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Southern Tier

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Southern Tier

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The Southern Tier of New York State is the geographical region that includes the counties of New York State west of the Catskill Mountains and along the northern border of Pennsylvania.

Lake Erie lies to the west of the Southern Tier, and the north or bordered by the Niagara region and the Finger Lakes. The region is bordered to the south by the Northern Tier of Pennsylvania, and together these regions are known as the Twin Tiers.

The majority of the region between the Allegany Mountains and the Catskill Mountains is "dissected plateau"[1] split by a few large river valleys. Most of the population centers are clustered in these valleys, particularly in the east. West of the Allegany's the land slopes gently down to the shores of Lake Erie. Climate is typical humid continental with hot, humid summers and cold, snowy winters. The region can experience heavy snows, with both lake-effect snow and Nor'Easters commonly hitting the area. Two feet of snow from a single storm is not uncommon.


New York - Southern Tier region map.png


  • Binghamton, the largest city in the region. This historic city is known as the Parlor City and the Carousel Capital of America.
  • Corning, known as the Crystal City, is home to the Corning Museum of Glass and the Rockwell Museum of Western Art.
  • Elmira, a historic town on the Chemung River. Mark Twain spent many summers here.
  • Fredonia is a village on the shores of Lake Erie. It is home to SUNY Fredonia.
  • Hornell is located in the Canisteo Valley, surrounded by beautiful forest.
  • Jamestown, city on the shores of Chautauqua Lake.
  • Johnson City, Part of the "Triple-Cities" with Binghamton and Endicott. Home of the "Square Deal".
  • Olean, city in the Allegany Mountains, home to the natural formation Rock City Park.
  • Owego, historic town on the Susquehanna River. Voted coolest small town in America.

Other destinations

  • Allegany State Park is one of the largest state park in New York.
  • Chautauqua County Grape Corridor, home of National Grape Coop (Welch's), birthplace of Concord grape juice and 2nd leading producer, and excellent wine region.
  • Chenango Valley State Park, ice age lakes provide excellent bird watching a fishing in this wilderness area.
  • Hiawatha Island
  • Lake Erie State Park, large bluffs overlooking the lake and fantastic public beaches.
  • Newtown Battlefield State Park site of the Sullivan Expeditions decisive win over the Iroquois Confederacy.
  • Midway State Park, one of the oldest continually operating amusement parks in the nation.
  • Rock City Park a rare geologic formation resembling a city.



Locations in the Southern Tier often take their names from Native American and early Colonial history. Many places and features, such as Chautauqua (sha-TAW-kwa) County, retain their original Indian names and can require a clever tongue to pronounce.

Get in

By plane

The Southern Tier is served by two regional airports with limited flights:

The nearby airports of Syracuse, Scranton, and somewhat farther away, Albany are considerably larger and offer more in the way of connections and services to the eastern portion of the Southern Tier. The western portion may be better served by airports in Buffalo and Erie, PA:

By car

  • Interstate 81 is a major north/south link to the Southern Tier. It intersects I86/17 and I88 in Binghamton.
  • Interstate 86/17 the Southern Tier Expressway crosses the entire length of the Southern Tier east to west. It provides a major link to the area from NYC and other downstate areas. Remaining sections of old Rt 17 are in the process of being upgraded to interstate standards for the completion of I86.
  • Interstate 88 provides direct connection from Binghamton to the Albany area.
  • Interstate 90/NYS Thruway runs along the coast of Lake Erie to the Buffalo area.

By bus

  • Greyhound Bus [9] has stations in Binghamton, Elmira, Hornell, and Olean.
  • Shortline Bus [10] is a regional busline. They specialize in student travel and visit every large city in the Southern Tier. They provide links to many metropolitan and tourist areas of the North-East and have at least 6 round trip buses from NYC to Binghamton daily.

By train

There currently is no passenger rail service offered in the Southern Tier, although there are some efforts to change this. [11]. However, there are Amtrak stations in nearby cities of Syracuse, Buffalo, and Erie.

Get around

The Southern Tier is a large, mostly rural region. As such, the best way to experience it is by car. There are several rental companies that service the area, particularly at the airports.

Public transportation is limited to the major metropolitan centers, with some interconnection between cities by private bus lines.


  • Corning Museum of Glass[12], in Corning, which boasts of one of the world's most extensive collections of glass items, including an amazing display of antique glassware. The museum is also home to The Rakow Library, a glass research center.
  • Fall Colors[13] The region has beautiful fall colors in late September to mid October.
  • Mark Twain Study[14] in Elmira. The study where Samuel Clemens wrote many of his works. Now located on the Elmira College campus.
  • National Soaring Museum and Hall of Fame[15]
  • Phelps Mansion Museum[16] in downtown Binghamton. Dedicated to preserving and displaying history and art of the Binghamton region.
  • Roberson Museum[17] in Binghamton, showcases Southern Tier history as well as many rotating exhibits.
  • Rockwell Museum of Western Art[18], in Corning, has a wonderful display of Western American paintings and sculptures accumulated over forty years by Mr. and Mrs. Robert F. Rockwell.
  • Ross Park Zoo[19], founded in Binghamton in 1875, it is the 5th oldest in the nation.
  • Waterman Conservation Education Center[20] near Owego. Dedicated to nature conservation and education. Owns many wilderness areas including Hiawatha Island.


