31 Best Places to Visit in Upstate New York + Hidden Gems

a beautiful water hole in upstate new york between rocks

When it comes to New York State, many only think of New York City: an immense urban metropolis. However, the vast State of New York also expands into flowing hills, roaring rivers, breathtaking mountains, cute towns, and rushing waterfalls. Beneath all its natural beauty also lies important facets of history, tied deeply to the land and its people. Want to experience this for yourself? Here are 31 of the uniquely best places to visit upstate New York. 

Upstate New York Getaways & Best Places to Visit

It’s no surprise that the State of New York is enormously vast and spans against several state borders. Thus, the places listed below are broken down by New York regions: Central New York, the Catskills, the Hudson Valley, the Adirondacks, the Finger Lakes, Thousand Islands, Niagara Frontier, and Chautauqua-Allegheny. So you can choose the area that’s best for your Upstate New York Vacation!


What is Upstate New York?

Please note: we realize that the exact definition of Upstate New York varies depending on who you ask. According to the dictionary, it means “whatever is north of you”. So for the sake of simplicity, we’re following the New York City definition: which is literally everything “up the state” and above NYC.

Keep scrolling if you don’t want to see places closer to the city; we’ve included every region of New York State!


Read More of Our New York Travel Guides


CENTRAL NEW YORK

Green Lakes State Park (Hidden Gem)

Experience the sight of two beautiful glacial lakes at Green Lakes State Park in Central New York, near the Erie Canal Towpath. Hike some of the many miles of trails near Green Lake and Round Lake and enjoy beautiful views, especially in the autumn. In the summer, swim at the state park’s beach, practice your swing at the golf course, and go camping. When winter arrives, the park offers snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. 

You cannot swim in the areas pictured above. It’s not only unsafe (people have drowned) it’s also detrimental to the coral reef which makes this lake so divinely beautiful. Lastly, remember to leave no trace. That means no garbage, staying on the path, and being considerate of other visitors.

The trail around the lake is flat and easy, so if you’re still feeling adventurous, head over to Chittenango Falls (listed below) just 15 minutes away. For some local grub, consider the Dark Horse Tavern, which is just a 12-minute drive away from the state park.

If you want to spend the night nearby, consider staying right in Fayetteville (the town where Green Lakes State Park is located) at The Craftsman Inn which offers spacious apartment suites and a cute restaurant on site.

Chittenango Falls & State Park

Wondering where to go upstate New York to see a waterfall? Look no further than Chittenango State Park. Here, a 167-foot waterfall towers above the river; onlookers can catch a glimpse from the top of the falls, or from a footbridge across the way.  There are many short hikes throughout the park’s area, and more ambitious hikers can combine trails to make longer routes. After a hike, and a few photo ops, have a picnic and enjoy the beautiful scenery. 

Chittenango Falls is just a 15-minute drive from Green Lake State Park (listed above). The perfect day trip filled with: hikes, New York lakes, cute towns, and waterfalls. And if you love antiques, head over to Syracuse Antiques Exchange in Syracuse, just 25 minutes away.

If you’d like to stay within walking distance of Chittenango Falls then you should take a look at this 1-bed apartment, where you can relax in a private jacuzzi tub after you’ve been hiking around the falls. If you’re travelling as a larger group, you could consider The Brewster Inn which is only a 10-minute drive from Chittenango falls. Here, you can book a room with views over Lake Cazenovia, enjoy a continental breakfast and spend the evening relaxing by the lake whilst drinking wine.

Herkimer Diamond Mines

For gemstone collectors, one of the most unique upstate New York getaways can be mining your very own treasure! Contrary to their name, Herkimer Diamonds are not really diamonds. They are 500,000 million-year-old surface quartz crystals and are abound in this area. Native Mohawk people knew about these crystals and used them for jewelry, tools, and later trade. At Herkimer Diamond Mines, miners can keep anything they find. After, they can learn to craft jewelry and other gifts with the quartz. 

