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  • Posing with statues of Franklin Delano Roosevelt and his wife Eleanor in Hyde Park, New York
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    History in Hudson Valley and Dutchess County

  • Touring the New York State Capitol Building in Albany
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    Albany: History and Art in New York’s Capital

  • Family exploring the Strong Museum of Play in Rochester, New York
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    The Finger Lakes: Tracing History Through Museums

  • A colorful mural in downtown Buffalo, New York
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    Buffalo and Greater Niagara: Explore Landmark Estates

Posing with a roadside photo booth in Newcomb, New York
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Touring New York State’s Must-see Cultural and Historic Sites

  • Route distance:
    1440.00 km
  • Suggested Time:
    1-2 weeks

From the earliest days of European settlement to its status as one of the original 13 American colonies, New York State has been integral to the history of the USA.

From the big cities to the rural countryside, discover historical and cultural attractions that tell the story of New York’s unique people, places and heritage. This road trip will take you to must-see cultural attractions in four of the state’s regions.

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Posing with statues of Franklin Delano Roosevelt and his wife Eleanor in Hyde Park, New York
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History in Hudson Valley and Dutchess County

Fly into New York City’s John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK), pick up a rental car and you’re on your way to the Hudson Valley. This area was settled by the Dutch in the early 1600s and used heavily during the French and Indian War and the American Revolution. Today, its natural beauty and fertile resources attracts artists and writers, farm-to-table restaurants, wine makers and serenity-seeking tourists. You’ll be inspired when you visit Kykuit, the estate of the powerful Rockefeller family boasting world-class art, impressive architecture and sweeping views of the Hudson River and valley. Explore military history at Fort Putnam and Fortress West Point at West Point U.S. Military Academy, established by George Washington in 1778.

Speaking of influential presidents, visit the Franklin D. Roosevelt National Historic Site, the former residence of the only four-term U.S. president, and the FDR Presidential Library and Museum, both located in Hyde Park. Continuing north, check out the Frank Gehry-designed Richard B. Fisher Center for the Performing Arts. This popular venue hosts a variety of performances and the annual Bard Music Festival. For a fun dining spot, visit the Peekamoose Restaurant & Tap Room in nearby Big Indian. It’s only fitting that this restored farmhouse features delicious, locally-sourced ingredients from area farms. After dinner, kids are welcome to roast marshmallows around the bonfire. Hop back in the car to continue on to the state capital, Albany.

80 km
1.25 hours by car
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Touring the New York State Capitol Building in Albany
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Albany: History and Art in New York’s Capital

Cross over the Hudson River on the Rip Van Winkle Bridge, named after a famous Washington Irving short story that mentions the neighboring towns of Hudson and Catskill. In the Capital Saratoga region, Albany is your next destination, which was founded in the early 1600s and has transformed into a thriving city with a range of high-tech companies and a vibrant downtown. Start your tour at the elegant New York State Capitol building, a National Historic Landmark that was built by hand in 1899. Free guided tours are available. Empire State Plaza has scenic reflecting pools, the New York State Museum, public art installations and “The Egg,” a performing arts theater with a striking architectural design. Stop for lunch before heading to Saratoga National Historical Park where, in 1777, the British Army surrendered for the first time in history. Begin at the visitors’ center, then take the self-guided driving tour to see battlefields, cannons, monuments and other important sites. Venture into the New World Bistro Bar for a truly farm-to-plate menu with fresh ingredients sourced from area farms, bakers, cheese makers and more. Plus, the New York Beef Council rated their burger “best burger in the Capital Region.” Albany is also a fun place to stay overnight before heading farther west into the Finger Lakes region.

233 km
2.25 hours by car
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Family exploring the Strong Museum of Play in Rochester, New York
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The Finger Lakes: Tracing History Through Museums

Stop in Syracuse to visit the Erie Canal Museum, dedicated to the canal that transformed the early U.S. economy. The museum is housed in the circa-1850 Weighlock Building, listed on the National Register of Historic Places and the last of its kind in the United States. Tour the Harriet Tubman Visitor Center, which documents the life of this anti-slavery activist located at the Harriet Tubman National Historical Park. Across Cayuga Lake is the Women’s Rights National Historical Park where the First Women’s Rights Convention in 1848 marked the beginning of the women’s rights movement. Next, it’s off to The Strong Museum of Play in Rochester, an attraction dedicated entirely to the history of games, toys and play. Check out the first Monopoly game, antique comic books, video games, nostalgic toddler toys and much more. Before heading out of Rochester, head to Good Luck, a loft-style restaurant with an open kitchen serving seasonal food and a shareable menu. The Roman-style gnocchi and signature Good Luck Burger are popular menu items. Your final stop is the Lake Erie city of Buffalo.

119 km
1.25 hours by car
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A colorful mural in downtown Buffalo, New York
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Buffalo and Greater Niagara: Explore Landmark Estates

If time allows, you can take the scenic route along Lake Ontario and head south into Buffalo. New York’s often-overlooked second largest city has been rejuvenating and transforming itself when no one else was looking. Visitors can tour the Martin House Complex, the largest home ever designed by Frank Lloyd Wright in its renewed splendor; rock climb and drink craft beer among the ruins of grain silos at RiverWorks and enjoy live performances in reclaimed movie palaces, churches and historic social clubs. Then stay overnight in the new Hotel Henry, with castle-like turrets and an imposing stone façade that are sure to pique your curiosity. The 88-room hotel is located within a National Historic Landmark that formerly functioned as a psychiatric hospital. Around the corner, the Albright-Knox Art Gallery impresses visitors with its world-renowned collection of modern and contemporary art. New restaurants, breweries and distilleries greet visitors at every turn, and a burgeoning public art scene winds its way through the city's neighborhoods. And one of the world’s natural wonders, Niagara Falls, is less than 30 minutes way.  You can return the rental car and catch a flight from the Buffalo Niagara International Airport to JFK, or simply enjoy the scenic drive back across the state.