Take a Road Trip to Upstate New York
By Victor Block
Anyone who might be thinking of taking what's called the Empire State Road Trip through upper New York state should be aware that the journey won't be without challenges. Fortunately, they are good ones.
The route passes through pastoral countryside with views of rolling farmlands interspersed by dense forests and tiny towns. The test comes when visitors face the welcome task of choosing among a long, diverse list of sightseeing alternatives and activities.
One afternoon, my wife, Fyllis, and I were tooling around an automobile race track behind a pace car. On another, we slowed to a crawl before passing a horse-pulled Amish buggy. Then there were hikes through otherworldly environments, visits to intriguing museums and opportunities to become acquainted with the opulent lifestyle of the wealthy.
We were following an itinerary that links the most enticing things to see and do throughout the area with inviting accommodations along the way. The trip was laid out by the Harbor Hotel Collection, three lovely properties about a three-hour drive from each other in Chautauqua, Watkins Glen and Clayton, the latter located in New York's Thousand Islands archipelago.
Each place offers its own unique reasons to visit, while they also share appealing traits and treats. Let's begin with the latter.
Foodies, be forewarned! You may find you have to loosen your belt during your sojourn in this diet-busting locale. Farm stands and you-pick fruit orchards vie with cheese shops and bakeries to tempt passersby with hard-to-resist tasty treats. Craft breweries, cideries and dozens of wineries provide beverages to accompany these delicacies.
And those gastronomic temptations are just for starters. Museums range from tiny establishments to impressive world-class collections. The first category includes the Fenton History Center, which is located in the mid-19th-century home of Reuben Fenton, a former U.S. congressman, senator and governor. It tells much more than his interesting story.
One room is devoted to the War of 1812 between the United States and Britain, much of which was waged nearby along the New York-Canadian border. Other exhibits bring to life the role of people who were active with the Underground Railroad that helped slaves to escape from bondage in the South and flee to freedom in the North.
The Antique Boat Museum in Clayton, the heart of the Thousand Islands area, is much larger. It houses more than 350 vessels that range from canoes and kayaks to sleek power boats.