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Where Does Upstate NY Actually Begin?

Where Does Upstate NY Actually Begin? Unraveling the Mystery with a Wink





Ah, the enigma that is Upstate New York. It's a debate fiercer than the best pizza slice in NYC or who should've ended up on the Iron Throne. Where does Upstate New York actually begin? Buckle up, dear reader, because this is a wild ride through the Empire State's geographical psyche, sprinkled with humor and a dash of good-natured sarcasm.


The City Slicker's View

For many Manhattanites, anything north of 96th Street might as well be the Yukon. Their concept of Upstate begins at the Bronx Zoo and extends into a vast, mysterious hinterland where wild things roam. Forget Albany, for these city folk, the northern boundaries of civilization end at Central Park. After that, it's just untamed wilderness and an occasional farmer's market.


The Commuter’s Cutoff

Ah, the trusty Metro-North. For some, the line between Downstate and Upstate is as clear as the last stop on their daily commute. Poughkeepsie is the proverbial finish line for many who define Upstate as anything beyond the reach of a Metro-North monthly pass. As soon as you can't use your commuter rail discount card, congratulations, you've crossed into the mythical land of Upstate.


The Hudson Valley Conundrum

The Hudson Valley, that verdant stretch along the majestic Hudson River, seems to sit awkwardly in this debate. Places like New Paltz and Kingston are caught in a geographical limbo. Not quite Downstate, not fully embraced as Upstate. It's a bit like being the middle child—neither here nor there, yet fiercely loved. Ask a local and prepare for a heated debate, possibly over a craft beer in a hipster brewery.


Take New Paltz, for example. This college town, nestled between the Shawangunk Ridge and the Wallkill River, is known for its eclectic vibe and adventurous spirit. Whether you’re hiking up to the Mohonk Preserve or perusing the funky shops on Main Street, it feels like a world apart from the city. Yet, mention "Upstate" to a local and watch the fireworks.


Kingston, with its charming waterfront and historic Stockade District, presents another conundrum. Once the capital of New York, Kingston has a strong case for Upstate status. As local resident Karen Phillip quips, “If you say CAW-fee, you’re not an Upstater. We say coffee like it’s a fine wine.”


Degrees of Upstatedness

Let’s introduce the concept of “Degrees of Upstatedness” because nothing says thorough analysis like arbitrary metrics. If you’re in Rosendale, you're practically brushing elbows with Brooklyn. Have a gallery in Columbia County? You're snugly ensconced in Upstate chic. Live in a town where the annual highlight is the county fair? You’re in deep, friend—this is the heartland where cow-tipping and bonfires are the weekend’s main attractions.


Consider Hudson, NY. This little gem is often cited as quintessentially Upstate. With its vibrant arts scene, trendy boutiques, and farm-to-table restaurants, Hudson has become a magnet for city-dwellers seeking a slice of the country life. Steven Kolpan, an erstwhile video artist turned wine professor residing in West Hurley, sums it up: “Upstate is hanging on to your landline for no good reason but always checking your iPhone. It’s buying Amazon but thinking locally. Somehow finding the balance between sanctimonious and humble.”


Upstate Upstate: The Far North and Western NY

Now let's journey to the land of snow and wings: Buffalo. If you thought Upstate was just the Hudson Valley, think again. Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse—these cities are the stalwarts of true Upstate living. When the locals talk about winter, they're not just discussing a light dusting of snow; they're talking about epic snowdrifts that could swallow a car. And let's not forget the legendary Buffalo wings, a culinary delight that has fueled many a heated debate about the best spot to indulge.


Rochester offers the charming High Falls and a vibrant arts scene, while Syracuse boasts the prestigious Syracuse University and its fervent Orange fans. Here, Upstate means braving the elements with a smile and a hearty spirit.


It’s All in Your Mind

Ultimately, Upstate New York isn’t just a place—it’s a state of mind. It's where croissants morph into hearty breakfast sandwiches and a “coffee regular” is practically a spiritual experience. It's where retaining a landline is seen as charmingly retro, not hopelessly outdated. It’s about balancing the sanctimonious with the humble, buying local even if your Amazon history suggests otherwise. Upstate is where your heart feels at home, even if Google Maps struggles to pinpoint it.


The Final Word

So, where does Upstate New York begin? The real answer is—it’s subjective. It’s a blend of geography, culture, and personal experience. For some, it’s a literal line on a map; for others, it’s a vibe. But if you need a solid answer, tell them it starts north of Poughkeepsie, because who doesn’t love a definitive train schedule?


Remember, Upstate begins where you feel a shift from the hustle and bustle to the serene and sublime. Now go forth and explore—Upstate awaits, wherever it might be for you!


Happy wandering, fellow explorers!

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