Upstate New York is one of New England's most popular rural getaway sites, located within convenient day or weekend trip driving distance from major cities such as New York City and Philadelphia. Many of the region's major cities have recovered from their Rust Belt days and are experiencing a cultural renaissance, including lovely areas such as Rochester, Utica, and Buffalo. World-renowned attractions such as romantic Niagara Falls and the Olympic Games attractions of Lake Placid are also within easy day-trip distance of both American and Canadian cities in the area.
1.The Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens
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The Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens are one of New York's most beautiful botanical garden facilities, designed as a collaboration between renowned architects Lord and Burnham, botanist John F. Cowell, and legendary landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted. The gardens, which were originally created between 1894 and 1900, are recognized as a National Historic Site today, attracting more than 100,000 annual visitors from around the world. Stunning indoor gardens showcase native and exotic plants around the world, including a majestic Palm Dome house, an Asian-style Rainforest House, and an Ivy, Carnivorous Plants, and Medicinal Garden House, which is home to the world's largest public ivy collection. Displays of cacti, succulents, begonias, and orchids are also showcased, along with an art gallery showcasing rotating exhibits by professional and amateur artists.
2655 South Park Ave, Buffalo, NY 14218, Phone: 716-827-1584
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Cazenovia has been named as America's coolest small town by Budget Traveler, located within Madison County along the southeastern banks of Cazenovia Lake. The charming village was originally established in 1794 by John Lincklaen of the Holland Land Company and is named in honor of company agent Theophilus Cazenove. Today, it is known as one of upstate New York's most picturesque getaways, showcasing a splendid rural landscape filled with forested areas and scenic waterways. Visitors can explore the city's charming 19th-century historic business center, which is home to many architecturally significant buildings. Delicious dining options include the acclaimed Lincklaen House, which serves up casual fine dining in a stunning historic building stocked with period furniture.
Corning is a lovely Finger Lakes area town in Steuben County, located along the banks of the Chemung River and named in honor of Albany financier Erastus Corning, the head of the Fortune 500 company Corning Incorporated. The beautiful Corning Museum of Glass is home to one of the world's most comprehensive artistic and functional glass collections, showcasing pieces dating back to antiquity. Western American painting and sculpture is also on display at the Rockwell Museum, making the city a must-do for arts and crafts enthusiasts. The city's historic Gaffer District is home to gorgeous restored 19th-century buildings and a plethora of shopping and dining options. Visitors can also view the historic Bloody Run site, which commemorates the site of a significant battle between indigenous American villagers and European generals.
Ellicottville is a scenic ski village in western New York state, originally incorporated in 1837 after development by the Holland Land Company. Today, many of the city's gorgeous historic sites are listed on the National Register of Historic Places within the Ellicottville Historic District. Two area ski resorts operate throughout the winter months, including the renowned HoliMont Ski Club, North America's largest private ski club, and the popular public Holiday Valley ski resort. Beautiful Nannen Arboretum is home to a Japanese-style stone garden and strolling pathways, while Ellicottville Village Park offers day-use picnic sites. Each year, the city's annual Fall Festival is held in conjunction with Canadian Thanksgiving weekend and the peak of fall foliage. Other special events include a Mardi Gras celebration, a Jazz and Blues Festival, and a Rock'n'Oldies Weekend.
5.The Enchanted Mountains of Cattaraugus County
The Enchanted Mountains of Cattaraugus County are one of western New York's most scenic upland areas, located within the state's lovely Chautauqua-Allegany Region. The region is known for its stunning natural scenery, including lush forests, rolling hills, impressive glacial valleys, and pristine, sparkling lakes and waterways. Visitors can explore the region's two major cities, 13 villages, and 32 townships, which are home to delightful attractions such as the Holiday Valley ski resort, commonly known as the "Aspen of the East." Outdoor recreational opportunities abound at sites such as Zoar Valley, Case Lake, and Harwood Lake. Unique geological attractions are also on display at Rock City Park and Little Rock City, including prehistoric formations.
