Pick any state, and you can at least attempt to describe it in one word. But not New York.
New York is made up of two very different areas – New York City and Upstate New York.
From sleepy towns to wine trails to the go-to restaurant and bucolic cultural hubs, there’s a whole world outside the borders of New York City.
If you enjoy a slower pace, the fresh air, fewer people, beautiful backdrops, quiet spaces, architectural gems, quaint cobblestone streets, and distinct local flavor, then these places will have you forget about the bustling city. They’re perfect for a quick one-day getaway, a weekend escape or an extended vacation.
New York City vs. New York State
When you think of a vacation, if you imagine a studio apartment bang in the center of the city that overlooks the vibrant city below, then New York City is for you.
The famous Big Apple is brimming with fashion, food, nightlife, shopping, business, and whatnot. With so much happening and so many things to in in New York City, it’s a city which lives up to its ‘a city that never sleeps’ moniker wholeheartedly!
The beautiful thing about New York City is that there’s never a dull moment amidst all the hustle and bustle, but that’s a downside as well.
The overcrowded streets, the sardine-packed subway cars, and incessant honking cabs can drive you up the wall. That’s why day trips and weekend getaways are essential.
For those who seek respite away from the city that’s “full of life”, here’s some news that might blow your mind – there’s plenty of tranquility and serenity in New York State which will leave you rejuvenated and recharged.
Although New York City has it all, at such a short distance from there, you have plenty more to see and experience which the city will not give you.
A change of scenery is the perfect way to clear your head.
Upstate New York is the perfect place if you would rather spend your days away from work in the countryside with Mother Nature in your every direction.
This list of easy and quick holiday spots is excellent as they offer a little something of everything – relaxation, adventure, and serenity.
Consistently rated as one of the top college towns, Ithaca is home to Ithaca College and Cornell University. Running along the shores of sparkling Cayuga Lake, with miles of lakefront and sandwiched between two breath-taking gorges, its location also makes it a popular destination for natural beauty. Did you know that Ithaca has a collection of 150 waterfalls within a 10-mile radius of downtown? All in all, Ithaca’s signature look is made up of distinctive gorges and waterfalls.
There are over 2500 acres of public land for outdoor recreational activities like biking, hiking, etc. Behind all the greenery, you will witness a cosmopolitan town with many big city amenities like good theaters, restaurants, and bars.
With so so many things to in in New York City, you never know what you will discover; it could be something powerful like experiencing an insightful speech from an acclaimed speaker at the famed Cornell University or something fleeting such as witnessing rainbow amidst the many waterfalls. Even simply dining in Ithaca’s one-of-a-kind restaurants, exploring the shores of Cayuga Lake or nearby gorges, attending live musical events or wandering in and out of galleries.
All in all, it’s full of history, culture, and adventure!
Set amidst the stunning and wild peaks of the Adirondack Mountains, this town is better known for hosting the 1932 and 1980 Winter Olympic Games.
The rich and famous discovered this area in the beginning of the 20th century for winter sports. And until today, Lake Placid is synonymous with snow sports. A few elite athletes continue to train here while the rest can enjoy sports at their convenience.
Apart from the snow, the little town is surrounded by an abundance of forests, rivers, and lakes which are perfect for adventure activities such as white-water rafting, bungee jumping, fly fishing, mountain biking, horse riding, kayaking, canoeing, and mountain climbing.
There are also over 200 miles of hiking trails which vary in difficulty.
Those who are not inclined towards adventure activities you can take a back seat and enjoy a gondola ride to the summit of the mountains to catch some breath-taking views.
In the town, the non-Olympic attractions like five-star hotels, farm-to-table restaurants, shops, and homes exude a small-town charm with the majestic backdrop of two lakes – Lake Placid and Mirror Lake. Bask in the view while you visit the Olympic Centre, browse the shops, or enjoy an al fresco lunch with the true aura of Adirondack authenticity.
For a small town, there’s a surprising number of things to do and range of activities to indulge in.
One of the most beautiful and picturesque regions, at times, visitors feel like they’ve wandered into an idyllic Swiss hamlet.
Nestled between lofty mountains on the shore of the Hudson River, eagerly waits for New York City dwellers to catch the Metro-North train and arrive in Cold Spring ready to explore.
During the American Civil War, Cold Spring was a once vital artillery center, but today, this river town has blossomed into an idyllic village which looks and feels like something straight out of a postcard.
Rich in natural treasures, steeped in history, biking trails, rolling hills, babbling brooks, antique shops, coffee houses, top-class restaurants, and whatnot, make this a go-to getaway for New Yorkers when the cityscape gets to them.
Cold Spring is the perfect place, at just a short distance from New York, for some quietude. The quaint village center with independently-owned shops and 19th-century buildings along with the art galleries, charming bed and breakfasts, and adventure activities like boating, kayaking, golfing, biking and hiking are easily accessible and always welcoming.
Don’t be surprised if you see the name Cold Spring everywhere around from Cold Spring Depot to Cold Spring General Store to Cold Spring Apothecary, the locals are in love with the town and the name is everywhere.
Whether you’re looking to have a fun weekend at the bar or go on a calming stroll through beautiful gardens or in the mood for adventure activities or take a tour of the art galleries or chomp down some delicious food, Cold Spring has plenty of options for visitors.
