This Tuesday, New York State goes to the polls to pick a choice for President of these United States. (Stevie the Geek's Lead Pipe Picks: Hillary R. Clinton for the Dems, and John Kasich for the GOP. The less said about the guy with the weird hair and loud mouth, the better!) and we've been given some decent weather in which to head to our local polling station. (If you're over 18 and registered, VOTE! If you're over 18 and NOT registered, PLEASE rectify that oversight.)
However, of primary concern to this fine blog as spring finally makes its presence felt and summer grows ever closer is the pulse-pounding potpourri of sights to see in this justly named Empire State.
For example, in June, the eyes of the sports world focus on the normally peaceful small town of Elmont in Nassau County, Long Island as Belmont Park hosts the concluding race in the Visa Triple Crown Challenge, the Belmont Stakes, and although it's too early to predict a winner on the track, you're in for a winning time at Beautiful Belmont itself. There's food to satisfy every palate, (Bring your appetite, but leave your diet at home!) personal appearances from winning jockeys from past years, supervised play for the little ones, and this year, a special post-race concert from American Idol Top 10 artist Chris Daughtry and his eponymous band. (You can also visit Yonkers Raceway and Aqueduct. One major advantage THEY have over Belmont is casinos, but THAT may change. Stay tuned!) Tickets have been known to fly out the door, so log on to http://www.ticketmaster.com PRONTISSIMO!
With all the headlines about all those crazy people in Albany, (our state capital) one may be tempted to hop on Amtrak (from Penn Station, 7th and 8th Avenues from 31st to 34th Street) or Go Greyhound (from the Port Authority Bus Terminal, 8th between 40th and 42nd) to check it out, and while it DOES have plenty to see, from Empire State Plaza to the New York State Museum and Library, Washington Park, the Albany Institute of History and Art, the Times-Union Center,(home of the Albany Devils), Joe Bruno Stadium in Troy, (home of the Houston Astros' affiliate, the Tri-City Valleycats, and BTW, Schenectady is the third of the Tri-Cities) and, of course, the New York State Capitol, (The guided tour is recommended.) it's best to start in Albany and take a trip out to Saratoga to either see the horses at the racetrack or Saratoga Performing Arts Center, summer home of the New York City Ballet and Philadelphia Orchestra,Cooperstown, home of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum (and ironically, more like New York City than Albany if only because of the large community of Yankees and Mets fans that either call it home or visit to see highlights of each team's respective history) Glimmerglass Opera and museums, or the Berkshires, where you can see Pittsfield,MA, "the Brooklyn of the Berkshires" and home of the Berkshire Museum and Arrowhead, Herman Melville's residence, the beautiful small towns of Great Barrington and Lenox, and Tanglewood, the summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, as well as the Norman Rockwell Museum, where you can not only see his iconic Saturday Evening Post covers but you can also see a veritable plethora of other exciting exhibits. If you DO have this great need to visit Albany and NOWHERE ELSE, please be careful out there!
No,Jessica Simpson, buffalo don't have wings! The reason they're called "Buffalo Wings" is because Teressa Bellissimo first served these uniquely spicy chicken wings at the famous Anchor Bar in our second largest city, Buffalo, in 1964. (There are ONLY three Buffalo Wild Wings stores in the Buffalo area, and none of them are in Buffalo proper! INNNNTERESTING!) Since man does not live on wings alone, Buffalo is also the home of its own unique style of pizza, food from all over the world, and the birthplace of non-dairy whipped topping and General Mills cereals. (All silly rabbits are hereby reminded that Trix are still for kids!) Buffalo is also home to the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Shea's Performing Arts Center,a diverse theater community, the Buffalo Philarmonic Orchestra (performing at Kleinhans Music Hall), music stars Rick James, Ani deFranco, the Goo Goo Dolls, the third oldest zoo in the United States, parks designed by Frederick Law Olmstead and Calvert Vaux (also known for Central Park), the NHL Buffalo Sabres, the NFL Buffalo Bills, the Blue Jays-affiliated Buffalo Bisons, women's hockey's Buffalo Beauts, the Buffalo and Erie County Public Library, and, in case anybody's forgotten, it's THISCLOSE to Niagara Falls. The famous Maid of the Mist boat tour takes guests around the famous river from the American Falls to the Canadian Falls and back. Spring and Summer are the BEST times to shuffle off to Buffalo. Take it from a sports fan who knows, if you want to see your favorite team play the Sabres at First Niagara Center or the Bills at Ralph Wilson Stadium, either take a LOT of cold winter clothing or stay at home and watch it on TV! (So easy, even Jessica Simpson can do it!)
