Albany has politics; the Adirondacks have the high peaks; the Finger Lakes and the Catskills are both perennial get-away favorites. So what does Central New York have to offer? As the middle child of Upstate New York, its charms may ultimately be more subtle. Sure, there are a couple of "must see" attractions: The Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown draws a fervent coterie of fans from around the world. But the Leatherstocking region -- named for the stories (such as Last of the Mohicans) written by local legend James Fenimore Cooper -- isn't really about the "must see"; it's more about "let's see." Come with an explorer's spirit, and you'll be rewarded in kind.

History runs deep here: The Mohawk Valley has long been fertile land, carving a route west to the Great Lakes for the Algonquin and Iroquois, and later for the German, Dutch, Welsh, and other immigrants who settled in the area. Conflict on this frontier helped set the stage for the French and Indian War, and later the American Revolution. When the Erie Canal opened in 1825, it provided an unprecedented commercial link to the west; the American textile industry called Utica home, while hops farming boomed. The 20th century, bringing agricultural disease and the Great Depression, had a devastating effect on what was once a thriving expanse of canal cities and local farms.

Today these towns celebrate their heritage at the Erie Canal Village and the Fort Stanwix National Monument. Oneida Lake attracts throngs eager for outdoor recreation, while Utica provides such cultural attractions as the Stanley Theater and the Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute. Of course, when it's time to move on, you'll have an easy ride to the Adirondacks, the Catskills, the Thousand Islands, or the Finger Lakes.