Herkimer Diamond Mines has partnered with KOA camping resorts to really make the mines a destination. After a day of mining and crafting, visitors enjoy dinner at the Canteen or the Miner’s Table. Then, they settle into tents or camping cabins along West Canada Creek. So you can easily make a New York weekend getaway out of this special experience.

Please note: All land in New York is either private property or government-owned. Collecting any minerals from the government is illegal, and any private property requires permission in advance.

Cooperstown, New York

Tucked against a tree-filled backdrop, Cooperstown’s downtown area is cozy and quaint. Within walking distance are Lakefront Park, local boutiques, and restaurants. Here are some of the top attractions, to name a few:

National Baseball Hall of Fame: Most famously, Cooperstown’s National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum boasts 300,000 visitors every year. Visitors enjoy art, photography, historical artifacts, and stories celebrating the rich history of baseball. Don’t miss the Babe Ruth exhibit, or “Diamond Dreams”, focused on the women who contributed to the sport. Another exhibit, Viva Baseball, honors the influence of Latino (including Dominican) players in baseball’s history and today.

Otsego Lake: Otsego Lake lies at the north end of town in Glimmerglass State Park. Take a boat tour, or follow winding paths to stunning views of the lake. Or, hike Sleeping Lion trial to Hyde Hall Mansion museum, which overlooks Otsego Lake.

Farmer’s Museum: The Farmer’s Museum honors the traditions of rural upstate New York. They hold traditional events, like maple sugaring Sundays, livestock shows, and a harvest festival. At Christmas, horse-drawn wagons pull guests through the snowy grounds for a Candlelight Evening. The night is complete with a complimentary wassail and local ciders enjoyed around a bonfire. 

Fenimore Art Museum: The Fenimore Art Museum includes many important permanent collections. These include the Thaw Collection of American Indian Art, a Folk Art exhibition, an exhibition of American Fine Art, and “Coopers of Cooperstown”, which commemorates the literary tradition of Cooperstown’s founding members

Fly Creek Cider Mill & Orchard: Just outside Cooperstown is the family-owned Fly Creek Cider Mill & Orchard. Here, you can take a private tour with the mill’s owner who will teach you about the mill’s history and take you behind the scenes to areas of the mill that isn’t open to the public. You’ll get to see how cider is made, and receive a cookbook plus a gift voucher. After the tour, you can enjoy a freshly made lunch from the restaurant, and drink their famous hard cider or apple wine.

Where to Stay: Consider this beautiful bed and breakfast inn or stay at this luxurious resort.


THE CATSKILLS

Phoenicia, New York

One of the best upstate New York towns for some rejuvenating nature is Phoenicia. In contrast to the big city, Phoenicia seems another world away, hidden in the High Peaks region of the Catskills. This makes the town the perfect spot for a very relaxing spa getaway. The Emerson Resort & Spa is nearby, which offers a range of spa packages and offers pet-friendly rooms so you can bring your dog along. Another option is the Phoenicia Lodge where you can enjoy cooking your meals on a barbeque or in and private kitchen. The area also offers hiking, tubing, or rafting on the Esopus Creek River, and Rail Explorer excursions.

New Paltz, Minnewaska State Park & Mohonk Preserve ★

Some places in upstate New York are truly beautiful, and New Paltz is the perfect example. From the small, artistic town vibe to the Dominican restaurant at the end of Main Street, this is a special place. The downtown area is expansive, and nearby Huguenot Street takes visitors back in time to visit America’s history.  

At nearby Minnewaska State Park, and the Mohonk Preserve, visitors partake in several of the best hikes in New York and can see:

  • A rare dwarf pitch pine
  • An ice cave, formed in such a unique way that it maintains ice even in warm summer months
  • The Verkeerderkill Waterfall 
  • A literal labyrinth of climbing, ducking, and squeezing in tight places
  • Sam’s Point Visitor Center
  • Panoramic views at Gertrude’s Nose 
  • Artist’s Rock trail (pictured above)

If you’d like to stay near New Paltz and Minnewaska State Park, then you should consider staying at this Cozy Upstate Studio where you can stay in a cute lodge surrounded by beautiful scenery, and enjoy riverwalks. Another option near Minnewaska State Park, is the Minnewaska Lodge, right by Shawangunk Mountain and surrounded by over 25,000 acres of beautiful scenery. Each morning you can enjoy a continental breakfast which is included with all rooms, and after a day of hiking, you’ll be able to unwind next to a firepit in the lodge’s gardens.

