Main street in village of Saranac Lake in Adirondack Mountains, New York

12 Coziest Small Towns in New York

Whenever one thinks of visiting New York, a Mid-Atlantic state in the American Northeast, the glitz and internationally famed attractions of New York City first come to mind. However, the innumerable enchanting small towns that dot the 47,126 sq. mi terrain of this pretty state are a stark contrast to the dazzling bright lights and loud sounds of the Big Apple. From serene lakeside hamlets to quaint communities nestled at the foot of magnificent mountains, the cozy towns of the Empire State are ideal locales to unwind besides soaking in the region’s natural beauty. So, the next time you plan a vacation to the Empire State, do include these small towns in your itineraries.  

Lake Placid

The Main Street in Lake Placid, New York.
The Main Street in Lake Placid, New York. Editorial credit: Karlsson Photo /

This charming small town in Northeastern New York’s Essex County is located close to the southern extremity of its namesake lake in the Adirondack Mountains, roughly 50 miles southwest of Plattsburgh. Worldwide acclaimed for hosting two Olympic Winter Games (the 1932 and 1980 Winter Olympics), Lake Placid allures vacationers with its snow-capped mountains, ski slopes, luscious green hills, and pristine lakes. The town is highly favored by holidaymakers who want to partake in a variety of recreational activities. Both Alpine and Nordic winter sports enthusiasts can engage in downhill skiing, ice climbing, speed skating, gondola rides, hiking, and mountain biking activities at the adjacent Whiteface Mountain. Moreover, the numerous unique local shops, bakeries, pubs, and restaurants lining the town’s Main Street make it a perfect place for a winter stroll. Nevertheless, Lake Placid is not just a must-visit winter wonderland, the popular Lake Placid Lodge, Lake Placid Olympic Museum, and the Adirondack State Park are a few of the town’s year-round attractions. 


Wells College in Aurora, New York
Wells College in Aurora, New York, via PQK /

Also referred to as “Aurora-on-Cayuga,” Aurora is a pretty college town on the eastern shores of Cayuga Lake in Cayuga County. This 607-resident village is home to the prestigious Wells College – a private liberal arts institution that was initially founded in 1868 as a women’s college by the American businessman Henry Wells. The National Register-listed Aurora Village-Wells College Historic District has over 50 contributing properties in various architectural styles including commercial buildings, Masonic Lodge, churches, cemeteries, barns, and residential houses. Aurora is best known for being the headquarters of the homewares retailer MacKenzie-Childs, and the wellness center: The Inns of Aurora Resort & Spa. Additionally, some other points of interest include the Howland Stone Store Museum, Long Point Winery of the Cayuga Wine Trail, Rowland House, E.B. Morgan House, the Village Market, Treleaven Winery, 1833 Kitchen & Bar, Fargo Bar & Grill, and the Long Point State Park.  


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

Initially settled in the 1600s as a whaling and ship-building center, Greenport is a pleasant waterfront village in Suffolk County on Long Island’s northern fork. Currently, a favorite summer holidaying spot for Long Island vacationers, the town captivates visitors with its large collection of unchanged 18th and 19th-century structures in the Greenport Village Historic District. Lining the quiet residential streets are scores of small shops, boutiques, bars, ice cream parlors, iconic bed-and-breakfasts, and various top-class eateries like Sterlington Deli, Emilio’s of Greenport, and Bruce’s Cheese Emporium and Café serving delectable cuisines. Some of the town’s family-friendly attractions include an Antique Carousel and Camera Obscura in Mitchell Park, Nova Constellatio Gallery, Cindy Pease Roe Artist Studio & Gallery, East End Seaport Museum & Marine Foundation, Railroad Museum of Long Island, Greenport Harbor Brewing Company, and the Kontokosta Winery. Every September, the East End Seaport Museum organizes the annual Maritime Festival that celebrates the town’s deep-rooted maritime heritage.  

