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15 Top-Rated Weekend Getaways in New York State

Written by Shandley McMurray
Apr 15, 2020

There's more to New York state than the Big Apple, although no visit is complete without spending a few days in this iconic metropolis.

Yes, the big city is filled with excitement, culture, fine dining, and some of the world's best shopping. It's the most well-known and highly visited city in the state. What New York City doesn't have, though, is the natural charm and tranquility found outside its concrete walls.

Whoosh down a mountain on a bike or skis; splash in a calm, clear lake; or wander the streets of charming towns. The Empire State is chock full of fantastic places to recharge and while away a weekend, no matter what type of break you're looking for.

From the magnificent Adirondack and Catskill Mountains to the serene Finger Lakes and beautiful Long Island beaches, you'll be amiss if you don't explore every inch of this spectacular region.

Not sure where to visit first? Check out our list of the best getaways in New York.

1. New York City

Brooklyn Bridge and Manhattan

There's no city like New York. This trend-setting utopia has it all — daring design, stunning architecture, an unbeatable arts scene, the world's best musical theater, phenomenal restaurants, and shops selling everything you didn't know you needed but must have!

It's impossible to see everything in a day, despite the fact that this city doesn't officially sleep. Even a long weekend won't be enough to get a real grasp of New York's awesomeness.

If this is your fist trip to the Big Apple, focus your visit on New York's major tourist hot spots: Times Square, the Empire State Building, the Statue of Liberty, Central Park, and Rockefeller Center shouldn't be missed. As for museums, add the Metropolitan Museum of Art, MOMA, Guggenheim, and American Museum of Natural History to the top of your must-see list.

Insider's tip: While a stay at the Ritz-Carlton New York, Central Park will provide the most luxurious midtown stay, the Hilton Garden Inn New York/West 35th Street offers a great location with a more affordable price tag.

2. Niagara Falls

Niagara Falls

One of the most romantic getaways in New York, Niagara Falls is a must-visit for lovebirds. The Maid of the Mist is the most popular (and longest running) boat tour in the region. Climb aboard and don a blue plastic poncho while you get up close and personal with the falls.

Goat Island's Cave of the Winds is one of the most beautiful places to cuddle up. Again, you'll be given a poncho (a yellow one this time), as well as sandals to protect your feet from the water that sprays along the boardwalk from the magnificent falls above.

When you've seen enough water, head to Old Fort Niagara to soak up some history. Then check out these other fun attractions in Niagara Falls before heading to the luxurious, late 1920s English Tudor-style Red Coach Inn Historic Bed and Breakfast Hotel.

3. Hudson Valley

Hudson Valley in autumn

It's hard to top a visit to the Hudson Valley in upstate New York. Supercharged with immense natural beauty, this incredible region will heal your soul and help ease any worries. No wonder it's one of the top places to visit on a weekend getaway from New York City.

Breathtaking views await travelers to Hudson Highlands State Park. Award-winning farm-to-table restaurants (like Terrapin Restaurant in Rhinebeck) beg visitors to tempt their palates with the most delicious organic food. And a stay at the glorious Mohonk Mountain House will help you appreciate much of what the area has to offer — from horseback riding to hiking to swimming to winding down at the spa.

4. Lake Placid

Paradox Bay, Lake Placid, with Snowy Whiteface Mountain in the distance

Two-time host of the Winter Olympics (in 1932 and 1980), Lake Placid is the perfect destination for a fun and relaxing long weekend trip. Most visit this area to enjoy its outstanding natural beauty. From the massive, sparkling lake to the magnificent mountains, this lovely village is a magnet for those craving outdoor adventure.

During the summer, swimming, boating, fishing, hiking, and biking top the list of family-friendly activities. During winter weekend getaways, visitors can partake in a bevy of well-loved outdoor activities, including skiing, skating, and bobsledding.

The town itself beckons those who crave a small-town feel with a big city's worth of services. You'll find spas, art galleries, boutique shops, and eateries ranging from casual cafés to upscale farm-to-table options.

