When people hear “New York,” it’s natural to think of New York City. But New York State covers 54,556 square miles and is full of incredible things to see and do. From pristine beaches to stunning gorges and canyons to quaint mountain towns to picturesque islands, New York State has so much to offer. These are the top 13 places to go in New York State.
Finger Lakes Region
The Finger Lakes region consists of 11 lakes between Syracuse, Rochester, and Elmira-Corning in Upstate New York: Canadice, Cayuga, Canandaigua, Conesus, Hemlock, Honeoye, Keuka, Otisco, Owasco, Seneca, and Skaneateles. While some lakes are larger than others, they’re all surrounded by charming towns and plenty of wineries.
Stroll through the town of Skaneateles (pronounced SKAN-e-atlas), stopping at Skaneateles Bakery for some of their freshly made doughnuts to munch on as you stroll down the pier and walk along the lake. Go for a boat ride with Mid-Lakes Navigation Company—you can even help the Barbara S. Wiles mail boat deliver mail to lakeside homes. Head to Seneca Falls to visit the historic Women’s Rights National Historic Park, where the first women’s rights convention was held in 1848. Seneca Lake is great for kitesurfing and windsurfing, and the town of Geneva at the top of the lake is home to farm-to-table restaurants like FLX Table and Kindred Fare. Explore the Seneca Lake Wine Trail, visiting vineyards like Hermann J. Wiemer Vineyard, Red Tail Ridge Winery, and Fox Run Vineyards.
Canandaigua Lake is home to the chic hotel The Lake House on Canandaigua, which boasts a lakefront pool and hot tub, and kayaks and a yacht for tooling around the lake among other luxurious amenities. Stop in Naples to sample their famous grape pie on the way to Watkins Glen State Park to see incredible waterfalls and canyons.
North Fork, Long Island
The North Fork of Long Island is often overshadowed by the South Fork, also known as the Hamptons. But The North Fork also has stunning beaches that are often less crowded, as well as picturesque farmland and vineyards. The town of Greenport has excellent restaurants, cafés, and boutiques perfect for window (or real) shopping and from there you can catch the ferry to Shelter Island.
Charter a boat or rent a kayak, paddleboard, or Jet Ski with Peconic Water Sports. Sip some wines at some of New York’s best wineries including Macari Vineyards, Pindar Winery, and Sparkling Pointe. Visit farms like Sang Lee Farms for fantastic produce, 8 Hands Farm to see their Icelandic sheep, Patty’s Berries and Bunches for berry picking, beautiful flowers, and fresh-made ice cream using farm ingredients, and Lavender by the Bay for Instagram-ready lavender fields that will make you think you’re in Provence. Stay at the breezy Lin Beach House, a cross between a hotel and an Airbnb that’s also home to the bar Days Like These, which features spirits from Matchbook Distilling Company, a craft distillery in Greenport by the same owners.
Although the Canadian side of the mammoth falls is often more popular, the New York side is also stunning. To get your first glimpse of the falls, head to Goat Island inside Niagara Falls State Park. There are several observation points on the rim of the falls accessible by multiple paved walkways, views of the river rapids above the falls, and plenty of places to enjoy a picnic. Leave time to explore Cave of the Winds, where wooden staircases and paths bring you to the bottom of the smallest waterfall, Bridal Veil Falls—be prepared to get wet! And don’t forget to book a ride on the Maid of the Mist boat to get up close to the crashing falls. There are also various hiking trails with breathtaking views to explore in the park. Later, explore the nearby Niagara Wine Trail, which has more than 20 wineries.
New York’s mighty Hudson River runs through a large chunk of the state north of New York City, with a particularly lush valley surrounding the river in Dutchess, Rockland, Westchester, Ulster, and Orange counties. The Hudson Valley region runs along the river, from the Capital District south to Yonkers and is dotted with charming towns especially popular for weekend getaways by city dwellers. The region includes the former capital of New York, Kingston, which has experienced a renaissance lately with a slew of chic boutiques, restaurants, and hotels.
