Homes along the shore of Ostego Lake, the source of the Susquehanna River in Cooperstown, New York. Image credit Steve Cukrov via Shutterstock

11 Most Scenic Upstate New York Towns

Whether fall or summer, any time of the year is the perfect time to visit Upstate New York. For outdoors people, adventurers, and artists alike, this region has a town to fall in love with. From the opportunity to explore Cooperstown's local art scene to the world-renowned hot springs of Saratoga Springs, each of these towns is fascinating to explore. But what they all have in common is the gorgeous scenery, whether natural or manufactured, to enjoy. So, the next time you visit Upstate New York, consider one or more of these scenic towns renowned for their natural beauty; you will not be disappointed.


Aerial view of Fort Ticonderoga on Lake George in upstate New York from the revolutionary war era
Aerial view of Fort Ticonderoga on Lake George in upstate New York.

Best known as the home of the historic Fort Ticonderoga, now one of the best places to visit in Upstate New York, the modern town of Ticonderoga, which is two miles to the west of the state of Vermont, is home to a range of parks and gardens. At King's Garden, you can expand your American history education by learning about how these gardens were once used for sustenance by the French, British, and American armies, each of whom inhabited Fort Ticonderoga at some point in history. A perfect compliment to King’s Garden is the Mount Defiance: Witness to History’ daily tour, during which you will learn all about the fascinating history of Mount Defiance. Other green spaces to explore include Bicentennial Park, and, 5 minutes south of Ticonderoga, Cook Mountain Preserve.


View from the riverwalk in downtown Oswego, New York on a summer afternoon
Riverwalk in downtown Oswego, New York. Image credit debra millet via Shutterstock

With nearly 18,000 residents, Oswego is a relatively large community by Upstate New York standards, but still holds stunning scenery. On the shores of Lake Ontario, you will find the Fort Ontario State Historic Site. The most noteworthy of the many historic districts is the Franklin Square Historic District. This area of town has 93 historic buildings which collectively surround Franklin Square.

The oldest buildings date back to the early 1830s, such as those at 60 West Cayuga Street and 64 West 5th Street, known as the Bronson House and the Mott House, respectively. These homes are in the Greek Revival style, a staple of this district. Other historic districts in Oswego include Washington Square, Montcalm Park, and the Kingsford Historic District, each a lovely area to stroll through.

Cape Vincent

Tibbetts Point Lighthouse in Cape Vincent at sunset
Tibbetts Point Lighthouse in Cape Vincent.

While technically, there is both the Town of Cape Vincent and the Village of Cape Vincent, functionally, they are the same community, with the village being the older inner portion of modern Cape Vincent. Cape Vincent has a range of outdoor activities, including being close to fantastic hiking areas where you can enjoy the lovely local scenery. There are many trails in Burnham Point State Park, which is just a short, 10 minute, drive from Cape Vincent, while Black River Trail, Sissy Danforth Rivergate Trail, and the Sackets Harbor Battlefield History Trail are a little farther afield, but all less than 45 minutes from Cape Vincent, and certainly worth the drive for the scenic views.


COOPERSTOWN, NY - SEPTEMBER 8, 2018: Shops, eateries, and baseball-themed attractions line the sidewalk on Main Street in this charming upstate New York town.
Shops line the sidewalk on Main Street in Cooperstown, New York. Image credit Kenneth Sponsler via Shutterstock

For the artists and art lovers out there, a visit to Cooperstown will delight your creative minds. Cooperstown offers a range of art exhibits as well as workshops and galleries. The best place to begin your exploration of Cooperstown’s art scene is at the world-class Fenimore Art Museum. With works by MV Escher and Stephen Wilkes, this museum draws even those from New York City who have access to some of the most famous art museums in the world. After Fenimore, you can head to local studios like Eagle Street Studio and The Smithy Clay Studio and watch art creation in various mediums.


Historic fountain in Public Square in downtown Watertown, Upstate New York
Public Square in downtown Watertown, Upstate New York.

Not to exclude the adventurers out there, Watertown, New York, has a range of activities you will love. Pick up a whitewater rafting tour in Watertown, or meet your tour west of the city and enjoy the rapids along the Black River, bringing you back to Watertown. You can take an open-door helicopter tour of the Thousand Islands region from the Watertown International Airport or, just half an hour north of town, you will find Spencer Valley Zip Lines, home to a 1,000-foot zip line and a great jungle gym for those too young to go on the zip line. Approximately 15 minutes to the west of Watertown, Sackets Harbor is a great place to pick up a boat tour or charter a sailboat, which is a relaxing way to enjoy the local scenery.


Boats in the water and waterfront homes at Skaneateles Lake in upstate New York.
Skaneateles Lake in upstate New York. Image credit PQK via Shutterstock

The land on which the village of Skaneateles, New York, currently sits once belonged to veterans of the American Revolutionary War, granted to them in reward for their service. The name Skaneateles comes from the Iroquois language and means 'long lake,’ referring to what are known today as the finger lakes. Founded in 1830, many historic buildings in Skaneateles are older than the village itself.

The historic district has 59 structures, including the Lovell Gibbs House, built in 1796, the St. James's Episcopal Church, built in 1827, and the village center, which dates back to 1801. In and around Skaneateles, you will find many gorgeous parks and recreation areas, with FC Austin Park and Clift Park being within the border of this village, while Bear Swamp State Forest and Summer Hill State Forest are both a half-hour drive south of Skaneateles.