With all this to see and more, the New Paltz area is truly breathtaking.

Woodstock & Kaaterskill Falls ★

Woodstock maintains its warm hippie reputation to this day. Upon arriving, you may be lucky enough to hear some live music in the downtown area as we did. Travel along Tinker Street to view museums and galleries, or take classes at Woodstock Byrdcliffe Guild

You can also take a class in traditional woodworking, where you’ll learn how to use traditional hand tools such as planes, saws, and chisels at a professional shop in Woodstock.

For some amazing tacos, stop by Oriole 9. And for dessert, Sweet Dreams Organic is a must. Both are in the downtown area and within walking distance from each other.

Some of our favorite upstate NY tourist attractions are around here, like Kaaterskill Falls (pictured above). The falls are the highest cascading waterfall in New York. The bottom of the falls are typically crowded, so arrive early to avoid crowds. However, the top of the falls also has a beach area and is often missed by tourists. Also, visit Overlook Mountain, a challenging uphill journey with ruins to explore and a museum at the summit.

If you’d like to stay in Woodstock then you should consider staying in this cute 1 bedroom camping cabin that’s set in over 20 acres of woodland, overlooking a lake. The cabin is off-grid but you will have some basic necessities such as a water pump, and a charger for your phone, but this cabin gives you the chance of going offline and relaxing whilst enjoying nature.


THE ADIRONDACKS

Whether it’s summer or winter, the Adirondacks region is brimming with things to do. Here are my favorite towns in the Adirondacks to visit + things to do.

Lake Placid, New York ★

On the hunt for fresh mountain air and majestic views? Lake Placid and the surrounding area have 2,000 miles of marked hiking trails in the Adirondack Mountains. Additionally, the region boasts 46 High Peaks, including Mt. Marcy – the tallest mount in New York State!

Some of these Adirondack hiking trails include driveable peaks which offer a spectacular view from the top; such as Whiteface Mountain. This view is even better in the fall, so be sure to check the foliage report. If you’d like to explore this region for a day trip, we suggest reading our Lake Placid: Things to Do Year-Round Guide.

Lake Placid was once an Olympic site, so part of the culture surrounds winter sports. So the winter is a lot of fun here! You can go snowshoeing, walk on a frozen lake, try out a toboggan chute, or even do the Lake Placid Bobsled Experience.

At the end of your day, enjoy one of the many amazing restaurants in Lake Placid.

Finally, rest your head at:

Lake George, New York

Coined the “birthplace of the American vacation“, Lake George, NY is considered one of the most popular places to visit upstate New York for families and outdoor lovers. Especially in the summer. Here are some of the many activities to consider:

  • Dinner cruises on Lake George
  • Hiking trails throughout the region, most notably on Prospect Point
  • Relaxing on the beach
  • Diving to 3 submerged heritage preserved shipwrecks

In the fall, this region attracts a multitude of “leaf peepers”. This affectionate name is given to the tourists who visit to catch the height of autumn foliage colors. There are many ways to experience the fall colors, but one of the most unique is taking a white water rafting trip through the forest. In addition, other fall activities in Lake George include the Adirondack Balloon Festival and the Adirondack Film Festival.

Should you visit during the winter months, plan ahead for the fun mountain snow! You can still enjoy this beautiful area at Gore Mountain Ski Center, an indoor waterpark, or ice fishing on Lake George itself.

If you’re looking for something more unique to do, why not book a flight over Lake George and its surrounding areas including the Adirondacks, Green Mountains, Lake Champlain, and the Hudson Valley? You’ll get to see some amazing sights from thousands of feet in the air.