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Ausable Chasm is a unique tourist attraction near the city of Keeseville, showcasing a stunning sandstone gorge that was carved by the melting of glaciers during the end of the last Ice Age. The gorge spans approximately two miles and is one of the biggest natural tourist attractions of the Adirondacks region, located along the course of the majestic Ausable River near its terminus at Lake Champlain. Visitors can observe and photograph unique natural attractions and formations such as The Devil's Oven, Sentinel Rock, The Cathedral, and Elephant's Head or view the stunning Rainbow Falls, which is located at the gorge's southern end. Cultural attractions in the region include the North Star Underground Railroad Museum, which commemorates the Civil War-era operations of the Underground Railroad. More than 15 miles of mountain biking trails are also offered at the Ausable Chasm Recreation Center.
2144 U.S. 9, Ausable Chasm, NY 12911, Phone: 518-834-7454
Hammondsport has been voted as America's coolest small town by the readers of Budget Travel, located within upstate New York's Finger Lakes region at the southern edge of Keuka Lake. The region is best known for its award-winning wineries, including the Pleasant Valley Wine Company, which is housed on a National Register of Historic Places-listed campus and has been designated as United States Bonded Winery No.1. Visitors can start their wine-related trips at the city's Great Western Winery and Visitor Center, which displays the world's most comprehensive collection of historical artifacts related to winemaking and vineyards. Beer lovers can sample craft brews at Keuka Brewing Company, named as the state's best craft brewery in 2014. Other unique attractions include the Finger Lakes Boating Museum and the Glenn H. Curtiss Museum, honoring the famed aviation pioneer.
Hunter Mountain is the second-highest peak within New York's Catskill Mountains, reaching elevations of 4,040 feet above sea level. The mountain is most associated with the ski resort area of the same name, which is anchored around its Colonel's Chair ridge on its northwestern corner. Atop its beautiful summit, a fire lookout tower offers the state's highest observational views and can be reached via a hiking and horseback riding route. Excellent snow tubing and skiing experiences are offered for visitors of all ages and skill levels at the Hunter Mountain resort in Greene County, which was New York state's first skiing facility to utilize 100 percent artificial snow operations. Four terrain parks are offered, along with a plethora of dining experiences and resort amenities.
8827 NY-23A, Hunter, NY 12442, Phone: 518-263-4811
Ithaca is one of the most famous college towns in the United States, home to renowned Ivy League college Cornell University. The beautiful city, which is located within New York's stunning Finger Lakes region, is a cultural paradise for day trippers, showcasing stunning museums and botanical gardens such as the renowned Cornell Botanic Gardens, which are home to the unparalleled Cascadilla Falls. Families can enjoy attractions such as the Museum of the Earth natural history museum, the Cayuga Nature Center, or the hands-on Sciencenter. Arts lovers can take in performances at the city's Hangar Theater or view important collections at the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art. The city is also renowned for its extensive live music scene, which is home to more than 80 venues throughout the greater region and has produced major independent rock artists like the X Ambassadors and Kurt Riley.
Lake Placid was the host village of the Winter Olympics twice throughout the 20th century, in both 1932 and 1980, one of only three sites in the world to host the Games more than once. The village is a must-visit for winter sports and hockey enthusiasts, known as the site of the "Miracle on Ice" hockey game between the 1980 United States and Soviet Olympic hockey teams. Olympics memorabilia is on display at the Lake Placid Olympic Museum, including team medals and uniforms. Visitors can enjoy a plethora of opportunities for outdoor winter recreation throughout the city's beautiful Adirondack Mountains landscape, including opportunities for skiing at nearby Whiteface Mountain, which is home to Eastern North America's highest vertical elevation.
11.Letchworth State Park
Letchworth State Park is a gorgeous 14,000-acre state park spanning areas throughout Wyoming and Livingston Counties, located approximately half an hour southwest of the city of Rochester. The park follows the course of the majestic Genesee River, flowing northward over beautiful waterfalls and gorge stretches. It has been voted as America's favorite state park by the readers of USA Today, noted for its excellent outdoor recreational opportunities year-round. Visitors can explore the park's Upper, Middle, and Lower Falls sites and view its spectacular 550-foot gorge walls, which earned the site a reputation as the "Grand Canyon of the East." Day-use picnic sites are offered at the park, along with 66 miles of hiking trails, swimming pools, and opportunities for hiking, biking, kayaking, hunting, fishing, and whitewater rafting. During the winter months, visitors can snow tube, cross-country ski, snowmobile, or enjoy scenic horse-drawn carriage rides through the snowy landscape.
