A sense of awakening and freshness fills the air as spring takes hold of the Empire State. It’s a great time to explore some of the exciting new things to do and see across New York.
To help chart the way, I LOVE NEW YORK has checked in with all 11 vacation regions and compiled a sampling of some of the Empire State’s newest ways for locals, and visitors, to play, stay and have fun, from curated cider tastings to the highly-interactive and nostalgic Toy Halls of Fame.
NEW THINGS TO DO AND NEW PLACES TO GO
Mountain bikers will find a number of new trails for all levels of expertise, thanks to volunteer organisations including Barkeater Trails Alliance (BETA), a project of the Adirondack Ski Touring Council. In Wilmington, one of BETA’s ongoing projects is the Flume Trail Network, located on the West Branch of the Ausable River, offering smooth single tracks and technical climbs. A half hour drive from Wilmington, the Ausable Chasm Mountain Bike Center offers 15 miles of mountain bike trails, including beginner cruising and intermediate loops with double-track and single track trails. The advanced loop features steeper hills and narrower paths through miles of unspoiled forest. For more expert riding, the Wickham Marsh State Trails are connected to Ausable’s trails, leading riders through the marsh, downhill to Lake Champlain. Learn more at: visitadirondacks.com.
Albany will soon have more than 38,000 square feet of new meeting space in two venues. Slated for an early 2017 opening, the $66.5 million Albany Capital Center will be a versatile multipurpose space for between 10 and 5,000 people. The venue will include 22,500 square feet of ballroom/exhibit space, six meeting rooms and 13,500 square feet of pre-function space. Also on track for early 2017, the 17,000-seat Times Union Center is undergoing a $15.7 million renovation to enclose its atrium and create 2,800 square feet of additional meeting space. For details, visit: www.albanycapitalcenter.com or www.timesunioncenter-albany.com.
Windham Mountain Resort, host of the annual Union Cycliste Internationale Mountain Bike World Cup for four of the past five years, has opened a Lift-Serviced Mountain Bike Park with downhill trails catering to pro- and intermediate- level riders along with a skills park and a pump track. The bike park, developed in partnership with Gravity Logic, the creator of Bike Park at Whistler – Blackcomb in Canada,features two expert downhill trails, the UCI World Cup Downhill and Citizens Downhill, and two intermediate jump trails. Other recent improvements to the resort include a new entry and access road, the Alpine Spa at Windham Mountain Resort, the Windham Country Club public/private golf course, new condominiums and additional renovations at Winwood Inn and the Adventure Park. Learn more at: www.windhammountain.com.
The 19th-century painter Thomas Cole built an art studio in Catskill with gingerbread woodwork and Hudson River views. Although the original studio was torn down in the early 1970s, his nearby house, known as Cedar Grove, has been preserved as the Thomas Cole National Historic Site. This summer, contractors are finishing a reproduction of Cole’s studio on its original foundation, basing it on vintage photos, sketches and paintings. It is clad in buff clapboards and trimmed along the roofline in mahogany acorn pendants. Cole’s foundation stones have been recycled for its base. Its interior, with ceilings 19 feet high, will be used for exhibitions and programs focused on the artist and his influence on America’s cultural landscape. Learn more at: www.thomascole.org.
A new travel experience in the Catskills, the Kaaterskill Clove Experience is a series of self-guided treks into the wilderness to explore the region’s historic sites, hiking trails and cultural attractions. Hikes include the Adventure Itinerary that winds along the Escarpment Trail, a hiking route that connects to the Long Path, which offers challenging terrain and some of the most breathtaking views in New York State. Learn more at: www.greatnortherncatskills.com/kaaterskill-clove.
Central New York:
Schoharie County’s Beverage Trail is a new state-certified culinary trail dedicated to creating distilled, brewed and fermented beverages from locally grown ingredients. The trail makes it easy for visitors to enjoy samplings of beverages produced by local distilleries, wineries, meaderies and breweries, and to shop and dine at local businesses. Visit www.schohariecountybeveragetrail.com to learn more.
A new $4 million high-tech Toy Halls of Fame opened at the Strong National Museum of Play in fall of 2015. The new exhibit features enticing displays that guests can interact with in humorous ways. For example, visitors can step up to a 20-foot bubble tower to create virtual bubbles that can be moved and popped by motion-capture technology, orchestrate a music and light show with a Crayon Piano, use cranks, pulleys and cords to interact with a 20-foot-tall kinetic toy sculpture made of building blocks and a toy car race track, or pose in front of an oversized Etch a Sketch for a virtual portrait that can be shared with friends and family. Visit: www.museumofplay.org.
