Attraction: It's always a thrill to see a towering ocean-going freighter, or an osprey, suddenly appear from behind a thickly wooded island on this tranquil stretch of St. Lawrence River.
What's best about it: The scenery. It's a wonderful place for a picnic, swim or boat ride, where boaters criss-cross the Canada-U.S. border without even noticing.
Tips: Tour boats from Rockport and Gananoque stop at Boldt Castle in the U.S. The Rhineland-style castle was built more than 100 years ago and is grander than ever. You'll need a passport. The boat ride with castle admission costs about $40 for adults. Boldt Castle's latest attraction is a steam yacht built in 1892. The Antique Boat Museum in Clayton, New York, has a vast collection of handsome, restored river craft from the area's golden age. The collection now includes a large, sumptuous houseboat built for tycoon George Boldt in 1903.
Getting there: You have two choices if crossing the river by car: Ogdensburg or the Thousand Islands Bridge. You may face shorter waits at peak times at Ogdensburg. To get to the Thousand Islands Bridge from the Ontario side, take the scenic route, through Brockville then on the Thousand Islands Parkway.
Attraction: The Adirondacks is a mountainous region in northern New York. Vast areas are designated as a park, larger than some U.S. states.
What's best about it: The wilderness and wildlife. But also winter and summer resorts, notably in Lake Placid and Lake George.
Tips: Lake Placid, twice site of the Winter Olympics, is a great place to visit in summer as well as winter. It's about a three-hour drive from Ottawa. The Adirondack Scenic Railroad runs a summer tourist train between Lake Placid and nearby Saranac Lake; the adult return fare is $19 (all U.S. prices in U.S. funds). The View restaurant in Lake Placid's Mirror Lake Inn is famous, with main courses in $30 to 40 range. Lake George is a favourite summer vacation spot for New Yorkers. Highly recommended is a cruise in old steamships -- including the Minne Ha Ha and Mohican. A one-hour cruise costs $11.75 for adults.
Getting there: Cross the St. Lawrence at Ogdensburg, then take Routes 68 and 56 into Adirondack Park. On reaching Tupper Lake, take Route 3 to Saranac Lake and follow the signs to Lake Placid. For Lake George, take Route 30 south at Tupper Lake and continue on Route 28 from Indian Lake.
www.adirondackrr.com and click on Lake Placid
The Finger Lakes
Attraction: Indian folklore has it that the Finger Lakes represent the hand of God putting his seal of approval on this beautiful region of upstate New York.
What's best about it: Living life at a slower pace, as is done in similar rural areas of Canada, but on other side of Lake Ontario.
Tips: Tour the wineries, of which almost 30 are on the Seneca Lake Wine Trail. A $12 passport entitles you to free samples at all of them. Visit one of the state parks. Feel history in the area around Elmira where author Mark Twain spent many summers. Visit Auburn, a key stop on the underground railroad enabling fugitive slaves to flee to northern New York and Canada. The area has many B&Bs with rates less than $100 a night for two people. You can easily combine visit to the Finger Lakes with a stop at Waterloo Premium Outlets, one of the largest discount shopping complexes in New York state.
Take the Thousand Islands Bridge, I-81 south to Syracuse, then I-90 west to various exits to Finger Lakes.
Attraction: It's one of the leading mountain resorts -- summer and winter -- in the United States. Lots of cultural and social activities.
What's best about it: Mount Mansfield, Vermont's highest peak. On a clear day, the summit offers views of three states -- Vermont, New Hampshire and New York -- as well as Quebec. A toll road zigzags to the summit, costing $25 for a car and up to six occupants.
Tips: Be sure to visit the Trapp Family Lodge, still owned by members of the von Trapp family, who became world famous when their life story was told in The Sound of Music. Maria von Trapp, played by Julie Andrews in the movie, was a familiar sight around Stowe for decades until her death in 1987 at age 82. It's quite expensive to stay at the lodge, and a two-night lodging-and-board package can cost upwards of $335 per person. But the outstanding restaurant is affordable, with cooked breakfast costing about $20 and several choices of main course for dinner less than $30. You don't have to stay there to eat there.
Getting there: Cross the St. Lawrence at Cornwall, then take Routes 37 and 11 to Lake Champlain. Soon after entering Vermont, take I-89 and continue through Burlington to Exit 10. Then take Route 100 north to Stowe.
Cooperstown, New York
Attraction: The mountain scenery, with a charming old village beside a lake. The area was the setting for James Fenimore Cooper's adventure novels, most famously The Last of the Mohicans.
