I've actually only been to NYC for the airports. So there's no way I can claim to be an expert there. But I spent 5 years living in Rochester, NY for college. And I've been living in Glens Falls (north of Albany) in upstate New York since 2006. So I've got a fairly good experience there. And I've been all around NY State in between.
And yes, MOST of New York is small towns (there are actually more cows in NY State than there are people). There are tons of windy country roads and beautiful views of mountains and lakes.
In most of New York, only US dollars are accepted. But if you travel closer to the border with Canada, near Plattsburgh or Niagara Falls (USA side), they will accept Canadian Dollars a.k.a Loonies. But if you have a credit card issued from another country with a major logo (Visa, American Express, etc) youíll be able to use that pretty much everywhere.
Mostly English, but up in Northern New York, near the border with Quebec, Canada, a lot of people will also speak the Canadian version of French (Quťbťcoise).
If youíre coming from another country, you probably flew into NYC. So youíre probably going to take a short commuter jet to one of the other cities in NY. Iíve flown Albany to JFK and Rochester to JFK. Both are small jets with a 1-2 configuration. Iíve also flown Albany to Boston, Massachusetts, which was a 12-passenger prop-plane.
If driving in from Pennsylvania, Connecticut, or Massachusetts, it's easy to take the interstate. Vermont is a little more difficult as there is a lack of East-West roads between the two states. Route 4 will get you to Rutland, and there is a Ferry crossing from Burlington if the lake hasn't frozen over.
Or if youíre driving in from Canada, the border crossings are quick and easy to get through. There are even unmonitored crossings on some of the smaller roads between northern NY and Quebec. But make sure you have a passport, even if you are a U.S. citizen.
Traveling In, Around, or Out of the State
Thereís not a very good public transportation system outside of NYC. There are no subways outside of the NYC area. Each city may or may not have a steady bus schedule.
Rental Car: The easiest method of transportation. There are a lot of small towns in New York that youíd never get to see unless you drove there yourself. If youíre not in a hurry, I highly recommend getting a road map and getting off the interstate onto the multitude of 2-lane roads.
Airlines: The big airlines, American, Delta, Northwest, Continental, US Airways all serve the majority of New York State. If youíre looking for a discount air fare somewhere you can check out:
Jet Blue which serves LaGuardia, JFK, Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, Newburgh, White Plains
Southwest which serves Buffalo, Albany, and Long Island
Taxi: They are available in most of the cities and towns, but you wonít see them driving around like youíd see in NYC or large cities around the world. Normally, you would call ahead to get a taxi to pick you up from wherever you are.
Train: Amtrak runs through most of the major cities of NY State and there are stops in a lot of the smaller towns but as you can see from the Northeast Route Map, you would miss a big chunk of the state.
Buses: Iíve never taken the inter-city buses throughout New York State, but there are many stations located all over the place.
Clothing to Bring
All depends on the time of the year and what youíre coming for. In the summer months, June-September, itís going to be fairly hot and youíll most likely want shorts (but do bring at least a light jacket and pair of long pants, as itís been known to get cold even in July and August. And bring a swimsuit if youíre going to be near Lake George
If youíre coming in the winter, make sure youíve got a heavy coat. In Rochester, the winds off the Lake Ontario can get the windchill to almost -40F. And in Glens Falls where I live now, the temperature in January has been hitting -20F.
Thereís so much good food in NY that I canít even begin to name all the tasty restaurantsÖbut Iíll try.
- You HAVE to go to Nick Tahouís and have a Garbage Plate. Personally, I prefer the cheeseburger plate with mac salad, home fries, meat sauce, mustard, ketchup, and hot sauce. You can have it any way though, take a look at their menu and remember to tip! This place is THE place to go after a night of drinking. The Lyell Ave. location is open 24hrs/day so no matter what time you leave the bar or after-party, you can get one. But these are not for the meek. Back in college, some guys did a calorie burn test of a fully loaded garbage plate, and it topped out well over 4000calories!
- Also you have to check out Dinosaur Bar-B-Que. The flagship store is in Syracuse, but Iíve only been to the one in Rochester. Their famous sauces are sold all over the USA now.
In Glens Falls:
- Make sure to go to Davidson Brothers Brewery to have a pint of site-brewed beer. The food is awesome too. Itís slightly pricey, but well worth it in my opinion. Iím a fan of their double-hop IPA with a Monte Cristo sandwich. And the sweet potato fries are the best Iíve ever had. *NOTE* Their website design is inversely proportional to the quality of the food and beer!
- For breakfast, head to Poopie's. Itís going to be greasy and homemade, but man is it good.
- Also, try the Fort Edward Bakery for cinnamon covered cider donuts.
Places to Go, Things to Do
Thereís really too many to list everything, so hereís what I know of.
- Skiing/Snowboarding at
- Gore Mountain
- Lake Placid
- Titus Mountain
- White Face
- The Great Escape Indoor Waterpark
- Six Flags, Lake George
- Bet on a horse at Saratoga Raceway
- Go cliff-diving in Lake Champlain
- Join the Polar Bear Club in Lake Champlain
- Go on a Finger Lakes Winery tour
- Walk under Niagara Falls (only available on the USA side!)
- Be a kid at the Strong National Museum of Play in Rochester
- Go and listen to the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra
- See who is playing at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center
- Try to score a ride at the Adirondack Balloon Festival
- Check out the hot cars at the Syracuse Nationals
I know I didn't cover everything, so if you've got any more suggestions, feel free to add them in. And if you've got any questions, feel free to ask on here, or send me a message and I'll do my best to help!