1 Letchworth State Park, Castile, NY 14427, Phone: 585-493-3600
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Lily Dale is a quaint hamlet within the town of Pomfret, located along the eastern banks of Cassadaga Lake in southwestern New York state less than an hour outside of Buffalo. The idyllic community, which is unofficially known as the "City of Light," was founded as the Cassadaga Lake Free Association camp in 1879, striving to further the science and philosophies of Spiritualism. Each year, the village opens to the public for summer workshops and courses, ranging from spiritual healing sessions and reiki lessons to private psychic medium consultations. Guest lecturers are also showcased throughout the summer, including international luminaries such as Deepak Chopra, Wayne Dyer, James Van Praagh. Lisa Williams, and members of the television series Ghost Hunters.
13.The Lucille Ball Desi Arnaz Museum
© The Lucille Ball Desi Arnaz Museum
The Lucille Ball Desi Arnaz Museum honors famed American actors and comedians Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, best known for their roles on the beloved 1950s sitcom I Love Lucy. The nonprofit museum, which is located in Ball's hometown of Jamestown, New York, was opened to the public in 1996, preserving the pair's impact on pop culture and television throughout the 20th century. Visitors can view costumes and personal memorabilia connected to the couples, including awards, television costumes, and other artifacts from the pair's bulk of live and television work. Audio clips on display at the museum's audiovisual exhibits include clips from Ball's 1940s radio series My Favorite Husband and clips from Arnaz's autobiography A Book. Visitors can also listen to songs from Arnaz's Latin music career, explore recreated sets, or host private special events at a recreation of Ricky Ricardo's famed Tropicana Room nightclub.
2 W 3rd St, Jamestown, NY 14701, Phone: 716-484-0800
14.Mohonk Mountain House
Mohonk Mountain House is a beautiful all-inclusive resort in New Paltz, located just 20 miles outside of Poughkeepsie on the banks of gorgeous Lake Mohonk. The National Historic Landmark resort, which was developed in 1869 by Albert Smiley, spans 300 acres and is anchored around a gorgeous Victorian castle building that has provided overnight accommodations for international luminaries, including several United States Presidents. Visitors can explore the resort for the day as part of day packages and enjoy award-winning attractions such as hiking trails, Victorian gardens, and a full-service spa. Delicious buffet lunches are served up at the Granary on weekends, showcasing spectacular mountaintop views from its dining room. Visitors can also enjoy handcrafted cocktails at the Carriage Lounge or hit the links at the resort's Scottish-inspired nine-hole golf course.
1000 Mountain Rest Rd, New Paltz, NY 12561, Phone: 845-765-3286
15.Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge
Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge is a lovely wildlife preserve overseen by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, located within the town of Tyre approximately halfway between the cities of Rochester and Syracuse. The scenic Seneca County refuge is anchored around Cayuga Lake's Montezuma Swamp and Marshes, which were designated as a National Natural Landmark in 1973. Today, they protect one of New England's best examples of undisturbed swamp woodlands, spanning 10,000 acres along the Atlantic Flyway migratory bird trail. Visitors can observe native wildlife, including significant populations of migratory bald eagles, during daylight hours seven days a week at the preserve. Hiking and biking trails are offered throughout the preserve, along with the 3.5-mile Wildlife Drive auto tour route.
3395 Hwy 20, Seneca Falls, NY 13148, Phone: 315-568-5987
Niagara Falls is one of North America's greatest natural wonders, located along the United States-Canadian border approximately 20 minutes from the city of Buffalo. The stunning falls, which are located along the majestic Niagara River, are home to North America's highest falls flow rate, cresting more than six million cubic feet of water each minute. Contrary to popular belief, the falls are actually comprised of three separate waterfall areas, including Horseshoe Falls, which are known as the site's most iconic attraction. Visitors can view the massive falls from Niagara Falls State Park's Prospect Point Observation Tower or traverse to other viewpoints from the Niagara Gorge Discovery Center. A plethora of visitor attractions are located on both the American and Canadian sides of the falls, including the family-friendly Aquarium of Niagara. Visitors can also ride the Maid of the Mist tour boat for an up-close view of the falls directly on the water.