Accommodation: Where to Stay in Lake Placid

5. Long Island

Montauk lighthouse

Most famous as home of New York's elite playground, The Hamptons, Long Island has a lot to offer those whose pockets aren't quite as deep. Looking for a romantic getaway near New York City? You'll find it on one of the South Shore's vast and pristine golden beaches. Hoping to soak up a bit of history? You can do just that while visiting the iconic Gold Coast mansions.

The fun doesn't stop there. The beautiful hamlet of Montauk presents a perfect weekend trip for big city folks. While here, they can admire the picturesque lighthouse (dating back to 1797) and hike miles of trails or relax seaside on the sandy strand.

6. Saratoga Springs

Saratoga Spa State Park

There's one big problem with Saratoga Springs: it's so beautiful you won't want to leave. Set serenely in the foothills of the Adirondack Mountains, this is one of the loveliest spots for a weekend getaway in upstate New York.

Named after a tranquil, bubbling spring, the town is fairy-tale-like in its setting (we're talking porch swings, colorful gardens, and Victorian homes).

You'll want to get lost in Saratoga Spa State Park. There are plenty of outdoor adventures here — from biking to fishing to golfing to hiking in the summer to skating, cross-country skiing, and snowshoeing during winter months.

When it's time to relax, head to the town's Saratoga Mineral Baths for a healing soak in the natural spring.

7. Catskills

Kaaterskill Falls in the Catskills Mountains

If a trip to the Catskills doesn't inspire your inner artist, we don't know what will. One of the most beautiful mountain regions on the East Coast, the Catskills are renowned for their rugged natural beauty. In the fall, the foliage bursts in vibrant hues of orange, red, and yellow, attracting tourists from all over the world to snap photos of their remarkable glow.

Some of the closest mountains to New York City (they're nearly 100 miles away), the Catskill Mountains are the range of choice for weekend warriors hoping for a quick ski fix.

Esopus Creek is a splendid tributary located in the region's northeast. It's a popular spot for fly fishing due to its large population of trout. The Creek is stocked with more than 20,000 brown trout each year.

Not sure where to stay? You'll find plenty of wonderful resorts in the Catskills.

8. Fire Island

Fire Island lighthouse

This beautiful barrier island lies off the south coast of Long Island. At 9.6 square miles, it's long, skinny, and filled with unbeatable views. What it lacks are cars. Only emergency and service vehicles are allowed on the island, which lends even more charm to this already adorable place.

To get to Fire Island, you'll have to board a ferry (or private boat) and leave your car on the mainland. To get around this quiet, traffic- and pollution-free wonderland, you'll have to use your own two legs. Otherwise, you can hop on a bike or a golf cart.

Part of New York's Suffolk County, Fire Island is home to the towns of Islip, Brookhaven, and Babylon, as well as multiple smaller communities — from the popular and vibrant Ocean Beach to the quiet and secluded Lonelyville.

9. Lake George

View over Lake George in the Adirondack Mountains

Nestled serenely within the Adirondack Mountains lies glorious Lake George. This monster of a lake is over 32 miles long and three miles wide. At certain points, it reaches 200 feet deep. And each inch of it is magnificent in every season.

Outdoor adventure is the main reason people book a weekend trip to Lake George. They're hoping to swim, SUP, whitewater raft, bike, boat, hike, and fish during the warmer months. During the winter, their goals are to ski, ice skate, sled, or snowshoe.

Lake George is home to indoor adventure as well — from water parks to museums to theaters to spas, there are plenty of options to choose from if you're trying to avoid bad weather or have had enough of being outside.

Accommodation: Where to Stay in Lake George

10. Finger Lakes

Finger Lakes, New York

Mother Nature worked hard on the spectacular Finger Lakes. All 9,000 square miles of this natural wonderland are phenomenal. That's likely why it's such a popular place to visit for a romantic getaway in New York.

Dramatic waterfalls will light up your lens and take your breath away. Watkins Glen State Park is not to be missed, especially if you're a fan of watery cascades — it's home to 19 of these beautiful falls. You'll be so awed by their magical beauty, you'll want to stay longer.

Sign up for a guided tour of the park during summer to be sure you see all the magical nooks and crannies you might miss if exploring on your own.

