A scenic, autumn view of Taughannock Falls at Taughannock Falls State Park near Ithaca, New York.

12 Most Scenic New York Towns

New York City is a singular marvel, a symphony of lights and life. Yet, beyond the skyscrapers that reach for the stars and the subways bustling with dreams, the Empire State reveals a world of hidden treasures within its scenic small towns, each a unique jewel painted with different natural wonders. From the infamous Adirondack Mountains, to the quaint wineries in Ithaca, New York state wonderful at every turn. Enjoy a journey exploring heartwarming beauty where mountains kiss the sky, waterfalls cascade to awaken the soul, and state parks cradle the essence of untouched wilderness.

Lake Placid 

The view from the stone path on Whiteface Mountain looking over Lake Placid and the Adirondack Mountains.
The view from the stone path on Whiteface Mountain looks over Lake Placid and the Adirondack Mountains.

Whether seeking adventure, trying to kick back and relax in nature, or a combination, Lake Placid's outdoor attractions are a fantasy for nature enthusiasts. Start by exploring the pristine waterways of the region by kayaking or canoeing against the lovely mountain backdrop at Lake Placid and Mirror Lake. Those looking for more of a challenge can attempt the 275,460-acre High Peaks Wilderness Area as the place to go. It is the largest wilderness area in the state and the second largest wilderness area east of the Mississippi. The path to the summit offers breathtaking views and a journey of skill recognition for the athletic. End the trip by taking a scenic train ride through the Adirondack Mountains to better view the area's natural gifts.

New Paltz

Mohonk Mountain House across a lake with a dock and small rock island in New Paltz, New York
Mohonk Mountain House is across a lake with a dock and a small rock island in New Paltz, New York.

New Paltz wears its history proudly, like the historic Huguenot Street that preserves 10 acres of 17th-century homes, buildings, and artifacts of the town's European settlers. The Shawangunk Mountains, known as the Gunks, offer world-class rock climbing, and the Mohonk Preserve allows for a memorable hiking experience. The small town also boasts an artistic side to its scenic charm, like the Samuel Dorsky Museum and Unison Arts Center. Additionally, the town is home to the State University of New York, ensuring visitors a good dining and nightlife experience, thanks to small businesses tailored to the town's student demographic. Locally owned hangout and dining spots include Schatzi's Pub and Bier Garden, Huckleberry, and McGillicuddy's Irish Restaurant.


Students at Libe Slope watching sunset on campus of Cornell University in Ithaca.
Students at Libe Slope watch the sunset on the campus of Cornell University in Ithaca. Image credit Jay Yuan via Shutterstock.

Against the backdrop of the Finger Lakes, sitting in Tompkins County is a charming town named after the poetic Greek island of Ithaca that welcomes explorers to indulge in its natural beauty. The city enjoys numerous state parks like Buttermilk Falls and Alan H. Treman, each offering a unique experience filled with pristine landscapes and waterfalls. Ithaca is full of a youthful vibe, as it's a go-to destination for the ultimate college experience, home to two higher education institutions: Ithaca College and Cornell University. Ithaca also hosts notable events, such as The Ithaca Apple Harvest Festival, The Ithaca Festival, and The Winter Lights Festival.

Cold Spring

Sidewalk scene in Cold Springs, NY on a crisp Fall day.
Sidewalk scene in Cold Springs, NY on a crisp Fall day. Image credit Joe Tabacca via Shutterstock.

Cold Spring is an eco-rich New York Town that's commonly visited by outdoor enthusiasts and hikers for its many paths and trails. The town's history dates back to 1818 and offers a range of artistic galleries that visitors can check out when exploring the downtown area. Anthony's Nose is one of the popular trails, Breakneck Ridge Loop, and the nearby Old Cornish Estate Trail. Wandering down the main street, visitors will come across the Magazzino Italian Art Museum, a beautiful museum and research center dedicated to celebrating the appreciation of postwar and contemporary Italian art. Just a ferry ride away from Cold Spring, nestled like a treasure within Hudson's embrace, lies the enchanting Pollepel Island, housing Hudson Valley's most cherished gem: Bannerman Castle, yet another reason to explore Cold Springs and its marvelous nature. 

Lake George

Reflection in Saranac Lake, Autumn in the Adirondacks, New York
Reflection in Saranac Lake, in Lake George, New York.

Known as the "Queen of the American Lakes," Lake George has long been recognized as a vacation paradise. The true magic hits you when stepping onto its shimmering waters on a boat cruise with the Lake George Steamboat Company. These historic cruises unfurl the panorama of mountains, beaches, hidden inlets, and islands. Explore Six Flags Great Escape and Hurricane Harbor, one of New York's largest amusement parks. Step into the heart of wonder at Lake George Expedition Park's Dino Roar Valley, and for more adrenaline-boosting, the Adirondack Extreme Adventure Course is your next stop. Finally, go to the far-out Shelving Rock Falls and end the day chilling at Million Dollar Beach to catch a cotton candy sunset and embrace nature's inclusiveness in one of New York's most scenic towns. 

East Hampton

View of an old Victorian buildings and the public park in East Hampton on a sunny day.
View of old Victorian buildings and the public park in East Hampton. Image credit travel view via Shutterstock.

