Many people only think of New York City when they think of the state of New York. New York City is a huge urban city. But the huge state of New York also has rolling hills, roaring rivers, stunning mountains, cute towns, and crashing waterfalls.
Under all of its natural beauty are important parts of history that are strongly connected to the land and the people who live there. Do you want to see for yourself?
The Best Places to Visit in Upstate New York
Upstate New York is anything but forgotten, with its beautiful mountains, many lakes, and charming small towns. Anyone who has been there knows this. Here are 10 of the best places to visit in upstate New York if you haven’t been there yet or want to see more.
1. Lake Conesus
Conesus Lake is the westernmost Finger Lake. Its July 3rd Ring of Fire, when 10,000 flares are lit around its edge and fireworks go off above, draws a lot of people. Nearby, the tiny village of Lakeville is home to the Little Lake Brewing Brewery.
This is one of the stops on the new Livingston Libation Loop, which shows where wineries, cideries, and craft microbreweries are in the county. Don’t miss the street paintings and art that have just been put up along the 90-mile Inspirations Trail.
2. Cooperstown, New York
The National Baseball Hall of Fame is just one of the interesting places to see in this small town in New York. The Fenimore Art Museum is on land that was once owned by the author James Fenimore Cooper.
It has a great collection of American art, and every summer, the Glimmerglass Festival brings opera fans from all over the world. Howe Caverns is about 38 miles east and is the second-most-visited natural feature in New York state. There, people can go caving or spelunking.
3. The Waterfall at Letchworth
Letchworth State Park, also known as the “Grand Canyon of the East,” has an amazing gorge that was made by the Genesee River over hundreds of years. You can take pictures of dozens of waterfalls where the river crashes down along rocks made of shale, limestone, and sandstone that are up to 550 feet high at their highest point.
A new Autism Nature Trail is the first in the country to be made for people on the autism spectrum. It is a one-mile loop with eight marked sensory sites.
4. The Niagara Falls
In addition to the famous Niagara Falls, it is worth going to the Niagara Falls Underground Railroad Heritage Center to learn more about the history of the Underground Railroad, which often ended at the Canadian border.
Read about Harriet Tubman and neighborhood heroes like John Morrison. “One More River to Cross,” a permanent show at the museum, won the 2019 Award of Excellence from the American Association for State and Local History.
Jamestown is at the southwestern end of Chautauqua Lake. It is best known as the city of comedian Lucille Ball. People who like comedy should check out the National Comedy Center, which is the first museum devoted to the art of comedy.
If you want to do something more intellectual, the famous Chautauqua Institution is just a short drive up the lake. Each summer, it hosts speakers, performers, and programs that focus on “the exploration of the best in human values and the enrichment of life.”
About an hour south of Buffalo, in the foothills of the Allegheny Mountains, is a charming town with well-kept and restored homes and buildings from the 19th century.
It’s also where sports fans and skiers from western New York go to mountain bike, hike, or slalom down the 60 slopes and trails at nearby Holiday Valley Resort.
7. Seneca Falls (Seneca Falls)
This historic place is at the north end of Cayuga Lake. It is thought to have been the model for the town of Bedford Falls in Frank Capra’s “It’s a Wonderful Life.” Most notable, though, is the important part it played in the women’s rights movement. In 1848, it was the site of the first Women’s Rights Convention.
The town’s Convention Days in July draw a lot of people, and the Women’s Rights National Historical Park is also worth seeing. You can also raise a glass to the suffragettes while wine tasting along one of the many nearby Finger Lakes wine trails.
This wealthy town, whose name means “long lake” in the native Iroquois language, is another place in central New York that people go to for wine drinking and fall foliage. It’s also a favorite spot for bikers who come to ride the 32-mile trail around the lake.
Every year, beginning the weekend after Thanksgiving, the town has its annual Dickens Christmas celebration with live music, horse-drawn wagon rides, and a cast of Dickensian characters.
9. Lake George
Few lakes in New York State are known for scuba diving, so tourists are often surprised to learn that certified divers can explore 18th-century shipwrecks at the bottom of Lake George, including the oldest intact warship in North America.
In the summer, lots of people visit this town in the Adirondacks, and it can get crowded. But there’s plenty to do in the winter, too, like snowshoeing and a fair for families every February.
10. Saranac Lake, New York
People from cities have been drawn to the Adirondack Mountains for hundreds of years, including wealthy families like the Guggenheims and Vanderbilts, who owned the Great Camps, which were wild but still very luxurious.
The Point was once a Rockefeller Great Camp, and it still welcomes guests with stays that include everything, like black-tie meals, that take them back to that time. The resort is near the town of Saranac Lake, which is tucked between mountains and lakes and has shops, galleries, and restaurants that are fun to visit.
It’s not surprising that the State of New York is very big and touches the borders of several other states. So, the places below are divided by where they are in New York: Central New York, the Catskills, the Hudson Valley, the Adirondacks, the Finger Lakes, the Thousand Islands, the Niagara Frontier, and Chautauqua-Allegheny. So you can choose the best place for your trip to Upstate New York!