New York Holiday Planning Guide
Home to the country's most populous city, the state of New York is a major gateway for immigration into the United States, but also one of the nation's prime holiday destinations. Take a trip down the state's numerous wilderness trails and scenic roads to visit quaint small towns, sandy beaches, historical estates, and artist colonies. Though the majority of visitors head for the big-city restaurants, theaters, and museums, you can venture deeper into the rugged and remote mountain areas to discover a world of picturesque forests, rivers, mountains, and lakes. New York also boasts the nation's largest forest preserve, encompassing much of the northeastern lobe of the state.
Places to Visit in New YorkNew York City
: Don’t miss a chance to visit one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the world: 8 million people from different cultures call the Big Apple home. The city is a major center of many industries, including business, fashion, food, media, and culture, and is filled to the brim with world-famous and under-the-radar New York tourist attractions. Finger Lakes
: 11 long lakes give their name to this area filled with natural beauty, opportunities for outdoor activities, more than 100 wineries, and small towns with vibrant nightlife and restaurant scenes. Niagara Falls
: Make this town your base as you pay a visit to the majestic waterfalls, museums, and sites dedicated to the rich history of the Falls and the surrounding area. Long Island
: The largest island in the continental U.S. is a major suburb of New York City and serves as a prime example of suburban American life. This relaxed holiday destination has its fair share of vineyards, historic sites, and other attractions to keep you busy. Rochester
: This college town offers minor-league baseball, museums, or festivals that showcase the small city’s active cultural scene. Buffalo
: This former manufacturing center is now the second most-populated city in the state after New York City and is rebuilding its image with a delicious food scene and outdoor activities centered around nearby Lake Erie and the two rivers that run through the city. Cooperstown
: For a taste of pure Americana, visit this town focused on the classic American sport of baseball and its history; it also offers a surprising array of cultural attractions and a well-preserved historic district. Lake George
: Add a relaxing stay in this lake town to your New York itinerary and enjoy your fill of water sports such as waterskiing and swimming on the lake. Hamptons
: Known as a quintessential summertime destination for glamourous New Yorkers, this collection of hamlets and villages welcomes hordes of visitors on summer holiday who flock to its beaches, quaint architectural sites, vineyards, nightlife, and restaurants.Saratoga Springs
: Started as a resort town for the health-conscious, you can still visit this town’s healing springs today, or get your thrill from horse racing, gambling, restaurants, bars, and galleries.
Things to Do in New York
Popular New York Tourist AttractionsCentral Park
: Visit this green oasis in the center of New York City for a walk, prime people watching, a zoo, winter ice skating, or a concert or performance. The Metropolitan Museum of Art
: The largest museum in the U.S., also called “The Met,” houses over 2 million works in its collections, including one of the most renowned collections of ancient Egyptian art in the world. Top of the Rock Observation Deck
: Take an elevator up to the top of 260 m (850 ft) 30 Rockefeller Center building for a breathtaking bird’s-eye view of the island of Manhattan and surrounding area. 9/11 Memorial
: This museum presents artifacts and survivors’ and rescue teams’ experiences of the terrorist attack that devastated New York in 2001. Your ticket also gives you access to the nearby 9/11 Memorial. 61 Broadway
: Be sure to catch a show in this neighborhood to experience one of the quintessential things to do in New York. The area is world-famous for theater, and you can catch the biggest names in theater acting onstage in elaborate productions. Frick Collection
: Enter into a gorgeous historic mansion to see industrialist William Frick’s extensive collection of European paintings, sculptures, and 18th-century decorative arts. Cave of the Winds
: This New York tour takes you 53 m (175 ft) down to the “hurricane deck” at the foot of Bridal Veil Falls, where you will get misted by the impressive falls. Brooklyn Bridge
: Sprawling 486 m (1,600 ft) across the East River, this historic bridge and landmark has a wooden walking path perfect for catching unbeatable views of the Manhattan skyline. Watkins Glen State Park
: Ancient glaciers cut a slice 120 m (400 ft) deep into the surrounding stone to create this gorge. With its 19 waterfalls and many rapids, it is a picturesque spot for hiking and picnicking. The Corning Museum of Glass
: This museum dedicated to the art and science of glass takes you 3,500 years through the material’s storied history, from ancient Egypt to contemporary artists and designers. Get some hands-on experience and make some unique souvenirs with a class or workshop in glassmaking.
