More Than Manhattan: 3 Gorgeous Upstate New York Attractions

Updated on September 20, 2017
Holley Hyler profile image

Holley Hyler is a freelance writer and has been published in Adelaide, Buck Off Magazine, Rebelle Society, and The Urban Howl.

I moved to Rochester, New York, a little over a year ago, with no friends or family, so I traversed most of the surrounding area on my own. If you find yourself in a similar boat, or you're a short-term visitor, these are the top three places I would suggest to those with a tendency toward introversion and an affinity for beauty and peace. If you have never visited anywhere in New York aside from The Big Apple, this article can provide valuable perspective. All three attractions below are within an hour's drive of Rochester. I will provide information about other areas of NY in a future article.

1. Watkins Glen State Park

Waterfalls in Watkins Glen State Park in the village of Watkins Glen, NY. Photo by Holley Hyler.
Waterfalls in Watkins Glen State Park in the village of Watkins Glen, NY. Photo by Holley Hyler.

Perfect for the Zen Enthusiast

Many people have heard of the Finger Lakes, known for its wine trails, but you can enjoy the lakes even if you aren't a wine enthusiast. Located in the village of Watkins Glen, at the bottom of Seneca Lake (the largest of the Finger Lakes), is a beautiful trail along a gorge. I went in the thick of summer and found myself entranced by this state park's lush greenery, and soothed by the sounds of its falls. Because I went in the summer (during a NASCAR event, no less), it was quite busy, particularly near the bottom of the trails where the caves and Rainbow Falls are. So you may want to check that no events are happening in the surrounding area before you head to the park, as I experienced quite a bit of traffic going in and out.

If you are looking to get your zen on, then I would suggest coming early in the day, before 10 AM. This way, you can take photos with less likelihood of people being in them and enjoy the peace and quiet. If you don't mind a crowd, you can come later in the day and enjoy some of the wineries along NY-14 while you're at it. I stopped at Branch by Bellangelo on my way down and had lunch on the patio. Fun sidenote: Many of the wine tastings in the area are reasonably priced (under seven dollars) - and some of them even let you keep your glass.

On arrival at the park, you do have to pay for parking, but it is under ten bucks. There are lots located at the bottom and top of the gorge trail. If you enjoy a cardio workout, I would suggest starting at the bottom, as there are plenty of stairs to ascend. Introverts, enjoy your earphones at low volume, else you may miss out on the roaring of the falls or be startled by people walking by if you go at a busy hour. There is a shuttle service if you find that you want to hike only one-way. For more information, you can check out the official website for the park, which I have included in the references at the bottom of this article.

2. Letchworth State Park

One look and you'll understand why it's called "The Grand Canyon of the East." Photo by Holley Hyler.
One look and you'll understand why it's called "The Grand Canyon of the East." Photo by Holley Hyler.

Hybrid of Niagara and the Grand Canyon

If the Grand Canyon made a baby with Niagara Falls, that baby would be Letchworth. This park also features a gorge, streams, waterfalls, and plenty of trees. One piece of advice that I wish I had, prior to going: expect to be overwhelmed on your first visit. This is not a small park and has several long, winding roads to navigate. Some people prefer just to drive through and soak in the views, but I opted to hike along the Lower Falls trail (the Upper Falls trail was closed when I went) and a few others. I felt like I was missing out on something, possibly because of the trail closure, but it was also a lot to take in.

I paid $10 to gain entry to the park. After passing the pay station, I drove several miles to reach the visitor's center. There wasn't much point in going there since they provided me with a map when I paid, but it was good to stop and find my bearings. There are twenty-eight trails of different lengths, ranging from half a mile to 21. You'll definitely want to bring water and some snacks, although I am sure they are for sale at the gift shop(s), but it's nice not to think about logistics when you're hungry.

If you're sensitive to energy, this is a wonderful place to go. The vastness and peace of this place made me feel like I was in a cocoon; it was a lovely escape from the outside world. As a bonus (if you enjoy that), cell phone reception wasn't very good out there. No need to lie if you don't feel like being easily reachable for a few hours!

This one feels slightly more daunting to do alone, unless you're savvy with maps and directions. I'm definitely not, but it didn't stop me from enjoying myself. I just wish I had paid more attention to the park descriptions online before going so that I could have allotted more time to be there and find my way.

3. Sonnenberg Gardens

After a rainstorm. Photo by Holley Hyler.
After a rainstorm. Photo by Holley Hyler.

History and Beauty

New York is rich with history, and the first two sites I mentioned are no exception to this. But the history at Sonnenberg ("sunny hill") is much more obvious. Here, you'll find a Victorian-era, Queen Anne-style mansion. Of course, as the name implies, most of the fun is outdoors - my favorite was the Japanese Garden, which is near the entrance of the park (one of the owners, the wife, was fond of Japanese art, and if I remember correctly, the objects in the mansion reflect this).

Admission is $14, unless you qualify for any discounts. Visitors are allowed inside the mansion. I didn't see anything about guided tours while I was there, but if you check their website (listed below), you can probably find audio for self-guided tours. I spent about two hours here, maybe less, because the day that I chose to go, there were surprise thunderstorms. In the event of inclement weather, they do have a winery that you can duck into. Within the winery is a stained glass window and a gift shop.

City or Country?

Which of these would you prefer to visit?

See results

If you are new to the Rochester area or looking to explore more of it, I hope I have inspired some excitement and curiosity within you. Please let me know in the comments if you ended up traveling to any of the areas mentioned above, especially if you went there because of my article. I would love to know your thoughts!

Questions & Answers

    Comments

      0 of 8192 characters used
      Post Comment

      No comments yet.

      working

      This website uses cookies

      As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, wanderwisdom.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

      For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://wanderwisdom.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

      Show Details
      Necessary
      HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
      LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
      Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
      AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
      Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
      CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
      Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
      Features
      Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
      Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
      Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
      Marketing
      Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
      Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
      Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
      Statistics
      Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
      ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)