This summer, we sent eight real families to some of the most beautiful places across New York State. The result? Eight incredible vacations filled with outdoor adventures, cultural escapes and some of the tastiest food they could get their hands on. From cascading waterfalls to the “Grand Canyon of the East” let’s go exploring!
The Travelers: Naomi and Josh Davis (the parents), Eleanor (age 6), Samson (age 5) & Conrad (age 2)
Where they went: Adirondacks & Saratoga Springs
The Deets: Naomi, also known as Taza, traveled to the beautiful Adirondacks and charming Saratoga Springs with her husband and three kids. Starting in New York City, they headed upstate to find new adventures like horseback riding at Stony Creek Ranch, touring Saratoga National Historical Park, cruising with the Lake George Steamboat Company and much more!
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• Soak in the natural beauty of Lake George by cruising the water with the Lake George Steamboat Company. Celebrating its 200th anniversary in 2017, this historical icon is the place to enjoy cruises, tours and special events on the sparkling waterfront.
• For adventure seekers, head over to Stony Creek Ranch for horse and pony rides, kayaking on the Hudson, starry night bonfires and much more.
• The site of a key battle in the Revolutionary War, Saratoga National Historical Park offers guided tours, battle reenactments and a time-hop through history.
Old Fort Niagara
The Travelers: Matt Dallas & Blue Hamilton (the parents), Crow (age 3)
Where they went: Greater Niagara & Buffalo
The Deets: Matt and Blue along with their 3-year-old son Crow shipped off from Los Angeles, CA to explore Greater Niagara and Buffalo. You might recognize Matt as Kyle XY from the hit series on ABC Family. Matt and his family spent 2 days in Greater Niagara and 2 days in Buffalo. From feeling the mist of the breathtaking Niagara Falls, exploring the Cave of the Winds, and Old Fort Niagara to celebrating Buffalo’s 2017 Pride Festival at Canalside, there’s no doubt they had a great time!
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• Experience Niagara Falls up close with Maid of the Mist or Cave of the Winds boat tours. It's the perfect way to cool off or just feel the natural mist of the falls because one thing is for certain--you're going to get soaked.
• History buff or not, pay a visit to Old Fort Niagara, a stunning waterfront fortress where you can tour the grounds, see the museum and travel back in time with special reenactments.
• Celebrating its 200th anniversary in 2017, the Erie Canal should be experienced in person and there's no better way than navigating the waters with Lockport Locks & Erie Canal Cruises.
• Feast on mouth-watering Buffalo chicken wings at Anchor Bar then head down to vibrant Canalside where you can enjoy an evening sail on the Spirit of Buffalo, visit the Buffalo and Erie County Naval & Military Park and much more.
Long Acre Farms
The Travelers: Ava & Alexis, "The McClure Twins" (age 3), along with mom, dad & nanna
Where they went: Finger Lakes
The Deets: The McClure Twins, along with their parents and nanna, spent 4 days exploring the gorgeous Finger Lakes region. Fun, hands-on learning was in full swing at the Strong National Museum of Play, Rochester Museum and Science Center, as well as at the Susan B. Anthony House and Harriet Tubman National Historical Park -- two stops on New York State’s guide to equal rights (you can download it right here). Their trip was topped off with a visit to Seabreeze Amusement Park and Long Acre Farms. No matter where these twins go, they’re having a blast!
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Stay: Hilton Garden Inn
• Learning just got way more fun at the Strong National Museum of Play, an interactive museum devoted to history and exploration of play--you’re guaranteed to have a great time.
• Discover the history and people that who stood for equal rights in New York by visiting the Harriet Tubman National Historical Park. A leader on the Underground Railroad, you can visit and tour her former home in Auburn where the history of abolitionism come to life.
• In honor of the 100th anniversary of women’s right to vote in New York State, visit the Susan B. Anthony House for tours, special exhibits and more on the women’s Suffrage Movement.
• Retreat into the Finger Lakes landscape at Long Acre Farms where the outdoor play area, maze and more brings fun for the whole family.
• For those who want to cool off on their summer getaway, head to Seabreeze Amusement Park, a historic water park on the shores of Lake Ontario. Then enjoy a treat at Simply Crepes or Pittsford Dairy before setting off to your next destination.
• Show kids the fun of science and technology at the Rochester Museum and Science Center where interactive exhibits and planetarium shows provide fun for all ages.
Sky High Adventure Park
The Travelers: Eric Ward and Marna (the parents), Chelsea (age 13), Jocelyn (age 10) & Cole (age 7)
Where they went: Chautauqua-Allegheny and Letchworth State Park
The Deets: Eric along with his 3 children and wife traveled from Ohio to Chautauqua-Allegheny and Letchworth State Park. You may recognize his work from Through The Lens, a web series that explores the aesthetics of photography. They rode a hot air balloon over Letchworth featuring breathtaking views of the Upper Falls, they conquered Sky High Adventure Park, they shared laughs at the Lucille Ball Desi Arnaz Museum & Center for Comedy and kicked back on Chautauqua Lake--they had a New York adventure!
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• The Lucy Desi Museum & Center for Comedy is the place to laugh, catch a live show and dive into the rich culture of television. The first woman to run a major Hollywood studio, Lucille Ball was raised in Jamestown before hitting the stage of I Love Lucy.
• Holiday Valley Sky High Adventure Park is the highest aerial and ropes course in New York State, not to mention the 3rd highest in the whole country!
• Experience the world from high in the sky at this ropes course or from a hot air balloon over Letchworth State Park, also known as the Grand Canyon of the East.
• Griffis Sculpture Park features works of sculpture art that are just as stunning as the surrounding hills in its landscape.