Saranac Lake & Lake Clear (Hidden Gem)

Saranac Lake is a hidden gem region in the Adirondacks, located just a 15-minute drive from Lake Placid. Its location makes it the perfect destination to add to your Adirondacks itinerary. Here you can enjoy several hikes, lake excursions, go fishing, boating, cycling, paddling, and some of the best breweries in the Adironacks.

In the winter, this area turns into a blissful winter wonderland where the powdery snow piles up several feet in the area. You can walk on a frozen lake, go ice fishing, snowshoeing, cross country skiing, and most popularly? Snowmobiling at Charlie’s Inn!

Don’t miss Lake Clear Lodge & Retreat for the perfect winter getaway filled with dinners, horse-drawn sleds, and speakeasy experiences. This lodge alone is worth the trip up to this stunning New York hidden gem.

You could also stay at the Saranac Waterfront Lodge which is located in Saranac Lake, within walking distance of many of Saranac’s sights including the Laboratory Museum, Saranac Lake Riverwalk, and Adirondack Carousel. Plus this hotel has an indoor swimming pool, and restaurant for you to enjoy. So why not book a lake view room at this hotel?

For delicious eats, grab a bite at The 1892 Bar & Grille and Charlie’s Inn.


THE HUDSON VALLEY/CAPITAL AREA

Saratoga Springs ★

Saratoga Springs has many more upstate NY tourist attractions than just horse races. There is also the rejuvenating Saratoga Springs Spa State Park, Yaddo Gardens, the Saratoga Winery, and the Saratoga Farmer’s Market. Visitors can also charter a cruise at the Adirondack Cruise and Charter Company, or take part in a floating classroom experience. Additionally, the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame is also located here in Saratoga Springs.

For foodies who love flavorful cuisine and a good cocktail, grabbing dinner Boca Bistro is a must; it is one of the best restaurants in Upstate New York! Finally, Caffe Lena is a true hidden gem. Catch live music or take music classes here, at the longest continuously operating folk music venue in the United States. 

If you’d like to stay in Saratoga Springs, then you could consider the Union Gables Bed & Breakfast. This B&B is within walking distance of Congress Park, Saratoga Springs City Center, and only a few minutes drive from Saratoga Spa State Park. Plus there’s an outdoor swimming pool and garden for you to enjoy during your stay. Union Gables is pet friendly so this is the perfect place to stay if you’re traveling with a dog.

If you’d like to stay next to Saratoga Lake, you could check out this 3 bedroom lake home that is only a few steps away from the lake. You’ll have access to a dock to park up a boat or kayak. Plus you’re within walking distance of Brown’s Beach where you can go swimming, and South Shore Marina where you can hire a boat or kayak.

Hudson, New York

Hudson, New York is often regarded as the Brooklyn of Upstate New York. For many, it’s a once historic port town turned expensively hip and a little snobby. And for some, it’s a sweet respite from the hustle and bustle of living in New York City, just two hours away.. You decide where you fall along that line!

While visiting Hudson, visitors can stroll through the downtown restaurant scene on Warren Street, Hudson’s main street. Stop at Hudson Wine Merchants for wine tasting, and WM Farmer and Sons for steaks and seafood. You’ll want your camera for capturing the beautiful 100+ year old buildings as you stroll. 

Hudson also offers many museums and art galleries, like:

  • Carrie Haddad Gallery
  • Riverfront Antiques and Design Center
  • John Davis Gallery
  • Basilica Hudson, a non profit arts and culture center in a reclaimed industrial factory
  • Hudson Underground Gallery
  • FRG Objects and Design/Art
  • Rose Gallery Fine Art

Don’t miss taking a ferry boat tour to the Hudson/Athens Lighthouse. In the summertime, the experience is picturesque, especially as the sun sets in the summertime.

If you’d like to stay in Hudson why not consider the Nautical Nest hotel? This hotel is located in the center of Hudson, and includes access to a shared kitchen so you can enjoy cooking produce purchased from one of the local farmers markets.

