"Upstate New York" is a term used to describe the expansive area of New York State that lies to the north and northwest of the bustling metropolitan region of New York City. The exact boundaries of this region are subject to debate and lack a universally accepted definition; however, it is commonly agreed that Upstate New York excludes New York City and Long Island and usually omits all or parts of Rockland and Westchester counties. This diverse region is further divided into distinct subregions, including the Hudson Valley, Mohawk Valley, Southern Tier, Western New York, Capital District, Central New York, North Country, and the Finger Lakes region. Upstate New York is a canvas of nature's grandeur, featuring majestic mountains, countless lakes, meandering roads, and a sprinkling of charming small towns.
Home to a population of 1,317 inhabitants, Ellicottville is a small town in the north-central portion of Cattaraugus County in Western New York. A village of the same name in the town’s southwestern part initially served as the county seat of Cattaraugus County. Although Ellicottville attracts tourists all year round to partake in various outdoor activities, it is mainly visited during the ski season due to its proximity to two well-known skiing destinations: the HoliMont Ski Club and the Holiday Valley Ski Resort. Moreover, the visitors can also enjoy the taverns, boutiques, and small businesses in the town’s central business district. The Nannen Arboretum allows nature lovers to spend an afternoon in the tranquil natural settings of the botanical garden.
Nicknamed “The Spa City,” Saratoga Springs is located in Saratoga County in the state’s eastern portion, just north of the state capital Albany. The presence of many natural mineral springs in the area has made the town a renowned resort destination. Home to a healthy population of 28,491 inhabitants, this small town is filled with a variety of notable attractions, including Saratoga Spa State Park, the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame, Saratoga Race Course, Saratoga Performing Arts Center, etc. History enthusiasts must visit the Saratoga National Historical Park, the site of the historic Battles of Saratoga during the Revolutionary War, which is located about 15 miles to the southeast of downtown Saratoga Springs.
Located in Northern New York’s Thousand Islands region, this idyllic town is placed along the southern banks of the Saint Lawrence River, close to the US-Canada International Border. Alexandria Bay offers vacationers a close-up view of the islands and their historic sites through the many boat tours originating from the waterfront, besides opportunities to enjoy ample recreational activities like fishing, kayaking, and swimming in crystal-clear waters. Tourists can explore some of Alexandria Bay’s most notable attractions, including the Boldt Castle, Church of Saint Lawrence, Cornwall Brothers’ Store, George C. Boldt Yacht House, and many more.
Situated at the foot of Otsego Lake in the Central New York Region, this charming village serves as the county seat of Otsego County. A significant portion of the town is included in the Cooperstown Historic District, which encompasses a total of 232 contributing properties, all listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The village is best known as the home of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, which displays many baseball-related artifacts and attracts millions of baseball fans annually. Some other noteworthy attractions in Cooperstown include the Clark Sports Center, Farmers’ Museum, Fenimore Art Museum, Glimmerglass Opera, etc. Overlooking the gorgeous Otsego Lake, the Glimmerglass State Park offers multiple outdoor recreational activities for visitors throughout the year.
This lively town is placed at the base of Mount Beacon, on the eastern shores of the Hudson River, about 60 miles north of New York City and 90 miles south of Albany. Filled with top-class shopping venues, restaurants, and art museums, Beacon is truly an escape destination. The town witnessed artistic and commercial growth with the inauguration of Dia Beacon, considered one of the biggest contemporary art museums in the world. Nature lovers can spend quality time in the many parks of Beacon, including Scenic Hudson’s Long Dock Park, the Pete and Toshi Seeger Riverfront Park, Mt. Beacon Park, etc. History enthusiasts will surely fall in love with Beacon’s beautiful historic sites, including Bogardus-DeWindt House, Madam Brett Homestead, Howland Cultural Center, Reformed Church of Beacon, and many more.