Syracuse has a new performing arts space. The Lakeview Amphitheater on Onondaga Lake, designed by Westlake Reed Leskosky, who also designed Bethel Woods Perform Arts Center in Bethel, opened this year. The amphitheatre offers both covered and lawn seating, affording lovely views of the water and downtown Syracuse, and an event space with a deck overlooking the lake for private events. Rather than concession stands, the park surrounding the theater is lined with concrete concession pads to accommodate food trucks and other vendors. The lakefront site also includes recreational biking and hiking trails. A 2016 concert schedule is available online: www.ongovconcerts.com.
Kirby Hill Farm in Pawling, a modern equestrian centre situated on 247 acres of rolling Dutchess County countryside, opened this year. The 5-star equestrian facility provides horse enthusiasts with premium boarding, training and recreational options for nearly every discipline and skill level and offers boarders top level equestrian care that includes 85 stalls and more than 30 paddocks. The centre offers two indoor riding arenas, three outdoor rings including dressage court, jumping arena and an all-purpose ring. There is also a competition level cross country course, hacking throughout Kirby Hill’s hundreds of acres, numerous turn outs and paddocks, and a hot-walker for horse conditioning. Riding arenas, engineered to provide horses with excellent footing, are cushioned yet firm and raked every morning to assure both horse and rider of uniform going. Instruction is open to children and adults of all ages, from beginner through advanced levels and is available in hunter/jumper, equitation, dressage, cross-country, trails and polo. To learn more visit: www.kirbyhillfarm.com.
The Long Island Rail Road makes it easy to explore Long Island from New York City without a car, thanks to a variety of escorted and independent packages. An ever-growing number of options include golf and tennis outings, escorted tours of Montauk and independent trips to the Resorts World Casino. For details, visit: http://web.mta.info/lirr/getaways/longisland.
Mountain Bikers will find miles of great terrain for all abilities at High Flats State Forest/Seven Springs Trails in Colton, one of four areas in the Adirondack Seaway Region maintained by the St. Lawrence County Mountain Bike Association. To learn more visit: www.northcountryguide.com/pages/cyclemountain-bike.
NEW PLACES TO STAY
Now accepting bookings for summer 2016, the new $40 million Saratoga Casino Hotel at Saratoga Casino and Raceway will offer 117 rooms and 3,000-plus square feet of space. To learn more, visit: www.saratogacasino.com.
Embassy Suites by Hilton Saratoga Springs, which opened in 2015, offers 149 suites and 6,000 square feet meeting space. The hotel offers an indoor pool, fitness centre, free breakfast and evening receptions. For more information, visit http://embassysuites3.hilton.com/en/hotels/new-york/embassy-suites-by-hilton-saratoga-springs-ALBESES/index.html.
The Renaissance Albany, an upscale 204-room hotel on State Street in downtown Albany, opened in early October following a $48 million renovation. It is located on the site of the historic DeWittt Clinton Hotel and the renovation utilized many of the original wood paneling and marble floors. The hotel’s Wellington Restaurant and Lounge features small plate, high end American fare and mixology inspired beverage options. The hotel will eventually be connected to the Albany Capital Center, the new convention centre being planned for downtown Albany. To learn more, visit: www.marriott.com/hotels/travel/albbr-renaissance-albany-hotel/
The five-room North Branch Inn in North Branch opened in November 2015. Set in an early 1900s home, its unusual features include a two-lane wood bowling alley and a small movie theatre with seats from Radio City Music Hall. Its restaurant, the Bar Room, features dishes built on Catskills and New York State ingredients. Additional rooms are planned in neighboring buildings. The owners also run Arnold House, a 10-room property in the town of Livingston Manor, just 15 minutes away. To learn more visit: www.northbranchinn.com
Two new hotels are under construction in the town of Ulster – a 92-room Marriott Residence Inn and a 102-room Holiday Inn Express.
The Spruceton Inn in West Kill offers “bed and bar” and a hip take on classic mountain design. Set amid acres of meandering meadows, the inn provides hammocks, barbecues, lawn games and a bar serving beer, wine and whiskey. Rooms start at $75 a night. Visit:www.sprucetoninn.com.
