10 Inspiring Upstate New York Getaways
Looking for an escape from the day-to-day grind? Choose from among these incredible getaways in Upstate New York for an unforgettable getaway. Whether you’re looking for a scenic fall getaway to see the colorful leaves or a summer vacation among nature, these are some of the best locations to choose from.
10 Best Upstate New York Getaways
Beyond New York City, the Empire State offers various landscapes, from hilly vineyards to gorgeous lakes and weathered mountains to rushing waterfalls. Your batteries will recharge as you relish the natural beauty of your surroundings. Even better, you can customize your getaway to meet your interests, whether you want to relax or seek adventure. Let’s consider your options for inspiring upstate New York getaways.
1. Watkins Glen
Located at the southern end of Seneca Lake in the Finger Lakes region, Watkins Glen is the perfect spot to recharge. Explore award-winning Seneca Lake wineries on their wine trail. With 27 member wineries, you can spend an entire weekend savoring wine and views of lush vineyards along the sloping banks of the blue lake. The area is renowned for delicious Rieslings but also yields various white, red, sweet, and dessert wines.
Watkins Glen houses many outstanding restaurants covering nearly everything on the taste spectrum. Relax with your spouse as you appreciate excellent food and each other’s company.
The region is home to one of the best state parks in the entire country, Watkins Glen State Park, easily one of the most impressive state parks in New York. You can admire 200-foot shale cliffs and 19 waterfalls as you explore all the park offers.
Nestled along the southern shore of Cayuga Lake in the Finger Lakes region, Ithaca welcomes you with open arms. Cayuga Lake has its wine trail where you can visit local vineyards, experience tastings, and soak up breathtaking views.
Ithaca is home to Cornell University, an Ivy League college. You can tour the beautiful campus and visit Cornell Botanic Gardens, bursting with greenery and blooming flowers.
The town has a great weekend farmers market where you can grab a hot cup of coffee and delicious food while you shop for crisp produce, fresh-cut flowers, and goods made by local artisans.
Many waterfalls, including Ithaca Falls, Buttermilk Falls, and Taughannock Falls, are easily accessible from Ithaca proper – Ithaca Falls is directly within central Ithaca and easily visible from a convenient viewing platform. You can reach the town’s namesake waterfall by walking a short path from downtown, while the other two require a quick drive from Ithaca.
Buttermilk Falls is akin to a silky smooth long gradual slide, while Taughannock Falls is a 215-foot single plunge that rewards you with close views from the rim and gorge.
If you still desire to chase waterfalls, you can discover many more in the region. Cascadilla Gorge sits between downtown Ithaca and the Cornell campus along a wooded path that leads you across a stone bridge over a rushing waterfall. With a ten-minute drive, you can explore the trails of Robert H. Treman State Park to uncover alluring gorges and waterfalls.
Read More: Best Backpacking Destinations on the East Coast
3. Letchworth State Park
Livingston and Wyoming Counties in western New York proudly harbor the “Grand Canyon of the East,” Letchworth State Park. Immerse yourself in the natural beauty of a 600-foot-deep gorge carved out by the coursing Genesee River, yielding dozens of cascading waterfalls. You will find bliss along the delightful wooded trails and gorgeous backdrops of splendid waterfalls.
The park offers leisurely walks, long hikes, picnicking, photography, birding, and wildlife watching. You can enjoy the Olympic-sized swimming pool in summer. Winter brings sledding, snow tubing, snowmobiling, snowshoeing, and cross-country skiing. If you desire a more adventurous trip, you can go whitewater rafting or view the falls from above in a hot air balloon.
You have various accommodation options, from tent and RV camping to staying in cabins or the quaint Glen Iris Inn. Adjacent to a primary waterfall, Middle Falls, the Glen Iris Inn restaurant serves tasty food.
Note the primary park season is May through November. The park’s lodging and dining options will be limited if you visit in winter or early spring.
4. Niagara Falls
The awe-inspiring Niagara Falls astounds with its power and beauty; possibly the most iconic waterfall in North America, straddling the border between Canada and the United States. You will find Niagara Falls State Park on the American side of the border. Established in 1885, it is America’s oldest state park.
A mysterious fog greets you as you enter the park. You quickly realize mist is rising from water plunging to the valley floor. Your troubles melt away, and a smile creeps across your face at the sight of God’s handiwork. Your retreat has begun.
You will find many trails to hike or paths where you can stroll with a great view of Niagara Falls. Often overlooked, the park delivers plenty of green space to relax or enjoy a picnic.
If you want to experience the power of the falls, take a Maid of the Mist boat tour or try the Cave of the Winds excursion. The park hands out ponchos as part of these experiences, forecasting the upcoming storm you are about to face.
