At the end of June, the kids were both finished with school and camp had yet to start, so I took them for a road trip to Central New York, planned by our local tourism board in partnership with the “I Love New York” campaign.
Mazzy and Harlow are born and bred New York City kids, so when I first told them we were taking a trip upstate, Harlow said, “You mean— uptown?”
Nope. Way farther north than uptown, Harlow! Although, judging by the reactions I got from some upstate New Yorkers on Instagram, they don’t think the areas I went are upstate either. I guess it all depends on where you are from. Anything north of Westchester is upstate to me!
Since Mike had to work, I took Allie along for the trip and we put together a travel vlog of the experience. You can watch it here. I also thought I’d give anyone interested a rundown of our itinerary, along with drive times since a visit to Central New York involves a lot of driving. It’s not like the pizza shop is right next to the ice cream shop which is down the block from the park like it is in Manhattan, you know?
I thought Mazzy and Harlow wouldn’t do well with all the driving, but it turned out that it gave them a good opportunity to nap between activities. Plus, Central New York is pretty scenic with lots to look at along the way. We had barely left Manhattan when Mazzy started asking when we were going to see some cows.
“Probably not on the George Washington Bridge, Mazzy.”
We did have one incident right after the bridge where Harlow threw up all over her carseat and I had to pull over at a gas station and hose everything down, which I think made Allie question all her life choices, but that’s just me keeping it real. After that, it was smooth sailing!
Day 1: Caves, Butts and April the Giraffe
The weather turned dark as we were driving the three hours north to Animal Adventure Park in Harpursville and it was downright pouring by the time we arrived (watch the video to see that I am not exaggerating), but we were not about to let that stop us from meeting April the Giraffe and baby Taj.
April is the famous giraffe who gave birth to Taj a few months ago on a live feed with millions watching. Mazzy and Harlow haven’t seen the birth but I told them they could probably find it on YouTube.
“The giraffes are on YouTube???”
“Yep. And I bet they’ve got a ton more followers than we do.”
At the farm, we also had the opportunity to feed pigs, ostriches, goats, zebras, bunnies, camels, alpacas and many more animals scattered around the property. They gave Mazzy and Harlow each a bucket of vegetables and feed.
There were picture markers on each enclosure saying what you should feed the animal inside and how. Even Harlow could decipher the signs herself.
If it wasn’t for the torrential downpour, my kids would have been happy staying there much longer. We ended the event by buying giraffes in the gift shop that the girls were inseparable from for the rest of the trip.
Next, we drove 1 1/2 hours to Howe Caverns, which most New Yorkers, including myself, remember visiting as a kid. It’s a huge cave discovered by a guy named Howe who turned it into a tourist attraction. We took a guided tour, which includes an underground boat ride, a short movie about the cave’s discovery, and fun facts about the numerous rock formations jutting out from both the bottom and the top of the cavern.
It’s cold and dark once you take the elevator about 100 feet underground (bring a sweater!) which makes the whole thing fun and mysterious for the kids. Doesn’t make for the best photo ops though.
The best photos I got were of the kids playing in the grass (“The hills are alive…”) and climbing the trees outside when the tour was over.
After Howe Caverns, we checked in at The Gable’s Bed and Breakfast in Cobleskill, where Mazzy and Harlow were thrilled to discover we had the run of an entire house.
The place was huge. Mazzy and Harlow got their own room, relaxed on the wicker couch and marveled at the crystal dishes of hard candies in every room.
That night, we went to a very classy place called Rubbin’ Butts BBQ, a name that Mazzy and Harlow found HILARIOUS. Obviously. Allie and I asked the owner what dishes they were best known for and they brought us out pretty much everything.
The pulled pork sandwich was my favorite. Can you believe I ate this whole thing?
After dinner, the kids danced in the adjacent parking lot and begged me for ice cream. We went to Stewart’s, which was recommended and ate it on the side of the highway while watching one of the prettiest sunsets I’ve ever seen.
Day 2: Cider and Sylvan Beach
The next morning, the kids ran downstairs to see if there really were warm homemade muffins waiting for us in the kitchen, like the owner had told us there would be. They were there, like magic! Even the giraffes got some.