In Suffolk County, East Hampton is a vacation town for preferences and likings. The town sits on Long Island, one of New York's most scenic coastlines, balancing various atmospheres. Soak up the sun at the East Hampton Main Beach, discover the fascinating gardens of the LongHouse Reserve, a 16-acre garden of sculptures and ponds, or time travel to simpler times with East Hampton's historic attractions. The Guild Hall and The Home Sweet Home Museum are among the most notable places to start your historical journey through East Hampton, offering artistic collections, antique furniture, and more. 

Saratoga Springs

Exterior of brick building in the historical center in Saratoga NY.
Exterior of brick building in the historical center in Saratoga NY. Image credit Enrico Della Pietra via Shutterstock.

In Saratoga Springs, nature's secrets reveal themselves in bubbling carbonated natural gifts with surrounding spas and parks. Experience a new meaning to kicking back and relaxing at the town's best resorts, top-of-the-line diners, and the Saratoga Winery. Plan your stay at The Gideon Putnam, The Hotel Saratoga, or Casino Hotel for an all-inclusive luxury experience, or plan your relaxation separately at places like The Saratoga Day Spa and Classic Concept Salon and Spa. There's still more to accompany the hype, as Saratoga Springs is home to world-class horse racing at the Saratoga Race Course. On the other hand, Downtown is lined with trees and Victorian architecture that takes you back in time, with historic buildings and a range of museums to explore. The Saratoga Automobile Museum, Saratoga Springs History Museum, and Tang Teaching Museum are the perfect places to start your tour of Saratoga and learn more about local history. 


Cazenovia Artisans Shoppe.
Cazenovia Artisans Shoppe. Image credit Ryan J Long via Shutterstock.

A picturesque hidden gem that nature enthusiasts love visiting, Cazenovia sits in Madison County on the Cazenovia River and boasts a calming, eco-rich atmosphere to regroup and refresh. The scenic New York town is a gateway to Chittenango Falls State Park, with stunning waterfalls and perfect picnic spots. Attempt the town's hiking trails for an increased challenge, as Cazenovia Trail and Stone Quarry Hill Trail are both steeply challenging and offer a scenic natural reward. Wrap up your trip to Cazenovia with a visit to Oweras Vineyards and enjoy tasting some of the award-winning wine.


A landscape view of the historic Kingston Stockade District. Commonly referred to as Uptown Kingston.
A landscape view of the historic Kingston Stockade District. Image credit Brian Logan Photography via Shutterstock.

Officially designated the first capital city of New York in 1777, Kingston is a Historic hub for the state's bygone eras, paired with lush natural landscapes that complement the architecture and landmarks. Stroll through several of the town's historic districts with a style that goes back to the Victorian Era, with many sites listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The city is also a hub of cultural attractions, including museums, art galleries, and performing arts venues. Some of the best historic places to start your trip in town include the Reher Center for Immigrant Culture and the Hudson River Maritime Museum. 


Old red barn and silo in Aurora
Old red barn and silo in Aurora. 

One of the most scenic Finger Lake towns due to its abundance of relaxation in all forms, from resorts to outdoor destinations and entertainment-centric businesses. Begin your day with a leisurely bike tour, touring and basking in the timeless charm of Aurora's streets. Attempt local pottery and painting workshops, where guests can put their artistic skills to the test at places like the Bicentennial Art Center. Wine aficionados will not want to miss the renowned Cayuga Lake Wine Trail, which features incredible tasting journeys through the finest vineyards, savoring the rich flavors of local wines.


Gazebo in Clift Park on the shore of Skaneateles Lake.
Gazebo in Clift Park on the shore of Skaneateles Lake. Image credit Steve Cukrov via Shutterstock. 

Nestled in upstate New York, Skaneateles is the ultimate family retreat for a mixed adventure and relaxation vacation. From sipping fine wines in vineyards to exploring charming shops and scenic boat tours, Skaneateles has it. Take a leisurely walk along the waterfront of Thayer Park indulge in the beautiful Finger Lakes Wineries, and admire historically significant buildings like the St. James’ Episcopal Church and the Thayer house. Dive deeper into the town's past at the Skaneateles Historical Society Museum, and when hunger strikes, stop by Blue Water Grill or the Sherwood Inn for a delicious local bite. 


View from Hurricane Mountain in the fall in Keene, NY
View from Hurricane Mountain in the fall in Keene, NY. Image credit Elliott Kresse via Shutterstock. 

Finally, wrapping up our list of the most scenic New York Towns is Keene, a mountain town that offers a completely different atmosphere than any of the other towns on this list. Keene is located in Essex County and sits along the East Branch of the Au Sable River. It is also home to Mt. Marcy, the highest point in all the Adirondacks and New York state. Keene unfurls a gallery of nature's masterpieces, each giving a unique experience, such as Bouquet River Falls, Lower Wolfjaw Mountain, Hulls Falls, Basin Mountain, Dix Mountain, and many more. Keene is the cherry on top of this list of most scenic New York towns and the ultimate destination for scenic mountain vistas in the famous Empire State.


New York's hidden treasures extend beyond what its major cities offer, presenting the state in its truest and most abundant form. Although all of these towns are differentiated by their unique rich history and creative local efforts, they all enjoy a naturally rich setting. From the Adirondack Mountains to the small waterfront finger lake towns, prepare yourself for an eye-opening experience when heading out to explore the most scenic towns of New York!

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