My tour guide friend always likes to remind me that Binghamton is the cloudiest city in the United States east of the Rockies. Business Insider just listed us as the fifth most depressing city in the country. We aren’t doing too hot.
Binghamton is a city without much charm, but we get by. But after almost three years here, I’ve learned that Binghamton is not a microcosm of Upstate New York. There’s a lot you can do — almost too much — to escape the Southern Tier’s gray skies and find some places in New York with some real charm, without having to hollow out your wallet or travel more than an hour or two. Here are a few highlights:
Robert H. Treman State Park — Ithaca
Most of us are put off by the idea of Ithaca: smarmy Cornell students and rich but stupid Ithaca College kids. Still, there’s a lot of natural beauty up in the Finger Lakes region, and this park provides for some of the best.
The hiking is never too strenuous, and the scenery is breathtaking. Only 50 minutes up Route 96, it makes for a perfect springtime day trip. Take your pet, your pals or your best gal, and enjoy the outdoor adventure.
Dinosaur BBQ — Syracuse
About 70 miles up Route 81, there lay a fascinating barbecue pit. Motorcycles lined up outside, interior walls covered in graffiti, grizzly men at the bar and platters upon platters of ribs trademark this Jurassic joint.
Don’t be afraid to get down and dirty at Dinosaur BBQ. Try all the signature sauces, get a few pitchers of whatever’s on tap, and get up and dance to the live, rockabilly jams. Dinosaur is fun, raucous and delicious.
National Baseball Hall of Fame — Cooperstown
Binghamton is pretty shitty when it comes to sports. A minor league hockey team and a minor league baseball team (in the Mets organization, no less) are all we have to boast about.
But we’re only a 90-minute drive from the birthplace of baseball and the site of its hall of fame. The hall itself is a majestic shrine to the greatest in the history of America’s past time, with the rest of the museum providing fun, interactive exhibits for fans and non-fans alike.
And if you really don’t like baseball, Cooperstown is still a gem of a town. As the weather gets warmer, be sure to spend an afternoon walking around the village, checking out the mom and pop shops and enjoying the view of Otsego Lake.
The Crossings Premium Outlets — Tannersville, Pa.
The Crossings is a shopper’s haven, right off Route 80 in the Poconos. You’ve probably passed it on your trips back and forth to Binghamton, but haven’t taken the time to explore it.
With more than 100 stores, the outlets provide everything you can find in a mall, but at a much lower price, and manages to throw in some cool variety (a Converse outlet? I can dig it). I’m not the niftiest and thriftiest. In fact, I’m a pretty shitty shopper in general, but if you’re looking to restock your closet and don’t want to break the bank, make the trip.
OK, so it’s not in New York, but I think we can let that slide.
Corning Museum of Glass — Corning
PSYCH! Don’t go to the Corning Museum of Glass. The further west you travel on the Southern Tier, the more depressing it becomes. Go past exit 67 on Route 17 and you’ve got trouble.
Just stop fucking complaining about Binghamton and do something fun.