Owned and operated by a French expat, Harvey House is a boutique four-suite inn in Catskill on the banks of Catskill Creek. The inn offers stylish, eclectic accommodations that feature original artwork by Catskills artists. Guests can also enjoy and purchase the original artwork around the inn. Room rates start at $75 per night. Visit: www.harveyhouseny.com.
The Hudson Valley Resort and Spa in Kerhonkson was sold to HNA Group for $13.8 million in November. The new owner, a China-based international company with 440 hotels worldwide, plans to upgrade the former Borscht Belt resort, which opened in the late 1950s as the Granit Resort. The 400-plus acre property, nestled into the Shawangunk Mountains, has an 18-hole golf course, two gourmet restaurants, indoor and outdoor swimming pools and a full-service European health spa. Visit: www.hudsonvalleyresort.com.
Central New York:
A new Fairfield Inn & Suites recently opened in Utica. The hotel features free Wi-Fi, breakfast, and pool and fitness centre. The hotel is located next to SUNY Polytechnic Institute, three miles from Nano Utica and the Quad C facilities. For details, visit: http://www.marriott.com/hotels/travel/ucafi-fairfield-inn-and-suites-utica.
A 124-room Hyatt Place Hotel, the first Hyatt Place in Niagara Falls, is slated to open next year on Rainbow Boulevard. Across the street, on the site of the former Rainbow Centre Mall, is a proposed development called Wonder Falls Resort. Plans include a 300-room hotel with a new 15-story tower, an indoor splash park and a series of sports bars and restaurants along with other family-friendly attractions.
NEW PLACES TO EAT AND DRINK
Embark Craft Ciderworks in Williamson recently opened its taproom and released its first hard cider varietals, which use apples sourced from Lagoner Farms and other local growers. The taproom features Embark’s ciders in a tasting flight as well as a farm-to-table menu featuring ingredients from local farms. Menu options include cheese and charcuterie boards as well as lunch and dinner options that complement Embark’s hard ciders. Several of its varieties have already won awards. To learn more, visit: www.facebook.com/embarkcraftciderworks.
EXPANSIONS AND IMPROVEMENTS
There’s a lot happening in the Catskills, thanks to a series of actions to improve and promote tourism in the The Catskills region announced by Governor Cuomo on October 23, 2015. These include hosting the first annual Catskill Challenge in summer 2016. Governor Cuomo also unveiled a $7.3 million plan to modernise the gateway to Minnewaska State Park Preserve and better accommodate the growing number of visitors to the stunning Shawangunk destination. In addition, New York State will launch a $5 million Catskills region tourism ad campaign to draw visitors from around the world. The Governor made these announcements while on a “Ride the Catskills” Motorcycle Tour launching The Ride the Catskills website and theme-based itineraries were developed in partnership with Catskill Association for Tourism Services. To learn more, visit http://www.dec.ny.gov/lands/102119.html.
Central New York:
Central New York recently launched a new website highlighting their Brew Central and CNY Fresh initiatives as well as Outdoor Adventure. The region has more than 560 farms, agri-businesses and attractions as well as locavore restaurants, family agri-fun and sweet treat and craft brew trails. Visitors can choose from 63 farmers markets, 46 U-picks, 84 specialty shops and 65 breweries, hard cideries, spirits, craft pubs and wineries. To learn more, visit: www.visitcentralnewyork.com.
New York City
The $5 million renovation of LaGuardia Plaza Hotel in Queens has just been completed and now offers guests who are traveling for business or leisure a first-class experience at an affordable price just three minutes from La Guardia Airport. This project included renovations for many of the guest rooms and 9,000 square feet of flexible meeting space as well as a redesign of the hotel’s lounge and new amenities. The property also features a heated indoor pool and Jacuzzi, health and fitness centre, and two onsite restaurants. The Pavilion Grille serves a variety of healthy and seasonal breakfast options daily, and the new Elements Lounge features wholesome American cuisine and cocktails for lunch and dinner. To learn more, visit www.laguardiaplazahotel.com.
About New York State
New York State features 11 beautiful vacation regions. New York’s attractions span from landmarks such as Niagara Falls to the wine trails of Hudson Valley and treasures like the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. Whether it’s wide-ranging outdoor activities for the whole family like hiking, culinary wonders and farm-to-table fresh foods, or exploring the rich history and culture of one of the 13 original colonies, New York State offers diverse activities for all travelers. For more information, visit www.iloveny.com. Media can find press releases and more at http://www.iloveny.com/thebeat.