Planning a New York Vacation with Kids
Places to Visit in New York with Kids
Start your family holiday in New York with a visit to the Big Apple: New York City
has so much to offer kids and adults, from riveting theater performances to skyscrapers to some of the most iconic toy stores in the world. If you’re visiting during the summer, take the kids to the Hamptons
for a fun and relaxing beach experience. For another way to experience the water on your New York trip, visit Lake George
for swimming and watersports galore. For kids who love baseball, don’t miss a trip to Cooperstown
, where they can learn all about their favorite sport.
Things to Do in New York with Kids
New York offers something for everyone, from fast-paced city sights to small-town and rural New York attractions. Within New York City, Central Park
is a great place to bring the kids, who can run around and explore the fields and forests, play on one of many playgrounds scattered throughout the park, or enjoy seasonal attractions such as the winter ice skating rink and summer carnival rides. Stop at the American Museum of Natural History
, where kids can see hundreds of taxidermied animals from all over the world in displays designed to look like their natural habitats or they can lie underneath the belly of a lifesize model of a blue whale. The whole family will marvel at the huge falls above them while visiting Cave of the Winds
Tips for a Family Vacation in New York
There are a few things to keep in mind as you plan your tour of New York with kids. Because exploring city attractions can be exhausting for young ones, try to plan for some down time, whether that means taking time out to rest at your hotel or planning a few day- or two-day trips to quieter areas. When traveling outside New York City, it is easiest to rent a car, while in the city you’re better off taking taxis (it’s legal for an adult to hold a child under age 7 on their lap in a taxi), or for older kids, taking a ride on the subway. Children are generally welcome in restaurants, although many bars and pubs do not allow anyone under age 21 to enter.
Dining and Shopping on Holiday in New York
Cuisine of New York
The state, especially New York City
, is one of the top destinations for food in the world, with world-renowned chefs creating delicious and unexpected surprises. That being said, the region also has its fair share of traditional regional dishes you should definitely try to sample on your trip to New York. In New York City, you must try a slice of real New York-style pizza, known for its thin-style crust. For dessert, try cheesecake, a creamy cake made with cream cheese and often topped with fruit, chocolate, or other toppings. For breakfast, have a bagel, usually served with cream cheese and smoked salmon. If you want a snack while walking around, stop at a street cart to enjoy a classic soft pretzel or hot dog. Buffalo
is famous for its chicken wings, which are usually deep-fried, coated in hot sauce and butter, and served with blue cheese dressing and celery sticks. The adventurous eaters in your group might want to try a garbage plate on their New York holiday: the dish native to Rochester
involves a mountain of of home fries, fries, beans, and/or macaroni salad topped with a combination of sausage, cheeseburger, hamburger, steak, chicken, a grilled cheese sandwich, fried fish, or eggs.
Shopping in New York
As one of the capitals of fashion and design, shopping is a major New York tourist attraction.New York City
, especially, is a hotbed for fashion, and there are many stores and shopping districts for all budgets. If you’re seeking glamorous jewelry, don’t miss Tiffany & Co.
, and use it as a jumping-off point for shopping (or window shopping) on famous 5th Avenue. At Chelsea Market
you can sample many specialty foods or try on clothes in a historic brick market building. As the region is important agriculturally, you’ll want to stop and pick up some local produce or locally made food items on your trip to New York. Try Troy Waterfront Farmers' Market
, situated on the banks of the Hudson River, or Ithaca Farmers Market
, which also has many crafts vendors selling jewelry and other souvenirs.
Know Before You Go on a Trip to New York
History of New York
The first people came to the New York region around 10,000 BCE when Native American tribes arrived. The Iroquoian and Algonquian groups became the most powerful by 1100 CE. The French and Dutch inhabitants arrived in 1524 and 1609, respectively, and the Dutch colonized the area as part of New Netherland, which was an important site of trade. In 1626, the Dutch purchased the island of Manhattan from Lenape Native Americans. In 1664, England secured control of the area and renamed it New York, after the Duke of York. New York City
continued to grow as a major English colonial trade port. Take a trip back to these colonial times with a visit to South Street Seaport
, where you can stroll along cobblestone streets and see examples of trade ships and the colonial brick row houses that traders lived in.
New York was an important player during the American Revolution. The battle of Saratoga (which occurred near Saratoga Springs
) was a major turning point for the Americas, and convinced the French to lend much-needed assistance in the fight against the British. New York adopted a state constitution in 1777, which heavily influenced the United States’ Constitution. Also during this time, New York City
was occasionally the national capital. Major advancements in transportation took place during the early 1800s, including the construction of the first steamboat and rail lines, and the opening of the Erie Canal in 1825. (For a novel experience on your New York vacation take a ride on Erie Canal Cruises Inc.