Kids will love the area, too. Book one of the campsites for a true backwoods adventure.

11. Albany

New York State Capitol, Albany, New York

Four hundred years of history come alive in this New York state capital. Lucky for visitors, many of the old, grand buildings still dominate the skyline, providing an architectural treat to all who wander the city's streets.

Empire State Plaza (a.k.a. Governor Nelson A. Rockefeller Empire State Plaza) maintains the city's coveted center. A stunning plaza, it's here you'll find the exceptionally beautiful New York State Capitol, which is flanked by perfectly manicured parks (known as the East and West Central Parks).

The New York State Museum Library & Archives is also here, as is an impressive water feature, which is turned into an ice rink in the winter.

Empire State Plaza is also home to The Egg, an iconic building that looks like a slightly tilted bowl. This unique structure is used as the city's performing arts center, which boasts a commendable lineup of local artists.

Accommodation: Where to Stay in Albany

12. Syracuse

Clinton Square, Downtown Syracuse

It's as if Syracuse was created to be a weekend trip destination. Built upon the lovely shores of Onondaga Lake, this pretty town is renowned for its parks, vibrant arts scene, and great food — from pancakes to pizza, you can't go wrong while spending a weekend here.

Historic Armory Square is where you'll find the city's best restaurants and a slew of stores (selling everything from jewelry to clothes to chocolate) to tickle your shopping fancy.

Two museums to add to your list are the Erie Canal Museum (it's more exciting than it sounds, we promise) and the super family-friendly Museum of Science and Technology (MOST).

Accommodation: Where to Stay in Syracuse

13. Sag Harbor

Sag Harbor

A popular destination for long weekend trips, especially during the summer, Sag Harbor is one of the more low-key Hampton villages. Situated in both East Hampton and Southampton, this old whaling village is bordered by the immense displays of wealth (we're talking insanely massive mansions) the Hamptons are known for.

What sweet Sag Harbor lacks, however, is the overt snobbery found in its neighboring towns. Instead, you'll find historic homes peppered throughout town, an adorable Main street with a variety of restaurants, and stores you can (sometimes) afford to shop in.

Set on the lovely Peconic Bay, this is a wonderful place to visit to kick back, relax, and soak up the small-town atmosphere. Weather not cooperating? Visit the Sag Harbor Whaling & Historical Museum.

Accommodation: Where to Stay in Sag Harbor

14. Shelter Island

Shelter Island

Sitting at the east end of Long Island, the 8,000-acre Shelter Island is a much quieter, more laid-back version of the Hamptons. It's nestled between the North and South Forks, offering visitors a more rugged, back-to-nature weekend escape.

The fact that Shelter Island is a mere 90 miles east of New York City makes it popular with Manhattanites bent on destressing, so you won't be alone when you visit, especially during the summer.

Hit the beach, grab a bite at one of the local eateries, or visit the Mashomack Nature Preserve, which boasts over 2,000 acres of nature at its best. With tidal creeks, lush woodlands, and freshwater marshes on display, this area has been dubbed the "Jewel of the Peconic Bay."

15. Buffalo

Downtown Buffalo

A cheap getaway from New York City (at least when compared with the more upscale Hamptons and Long Island), Buffalo is a city with heart and a great vibe. It's also a popular place to stop on the way to (or from) Niagara Falls. A mere 15 miles from the Falls, Buffalo offers great places to stay, a slew of fine restaurants, and a wide selection of shops.

In addition to its lush parks (a series of which were developed by Central Park's lead designer, Frederick Law Olmstead), Buffalo also boasts the famed Darwin Martin House (of Frank Lloyd Wright fame) and the wonderful Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens.

The downtown core is where you'll find most of the shops and restaurants. This is also where you'll find Canalside, Buffalo's beautiful waterfront, which offers public ice-skating, curling, ice bumper cars, and ice bicycles throughout the winter months.

During summer, this is the place to admire the water views from an Adirondack chair, catch live music at an outdoor concert, or take a long, romantic stroll along the boardwalk.

Accommodation: Where to Stay in Buffalo

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