I LOVE New York! It seems like a simple slogan, with the heart icon almost too obviously built for marketing. Despite several detours to other locations, my unexpected life has been centered around this amazing place. Or, more accurately, these amazing places. New York State is surrounded by Canada to the north, Vermont, Massachusetts, and Connecticut to the east, and Pennsylvania, New Jersey and the Atlantic Ocean to the south.
There is not one specific aspect of being a New York State resident that defines you. One could say the same about many states, but New York is exceptional in its uniqueness. On television, “New Yorkers” are often portrayed as only those from New York City, with thick accents, an exterior gruffness, and a no-holds barred attitude. Having lived and traveled throughout the state, I am here to give you a more varied perspective.
The Regions Of New York State
There are millions of New Yorkers who would claim that there are three regions of the State: New York City, Long Island, and “Upstate.” Those people would be wrong—or should I just say misguided? As a current Long Island resident who also spent nine years living in New York City, I have encountered these misguided folks on a regular basis. With eight million people living in New York City and almost eight million people on Long Island, they have reason to hold that belief. But, it is simply not the case.
Although there are variations, these are generally considered the regions of New York State, from south to north:
- Long Island (Nassau and Suffolk Counties)
- New York City Metro
- The Hudson Valley (Westchester County, Poughkeepsie, Middletown, New Paltz, Hudson…)
- The Southern Tier (Binghamton, Elmira, Corning, The Catskills…)
- Capital Region (Albany, Clifton Park, Saratoga Springs…)
- Central New York (Syracuse, Rome, Utica…)
- The Finger Lakes (Rochester, Ithaca, The Finger Lakes…)
- Western New York (Buffalo, Fredonia, Niagara Falls…)
- The Adirondacks (Lake Placid, Tupper Lake, Lake George…)
- The North Country (Potsdam, Plattsburgh, Massena…)
The map below is close, but I look at the North Country and the Adirondacks separately, because the topography is so different:
What’s The Big Deal?
Why, you may ask, does it matter? They say that all politics is local. I am here to argue that all of New York State is local. The state is as diverse topographically and visually as the people that inhabit it. There are ocean beaches, arguably the most well-known city on Earth, farmlands, beautiful lakes, mountains worthy of the Winter Olympics (twice!), and wonderful waterfalls. Within a day, one can spend time at a beach on the Atlantic Ocean, go for a hike, and still catch a Broadway show. Or you can wander around waterfalls, taste wine in the Finger Lakes, and eat at a five-star restaurant. You can even spend a day skiing in the Adirondacks and make it back in time for a basketball game in Syracuse.
Food And Drink
Everyone knows that Manhattan is filled with some of the world’s best restaurants. But did you know there is great food throughout the State. In addition to the great restaurants, farmers markets dot the other regions listed above. You can also get some of the freshest meat and poultry anywhere in the Central New York region and the Southern Tier. And don’t forget the seafood from Long Island, caught fresh daily and ready to be devoured. If you prefer game, the hunting in the Catskill Mountains and the Adirondack Mountains is as good as anywhere.
New Yorkers’ diversity is emulated in the food. Nowhere is that more clear than in the Borough of Queens in New York City. Take a stroll and you can eat cuisine from every part of the world. Italian, Greek, Chinese, Vietnamese, Bengali, Moroccan, Colombian, Egyptian, and more combine for a foodie’s dreamland.
Let’s not forget the beverages. Wines from the east end of Long Island and the Finger Lakes are becoming more and more respected. The Hudson Valley has burgeoning spirit distilleries and wineries. Craft beer is brewed throughout the state, including in Central and Western New York, as well as New York City. And, if you are not an alcohol drinker, try some fresh apple cider from one of New York’s six hundred orchards.
In my opinion, New York is not a melting pot, but rather a mosaic. Its diversity is not only ethnic, but also socio-economic. Often the super-wealthy and the poor live within blocks of one another. While the politics are almost always left-leaning during National elections, there is a strong Republican presence, especially outside of New York City.
The people in New York State range from Wall Street bankers to Central New York’s farmers to world-class skiers in Lake Placid, and everything in between. We have it all! Although it is ranked as either the fourth or fifth most diverse state in the country, it would be hard to convince me those metrics are correct. I would argue that it is the most diverse. But, stats are stats, so I will just do what many people do and doubt them.
Regardless, New York State has everything you could ever want!
Some Photos Help Tell The Story
Appreciate Your Home
If I have convinced you to look beyond Manhattan when thinking of New York, I have done my job. That being said, I have lived in a lot of wonderful places and could write great reviews of all of them. It is truly a matter of perspective and expectations.
People sometimes spend time on social media and experience feelings of inadequacy or even envy. Step back from that for a moment. With all of the talk of ‘wanderlust,’ ‘Instagrammable spots,’ and ‘bucket lists,’ don’t forget to take some time to enjoy where you live. Look around, go for a drive, try a new restaurant, or just search the Internet for local history. You might just feel more fortunate about where you are.
Author’s Note: In addition to the last fifteen years in NYC and Long Island, I was born in Syracuse, went to undergraduate school in the North Country, lived in the Hudson Valley for six years, and worked at summer music camps in Saratoga Springs and at Colgate University.
In My Unexpected Life, I share stories, thoughts, and simple ideas to entertain and possibly inspire others to become more connected with each other in conversation, food, travel, and more…no matter how big or small those experiences may be.