This March, I LOVE NY rounded up 32 of the Empire State's best warm-weather travel destinations and faced them off in a March Madness style bracket. After more than 50,000 votes, Boldt Castle in the the 1000 Islands region emerged victorious. But the real winner is anyone who spends this summer visiting all the amazing things New York State has to offer. To get you started, here's a rundown of all the fantastic sites that competed in our bracket last month.
1. Boldt Castle
Congratulations to our March Madness bracket winner, Boldt Castle! Built in 1900 at the bidding of millionaire hotel magnate George C. Boldt as a tribute to his beloved wife, Louise, the picturesque Rhineland-style castle is one of New York's most gorgeous summer attractions. Visitors can get to Boldt Castle on Heart Island by tour boat, water taxi or private vessel, and explore its grounds and outbuildings on a self-guided tour. It opens for the season on May 6, so start planning your visit today.
Spend some time basking in the glory of the "Grand Canyon of the East." The Genesee River roars through the gorge over three massive waterfalls, as tall as 600 feet. With 66 miles of hiking trails, paths for horseback riding, whitewater rafting, kayaking, swimming pools and even hot air ballooning, Letchworth State Park is the ideal place for the active nature lover to ring in summer.
This scenic park is situated in the rugged mountains rising from the west bank of the Hudson River. With a large play field, shaded picnic groves, lake and river fishing access - plus a swimming pool and zoo - Bear Mountain state park is the ideal destination for hiking, biking, fishing, swimming and all of your family's favorite outdoor activities.
Howe Caverns is the second most visited natural New York attraction, just after Niagara Falls. It is the largest cave open to the public in the Northeast, and offers everything from guided tours to underground boat rides to zip lines to gemstone mining!
The world-renowned Wild Center is a nature experience of a lifetime. Spend the afternoon wandering wildlife exhibits, watching otters swim, taking a guided canoe trip, roaming nature trails and more. Don't forget to stroll the Wild Walk, an elevated trail that takes you across the treetops. You'll see Mother Nature from an entirely new - and unforgettable - perspective.
The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum will thrill die-hard fans, but nonfans and casual fans will still find plenty of fun here. From Derek Jeter's cleats to a brick from the tavern owned by Babe Ruth, this three-story building on Cooperstown's Main Street has everything related to America's pastime. Its crowning jewel is the Plaque Gallery, where you can browse the more than 300 Hall of Fame members' bronze visages honoring their achievements.
Soak in some history and then some rays at Fort Ticonderoga, an 18th-century fort that sits on the south end of Lake Champlain in Northern New York. Originally French, the capture of Fort Ticonderoga by the Americans occurred during the American Revolutionary War in 1775. Check out the exhibits, wander the sprawling grounds, then head to the nearby Lake Champlain for a dip!
Canalside is a development at the heart of Buffalo's waterfront revitalization, hosting a wide array of activities and events daily. From art classes to concerts to games and other activities, this recreational area is a prime location to experience the essence of Erie Canal and have some fun in the process.
9. Brewery Ommegang
Once the nation's biggest hop producer, Cooperstown is now a national hot spot for tasting brews. Take a tour of the award-winning Brewery Ommegang, sample their year-round Belgian-style ales and seasonal and specialty brews, then pop into the retail store to pick up some fine cheeses, Belgian chocolates and (of course) beer!
The Great New York State Fair is one of the oldest and biggest in all of the United States. Here, you can delight in traditional fair favorites such as agriculture displays, livestock demonstrations and midway rides. Want something served on a stick? Eat up delicious fried fare and wash it down with a New York State brew or the world renowned "wine-slushie". The Great New York State Fair offers a variety of family fun activities along with cultural presentations and world famous entertainment acts!
Syracuse is home to the original Dinosaur Bar-B-Q, which has been rated as America's best barbecue by Good Morning America - a title that should not be taken lightly. Try some of their famous honky-tonk ribs, and take some of their special barbecue sauce home with you to spice up your life!
"Springwood", lifelong home of 32nd President Franklin D. Roosevelt, is bountiful with attractions including the Rose Garden grave sites, stables, grounds and hiking trails. The site is also home to the beloved American president's private retreat, Top Cottage, one of the first houses in the country to be built entirely free of barriers for wheelchair accessibility.
Take a step back in time to a groovy little place called Bethel Woods. Home to the 1969 Woodstock Festival, Bethel Woods remains an arts and culture hub, hosting the Center for Arts and Museum. It's the perfect place to catch a show or indulge your artistic side.
Get sprayed by one of nature's most majestic creations. Take your family on this guided boat ride to the base of the American and Horseshoe Falls at Niagara Falls. The kids will be awestruck by the grandiosity of the falls, and they'll learn a little about the natural form along the way.