Cold Spring

Sidewalk scene in Cold Spring, New York
Sidewalk scene in Cold Spring, New York, via Joe Tabacca /

Cold Spring, a tiny community of less than 2000 residents in New York’s Putnam County, sits in the Hudson Highlands on the banks of the Hudson River, only 50 miles north of New York City. Established in the early 18th century by European settlers, Cold Spring gradually transformed over the years into a well-known weekend getaway for NYC residents. Much of the town’s central core is included within the Cold Spring Historic District which comprises well-preserved structures constructed before the Civil War. Cold Spring’s buzzing Main Street is crammed with retail stores, art galleries, boutiques, coffee shops, cafes, and restaurants, apart from the Magazzino Italian Art Museum & Research Center. Visitors to Cold Spring should take a ferry trip to the Bannerman Castle on Pollepel Island, hike the Bull Hill and Breakneck Ridge Loop for unparalleled views of the surroundings, survey the Stonecrop Gardens in the nearby Clarence Fahnestock State Park and the 90-acre West Point Foundry Preserve, embark on adventures at the Hudson Highlands State Park Preserve, and attend jamming sessions at the Chapel Restoration.


Town center of Woodstock, New York
Town center of Woodstock, New York. Image credit littlenySTOCK via Shutterstock.

Woodstock is located completely within the boundaries of Catskill Park at the bottom of the southern Catskill Mountains in Southeastern New York’s Ulster County, about 10 miles northwest of Kingston. This pleasant town is distinguished for being a four-season resort and a noteworthy artists’ colony that developed after a handicraft community called Byrdcliffe was established by Ralph R. Whitehead, just north of the town. Travelers visiting Woodstock can spend some time shopping on Tinker Street which has gift shops, retail stores, boutiques, the quaint Woodstock Public Library, the Woodstock Artists Association & Museum, the Tinker Street Cinema, and a plethora of local inns and cozy eating joints. The iconic Woodstock Festival grounds in the nearby Bethel are a must-visit, aside from the Woodstock Playhouse, the Bearsville Theater, and the outdoor concerts held at the Village Green. After a hectic day, meditate at the neighboring Karma Triyana Dharmachakra Tibetan Buddhist Monastery.


East Market Street in Rhinebeck, New York
East Market Street in Rhinebeck, New York, via Ritu Manoj Jethani /

Part of both the Greater New York Metropolitan Area and the Poughkeepsie-Newburgh-Middletown Metropolitan Area, this Hudson Valley town is located in the Dutchess County’s northwestern portion. A cultural mecca, Rhinebeck beckons tourists to visit the scores of stately homes, independent specialty stores, coffee shops, galleries, museums, entertainment spaces, and fine to casual dining spots. Do not miss the family-friendly Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome – a museum of antique aircraft, the restored Wilderstein Historic Site, the Beekman Arms – America’s oldest continuously operated inn, the upscale Mirbeau Inn & Spa, and the Richard B. Fisher Center at Bard College. Merrymakers should attend the annual weeklong Dutchess County Fair held at the Dutchess County Fairgrounds in August, and the one-day Sinterklass Festival with children’s activities and performances at different locations throughout the town.

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 /

Dubbed “The Capital of the Adirondacks,” this tiny village and four-season vacation destination straddles the boundary between Essex and Franklin counties, within the Adirondack Park limits, about 9 miles west of Lake Placid. One of Upstate New York’s most scenic settlements, Saranac Lake, home to 4,887 inhabitants as per the latest US Census, is packed with uncountable cultural attractions and outdoor recreations. During the warmer months, the 300-acre Lake Flower offers fishing, boating, canoeing, and paddle-boarding activities; whereas in the colder months, travelers can take part in a range of activities like ice skating, snowmobiling, downhill skiing, and snowshoeing at the adjacent ski resorts. Furthermore, throughout the year, the town’s multiple art galleries, the Adirondack Carousel, Robert Louis Stevenson Cottage & Museum, Saranac Laboratory Museum, Saranac Lake Community Store, many historic properties, and free concerts held at the different live music venues draw thousands to Saranac Lake.

Saratoga Springs

Downtown Saratoga Springs in New York
Downtown Saratoga Springs in New York

Saratoga Springs, nicknamed, “The Spa City,” is situated in the Hudson River Valley in east-central New York’s Saratoga County, approximately 30 miles north of Albany. Over many years, the presence of numerous natural mineral springs has made the town a notable resort destination. Saratoga Springs houses several prominent attractions like the Saratoga Race Course, Saratoga Performing Arts Center (SPAC) on the grounds of the Saratoga Spa State Park, National Museum of Racing & Hall of Fame, Saratoga Springs History Museum, Yaddo - the 400-acre artists’ community, and the Frances Young Tang Teaching Museum & Art Gallery at the Skidmore College campus. History lovers must not miss the Saratoga National Historical Park, about 15 miles outside Downtown Saratoga, which has been the site of the historic Battles of Saratoga during the Revolutionary War. The town hosts an annual Flurry Festival in February over the Presidents’ Day weekend, the Saratoga Native American Festival on the SPAC grounds every fall, and “First Night Saratoga” – the state’s biggest New Year’s Eve celebration outside New York City.


