Sure, some of the places are free anyway, from Bard's Gehry-designed Fisher Center and the State Museum in Albany to the Dorsky or Loeb Art Museums on the SUNY-New Paltz and Vassar campuses and the Museum of Firefighting in Hudson. But others tend to cost a pretty penny, from the Vanderbilt and Roosevelt Historic Sites through Dia:Beacon to the glorious Fort Ticonderoga complex overlooking Lake Champlain way north of here. And rarely do we get the chance to actually tour all of it in one fell swoop.
That, according to Quadricentennial Commission chairman Joan Davidson, is the whole point of what this year's effort is about: a sort of glorified demonstration of the newish term "staycation," where we all take mini-vacations within our own state and stretch our borders, both literally and figuratively, to gain new eyes on what it means to be from here - and subsequently herald this strip of New York, from the Canadian border to the Big Apple, to others. It all adds up to something of a living, breathing tour book - a WPA Guide brought to life and updated - with the economic emphasis shifted from entrance fees to local spending on travel costs and restaurants, and hopefully even lodgings for those wishing to take full advantage of all that's offered. Altogether, 100 sites are taking part, north to south. Choosing what to hit could be difficult - unless one prioritizes a few long-held must-sees and begins charting journeys from there.
In our family, with a Revolutionary War toddler needing castlelike structures to dream about, we'll be using Ticonderoga, Frederic Church's Olana, Historic Huguenot Street in New Paltz, the strangely quaint Grant Cottage between Saratoga and Glens Falls, the Livingston family's Clermont palace and the Museum of the American Indian in lower Manhattan as placeholders, and fitting in what we can among them all. A long trip, yes; but one that we're hoping will provide not only a great, sweeping view of the state, but also enough nap time in between locations to allow me the chance to get by the Albany Institute of History & Art, as well as the Governor's Mansion, to see if a great painting of a tarred-and-feathered journalist is still hanging, and what the interior designers have been doing with the revolving-door aspects of the latter home in the past few years. Unless the little guy raises a stink, of course - then we'll just stay closer to home, hitting Byrdcliffe and the Senate House in Kingston, and maybe Manitoga and Boscobel down near Garrison; some mansions and little-seen glories up in Kinderhook; perhaps a stretch up to Troy, or the Melville house outside Rensselaer.
Visit www.heritageweekend.org to start working up your own itineraries.