Academic & Educational Trips
Although it's difficult not to learn a little something while visiting New York City, Smithsonian Journeys (tel. 877/338-8687 or 800/528-8147; www.smithsonianjourneys.org) will make sure you do, with tours that include visits to "green" architectural landmarks, art collections, and artist studios; there are also art-themed cruises along the Hudson River and trips focusing on the performing arts and Broadway theater educational trips. History and architecture buffs should check out the trips offered by National Trust for Historic Preservation Tours (tel. 800/944-6847; www.preservationnation.org), which include Hudson River Valley fall foliage cruises (with visits to Revolutionary War Sites, historic estates along the Hudson, and immersion into the Hudson Valley School of Painting); and a trip focusing on "Architectural Preservation in New York City." Elderhostel (tel. 800/454-5768; www.elderhostel.org) offers a plethora of New York educational trips, ranging from historic Hudson Valley arts and mansions to Jewish history and humor, and explorations of rural 19th-century frontier living. Their roster includes nearly 100 trips large and small to New York City and across the state. Students interested in group trips sans parental units can explore New York City while learning about its history, architecture, and culture with Educational Tours, Inc. (tel. 800/962-0060; www.educationaltours.com/Destinations/New-York-City).
Food & Wine Trips
Food and wine lovers will have their hands (and mouths) full on a trip to New York. You can enhance the experience with an organized tour that either takes in a city neighborhood's eats or plunges into the food and wine of New York State. City Food Tours (tel. 212/535-TOUR; www.cityfoodtours.com/new-york-food-tours.cfm) offers guided walking tasting tours, ethnic eats trips, and more, while Foods of New York (tel. 800/434-7554; www.foodsofny.com) organizes walking-and-eating tours of Chinatown, Greenwich Village and SoHo, Chelsea Market and the Meatpacking District, and visits to iconic food shops -- as well as 3-night packages that take in all of the above. Elderhostel features longer trips around the state; options include: "Wine, Wineries, and the Culinary Institute of America," "Finger Lakes Wine and Geology," "Hudson River Valley/Catskills Food and Wine," and "Tastes of the City: New York's Food Culture." If you're interested in the North Fork of Long Island's burgeoning food and wine scene, which has grabbed a lot of wine writers' attention, and you want to learn more about becoming a oenophile, check out Wine Camp (tel. 631/495-9744; www.winecamp.org), which puts on 4-day immersion camps, teaching campers to taste wine like an expert and pair foods with wines (it's hardly drudgery; for homework you'll visit wineries and lunch at vineyards). Foodies should also check out New York State's Tourism Website (www.iloveny.com/TravelIdeas/VineandDine.aspx) for "Vine & Dine" ideas for food- and wine-oriented trips and events throughout the state, including food festivals and wine trails.
Volunteer & Working Trips
The concept of "Voluntourism" has taken off on international trips, and increasingly there are options to do good at home while on vacation. Earthwatch Institute (800/776-0188; www.earthwatch.org), which has plenty of options abroad, offers volunteer programs for urban ecosystem research and protecting the environment in and around New York City and the Hudson River. A truly unique idea in volunteer trips is Go Sprout (tel. 212/222-9575; www.gosprout.org), which brings in volunteers to help adults with developmental disabilities such as autism, Asperger syndrome, and mild retardation to have their own vacations. Since 1979, volunteers have led small groups on one- to eight-day trips in New York City, the area around New Paltz (Catskill Mountain region), and Niagara Falls.
Yoga, spiritual, and wellness retreats have found a niche in upstate New York, particularly in the Hudson River Valley and rural Catskill Mountain Region. The highly regarded Omega Institute for Holistic Studies, 150 Lake Dr., Rhinebeck (tel. 877/944-2002; www.eomega.org), has a massive campus on 185 acres. Among their weekend and week-long wellness programs are "Rest and Rejuvenation Retreats," featuring meditation, yoga, tai chi, and other classes. New Age Health Spa, 658 Rte. 55, Neversink (tel. 800/682-4348; www.newagehealthspa.com) on 280 acres in Sullivan County, is a relaxed, all-inclusive destination spa at the edge of the Catskills State Forest Preserve. It features a 10,000-square-foot yoga and meditation center and a full menu of yoga, meditation, spa treatments, and week and mini-week schedules. Karma Triyana Dharmachakra Tibetan Buddhist Monastery, 335 Meads Mountain Rd., Woodstock (tel. 845/679-5906; www.kagyu.org), offers Buddhist teaching, practice and meditation retreats, including accommodations at the guesthouse, and vegetarian meals. Other upstate monasteries and ashrams offering stress-relieving meditation, Zen studies, fasting, and yoga retreats/vacations (as well as largely spartan, dorm-style accommodations) include: Vivekananda Retreat, Ridgely, Leggett Road, Stone Ridge (tel. 845/687-4574; www.ridgely.org); Zen Mountain Monastery, Plank Road, Mount Tremper (tel. 845/688-2228; www.mro.org); Sivananda Ashram Yoga Ranch, Budd Road, Woodbourne (tel. 845/436-6492; www.sivananda.org/ranch/); Dai Bosatsu Zendo, 223 Beecher Lake Rd., Livingston Manor (tel. 845/439-4566; www.daibosatsu.org); Blue Cliff Monastery, 3 Mindfulness Rd., Pine Bush (tel. 845/733-4959; www.bluecliffmonastery.org); Ananda Ashram, 13 Sapphire Rd., Monroe (tel. 845/782-5575; www.anandaashram.org); and Zen Center of Syracuse Hoen-Ji, 266 W. Seneca Tpk., Syracuse (tel. 315/492-9773; www.zencenterofsyracuse.org).
Escorted General-Interest Tours
Most escorted tours focus on short visits in New York City. GOGO Worldwide Vacations (www.gogoworldwidevacations.com) organizes short-term (generally 3-night) junkets to New York City and Niagara Falls, all offered through travel agents. All New York Tours (tel. 702/233-1627; www.allnewyorktours.com) has a slew of short, themed tours (including helicopter tours and movie, TV, and music tours) in New York City, while Get America Tours (tel. 800/594-0025; www.getamericatours.com) offers escorted minitours to New York City and Niagara Falls, including the latter's Festival of Lights in December. Crosby Tours (tel. 718/349-9600; www.crosbytours.com) does a 3-day "Best of New York State" tour (which is at the very least an idiosyncratic take on that superlative and may be best for New Yorkers wanting to see more of their state), traveling to Howe Caverns, the Thousand Islands, and finally, the Great New York State Fair.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.