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Explore New York State: Spots that will take your breath away

Sometimes it's easy to forget that New York City makes up only a tiny fraction of the state we call home.

Sure, the city has impressive views and lovely parks, but it's the rest of New York that will take your breath away.

For an exciting and beautiful weekend or day trip, head north for incredible mountain ranges; west for spectacular waterfalls and gorges; east for bluffs overlooking the ocean.

We have glaciers (and thousands of years) to thank for stunning landscapes just hours away by car, bus or train. Pick a spot and go explore.

Lavender by the Bay

There's nothing quite as breathtaking as a sea
Photo Credit: Lavender by the Bay via Facebook

There's nothing quite as breathtaking as a sea of purple lavender plants swaying in the breeze. Lavender By The Bay in East Marion (Long Island) is a farm that specializes in lavender and lavender products. There are more than 80,000 plants across 17 acres and you can walk among them and pick your own when its open to the public (weekends in May; daily between June and September; and Thursday through Monday in October).

Ausable Chasm

Ausable Chasm, which some call
Photo Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Ausable Chasm, which some call "The Grand Canyon of the Adirondacks," is a two-mile long sandstone gorge just south of Plattsburgh. This is a natural wonder that you can really explore -- try rafting, tubing or rock climbing in the summer.

Storm King

Storm King is an outdoor sculpture park with
Photo Credit: Jerry L. Thompson

Storm King is an outdoor sculpture park with sweeping views of Storm King Mountain, which overlooks the Hudson River in Cornwall on Hudson. Here, you'll find a dramatic landscape of farm fields, wildflowers, woodlands, ponds and streams, with eye-catching art spread throughout. The juxtaposition of nature with man-made art is spectacular.

Sonnenberg Mansion

The Sonnenberg Mansion is on the 52-acre Canandaigua
Photo Credit: Getty Images / TrialityDesigns

The Sonnenberg Mansion is on the 52-acre Canandaigua State Historic Park in the Finger Lakes region of upstate New York. It's one of the most extensively preserved country estates from the Victorian era, according to the State Parks Department. Built in 1887, the mansion was home to Frederick Ferris and Mary Clark Thompson and has since taken on other styles, including Italian, Colonial and Japanese. You can tour the home and take part in a number of events through the year, including its orchid show, Rose Week, moonlight strolls and an Arts At The Gardens show.

Ruins of the Cornish Estate

Beautiful but eerie, this crumbling mansion in Cold
Photo Credit: Shaye Weaver

Beautiful but eerie, this crumbling mansion in Cold Spring has become a sight to behold. Around 1917, Edward Joel Cornish and his wife Selina Bliss Carter Cornish moved into the home, which had a pool, multiple fire places, a greenhouse, a garage and a barn. Tragedy struck, however, when in May 1938 the Cornishes died within two weeks of each other. The property was left to fall into disrepair and caught fire in 1958, further destroying the once-stately mansion. Now, the secluded home's stone walls stand like a skeleton in the woods, almost beckoning hikers to take a look.

Fillmore Glen State Park

Hope you aren't sick of stunning gorges and
Photo Credit: Emilio Guerra

Hope you aren't sick of stunning gorges and waterfalls yet, because you'll find more in Fillmore Glen State Park. Visit in the warm months to take advantage of the natural swimming pool. The park is about 30 minutes northeast of Ithaca.

Robert Treman State Park

This state park is located in Ithaca in
Photo Credit: Emilio Guerra

This state park is located in Ithaca in the Finger Lakes region. It features nine miles of hiking trails, 12 waterfalls, a stream-fed pool at the base of a waterfall and more. The biggest waterfall, Lucifer Falls, is 115 feet tall and the focal point of the park. The park also includes cabins, campsites, picnic areas, showers and playgrounds.

Eternal Flame Falls

Eternal Flame Falls is located in Chestnut Ridge
Photo Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Eternal Flame Falls is located in Chestnut Ridge Park in Eerie County. The park features hiking trails, cycling paths, picnic areas and more. The grotto at the base of the waterfall emits natural gas, so don't be surprised if you smell rotten eggs. This area of the ravine can be lit to produce a small flame, about four to eight inches high. The flame is typically always lit, but you may want to bring a waterproof lighter or matches in case it's blown out before you arrive.

Watkins Glen State Park

Over the course of just two miles, the
Photo Credit: Emilio Guerra

Over the course of just two miles, the stream in Watkins Glen State Park descends 400 feet past 200-foot cliffs, creating 19 waterfalls. Enjoy fairly easy hikes through the gorge, under waterfalls and over rock bridges. The park is near Watkins Glen in the Finger Lakes Region.

Niagara Falls

Straddling the border between the U.S. and Canada,
Photo Credit: Getty Images / John Normile

Straddling the border between the U.S. and Canada, Niagara Falls actually consists of three waterfalls: Horseshoe, American and Bridal Veil. While not quite as tall as some other falls around the world, it's the volume of water that makes these drops so spectacular. More than 6 million cubic feet of water per minute flow over the crests at peak time. Take advantage of the trip way up here (about 400 miles from Manhattan) and explore nearby Buffalo.

Letchworth State Park

Some refer to Letchworth State Park as the
Photo Credit: NYS Parks / J. Rozell

Some refer to Letchworth State Park as the "Grand Canyon of the East." The Genesee River cuts through the land and over three massive waterfalls, creating a deep gorge with cliffs nearly 600 feet high. The park is less than an hour southwest of Rochester.

