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Mapping Out Your Summer Travel? 4 Reasons to Visit Smaller Cities Rather than Larger Ones

a train traveling down train tracks next to a body of water

When I tell people that I am from New York, the first image that pops into their mind is the New York City skyline. They think of New York City,  the Big Apple  – a  vibrant, exciting place that in its density offers many museums, well known tourist attractions, multiple restaurants representing every type of world cuisine and lots of people-watching opportunities. HOWEVER, my New York is three hours North of “the city” by car or a glorious train ride along the Hudson River. I live just outside Albany, the capital city of New York State, the area locals call the Capital Region or the 518 (for our area code.) Albany is a 400+ year old city and just across the Hudson is Troy, a gem of a city that is 205 years old.

Why might a traveler choose to visit smaller cities and destinations off the beaten track?

In my opinion, there are at least 4 reasons to set your sites on these types of travel destinations.

1. Better Value for Your Money

Lodging, food, drink and activities are more affordable than NYC.

This inn offers free parking, great views of the beautiful Washington Park, free self-serve breakfast in an 1844 manor house for $139 a night this summer. This bed and breakfast in Troy offers 6 rooms for $100 or less, less than 2 miles from downtown Troy, with free parking, a free continental breakfast or this inn with 5 private suites ranging in price from $125 – $195, with a full, locally-sourced American breakfast, free parking.

2. The Opportunity for the Unexpected

Both Troy and Albany are an easy 3 hour drive from New York City or Boston. These cities are quite walkable and you will see wonderful architecture as you explore the downtowns and local parks. Street art is growing in both of these historic cities and there are self-guided tours that you take on foot or on a rented CDPHP share bike to find the various murals. The locals are usually very friendly and happy to offer ideas for their favorite cidery, restaurant, historic mansion and museum. Nature is easily accessible and you can catch views of blue herons, deer and the occasional brown bear as you explore.

3. A Chance to Slow Down

The beautiful views of the surrounding mountains and closer proximity to a variety of museums, historic mansions, parks and rivers provide the perfect opportunity to enter into a vacation mode that allows you to really become rested. Free yoga in the Park is coming back to Troy’s Riverfront Park this June to August on Sunday ]mornings at 9, overlooking the Hudson River and then you can meander  into a nearby restaurant to enjoy your brunch. You can pace yourself and decide at the last minute what to do depending on your mood and the weather. Taking a tour at the start of your trip will help orient you and set the stage for the rest of your trip.

4. Supporting Local Economies

The many small, independent craft brewers and restaurants source many of their ingredients from surrounding local farmers. Whether a brewer, coffee roaster or baker, the local entrepreneurs team up for shared creations and they recognize that having a variety of local offerings helps the vitality of their small city. Troy and Albany are foodie destinations that increasingly embody farm to table and sustainability.

Ideas for Upstate NY smaller city travellers

  • Kayak on the Hudson River
  • Take a walking food tour to enjoy a progressive meal with a side of history
  • Paw through awesome, not-picked-over, totally under-priced thrift and antique stores
  • Ride your bike on the wonderful Empire State Rail Trail
  • Buy produce from a roadside stand or pick your own
  • Go to a county fair
  • Sit on a porch and drink something cold
  • Enjoy a restaurant fire-pit with a view of the Hudson River
  • Attend a theater in the park production
  • Visit the wonderful Farmers’ Markets
  • Spot wildlife, nudge your friend and gasp “looooook!”
  • Read a book in Riverfront Park while the Hudson River flows by
  • Partake of local delicacies: Cider doughnuts? Fried mozzarella sticks with melba sauce? Nine Pin Cider?