by Andrea Doyle | August 23, 2016
It's easy to be overlooked when the greatest city in the world is within your borders, but the rest of New York State offers plenty of top-notch options for visiting groups. One thing the wider state has on New York City: nature. Rolling hills of yellow wildflowers, pristine lakes, and mountains in the distance is the scenery that awaits. Groups can parasail above scenic Lake George, ride horseback along a Long Island shoreline, or whitewater raft in the Adirondacks. Wine and craft beverage trails abound as New York produces some of the best wines, beer, spirits, and cider in the U.S.

One-of-a-kind experiences are to be had at the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, the Lucille Ball Desi Arnaz Museum in Jamestown, and the Corning Museum of Glass where Thomas Edison had his first light bulbs hand blown.

Saratoga Springs
Saratoga Springs is a sophisticated destination that wows visitors with its embrace of the past, present, and future. Those with an interest in history are delighted to learn that Saratoga Springs is a key site of the American Revolution. Its springs -- some freshwater, other carbonated -- have been attracting tourists for more than a century who believe the waters possess healing powers. Saratoga looks toward the future as well, as this city is the heart of New York State's Tech Valley and home to GLOBALFOUNDRIES, a semiconductor manufacturer that recently opened a $4.6 billion, two-million-square-foot campus.

Saratoga Casino and Raceway has changed its name to Saratoga Casino Hotel and will be opening its $40 million, 117-room hotel in July, just steps away from the casino floor and harness track.

Amenities include Morton's The Steakhouse and the lobby bar, Perks Café, an indoor pool, outdoor terrace, fitness center, and a sub-dividable 3,000-square-foot ballroom for private events. One unusual feature is that guests will be able to watch and wager on live harness racing from every room in the hotel.

"The addition of the hotel and its amenities, including Morton's The Steakhouse, creates an entertainment experience unmatched in the region," says Rita Cox, senior vice president of marketing at Saratoga Casino Hotel. "Our new brand is a product of this transformation, highlighting that we are a complete entertainment destination within Saratoga Springs. First-time and repeat guests alike will find new reasons to visit -- and to keep coming back for all that we have to offer."

The 6,500-square-foot Morton's will seat 160 guests, and offers a private dining space for parties of up to 32. The lobby bar will seat an additional 60 guests.

This year, Saratoga Performing Arts Center (SPAC) celebrates its 50-year anniversary. SPAC hosts the New York City Ballet and The Philadelphia Orchestra in an acoustically enhanced amphitheater in the heart of Spa State Park. It presents chamber music, jazz, rock, and pop concerts, as well as opera, the Saratoga Wine & Food Festival, and oversees the National Museum of Dance.

The Hudson Valley and West Point 
The Hudson River and Valley, recently ranked by National Geographic as one of the top 20 places in the world to visit, is one of New York State's great natural treasures. And for groups looking to enjoy these surroundings, it's hard to beat the Historic Thayer Hotel at West Point, which celebrated its 90th anniversary at the end of May. Perched on a bluff with commanding views of the Hudson River and the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, this is the only full-service hotel that sits on the Hudson River between New York City and Albany.

MacArthur's Riverview Restaurant, the original restaurant in the hotel, is led by a Culinary Institute of America graduate and is famous for its Sunday Champagne brunch. Zulu Time Rooftop Bar and Lounge offers a lively place to enjoy the views.

The government owned The Thayer from 1926 until 1999, when the operation of the hotel was taken over by a partnership of West Point graduates, as it was in need of a capital infusion. "Today, the hotel exudes all the charm of an earlier era combined with the features that are expected in the 21st century," says Rick Minicozzi, a 1986 West Point graduate, and managing general partner of both The Thayer Hotel and Thayer Leader Development Group (TLDG) at West Point.

When the new ownership group started the revitalization of the 151-room hotel, the Thayer Leader Development Group was born. TLDG provides executive-level education based on the U.S. Army leadership philosophy of "Be, Know, Do" and the U.S. Military Academy values of "Duty, Honor, Country."

"This is the only full-service hotel on any military base in all of the world," says Minicozzi. "We recognize that we have a very large mission and obligation to the public to ensure that when guests come here to The Thayer Hotel, they have a West Point-like experience." 

The Hudson Valley is a foodie haven. Many graduates of The Culinary Institute of America set up shop in the Hyde Park area, thanks in part to its wealth of local farms, bakeries, fish markets, wineries, and breweries.

Located in the heart of the Hudson Valley's scenic Ulster County and a 20-minute drive from downtown Woodstock, the Emerson Resort & Spa has undergone a $6 million renovation of its guest rooms and public areas, and will debut its newly renovated spa and spa menu this summer.

Inspired by the resort's location in the Catskills, as well as its namesake -- poet Ralph Waldo Emerson -- the 20-acre property also recently introduced a new signature restaurant, Woodnotes Grille.

"We're thrilled with the renovation and wanted to change the overall theme of the property to more closely reflect the name of Emerson, and to prominently feature the beautiful mountains and river at our backdoor," says owner Emily H. Fisher.

The goal of the renovation was to be more reflective of the legendary poet, whose famous essay "Nature" helped to establish the Catskill Forest Preserve surrounding the Emerson grounds. The resort now brings the outside in and provides guests with open spaces and large windows, which showcase expansive views of Mount Tremper and the 65-mile-long Esopus Creek.

Syracuse, with its farm-to-table dining, award-winning craft breweries, hands-on history and museums, Rosamond Gifford Zoo, and more than 40 golf courses, makes for an excellent Central New York meetings destination.

Syracuse has a new performing arts space: The Lakeview Amphitheater on Onondaga Lake, designed by the Westlake Reed Leskosky firm, which also designed Bethel Woods Performing Arts Center. The amphitheater offers both covered and lawn seating, affording lovely views of the water and downtown Syracuse, and an event space with a deck overlooking the lake for private events.

From the revitalized downtown urban experience, to relaxing in the picturesque Finger Lakes, to Destiny USA -- the sixth-largest shopping, dining, and entertainment venue in the country -- Syracuse has plenty to offer.

The Marriott Syracuse Downtown, a historic hotel originally opened in 1924, will be celebrating its grand re-opening this July. Closed in 2004, the property has since been renovated in order to integrate the landmark's historical components with modern amenities, providing a unique, upscale experience for business or leisure travelers as well as the local community. 

Some 40 minutes outside Syracuse, Anyela's Vineyards, just minutes away from the lakefront village of Skaneateles, is a stunning setting, and its main tasting room features local artwork, a patio with breathtaking views, and exceptional wine.