The 9 Best Family Vacations in New York State

Mohonk resort in New York
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The Rundown

Best Overall: Lake George – See Rates at TripAdvisor

"The resort's immaculate lawns roll down to a sandy, private beach with crystal clear waters perfect for swimming."

Runner-Up, Best Overall: The Catskills – See Rates at TripAdvisor

"Paid activities at the resort include two golf courses and a spa, where guests can get a hot stone facial or a Swedish massage."

Best Educational: Chautauqua Institution – See Rates at TripAdvisor

"The community on the shores of Chautauqua Lake hosts a nine-week season every summer, with educational programs for all ages."

Best Cultural: Saratoga Springs – See Rates at TripAdvisor

"Children under two are admitted free to all events, while kids of all ages will love the novelty of spreading a picnic blanket on the lawn."

Best for Nature Lovers: Lake Placid – See Rates at TripAdvisor

"At nearby Whiteface Mountain Ski Resort, you can go skiing and snowboarding in winter, or hiking and mountain biking in summer."

Best for Sports Fans: Cooperstown – See Rates at TripAdvisor

"The star attraction is the National Baseball Hall of Fame, where guided museum tours give an insight into the sport’s greatest players."

Best for Animal Lovers: Rocking Horse Ranch Resort – See Rates at TripAdvisor

"Cool off at the Big Splash Indoor Water Park, or learn to ski at the Winter Fun Park."

Best Urban: Buffalo – See Rates at TripAdvisor

"Kids will love Buffalo’s vibrant Canalside district, with its paddleboat and kayak rentals, harbor cruises, and Instagram-worthy public art."

Best Beach: Montauk – See Rates at TripAdvisor

"The resort offers oceanfront suites with full kitchen facilities and a sea view terrace or balcony and a spacious lawn."

01 of 09

Best Overall: Lake George

Tea Island Resort

Tea Island Resort 

Nestled amongst the foothills of the Adirondack Mountains and lauded by Thomas Jefferson as “the most beautiful water,” glacial Lake George provides the perfect backdrop for idyllic summer vacations spent enjoying the great outdoors.

Make your base at Tea Island Resort, a hotel located on the lakefront near the town of Lake George. The resort's immaculate lawns roll down to a sandy, private beach with crystal clear waters perfect for swimming, or exploring the lake with complimentary watercraft. If you've taken your own boat to get to the resort you can also arrange for mooring your own vessel on the dock. 

Two-bedroom cottages are ideal for families, with a spacious living room, a full kitchen, and a barbecue situated on the lakefront patio allowing for a ton of space to splay-out.

In between lazy afternoons spent at the water’s edge or playing outdoor games, book a scenic cruise on Lake George’s classic Minne Ha Ha Steamboat, or cycle along the Warren County Bikeway to Glen Falls. If you're more interested in cultural excursions, nearby Fort William Henry Museum offers an immersive day out for those interested in experiencing what life was like for British soldiers during the French and Indian War. 

02 of 09

Runner-Up, Best Overall: The Catskills

Sunny Hill Resort

Sunny Hill Resort

The Catskill Mountains in southeastern New York have long been a favored vacation destination for outdoorsy families. For a hassle-free experience, consider staying at Sunny Hill Resort and Golf Course in Greenville. Owned and run by the same family for 100 years, the resort is all-inclusive with three all-you-can-eat meals a day giving the chef in your family a well-deserved break.

With grounds that sprawl across 600 acres, there’s plenty of space for the kids to run wild, and tons of opportunities for the whole family to take part in complimentary activities that range from monster truck rides to fishing tournaments to open-air movies. 

Paid activities at the resort include two golf courses and a spa, where guests can get a hot stone facial or a Swedish massage.

When you want a change of scene, there is much to explore in the surrounding area. Natural highlights within an hour’s drive include Kaaterskill Falls, a popular hiking destination known for its sublime waterfall, and Howe Caverns for caving and spelunking. Make sure to enquire about the latter’s Family Flashlight Tour, where you'll be able to explore nearby cave systems like real surveyors. 

03 of 09

Best Educational: Chautauqua Institution

Chautauqua Institution

Chautauqua Institution

For intellectual families whose children love to learn, there’s no better place to spend your summer than at the Chautauqua Institution in southwestern New York, an education center that doubles as a resort. The 750-acre community on the shores of Chautauqua Lake hosts a nine-week season every summer, with educational programs for all ages.

