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Mall me up
October 13, 2011 4:30 PM   Subscribe

What day trips from NYC will give me a taste of middle America and/or red state culture? Big malls, Big Gulps, big cars with Bush-Cheney decals... What places are the cultural opposite of "liberal elite" Manhattan yet still close to Manhattan?
posted by dontjumplarry to Travel & Transportation around New York, NY (45 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
Upstate New York, especially in the 518 area code.
posted by Sticherbeast at 4:34 PM on October 13, 2011


Go on a pilgrimage upstate to Palmyra, the childhood home of Mormon founder Joseph Smith. If you go in the summer you can catch the grand stage re-eanactment of the Book of Mormon. I'm from California and found the area to have rural charm.
posted by steinsaltz at 4:34 PM on October 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


You can do PLENTY well in central Long Island, between Islip and Shirley.
posted by RJ Reynolds at 4:41 PM on October 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


If you're going to go to A mall on L.I. for that real mall-y mall experience I would go to Roosevelt Field. It's bigger, there are more stores, more spoiled teenagers, you'll find your SUVs, etc. I'm not sure it meets your criteria for "opposite of liberal elite" (mostly because I'm not sure what the means or if you'll be able to find it on L.I. and not sure if when you find it you'll be as entertained as you think). But it would at least be a lot less boring than Smithhaven (the mall that's out around Islip and Shirley).
posted by bleep at 4:46 PM on October 13, 2011


I Am the Mall Anachronism had some good suggestions that might suit your needs.
posted by MonkeyToes at 4:56 PM on October 13, 2011


Do you want to visit suburbs or exurbs or small towns or rural areas or something else? How far is a day trip, in terms of miles or hours of driving or whatnot? Speaking of that, how will you be traveling?
posted by box at 4:57 PM on October 13, 2011


You don't even need to leave New York, take a trip out to King's Plaza.
posted by Ad hominem at 5:13 PM on October 13, 2011


Don't have a car, so anywhere that's ~ or < a couple of hours away by train or bus I guess.
posted by dontjumplarry at 5:14 PM on October 13, 2011


You can get to Princeton, NJ easily from Manhattan. Take a bus from the port authority.

Princeton is a beautiful town, and you can tour the historic ivy league school there. And it is definitely not liberal Manhattan.
posted by Flood at 5:22 PM on October 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


You don't even need to leave New York, take a trip out to King's Plaza.

Unless things have seriously changed since I have been there (or were very different before I ever went there) Kings Plaza is in a black neighborhood. Unless you're talking about the act that it borders on Gerritsen Beach, in which case, yeah.
posted by griphus at 5:33 PM on October 13, 2011


I think you would be fine coming here to long island. Why you would want to visit here t o see big cars and malls though is beyond me.
posted by majortom1981 at 5:36 PM on October 13, 2011


Princeton, NJ is a lot of things, but it's definitely not what I'd call red state middle America.
posted by Diagonalize at 5:36 PM on October 13, 2011 [8 favorites]


Princeton is a beautiful town, and you can tour the historic ivy league school there. And it is definitely not liberal Manhattan.

Exactly. It's liberal Princeton.
posted by CommonSense at 5:37 PM on October 13, 2011 [3 favorites]


Staten Island.
posted by entropone at 5:39 PM on October 13, 2011 [3 favorites]


(To the extent that Staten Island is Fischer Price's My First Long Island, Gerritsen Beach is Practice Staten Island.)
posted by griphus at 5:39 PM on October 13, 2011 [3 favorites]


Roosevelt Field on LI is easily accessible by LIRR and bus. Start there, if you want worse, you may need to look much further.

WRT griphus' comment, Roosevelt is a "black neighborhood" (80% if I remember right), but the mall is technically in East Garden City (50% black if I'm remembering right). (Garden City itself is very white, LI is very segregated. Cross a street and there's no doubt in your mind that you've left the rich white neighborhood with its own police department, etc.)

That being said, while LI does run conservative compared to NYC, it's still not middle-of-no-where/middle-America conservative. I say this as someone who makes about two trips a year to stereotypical small mid-west cities in very red states.

Try grabbing a bus to a small PA mining town if you're really willing to kill an entire day and not just an afternoon.
posted by Brian Puccio at 5:40 PM on October 13, 2011


Though if you do come to LI, visit the miracle mile. I mean, you're out here, you might as well.
posted by Brian Puccio at 5:41 PM on October 13, 2011


The town of Colonie, which is on the outskirts of Albany, is what you're looking for. Colonie is full of McMansions, malls (strip and otherwise), SUV's, and Republicans. Wolf Road, in particular, is a miserable stretch of chain garbage.