Pier and luxury boats docked in the Skaneateles Lake.
Pier and luxury boats docked in the Skaneateles Lake. Editorial credit: PQK /

Aptly named due to the town’s location on the northern edge of the Skaneateles Lake, this prosperous village in Onondaga County is placed at the eastern tip of the state’s Finger Lakes region. Skaneateles’s most widely known tourist magnet is the immaculate Skaneateles Lake, one of the country’s cleanest lakes and often called “The Roof Garden of the Lakes” due to its high altitude (863.27 ft). Take a stroll through the Genesee and Jordan Streets that form the core of the Skaneateles Historic District and browse the shops, galleries, boutiques, and restaurants housed in the restored buildings. Throughout the year, various events like the Skaneateles Music Festival, Dickens Christmas in Skaneateles, and Skaneateles Antique & Classic Boat Show are held here.


Main Street near the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York
Main Street near the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York, via Michelangelo DeSantis /

Otsego County’s seat of government, Cooperstown, is located at the southern tip of the Otsego Lake in the Central New York Region, around 145 miles northwest of New York City. A significant portion of Cooperstown is encompassed by the Cooperstown Historic District, which includes a total of 232 contributing properties such as the Inn at Cooperstown, the Otesaga Resort Hotel, the US Post Office-Cooperstown, Iron Clad Building, Doubleday Field, and many more. Millions of baseball aficionados flock to Cooperstown annually to browse the large number of baseball-related artifacts displayed at the National Baseball Hall of Fame & Museum. In addition, the Fenimore Art Museum, Clark Sports Center, Glimmerglass Opera, Farmers’ Museum, etc., are some of the town’s famed points of interest. The Glimmerglass State Park, which overlooks the glistening Otsego Lake, offers an array of recreational activities all year-round.


Ellicottville Town Hall in Upstate New York
Ellicottville Town Hall in Upstate New York

Christened after the American surveyor Joseph Ellicott, Ellicottville is situated in the north-central portion of Western New York’s Cattaraugus County. A namesake village in the town’s southwestern part originally served as the county’s administrative center. Even though Ellicottville receives tourists all year for partaking in a variety of outdoor activities, its population swells thousands during the ski season due to its closeness to the HoliMont Ski Club and the Holiday Valley Ski Resort. Furthermore, travelers can peruse the eclectic shops, boutiques, and other small businesses in the town’s central business district. The 8-acre Nannen Arboretum allows nature enthusiasts to spend some wonderful time amidst the greens.  


Aerial view of the Esopus Creek Bridge in Saugerties, New York
Aerial view of the Esopus Creek Bridge in Saugerties, New York

A typical Hudson Valley town, Saugerties occupies the northeastern corner of Ulster County on the western banks of the Hudson River at the Esopus Creek’s mouth. Derived from the term “Zagertje” which in Dutch means “Little Sawyer,” Saugerties features a rekindled village center known for its antique stores, mom-and-pop shops, eateries, and the deluxe Diamond Mills Hotel. Do spend a day at the sprawling Opus 40 – environmental sculpture park, tour the historic Saugerties Lighthouse, the Catskill Animal Sanctuary, the 161-acre Esopus Bend Nature Preserve, Cantine Memorial Field, and Seamon Park. Throughout the year, Saugerties hosts several cultural and culinary events like the Farmers’ Market on Main Street, concerts at Opus 40, Hudson Valley Garlic Festival in Cantine Field, Mum Festival in Seamon Park, Sawyer Motors Car Show, Saugerties Artists Studio Tour, ShoutOut Saugerties, and the annual season of the ProMusica chamber-music series at Saugerties United Methodist Church.

From the bewitching ski town of Lake Placid to Saranac Lake – “The Capital of the Adirondacks,” the cozy towns in the nation’s 27th-largest and 4th-most populous state have something for every holidaymaker. These small towns with superb sceneries, fascinating histories, lively celebrations, tasty dining, and exciting recreations are perfect destinations in the Empire State for a relaxing vacation with your dear ones. 

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