Saratoga Springs is set in the shadows of the Adirondack Mountains and a popular go-to spot for those New Yorkers who want to experience the high life.
Saratoga Springs is a name that conjures bars and gambling, leisure and privilege, spas and horses. But this charming little town has more to it than just high living and thoroughbred racing.
It’s history traces back to the mid-1800s, and since then it’s been a small town with a big vision.
Renowned for its summer horse racing season, while in this beautiful town get set to visit the iconic Saratoga Race Course. Witness men and women don on summer suits and their best Sunday hats as they try their luck on the most promising thoroughbreds.
Racing not your cup of tea? Don’t worry because Saratoga is also home to the world-famous Saratoga Performing Arts Center which boasts of festivals, concerts and visits annually from the acclaimed Chamber Music Society, New York Ballet and others.
Roam the streets of Broadway and hit up the many quaint cafes and cute boutiques or bustling bars.
Saratoga Springs is known as the ‘spa city,’ and there are over 20 natural hot springs here. You must visit at least once during your trip.
If you’re a fan of the winter, you will definitely fall in love with Saratoga. Once in a year, the town turns into a snow globe and a prime destination for winter sports. There are loads of outdoor activities for snow enthusiasts like skiing, snowshoeing, sledding, ice hockey, and a whole lot more.
Perfect in summer and winter and with loads of fun things to do in Saratoga Springs NY. Saratoga is full of life, yet presents an environment for a relaxing time. Expect the best of both worlds when in the spa city, which perfectly portrays it’s slogan ‘Health, History, Horses.’
A flower-powered, free-spirited mountain town and the counter cultural hub of the creatively wired, Woodstock is one of upstate New York’s cultural center points. It’s well-known for the legendary music festival ‘Woodstock’ which was held during the 1960s; however, the town of Woodstock never actually hosted this music festival. It was actually held roughly 60 miles away in Bethel, New York.
For more than a century, Woodstock has been a breeding ground for a multitude of art and music movements. It was also the bohemian spirit of an artsy Woodstock which gave birth to the concept of the festival.
Today, the spirit of music and peace is still in the lifeblood of those who inhabitant Woodstock, and it continues to be a cultural and historical haven for visitors.
Look beyond the kitschy weekend tourist jams and tie-dye-laden shops, and you will unravel that this haven for hippies has a real heart. Eclectic shops, art institutions, live music venues, an impressive flea market and mighty mountain for Zen-seekers, laid-back Woodstock overflows with plenty of diversity.
Pack your bags with peace and love, and you will have everything that you need in Woodstock.
An Iroquoian word, you pronounce Skaneateles as ‘skinny-atlas’ and it means ‘long lake’. It is named after the lake that it is situated on, Skaneateles which is a part of the Finger Lake region.
Exuding natural beauty all year round, you can enjoy ambling down the historic downtown district which is full of one-of-a-kind shops, unique restaurants, fantastic art galleries and buildings which date back to the 1700s. Adventure enthusiasts can indulge in kayaking, canoeing, sail boating, etc. on the crystal blue waters of Skaneateles Lake.
Apart from this, Skaneateles is known to produce some of the region’s best wine, notably Riesling.
From the wine to the adventure and the streets, Skaneateles is a small town which offers a little something for everyone that drops by.
A small town less than an hour away from Manhattan, gained popularity thanks to ‘The Legend of Sleepy Hollow’ a story by Washington Irving.
Although set in a real village, the tale is fictional and follows the Headless Horseman who chases Ichabod Crane.
Irving’s classic story looms over the entire village, and everything in the village is about the Headless Horseman now.
But there is more to this sleepy village than the celebrated tale.
As Sleepy Hollow has preserved much of its historic charm, there’s plenty of points of interests – the Old Dutch Church of Sleepy Hollow, the Philipsburg Manor House and the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery where historical figures were buried like Elizabeth Arden, William Rockefeller, Brooke Astor, Andrew Carnegie Washington Irving himself is buried. Plus, it offers the ideal mix of culture and nature.
If the major draw for you isn’t the ‘The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,’ you can always visit the Union Church of Pocantico Hills, a historic church which features stained glass windows by Marc Chagall and Henri Matisse. Matisse’s last work before he passed away was the rose window here.
Sleepy Hollow is also an outdoor lover’s paradise. If birdwatching, fishing, horseback riding, hiking is your thing, you can visit Rockefeller State Park Preserve and do everything. The Old Croton Aqueduct is another place to go biking and hiking. Water babies can take a guided kayak tour down the Hudson River.
All in all, whether you visit Sleepy Hollow for a spooky experience or just as a getaway from the city, it’s a scenic escape filled with things to do.
You can come here, simply relax, enjoy the stunning landscapes and slow pace of life regardless of it being one of the most haunted towns in the country.
The choice is yours.
Did you imagine one state offers so much versatility? That’s what makes New York so great.
But instead of sweating it out in an apartment, there are so many Upstate New York places to visit to take a break from NYC.
These spots in Upstate New York offer a little something for everyone – whether you are a museum-goer, historic nerd, an eater or a hiker.
Being just a few hours away from New York City, it’s time to drop everything and plan your next trip to these hidden gems.
This summer, make it your mission to get out of the city and experience the best that New York has to offer.
Save for later by pinning to your vacation ideas Pinterest board!