.) The new trains also made it easier than ever to travel around the state, and they contributed to the rapid growth of upstate cities such as Buffalo
During the American Civil War, the region had more Southern sympathizers than surrounding areas, mostly because of the important trade relationship many New York manufacturers and traders had with southern cotton suppliers. After the war, the financial industry in New York became even stronger, and manufacturing continued to grow. At the same time, agriculture reached its peak and shifted from crops to dairy. With increased industry, workers began to organize and New York became a center of the trade union movement. More industrial jobs also attracted a large number of immigrants from Europe, making New York City the world's most populous city by 1925. To get a sense of the experience immigrants had arriving to America during this time, visit Ellis Island
, where new arrivals were processed before moving on to Manhattan and other areas of the state.
The state became increasingly prosperous, and by 1900 was the richest state in the U.S. In the early 1900s, the rapid building of skyscrapers, such as the Empire State Building
, began to define New York City
's signature skyline. Fantastic views of the skyline can be seen from the Brooklyn Bridge
and Top of the Rock Observation Deck
. During the 1920s, the city experienced an economic boom. This boom coincided with the Harlem Renaissance, an explosive time of creativity, art, and music in the African American community in Harlem, a neighborhood in upper Manhattan. To see a famous New York attraction from this time, try to catch a concert at the Apollo Theater
During World War II, New York's industrial production reached its peak, with the state producing 11 percent of all armaments purchased for the war. After the war, housing became decentralized and many suburban areas, such as Long Island
, saw increased popularity. Decreased immigration contributed to New York's population declining for the first time between 1970 and 1980. On September 11, 2011, a terrorist attack destroyed two iconic World Trade Center towers in New York City
and killed almost 3,000 people. To learn about the attack and rescue efforts, visit the 9/11 Memorial
Landscape of New York
New York state has many diverse landscape features perfect for outdoor activities and relaxation on your trip to New York. The eastern part of the state is dominated by the Great Appalachian Valley, a huge system of valley lowlands which contains the Lake Champlain and Hudson Valleys. Adirondack Park is the largest state park in the United States, and is a popular site for hiking and rock climbing. To the west of the Lake Champlain Valley lies the Adirondack Mountains. Lakes, rivers, and ocean shoreline add up to 13.5 percent of the state's total area containing water. There are so many ways to experience the water of the region: see breathtaking waterfalls at Cave of the Winds
, waterski on Lake George
, or take a relaxing beach trip to the Hamptons
Holidays & Festivals in New York
The region has a calendar packed with festivals and special events that you might want to include in your New York itinerary. New York City
has a constant rotation of festivals, parades, and cultural events. The nationally recognized annual party on New Year’s Eve (December 31), brings hordes of people to the city to revel in bars and clubs and pack the streets in and around Times Square to see the ball drop at midnight. The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade showcases enormous floats and balloons shaped like everything from cartoon characters to superheroes. The city also has hundreds of outdoor concerts and performances as part of its SummerStage series and other programs. Upstate, music and food-centered festivals are common--for a real taste of Buffalo
, visit during the Buffalo Chicken Wing Festival, which celebrates the appetizer that was born in the city. The upstate area is also known for its music festivals: try catching some live music at the jazz festivals in Rochester
or Saratoga Springs
while touring New York.
New York Travel Tips
Climate of New York
New York has a typically humid continental climate, with hot, humid summers and cold, snowy winters. There can be quite a bit of variation in temperature and precipitation in different areas of the state, so be sure to pack appropriately for the places you will be visiting on your New York vacation. The northern part of the state is generally much colder, with temperatures dipping to -25 C (-13 F) and high volumes of snow are not uncommon. Mountainous regions also have lower temperatures and more precipitation. In New York City, summer temperatures are frequently over 30 C (86 F) and feel hotter because of the humidity, while winter temperatures sometimes dip below -20 C (-4 F) in January. Severe storms called Northeasters sometimes bring moisture from the Atlantic, with heavy winds and rain or snow.
Transportation in New York
While trains provide some service to major cities and the areas surrounding New York City such as Long Island and the Hudson Valley, the best way to get around the rest of the state is by car. Renting a car will allow you to stop at small towns and more remote New York attractions, like nature areas. It’s best to check with the rental company if you’re planning on spending time in New York City: parking can be very expensive and difficult to find, and New York City dwellers are notorious for their aggressive driving. A often-faster alternative is to take public transportation: New York City’s subway system is almost a landmark in and of itself, and busses also provide frequent service. Get a good subway map, and don’t hesitate to ask directions, as it can sometimes be hard to navigate. Taxis are another classic way to get around on your New York holiday while in the city: flag down a yellow cab and buckle up as they zip you around town in no time.