  • Annual Spiedie Fest and Balloon Rally[21] at Otseningo Park in Binghamton. Massive Spiedie cook-off and craft fair combined with a twice daily hot-air balloon launch.
  • Broome-Tioga Sports Complex[22], large motocross complex located in Richford. It is a stop on the Northest Classic.
  • Chautauqua-Lake Erie Wine Trail[23], 21 wineries along 40 miles of Lake Erie countryside.
  • Discovery Center of the Southern Tier[24], located in Binghamton's Ross Park opposite the zoo. A learning center for children.
  • En-Joie Golf Course[25], public golf course in Endicott. Hosts the PGA Champions Tour Dicks Open (formerly the BC Open).
  • Kopernik Observatory and Science Center[26], located near Binghamton, it is the largest public observatory in the north-east.
  • Skyview Drags[27], a 1/8 mile IHRA dragstrip located near Owego. Frequently hosts old-style dragsters, funny cars, and rocket cars.
  • Shangri-La 2 Raceway[28], a 1/2 mile, cement, oval track located near Owego.
  • Strawberry Festival[29] in Owego, draws visitors from miles around for some of the best strawberries to be had.
  • The Finger Lakes Trail[30], a hiking trail through the Finger Lakes region with large portions in the Southern Tier.
  • The Links at Hiawatha[31] is a premier public golf course located between Binghamton and Owego. It is designed to reflect British traditions in golf.
  • Tioga Downs[32], harness racing and video slots.


As with most areas of the northeastern United States, Southern Tier cuisine is the result of the ethnic melting pot that immigration created and food offerings tend to be similar from county to county. There are very few 'traditional' foods of the area as no one ethnicity or crop dominated the region. The city of Binghamton, however, was once a popular immigrant destination. These immigrants brought their cuisine to the region and the area is still home to a large number of fantastic ethnic eateries that have stayed reasonably true to the original dishes.

Outside the cities, the Southern Tier is still an agricultural region and is a great place to find a large variety of local produce. Almost every town has at least one farmers market where fresh, local produce can be purchased. The growing season is short and relatively cool, so fruits and vegetables that favor such conditions are easy to find. The region is well known for its strawberry's in the summer and its apple crop in the fall, but other produce that grows well include cherries, potatoes, tomatoes, onions, corn, and squashes. Maple Syrup was once produced across the region and is still celebrated at numerous maple festivals in the spring. Although production has declined, it is becoming more popular due to the rising interest in natural maple syrup. Dairy is a major industry in much of the Southern Tier. Although the milk produced is generally sold to regional milk bottling companies, a few creameries and cheese factories still exist.

The Southern Tier does have one dish for which it is well known. The Spiedie, chunks of marinated meat grilled on skewers, was born in Binghamton and is quite popular throughout the region.


Before Prohibition, New York was the leading producer of Hops in the US. The western section of the Southern Tier has a rich tradition in beer craft and there are a number of breweries and brewpubs to be found here. The aptly named Southern Tier Brewing Company [33] is located in Lakewood, NY (just west of Jamestown). STBC brews some very fine craft beers and a number of season beers.

Other brewpubs can be found in Corning, Ellicottville, and Fredonia.


Lodgings depend on a given travelers preferences. Hotels are limited to the cities and to major tourist attractions. Bed and Breakfasts can be found in many of the smaller towns, particularly to the extreme east and west of the region. Additionally, there are many campsites scattered all over the Southern Tier and wilderness camping is allowed in any NYS designated state forest, of which the Southern Tier has many.

Stay Safe

Staying safe in the Southern Tier can easily be accomplished by using some common sense. The cities are generally safe, particularly in the rural areas. Binghamton is a stop on the I81 North-South drug trade and also the East-West trade out of New York City. However, it is limited and crime is generally in line with most other Upstate cities.

In wilderness area, and even in the cities (bears have been spotted in Binghamton), wildlife is the major danger. Bears and several species of Big Cats inhabit the area, however, it is deer that are by far the larger danger. The Southern Tier is overpopulated by deer and vehicle collisions are frequent and sometime fatal. Several species of poisonous animals and insects inhabit the area, although these are somewhat rare. Aggressive Hornets and Yellow-jackets are the most dangerous of this list(due to frequency of occurrence), but others include the Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake, water vipers, Northern Black Widow Spiders, and Deer Ticks (carriers of Lyme Disease).

Winter weather in the Southern Tier can be very dangerous as well. Severe storms can be unpredictable and hit with unexpected ferocity. The area is subject to both lake-effect snows off the Great Lakes and to Nor'Easters(hurricane-like snow storms that come in off the Atlantic). Take all weather advisories very seriously. Stay off the roads and ensure adequate supplies as it can sometimes be days before power is restored or the roads are cleared in remote areas. The locals are notorious for snow-storm bravado, so a good rule of thumb is to clear the road before they do.

Get Out

Nearby attractions include Lake Erie, Niagara Falls, Letchworth State Park, The Finger Lakes, Pine Creek Gorge, The Endless Mountains, The Pocono Mountains, and The Catskill Mountains.

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