New York State is pretty special, with so much diversity, gorgeous landscapes and amazing hikes that are so much fun to explore. There’s a whole heap of the best things to do in New York State but it’s sometimes so easy to forget when you’ve got the bright lights of New York City.
Now, let me be clear, I’m a total sucker for everything New York City.
It’s one city (after my home in London) that I’d love to live in. That being said, I do feel that New York State sometimes bears the brunt of having such a ‘popular kid’ (NYC) in the school (New York State).
One of my very first trips, without my family, was to New York State and It quickly opened my eyes to how many amazing places are somewhat sidetracked in lieu of the city.
With this in mind, I wanted to share with you some of my very favourite and best things to do in New York State. Whether it’s for a day trip from NYC, a road trip around, or a long weekend.
You’re going to love it!
Take a look at 12 of the best things to do in New York State.
1.) Taughannock Falls
Just off Cayuga Lake, Taughannock Falls and the state park is one stunning spot to see in New York State.
There’s a whole heap of amazing gorges and rim trails that you can follow, though be aware that they can close during inclement weather; so, it’s always good to check on the official parks’ website first.
You can also download a detailed trail map of the park, here.
2.) Thousand Islands & Alexandria Bay
This 50-mile long stretch along the St. Lawrence River is literally filled with thousands of small islands.
It’s quite a unique and beautiful sight and the best way to experience it is by hopping onto the water itself.
Whilst you’re here, make sure to head over to Boldt Castle and see the gorgeous Power House on St Lawrence River. It really is one gorgeous building in upstate New York.
The castle itself opens from May-October (so make sure to head here in the summer/autumn months). It really is one gorgeous spot and one of the best things to do in New York State.
3.) Niagara Falls
Possibly, one of the most famous waterfalls in all of North America, Niagara Falls is one spot that you definitely have to see when in the area.
Yes, there will be lots of visitors, yep you might see some touristy-style attractions but beyond all of this is are the falls (which really are amazing).
Consisting of three separate waterfalls, the American Falls, the Horseshoe Falls, and the Bridal Veil Falls, the falls really do have a mighty roar! Honestly, it shocked me when I first heard it.
You can either go on the walkway above the water, book a boat trip to see Niagara Falls up close, or splurge on a helicopter ride. To get up close and personal, visit the Cave of the Winds.
It really is one of the best things to do in New York State – especially if you love awe-inspiring nature. Plus, if you’re visiting New York City, you can easily book this tour to Niagara Falls which makes the trip so easy.
For a gorgeous spot to stay, head over to the Curtiss Hotel that’s perched in nearby Buffalo.
4.) The Adirondack Park
One of the things that still shocks me about Adirondack Park is that it has well over 10,000 lakes within it!
I mean, if you’re a sucker for a good lake and kayak, Adirondack Park is definitely one of the best things to do in New York State.
There are literally so many things to do here including; hiking up the 46 peaks of the park (if you do this, you will gain my undying respect but more importantly be part of the ‘Forty-Sixers Club‘), paddleboard across the lakes or even whitewater rafting at Moose River.
5.) New York City
Where do I even begin?!? Okay, New York City gets lots of attention and it really is one of the best things to do in New York State – it’s just so vibrant, energizing and never boring!
If it’s your first time here, some of the must-dos include; The Empire State Building, Times Square, Central Park, Statue of Liberty, Rockefeller Centre, Brooklyn Bridge, the MET, and Bryant Park to name just a few. Also, you can read our full guide on what to do for free in New York City, here.
Oh, and to save some money, book a New York City Explorer Pass. It’ll get you into over 95, or so, attractions; including the Empire State Building.
Look, don’t judge me but I always forget that Albany is the state capital of New York, my mind always goes to New York City. It doesn’t matter how many times I get told, I always forget!
Once you’re here, make sure to explore some of the city’s full of history, culture, and arts that are pretty decent for the size of the city. Check out the State Capitol, the Empire State Performing Arts Centre, the New York State Museum, the Schuyler Mansion, and the Shaker Heritage Society.