Savor a delicious meal at the Top of the Falls Restaurant with a unique rim view of the natural wonder. Note Top of the Falls Restaurant, currently closed for the season, will reopen in May 2023.
Night delivers a special treat when colorful lights highlight the falls in various tones. A sense of calm fills your body at the sight of the painted falls.
After exploring Niagara Falls, you can visit two other wonderful state parks just down the road:
- Whirlpool State Park
- Devil’s Hole State Park
If you seek entertainment, head to Seneca Niagara Resort and Casino for live performances and an evening of casino games.
Within a fifteen-minute drive, you can visit the quaint town of Lewiston, where you have views of the Niagara River, Lake Ontario, and Toronto. Beyond the lovely views, it offers a community of friendly people and great restaurants and pubs. You will feel right at home in historic Lewiston.
5. The Thousand Islands
The St. Lawrence River flows around more than 1,800 scattered islands between New York and Canada. These islands vary dramatically in size. Some are tiny, while others span 40 square miles.
The surreal archipelago makes for exciting scenery. You will observe some islands just large enough to support a single house with minimal land upon which to walk. Splendid views abound along the hundreds of miles of coastline comprising pristine lakes, coursing rivers, and waterfalls. Whether you stay at a lakeside campsite, cozy cottage, or luxury resort, you will wake up to breathtaking views and fresh air.
The Thousand Islands is renowned for fantastic boating, fishing, hiking, and camping. For those who love fishing, monster muskellunge, pike, trout, walleye, and salmon inhabit Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River.
One of the most popular activities is to embark on a scenic boat tour where you visit Boldt Castle, Singer Castle, and Millionaires’ Row. If you prefer scenic drives, take the Great Lakes Seaway Trail, where you will find lighthouses, wineries, museums, and amusement parks.
Are you looking for something different? Go to the Eisenhower Lock and Visitor Center, where you can observe massive ships sailing between the Great Lakes and the Atlantic Ocean elevated or lowered an astounding 40 feet.
The region offers various quaint downtown areas for shopping. You will discover plenty of fine eateries, craft breweries, and distilleries. The area boasts some of the best freshwater fish you will ever taste. Be sure to eat a salad with the namesake salad dressing.
No matter your interests or tastes, Thousand Islands provides the backdrop for a memorable getaway.
Read More: 22 Islands in the US Worth Visiting
6. Saratoga Springs
Located north of Albany, Saratoga Springs, a historical and cultural hub, is known for thoroughbred horse racing, mineral springs, and excellent shopping and dining.
Saratoga Race Course, one of America’s oldest sporting venues, regularly hosts thoroughbred horse races for about six weeks each summer. Be part of the excitement at the track. The summer race schedule for 2023 is from July 13 through September 4. Note the venue does not hold races on Mondays and Tuesdays.
If you want to relax, head to Saratoga Spa State Park. Many years ago, people believed the Saratoga Springs waters had healing powers. So, they built spas and health centers.
Today, you can explore that history and stroll about the lovely grounds. The park offers nature trails, peaceful picnic areas, golf courses, and swimming. You can ice skate or try your hand at cross-country skiing in winter.
The Saratoga Springs food scene has something for nearly everyone, including Italian cuisine, French, Mexican, Cajun, pub grub, Sushi, Indian, farm-to-table restaurants, steak houses, and BBQ. Establishments range from casual eateries to fancy restaurants, perfect for a romantic evening of fine dining. You will walk away with contented bellies and smiling faces.
The walkable Saratoga Springs downtown area houses many boutique stores and quaint shops. You can find everything from flowers to dresses to beef jerky. The stores provide such a broad range of goods it is a unique and fulfilling experience. Best of all, very few of the stores are retail chains.
7. Lake George
Tucked away in the old-growth forest of the Adirondack Mountains, Lake George is perfect for a retreat from the stress of parenting. The area offers outdoor wilderness, a beachfront with picturesque lake views, museums, art galleries, and antique shopping.
You have come to the right place if you love mountains and forests. Lake George delivers hundreds of miles of trails for you to explore. The beautiful clear lake offers watersports like boating, jet skiing, paddling, and fishing. Other popular outdoor activities include biking and golf.
There are plenty of parks, and nature preserves where you can relax with a picnic lunch. It is an excellent area for taking a leisurely scenic drive.
Winter brings skiing, ice skating, snowmobiling, and ice fishing. The forests and mountains glisten under a blanket of snow. You can enjoy igloo dining, ice bars, and a unique February celebration called Ice Castles, where you will find ice caverns, archways, slides, and more in the winter wonderland.
