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Author Topic: Route from Grand Rapids MI to Utica NY and back - July 2020  (Read 471 times)

A.J. Bertin

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I am planning to attend the Utica NY road meet on July 18... assuming that nothing with the COVID-19 pandemic causes that meet to be delayed a second time. I'm thinking about taking my time on the drive out to Utica and back from my home in Grand Rapids MI.

This is kind of what I'm thinking:
 - Wednesday, July 15: Drive from Grand Rapids MI to Youngstown OH (explore the Youngstown area and spend the night there)
 - Thursday, July 16: Drive from Youngstown OH to Ithaca NY (basically my route would be I-80 east to I-79 north to I-90 to I-86 to NY-13... explore Ithaca and spend the night there)
 - Friday, July 17: Drive from Ithaca to Utica (NY-13 north to I-81 north to I-481 north to I-90 east to Utica... explore the Utica area and spend the night there)
 - Saturday, July 18: Attend the meet and hang out in the Utica area
 - Sunday, July 19: Drive part of the way home from Utica... I'm debating whether I should stay in the Buffalo area or the Cleveland area. I'm sort of leaning toward Buffalo at this point which would be nice because I'd arrive in Buffalo around the middle of the day and have plenty of time to explore that area Sunday afternoon/evening before starting my drive home Monday morning. The downside, of course, to staying in Buffalo as opposed to Cleveland is that my drive home Monday would be longer, but maybe I don't care as much if it means I get to explore Buffalo on Sunday.
 - Monday, July 20: Drive home.

My original thought was to spend Thursday night in Syracuse but I kind of like the idea of staying in a smaller city that I've never stayed in before. As much as I'd like to add Syracuse to my list of cities to explore in some depth, that might be getting a bit too ambitious so I'm in favor, at this point, of exploring a smaller city like Ithaca that I've absolutely never been to before... let alone spent a night in. (My husband and I spent a night in the Syracuse area in 2018 on our way to New England for a Thanksgiving trip.)

If anyone has any thoughts or ideas about my tentative itinerary, please share!
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webny99

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Re: Route from Grand Rapids MI to Utica NY and back - July 2020
« Reply #1 on: June 13, 2020, 07:37:14 PM »

Sounds fun! Ithaca is a great up and coming college town, with lots of nearby waterfalls and state parks, that should make for a good place to stay. Of note is that, if you wanted, you could drive right through the heart of downtown Syracuse on the (much discussed here) I-81 viaduct. If you chose that route over I-481, it would add a couple minutes at most, and you'd get to see quite a bit more of the Syracuse area.

Call me biased as an upstate New Yorker, but I agree with your choice of Buffalo over Cleveland. I-90 between the two is a long, boring, cruise control kind of road, so it really comes down to which day you'd rather do the mileage on, and which city has more that you want to see. Under normal circumstances, it would be about 1-1/2 - 2 hours faster to travel through Canada instead of Ohio, but given the situation with the pandemic it seems like a wise decision to avoid cross-border travel at least through the remainder of the summer.
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vdeane

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Re: Route from Grand Rapids MI to Utica NY and back - July 2020
« Reply #2 on: June 13, 2020, 09:26:29 PM »

I agree with Buffalo over Cleveland.  I had the opportunity to drive the roads of the metro area last year and it's a nice area (now if only I could find time to finish the rest of Region 5).  Might be a good idea to check out the Buffalo Skyway and NY 198 - there are groups pushing for the removal of both, so it's unknown how long they'll be around in the present form (part of NY 33 is controversial as well).

If you don't have I-81 through Syracuse already, now would be the time to clinch it.  I-481 will still be there no matter what happens (albeit likely not as I-481)... the removal of I-81 south of I-690 is currently DOT's preferred alternative.
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csw

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Re: Route from Grand Rapids MI to Utica NY and back - July 2020
« Reply #3 on: June 13, 2020, 09:36:34 PM »

I think as long as you do the trip there or back on I-86, you'll be happy - it's supremely pretty. I think you'll like Ithaca as well. There's a lot to do there.
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A.J. Bertin

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Re: Route from Grand Rapids MI to Utica NY and back - July 2020
« Reply #4 on: June 13, 2020, 10:43:13 PM »

Thanks to everyone who's chimed in so far!

Regarding the possibility of taking the shortcut through Canada, I did briefly consider that before the COVID pandemic began. But yeah... now that we're in this pandemic and that the border is closed, there's no chance I'll even try that now... even if the border re-opens before my trip.

I appreciate the comments about Buffalo and Ithaca. All good things to consider!

Regarding I-86, the only times I've ever been on that were going westbound (once in 2006, and again in 2018). I look forward to taking it eastbound this time. :)
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JREwing78

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Re: Route from Grand Rapids MI to Utica NY and back - July 2020
« Reply #5 on: June 13, 2020, 11:56:04 PM »

I-86 is a beautiful drive - absolutely worth taking over the Tollway.

You're close enough to Niagara Falls that it's worth a stop, even with only being able to see the American side. Niagara Falls, NY is a pretty cool town as well.