Saratoga Springs

"Welcome To Saratoga Springs" statue of jockey riding horse.
"Welcome To Saratoga Springs" statue. Image credit Chris Ferrara via Shutterstock

Do you love big hats? What about mint juleps? If the answer to both is yes, then Saratoga Springs is definitely for you. Known best for its thoroughbred horse racing scene, some of the largest stakes races, including the Travers Stakes, the Whitney Handicap, the Alabama Stakes, and the Jockey Club Gold Cup, are held in Saratoga Springs. Beyond horse racing, Saratoga Springs has many fantastic features and has been a tourist destination for two centuries. If you want to relax, consider exploring Saratoga Springs’s namesake hot springs, which have many natural access points, including those at Saratoga Spa State Park. For a luxurious treat, you can lounge in mineral hot spring-filled pools at a number of local spas, top-rated options being the Saratoga Day Spa and Roosevelt Baths and Spa.

Lake Placid

Award-winning Lake Placid Lodge in Lake Placid, New York.
Award-winning Lake Placid Lodge in Lake Placid, New York. Image credit Leonard Zhukovsky via

Known primarily for hosting the alpine sports events during the 1980 Winter Olympics, Lake Placid, New York, is far more than the one-hit wonder it is often made out to be. During the summer, a range of gondolas can be taken to get a gorgeous view of the townsite and the surrounding Adirondack Mountains. With a population of 2,250 residents, Lake Placid has all the small-town charm you could want while also having the amenities and tourist activities close at hand that will make your stay in Lake Placid fun and memorable. Getting to Mount Jo Trailhead and Phelps Mountain Trailhead will take about 15 minutes by car to reach, while the Cobble Hill Trailhead is about 3 minutes northeast of Lake Placid. Return after a long day of hiking to Lake Placid and relax at one of their world-class hotels, such as Crowne Plaza Lake Placid, Mirror Lake Inn, and Whiteface Lodge.

Saranac Lake

Overlooking Saranac Lake, New York with stunning fall colours
Saranac Lake, New York.

If you are looking for a honeymoon location in Upstate New York, Saranac Lake, New York, is a great option. Saranac Lake was settled northeast of its namesake lake, Lower Saranac Lake, beside Lake Flower to the south and Moody Pond to the east, with the Saranac River running through it. Saranac Lake has many luxurious accommodation options, with some of the highest-rated being Saranac Waterfront Lodge and Hotel Saranac. Outside of town, you will find a range of hiking trails that put on display the beauty of Upstate New York. Some popular local hikes include Seymour Mountain Trail to the south of town and Azure Mountain Trail to the northwest, both under an hour's drive from Saranac Lake.


Historic and colorful Canandaigua Lake Boathouses
Historic Canandaigua Lake Boathouses.

Nowadays, renting a car, or even just parking a car, gets expensive very quickly. A visit to Canandaigua, New York, solves this problem by being an easy town to explore on foot. There are more than enough historic buildings in Canandaigua’s downtown area that, if one were to visit all of them, would take more than a day to see. Just a 5-minute walk east of the center of Canandaigua, you will find the incomparable Sonnenberg Gardens and Mansion State Historic Park. A popular wedding location for its scenic surroundings, this 50-acre estate has the Sonnenberg Gardens and Mansion State Historic Park, includes the Queen Anne style mansion used by Frederick Ferris and Mary Clark Thompson as their summer home, both informal and formal gardens, the Lord and Burnham Greenhouse Complex, and Finger Lakes Wine Center. Before you visit, make sure to check when the many public events held at the Sonnenberg Gardens are rescheduled; you may get lucky and be visiting during the Orchid Show, Rose Week, or the annual Arts at the Gardens show.

Alexandria Bay

The view of waterfront homes in Alexandria Bay surrounded by striking fall foliage along St Lawrence River.
Waterfront homes in Alexandria Bay along the St Lawrence River. Image credit Khairil Azhar Junos via

There are few places in North America where you can explore the local underwater and terrestrial scenery, but Alexandria Bay, New York, is one of them. In Alexandria Bay, you can book a tour that will take you either snorkeling or scuba diving in the St. Lawrence River around some of the many shipwrecks that have occurred in the Thousand Island region since the early years of colonization. One of the popular aquatic sites is around the wreck of the Islander, which is also accessible to expert scuba divers independently without a tour. On land, Alexandria Bay sits just across from Dark Island, where you will find the historic Singer Castle, and Heart Island, where you will find the historic Boldt Castle, both gorgeous mansions surrounded by lush forests. In the village proper, there are great parks along the western shore of Alexandria Bay. Between Scenic View Park, Alexandria Bay Park Beach, PFC Jack T. Sweet Memorial, and Keewaydin State Park, there are innumerable local parks to explore.

With the spectacular outdoor scenery of the Adirondack Mountains, Thousand Islands, and Lake Ontario mixed with historic visual appeal, all the towns in Upstate New York have something special to offer. From tree-lined downtowns to hot springs every which way you turn, you will surely enjoy visiting all of these towns. So, next time you are in this part of the world, make sure to visit at least one of these fabulous scenic locations.

  1. Home
  2. Places
  3. Cities
  4. 11 Most Scenic Upstate New York Towns

More in Places