Road Trip in New York State: Cultural and Historical Highlights

5:03 pm  |  06.11.2021

From the arrival of the first European settlers to the status of one of the original 13 colonies: today’s state of New York is inextricably linked with the history of the United States.


The road trip presented here takes you through four regions of New York with large cities and rural areas. On the way, diverse historical and cultural sights provide fascinating insights into the inhabitants and places steeped in history in this unique state.

Hudson Valley and Dutchess Counties: Historic Sites

Dutchess country

From John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) in New York City, it’s not far by rental car to the Hudson Valley in the north. The region was settled by the Dutch in the early 17th century. At every step, you can still encounter traces of the Seven Years’ War (1754 to 1763) and the American Revolution. Apart from the turbulent past, the area has idyllic natural landscapes and a lively art and literature scene. “Farm-to-table” restaurants and wineries ensure that foodies also get their money’s worth. Kykuit, the stately home of the Rockefellers, impresses with world-class art, imposing architecture, and expansive views over the Hudson River and the valley. 

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In West Point, it is worth visiting the military academy founded by George Washington in 1778, on whose premises Fort Putnam and Fortress West Point can also be visited.

Another important president is in the foreground in Hyde Park: the small town is home to both the Franklin D. Roosevelt National Historic Site, the former residence of the only US president who was elected for four terms, and the FDR Presidential Library with an attached museum. Further north, the popular Richard B. Fisher Center for the Performing Arts designed by Frank Gehry hosts various performances and the annual Bard Music Festival. 

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The nice restaurant Peekamoose in nearby Big Indian is housed in a restored farmhouse and serves delicious dishes made from fresh ingredients from the surrounding farms. After eating, your offspring can roast marshmallows around the campfire. You can then get back in the car and drive to Albany, freshly strengthened.

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Albany: History and Art in the New York Capital

Albany

On the way to the northeast, you cross the Rip Van Winkle Bridge. The bridge over the Hudson River is named after a famous short story by Washington Irving that mentions the neighboring towns of Hudson and Catskill. Your next destination is Albany in the Capital-Saratoga region. The capital of the state of New York was founded in the early 17th century and is now a thriving metropolitan area with several high-tech companies and a lively downtown area. The best place to start your tour is at the elegant Capitol.

The official National Historic Landmark was hand-built in 1899 and can be viewed as part of free tours. The New York State Museum, public art installations, and “The Egg”, a theater with eye-catching architecture, are located around the picturesque reflection basin on the Empire State Plaza. After lunch, continue to Saratoga National Historical Park, the site of the very first surrender of British forces in 1777. After looking around the visitor center, you can drive down the battlefields of the time and explore canyons, monuments, and other important sites. In the New World Bistro Bar, the “farm-to-table” concept is taken literally: All fresh ingredients come from farms, bakeries, or cheese factories in the vicinity.

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The bistro’s burgers were named “Best Burger in the Capital Region” by the New York Beef Council. Albany is also ideal as an overnight accommodation before continuing your road trip with the drive to the Finger Lakes in the west.

The Finger Lakes: Museums of Regional History

For a stopover, head to the Erie Canal Museum in Syracuse, which explores the Erie Canal and its importance for the US economy in the 19th century. 

The Weighlock Building, built around 1850 and in which the museum is located, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is the last building of its kind in the United States. The Harriet Tubman Visitor Center in Harriet Tubman National Historical Park documents the life of the slavery opponent and escape helper of the same name.

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On the other side of Cayuga Lake, the Women’s Rights National Historical Park commemorates the Seneca Falls Convention of 1848 and the beginnings of the women’s rights movement. Things are much more carefree at the Strong Museum of Play in Rochester. The play and toy museum shows, among other things, the first Monopoly game, old comics, video games, and nostalgic toddler toys. Before you leave Rochester, you should stop by the Good Luck. The loft-style restaurant with an open kitchen serves seasonal dishes that are also suitable for sharing. Tip: Try the Roman-style gnocchi and the house specialty, the Good Luck Burger. The last stop on your road trip is in Buffalo on Lake Erie.

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