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Known as the Western Door by the indigenous Seneca Native Americans who originally inhabited the area, the western region of New York State is more than just a gateway to the rest of the country. Indeed, it's a spectacular mix of farmlands, gorges, lakes, and waterfalls.
A diversity of landscapes forged by ancient glaciers, it is strategically situated on two of the Great Lakes, Erie and Ontario. Western New York borders Canada and is a critical link between the two countries, as well as a major commercial and transportation hub for upstate New York.
Perhaps the biggest draw card to this area is the breath-taking beauty of Niagara Falls, in the extreme northwest of the state. It attracts millions of visitors annually, while the Finger Lakes below Lake Ontario are also an immensely popular attraction.
The region surrounding the lakes is home to the country's oldest commercial wine producing area. Cliff-hugging vineyards compete with rolling farmlands and fields of sunflowers border picturesque towns, harking back to the Victorian era.
However, it is not all sleepy hollows and rural landscapes. Bustling cities such as Rochester and Buffalo offer top class amenities and attractions, including parks, museums, galleries, and fine restaurants.
The Western New York State region is therefore a healthy mix of natural beauty and urbanity, and there is plenty to see and do, from hiking, fishing, and white-water rafting, to wine tasting, shopping, and dining.
The Niagara Falls straddle the United States and Canadian border, 340 miles (547km) northwest of New York City. They are one of the most popular natural attractions in the country, attracting more than 20 million tourists a year. The river plunges over a cliff of dolostone and shale, forming the second largest waterfall on earth after Victoria Falls in southern Africa. While best appreciated via a boat trip, there are a number of different tours available which will probably touch on the numerous daredevils that have braved its drop. Many have gone over in barrels, while a tightrope crossing in 1859 has inspired scores of tightrope walkers to do the same.
The 11 narrow Finger Lakes are popular getaways for boating and fishing, the surrounding rolling hills interspersed with waterfalls, gorges and parks perfect for Hikers, cyclists and skiers. Its name comes from Native Americans believing the Finger Lakes formed when one of their gods reached out to bless their region, leaving behind an imprint of their hand. Known also for its wine industry, most of the vineyards sit on the Cayuga Wine Trail, overlooking the Cayuga Lake. They offer tours, tastings and a variety of tourist accommodation from luxury lodges to campsites.
Buffalo sits on the eastern shore of Lake Erie, serving as a good base for visiting Niagara Falls and for exploring the Finger Lakes region. The city has some noteworthy Victorian architecture and good museums. Indeed, the Albright-Knox Art Gallery contains an impressive collection of works by American artists and hosts many great touring exhibitions, while the Buffalo Zoo is home to an exotic assortment of animals from all over the world. The nearby Letchworth State Park is popular with hikers and offers wonderful views over the Genesee River Gorge, promoted as the 'Grand Canyon of the East'.
Western New York is chock full of interesting cultural sites, with tourism dominated by two immensely popular attractions. Niagara Falls is a celebrated honeymoon destination while the Finger Lakes attract hikers, campers, fishermen, and boaters from all over the US.
Another wonderful scenic attraction in the region is the Letchworth State Park, fondly named 'The Grand Canyon of the East'. The Allegeny State Park and the Allegheny Forest also offer ample space for outdoor recreation. Popular cities and towns include Rochester, Buffalo, Jamestown, and Niagara Falls, which all make good travel hubs. Rochester, famous for being the birthplace of amateur photography, is home to the National Museum of Play and some celebrated theatres.
Buffalo's top tourist attractions include the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, the Theodore Roosevelt Inaugural National Historic Site, and some lovely gardens and parks. The Darien Lake theme park and concert venue, about half way between Rochester and Buffalo, also attracts throngs of visitors in the warm summer months.
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