Rochester is a charming city on Lake Ontario, known as one of the United States' first boomtowns in the early 19th century due to its fertile land conditions. The region has been historically known as a major manufacturing hub, producing companies such as Kodak, Xerox, Western Union, and Bausch and Lomb. Today, it is known as one of America's most livable cities, home to lovely cultural institutions like the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra, the Rochester City Ballet, and the George Eastman Museum International Museum of Photography and Film. Families can enjoy attractions such as the Rochester Museum and Science Center, while beer lovers can taste brews at microbreweries like Genesee Brewing Company and Three Heads Brewing. The city hosts many major festivals each year, including a spring Lilac Festival and the Rochester International Jazz Festival, one of the United States' largest jazz festivals.
18.Sackets Harbor Battlefield State Historic Site
Sackets Harbor Battlefield State Historic Site preserves the site of two historic battles in the War of 1812, located just south of the village of Sackets Harbor along the banks of Lake Ontario in Hounsfield. The National Register of Historic Places-listed site is home to the 24-acre Horse Island, which saw action during the Second Battle of Sackets Harbor. A restored 1850s-era Navy Yard and Commandant's House are also preserved as living history museum facilities, paying tribute to the more than 3,000 men who constructed warships in the region during the war. Visitors can embark on guided and self-guided tours throughout the site's exhibits and outdoor interpretive displays. Throughout the summer months, the site is home to historical reenactments, including demonstrations of soldier camp life in 1813.
504 W Main St, Sackets Harbor, NY 13685, Phone: 315-646-3634
Skaneateles is a beautiful town and village in Onondaga County, located along the banks of gorgeous Skaneateles Lake. The charming village is home to a quaint downtown district that is noted for its historic buildings, boutiques, shops, and restaurants. Visitors can stay at charming historic inns and bed and breakfast facilities and peruse the city's lovely art galleries, including the John D. Barrow Art Gallery. Skaneateles Lake offers excellent opportunities for fishing, walking, and boating, while nearby Carpenter Falls is one of the region's most beautiful natural photo opportunities, accessible via lovely forest nature trails. Wine lovers can enjoy tastings at the picturesque Anyela's Vineyards. Annual special events hosted by the town throughout the year include the summer Skaneateles Festival music event, the Skaneateles Antique and Classic Boat Show, and the Dickens Christmas in Skaneateles period holiday event.
20.The National Museum of Play
© The National Museum of Play
The National Museum of Play is a unique museum operated by the Strong in Rochester, originally established in 1969 as a showcase for the personal collections of Margaret Woodbury Strong. The museum is one of five museums operated by The Strong, along with the National Toy Hall of Fame, the Brian Sutton-Smith Library and Archives of Play, and the International Center for the History of Electronic Games. It is the world's only collections-based museum devoted to the study of play, showcasing exhibits on beloved children's characters and franchises such as the Berenstain Bears and Sesame Street. Immersive exhibits showcase video games, comic books, carousel rides, storybooks, and other children's play activities, including eGameRevolution, the United States' first permanent video game-related exhibit.
1 Manhattan Square Dr, Rochester, NY 14607, Phone: 585-263-2700
21.The Thousand Islands
The Thousand Islands are a stunning group of more than 1,800 islands along the United States-Canadian border on the St. Lawrence River, known as a popular summer retreat area for New England and Canadian elite throughout the 19th century. Today, the region is known as a nature lover's paradise, home to the Canadian Thousand Islands National Park, which offers walking trails and campgrounds. More than 30 New York state parks are also located throughout the islands, including Robert Moses State Park and Wellesley Island State Park. Visitors can swim at the Lake of the Isles, sunbathe at Potter's Beach, or fish at Eel Bay. Historic fortress remains are showcased on Wolfe Island, which played a significant role in the American Revolutionary War. Other gorgeous structures on the islands include the romantic 120-room Boldt Castle and the living history museum Singer Castle.
Tupper Lake is one of upstate New York's most charming small villages, located within the boundaries of Adirondack Park near the city of Lake Placid. The lovely Tri-Lakes region village is best known as the home of two of New York's best natural science Centers, including the 54,000-square-foot Wild Center, which is set on a 31-acre campus and showcases a wide variety of exhibits and nature programming throughout the year. The Adirondack Sky Center and Observatory lets visitors observe the beautiful night sky in the region at star viewing parties and open observation times. Visitors can also explore attractions such as the Six Nations Indian Museum or sample brews at popular area microbreweries Big Tupper Brewing and Raquette River Brewing.