You could also stay in this Hudson Home that includes a Sauna, Hot Tub and outdoor swimming pool. Plus you’ll have private access to the kitchen, and you’re only a few minutes walk away from the Hudson Wednesday Market and 15 minutes walk from Oakdale Beach. 

Kingston, New York

As New York’s original capital, Kingston is one of the upstate New York places you don’t want to miss. The town was a battleground during the American Revolution. Traces of this heritage are found throughout the town via Dutch and colonial influence. 

This quaint New York getaway is divided into three sections:

  • Uptown, where tourists and locals alike enjoy the Kingston Farmer’s Market every Saturday from May to November. We also highly recommend Rough Draft Bar and Books, which offers draft beer, baked goods, and books to read while indulging.
  • Midtown has a distinctive creative vibe and is home to the Ulster County Center for the Performing Arts, or as the locals say, UPAC. 
  • Lastly, the Rondout, or waterfront area, hosts the Hudson River Maritime Museum. The museum has a special feature- a boat building school, where students can learn how to build and restore wooden boats.
  • You can also enjoy a scenic boat ride along the Hudson River, where you sail south towards Hyde Park and can enjoy views of the Catskill Mountains, historic lighthouses, and more sights. During the boat ride, your tour guide will teach you about the region’s history and culture.

While you visit Kingston, you’re sure to work up an appetite. So, check out Village Coffee and Goods for breakfast (and grocery needs!), Opa! Gyros Greek Restaurant, and the Kingston Bread and Bar (be sure to arrive early).

If you’d like to stay in Kingston, then why not consider this Historic Kingston 1800s Waterfront Townhouse? The townhouse has 3 bedrooms and is within walking distance of the Hudson River Maritime Museum and only a few minutes’ drive from Kingston Point Beach.

Beacon, New York ★

Beacon, New York sits in the Hudson Highlands, one of the upstate New York places to visit along the Hudson River by train. This makes Beacon the perfect day trip from NYC. Or, if you visit for a New York getaway weekend, be sure to book a room with mountain views at the Roundhouse. When you’re not enjoying the view, stroll the cute main street and enjoy the distinctive art scene of Beacon. Stop into one of the many local restaurants and boutiques. 

Enjoying the beauty of the area is simple here, too. A short drive will take you to Hudson Highlands State Park, where you can catch a glimpse of some gorgeous waterfalls on different hiking trails. Similarly, kayak to Pollepel Island to view the breathtaking Bannerman Castle. Don’t forget to visit the Dia: Beacon Museum (a MUST and by the downtown area), or the Hudson Beach Glass glassblowing studio and museum. 

Finally, stop by the local flea market. However- plan ahead. Beacon’s flea market tries to support local businesses by not offering food and drink; if you need refreshment, you must leave the market and visit a local cafe or restaurant. The Roundhouse Restaurant overlooks a beautiful waterfall (pictured above).

Soul Fire Farm (Hidden Gem)

Located 30 minutes east of Albany in Petersburg, NY, Soul Fire Farm is a “BIPOC-centered community farm committed to ending racism and injustice in the food system.” At their farm, they offer hands-on workshops and courses on farming, as well as volunteer opportunities. We got to spend the day learning how to weed, forage, and tarping fields to reduce tillage. During their activities, they make an active effort to foster community, reflection, and decolonized education. All very important things in our American society, where most farm owners are white and most farmworkers are brown due to American history. This is one of the most meaningful and best things to do in Upstate New York!


The Finger Lakes

The Finger Lakes region of New York is comprised of 11 long lakes in the shape of skinny fingers; hence their name. There are thousands of special things to see in this region. Here is a guide for first-time visitors going to the Finger Lakes. Below are the top attractions you can’t miss.

