Historic Buildings in Lower Genesee Street Historic District in downtown Utica. Image credit Mahmoud Suhail via Shutterstock.

11 Most Charming Cities in New York

Often when people hear or see the word New York, it conjures up images of behemoth skyscrapers, fluorescent lights, packed streets, and street food. This scene is the quintessential picture of New York City, which is no surprise as most New York residents live here as the city has a whopping population of 8,736,047! While many people flock to the most populated city for iconic shopping, Broadway, and entertainment experiences, New York, New York is not the only charming city in the state. It is certainly one of them; however, the state of New York has many charming cities worth exploring.

1. Buffalo

McKinley Monument on Niagara Square in Buffalo - New York, USA
McKinley Monument on Niagara Square in Buffalo - New York. Image credit Leonid Andronov via Shutterstock.

Buffalo, New York is the sixth-largest city in New York, with a population of 276,011. For any hockey fans visiting the city, be sure to book it around a Buffalo Sabres NHL hockey game. Book tickets online at home, then head to their arena, KeyBank Center (1 Seymour H Knox III Plaza). The arena sits next to the Buffalo River and offers other events and activities throughout the year. 

An additional charming site to see is the Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens (2655 South Park Avenue). From events and exhibits, to the opportunity to purchase e-tickets for tours, this venue has much to offer. For 120 years, this greenhouse continues to give people the opportunity to learn about exotic flora across the globe. For a limited time during the year, they sell plants online to customers too. If visitors desire more outdoor experiences, visit some local parks around such as the Delaware Park and Tifft Nature Preserve!

2. Rochester

Welcome to Rochester New York sign in downtown Rochester.
Welcome to Rochester sign in downtown. Image credit Brett Welcher via Shutterstock.

The Genesee River runs down the middle of Rochester, New York, making for a charming and peaceful experience. Running into this river is High Falls, which forms a 96-foot wall. There is a park area with green space around the falls, making it a perfect place to set up a picnic and admire the view. If that is not enough of a fill of nature, then be sure to visit Highland Park, which contains a collection of beautiful gardens with every color of flower imaginable. Fun fact: every year in May, a Lilac Festival takes place in the park. It draws people from many states to see over 500 lilacs in full bloom.

After working up an appetite from all the exploring, head to Pasta Villa, a restaurant loved by many foodies. They have a lunch and dinner menu, and offer tasty dishes like gnocchi, Pasta Anthony, and eggplant parmigiana.

3. Syracuse

Downtown Syracuse New York with view of historic buildings and fountain at Clinton Square.
Historic Syracuse downtown. Image credit littlenySTOCK via Shutterstock.

Syracuse, New York boasts a handful of local parks to enjoy fresh air in: Thornden Park, Onondaga Park, and Elmwood Park. Onondaga Creek trickles throughout the city from Onondaga Lake. Explore this scenery at the Lakefront area. Under a canopy of trees, watch the peaceful water flow with a pint from Meier’s Creek Brewing Inner Harbor. On tap they serve German blends such as Floatin’ On By and fruity brews like Chasing Goosebumps. They offer seasonal food menus with meals like wings, sandwiches, and wraps.

To get a load of local history, visit Erie Canal Museum (318 Erie Boulevard East). For 50 years, people tour here to learn about New York heritage. Photos and documents highlight the New York State Canal System and New York State Barge Canal Engineers.

4. Yonkers

The abandoned Glenwood Power Plant in Yonkers, New York designed in the Romanesque-Revival style.
The abandoned Glenwood Power Plant in Yonkers. Image credit Felix Lipov via Shutterstock.

Yonkers, New York sits on the shores of the Hudson River, the river that separates New York from New Jersey. A part of Sprain Ridge Park and golf course protrude into the city, along with the Grassy Sprain Reservoir. Some charming parks to explore include Tibbetts Brook Park and Bryn Mawr Park. For an even more unique and charming nature experience, visit Temple of Love, a garden conservatory that contains a Greek-style amphitheater, as it overlooks the Hudson River. Admire an aged, hulking stone structure, built with hallow planters. Walk up its steps alongside a trickling waterfall.

Additionally, visit the Hudson River Museum (511 Warburton Avenue). Most recent exhibitions include complex works of art that will leave viewers speculating, as well as slices of history. The museum also houses a planetarium where people can explore the wonders of life beyond Earth.

5. New Rochelle

Aerial view of New Rochelle New York marina with boats and water.
Aerial view of New Rochelle, New York marina. Image credit Louis Vaccaro via Shutterstock.

New Rochelle, New York boasts a waterside view of the Long Island Sound. Within the city is Sheldrake Lake that is beside Sheldrake Environmental Center. The center spans for 60 acres and is a hideaway for local flora and fauna to live safely. Technically the oasis is in Larchmont, but it is right beside New Rochelle. This slice of nature also offers trails for people to wander and be one with nature.

Make sure to take some time to visit New Rochelle Harbor. Get an expansive overview of the sound, as well as the little islands dotted throughout the port, like Harrison Island and Clifford Island. Enjoy the view with some takeout from One Seventy-Nine Bar and Grill. Common items on their menu are avocado buffalo chicken wraps and short rib tacos.

