11 Best Getaways in Upstate New York

Written by Lisa Alexander
Updated Sep 26, 2023
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In the popular imagination "Upstate New York" calls to mind blissful vacation spots and bucolic landscapes. You're probably dreaming of this aspect of Upstate New York for a getaway.

Sailboats on Lake George
Sailboats on Lake George | Photo Copyright: Lisa Alexander

Natural splendor awaits you in the wide-open spaces, dense woodlands with babbling freshwater streams, and thousands of lakes with crystal-clear waters.

Upstate New York also includes industrial cities like Rochester, Utica, and Syracuse. However, this list focuses on "country" vacation spots rather than urban destinations.

Many Manhattanites consider "Upstate" to be the area just north of the New York metropolitan area. Others say it's anywhere beyond the reach of the Metro-North Railroad line. For the purposes of this travel guide, Upstate New York refers to the areas north of Kingston.

From the resorts of the Catskills and the artsy towns of the Hudson Valley to the forests and rivers of the Adirondack Mountains, Upstate New York offers something for everyone.

Plan a fabulous getaway to one of the Empire State's idyllic locations with our list of the best getaways in Upstate New York.

1. Lake George

Lake George in the fall
Lake George in the fall | Photo Copyright: Lisa Alexander

Lake George dazzles you with its shimmering deep-blue waters that stretch out for miles. Sailboats, pontoons, steamboats, recreational motorboats, paddle boarders, and jetskiers vie for cruising space during summertime. The setting couldn't be prettier: rolling hills covered with dense forests of birch and maple trees.

A classic American summertime vacation spot, Lake George has attracted holiday-goers since the mid-19th century. The appeal of Lake George has stood the test of time, thanks to its excellent amenities and endless things to do. During summer, you can enjoy sunbathing, boating, fishing, and camping. During spring and fall, the weather invites hiking, nature walks, and birdwatching.

You'll find a wide choice of accommodations, from small lakeside cabins to luxury hotels, along with excellent dining options and cultural events. Summer is the time for festivals, outdoor music concerts, and sightseeing cruises.

To learn about the Lake George region, take a sightseeing cruise on a historic steamboat. The Lake George Steamboat Company offers a variety of cruises that depart from Lake George Village, while the Lake George Waterfront Cruises includes narration about the American Revolutionary War and the French & Indian Wars.

For an amazing dining or overnight experience, head to The Sagamore on Lake George. You can wake up to lake views, swim in an outdoor pool next to the lake, and dine at one of the breezy waterfront restaurants.

2. Niagara Falls

Niagara Falls
Niagara Falls

Niagara Falls ranks as one of the top tourist attractions in New York State. This dramatic, awe-inspiring nature site is found along the border of the United States and Canada. Three separate waterfalls comprise Niagara Falls: American Falls, Bridal Veil Falls, and Horseshoe Falls, which is the largest (both the widest and the tallest).

The best way to view Niagara Falls is from the Observation Tower or by taking a boat tour. Hornblower boat rides take passengers into the basin of Horseshoe Falls for close-up views. Maid of the Mist boat tours begin at the Observation Tower, cruise past American Falls and into the Horseshoe Falls basin.

The Niagara Falls State Park is open every day year-round. Tourist information is available at the Visitor Center, along with a film screening about the history of Niagara Falls. The park also has hiking trails, an aquarium, and several restaurants.

Accommodation: Where to Stay in Niagara Falls, NY

3. The Great Northern Catskills

Waterfalls at Hunter Mountain in the fall
Waterfalls at Hunter Mountain in the fall

In search of inspiring scenery, 19th-century landscape painters headed to the Great Northern Catskills. These renowned painters, known as Hudson River School artists, captured magnificent images of Kaaterskill Falls, the state's tallest waterfall, and other picturesque spots like Kaaterskill Clove and the Sunset Rock overlook.

Visitors continue to marvel over the region's breathtaking waterfalls and soaring mountain peaks. The Great Nothern Catskills feature the highest mountain peaks and some of the most dramatic landscapes of Upstate New York.

The recreational possibilities are endless. You'll find fabulous hiking trails, well-equipped campgrounds, and ski resorts in Windham and Hunter. Some of the best hiking trails, with views of iconic sights, are found at North-South Lake Campground.

For your getaway, you can choose from a pampering all-inclusive hotel, a rustic-chic Adirondack-style lodge, or a Borscht Belt holdover with movie nights and summertime bonfires. The Great Nothern Catskills offers plenty of resort options. Top choices include the historic Winter Clove Inn in Round Top and the Hotel Mountain Brook near the downtown of Tannersville.