Further north is the town of Hudson, a popular relocation spot for New York City chefs, giving it an impressive food scene. Just outside Hudson is Olana, a historic house with gorgeous grounds open to the public, and Art Omi, a sculpture garden museum featuring modern art.
Rhinebeck, another popular destination, is home to the beloved Bread Alone café, as well as one of three locations of the French-inspired Mirbeau Inn & Spa. Beacon, which is accessible by the Metro North train from the city, is a popular day trip, thanks to the DIA:Beacon modern art museum, and the refurbished movie house, Story Screen Beacon Theater. Poughkeepsie is a larger city and the home to Walkway Over the Hudson, a stunning pedestrian bridge over the river. Just north of there in Hyde Park is the Home of Franklin D. Roosevelt National Historic Site, which also contains his presidential library.
Smaller charming towns worth strolling down their Main streets include New Paltz, Tivoli, Red Hook, Catskill, Athens, Leeds, and Coxsackie. There is also spectacular hiking in the region, including areas like Cold Spring, Bear Mountain, Breakneck Ridge, and the Shawangunk Mountains.
Lake Placid and Adirondack Park
The town of Lake Placid is not actually on the body of water called Lake Placid—that’s a few miles away. Instead, the town is on Mirror Lake and it offers gorgeous views of the lake and the Adirondack Mountains beyond. The area was home to two winter Olympics and the Lake Placid Olympic Center, which has a museum, is worth a visit. There’s also the Lake Placid Olympic Ski Jumping Complex and the Lake Placid Bobsled Experience if you’re a bit a of a daredevil. Otherwise, you can ski or mountain bike Whiteface Mountain, or simply skip the athletics altogether and enjoy the quaint town’s shopping, restaurants, and bars, which boast an après ski scene in winter.
North of town is the lake called Lake Placid where you can take out a boat and enjoy the peaceful calm. Nearby is the massive Adirondack Park with miles of hiking trails that cross the Adirondack High Peaks, thousands of rivers and ponds, and the spectacular Ausable Chasm, a deep gorge with the Ausable River running through it. Most of New York State's Forest Preserve is located in the Adirondacks, which is the largest protected wilderness area east of the Mississippi at 6 million acres.
Letchworth State Park
Known as the Grand Canyon of the East, Letchworth is a 14,427-acre, 17-mile long park in northwestern New York and is one of the state's most beautiful parks. There are 66 miles of trails, more than 50 waterfalls, and the flowing Genesee River, which runs through the gorge and over three impressive falls, the Lower, Middle, and Upper Falls. The rock walls from the gorge rise up as high as 550 feet in some places, hence the Grand Canyon nickname. Hiking, biking, whitewater rafting, horseback riding, and hot air ballooning, as well as snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, and snowmobiling in winter are some of the activities to do in the park. Be sure to take a break at the Glen Iris Inn inside the park, which serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Although the Hamptons are often an over-hyped playground for the wealthy, it also happens to be one of the most beautiful areas of New York. Located at the eastern end of Long Island, the Hamptons encompass dozens of pristine beaches and quaint seashore towns. From Sag Harbor to Bridgehampton to Amagansett, expect small town nautical vibes peppered with oceanfront mansions and restaurants serving top-quality seafood, among other dishes. There’s also a bunch of farms and wineries worth visiting, as well as the world-class Parrish Art Museum. At the very end is Montauk, a larger town with a bit more of a party scene that’s also home to the Montauk Point State Park and its resident lighthouse.
This tiny town embodies the ideal Catskills destination, complete with scenic hiking and snowshoeing trails, fly fishing (it’s actually the birthplace of fly fishing in the U.S.) on Willowemoc Creek, a historic covered bridge, stylish yet comfortable independent hotels (The DeBruce, Antrim Streamside, and the Arnold House), and a main street filled with chic home goods stores (Nest and Life Repurposed), antique stores (Taylor + Ace), outdoor sporting goods stores (Morgan Outdoors, Fur, Fin & Feather, and Dette Flies), a farm-to-table market (Main Street Farm), well-executed restaurants (The Kaatskeller and The Smoke Joint), a cozy wine bar (Sunshine Colony), and a brewery (Upward Brewing Company) perched on a massive property a bit farther up the road. For a real treat, book the tasting menu at the DeBruce for an upscale meal using local and seasonal ingredients in creative and delicious ways.
