This historic city on the Erie Canal is home to emerald lakes, snow-shoeing and a huge state fair.
Sitting on the thumb of the Finger Lakes, Salt City is a gateway to the awesome nature of upstate New York. Syracuse is roughly halfway between Niagara Falls and the Adirondacks for easy side trips. But this small city has its own claim on natural beauty with lakes, forests, and farms. The New York State Fair sets up its tents here, covering the 375-acre grounds with horse shows, butter sculptures, and deep-fried Oreos.
Winter brings snow--and lots of it. Locals grumble, but the deep white makes for killer cross-country skiing. Highland Forest park bills itself as the Adirondacks of Central New York with 40 miles of trails, half of them groomed. Beaver Lake Nature Center boasts a warming hut and snow-shoe rentals.
The closest public camp is Green Lakes State Park in Fayetteville. Two emerald-green glacial lakes are its centerpiece, where you can rent a rowboat or swim off the sandy beach. Tent camping is set back from the lakes amid pine trees, with options for cabins and RV camping. There's also an 18-hole course by Robert Trent Jones, a legendary golf course architect.
The old Erie Canal passes right by Green Lakes. The canal turned Syracuse into a thriving city. At the Erie Canal Museum in downtown Syracuse, visitors can go deep on its history.
Today, kayakers have free rein in the canal's retired sections. Try launching in Dewitt at Cedar Bay Park, then paddle 10 miles to the Chittenango Landing Canal Boat Museum. The route is especially scenic in autumn when the turning leaves are a blazing canopy on the shore.
The Finger Lakes are close by, and Cayuga Lake State Park makes a good home base to dip in your toes. The park campground has cabins near the shore and hilltop tent sites. Boat launches are on the beach, and the waters are quite good for catching largemouth bass. Over a dozen vineyards and wineries are a short drive away.
Most state park campgrounds will accommodate trailers, but big rigs wanting full hook-ups should check out RV parks in the area. Several offer extra amenities such as free Wi-Fi, swimming, and boat launches.