Main Street in Saranac Lake, New York. Image credit Wangkun Jia via Shutterstock

10 Breathtaking Towns to Visit in New York

New York is a vast and beautiful state that yearns to be explored. Filled with many amazing parks and wildlands encompassing a variety of different types of landscapes, outdoor adventure abounds in the Empire State during all months of the year. Interspersing the wild lands of New York are a collection of small towns that are equally as breathtaking as the countryside around them. Today, we will be taking a closer look at 10 of these towns, and what makes them so worth visiting. Load up your car, charge your camera, and read on to better prepare yourself for your next road trip.


Street view in Greenport, New York
Street view in Greenport, New York

Perched on the eastern tip of Long Island, Greenport is a coastal village surrounded by scenic oceanside vistas and a strong culinary scene. Established in the 17th century, this historic enclave boasts a notable waterfront dotted with fishing boats, sailboats, and waterfront restaurants like the popular Claudio's Waterfront. For more local food options, indulge in just about any fresh seafood eatery near the waterfront area, like Crabby Jerry's or Little Creek Oyster Farm & Market, where oysters harvested from nearby waters take center stage.

Discover the town's nautical legacy at the East End Seaport Museum, home to historic ships and exhibits showcasing Greenport's maritime history. Historic landmarks, such as the 19th-century Stirling Historical Society Museum are worth a visit to learn more about this maritime town. Afterward, take a stroll along the Greenport Harbor in the heart of Greenport's downtown area, where views of Shelter Island and the Peconic Bay unfold before you.


Rhinebeck, New York: East Market Street.
Rhinebeck, New York: East Market Street. Editorial credit: Ritu Manoj Jethani /

In the scenic Hudson Valley, Rhinebeck beckons sightseers looking for an escape from larger nearby cities like New York City and Albany (with Rhinebeck being conveniently located smackdab in between the two). Established in the 17th century, this old town is still buzzing with energy with its many attractions and successful tourism industry.

Pay a visit to the iconic Beekman Arms, America's oldest continuously operated inn. Nearby, you can take a walk through the manicured gardens of the Vanderbilt Mansion National Historic Site, a Gilded Age masterpiece overlooking the Hudson River. Immerse yourself in the town's cultural scene at the Rhinebeck Performing Arts Center, where live performances and theatrical productions can be seen year-round.

This rich agricultural area is also perfect for a delicious and healthy meal or two. Indulge in farm-fresh cuisine at local restaurants like The Amsterdam, where seasonal ingredients sourced from Hudson Valley farms are showcased in innovative dishes. Tour the countryside surrounding the town and see the farms where the food is grown for yourself, and while you're there, check out beautiful parks like Ferncliff Forest or Drayton Grant Park at Burger Hill, each containing high points that will give you a unique view of the area's rolling hills.

Cold Spring

Sidewalk scene in Cold Spring, New York
Sidewalk scene in Cold Spring, New York

Cold Spring is a small town of around 2,000 that is on the banks of the Hudson River in south-central New York. Embark on an outdoor adventure at the nearby Hudson Highlands State Park, where scenic hiking trails lead to panoramic vistas of the Hudson River and the surrounding mountains. There are fewer places that are better to catch a sunset or sunrise over the valley. Perched right on the river, Breakneck Ridge contains a more difficult trial that ends at yet another amazing viewpoint of the Hudson River and the valley around it.

Find the historic charms of downtown Cold Spring at the Cold Spring Depot, a restored train station turned museum that provides info into the town's once bustling train station. The Putnam History Museum is another great museum that focuses on the history of the West Point Foundry, an iconic landmark that can be found nearby.

Sag Harbor

Beach goers on Foster Memorial Beach in Sag Harbor
Beach goers on Foster Memorial Beach in Sag Harbor, via Jaclyn Vernace /

Another one on the shores of Long Island's East End, also known as the Hamptons, Sag Harbor is a laidback village known for its colonial history and breathtaking oceanside views. Founded in the 17th century, this historic village has a quaint downtown adorned with landmarks such as the home of a 19th-century whaling captain, renowned waterfront restaurants, and much more.

Start by exploring the Sag Harbor Whaling and Historical Museum, housed in a former 18th-century mansion, and discover artifacts and exhibits that illuminate the town's deep-seated association with the ocean. Next, have a lunch of fresh seafood at a local restaurant, where dishes like lobster rolls and clam chowder are favorites. If the weather is nice and you are itching to relax on the beach, have no fear, as the public Havens beach is a mere walk from downtown.

Check out the surrounding vineyards and sample award-winning wines at nearby wineries, notable of which is Channing Daughters Winery, a spot where you can sit back right in the vineyards while enjoying a glass of wine and freshly prepared snacks.


Woodstock, New York: Legendary village streets
Woodstock, New York: Legendary village streets. Editorial credit: solepsizm /

At the base of the Catskill Mountains, Woodstock is a legendary town that is best known for the famous Woodstock festival in 1969 (and perhaps infamous for the 1999 Woodstock Festival). However, this town has more to offer than with its many amazing natural parks and landmarks. Overlook Mountain, where hiking trails lead to 360-degree views of the surrounding valleys and peaks, is enormously popular. For a day by the water, the sizable, yet serene, Ashokan Reservoir is surrounded by trails and places to have a picnic.