Corning, New York (Hidden Gem) ★

Wondering where to go upstate New York? Look no further than the Finger Lakes. One of the classic upstate New York getaways, Corning offers many museums, galleries, restaurants, and also boutiques. All this and more is set along the picturesque Chemung River. A few attractions to pop into while in Corning are:

  1. The Corning Museum of Glass is the biggest glass museum in the world. Dedicate at least several hours to explore the exhibits, historical wings, workshops, and much more. Plan at least two hours here, in addition to any workshops you might take. (Pictured above). Buy your tickets here.
  2. Rockwell Museum houses unique multicultural American art. As an artist, the Rockwell Museum is personally, one of my favorites in the world due to the diverse representation of American art. Visitors shouldn’t miss the classic paintings and sculptures by Robert F. and Hertha Rockwell (the museum founders).
  3. Downtown Corning where you can visit boutique shops like Connor’s Mercantile and Pip’s Boutique.
  4. Dippety Do Dahs, where you can purchase extremely unique desserts, including beer and wine ice cream. 
  5. Nickel’s Pitt BBQ – for some class American food with a southern twist. A must-visit for meat-lovers. As a “chicken wing connoisseur”, I can personally attest to their Parmesean Buffalo chicken wings!
  6. Take part in a historic walking tour of downtown Corning. During the walking tour, you’ll get to see the public artworks, and landmarks, and learn about Corning’s history and about glassmaking in Corning. You’ll also get to learn about Corning’s artistic community and discover the best places to eat.

During your stay, book a yoga class at Crystal Heart Yoga, and relax after a long day of touring.

Ithaca, New York ★

Ithaca, NY, home of Cornell University and Ithaca College, is a liberal, progressive small town on Cayuga Lake. While you visit, have a glamping adventure at Firelight Camps on La Tourelle Resort and Spa Grounds. Hike or bike the Cayuga Waterfront Trail, or crawl the Cayuga Lake Wine Trail.  

Additionally, we loved visiting the Ithaca farmer’s market, where you can purchase a wide variety of local goods. While shopping, keep an eye out for Handwork, Ithaca’s Artisan Cooperative. Here, find unique creations for purchase by talented local artists. The perfect way to support the local community while sprucing up your home interior with art, flowers, and other decors.

If you’re looking for a unique experience in Ithaca, then you should check out this psychedelic body painting journey. You’ll start the journey with a shamanic guided meditation, and then get to experience the ancient art of body painting with modern UV paint. Your hosts, will paint you with vibrant colors for 60-90 minutes. After, they’ll take photographs of you which will be emailed to you and can also be made into prints.

Buttermilk Falls State Park (Hidden Gem) ★

The Buttermilk Falls State Park is one of our favorite places to go upstate NY. Many lovely hiking trails lead to natural pools, streams, unique rock formations, gorges, and waterfalls. Visitors can even swim at the bottom of Buttermilk Falls; but only when a lifeguard is present. Be sure to pay attention to any notices regarding trail conditions, Covid-19 restrictions, and other important news when you enter the park. 

If you want more than a day trip to this beautiful spot, camp here in a tent or in a cabin. Buttermilk Falls State Park has both historic and modern cabins to choose from.

Watkins Glen State Park & Town ★

If it’s your first time visiting the Finger Lakes, then the small upstate New York town of Watkins Glen is likely the best town to stay in, due to its perfect proximity to major attractions. Watkins Glen also has many fantastic restaurants, craft breweries, distilleries, and wineries. Should you try a glass of wine in this region, be sure to try a Riesling; the area is renowned for it!

If you’d like to stay in Watkins Glen, then you shoul consider The Blackberry Inn Bed & Breakfast. This cute B&B includes access to an outdoor pool, free self-parking and a free breakfast. The B&B is in a great location, with Watkins Glen State Park being only 6 minutes walk away. Plus you’re only a few minutes walk away from many great restaurants and bakeries.

Nearby Watkins Glen State Park has 19 waterfalls, gorges, hiking, and more natural wonders. Its most iconic attraction is the Rainbow Bridge (pictured above), which is a relatively flat walk about a mile from the entrance. Additionally, more adventurous hikers can walk the North and South Rim of the glen. We recommend the South Rim trail, as you can look down at the creek as you hike.  Keep in mind, there is no alcohol or pets allowed on the Gorge Trail.