If you've done the Ohio Turnpike already, it might be worth taking a different route to Youngstown. I've done the Cleveland to Lansing trip so many times I mixed it up by taking US-20, OH-2, US-6, and US-30 at various points.
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A.J. Bertin

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Re: Route from Grand Rapids MI to Utica NY and back - July 2020
« Reply #6 on: June 14, 2020, 01:20:28 PM »

You're close enough to Niagara Falls that it's worth a stop, even with only being able to see the American side. Niagara Falls, NY is a pretty cool town as well.
There's actually a small part of me that would not mind exploring Niagara Falls NY. Even though I'd be going out of the way (north) a bit to go there, that's actually not a bad idea. I'm sure I'll have another opportunity to explore Buffalo in the future, and Niagara Falls NY is probably a bit smaller and not quite as cumbersome to explore on just a Sunday afternoon/evening. Thanks for this suggestion!

If you've done the Ohio Turnpike already, it might be worth taking a different route to Youngstown. I've done the Cleveland to Lansing trip so many times I mixed it up by taking US-20, OH-2, US-6, and US-30 at various points.

I've done the Ohio Turnpike so many times that it's old and boring (same old, same old)... but my thought is that I kind of want to just get to Youngstown as early as I can on Wednesday afternoon so I have more time to explore it. I've hardly ever been to, or seen Youngstown.
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webny99

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Re: Route from Grand Rapids MI to Utica NY and back - July 2020
« Reply #7 on: June 14, 2020, 01:50:45 PM »

You're close enough to Niagara Falls that it's worth a stop, even with only being able to see the American side. Niagara Falls, NY is a pretty cool town as well.

Agree that the American side of Niagara is worth a stop. It's much more "scenic" in the traditional sense and less touristy than the Canadian side. Goat Island, Cave of the Winds, Maid of the Mist, and the observation tower are all great stops, provided they're open.

However, the actual city of Niagara Falls is kind of a dump except for the area immediately adjacent to the falls. Not worth spending a lot of time in the city apart from the falls-related attractions IMO.
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A.J. Bertin

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Re: Route from Grand Rapids MI to Utica NY and back - July 2020
« Reply #8 on: June 14, 2020, 09:39:01 PM »

Agree that the American side of Niagara is worth a stop. It's much more "scenic" in the traditional sense and less touristy than the Canadian side. Goat Island, Cave of the Winds, Maid of the Mist, and the observation tower are all great stops, provided they're open.

I've been to the Niagara Falls area a total of three or four times in my life... including 1988, 2006, and 2008. (I may have gone there when I was a toddler in the early '80s as well, but I'm not sure if that's true or not.) Having said that, I think I'm overdue to visit that area again, but the previous times I was in the area, I was only on the Canadian side. For a long time, I've said that I want to check out the NY side.

However, the actual city of Niagara Falls is kind of a dump except for the area immediately adjacent to the falls.

I've kinda heard that before. Never seen much of it firsthand.

Not worth spending a lot of time in the city apart from the falls-related attractions IMO.

Unfortunately, my time in the area will be very limited. I'll probably arrive midday Sunday and will only have Sunday afternoon/evening to explore the area. Probably enough time to check out the city (including Goat Island), the downtown, and maybe parts of the falls that I don't have to pay admission to see. If I had a few days to spend in the area, I'd definitely want to do some of the touristy things. It doesn't bother me that the city itself is a dump. If it's a city of reasonable-enough size for me to explore (in the car or on foot), I'm happy with that. The city of Niagara Falls might make more sense for me to explore than Buffalo just because of the limited amount of time I'll have.
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webny99

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Re: Route from Grand Rapids MI to Utica NY and back - July 2020
« Reply #9 on: June 14, 2020, 10:05:52 PM »

Not worth spending a lot of time in the city apart from the falls-related attractions IMO.
Unfortunately, my time in the area will be very limited. I'll probably arrive midday Sunday and will only have Sunday afternoon/evening to explore the area. Probably enough time to check out the city (including Goat Island), the downtown, and maybe parts of the falls that I don't have to pay admission to see. ...

Right, I guess what I'm saying is that it doesn't sound unfortunate to be time-limited, since you can cover most of the main attractions in a day, if not an afternoon. There are large swaths of the city that you wouldn't really want to be covering on foot, but if you stay roughly west of this route, you'll be fine. Pretty much everything worth seeing is contained in that area anyways (IMO).

I should add I believe everything on Goat Island is free (except maybe parking?), so that's definitely worth checking out.
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Brandon

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Re: Route from Grand Rapids MI to Utica NY and back - July 2020
« Reply #10 on: June 26, 2020, 04:27:41 PM »

However, the actual city of Niagara Falls is kind of a dump except for the area immediately adjacent to the falls.

I've kinda heard that before. Never seen much of it firsthand.

Yeah, we even got the rear license plate of our car stolen from there (and the front oddly enough, moved to the back) back in 1993 on a trip to Toronto that included the Falls.  We were parked in the parking lot to see the Falls from the US side.  Never had that happen before or since.
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Re: Route from Grand Rapids MI to Utica NY and back - July 2020
« Reply #11 on: June 29, 2020, 04:27:21 AM »

If you have time, I suggest a visit to Taughannock Falls--about 9-10 miles northwest of Ithaca off NY 89 in Trumansburg.  I went there as a child, then went there on our honeymoon (1987) and our 28th and 30th anniversaries.

Niagara Falls is also wonderful as we also went there in 2017--first time my wife saw the Falls in person.

I also agree with webny99 on driving on I-81 through downtown Syracuse, mainly to see what the discussions have been all about.  You could take I-690 East to I-481 North to get to the Thruway (and save some $$$).
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