Let’s face it. When you hear the name New York, you immediately think of New York City and the glittering lights over Manhattan. You imagine the Empire State Building, the Statue of Liberty, the rumble of the subway, the best food in the world, and the Hudson River. All of those landmarks are certainly famous, and well worth visiting, but there is another part of New York state that doesn’t get much attention from tourists.
Sights and Sounds of Upstate New York
So what is there to see?
Plenty, as it turns out. Upstate New York is the anti-New York City, because it’s mostly all rural land. All that clean, tasty water you drink in New York City? Thank Upstate for that (via the Catskill Aqueduct). Electricity? Thank Upstate for that (via the Niagara Falls hydroelectric plants). Fresh fruits, dairy, and wine? Yep, Upstate.
Beyond providing all those services for NYC, however, Upstate is one of the most beautiful natural regions in the United States. It’s home to Niagara Falls, the Finger Lakes, the Adirondacks, Catskill Mountains, and many other parks. On a lovely Saturday in spring, We visited Rockefeller State Park Preserve and Bear Mountain State Park.
Rockefeller State Park Preserve
As you can tell by the name, the famously wealthy Rockefeller family owned this land and donated it to New York State in 1983. It has a wide variety of trails, easy and hard, and we chose the most famous one, the 13 Bridges Trail. It’s so called because you will encounter 13 small bridges on your walk, but if that sounds like a lot of work, don’t be too alarmed. The entire trail is only a few miles long and is not too steep or complicated, so you can complete it in under two hours at a normal pace.
As you walk inside the preserve, you will see signs for a nearby village called Sleepy Hollow. And yes, if you are any sort of movie buff, you will remember that this is the name of the infamous village in Tim Burton’s “Sleepy Hollow” movie, starring a young Johnny Depp. The movie is actually based on a story, “Headless Horseman”, by the great American writer Washington Irving. So if you are inclined, you can visit the village for a little historical detour.
We had lunch at a local place called “Executive Diner”, which is a typical American diner, with huge portions of burgers, sandwiches, root beer floats, and other such delights. Their lunch specials only apply to weekdays, but the regular prices weren’t too bad, and, as mentioned, the portions were more than plentiful.
Bear Mountain State Park
This is a great name for a park, don’t you agree? You’re probably wondering if we saw any bears during our trip here, but since we didn’t really go deep into the park, we didn’t see much of the wild. We stayed on the periphery, but still saw a couple of very interesting things.
Bear Mountain Inn
This is a beautiful historic hotel, constructed in the lodge style. We didn’t stay in the hotel itself, but we toured the lovely lobby, and the knick knacks in its gift shop. The hotel overlooks a lake and Bear Mountain itself, so it’s quite a nice view.
Maybe a hundred yards away from the hotel is a historic carousel housed inside a building, which costs only $1 to ride for kids or adults. It’s a nice little touch for families to enjoy.
One of the trails in the park will actually take you to a nice zoo, where you can view, amongst other things, bears! It was closed for the season while we were there, but it looked like a nice place to spend a few hours.
There is a a small pier with great views of Bear Mountain, as well as a railroad nearby. We were at the pier around 5pm and we saw a humongous CSX cargo train rumble by. I say humongous because it literally took ten minutes for it to pass us from start to finish, and it had 138 cars (one of our friends counted each one)!
A Great Weekend Destination
Upstate New York not only provides water and electricity to most New Yorkers, but it also has beautiful lakes, parks, historical towns, and endless trails to explore. Rockefeller Preserve is known for its 13 Bridges trail, and Bear Mountain State Park is known for…bears, as well as a lovely rustic lodge hotel and tremendous views. We only visited two small parts of Upstate NY, and we certainly will go back to see more. It’s much cheaper than going to the Top of the Rock in NYC and far less hectic.