Columbia County, which is even closer to you, doesn't really have any big malls (though plenty of strip malls) but it's definitely Bush-Cheney country. Lots of big cars and trucks (many people there farm, and have need of such uncivilized vehicles). Lots of fat people. Lots of poor people.

Going further into western New York gets even better. Almost every radio station is country or Christian.
posted by imalaowai at 5:47 PM on October 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Like you can't get Big Gulps in Manhattan? Do you know how to get to Queens?
posted by Ideefixe at 5:50 PM on October 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


Utica. Or anywhere else in the "rust belt" of Upstate NY. Utica has the partially abandoned New York State Lunatic Asylum and is a perfect example of the crumbling boomtowns that litter the US.
posted by blueskiesinside at 5:52 PM on October 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


To help you get more specific answers - I grew up in Dutchess County. The problem you are going to have is getting around once you get off the metro-north. Upstate (real upstaters will laugh at Dutchess County being called 'upstate') is not conducive to walking/busing around. I'd say your best bet would be Beacon. With the exception of Main Street, which is now an antiques/art gallery street (odd since when I was a kid it was a shit hole), you can walk from the train station and see plenty Republicanism. You could then take the bus to the South Hills Mall and The Poughkeepsie Galleria. Further north, Kingston might do nicely. There's a mall there.

The other side of the river (Orange County) is even more red state. You can get there by train as well. Oddly enough, Woodstock is entirely surrounded by hard core red-state-ism. You can take a bus there from Port Authority but once you're up there you're gonna need a bike or a car.
posted by spicynuts at 5:52 PM on October 13, 2011


Yeah, there are kind of two different "red" areas -- bland, rich-ish suburby red stuff, and "poor white trash" red stuff. Are you looking for one over the other?
posted by imalaowai at 5:56 PM on October 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Scranton, PA! Although if you really want to feel like you've, uh, gotten away, I recommend heading an hour northwest of there into really rural Pennsyltucky. It's beautiful (Endless Mountains), but you will never have seen so many pickup trucks in your Entire Life.

When I lived there I was spat on and hectored for biking. I had Random strangers say I probably thought we should kiss prisoners instead of killing them (I guess I looked liberal). But I was also rescued in less than a minute when I drove my Escort wagon into a snowbank - stranger with a truck and winch stopped almost immediately. So red that my former hippie boss ran as a Republican when he was seeking public office to try to rein in the local landfills.
posted by ldthomps at 6:00 PM on October 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


In NJ at least, you can get big malls, big gulps and SUVs very close to the city (Rt 17 in Bergen County is essentially six huge malls connected by smaller strip malls), but you'll still be solidly in Blue State territory.

Sussex County is purty darn red, though, both "bland rich" red and the "hicky" red. The county seat, Newton, is like a little chunk of Nebraska: lots of farming, Main Street, courthouse square. Not a lot of mall, though; more mom & pop. You can take the Rt 80 Lakeland Bus from Port Authority to get there, and stop at the Rockaway Townsquare Mall if you really need to see a Deb and a Sbarro to feel complete.
posted by apparently at 6:10 PM on October 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


I grew up in Staten Island. Staten Island - and Long Island, and much of New Jersey, and parts of Queens - will give you a sort-of approximation of this, but with a distinct New York flavor. Think people driving around in SUVs while drinking Big Gulps and munching on bagels or calzones. Also, while it leans Republican, it's Republican in a sort-of 'rah, rah America, leave me and mine alone' sort of way (ironic, really, because it's populated by lots of civil servants), not in a bible-thumping-Christian-revivalist sort of way (there was one born-again kid in my high school, and he was considered a big weirdo).

In sum, it's only superficially Middle America. Dig just a tiny bit deeper, and you're still in New York. There's strip malls, and SUVs, and chain restaurants, and Republicans, but ultimately, you are still surrounded by New Yorkers.

If you want to experience the type of middle America you are talking about, suburban Pennsylvania or Orange County would probably come a bit closer. But if you want real "red-state culture" I think you'll have to go, well, a red state. Or at least a purple one.
posted by breakin' the law at 6:15 PM on October 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


Nassau County hasn't voted for a republican in a presidential election since '88. Local republican politicians really bear very little resemblance to "red state america", and if anything represent the last gasps of the machine party of the 80's and earlier, not what you think of when you think of repubs.