What's best about it: It depends whether you're more into baseball or opera. For baseball fans, it's a pilgrimage to visit the National Baseball Hall of Fame -- especially this year for fans of the old Montreal Expos. Andre Dawson, most beloved of Nos Amours, will be immortalized at an outdoor ceremony in Cooperstown July 25, 2010. Admission is free. For opera fans, Cooperstown is like heaven on Earth on a summer's afternoon or evening. Take some wine and have a picnic before a performance by the Glimmerglass Opera in a modern opera house overlooking the lake. The season runs July to August.
Tips: Stay in a B&B, with room rates typically $100 to $150 a night for two people. Drop into the splendid old Otesaga Hotel for an excellent light meal for $10 to $15. Buy a combination ticket for baseball, art and farming museums for about $30. The cheapest seats, usually about $40, are perfect in the small opera house.
Getting there: Take the Thousand Islands Bridge, I-81 south to Syracuse, I-90 east to Herkimer, Rte. 28 south to Richfield Springs. Then take Rte. 20 east and Rte. 80 south along the lake into Cooperstown.
Saratoga, New York
Attraction: Saratoga National Historical Park on the Hudson River was the scene of a key battle in the war of independence. Tourists flock here each summer for horse racing and high-quality, outdoor musical entertainment
What's best about it: The history of the place and the excitement created by thousands of people out enjoying themselves. Start with breakfast at the racetrack, watching horses do early-morning gallops. Watch racing in the afternoon (ideally while lunching at the track-side restaurant, which typically costs about $50 per person, including wine). Enjoy a musical performance at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center in evening.
Tips: Breakfast at Saratoga is a must. With tax and tip, it's about $20. The racing season runs from July 23 to Sept. 6. Saratoga is the summer home of the New York City Ballet and the Philadelphia Orchestra. The ballet performs in July and the orchestra in August. Orchestral highlights include the 1812 Overture Aug. 21 with "living history" military re-enactments. Orchestra tickets range from $18 to sit on the lawn to $72.50 for the best seats.
Getting there: Cross the border at Ogdensburg and take the scenic route over the Adirondack Mountains, via Tupper Lake. Follow Route 28 to I-87 and continue on highway to the Saratoga Springs exit.
www.nyra.com and click on Saratoga
Attraction: The Tanglewood music festival draws large, enthusiastic crowds every summer to outdoor concerts featuring world's best classical musicians. The setting is sublime -- a country estate in the rolling Berkshire hills.
What's best about it: It's very affordable. A ticket to sit on the lawn ranges from $9 to $21, depending on the day and event. Admission to the lawn is free for those under 18 accompanied by an adult. Many lawn patrons take a picnic, with wine to wash it down. Most concerts feature the Boston Symphony or Boston Pops (this year celebrating its 125th anniversary). There are also jazz and folk concerts.
Tips: Avoid staying in vicinity, where accommodation is very expensive during festival season, in July and August. This year's festival highlight promises to be Tanglewood on Parade Aug. 3. It features composer-conductor John Williams, pictured below, who celebrates his 30th Tanglewood summer.
Getting there: You have two choices for getting to Albany: Take the scenic route over the Adirondack Mountains, via Tupper Lake, or take I-81 to Syracuse, then I-90. From Albany, take I-90 to the Lenox exit, just over the border in Massachusetts.
www.bso.org and click on Tanglewood.
The Hudson Valley, New York State
Attraction: Many of the stately homes built by America's rich and famous in a rural paradise along the Hudson River are now open to the public.
What's best about it: Seeing what can be achieved when expense is absolutely no object. The kings and queens of France lived no more lavishly.
Tips: Spend at least one full day exploring this scenic region, perhaps before or after a visit to New York City. The most stylish of the mansions, near the village of Sleepy Hollow, was home to four generations of the family of oil tycoon John D. Rockefeller. Adult admission is $23. Also highly recommended are the former homes of Frederick Vanderbilt and late president Franklin D. Roosevelt, both near the village of Hyde Park. Adult admission is $14 to the Roosevelt home and includes entrance to the presidential library. It costs $8 to visit the spectacular Vanderbilt mansion. Also worth visiting is the U.S. military academy at West Point, on the other side of the Hudson (the academy's emblem is pictured on the Travel front). Admission is free to visitors' centre and museum.
Getting there: Take the Thousand Islands Bridge and
I-81 to Syracuse, I-90 to Albany and I-87 to the Hudson River, crossing at Kingston, New York. Then head south on Route 9 to the mansions.
Boston and Cape Cod
Attraction: It's the best of both worlds -- all a really big city (Boston) has to offer, plus laid-back summer vacation paradise on the sandy beaches of the Cape.
