My New Year’s Resolution: Visit Every County in New York
COVID has made out-of-state travel iffy, so join CRL travel writer Alexandra Baackes in exploring the best of the Empire State’s 62 counties.
I’m sure I wasn’t the only Upstate New Yorker happy to toast the end of 2020. Most of us were aware, though, that once the clock ticked past midnight, it wouldn’t necessarily be a magical “fresh start” or end to our troubles.
January, which has already slipped us by, is traditionally the busiest month of the year for travel bookings, because folks start focusing on their resolutions and prioritizing their biggest goals, and that often translates to travel. But I know of very few people who have begun booking European adventures or Caribbean cruises; there are just too many question marks surrounding 2021 still.
If last year taught me anything, it was how much there is to discover in my own backyard (see my travel guide to the Finger Lakes in the last issue). In fact, it’s that ethos that has inspired my super-attainable, local-pride-fueled New Year’s travel resolution: to visit every county in New York.
The best resolutions are specific and measurable, so I’ve set up a few guidelines to focus on during my county-crushing adventure. While I won’t have to actually stay in a hotel or Airbnb for a night in each county to make my trip “official,” simply driving through county after county won’t cut it. This journey is all about making memories, which requires some exploring.
It turns out that there are 62 counties in New York, and upon further inspection, with a map in hand and my own synapses firing, I calculated that I’ve already been to 23, or just over a third of them. Some of them I ticked off ages ago: Albany, Rensselaer and Schenectady counties (during my youth), as well as New York, Kings, Bronx and Queens (thank you, college years). Others I’ve been lured to by family and friends include Monroe County (I have a sister in Rochester) and Onondaga (I attended a wedding in Syracuse). Additionally, outdoor concerts (remember those?) inspired plenty of county-hopping road trips in the past, with regular trips to Saratoga County for shows at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center and one extremely memorable night in Nassau County for a Spice Girls reunion show. Good old-fashioned adventure is what brought me to most of the counties, though. Boating trips up in Lake George introduced me to Warren County, and the world-famous falls brought me to Niagara County.
Last year, with my world a little smaller, I really stepped up my Empire State exploration game. In Columbia County, I discovered intimate wineries and wandered the outdoor galleries of Art Omi. In Dutchess County, I stayed at Hotel Caravana, a chic, renovated Airstream outside a vintage drive-in theater, and in Orange County, I dined, waterside, at Hudson Taco before scoping out a few hip boutiques and colorful murals.
A little further afield, I spent time in Suffolk County (camping and wine-drinking), Chemung County (hiking at the Tanglewood Nature Center), Schuyler County (scoping out Watkins Glen), Steuben County (glassblowing) and Tompkins County (glamping in Ithaca).
This year’s wish list includes a ski trip in the Catskills (Greene County), visiting The Wild Center (Franklin County), breathing in some fresh air in Letchworth State Park (Livingston/Wyoming Counties), checking out the 700,000 sunflowers blooming at Frederick Farms in Clifton Springs (Ontario County) and investigating Griffis Sculpture Park in East Otto (in the mouthful that is Cattaraugus County).
If I’m doing the math right, I still have 39 counties to go to complete my list—but only five more issues of Capital Region Living this year to cover them. OK, so I’m not going to get to all of them, but I’ll pick some highlights, and well, if you’d like to take some side trips on your own, I won’t hold it against you.
Grab your keys, a toothbrush, towel and some face masks–and let’s go!