Six ideal places to visit in New York state that aren't New York

A visit to New York City is an almost compulsory element of any trip to the USA - even if it's just JFK or Newark airport. But visitors often forget that beyond the Big Apple, New York state itself is worth a visit. From spectacular nature to picturesque college towns, here are some of the best places to visit in New York.

Long Island

Located just outside of New York City, Long Island is where the locals go for a break. While some areas, like the Hamptons, are more known for their celebrity visitors and expensive restaurants, Long Island is dotted with small, picturesque villages and boasts wonderful beaches and breath-taking ocean views. Visit world-class wineries and restaurants, check out the view from Montauk Lighthouse or tour the halls and gardens of the magnificent Gold Coast mansions like Old Westbury Gardens.

Thousand Islands

The perfect antidote to the hustle and bustle and polluted air of New York City. With hundreds of miles of picturesque coastline and sparkling lakes, rivers and waterfalls, as well as state parks for hiking, camping and boating, you won't want to leave! Explore the Great Lakes Seaway Trail, driving past lighthouses, wineries and amusement parks. If you're interested in fishing, visit Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River which attract anglers from around the world for salmon, trout, pike, and much more.

Catskills

Another classic getaway, the Catskills has long attracted artists, writers, explorers and families to its beautiful forests and high mountain peaks. Bike along the mountain trails in the Catskill Preserve, swim in the crystal-clear lakes or go hiking in the mountains. For a more spiritual experience, visit the Karma Triyana Dharmachakra Monastery in Woodstock where visitors can tour the shrine, art collection and grounds. If you have some time to spare, you could even consider signing up for a meditation retreat to really get the NYC madness out of your system!

Buffalo

If you're looking for some cities to visit outside the Big Apple, Buffalo, on the shores of lake Eerie, is a great place to start. From museums to parks and botanical gardens, there's plenty to do for all ages. The Buffalo Zoo, founded in 1875, is the third-oldest zoo in the USA and home to many different animals as well as 320 plant species. Explore astronomy, geology, biology, and space technology exhibits at the Buffalo Museum of Science before taking a Buffalo River History Tour where you'll cruise the Buffalo River while learning about the history of the city.

The Finger Lakes

According to Native American legend, the 11 glacial lakes that comprise this region in central New York are evidence of the Great Spirit leaving his handprint as a blessing on the area. The region's freshwater lakes have Native American names like Skaneateles, Keuka, Cayuga and Seneca. A favourite romantic New York getaway, the Finger Lakes region offers wineries, skiing, boating and hiking through beautiful state parks. While known for its incredible autumn foliage, the Finger Lakes is a wonderful place to visit all year round.

Ithaca

If you're looking for that special east-coast college-town feel, you'll find it in Ithaca. Located in the Finger Lakes region on the southern shore of Cayuga lake, it's best known as the home of Cornell University, an Ivy League school with more than 20,000 students. Wander around the campus and visit the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, then stroll through the town and enjoy a coffee or locally brewed beer and check out the Cinemapolis non-profit independent movie theatre or browse some of its used book shops.

If you're looking to bring something slightly different to your next trip, follow the locals and visit the spectacular nature reserves, national parks and college towns of New York state. While the east coast is known for its autumn foliage, you'll find something to do all year round. So arrange your ESTA and start planning your trip today!