Winter does not have to put a halt to your trips. Consider new activities that make use of snow, such as skiing, sledding, skating, or even cross-country skiing. What about making a snowman on the same grounds where the US won a gold medal in men’s hockey?
Alternatively, travel to New York’s wine area, but in addition to tasting the local wines, go ice fishing. While in the Finger Lakes region, you can also visit your favorite vineyards. Whatever you decide, don’t allow the snow to keep you from having fun; instead, embrace and appreciate everything that winter has to offer in beautiful New York State!
Best Places to Visit Upstate NY Winter
Here are a few places in the state that are ideal for a winter escape:
1. Lake Placid (Adirondack Mountains)
The Adirondack Mountains were built for winter, so it’s no surprise that they’ll host the 2023 FISU Winter World University Games (January 12–22). Book a hotel at the beautiful and charming Golden Arrow Lakeside Resort in downtown Lake Placid to participate in the magic.
Aside from the breathtaking view of Mirror Lake, the extensive amenities include a sauna, steam bath, two whirlpool tubs, a pool, and a racquetball court. Even more, the resort is environmentally friendly, thanks to its use of local and organic foods, extensive recycling program, and energy-efficient guest rooms.
2. Highland (in the Hudson Valley)
Rocking Horse Ranch Resort is an ideal family vacation destination. There is so much to do at the resort that the kids will be occupied without you needing to arrange anything. First and foremost, as the name suggests, this is a destination for horse lovers. They provide rides for all skill levels, including strolling, trotting, and cantering.
Smaller children can also ride ponies, which are a little lower to the ground. If you don’t want to ride, you can take a horse-drawn carriage ride, or, at night when the horses are resting, a tractor-drawn wagon ride will drive you to a campfire to prepare s’mores!
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The resort’s Winter Fun Park contains all of the necessary equipment for skiing, ice skating, and snow tubing (seen). Relax in the brand new El Dorado Hot Springs, play around in the indoor water park, and more at TripAdvisor’s top-rated all-inclusive family resort, a New York favorite for years.
3. Niagara Falls and the City of Buffalo (Greater Niagara)
Even if seeing the gorgeous neighboring Niagara Falls all chilly and iced over is incentive enough to visit, Buffalo has plenty of other reasons to stay as long as possible.
Visit the Aquarium of Niagara (pictured), where you can watch penguin feedings (one of the few places in the world where you can see Humboldt penguins! ), sea lion performances, and special discussions with animal experts throughout the day—all of which are included in the entrance price.
4. Rochester (Finger Lakes)
The weather outside may be dreadful, but the warm weather at the Dancing Wings Butterfly Garden is heavenly! The only year-round indoor butterfly garden in Upstate New York is the ideal opportunity to escape the cold without straying too far away from the icy delight.
It’s housed within the Strong National Museum of Play (above), a massive and well-designed museum that’s sure to impress. The exhibitions are extremely interactive and designed to pique visitors’ interest. Comic books, arcade games, aquariums, outer space, and sports are among the topics covered.
5. Manhattan, New York City
During the holiday season, Manhattan is probably one of the most fascinating cities on the planet, and it continues to offer intriguing things to do throughout the winter. Stay at the Fifty Hotels & Suites, which is conveniently located near the Museum of Modern Art and other popular sites.
You must go ice skating at Rockefeller Center (shown). Nothing beats staring up at that large festive tree and the surrounding buildings, which are all lit up. Visit the New York Botanical Garden and The Bronx Zoo, two family-friendly attractions popular with both visitors and locals.
6. Long Island (Hampstead)
We know Long Island definitely comes to mind when you think of excellent beach vacations, but there’s also a lot of winter fun to be had here! Stay at the Ramada by Wyndham Rockville Centre for a convenient and comfortable home base at great rates.
It is about a 10-minute drive from Hempstead Lake State Park, which has a great sledding hill off Lakeside Drive if there is snowfall during your visit.
You’ll also be super close to one of the cutest winter activities: seal watching! The season for seeing harbor seals begins in December, and the adjacent Captain Lou Fleet in Freeport offers special cruises to see them.
7. New Paltz (Hudson Valley)
Less than a two-hour drive north of New York City, you’ll find yourself surrounded by rugged mountain ridges, forests, and the small-town charm of New Paltz, home to the very special Mohonk Mountain House (pictured).
Despite their long history, the rooms have been well maintained, and nearly all have their own fireplace. Amenities include a 33,000-square-foot spa, fitness center, game room, library, and indoor swimming pool.
8. Syracuse (Finger Lakes)
If you want to experience a winter wonderland, consider visiting Syracuse, the country’s snowiest large city, according to weather.com! Stay at the majestic English Tudor home of Barrington Manor Bed and Breakfast, where you can warm up by the fireplace and enjoy a great home-cooked breakfast.
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Syracusans are so obsessed with winter that they transform their snowy surroundings into art. Take a trip through the city’s iconic outdoor light show, Lights on the Lake, which runs along Onondaga Lake. The two-mile-long exhibit includes amazing glittering light constructions such as a Fantasy Forest, the Land of Oz, and, of course, Santa!
9. Holiday Valley (Chautauqua-Allegheny)
Ellicottville, New York, is downhill skiing country, making it a must-visit for your next winter holiday. Check into the Holiday Valley Inn, which puts you right on the slopes. This family-friendly inn is part of the Holiday Valley Resort (pictured), and it’s excellent for winter with a heated indoor/outdoor pool and hot tub, fireplaces in every room, and a winter shuttle to and from the base lodge.
Snowboarding and downhill, cross-country, and telemark skiing instruction are available for all ages at Holiday Valley. Snow tubing is a great way to travel down the mountain with minimal talent required! The Holiday Valley Tubing Co. is located four miles from the resort. It also features a Lil’ Tubers section for the smallest tubers. And don’t forget to ride the Sky Flyer Mountain Coaster.
10. Watertown (Thousand Islands-Seaway)
The Thousand Islands-Seaway region is beautiful all winter. Cross-country ski or snowshoe through Thompson Park’s scenic pathways. They have pathways for beginners, intermediates, and advanced hikers.
Visit Zoo New York (pictured) for a dazzling experience at the Winter Wonder Lights event, as well as their remarkable collection of animals, which includes dozens of species native to New York.
You can also go skiing at Watertown’s Dry Hill Ski Area. Relax at the Holiday Inn Express & Suites Watertown-Thousand Islands, where you can bathe in the heated pool while remaining close to all the action.
Anyone who has only visited Manhattan or the other four boroughs of New York City may be unaware that the state of New York has a lot more to offer in terms of travel and adventure outside of its world-famous metropolis.
Upstate New York has something for everyone, whether it’s the Hudson Valley, with its cluster of charming, little towns; the Catskills, famous for their mountainous scenes and picturesque vistas; or the Thousand Islands, which were once voted the country’s number one destination for scenic boat rides by USA Today readers.