After breakfast, we packed up our things and drove 50 minutes to the Fly Creek Cider Mill and Orchard. Fly Creek is known for a few things: their ducks, their cider and their photo ops. You know those wood signs with the faces cut out so you can take funny pictures? They were EVERYWHERE.
We took a tour of the mill…
Fed the ducks…
And ate our weight in cheese, fudge, cider donuts and cider wine cooler smoothies. The only thing Fly Creek had more of than photo ops, was free food samples. If my grandparents were still alive, they would have had a field day there.
Before we left, Mazzy and Harlow had to have a duck race. We played until both kids had each won, fair and square.
Next up was lunch at Jerry’s Place in Cooperstown (about five minutes away), an old school diner with an ice cream shop up front, an arcade in the back, and a swing set outside. Perfect for letting the kids let off some steam before the drive ahead.
The girls slurped down lemonade like it was their job.
From there, we had a half hour drive to Erie Canal Cruises . On our drive, Mazzy continued her search for cows and was excited to spot one grazing close to the road. “Do you want me to pull over so you can go outside and take a picture with it?”
“MOOOOO!!!” She shouted. And then to clarify, “That’s cow for yes.”
We reached the canal at around 3pm, but due to the weather (it was about to rain again), our cruise was canceled.
They let us board the boat for fun and both Mazzy and Harlow got the honor of sitting in the captain’s seat.
The boat may have been docked at the time but the cap makes them official!
After a quick break at a nearby playground called Arc Park (see Mazzy’s tour of the playground on the video), we drove an hour to Sylvan Beach where we were staying the night. Sylvan Beach is a little town with a big amusement park— make sure you check when it’s open, before you go. It was closed when we were there (which I had prepared them for) and Mazzy made me promise we’d go back.
We started our night with a fried fish dinner at Eddie’s Restaurant, except for Harlow who insists on eating plain pasta whenever it’s available.
Then we walked down the main road for ice cream cones at What’s the Scoop.
The girls both ordered cotton candy ice cream which is definitely a flavor my mother would never have let me order. But I had to make up for the lack of amusement park somehow, right?
With our ice cream cones in hand, we walked across the street to stand on the shore of Oneida Lake and watch the sunset.
They had told us Sylvan Beach has the prettiest sunsets on earth, but I admit— I thought they were exaggerating. Nope! Not only was the sky a rainbow of gorgeous colors, the water in the lake was WARM.
The girls splashed around until their clothes were sopping wet and played in the sand until it was necessary to hose them off before we could go back to our room.
Luckily, we were staying in a bungalow right on the lake called the Sunset Cottages which had a hose outside just for this purpose. After they were clean and dry, we caught the final flecks of sun still visible through our bedroom windows and the sound of the waves rocked us to sleep.
Day 3: Pancakes and Waterfalls
On our final day in Central New York, we woke up, crossed the street and ate at the Pancake House, which was owned by the daughter of the guy who owns the ice cream place. It’s a very small town where everyone seems to know each other.
Then we drove 35 minutes to our final stop, a beautiful state park with an amazing waterfall called Chittenango Falls.
The parking lot is at the top of the falls. You can just do a quick stop and look down or you can hike to the bottom and back, like we did, which takes about an hour in total. The hike includes a beautiful view from a little bridge at the base of the falls, which I highly recommend.
Mazzy proclaimed that hiking is her most favorite activity and had a blast hopping from rock to rock in the stream. Harlow, for her part, made me carry her for the majority of the walk.
After the falls, we had lunch outside in the garden of Lincklaen House and walked around the pretty town of Cazenovia.
Then we hopped in the car and began our four hour drive back to Manhattan. As all successful road trips should, our trip ended with the girls both fast asleep for the majority of the way home.
My favorite part was later that evening when Mazzy told Mike all about our trip. She hadn’t been that excited to go when I first told her what we were doing, and I wasn’t sure the rain, the closed amusement park and the canceled cruise had helped. But I was wrong.
“It was actually REALLY fun, Dad. You would have liked it. I’ll take you back one day.”
If you’d like to see a video of our road trip, which includes all the funny little things that Mazzy and Harlow did along the way, you can watch it on YouTube!