Must-Visit Places in Upstate New York

Updated at : 17 May, 2024

Upstate New York is nothing like New York City. It’s fair to say that traveling from the metropolis to the upper state New York area feels almost like entering another dimension. The dense traffic, urban architecture, and non-stop commotion are replaced with a pleasant, welcoming ambiance as you are greeted by the placid woodland country. The immense natural beauty of New York state unfolds itself through its delightful little villages and scenic forests. The towering hotels are supplanted by rustic New York State cabin and treehouse accommodations.

Even today, a lot of upstate NY remains largely unexplored by travelers, who aren’t even aware of the concealed treasures lying in their own backyard. The reality is that there are several breathtakingly attractive locations hidden all across upstate New York. Below are a few locations that illustrate the joy and grandeur of the upper state New York region.

1. Cold Spring

Situated in Putnam County, Cold Spring is not that far from NYC. In fact, it’s only an hour distant, which makes it a convenient stop-over destination if you’re traveling to or from the metropolis.

The first thing you’ll undoubtedly note about Cold Spring is how serene and picturesque this small town is. It’s been that way for a long, as evidenced by the family-owned markets and 19th-century architecture that has garnered Cold Spring a place on the National Register of Historic Places.

2. Woodstock

A Weekend in Woodstock — Upstate Down

This eccentric community in rural New York was placed on the map in 1969 when it served as the host and namesake for the most famous music festival in entertainment history. Since then, Woodstock has become something of a mecca for rock ‘n’ roll aficionados. Many of the locals are also proud of their home’s artistic heritage, adorning their properties with memorabilia and tributes to the bygone era.

Hippie nostalgia isn’t the only thing Woodstock has to offer, though. It’s also home to some of the most fascinating and peculiar of New York’s upstate attractions. For example, where else would you ever expect to discover a genuine Tibetan Buddhist monastery like Karma Triyana Dharmachakra? Here you can meditate, learn more about Buddhism, or just gaze at the ornate artwork and architecture.

3. Watkins Glen State Park

Situated at 1009 N. Franklin St. in Watkin Glens, Watkins Glen State Park is undoubtedly among the most popular locations to visit in New York’s upstate area. The park gets fairly jam-packed with tourists, particularly during the summer, and it’s not hard to see why.

At Watkins Glen, visitors can experience a scenic meander alongside the crystal-clear waters of Glen Creek. Here, you’ll view magnificent cliffs reaching up to 200 feet in height as well as almost 20 distinct cascades. Of these, make sure you keep an eye out for the magnificent Cavern Cascade. Trust me when I say it’s an indelible spectacle.

4. Skaneateles

Widely known as the “Gem of the Finger Lakes,” Skaneateles is a postcard-perfect municipality. It’s located in the center of rural New York, just four hours from New York City. However, it might as well be a whole other planet, as evidenced by its tranquil milieu and its proximity to the placid blue waters of Skaneateles Lake.

Skaneateles Lake is itself a famous tourist destination, due to its peaceful splendor and ample camping, sailing, and angling opportunities. Those who enjoy the great environment will also want to check out nearby Carpenter Falls, Emerson Park, Baltimore Woods Nature Center, Erie Canal Park, and the Bahar Preserve.

5. Letchworth State Park

Guide: Letchworth State Park

Over the years, Letchworth State Park has earned itself the appellation “Grand Canyon of the East.” And just like the “other” Grand Canyon, it’s something that has to be seen to be believed. Letchworth Park is one of my personal favorite locations to visit in upstate New York. Ultimately, I predict it will be one of yours, too.

The park is over 14,000 acres in size and 17 miles in length. It parallels the course of the Genesee River through a deep gorge and three equally magnificent cascades. What’s more, these cascades are perfectly positioned to capture the sunlight, making vibrant rainbows a common sight. Don’t neglect to bring your camera in order to acquire some memento photographs.

6. Ithaca

Famous for having more than 100 cascades within ten miles of its downtown area, the city of Ithaca is one of the most distinctive locations to visit in upstate New York. But natural splendor isn’t all this top-notch vacation destination has to offer. It’s also renowned for its vibrant local culture and historic importance.

A number of important figures from US history left their influence on Ithaca, as evidenced by such edifying tourist attractions as the Harriet Tubman Home, the John Johnston House, and the Phelps Mansion Museum, among others. If you don’t feel like taking a step into the past, though, why not take one towards the future at The Sciencenter, which features a navigable scale model of the solar system?

7. Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum

If baseball really is the quintessential American pastime, then there’s no doubt that the Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum makes the city of Cooperstown one of the most important places to visit in upstate New York, particularly if you’re a sports aficionado.

Founded in 1939, the Hall of Fame commemorates the achievements of over 300 of the finest baseball athletes in the globe. Countless priceless items of memorabilia are on display in the three-floor museum, which includes interactive exhibits and a veritable mountain of baseball history and trivia.

Read Also: Beautiful Places in Yokohama You Must Visit

8. Lake Placid

Lake Placid | 2-Day Itinerary | Attractions, Activities

Tucked hidden in the Adirondack Mountains, the calm village of Lake Placid genuinely lives to its name. If you’re looking to unwind and ignore your stressors for a few days, you would be hard-pressed to find any better places to visit in upstate New York.

Sharing its name with the 2,170-acre body of water that it borders, Lake Placid still has 19th-century architecture from its days as an iron-mining community. These generations-old structures are not only visually breathtaking, but also communicate a sense of tradition and easygoing hospitality that many visitors find restful.

9. Sleepy Hollow

Depending on what time of year you find yourself investigating the East Coast, you may be particularly well-served by taking a detour in the direction of Sleepy Hollow. Yes, the same town that inspired the renowned ghost story “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” by Washington Irving.

During the autumn season, as Halloween approaches, Sleepy Hollow takes on a faintly mystical ambiance. This is reinforced by the region’s naturally abundant and colorful foliage. Take a pause from trick-or-treating to visit the historic Sleepy Hollow Cemetery. Or visit the Headless Horseman Monument, which gives tribute to the town’s spectral indigenous celebrity.

10. Lake George

With a population of just over 3,000 people, the municipality of Lake George, New York is one of the quietest, most relaxed areas in the entire Northeast. Nevertheless, if you’re searching for interesting things to do in upstate New York, you’ll find more excitement here than you’d anticipate.

Nestled in the center of the Adirondack Mountains, Lake George is just 30 minutes north of Saratoga Springs. The whole region is surrounded by dense old-growth forests and majestic summits.