Although it’s not actually the site of the infamous 1969 music festival (that happened about 70 miles south in Bethel), the town of Woodstock is a funky town that makes an ideal base camp for exploring the surrounding Catskills region. The town itself has two streams running through it and is host to a vegetarian-, artist-, and hippie-friendly scene, though it also has several upscale spots these days along Tinker Street (the town’s main drag). Check out restaurants like Dixon Roadside, Cucina, Silvia, Oriole 9, Tinker Taco Lab, Bread Alone, and Garden Cafe, and buy craft chocolate at Fruition. Visit boutiques like Three Turtle Doves, Candlestock, and Shop Little House, galleries like the Center of Photography, and buy books at the Golden Notebook. Woodstock also has some great hiking trails, including Overlook Mountain, which passes through hauntingly beautiful hotel ruins before reaching the top of the mountain, which has a fire tower you can climb for 360-degree views. To get your music fix, visit Levon Helms Studio, a barn venue that was the home and recording studio of the famous drummer that has attracted the likes of Elvis Costello, Phil Lesh, Dr. John, and Emmylou Harris to play there. One town over is Phoenicia, well worth the trip for a visit to the famous Phoenicia Diner, known for its delicious farm-fresh comfort food.
A former industry city, today Rochester is a delightful city on the northern end of the Finger Lakes. Highlights include the George Eastman Museum, a photography museum devoted to the founder of Kodak; the Strong National Museum of Play, an interactive museum dedicated to toys and games; the Susan B. Anthony House, the home of the suffragette that’s now a museum; Rochester City Public Market, a massive farmers market with vendors from across the region; and Highland Park, a beautiful landscaped park that hosts annual flower festivals like the one devoted to the signature lilac.
Saratoga Springs, 35 miles north of Albany, is known for its famous horse racetrack and thoroughbred horse breeding, its healing natural mineral waters, and its lovely Queen Anne and Greek Revival architecture. The Saratoga Racecourse is definitely worth visiting, especially if you can take in a race. Another highlight is Saratoga Spa State Park, which is listed as a National Historic Landmark. There, you can stroll along stream-side trails, do a self-guided or expert-guided tour of various springs inside the park, and have a swim in the Peerless Pool Complex or Victoria Pool, the first heated pool in the country. The most famous mineral spring in Saratoga Springs is the Congress Spring inside Congress Park, which has several other springs and a 120-year-old carousel. Other attractions include the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame, Yaddo Gardens, Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery at Skidmore College, and the National Museum of Dance and Hall of Fame. Spend the night at the historic Saratoga Arms or the recently revamped Adelphi Hotel.
This small island situated between the north and south forks of Long Island is a tiny oasis reachable only by ferry (it’s only 10 minutes long though). Shelter Island has various beaches as well as several freshwater ponds ideal for swimming or paddle boarding in. You can also bike around the island, hike in the Mashomack Preserve, and rent kayaks to explore the Coecles Harbor Marine Water Trail, watching for osprey and egrets along the way. Dine out at 18 Bay or Vine Street Café or pick up produce to cook at home at the farm stand at Sylvestor Manor Educational Farm. Ice cream at the Tuck Shop for dessert is a must.
An archipelago of more than 1,800 islands in the St. Lawrence River, straddling the border of the U.S. and Canada, the Thousand Islands offer scenic waterways to explore. Boldt Castle, the circa 1900 mansion of George C. Boldt on Heart Island is a must see and the Antique Boat Museum in Clayton is another favorite. Of course, boating and fishing are popular pastimes, and there are hundreds of lighthouses to see. Be sure and bring your passport just in case you want to hop over to one of the Canadian islands.