While in Watkins Glen, you could also gon kayaking on Seneca Lake and go on a waterfall & nature tour of the lake. During the tour, you’ll kayak 2.5 miles and see the beautiful cliffs and waterfalls around the lake. The tour also includes instructions on kayaking, so if you’re a new to kayaking you can still take part.

Geneva, New York (Hidden Gem) ★

Geneva, NY is an upscale, adorable upstate New York town. In the summer, Geneva’s Linden Street is closed on weekend nights to offer a special local fair in a cool, urban vibe. 

Our top place to stay in is the Vinifera Inn, located inside the Belhurst Castle. Be treated like royalty at the Isabella Spa, and spend a lazy afternoon meandering the gardens. Finally, Kashong Conservation Area has over 83 acres of nature trails. So, be sure to explore the fields and deep, spring-fed gully. In the winter, ski the area!

For a local and cultural experience in Geneva, reserving a spot at FLX Table is a must. This experience brings strangers together over a multi-course dinner by a renowned chef and master sommelier.

Auburn, New York

Auburn, NY has its fair share of local charm, fabulous foods, and wonderful wineries, but the main attraction in Auburn is much more historically significant. Here, Harriet Tubman used her home as a safe haven for family, friends, and others seeking refuge in the North. Harriet Tubman National Historical Park has three properties. In addition to her home, you can also visit the Harriet Tubman Home for the Aged, and nearby Zion Church.

Skaneateles, New York (Hidden Gem) ★

When looking into upstate New York getaways, Skaneateles, NY is the perfect destination. This small town hidden gem offers iconic places to stay such as the Skaneateles Suites Boutique Hotel, Mirbeau Inn & Spa Skaneateles, or consider renting a waterfront vacation home. The walkable downtown area is located at the foot of Skaneateles Lake and offers cute restaurants, boutique artisanry shops, historic sights, and much more.

While in Skaneateles, you can head to Carpenter Falls, a massive 90-foot waterfall with a dramatic drop.

Additionally, the John D. Barrow Art Gallery shows historical paintings of the area. You can even “borrow” a painting from this art gallery to showcase in your home.  Biking is also popular here, with a 32-mile road circuit.  Finally, Last Shot Distillery offers a number of award-winning spirits you will definitely want to try.

Letchworth State Park

Known as the Grand Canyon of the east, the Genessee River flows through three waterfalls, as high as 600 feet. In addition to waterfalls, the park has 66 miles of trails, horseback riding, biking, skiing, guided tours, white water rafting, kayaking, and hot air balloon experiences.

Camp here in the summer, or stay in a winterized cabin during colder months. You could also stay in a countryside home bordering the state park, that includes a pool table, ping pong table and foosball in the basement. Snowmobiling is also popular here in the wintertime. Remember: before exploring Lake Letchwork State Park, check their website for any alerts.


NIAGARA FRONTIER

Buffalo, New York

Buffalonians are proud of where they’re from, and we can see why. There is so much more to Buffalo, NY than wings! Firstly, Buffalo has an impressive museum scene. Some of the top upstate NY tourist attractions are: 

Furthermore, Buffalo has some exceptional breweries. Some of our picks include Big Ditch Brewing Company, Buffalo Brewing Company, and Froth Brewing Co. While you indulge, be sure to travel along the Buffalo Wing Trail, and enjoy the local flavor from where it originated. You can also discover Buffalo Wings as part of The Wing Ride; a bike tour that involves sampling some of the best buffalo wings available.

If you’d like to stay in Buffalo, The Mansion On Delaware Ave is a great place to stay. This hotel includes access to a spa, gym and is within walking distance of many of the best attractions in Buffalo including the Theodore Roosevelt Inaugural National Historic Site. If you want to stay by the waterside, you should consider the Courtyard Buffalo Downtown / Canalside. This hotel is within walking distance of Buffalos waterfront, where you can enjoy a walk before returning to the hotel and enjoy a swim in it’s indoor pool.