Explore the town's cultural heritage at the Woodstock Artists Association & Museum, home to a diverse collection of contemporary art and exhibitions that highlight both modern artists and the acts that played at any of the legendary concert festivals held here in past times.


Shops and restaurants on Skaneateles Lake in Skaneateles, New York.
Shops and restaurants on Skaneateles Lake in Skaneateles, New York.

At the head of Skaneateles Lake, the town of Skaneateles is an extremely popular spot for cottagers, boaters, and anyone looking to escape to the water for summer weekends. City parks located downtown, like Clift Park and Thayer Pakr, will immediately provide you with views of the crystal-clear lake.

A quick walk from either park will land you at important historical destinations such as the Skaneateles Historical Society Museum, where exhibits showcase artifacts and photographs documenting the area's past, or the Barrow Gallery, a gallery that rotates arts exhibits from local artists from current times and the past.

Get a feel for the surrounding forests at waterways at the Skaneateles Conservation Area, which contains trails leading to the picturesque Guppy Falls. Another famous waterfall can be found a short drive south along the lakeshore at Carpenter Falls, which can also be hiked to. Follow the trail along Bear Swamp Creek to get back to Skaneateles Lake, an ideal place to stop for lunch.

Saranac Lake

Main Street in village of Saranac Lake in Adirondack Mountains, New York
Main Street in village of Saranac Lake in Adirondack Mountains, New York, via Wangkun Jia /

Located in the middle of the rugged Adirondack Mountains, Saranac Lake is the place to go when you need a jumping point for an outdoor adventure in upstate New York. Wander through its charming streets lined with historic architecture and sveral amenities you may need, like a selection of outfitters, restaurants, and hotels. Don't miss the Adirondack Carousel, a whimsical ride that doubles as a tribute to local wildlife, or the Robert Louis Stevenson Memorial Cottage, honoring the famed author's stay here in 1887.

But it's the natural wonders that truly captivate. Saranac Lake is surrounded by clean lakes and lush forests. Mount Baker Peak, stands like a sentinel over Saranac Lake and can be climbed via the Baker Mountain Trail, its trailhead being easily accessible by a short walk, or an even shorter drive, just east of town. Whether you're hiking the nearby peaks, paddling on a lake or along the Saranac River, or simply taking in the breathtaking mountain vistas, you'll find solace in Saranac Lake's untouched beauty.

Lake Placid

Vibrant businesses along Main Street in Lake Placid, New York.
Vibrant businesses along Main Street in Lake Placid, New York. Editorial credit: Karlsson Photo /

Surrounded by some of the highest peaks in the Adirondack Mountains, Lake Placid is a particularly popular attraction during the winter months when snow cover allows for a variety of winter sports to be enjoyed here. Known globally for hosting the Winter Olympics twice, in 1932 and again in 1980, this town retains its crown as one of the best places in New York for skiing and snowboarding. Visit the Olympic Museum to learn about these historic events or take a tour of the still-active Olympic facilities, such as the ski jump and the speed skating oval.

Beyond its sports legacy, Lake Placid offers stunning natural attractions. Mirror Lake, in the town's center, can easily be accessed for kayaking, paddleboarding, or simply relaxing on its shores. The nearby High Peaks region, part of the Adirondack Park, features some of the most challenging and rewarding hikes in the Northeast, including Mount Marcy, the highest peak in New York.


Aurora, New York, US
Aurora, New York, US. Editorial credit: PQK /

Aurora is a tiny town of fewer than 700 residents on the eastern shore of Cayuga Lake. It is notable for being the home to Wells College, founded in 1868, and its campus features beautiful Gothic Revival buildings and lush gardens that ought to be explored during your visit.

The natural beauty of Aurora is a major draw. Cayuga Lake is an incredibly popular place for boating, fishing, and swimming, while the surrounding wine country invites exploration of local vineyards and wineries, with tasting being held often and much of the product being sold in town too. Aurora is also close to the Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge, a haven for birdwatchers and nature lovers alike, with many walking paths available throughout.


The Kallet Theater and Conference Center in downtown Clayton, New York
The Kallet Theater and Conference Center in downtown Clayton, New York, via Wirestock /

Clayton, located on the southern shore of the St. Lawrence River in the Thousand Islands region, is a charming town right near the Canadian border. The Thousand Islands region itself, with its labyrinth of waterways and tiny islands, Grindstone Island being one of the biggest nearby, can be explored via boat tours. Take a boat tour starting from the docks of downtown Clayton to explore the region’s historic lighthouses and magnificent island homes, including the famous Boldt Castle on Heart Island. You are free to explore in your own vessel too, just make sure you know which side of the border you are on.

Clayton is also home to the Antique Boat Museum, the largest museum in North America dedicated to antique boats, showcasing beautifully restored vessels and other nautical artifacts. Learn more about the Thousand Islands too at none other than the Thousand Islands Museum.

See The Beauty of New York Today

Dense forests, river valleys, coastal seascapes, and mountains, whatever you are into, you can find it here in the state of New York if you are willing to get out and explore. From the historic downtown of Greenport to the expansive rolling hills of the wine country around Aurora, New York is a surprisingly diverse region of the United States, a point that is exemplified in the 10 unique towns mentioned above. How many do you think you can visit this year?

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