Everybody talks about "the end of Broadway," but if you REALLY want to see the end of Broadway...go north of Sleepy Hollow (as in Washington Irving's "The Legend of...) in Westchester County, That's where the road we all know as Broadway terminates! Seriously! "The Golden Apple" is also the home of one of America's few government-owned amusement parks, Playland, New Roc City in New Rochelle (home of an indoor amusement park, Westchester's first IMAX theater, and Monroe College's athletic complex), the Westchester County Center and the D-League Knicks, (They lost in the playoffs to Sioux Falls in the First Round. Typical Knicks!), the Neuberger Museum of Art, the Westchester Jazz Orchestra, the Westchester Philharmonic, the Yonkers Public Library and other such fine literary institutions, and the Westchester Broadway Theater in Elmsford. (Broadway the road may end in Westchester, but Broadway, and Westchester are forever!)
BTW, elsewhere in the Hudson Valley, from August to late September, the New York Renaissance Festival turns the ski resort of Sterling Forest in Tuxedo into the Shire of Sterling where men are men and women are lucky! Buy your ticket WAY early, get your Middle Age finery ready, and prepare for folk songs, jousting, living history, and food portions bigger than you can imagine...or stomach if you're smart!
As the great Vanessa Williams once sang, I've saved the best for last...NEW YORK CITY, the Big Apple, the City That Never Sleeps,the largest city in New York State and America, and the city where Huey Lewis once sang, "You can do half a million things, all at a quarter to three!" The home of the Yankees, Mets, Giants, Jets, Knicks, Nets, Rangers and Islanders. New York Public Library, New York Philharmonic, hip-hop industry, Metropolitan Museum of Art, American Museum of Natural History, Metropolitan Opera, New York City Ballet, Central Park....WHEW! Where else can you take a ferry to a small city where you can find a modern shopping mall, an authentic restoration of an American Revolutionary town, AND the home of the Yanks' minor league club? Brooklyn ain't too shabby either, what with the Mets' affiliates, the Cyclones, a revitalized Coney Island, Barclays Center, Jay-Z's gift to the people of Brooklyn which is seeing its first NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs thanks to the Isles, and a new and improved Yankee Stadium is drawing more fans than ever before, either because of or despite comedian John Oliver's campaign against premium-priced seating. BUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUT, my FAVORITE part of New York City is 31st to 34th Street in Manhattan, starting with NYU Langone Medical Center on First Avenue, continuing through the Empire State Building (the second largest building in Manhattan, after One World Trade Center, which is also worth a visit) on Fifth Avenue, Koreatown and Manhattan Mall on Broadway, and ending at Pennsylvania Plaza on Seventh and Eighth Avenues. It starts with Pennsylvania Station which is a great place to not only catch a train but also do some last minute shopping and grab a bite, (Be careful with the natives! If they get a little too out-of-control, PLEASE notify an Amtrak, MTA, or NY police officer immediately.) continues through 2 Penn Plaza (Don't miss the new Pennsy Food Court featuring top quality restaurants owned by Pat LaFrieda, Mario Battali, and Mary Giuliani, to name but a few!) and ends at Madison Square Garden, The World's Most Famous Arena! After the New York Rangers win the Stanley Cup for the first time in 22 years, (Hey, it COULD happen!) the women take over as the New York Liberty challenge the best in women's basketball. (And for the record, Broadway is by no means over! Check out Andrew Lloyd Webber's SCHOOL OF ROCK and THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA, Disney's THE LION KING and ALADDIN,FIDDLER ON THE ROOF,WICKED,CHICAGO,FINDING NEVERLAND, the Radio City NEW YORK CITY SPECTACULAR from early June to early August, and leave the kids at home before you boldly go to AMERICAN PSYCHO: THE MUSICAL!)
REMEMBER, after you've voted for the candidate of your choice, elect to visit the Empire State! (First, visit THESE sites: