Not really looking to hop on a plane any time soon to distant destinations, weekend rides down to New York City don't have the same appeal they once had. You know the warnings, avoid crowds, and social distance. Stay home? More and more people are getting back to nature, with weekend camping trips or day drives / rides into the countryside. New York State has a lot to offer for those looking to explore the State. When visitors from out of the country and out of state, plan a trip to New York, they have a picture in their mind of the lights and glitz of Manhattan, but New York is so much more than the tourist destination of New York City. Being born in New York and living here all my life, I can offer you some places you might want to visit during these pandemic times outside of the five Boroughs of New York.
If you head North of Manhattan, the term upstate New York is used for all the destinations about an hour North of the city. While heading North, you will travel into the Hudson Valley, there are small towns founded in the earliest days of this nation’s birth and are worth a stop on your trip North. Tarrytown, Sleepy Hollow, Cold Springs, Beacon are just a few places worth stopping by, to grab something to eat and stretch your legs. A popular motorcycle riding destination is Bear Mountain Park. You will be riding some great twisting roads through the mountains, with unbelievable views of the Hudson River, before you arrive at the park. Bear Mountain Park features a large lake, picnic areas, large field, hiking trails, a swimming pool, skating rink and a trailside Museum and Zoo. For sure worth a visit. Not far from Bear Mountain is West Point Military Academy which is open to the public to visit the grounds.
If you head further North, you come across the town of Newburgh. A must stop is the Motorcyclepedia Museum. Over 85,000 square feet of 600 plus motorcycles from 1897 onward. A complete collection of every year Indian motorcycle ever produced, two Walls of Death, a display of movie and television motorcycle memorabilia, tributes to custom motorcycle builders of the 1960s, 1970's and 1980's including Arlen Ness, Big Daddy Roth and Indian Larry. A huge collection of Harley Davidsons, police, military and European Motorcycles and scooters. Due to COVID-19, the hours the museum is open is limited and pre-booked tickets are advised. Check out their website for further info www.motorcyclepediamuseum.org.
While in Newburgh you can head over to the headquarters of Orange County Choppers. All their TV show motorcycles are on display in their store, for a fee you can get a tour of the fabrication shop, where more than likely you will meet Paul Sr. or Mickey if you go on a weekday. They are happy to pose with you for a photo.
Drive 22 miles North on the New York State Thruway exit to the town of New Paltz. This vibrant village is home to a lively music scene, farm to table eateries, boutiques, cafes, the SUNY New Paltz campus, Minnewaska State Park and historic Mohonk Preserve Park. Check out Robibero Family Vineyards for some of New York's finest wines, kick back on their grounds and listen to the local musicians who perform there on weekends. A totally chill atmosphere to relax and taste some great wine. If craft beer is your thing, Clemson Bros on Main street has a flight of beer waiting for you along with one of their signature burgers. Great riding in this area, and the countryside is really breathtaking. In the fall, there are plenty of farms and orchards for apple and pumpkin picking. A must stop destination.
Drive a little further North and take the exit for Woodstock. The legendary concert was proposed to take place in Woodstock. The Catskill Mountains town was already known for being an artist colony and Bob Dylan's rural hideaway, but key people in the town wanted no part of the concert and the crowds it would draw. Plans fell through about a month before the show, sending co-organizer, Michail Lang, scrambling to find a new site for the 1969 concert. Driving through farm country in Bethel, New York, Lang spotted a sloping field in Bethel, NY. So, the 1969 Woodstock Concert never took place in the town of Woodstock. If you visit Woodstock, the vibe is for sure hippie. Some left over hippies from the 60's still can be seen hanging around, and every weekend, there is a drum circle in the small park on the main street. Not familiar with a drum circle? You bring a drum, bongo drum or other percussion instrument, sit in a circle with a bunch of strangers and bang your drum to a beat set by the circle master. If you are really feeling loose, dance in the middle of the circle. I use the word dance loosely. Plenty of stores selling Tie Die Shirts, incense, candles and other hippie style stuff. Some cool outdoor cafes and beer gardens. If you want to see the site of the Woodstock concert, drive an hour South from Woodstock to the Bethel Woods Museum. A cool Museum depicting memorabilia from the 1969 Woodstock concert as well the actual concert grounds for you to wander around and imagine what it was like that hot Summer weekend of Peace and Love fifty years ago.