While your kids take part in music camps and theater workshops, you can attend lectures by prominent speakers on topics that range from religion to literature to philosophy.

It's not all learning, though: For teens, there’s the Youth Activities Center with table games and a weekly DJ disco, so the kids can mingle with others their age. 

Outdoor recreation is a big part of the Chautauqua experience. Go sailing, boating, swimming, and fishing on the lake. Families can also make memories outside of the classroom playing games on the tennis courts and sports fields. Golfers will particularly appreciate the institution’s massive, 36-hole course.

Although Chautauqua is primarily a summer destination, festive weekends in December welcome families for visits with Santa and his reindeer, s’mores around the fire, and horse-drawn carriage rides.

Stay on-site at the historic Athenaeum Hotel, with 152 rooms and a full-service restaurant. Room amenities include free Wi-Fi, A/C units, and cable TV.

04 of 09

Best Cultural: Saratoga Springs

Pavillion Grand Hotel

Pavillion Grand Hotel

Famous for thoroughbred horse racing and the mineral baths of Saratoga Spa State Park, the town of Saratoga Springs is also a rewarding destination for families with a love of culture. The Saratoga Performing Arts Center hosts summer residencies by the New York City Ballet and the Philadelphia Orchestra, in addition to concerts by Live Nation. Children under two are admitted free to all events, while kids of all ages will love the novelty of spreading a picnic blanket on the lawn and watching world-famous acts like The Lumineers and Bob Dylan play on the amphitheater stage. 

Saratoga Springs also has a wealth of family-friendly museums. The Children’s Museum at Saratoga offers interactive, themed exhibits for younger kids, while the National Museum of Dance is home to a special stage for children with dress-up costumes and movement toys.

Make your base at the Pavilion Grand Hotel, a luxury boutique located virtually next door to the Children’s Museum. The hotel's one and two-bedroom suites feel like a home away from home, with a full kitchen and an in-unit washer/dryer. Rooms are decorated elegantly with design flourishes like modernist furniture and marble countertops, while some rooms even feature balconies overlooking the city.

When you get hungry, head to the hotel's restaurants The Bistro for everything from breakfast items like a berry parfait and a bagel with lox to a classic BLT.

Continue to 5 of 9 below.
05 of 09

Best for Nature Lovers: Lake Placid

Mirror Lake Inn

Mirror Lake Inn

Lake Placid village is located between Mirror Lake and Lake Placid in the majestic Adirondack Mountains. Famous as the location of two Winter Olympics in 1932 and 1980, the town is a haven for those who like to be outside all year round.

At nearby Whiteface Mountain Ski Resort, you can go skiing and snowboarding in winter, or hiking and mountain biking in summer. Ride down the Olympic bobsled track, admire the scenery from the gondola, or take an elevator to the top of the 120-meter ski jump. 

The Wild Center at Tupper Lake, a natural history museum, makes for a worthwhile day trip, with a treetop walkway and guided canoe trips. Kids will especially enjoy up-close encounters with the center’s animals, which include native otters, porcupines, and owls.

One of the top-rated hotels in the area, Mirror Lake Inn Resort & Spa, offers a choice of beautifully decorated family suites. Spend your days on the private sandy beach or in the heated indoor pool. Pass time in the evenings at the lakefront restaurant and local gathering place The Cottage, where you can get dishes like a chipotle caesar salad with smoked bacon, and buffalo chicken dip.

Accommodations at the hotel are elegantly decorated with comfortable, plush linens and poster beds. Wooden trimmings create a lodge-style feeling, and rooms feature lake or mountain views, while some are home to their own fireplaces and outdoor seating areas.

06 of 09

Best for Sports Fans: Cooperstown

The Otesaga Resort

The Otesaga Resort

Full of all-American charm and scenically situated at the southern end of Otsego Lake in Central New York, Cooperstown is the destination of choice for sports-loving families.

The star attraction is the National Baseball Hall of Fame, where guided museum tours give an insight into the sport’s greatest players, and where the Sandlot Kids’ Clubhouse offers interactive activities for under 12s. Keep an eye out for memorable sleep-over experiences, when, every year, the Cooperstown Classic Clinic gives kids aged 7 to 12 the chance to get hands-on training from former Major League players.