Oh, and end your day with a pint at Nine Pin Cider Works and gorge at the Athos Restaurant. They make amazing lamb dishes.
7.) Montauk, The Hamptons
If a lazy beach town sounds like your cup of tea, pop over to the totally gorgeous, Montauk in the Hamptons.
With stunning beaches that are perfect for surfing, fishing, kayaking, beachcombing, and lazing about, Montauk is a dream come true.
Do check out the 200-year-old lighthouse here and head to the beautiful, Kirk Park Beach.
Summer is the best time to visit Montauk as the town comes alive with music festivals, local produce markets and all the art galleries are open, too.
The Hamptons really is one of the best things to see in New York State and totally idyllic.
Don’t forget to try the locally-brewed Blue Point lager and stay over at the Mill House Inn (about 10 miles away) which really feels like a gorgeous Hampton’s home-away-from-home.
Read more on visiting the Hamptons, below:
8.) Saratoga Springs
Saratoga Springs is totally picture-perfect with beautiful tree-lined streets, Victorian houses, colourful gardens, and a whopping 18 mineral springs.
It’s a spa lover’s paradise and a nature lover’s haven, so if that’s your thing, you’ll love it.
Whilst you’re here, you can hop on a horse and ride this gorgeous area of New York State, head to one of the local farmer’s markets in the nearby towns or just gorge yourself silly by eating everything in sight!
A great spot for some grub is the 15 Church Restaurant and Osteria Danny.
You can also buy some awesome cheeses and homemade jams here. I mean, cheese alone makes this one of the best things to do in New York State, no?
Buffalo itself is not too far (at all) from Niagara Falls and is the perfect spot to explore for a day or two.
Once here, Check out the Darwin Martin House Complex (designed by Frank Lloyd Wright), the Albright-Knox Modern Art Gallery and the art deco architecture. Explore the Canalside waterfront district and Elmwood Village and grab a tipple at Big Ditch Brewing Company.
For research purposes, naturally! 🤣
Oh, and don’t forget to visit the place where Buffalo Wings were first conjured up.
Yup, Buffalo is the home of Buffalo Wings and was created at the Anchor Bar, which you can still visit today.
10.) Watkins Glen State Park
Located at the southernmost tip of Seneca Lake, this Park with 18 waterfalls (you read that right!) seems like something out of a fantasy movie. It really is so beautiful.
Once here, and if you like a good hike, head out onto one of the many trails that criss-cross the park itself. Download the official Gorge Trail map from the park itself, here.
11.) Finger Lakes Wine Country
Wine lovers rejoice… well, I was anyway! 🤣
With more than 100 wineries, distilleries, and breweries, around Seneca, Cayuga, and Keuka Lakes, this region is a haven for wine aficionados.
They specialize in Riesling and Gewurztraminer wines. While there are tons of tours to choose from, we recommend the Seneca Lake Wine Trail and a wine cruise along the Cayuga Lake where you can visit a few of the 26 wineries that are on the banks.
It’s an amazing experience, just make sure to have a designated driver to hand. No one likes a drunken driver.
12.) Lake Placid
If you’re in New York State during winter, you must visit this great spot for wintery gorgeousness. Pop over to Whiteface for some epic powdery slopes that you’ll love.
There are also plenty of boutiques and restaurants. One of my favourites has to be Smoke Signals, who make the heartiest of ribs that’ll leave you needing to be rolled home.
For a lovely spot to stay, check into the Mirror Lake Inn; it really is so cosy.
With plenty of museums, galleries, historic landmarks, shopping options, and restaurants, it’s safe to say that you won’t be lost for things to do.
Once you’re here, explore Erie Canal, Rochester Castle, Genesee River, The Strong National Museum of Play (which is a hoot and a half), the International Museum of Photography, and the stunning Rochester Cathedral.
When you’re done exploring, try the famous “white hots”, which is Rochester’s version of the humble hot dog.