Utica is one of New York's most populous small cities, located approximately an hour east of Syracuse and four hours northwest of New York City. The former Rust Belt region has become one of New York's most diverse cities today, home to vibrant Greman, Italian, Irish, Dutch, and Bosnian communities. Visitors can enjoy delicious cuisine options from around the world and sample popular area ethnic foods such as pierogies, Utica greens, chicken riggies, and tomato pies. The popular Matt Brewing Company is ranked as one of the nation's largest breweries by sales, offering tastings and tours at its public facility. 677 acres of parks include facilities designed by legendary landscape artist Frederick Law Olmsted. Visitors can explore area attractions such as the Utica Zoo or view the historic Utica Psychiatric Center, known as one of the nation's most infamous insane asylums in the 19th century. Annual special events include the Boilermaker Road Race, held in conjunction with the National Distance Running Hall of Fame.
Watkins Glen is a lovely village in Schuyler County, located within the towns of Reading and Dix. The village is best known as the home of the Watkins Glen International race track, which hosts events connected to the NASCAR Cup and IndyCar car racing series. The village's racing history dates back to 1948's Watkins Glen Sports Car Grand Prix, which was the United States' first post-WWII road race and is credited with reviving the American pastime of road racing in the 20th century. Today, visitors can learn about the history of motorsports at the International Motor Racing Research Center, which is housed within the Watkins Glen Public Library. Beautiful National Register of Historic Places-listed buildings throughout the city include the A.F. Chapman House, the First Baptist Church of Watkins Glen, and the Schuyler County Courthouse complex. Lovely Watkins Glen State Park also spans 778 acres throughout the city, known as a top spot for watercraft racing.
25.Women's Rights National Historical Park
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Women's Rights National Historical Park is a seven-acre historic park in Seneca Falls and Waterloo, originally established in 1980 to honor some of New York's most prominent feminist figures, including major figures in attendace of the first Women's Rights Convention. Four historic properties are protected by the park, including the Wesleyan Methodist Church, which hosted the landmark Seneca Falls Convention, and the Elizabeth Cady Stanton House. A visitor center features exhibits and sculptures honoring seminal figures such as Lucretia Mott, Mary Ann M'Clintock, and Frederick Douglass, along with a Suffrage Press Printshop and an educational center. A number of attractions are also showcased along the Votes for Women History Trail, including Rochester's Susan B. Anthony House and Mount Hope Cemetery.
136 Fall St, Seneca Falls, NY 13148, Phone: 315-568-0024
25 Best Upstate New York Day Trips
- The Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens, Photo: Zack Frank/stock.adobe.com
- Cazenovia, Photo: Mahmoud Masad/stock.adobe.com
- Corning, Photo: alpegor/stock.adobe.com
- Ellicottville, Photo: Rob/stock.adobe.com
- The Enchanted Mountains of Cattaraugus County, Photo: Gajus/stock.adobe.com
- Ausable Chasm, Photo: Focqus, LLC/stock.adobe.com
- Hammondsport, Photo: alpegor/stock.adobe.com
- Hunter Mountain, Photo: spaskov/stock.adobe.com
- Ithaca, Photo: scriberight/stock.adobe.com
- Lake Placid, Photo: merrvas/stock.adobe.com
- Letchworth State Park, Photo: eks_design/stock.adobe.com
- Lily Dale, Photo: Zack Frank/stock.adobe.com
- The Lucille Ball Desi Arnaz Museum, Photo: The Lucille Ball Desi Arnaz Museum
- Mohonk Mountain House, Photo: Gary/stock.adobe.com
- Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge, Photo: debramillet/stock.adobe.com
- Niagara Falls, Photo: Jenifoto/stock.adobe.com
- Rochester, Photo: jiawangkun/stock.adobe.com
- Sackets Harbor Battlefield State Historic Site, Photo: steheap/stock.adobe.com
- Skaneateles, Photo: jiawangkun/stock.adobe.com
- The National Museum of Play, Photo: The National Museum of Play
- The Thousand Islands, Photo: Jenifoto/stock.adobe.com
- Tupper Lake, Photo: jiawangkun/stock.adobe.com
- Utica, Photo: jiawangkun/stock.adobe.com
- Watkins Glen, Photo: mandritoiu/stock.adobe.com
- Women's Rights National Historical Park, Photo: Zack Frank/stock.adobe.com
- Cover Photo: pabrady63/stock.adobe.com