National Geographic's Driving Guides to America: New York and Pennsylvania and New Jersey opens with this advice: "When you pass this way traveling by wheel, imagine the mid-Atlantic as frontier. Think about walking the trails blazed by the Iroquois, Henry Hudson, and Harriet Tubman, for these lands will tell you a thousand stories." You might begin your journey with a walk from Battery Park, "a sliver of green at the southern tip of Manhattan Island," through lower Manhattan, and on to the Fulton Fish Market in the South Street Seaport Historic District. Or tour Pennsylvania Dutch Country starting in Harrisburg and looping around to Lancaster and historic Gettysburg, which "marks the improbable site of the bloodiest battle in the Civil War." Along the way, author Randall Peffer acts as your guide, offering directions and travel tips, pointing out sights you shouldn't miss, and making historical connections.
The suggested routes, which include mileage, estimated trip length, and the best time of year to travel, are perfect for planning your excursion and choosing where you want to stop. Brief descriptions, complete with phone numbers and business hours of the various sites, correspond to highlighted points on the maps. Woodstock, for example, is stop #4 on the tour of the Albany-Catskill region. "Hippie folk with tie-dye shirts, long hair, beads, sandals, and granny dresses will hark you back to the sixties.... While the legendary 1969 rock concert didn't happen here (it took place 50 miles away in Bethel), Woodstock's mystique as a place of magic and inspiration for the young--and the young at heart--endures."
Sidebars on the "Jersey Tea Party" (1774), "Treason at West Point," and the "Eternal Tap" of Pennsylvania's Straub Brewery, among other topics, offer background and interesting details about the sights along the outlined itineraries. Perhaps the finest feature of the guide is the more than 120 full-color photographs, which are in keeping with the care and quality of all National Geographic publications. The stunning depictions of the view from the Olympic ski jump at Lake Placid, the eroding ruins of the Austin Dam disaster, and the waterfalls at Ricketts Glen State Park are sure to engage your imagination and inspire you to pack your bags and choose your destination. --Heidi Robinson