There is a vast and under-appreciated tract of land on the eastern seaboard that goes by the name of New York state, and my family's wanderlust for seeing more of it was ignited during a recent jaunt to Rochester and its magnificent Strong National Museum of Play.
I'm almost ashamed to admit that my knowledge of New York geography is so inferior that it hadn't even dawned on me until after we left Rochester that I should have tacked a visit to Niagara Falls – a mere two hours west of Rochester by car – onto the end of our vacation. The good news is that we now have incentive to head back upstate – to see the falls, explore Albany, and pay our respects to Cooperstown’s Baseball Hall of Fame.
If you too have been contemplating why you don't know New York state better than you do, think seriously about doing something about it this summer. Not only are many parts of the state perfectly outdoorsy and beautiful in the summertime, it’s also difficult to turn around without bumping into a festival or two that will likely yield quirky and highly memorable moments (see photo).
The following sampling of festivals is subjective – I'm not into birdwatching or bluegrass, for instance – but if you are, you will find an outlet for those pursuits and many others among the hundreds of festivals and seasonal events happening in the Empire State this summer.
The Catskills, sublime in summer for its weather alone, has a heavy and diverse festival schedule. June brings a brand-new festival to Hunter Mountain, the Taste of Country Music Festival (6/13–15) , which will include appearances by Trace Adkins, Lady Antebellum, and the seemingly inexhaustible Willie Nelson. If you want to go camping during the festival, there are three-day ticket deals geared toward both campers and non-campers; single-day tickets reportedly will be made available, too.
Also in June: At the two-day 3rd Annual Riverside Brewfest (6/29–6/30, $35) you’ll be issued an empty beer glass and the chance to sample craft beers from more than 25 breweries. Whoever came up with this idea is clearly a genius. And should you be in the Tannersville area on July 27…well, if you are, it’s probably for one reason, which is to see the 6th Annual Tannersville Crazy Race & Festival, where contestants race down Main Street in racers built from beds, garbage cans, and other everyday items.
If you’re into art, flowers, and art about flowers, a visit to the Adirondacks will pack appeal this summer. Painters nationwide will flock to Saranac Lake for the Adirondack Plein Air Festival (8/15–18) to paint the outdoors, capturing the village and its environs on canvas. Spectators are encouraged to view the art in progress as well as buy it. For die-hard Georgia O’Keeffe fans, and there are many, more than 50 of her paintings will be exhibited at The Hyde Collection in the Adirondacks from June 15 through mid September.
If you think that the craft beer festival in the Catskills sounded like an ideal excuse for a guys weekend getaway, then a soul mate to that event is easily the National Buffalo Wing Festival in downtown Buffalo (8/31–9/1) that lets you witness competitive eaters and sample wings prepared by restaurants from all over the country. Bring plenty of antacid and if you’re so inclined, also bring your children: The organizers set aside a Kid Zone with activities during the festival. Plus, if you have kids, chances are they like buffalo wings as much as you do.