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New York: The Best Authentic Experiences

  • Walking the Brooklyn Bridge: One of the great New York activities of all time. The skyline view heading toward Manhattan from Brooklyn is unparalleled. The walk takes 20 to 40 minutes, depending on your pace, and every minute on this 19th-century architectural marvel is exhilarating.

  • Sleeping in a Historic Lighthouse: Several hotels tout their proximity to the Hudson River, but in the Upper Hudson Valley, you can sleep at the 1869 Saugerties Lighthouse (tel. 845/247-0656), which functions as a B&B and is perched at water's edge. The only way to get to it is by walking a mile-long trail through woods and wetlands.

  • Reliving America's Glory Days: Vintage "base ball," a nostalgic sport played by old-school traditionalists partial to the 19th-century rules and uniforms of America's classic sport, is played in several parts of New York. In Roxbury, in the northwest Catskill region, locals take it especially seriously. The best time to see a game is on Labor Day, when the Roxbury Nine hosts a home game and the town celebrates "Turn of the Century Day." Locals turn out in period costume, and the opposing team arrives by vintage train.

  • Attending a Baseball Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony: Every July, a new generation of players is transformed from mortal to legendary as inductees take their place alongside Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, and the other greats in Cooperstown's Hall of Fame.

  • Gorging on Grape Pie in Naples, Finger Lakes Region: There's a reason why grape pie hasn't earned a spot alongside apple, cherry, and peach in the pie pantheon: It's just too laborious to peel the grapes. But every year on the last weekend in September, the attractive little village of Naples near Keuka Lake becomes the grape-pie capital of the world; nearly everyone seems to be selling, buying, and eating them. Grape fanatics and pie pilgrims come from all over to attend the Naples Grape Festival and stuff themselves silly with grape pie.

  • Soaring the Friendly Skies: The Finger Lakes are gorgeous from any angle, but a bird's-eye perspective -- in a vintage warplane or a silent glider plane -- is one of the most unique experiences to be had in New York State. At the National Warplane Museum, near Elmira, you can take to the sky in a PT-17 or even a B-17 bomber. And at the nearby National Soaring Museum, visitors can climb aboard sailplanes for peaceful, quiet rides that soar above the valleys around Corning.

  • Ice-Skating on the Olympic Rink, Lake Placid: Slip on your silver skates and take to the same rink where Eric Heiden won his gold medals in the 1980 Olympics. It's a public rink, so there's no pressure to race, just glide at your leisure while taking in the majesty of the surrounding Adirondacks.

  • Eating Chicken Wings in the Place They Were Invented: It was a snowy night back in the '60s when the owners of Buffalo's Anchor Bar dumped some chicken parts into a deep fryer and served them with blue cheese and celery. The rest, as they say, is history. You can still sample the original recipe in the divey bar where they became an American staple.

  • Watching Fireworks over Niagara Falls: On the Canadian side of the falls every Friday and Sunday from May to September, there's a concert from 8 to 10pm, followed by an amazing show as the sky lights up with fireworks and colored lights shine on the cascading water. Not going during the summer? No worries: You can see the falls lit up every night of the year. Walk along the railing of the Canadian side for the best view.

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