenic trips around the river, which welcomes international ship traffic from around the world as far inland as Lake Superior. Watching the enormous tankers dance delicately through the channels just feet away from rocky islands is an entertainment in and of itself. The Antique Boat Museum in Clayton features the largest collection of antique and classic boats on display in North America.

No matter your interests, New York has something for just about any taste.

Laura Grimmer is a private chef and trained sommelier based in New York.


  • Thad, 2014-05-12 15:26:41

    And you didn’t even mention friendly Rochester and Syracuse. You can eat, drink, play, and party there and have so much fun.

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