Most of the county actually represented by Democratic reps. The one repub rep is a unique sort of idiot, but not of the Cantor/Ryan style of idiot. Garden City's (female) rep is one of the most openly pro-gun control people in the house. Most of the county was built up in the years just after WWII, so its not McMansion-y.

Suffolk County has similar characteristics - the area of poor whites everyone keeps calling "Red State" actually has a dem rep as well.


In other words - only a "Liberal Elite" from NYC could possible think any of the NYC burbs are "Red America"
posted by JPD at 6:32 PM on October 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


Upstate New York, especially in the 518 area code.

Eh, I don't think so, at least not in Albany (518), where I lived for a couple years. I don't remember seeing any Bush or McCain signs. I saw a lot of Obama signs all over the place.
posted by John Cohen at 6:35 PM on October 13, 2011


much of New Jersey,

No, I don't think so. New Jersey is now the wealthiest state in the nation. Though you might find some small pockets of backwaterism still, the state is far too rich, too cosmopolitan, and too non-Christian to match the demographics of "middle America." There are a lot of right-wingers there, but they're more the "I got mine, tough on you" variety than the stereotype you're looking for - white, working/middle class, away from urban centers.

I agree with those who recommend visiting upstate NY or Northeastern PA.
posted by Miko at 6:39 PM on October 13, 2011


Western New York is *not* a day-trip from New York City.
posted by Lucinda at 6:39 PM on October 13, 2011 [3 favorites]


Here's an interactive map showing how each US county voted in the 2008 Presidential election. Click on a state to zoom in and see its counties lit up red or blue.

For NJ, discount the red counties closest to NYC; those are just Wall Streeters wanting to hold on to their money. No gun racks until you hit the counties bordering PA.
posted by apparently at 6:42 PM on October 13, 2011


Not exactly a day trip, but I'd be more than happy to trade lives with you for a week or so.

Sincerely,
A Texas Native
posted by Krazor at 7:27 PM on October 13, 2011


Eh, I don't think so, at least not in Albany (518), where I lived for a couple years. I don't remember seeing any Bush or McCain signs. I saw a lot of Obama signs all over the place.

Come to the suburbs/exurbs of the Capital Region. Oh, you'll meet Republicans alright. Especially, judging from my Facebook feed, Republicans of my own age.
posted by Sticherbeast at 8:00 PM on October 13, 2011


Come to the suburbs/exurbs of the Capital Region. Oh, you'll meet Republicans alright. Especially, judging from my Facebook feed, Republicans of my own age.

Fair enough, but then the OP should get an answer that's more specific than just upstate and the 518 area code.
posted by John Cohen at 8:28 PM on October 13, 2011


Go to Port Authority and spend $52 on a Bieber Bus round-trip tix to Reading, PA. (There's a daily 8:30am bus.) You can be in average-town-Pennsylvania by 10:30am. Spend time there and eat a meal at the Peanut Bar. Then get back on the bus and spend a few hours at the three stops that the bus will make on its way back to NYC. Kutztown, Allentown, and Hellertown will give a nice taste of middle-America-that's-within-a-ridiculously-constrained-distance-from-liberal-elite-Manhattan.
Or, it'll cost you $80 to take Amtrak to Raleigh, NC this weekend so you can experience the wonder of the North Carolina State Fair. Trust me, you will Not Regret It.
I grew up in a Northeastern City that I thought was red state. Over the last 17 years, I've learned that nothing I experienced up there helped me to understand that most of America can't actually drive to NYC/Philly/Boston/DC/Chicago/LA/Seattle/Dallas, etc, etc... within a few hours. That (from my experience) is a dramatically different life-experience from anything you can get on a day trip in the Northeast.
posted by rubberfish at 9:22 PM on October 13, 2011


New Jersey is now the wealthiest state in the nation.

AHEM. No. That "honor" now belongs to Maryland. I know this because I lived in NJ until 2006, at which point I moved to Maryland, my (original and once again current) home state. I took a weird mix of pride AND shame in the fact that the "wealthiest state in America" title moved from NJ to MD just as I personally made that same move.