Lake George is renowned for its arts and theater. You can watch plays, concerts, and comedy shows at the Charles Wood Theater. The Hyde Collection, a small art museum, includes works from artists like Rembrandt and Picasso.
If you enjoy shopping, Lake George offers plenty of that as well. As you explore the small town, you will discover many boutique shops with local goods, clothing, and Adirondack furniture. The main attraction is the array of antique shops where you can search for hidden treasures.
8. Lake Placid
A village in the Adirondacks, Lake Placid is best known for being the host city of the 1932 and 1980 Winter Olympic Games. To this day, it remains a hub for outdoor activities, especially snow sports. You do not have to visit in winter, nor do you have to like winter sports. Lake Placid’s fresh mountain air and breathtaking views will leave you relaxed and re-energized.
If you are reluctant to visit in winter, consider this. Winters in Lake Placid provide unique opportunities like zooming down a toboggan chute, riding a bobsled, experiencing a sled dog ride, and going for a sleigh ride. Of course, you can ski, snowshoe, ice skate, snow tube, or even join a hockey game. The activities seem endless.
Picture yourself dining at a lakeside eatery as you observe skaters gliding across the ice. You may prefer to share laughs around a glowing fire pit. Lake Placid offers many excellent dining options, from bakeries and coffee shops to cafes and bistros to pubs and taverns.
Warmer seasons yield opportunities for swimming, boating, fishing, paddling, hiking, biking, birding, and golf. The area is all about fresh air, gorgeous views, and outdoor activities.
The historic Main Street beckons you for an afternoon of shopping in quaint shops with goods produced by local merchants and artisans. Or, you can make it a day of pampering at a spa.
Be sure to visit the venues used for the Olympic Games, known as the Lake Placid Legacy Sites:
- Olympic Center
- Olympic Jumping Complex
- Mt. Van Hoevenberg
- Whiteface Mountain
You can also visit the Lake Placid Olympic Museum, where you can admire artifacts and memorabilia from the games, including Olympic torches, uniforms, pins, and equipment.
Nestled in the foothills of the Catskill Mountains, the small mountain town is known for peace, love, and art. Woodstock offers galleries, boutiques, nature preserves, and outdoor markets.
Catskill Forest Preserve provides thousands of acres of wooded trails and mountains to explore. With many ridges and summits, you can find plenty of breathtaking views. The area is excellent for birding and teems with wildlife like black bears and deer.
Outside Woodstock, you can find Ashokan Reservoir, one of the largest in the country. Surrounded by paved paths, you can enjoy a stroll with alluring views of the reservoir and mountains. Visitors regularly spot majestic bald eagles.
Visit the vibrant Tinker Street, the town’s hub for shopping, eating, and art galleries. Musicians often perform on the village green, or you may find an open market. Many restaurants have outdoor patio seating where you can savor a meal in the fresh air.
Local artists display and sell their arts and crafts in the heart of town. There are plenty of art galleries for you to visit. Head to Opus 40, an outdoor sculpture park and museum with beautiful sculptures within natural landscapes. Although the entire area is renowned for art, the unique Opus 40 is the highlight for many visitors.
Woodstock and surrounding towns are known for outdoor markets, flea markets, and antiquing. You should find many places to search for local goods and hidden treasures.
A small river town along the scenic valley of the Hudson River, Hudson gives you vibrant mom-and-pop shops, antique stores for days, art galleries, coffee shops, and unique eateries. Enjoy the picturesque vistas and immerse yourself in small-town life.
Downtown Hudson comprises colorful historical buildings and an odd mixture of various architectural styles, including Federal, Victorian, and Queen Anne. Although it may seem strange to have all these styles in one area, the buildings ooze with charm and history.
Warren Street, the main thoroughfare in Hudson, bursts with art galleries. Admire paintings, photography, collage, and more. Afterward, you can grab a coffee and a pastry in an eclectic coffee shop or sample delicious concoctions in one of the strip’s fantastic restaurants.
For those who enjoy history, visit the Thomas Cole National Historic Site to learn about one of America’s first and most influential landscape painters. Tour the Firefighters Association of the State of New York (FASNY) Museum of Firefighting to explore interactive exhibits and artifacts.
Cruise the beautiful Hudson River on a mystery dinner cruise or a Hudson-Athens Lighthouse tour. The historic lighthouse, first lit in 1874, still helps guide ships to this day.
Visit the Hudson Farmers Market to shop for local produce and goods. You will also find many antique stores where you can hunt for vintage items. Cross the Rip Van Winkle Bridge and explore the historic river village of Athens. You will feel re-energized after a fun weekend of new experiences.
This article originally appeared on Hello Sensible.