The other side of New York

When you think New York, you think Manhattan. The skyscrapers kissing the sky, the rush of people at the corner of every block, the iconic places and relentless energy. But New York isn’t just a state of mind, it’s a state in its own right – and there’s so much to discover away from the beating heart of the city.

Head north and you’ll encounter an entirely different world, one that shares two borders with Canada, is blessed with stunning natural beauty and is perfect for exploring by hire car. Here’s how to make the most of your visit to the other New York.

Fall for Niagara

The urban sprawl of Manhattan doesn’t really prepare you for the beauty that lies beyond the city’s borders. Hop in your hire car, drop the top and head north through storied places like Poughkeepsie, Albany and Schenectady before taking the scenic route west to Niagara Falls, right on the border with Canada.

It’s not enough to just gape at their wonder. No, you need to get up close and personal with the falls. Climb aboard the Maid of the Mist boat to feel the spray on your face – well, not so much a spray as a deluge. Put it this way, you’ll be glad they gave you a poncho as you boarded.

Back on land – but not dry land – stand at the base of the Bridal Veil Falls and experience the thunder all around you, especially in spring. If you’re a storm chaser, you’ll love the Hurricane Deck at the Cave of the Winds. Head 175ft down in the elevator and take the wooden walkway to find yourself mere feet away from the crashing Bridal Veil Falls.

Buffalo Soldiers

Just south of the falls, on the I-190, Buffalo is one of the state’s lesser-visited cities. Wrap up warm if you’re visiting in winter, this is a city where a biting cold can linger through to spring.

The local Buffalo Bills fans revel in this weather, and there are few better experiences than taking in a game at the Ralph Wilson Stadium. In 1994, the Bills triumphed here with a wind chill of minus 32. Best to pack that extra scarf.

If it’s just too cold to be outside, or there isn’t a game, you’ll also find some great architecture dotted around as you explore the city. Check out the Martin House complex, designed by visionary architect Frank Lloyd Wright in the first few years of the 20th century.

A unique residential complex built for wealthy Buffalo businessman Darwin D. Martin and his family, it’s made up of six interconnected buildings and is well worth a tour.

Join the locals as they ice skate at the frozen canalside and then warm up with that local speciality, Buffalo wings. The Anchor Bar invented them, and prepare to get your fingers, chin – well, most of your face – sticky when tucking into a plateful.

Top of the Lake

That same I-90 hugs the huge Lake Erie as you drive south-west, with lots of places to stop and get a good vantage point. Lakefront parks, beaches and marinas, dry docks and picnic areas – it’s bliss to drive down here in the summer, with enough lakeside to find a spot all of your own.

The state park has views you won’t want to pull yourself away from – but if you do manage it, make sure it’s for canoeing on the lake or hiking through the pure air. Keep your eyes peeled for waterfowl, beavers, and rare birds – hence the abundance of birdwatchers you’ll stumble across. You’ll also see anglers trying their luck – the lake is home to monster bass and trout. End your day on or by the lake with a sunset at Barcelona Harbor beach, where the light plays on the dappled lake as another gorgeous day draws to a close.

Turn over a new leaf

Some areas come into their own at certain times of years, and there’s no doubt that the Adirondack Mountains are at their richest during the autumn. Come September, the 46 peaks are covered in trees turning russet, brown and roaring red, while mist rises off the atmospheric lakes.

It’s an outdoor lover’s paradise, with each peak, twist, turn and opening delivering a view more dramatic than the one before. Simply park up and stroll through it, or take to horseback, sled, boat or all-terrain vehicle to find those hard-to-reach areas of the wilderness.

In the Lake Placid area, you can see the sites of battles from the American Revolution, snowshoe in the winter or just find a nice spot to have a hot chocolate while the trees turn yellow and gold around you.

Head into St. Lawrence County, where you can brave the chill, clear waters to dive shipwrecks such as the 1850 Fleur Marie, or the Conestoga, the perfect place to scuba for an eerie night dive.

Car hire in New York State will prove that there’s so much more to this varied part of the world than just the city. Parks, lakes, falls, quiet bluffs and family fun in the great American outdoors beckon.