Looking for thrills and chills this summer? Explore Western New York's Darien Lake, which boasts six coasters, including the Ride of Steel, the tallest and fastest roller coaster in New York, plus a water park to cool you off during the warmer months. The amusement park opens for the season on May 6.
With approximately ten new exhibits each year along with permanent favorites like the full-sized Iroquois longhouse, the New York State Museum hosts more than 750,000 visitors annually, making it one of the largest cultural & natural history attractions in New York State.
Whiz around on a zipline to get an aerial tour of breathtaking Hunter Mountain. It's the longest and highest zipline canopy tour in Northern America - so in addition to the immersive, once-in-a-lifetime experience, you'll also have sweet bragging rights.
18. Long Island North Fork Wine Trail
Long Island is North America's most diverse wine region, and with about 40 wineries along the North Fork Wine Trail alone, you could spend days sampling the wide range of high quality wines in nearly every style. A helpful tip: use Long Island's Wine Country guide to pick the best options for your taste buds, and start sippin'.
Experience the thrill of thundering hooves as the finest thoroughbreds in the world compete at Saratoga Race Course. Saratoga began racing horses in 1863, and the Course retains a charm and old-world elegance that can only be found in "the Spa City." Much more than a horse racing venue, spending an afternoon at the course means being part of a festival atmosphere that includes great local food, live music, and people watching opportunities galore as the locals come out in their best dress, and the competition for best hat is almost as contested as the race itself.
Celebrate state history with a trip to Albany to visit the New York State Capitol building, a National Historic Landmark that's more than 100 years old. Marvel at the 19th-century architectural grandeur and learn more about the our great state's government. Bring the whole family and you'll give your kids a leg up in their next history class!
Lake Placid was home to not one, but two winter Olympic games making it a bucket-list-worthy location for any sports aficionado. Visit the Olympic Center to see where competitions were held during both games, wander Olympic Village and more. You can even take a bobsled ride - year round!
22. Anchor Bar
Anchor Bar is the spot where the Buffalo Wing was reportedly invented just over fifty years ago. Today it's a family-friendly eatery, and there's no better place for real Buffalo-style wings.
The New York Botanical Garden, celebrating its 125th anniversary this year, is a wonderland of nature in the middle of the Bronx. Neighbor to the Bronx Zoo, the gardens feature more than a million plants on 250 acres. It's a place for study, for enchantment and for exploration.
Take a trip to Rochester to visit the National Susan B. Anthony House & Museum, where the women's suffrage pioneer lived and was arrested in 1872 for daring to vote. The house was also the headquarters of the National Women's Suffrage Association while Anthony was the association president. Read through her research and get to discover some of her most cherished possessions.
Head to the Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz Museum in Jamestown where you'll find artifacts celebrating the beloved comedy icon that'd impress even the most dedicated I Love Lucy fan. While you're there, make sure to check out the museum's reconstruction of the Tropicana Room - the club on the original TV show where Ricky Ricardo performed.
This National Historic Site is America's premier leadership institution, dating back to 1802. Today the scenic grounds are open for regular public tours and events.
Kaaterskill Falls is a two-drop waterfall located in Haines Falls that is a frequent muse for Hudson River School painters. The highest cascading waterfall in New York State, the Falls drop more than 260 feet.
Take a step back in history at the Montauk Point Lighthouse. The oldest lighthouse in the state, Montauk Point Lighthouse was authorized by President George Washington, and construction was completed in 1792. In addition to the incredible views it offers, the lighthouse also features a museum.
The largest sculpture park in North America has 250 works on 450 acres, as well as a variety of natural habitats including forests, ponds, wetlands and alpine meadows. The possibilities for exploration are almost endless.
This museum has something to offer kids of all ages. With fun, educational exhibits that teach children about world cultures, history, science and nature, including live animals and a collection of 30,000 historical artifacts, even parents will enjoy a trip to the Brooklyn Children's Museum. There's even a special area for little kids under five, with activities specially geared toward the youngest of youngsters and how they learn.
As the United States' premier freshwater nautical museum and home to the longest running antique boat show, the Antique Boat Museum is your go-to destination for boating history. See boats from the St. Lawrence River, row a St. Lawrence skiff in French Bay, tour George Boldt's 1904 106-foot houseboat and take a speedboat ride through the islands in a triple cockpit runabout.
Bathe in the Atlantic, picnic, play and even hit a round of golf at the Robert Moses State Park. An ocean beach-front park and neighboring facility that attracts nearly 3.8 million visitors annually, the park boasts a shoreline of nearly five miles in Long Island.