While driving / riding around upstate New York, when not on the Thruway, the winding roads will lead you to one small town after the next. Some are worth stopping at, while others you blink and you are already out of the village, but some unexpected hidden gems pop up along the journey. It could be a great BBQ stand or a unique roadside attraction. A few weeks ago, while heading to Woodstock, I took a different route than usual. Up in the distance, I could see a huge metal spaceship outside a roadside store. Gotta stop to check out this place. The sign said Fabulous Furniture and Space Age Artifacts. From rusted out robots, towering metal dinosaurs, aluminum aliens and flamed out hot rods, these were some of the oddities out in the front yard, I couldn't wait to see the inside of the store. Once inside the store, a voice yelled out to us to sanitize our hands. No hello, no welcome, New York attitude is always expected in the city but I was a bit surprised in this area, where people are usually a little friendlier. Sitting behind a mound of unique items was an old lady who watched us like a hawk as we roamed thru the store. Many cool unique pieces of art and furniture but the price tags were like their space age artifacts, simply out of this world. All the creations are the work of Steve Heller. Steve, since a kid always had a love for woodworking. Always looking for unique trees, many he uses for his furniture are rotten or dead. The defects of these trees offer incredible grain patterns for Steve's one of a kind furniture. Having a backyard full of metal antiques his Father collected, Steve took up welding to start creating art out of the pile of metal his Mother asked him to get rid of. Growing up in the 1950's and 1960's being fed a steady stream of alien horror movies and comic books, gave the passion for Steve's Space Age Creations. For sure worth a stop if you are near Boiceville, New York.
Further North, you are in the heart of the Catskill Mountains. Rich with wildlife, hiking trails, ski resorts, lakes and rivers, breathtaking natural attractions like waterfalls and scenic vistas, the 98 peaks of the Catskill Mountains really feels like worlds away from Manhattan. Small towns fill the mountain range, each with their own individual flavor. When I was a kid, I would vacation every Summer in the Catskills. The big attraction was Carson City, a wild west amusement park. The park closed down back in the late 1980's, but it had a good run for almost thirty years. One thing the Catskills is known for is its many campgrounds and RV parks. A new term in the camping world is Glamping. Glamorous camping describes this style of camping. Think canvas style spacious tents with beds, private showers and restrooms for each tent. The idea is you are still camping in the great outdoors, but a lot more comforts you might expect at a resort. Not the tent type, you can step it up even further, why not rent an Air Stream camper for the weekend. An Airstream is a US brand of caravan which is easily recognized by the distinctive shape of their rounded and polished coachwork. This trailer, as we know it today, originated in the USA in the 1930's. I recently found a place in the Catskills called Treetopia Campgrounds. This is one of the few campgrounds that offers Glamping in New York State. I booked an Airstream Bambi for the weekend. Accompanied with my wife and granddaughter, we had no idea what to expect. The Airstream was amazing, small, but it had everything you could want. A bathroom, shower, microwave, stove, refrigerator, cable TV and enough sleeping space for the three of us. Outside our Airstream we had a wooden deck with a grill, fire pit and outdoor furniture. We had a great time and would highly recommend it.
If you still continue your journey further North in New York State, you leave the Catskills Mountain Range and you now find yourself in the Adirondack Mountains. Another beautiful part of the state known for its lakes, rivers and Winter and Summer activities. Lake George is a great place to spend a couple of days. Rent a boat and spend a day on the lake. There are many scenic riding routes and a stop to the historic Fort Williams is a must if you want to learn the history of the region. Many ski resorts in the Adirondacks for both experts and beginners.
You never run out of things to do in New York state. What I mentioned above is just the tip of the iceberg of the many sights and activities the state has to offer. I only talked about the upper part of the State. Go South to Long Island and you have some of the best beaches on the East coast, but that is another blog. So, get out and explore all that New York State has to offer.