While I live in Maryland, it's in Baltimore City, so I have to laugh at the whole "wealthiest state" thing (since I live in the poorest non-Appalachian jurisdiction in the state), but I realize it has more to do with Howard and Montgomery Counties, with a smattering of the nouveau-riche Black Republican belt of PG County -- in other words, benefiting off the fact that we live in an unusually small state that hugs the I-95 corridor (just as when I was in NJ). And when I lived in NJ, I knew that it had more to do with Somerset, Mercer, parts of Hudson/Essex, and a couple of more I've probably forgotten (as it's been a few years since I lived there).

For the most red-state bang for your buck, I'd suggest you shoot into NJ, but go far down either the NJT or the GSP. Then take an exit and go well into an NJ state road into the farthest reaches of Gloucester or Atlantic County muskrat territory. (So called because, yeah, there are actually people there that still eat muskrat.) If you do a good enough job, you'll be in the parts of the state where there are still actual active (if tiny) KKK outposts. Deep, deep down in the southernmost parts of NJ, I think you'll find precisely what you're looking for.
posted by CommonSense at 9:31 PM on October 13, 2011


(Full disclosure: I may be carrying former NNJ/CNJ biases with me.)
posted by CommonSense at 9:42 PM on October 13, 2011


7-11s now exist in Manhattan.
posted by brujita at 9:55 PM on October 13, 2011


Go to Lake George, NY.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 12:35 AM on October 14, 2011


Lots of big cars and trucks (many people there farm, and have need of such uncivilized vehicles). Lots of fat people. Lots of poor people.

Going further into western New York gets even better. Almost every radio station is country or Christian.


Hi, there! I grew up a first-generation high school graduate in exactly such a fat, poor, tractor-driving 518 place (607, too), and the eighth generation of my family is still there. (Other branches have more generations still.) We're all overcoming the disgrace nicely, though.

Please do not go to Delaware, Schoharie, Otsego, rural Albany, or Greene Counties! They were devastated by Hurricane Irene and do not need this kind of "tourism." They do need real tourism dollars of respectful people, but there is wreckage everywhere.
posted by jgirl at 4:08 AM on October 14, 2011 [4 favorites]


. And when I lived in NJ, I knew that it had more to do with Somerset, Mercer, parts of Hudson/Essex, and a couple of more I've probably forgotten (as it's been a few years since I lived there).

Monmouth and Bergen.

I've spent a lot of time in South Jersey, and two things: 1. It's changing. in the radius that's 90 minutes from Philadelphia, there are loads of new McMansions serving commuters, and plenty of new industry (landscaping, construction, HVAC) associated with new residents. For instance, I was going to suggest Burlington County, but it would have to be Burlington County 10 years ago, not now, when you're as likely to find chichi lifestyle stores and yoga studios as malls and racetracks. 2. In the still-underdeveloped pockets, there is some of what you're talking about, but it's not so much right-wing as it is apolitical.

I think one of the tough things is defining "Middle America." Being able to go to malls, donate to Republicans, and drive big cars isn't the same thing as being poor and isolated, maybe listening to right-wing radio but hardly bothering to vote. I think we could use more granularity as to what kind of person is being sought. One of the ways the right has managed to appear dominant over the last decades is by assembling a vague coalition of people who seem aligned, but have little in common. What kind of community are you looking for, OP?
posted by Miko at 6:06 AM on October 14, 2011


I think an issue you'll have is that most of the places that meet all of your requirements also require a car - at least once you're there. If you have only a day (less whatever time it takes you to get there), you won't get to see much of the malls, 7-11s, mega churches, etc, if you're relying on public transit (if the place even has public transit.
posted by Salamandrous at 10:54 AM on October 14, 2011


[Please take metacommentary to MetaTalk and stick to the question. Thanks. ]
posted by restless_nomad at 2:36 PM on October 14, 2011


Also, Albany County, including the rural, exurban, and suburban portions, is solidly Dem and well within living memory was a good old-fashioned boss-run machine. My Dad was in it.

So, hurricane or no hurricane, you can skip it.
posted by jgirl at 2:59 PM on October 14, 2011


Also, don't get hung up on the artificial split between "Liberal elite" Manhattan and the rest of the country. That was made up by a couple of grifters trying to pass themselves off as politicians to raise money. It's not a real thing and kind of a touchy subject.
posted by bleep at 2:15 AM on October 15, 2011 [3 favorites]


Bridgport and Milford Connecticut
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 11:07 PM on October 16, 2011


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