Niagara Falls, New York

Another one of the best upstate New York getaways is to Niagara Falls. Guests are able to experience the Falls in a variety of ways; hiking, boating, biking, or even while dining. Maid of the Mist takes tourists as close to the falls as possible. See the Falls while you dine at Top of the Falls restaurant. Niagara Falls State Park, encompasses all of these great options and much more. Once you’ve explored the American side, you can also cross to the Canadian side, so bring your passport and be sure to check up on current Covid-19 guidelines.


THE THOUSAND ISLANDS ARCHIPELAGO

Alexandria Bay, New York

The Thousand Islands Archipelago is made up of 1,864 islands! These islands, all varying in size, lie along the St. Lawrence River between the US-Canadian border. Located on the mainland, across from these islands, the village of Alexandria Bay has a tradition steeped in maritime history. One of the best ways to experience this is to book a boat tour. The crystal clear water allows you to see down to 80 feet in some places, which reveals shipwrecks below the depths. You can get even more up close and personal to these shipwrecks through diving excursions.

Alexandria Bay has many properties on the National Register of Historic Places. One of the most notable, a 120 room mansion on Heart Island, is a replica of a Rhineland castle. Visitors can only access Boldt Castle by boat, so be sure to plan ahead by booking a tour or bringing your own personal watercraft. This unique property is also one of the must-see places in upstate New York!


CHAUTAUQUA-ALLEGHENY

Chautauqua Lake, New York

Beautiful Chautauqua Lake is perfect for boating excursions, kayak and paddleboard rentals, or sailing. Visitors can also enjoy a Jamestown historical tour of the Chautauqua Belle. In addition, this historic steamboat is a wedding and special event venue. 

After a day on the water, visitors can refresh at the Southern Tier Brewery. The brewery has distinctive offerings, like a Nitro coconut truffle imperial milk stout, or a strawberry dream milkshake IPA.

Another one of the best upstate New York tourist attractions is the National Comedy Center in Jamestown. This museum celebrates the artform and craft of comedy. It also shows off important artifacts and writings from important comedic national treasures, like Lucille Ball- whose hometown is Jamestown! After you could visit the Lucille Ball Desi Arnaz Museum, to learn more about the lives and careers of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz.

From the top of a 46 High Peak to the depths below Buttermilk Falls, the best of upstate New York is hidden in its natural wonders and small towns. So, experience the best places to visit upstate New York on your next trip.


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21 thoughts on “31 Best Places to Visit in Upstate New York + Hidden Gems

    • Isabelle says:

      So much space to embrace our healing outdoors and learn about important history. Upstate NY is such an American hidden gem!

  1. Ummi Nadrah says:

    This has got to be the most detailed article about Upstate New York that I’ve come across. To be honest, I didn’t know much about the state apart from the typical touristy sites in NYC. Definitely saving this for my future reference.

  2. Ros says:

    For Lake Letchwork, it’s actually spelled Letchworth… Named after William Pryor Letchworth. So it’s known as Letchworth state park. Worth it to visit!

  3. Darshil Patel says:

    Thank you for the invaluable information Isabelle! Your blog had answers to all my questions! Definitely saving it for future reference. ?

  4. Laurie Ross says:

    I lived in New York City for my first 20 years and was not aware of all the places to visit in Upstate New York. I now live in PA and was looking for a place to drive to in August for celebrating my husband’s and my 45th anniversary. Thanks for all the descriptions and ideas!!

    • Isabelle says:

      Thank you so much for the kind words, Laurie! I hope you can explore the beauty of our home state this summer 🙂

    • Isabelle says:

      Gah. Thanks for catching that typo error! I think it’s because of the Finger Lakes that I keep doing that. It’s fixed now. Much appreciated.

  5. K J says:

    You forgot Saint Lawrence Seaway. And all the campgrounds, and all the activities we have here and sites to see. Saint Lawrence County is one of the biggest counties.

    • Isabelle says:

      That’s SUPER high on my list!! We’re heading there this summer 🙂 I CAN’T WAIT! Please feel free to share any great tips + local small businesses we can check out/support.

  6. Linda V says:

    Green Lakes is in Fayetteville, not to be confused with LaFayette which is south. You seem to have combined both names as the location of this beautiful lake.

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