It’s not all about baseball, however. Other child-friendly things to do include family art days and farming workshops at The Farmers’ Museum. There are also copious opportunities for hiking, biking, fishing, and ice skating at nearby Glimmerglass State Park.

The iconic accommodation choice is The Otesaga Resort Hotel, which has been welcoming families since 1909. Book a luxury suite and indulge your miniature athletes with boating trips on the lake, or hours spent on the all-weather tennis courts and the award-winning golf course. 

Decorated with New England furniture and trimmings, the guest rooms charm with their classical style.

With four different restaurants on-site, guests are able to chow down on luxurious American cuisine for lunch and breakfast, or grab comfort food like Peruvian roast chicken for dinner.

07 of 09

Best for Animal Lovers: Rocking Horse Ranch Resort

Rocking Horse Ranch Resort

Rocking Horse Ranch Resort

One of the highest-rated all-inclusive family resorts in the United States, Rocking Horse Ranch Resort is located near Highland in the Hudson River Valley. Rates include hundreds of activities for all ages, many of which are oriented around animals. Horse riding is a highlight, with unlimited outings on more than 500 acres of year-round trails, and a string of experienced ponies for even the littlest riders. The resort also offers horse-drawn wagon and sleigh rides, reptile encounters, an Exotic Wildlife Exhibit, and a petting zoo. 

If you can tear your children away from the animals, there’s plenty more to explore on-site. Cool off at the Big Splash Indoor Water Park, or learn to ski at the Winter Fun Park.

Live shows, entertainment, fun family races, and organized competitions round out your experience at Rocking Horse Ranch. With so much to see and do, you’ll be grateful for the included all-you-can-eat meals, and for a comfortable bed every night in your family room or suite. 

08 of 09

Best Urban: Buffalo

Hampton Inn & Suites Buffalo Downtown

Hampton Inn & Suites Buffalo Downtown

For families who prefer the hustle and bustle of the big city to the quiet of the great outdoors, a great vacation destination is the largest city in upstate New York: Buffalo.

Kids will love Buffalo’s vibrant Canalside district, with its paddleboat and kayak rentals, harbor cruises, and Instagram-worthy public art. The Buffalo Museum of Science wows older children with its collection of mastodon skeletons and Egyptian mummies, while the Explore & More Children’s Museum focuses on interactive playtime for youngsters.  

If your child is a foodie in the making, take them on the Buffalo Wing Trail restaurant tour, where you'll get a hands-on look at the genesis of Buffalo's most famous export. Animal lovers can come face-to-face with polar bears and giraffes at Buffalo Zoo, while Niagara Falls is just 30 minutes away – where you'll surely love to see the sublime waterfall.

One of the best accommodation options for families is mid-range Hampton Inn & Suites Buffalo Downtown. Enjoy its central location, indoor pool, and free hot breakfast, then re-group after a busy day in a spacious room with two Queen beds. 

Continue to 9 of 9 below.
09 of 09

Best Beach: Montauk

Hartman’s Briney Breezes Beach Resort

Hartman’s Briney Breezes Beach Resort

If you drive a little bit further through the Hamptons to the far eastern end of Long Island you'll discover Montauk, an iconic getaway for New Yorkers in search of sand, sea, and family fun. Here, postcard-perfect white sand beaches set the scene for days spent fishing, sailing, and surfing.

Gin Beach is a particular favorite for young families, with safe swimming and plenty of seashells. Older kids can climb up Montauk Lighthouse (a National Historic Landmark), while Deep Hollow Ranch, a center for beach and trail riding, offers beach and trail rides for the whole family. 

In terms of accommodation, Hartman’s Briney Breezes Beach Resort is an enduring family favorite. The resort offers oceanfront suites with full kitchen facilities and a sea view terrace or balcony and a spacious lawn with social barbecue areas. The heated outdoor pool stays open from Memorial Day to Columbus Day. 

Situated in the heart of Montauk, there are a ton of dining options available to guests, such as MTK Lobster House for lobster rolls and fresh seafood, or John's Drive-In for classic American diner food. Many of your treasured beach memories will center around Montauk’s vintage culinary scene. Take the kids to local institutions like The Candied Anchor to indulge their sugar cravings at a retro candy store.

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