Located close to the southern end of Lake Placid in the Adirondack Mountains, this small town, along with the neighboring communities of Saranac Lake and Tupper Lake, form the Tri-Lakes region. Renowned for hosting the Winter Olympics twice, Lake Placid is extremely popular with tourists who look forward to participating in various outdoor sports and recreation activities. The nearby Whiteface Mountain offers downhill skiing, mountain biking, ice climbing, hiking, speed skating, and gondola rides for winter sports enthusiasts. Nevertheless, Lake Placid is not just a winter wonderland; the Adirondack State Park, Lake Placid Olympic Museum, and the award-winning Lake Placid Lodge welcome visitors all year round.
Nestled on the northern end of the Canandaigua Lake, only 25 miles southeast of Rochester, this scenic town has been named after a historic Seneca village, which in modern interpretations means “The Chosen Spot.” One of the most spectacular Finger Lakes, Lake Canandaigua, offers visitors many water-based recreational activities like boating, paddle-boating, and kayaking along magnificent vistas. The town also houses many notable attractions, such as the Sonnenberg Gardens & Mansion State Historical Park, Granger Homestead & Carriage House Museum, New York Wine & Culinary Center, Ontario County Courthouse, etc. The 30-mile-long Canandaigua Lake Wine Trail includes several award-winning restaurants, wineries, food shops, and picnic venues.
Placed at the northernmost tip of the eastern branch of the stunning Keuka Lake, this incorporated village serves as an ideal destination for a quiet family vacation. Spread over an area of 65 acres, the Penn Yan Historic District contains 281 historic structures, including the Birkett Mills, Knapp Hotel, Yates County Courthouse, Penn Yan Post Office, etc., all of which represent a variety of 19th and 20th-century American architectural styles. Several vineyards and wineries located in the village and its adjoining region make the area renowned for viticulture and wine-making. Hikers, joggers, and cyclists access the 6-mile-long Keuka Outlet Trail to enjoy the breathtaking scenery that surrounds this town.
This affluent village has been aptly named after its location on the northern tip of Skaneateles Lake at the eastern end of New York’s Finger Lakes region. The village’s most well-known attraction is the Skaneateles Lake, which has the ‘cleanest water’ among all the Finger Lakes and is often referred to as “The Roof Garden of the Lakes” due to its high altitude. Besides the lake, Skaneateles houses many popular attractions that are worth visiting. The Genesee and Jordan Streets, which form the core of the Skaneateles Historic District, contain many quaint shops, boutiques, restaurants, and pristine colonial residences. Various annual festivals held in the village include the Skaneateles Festival of Music, Skaneateles Antique and Classic Boat Show, and Dickens Christmas in Skaneateles.
Nicknamed “The Capital of the Adirondacks,” this small village and year-round vacation destination is located within the limits of the Adirondack Park, approximately 9 miles west of Lake Placid. Saranac Lake is one of Upstate New York’s most picturesque settlements, filled with plenty of cultural attractions and outdoor activities. Lake Flower offers several recreational activities, like fishing, paddle boarding, boating, and canoeing, for outdoor lovers during the warmer months. During winter, visitors can enjoy the annual 10-day winter carnival, besides a range of activities like ice skating, snowshoeing, snowmobiling, and downhill skiing offered by the nearby ski resorts. Moreover, free concerts held at different live music venues around the town, various art galleries, the Adirondack Carousel, the Saranac Lake Community Store, and numerous historic properties also draw many tourists to Saranac Lake throughout the year.
The Inviting Appeal of Upstate New York Awaits
While the Empire State's largest metropolis, New York City, often steals the spotlight, New York's smaller towns and communities offer a unique charm of their own. Nestled outside the "Big Apple," these locales boast distinctive allure, breathtaking natural landscapes, and a rich history ripe for exploration. Whether you're planning an East Coast road trip with friends or seeking a serene retreat away from the daily life's hustle and bustle, these small towns in Upstate New York are a must for your itinerary.