4. Saratoga Springs

Congress Park in Saratoga Springs
Congress Park in Saratoga Springs | Photo Copyright: Lisa Alexander

There's something in the water in Saratoga Springs, which could explain the cheerful mood of this fashionable resort town. Saratoga Springs bubbles with energy just like its celebrated sparkling water, sold in distinctive blue bottles.

For centuries, the local mineral springs have attracted visitors who come "to take the waters" for health reasons. George Washington was an advocate of the mineral waters' healing properties. By the mid-19th century, the spas at Saratoga catered to distinguished guests like J.P. Morgan and the Vanderbilts.

Today, you can still soak in the famous mineral waters at the Roosevelt Baths & Spa, located within the Saratoga Spa State Park. For a truly pampering experience, stay at The Gideon Putnam resort near the spa.

Besides its mineral waters, Saratoga Springs is also known for horse racing. Thoroughbred horse racing enthusiasts flock to the city during the race season, from mid-July through Labor Day.

The Saratoga Race Course facility is the oldest in the country, dating to 1863. Designed in a lavish Victorian-era style, the facility features picnic areas and full-service dining options. During the races, many people dress to impress! Some women wear formal attire and elegant hats.

Saratoga Springs has a bustling downtown with handsome red-brick architecture. Upscale restaurants, locally owned cafés, gift shops, high-end clothing stores, and millinery boutiques line Broadway for several blocks. If you're looking for a fancy hat to show off at the race course, try either Hatsationa! or the Encounter boutique on Broadway.

Built in 1877, The Adelphi Hotel graces the Broadway Historic District and offers guests four-star amenities including plush, recently renovated guest rooms and two gourmet restaurants.

5. Seneca Lake

Seneca Lake
Seneca Lake

The Finger Lakes region enchants you with its serene scenery and soul-soothing environment. This quiet countryside of lakes, vine-covered rolling hills, lush forests, and farmlands is dotted with charming small towns. The region also boasts excellent restaurants, a wide selection of accommodations, and great shopping.

Seneca Lake offers some of the most picturesque scenery in the Finger Lakes. Vine-covered rolling hills and a patchwork of small farms encircle the lake's deep blue waters. In the town of Geneva, you will find a few hotels with lake-view dining such as Geneva on the Lake and the Belhurst Castle, which both rank among the best resorts in the Finger Lakes region.

While visiting the town of Watkins Glen, be sure to check out Watkins Glen State Park. A meandering stream and multiple waterfalls traverse the amazing landscape, which features a deep ravine. Hiking trails wind past the waterfalls and above the gorge. The park has campsites, playgrounds, picnic areas, a gift shop, and an Olympic-size swimming pool.

Read More: Top Things to Do in the Finger Lakes Region

6. Classic Adirondack Lodges

Great Camp Santanoni
Great Camp Santanoni

Rugged natural beauty and tranquility define the Adirondack region, the largest nature preserve in the continental United States. This vast unspoiled wilderness features freshwater rivers and streams, serene lakes, rolling hills, and mountain peaks.

During the late 19th century and early 20th century, New York City's Gilded Age elite took a fancy to rustic-inspired vacations in the Adirondacks. They built "Great Camps" with multiple lodges and cabins where their entire social circle could visit during summertime.

The Gilded Age tradition of "rustic" getaways continues at several historic Adirondack Great Camps: the Great Camp Sagamore on Raquette Lake, The Hedges on Blue Mountain Lake, and the White Pine Camp (cottage and cabin rentals) where President Calvin Coolidge summered.

The Great Camp Santanoni does not have a lodge for overnight stays, but you may take a guided tour or go camping here during summertime. The Camp Iroquois (property rental) on Upper Saranac Lake is popular for private events.

If you require the ultimate in rustic-chic luxury and money is no object, then stay at The Point. This property was originally built for William Avery Rockefeller and has been converted into a Relais & Châteaux hotel. Guest rooms are outfitted with handcrafted beds and wood-burning fireplaces. The hotel's restaurant features elegant communal dining, just as in Rockefeller's day.

7. The Artsy Town of Catskill

Exhibition in Catskill
Foreland in Catskill | Photo Copyright: Lisa Alexander

The Hudson Valley offers New Yorkers a dose of nature without being far from culture. Amidst farmlands and wooded rolling hills are quaint small towns that offer the finest cappuccinos at trendy cafés, farm-to-table restaurants, art galleries, and locally-owned boutiques. With its country appeal and artsy flair, the town of Catskill exemplifies Hudson Valley charm.