6. White Plains

An aerial view of White Plains New York at sunset look up on the horizon for Manhattan
Aerial view of White Plains, NY. Image credit Real Window Creative via Shutterstock.

A part of the Bronx River winds through White Plains, offering a piece of nature in this suburban, modern area. Some other opportunities for outdoors include Mattison Park and Gillie Park. At Gillie Park, Gedney Farms Nursery is right next to it, so consider picking up a new plant or two.

One of the most charming attractions of this city though is ArtsWestchester, an art gallery that boosts the serotonin levels of creatives with its music and dance events and unique exhibits. An additional must-see attraction is Cranberry Lake Preserve. It is in West Harrison, which is only 10 minutes away from White Plains, making it incredibly accessible. The park spans for 190 acres and preserves the local nature and animals in a safe and educational way.

7. New York

New York City skyline with Statue of Liberty over Hudson River. with midtown Manhattan skyscrapers and freight sailing ship in USA.
New York City skyline. Image credit shutterupeire via Shutterstock.

Of course, New York, New York must be on this list with its charming glitz and glam. Tourists cannot visit New York without setting aside time to tour Times Square. Before diving into stores and restaurants, take a minute to stand in the center of the street to look around and soak it all in. People flood its streets as bright billboards illuminates its plethora of stores. The Hard Rock Café is a tourist and local favorite. Enjoy Rock and roll to music history while dining in a retro setting and feasting on authentic American cuisine.

Next, visit one of the most popular parks in the world: Central Park. It covers 843 acres and gets millions of visitors every year. Paved paths, park benches, lush green lawns, and shady trees make up the area. For a unique view, head to the Central Park Tower. It is 1,550 feet tall and offers a view of the entire park from a bird's eye perspective: a green speck among the grey concrete of buildings. Additionally, head to the Upper New York Bay and take a ferry to see the Statue of Liberty. There is so much to see and do here! 

8. Ramapo

Ramapo Lake view in Ramapo Mountain State Forest
Ramapo Lake view in Ramapo Mountain State Forest. Image credit Renata Ty via Shutterstock.

With a population of 136,848, this city offers an all-around nature experience with parks, preservation areas, and the Ramapo River cutting through. At 30 miles in length, this river is a main attraction. It is open to the public for fishing, with the main species here being brown trout, brook trout, and rainbow trout. For another nature escapade, head to Torne Valley Nature Preserve. It contains low hills covered in evergreen and maple trees as well as houses local wildlife.

End the trip by visiting Torne Valley Vineyard. This manicured estate resides in Hudson Valley and is accessible from Ramapo. They offer wine tasting workshops where visitors can sip wine and learn how to find the best blends.

9. Mount Vernon

Lake view in Mount Vernon, New York in a forested area.
Lake view in Mount Vernon, NY. Image credit emin kuliyev via Shutterstock.

With the Bronx and Hutchinson Rivers in its vicinity, this city offers picturesque water views. Its main attractions are Willson’s Woods Park and Hunts Woods. Willson’s Woods Park offers a unique family-friendly experience. Established in 1924, on the property is a two-story, English Tudor bathhouse. Walk into its expansive entrance with an archway consisting of stucco and stone. In the center, find a wave pool and water park. There are splash pads and water slides, and the park also has fishing areas, great for family visits. For a more immersive nature experience, visit Hunts Woods. Explore natural stone boulders, dirt paths, and local flora and fauna.

10. Utica

 Historic Building in Lower Genesee Street Historic District in downtown Utica, New York.
 Historic Building in Lower Genesee Street Historic District in downtown Utica. Image credit Mahmoud Suhail via Shutterstock.

With Mohawk River and FT Proctor Park in this city, charming moments await visitors. However, one of the most charming attractions is Utica Zoo. This animal sanctuary is open every day of the year with over 200 animal and 99 species. They have animals from Africa, Asia, and the great north, so expect to see lions, monkeys, wallaby, wood turtles, and even a Canadian lynx. The zoo has an event calendar, so make sure to see if there is something special happening while visiting, such as the Spooktacular Harvest Festival that happens in the fall.

Instead of eating at the zoo, opt for an eatery in the city itself, like at Yummilicious Café and Bakery. It has 210 five-star reviews on Google and serves coffee, Turkish tea, waffles, and Nutella crepes!

11. Union

Susquehanna River at sunset.
Susquehanna River at sunset. Image credit Jayce Wyatt Photography via Shutterstock.

At Union, New York’s southern border is the Susquehanna River. It contains many spots that are perfect for nature endeavors, such as the Highland Park and IBM Glen—Waterman Conservation Education Center. Rolling, tree-covered mountains border Highland Park, and at its heart lies a public pool for people to cool off in. The conservation center is perfect for hikers and nature enthusiasts, and individuals can relax by Highland Park’s pool afterward. Spanning 200 acres, it has some of the oldest and biggest trees in the region. It also boasts powerful waterfalls, colorful flowers, and bird and animal life. Natives once lived here, and over time has become a magical spot for modern residents.


Bustling town squares, harbor islands, unique eateries—all of these towns in New York offer a unique and charming experience. There is something for everyone in each destination! No matter where you travel, schedule time for shopping and nightlife or take some relaxing moments in nature. Either way, visitors are bound to experience the charm and make lifelong memories.

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