What's best about it: We're spoiled for choice in Boston. There's the revolutionary history of the Boston Tea Party and what followed. The art gallery and symphony orchestra are among best in the world. There's the Red Sox baseball team in summer and the Bruins hockey team in other seasons. When we head for the beach, there's the choice of taking a side trip to Martha's Vineyard or Nantucket.
Tips: Spend most of your time in Boston exploring the harbour and historic area. In baseball season, visit Fenway Park, where seats in upper bleachers is a bargain at $12. (You could splurge on $328 for a dugout box seat). The Boston Museum of Fine Arts (hefty $20 adult admission) is about to get even bigger and better with the opening of a $500-million expansion in November. On the Cape, check out the Kennedy compound, visible from beach at Hyannis. The round-trip fee for the ferry to Martha's Vineyard is just $15 for adults. Whale-watching cruise from Provincetown is $39.
Getting there: Take HIghway 417 to Montreal, 10 and 133 to U.S. border, then I-89 and I-93 to Boston.
New York City
Attraction: These vagabond shoes are longing to stray ... These little town blues are melting away ... Like the song says, it's a cure for the blues.
What's best about it: Just being there. Soaking up the atmosphere. Feeling the energy. Being stimulated by sights and sounds. Watching the world go by. The greatest pleasure is strolling Manhattan's streets.
Tips: Walk until you can walk no more: see the site of World Trade Center, Times Square, Wall Street, Broadway, Harlem, Fifth Avenue, Lincoln Center, the East Side and the West Side. Stop for a rest and a bite to eat outdoors at Rockefeller Plaza or the Boathouse in Central Park or in self-serve restaurants at Trump Tower or the Metropolitan Museum. The best bus tour costs just $2.25 -- it's city transit and is the perfect place to observe New Yorkers. The best boat tour is the one-hour, round-trip ride on the Staten Island Ferry. It's free. The second best boat tour is Circle Line, a bargain at $35 for a three-hour circumnavigation of Manhattan. The best way to get tickets for shows is to go to a theatre box office. Finding a bargain-priced hotel room takes time, effort and luck, but it's usually possible to get one for $150 a night. Park your car out of midtown-Manhattan, where rates are exorbitant.
Getting there: Take the Thousand Islands Bridge and I-81 to Binghamton, then U.S. 17 to Harriman, then the Palisades Parkway to George Washington Bridge into Manhattan. It's a spectacular way to arrive in the city.
Newport, Rhode Island
Attraction: Rich history, great natural beauty, unimaginable wealth and a wide variety of cultural attractions make this old seaport one of the most fascinating spots in New England.
What's best about it: Mansions that were the summer home of the super-rich in Newport's heyday, a century or more ago. Many homes are open to the public and lavishly furnished as they were when their owners spent a few weeks each summer entertaining friends and flaunting their wealth.
Tips: Buy one of several combination packages to visit the mansions. A ticket to five is $31. This includes The Breakers, the most famous, built for Cornelius Vanderbilt. Wear walking shoes and take the Cliff Walk, a spectacular, winding trail along cliffs past many old mansions. Cruise the bay in a vintage sailing boat for about $30. Sip an afternoon cocktail while sitting in an Adirondack chair overlooking the bay at CastleHill Inn & Resort, 590 Ocean Dr. It's my favourite spot in the world to relax on a summer's afternoon.
Getting there: Take the Thousand Islands Bridge, I-81 south to Syracuse, then I-90 (New York Thruway and then Massachusetts Turnpike) to the Providence exit. You'll need a good local map to skirt Providence. The recommended route into Newport is to stay west of Narragansett Bay until the bay bridge at Jamestown.
The Maine coast
Attraction: A rocky coastline, unspoiled scenery, whale watching, fresh lobster to die for and Acadia National Park, a mountainous wilderness by the Atlantic Ocean.
What's best about it: The nature -- animal, vegetable and mineral. If you could visit just one national park in the eastern United States, this should be it. The park has 15 mountain peaks and some 500 types of wildflowers.
Tips: Bar Harbor is good base from which to visit park. It has lots of B&Bs. From late June to early October, park admission is $20 for seven days for a carload of people. Bar Harbor Whale Watch Co. offers whale-watching tours for $56, and cheaper, shorter boat trips to view scenery and wildlife. Along the coast, Old Orchard Beach is favourite vacation haunt for French-speaking Canadians, due to its sandy beaches.
Getting there: Take Highway 417 to Montreal, 10 and 133 to Vermont border, then I-89 to Route 2, which joins I-95 west of Bangor, Maine. From Bangor, follow Routes 1 and 3 to Bar Harbor.
Michael Prentice is an Ottawa writer who has enjoyed visiting all these places. His favourites are the Thousand Islands for a daytrip, Cooperstown or Saratoga for a weekend and Newport or New York City for a longer trip.