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The Americas & Caribbean

About New York

Named for the 17th-century Duke of York, who went on to become England’s King James II, New York State reaches from Atlantic shores inland to stunning mountains and lakes, and west and north to the Great Lakes and Canada. Though mostly known for the bustle and diverse culture of New York City, the vast majority of the state is draped in a wilderness of forest, mountains and valleys. Its Adirondack Park is the largest state park in the US and Niagara Falls is the first park that was established in the country, in 1885.

Before Europeans arrived, it was Algonquin and Iroquoian Native Americans who lived off this land. French colonists came down from Montreal seeking fur for trade. Dutchman Henry Hudson followed, establishing his fort in 1614 near what would become Albany, today’s state capital. His settlement, a business venture of the Dutch West India Company, grew into New Netherland, which stretched down the Hudson Valley to the city of New Amsterdam, today’s New York City. The British, after several conflicts, annexed it all in 1675.

New York witnessed about one out of every three battles in the American Revolution. The month after independence, the Battle of Long Island ended in a British triumph and in the British occupation of New York City. After the British retreat, New York City became the national capital until 1790 and was the site of George Washington’s inauguration.

The early 1800s saw the growth of commerce with the opening of the Erie Canal, which allowed goods to be shipped from the port of New York City to the Great Lakes and beyond. People, too, bolstered the economy as Ellis Island welcomed immigrants from all over the world, an influx that would change the tapestry of New York forever. Today’s New York has much to offer whether you prefer the bustle of culture-infused cities or the laid-back atmosphere of a farm, whether you’re enamored by mountains or lakes.

New York Lifestyle and Culture

The culture and lifestyles of New York are as varied as its geography and its people. The fast pace of Manhattan helped coin the term “New York minute,” yet an unhurried drive through the vineyard-laden Finger Lakes is just a few hours away. The best pizza parlor in Brooklyn may receive the same accolades as a posh farm-to-table restaurant in the Adirondacks. And a walk around Central Park may rejuvenate the city dweller as much a hike in the Catskills inspires a farmhand. In New York, it’s all relative.

Many worlds meet in New York, and its cultural landscape reflects this unprecedented convergence. Italian, Irish, African, Andean, Chinese, Hispanic, Indian and a wide array of other ethnicities influence the entire state, not just New York City. What’s more, New York boasts the largest Jewish population outside Israel. The resulting multicultural tapestry shapes the region’s cuisine, music, art, literature, celebrations and traditions.

New York Sights and Landmarks

The star of New York State is its namesake city. From the robust streets of Lower Manhattan’s Financial District to the intimate warrens of Greenwich Village, from the wealth of museums surrounding Central Park to the vast green space itself, the city overflows with culture, cuisine and architectural beauty. Music lovers marvel at Carnegie Hall or catch a 1920s-style jazz and blues show in Harlem. Those seeking romance board a horse-drawn carriage in Central Park at twilight. Art lovers browse the myriad galleries at the Museum of Modern Art or the Guggenheim Museum. Readers duck into the venerable New York Public Library. And, of course, theatergoers attend the greatest shows in the world on Broadway, amid the glitter of Times Square.

Follow the Hudson River north and you’ll enter a startlingly different world of gently sloping hills bisected by a languorous river, stately manses holding court before sweeping green lawns dotted with towering trees and adorned with lush gardens. The Hudson River Valley has earned the nickname “America’s Rhineland” as one of the most scenic regions of the northeastern United States. Its landscapes inspired the American Romantics, from writers such as Washington Irving to painters of the Hudson River School such as Thomas Cole. The Roosevelts, too, drew inspiration here: The Hyde Park home of Franklin and Eleanor is on the US National Register of Historic Places.

Farther north, the star-shaped Fort Ticonderoga rests in the foothills of Mt. Defiance, overlooking the southern narrows of Lake Champlain. Built by the French during the Seven Years’ War, sometimes known as the French and Indian War, it also played a role in conflicts between the French and British and in the American Revolution.