• Step into nature’s beauty at Chautauqua Lake or head over to Panama Rocks, a stunning park filled with 60-foot-high rock-forming crevices, passageways and caves woven into an ancient forest. Great for families, check out the main one-mile hiking trail or venture off to explore more!
Mohonk Mountain House
The Travelers: Christine and Cody Andrew, Mara (age 9), Wes (age 5) & Beckam (age 3)
Where they went: Catskills and Hudson Valley
The Deets: Christine, Cody and the kids flew in from Salt Lake City, Utah and headed up to the beautiful Catskills and Hudson Valley region, an easy drive from NYC, where nature and adventure await. From breathtaking Kaaterskill Falls and kayaking at Mohonk Mountain House to visiting Eleanor Roosevelt National Historic Site and taking in the view at Walkway Over the Hudson--their journey was unforgettable!
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Stay: Mohonk Mountain House
• Head to the tallest two-tiered falls in New York State, Kaaterskill Falls. This cascading waterfall in the heart of the Catskill Mountains will reveal nature’s awe-inspiring beauty.
• From boating on the lake to hiking the Shawangunk mountains, Mohonk Preserve is the place of your next adventure.
• When you’re not exploring bike trails or shorelines, learn about one of America's most prolific First Ladies at the Eleanor Roosevelt National Historic Site where her famed home, Val-Kill awaits.
• Visit Walkway Over the Hudson, the longest pedestrian bridge in the world for unbeatable views of the Hudson River and beyond.
• Complete your Catskill getaway with a visit to Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary where a guided farm tour allows you to visit with the rescued farm animals and experience the area.
Sunset over Oneida Lake
The Travelers: Ilana Wiles (the mom), Mazzy (age 7) & Harlow (age 4)
Where they went: Central New York
The Deets: The fun, food and natural beauty of Central New York are not lost on this family. Spending 3 days exploring destinations like Howe Caverns, Oneida Lake, Fly Creek Cider Mill & Orchard and more, their summer is brimming with new experiences. You may recognize Ilana as the author of Remarkably Average Parenting, let’s go explore with her!
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• Cave Tours of Howe Caverns are famous for a reason--they’re a journey below the earth’s surface where limestone corridors and a stunning subterranean riverbed await.
• Do your taste buds a favor and stop over at Fly Creek Cider Mill & Orchard, a historic, water-powered mill with specialty foods, take-aways and tastings.
• Animal Adventure Park, an interactive education center, promotes learning and love for animals through hands-on learning. Discover the animal kingdom including monkeys, zebras, kangaroos and giraffes. Speaking of which, make sure you say hello to April, a mother giraffe who became world-famous when she gave birth to Taj just a few months ago!
• Erie Canal Cruises, offering special sightseeing trips as well as morning and evening cruises, is the best way to experience the historic canal which celebrates its 200th anniversary in 2017!
• Fuel up for the day with breakfast at Pancake House, then head to Chittenango Falls State Park for a dive into nature’s beauty. But hurry back before nightfall--the sunsets over Oneida Lake are not to be missed.
Watkins Glen State Park
The Travelers: Gina Homolka and Tom Desena (the parents) & Madison (age 7)
Where they went: Finger Lakes
The Deets: Gina and her daughter spent 3 days exploring the lush, rolling hills of the Finger Lake region. You may recognize this traveler as the co-author of the New York Times best-selling book Skinnytaste Fast and Slow. And when she’s not writing, she’s traveling the world looking for great eats. Her latest stop was the Finger Lake region right here in New York State. Gina and Madison experienced the wonder of making their own glass at the Corning Museum of Glass, 19 stunning waterfalls at Watkins Glen State Park and much more!
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• Home to the largest collection of glass and glass art in the world, the Corning Museum of Glass is dedicated to the craft, knowledge and preservation of glassblowing. Check out demonstrations, tours and special events -- you can even create your own glass masterpiece to take home through the “Make Your Own Glass” experience. This museum should be on everyone’s bucket list.
• Walk the Gorge Trail at Watkins Glen State Park where cascading waterfalls descend over rock cliffs down into a magnificent 400-foot gorge. It’s ranked among the best state parks in the United States. The sandstone and limestone cliffs are truly awe-inspiring.
• Beak & Skiff, named the #1 apple orchard in the country by USA Today, is a must-visit. With apple-picking, 1911 hard cider and wine tastings, kids play area, food, field trips and more, you won't want to miss this place.
• With BBQ wings, brisket and tasty mac-n-cheese, save your appetite for the deliciousness of Dinosaur Bar-B-Que. An upstate New York staple that every BBQ lover should experience, feast on their acclaimed menu at the original restaurant in downtown Syracuse.
Lavender by the Bay
The Travelers: Sai (the mom), London Scout (age 4) & Rio Dash (age 3 months)
Where they went: Long Island
The Deets: When she’s not sharing the latest lifestyle trends on Scout The City, Sai, is exploring with her adorable daughter London, also known as "Scout," and son Rio. They headed out east to Long Island where lavender fields, lush vineyards and white sand beaches have made the East End a must-visit summer time spot.
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Stay: Hyatt East End
• The Hamptons have long been a dreamer’s paradise for summer vacations, and a trip to East Hampton's Main Beach is the perfect way to enjoy sun, sand and salt on the oceanfront.
• Spend a whole day soaking up the rays or you can explore the colorful world of Lavender by the Bay, a real lavender farm that’s brimming with a gorgeous sea of purple.
• Cool off at Splish Splash Water Park, a perfect family spot to relax on the lazy river, rush down the water slides, dive into the wave pool and much more!
• Explore the Cradle of Aviation Museum, Long Island's air and space museum, where over 30 hands-on exhibits, 75 air and space crafts and an awesome planetarium will have you and the family in awe.