Chimney Bluffs State Park

These breathtaking pinnacles and cliffs on the shore
Photo Credit: NYS Parks / J. Rozell

These breathtaking pinnacles and cliffs on the shore of Lake Ontario were formed thousands of years ago by glaciers. Some parts of the bluffs tower 150 feet over the lake. The highest point is in the northeast park of the park. Chimney Bluffs State Park is in the town of Huron, east of Rochester.

Bear Mountain State Park

If you're looking for spectacular views, it's hard
Photo Credit: NYS Parks / J. Rozell

If you're looking for spectacular views, it's hard to beat Bear Mountain State Park. Visit in the winter for cross-country skiing and an outdoor ice skating rink. The park is less than an hour north of Manhattan by car, on the west side of the Hudson River.

Sodus Point Lighthouse

The 140-year-old Sodus Bay Lighthouse sits atop a
Photo Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

The 140-year-old Sodus Bay Lighthouse sits atop a 20-foot bluff and is open from May through October. The lighthouse is a maritime museum and tourist hot spot. You can also swim and fish at the beach and visit local restaurants for a fun day trip.

Shadmoor State Park

A short hike in this small park will
Photo Credit: Michael Cusanelli

A short hike in this small park will lead you to bluffs overlooking the South Shore of eastern Long Island and beautiful views of the Atlantic. Shadmoor State Park is just one quarter-mile east of Montauk Village. Check out nysparks.com/parks/16 for more info.

Lake Placid

Photo of the Mountain Village of Lake Placid
Photo Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Photo of the Mountain Village of Lake Placid at Sunrise from a Fog Covered Mirror LakeLake Placid offers a bevy of winter sports that everyone can participate in, such as skating on the rink where Sonja Henie won a gold medal in the 1932 Winter Olympics. During the winter, you can also go on a dogsled ride across Mirror Lake or ride down the toboggan chute, a 60-foot-tall reclaimed and recycled ski jump that also descends to Mirror Lake. But Lake Placid isn't only a winter destination. There are hundreds of hiking trails, plus rock climbing, whitewater rafting and fishing.

Whiteface Mountain Steps

Located in the Adirondack Mountains, Whiteface Mountain is
Photo Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Located in the Adirondack Mountains, Whiteface Mountain is one of the region's highest peaks. At the top of one of the trails you'll find stone stairs. If the steps are too intense, you can drive to the top along Veteran's Memorial Highway that begins in Wilmington. You'll also find an elevator inside the mountain that requires a walk through a tunnel. On a clear day, you can see Vermont and Canada once you reach the top. There's also a restaurant and a gift shop.

Bash Bish Falls

OK, these waterfalls are technically in Massachusetts. But
Photo Credit: Department of Conservation and Recreation

OK, these waterfalls are technically in Massachusetts. But as they're right over the border and accessible from New York's Taconic State Park, we just couldn't leave these shared beauties off the list. Park your car in the lower lot, on Route 344 in Taconic State Park, and take the easy hike over the border to the 60-foot falls, which empty into a beautiful green pool. More experienced hikers may consider the blue trail, which leads to a stunning summit above the falls (great views of New York!). But be cautious -- the area is small and wet, with jagged rocks and the potential for falls.

Wild Walk in Tupper Lake

Wild Walk in Tupper Lake lets you see
Photo Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Wild Walk in Tupper Lake lets you see the Adirondacks like you've never seen them before. Visitors can take a series of bridges up to the treetops of the forest. You'll find a four-story tree house made of twigs, swinging suspension bridges and the Spider's Web, where you can lay and explore the ground below. At the highest point, you'll find a full-sized bald eagle's nest -- a perfect spot for pictures.

Bannerman Castle

The crumbling remains of Bannerman Castle are situated
Photo Credit: Angela Gaul

The crumbling remains of Bannerman Castle are situated on Pollepel Island, commonly known as Bannerman Island, in the Hudson River near Beacon and Newburgh. The castle, which is mostly ruins, is the property of the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation.

Stonecrop Gardens

Stonecrop Gardens in Cold Spring served as a
Photo Credit: Maryann Doren

Stonecrop Gardens in Cold Spring served as a private garden for Anne and Frank Cabot until 1992. Set on a windswept elevation of 1,100 feet in the Hudson Highlands, these public gardens span about 12 acres and feature woodland and water gardens, raised alpine stone beds, cliff rock gardens and an enclosed, English-style flower garden.

Giant Ledge

With nearly 100 peaks at more than 3,000
Photo Credit: Newsday / Lorina Capitulo

With nearly 100 peaks at more than 3,000 feet high, Ulster County's Catskills are true mountains. Just about everywhere you go in the sparsely populated four-county area -- especially the 287,500-acre Catskill Forest Preserve -- yields a collage of yellows, oranges and reds. For continuous scenic views, it's hard to beat a trip to Giant Ledge in Shandaken and Panther Mountain. In this area, autumn colors peak in late September into early October.

Triphammer Falls

What makes these cascading falls so unique is
Photo Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

What makes these cascading falls so unique is that they are situated in the heart of the Cornell University campus in Ithaca. According to roadtrippers.com, the best views of the water are from the Triphammer Foot Bridge or the East Avenue Bridge. There is also an abandoned school laboratory at the base of the falls. For more information, visit newyorkupstate.com.

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