Catskill has everything you need for a leisurely weekend outing. You might take a stroll, stop into a bookstore or antique shop, and browse the art galleries. A new art exhibition space called Foreland presents innovative art shows.

Thomas Cole National Historic Site
Thomas Cole National Historic Site | Photo Copyright: Lisa Alexander

Another top-notch art-related attraction is the Thomas Cole National Historic Site. The Main House of the site occupies the former home of Thomas Cole, renowned landscape painter and founding father of the Hudson River School. Some of Thomas Cole's masterpieces are on display in the Main House. You can also see Cole's art studio and visit the gift shop.

Read More: Top Things to Do in the Hudson Valley

8. Skaneateles

Skaneateles waterfront
Skaneateles waterfront | Photo Copyright: Lisa Alexander

Skaneateles is a postcard-perfect village nestled along Lake Skaneateles in the Finger Lakes region. The downtown stands right next to the lake, and several small parks afford views of the pure, deep blue waters.

Dating back to the Revolutionary War, the village stands out for its handsome 19th-century mansions. One of these historic houses has been converted into The Sherwood Inn, which features exquisitely restored and decorated guest rooms.

The grounds at Mirbeau Inn & Spa
The grounds at Mirbeau Inn & Spa | Photo Copyright: Lisa Alexander

Another upscale accommodation in Skaneateles is the Mirbeau Inn & Spa. Reminiscent of a French château, this lavish resort hotel is nestled on a country estate with grounds inspired by Monet's Garden in Giverny, France. The four-star hotel includes a gourmet farm-to-table restaurant and a full-service spa with pool, saunas, and steam rooms.

One of the biggest draws of Skaneateles is the charming, walkable downtown. Decorated with colorful potted flowers, the tree-lined streets feature restaurants, art galleries, shops, and hotels. For elegant fine dining, try The Krebs restaurant on Genesee Street.

9. Upper Delaware River Valley (Callicoon & Livingston Manor)

Covered bridge in Livingston Manor
Covered bridge in Livingston Manor

Bald eagles soar overhead, and rainbow trout flourish in the pristine waters of the Upper Delaware River, a protected wilderness area in a tranquil valley that borders Pennsylvania. The Upper Delaware River Valley is also home to black bears, beavers, and white-tailed deer.

The gently flowing Delaware River is a premier fly fishing destination in the Northeast. The chance to cast to brown trout, rainbow trout, and smallmouth bass draws anglers year-round, and especially during the springtime (April, May, and June), which is the high season for fly fishing. Other things to do include canoeing, rafting, and kayaking.

The Upper Delaware Scenic and Recreational River
The Upper Delaware Scenic and Recreational River

One of the most charming country towns in the Upper Delaware River Valley is Callicoon. This Victorian-era town attracts a weekend-getaway crowd, thanks to its quaint downtown with many restaurants and cafés. Callicoon also has a year-round weekly farmers' market.

Drive 20 miles from Callicoon to Livingston Manor, another small country town although it's a bit more developed than Callicoon. Livingston Manor has a pleasant main street, and its small grocery boutiques, locally-owned cafés, and gourmet restaurants appeal to foodies. You might sample the pastries at The Neon Croissant, grab a sandwich at the Main Street Farm market and café, or enjoy an ice cream sundae at Evelyn's Ice Cream Bar.

Livingston Manor also boasts a famous fly fishing outfitter. Dette Flies has been selling flies, rods, reels, lines, and other gear since 1928.

10. Hudson

Warren Street in downtown Hudson, New York
Warren Street in downtown Hudson, New York | quiggyt4 / Shutterstock.com

Hudson is a favorite day-trip destination among New York City dwellers. The main drag of Hudson (Warren Street) could keep you busy for a full day. This street is lined with 18th-century "Nantucket" townhouses, 19th-century Federal buildings, and ornate Victorians, which house retail boutiques, antique shops, art galleries, restaurants, cafes, bookstores, and bakeries. You won't have time to see it all in an afternoon.

11. Taughannock Falls State Park

Taughannock Falls
Taughannock Falls

For nature lovers, the spectacular 215-foot Taughannock Falls in Taughannock Falls State Park is a highlight of the Finger Lakes region. A top tourist destination in New York State, the park features hiking trails, cross-country ski trails, picnic areas, playgrounds, campsites, and cabins. Within the park, Cayuga Lake has a beach, marina, and boat launch.