Main Street, located in Lake Placid, New York. Image credit Karlsson Photo via Shutterstock

12 Picture-Perfect Towns in New York

From the Atlantic coastline to the Great Lakes region around Lake Ontario and Lake Erie to the Adirondack, Catskill, and Appalachian mountains in the northern half of the state, New York is surely a beautiful place to explore. Today, let's explore 12 towns in the Empire State that exemplify this beauty, both in natural and manmade destinations that can be visited today. See how many of these places you can add to your next road trip. Whether it is old yet well-preserved buildings from the Victorian era you are after or vast and wonderful parks that are filled with activities, there is something here for anyone looking for top-notch photo opportunities.


East Market Street in Rhinebeck, New York.
East Market Street in Rhinebeck, New York.

Rhinebeck is an ideal jumping-off point to explore the beauty of the Hudson Valley. Besides its countryside surroundings, the town’s downtown area is filled with many useful amenities, perfect for a stop on a greater road trip out of New York City. There are several notable boutiques, gourmet restaurants, and artisanal shops, housed in well-preserved 18th and 19th-century buildings. The Terrapin Restaurant, housed in an old church, is a popular choice. One of Rhinebeck's key historical landmarks is the Beekman Arms and Delamater Inn, America's oldest continuously operated hotel, which has been hosting guests since 1766.

For nature lovers, the nearby Ferncliff Forest provides excellent hiking trails and an observation tower with panoramic views of the Hudson River and the Catskill Mountains. The annual Dutchess County Fair, held in Rhinebeck, attracts visitors with its agricultural exhibits, carnival rides, and live entertainment. Additionally, the town is home to the Center for Performing Arts, offering a range of theatrical productions.


Downtown Potsdam, located in Upstate New York.
Downtown Potsdam, located in Upstate New York. Editorial credit: Wangkun Jia /

Nestled in the St. Lawrence Valley of northern New York, Potsdam is a college town with amazing natural surroundings. Home to Clarkson University and SUNY Potsdam, this town tends to have a lively atmosphere fueled by the energy of its student population mixed with the number of visitors who come here for outdoor fun.

With Adirondack Park surrounding it, and the St. Lawrence River flowing nearby, outdoor adventurers will find plenty to explore in and around Potsdam. Nearby hiking trails, including the Stone Valley Trail and the Munter Hiking Trail, are good places to go for walks and birdwatching, while the Raquette River offers kayaking, fishing, and other water activities.

The Crane School of Music at SUNY Potsdam, a hub for Potsdam's artistic scene, has produced renowned musicians and educators for over a century. The Crane School's performances, along with those of the Community Performance Series, offer residents and visitors alike a diverse array of concerts, theater productions, and other events year-round.

Lake Placid

Around town in Lake Placid, New York.
Around town in Lake Placid, New York. Image credit Ritu Manoj Jethani via Shutterstock.

Lake Placid, nestled in the Adirondack Mountains, is a town of around 2,500 residents that provides all who visit with outdoor adventure and splendid natural sights during all seasons of the year. Famous for hosting the Winter Olympics in 1932 and 1980, the town showcases its Olympic past with sites like the Olympic Center and the Lake Placid Olympic Museum. These attractions give a detailed look into the history of the winter sports that are included in the Olympic games and the achievements of past athletes.

The area around Lake Placid is world-renowned for its natural beauty and year-round activities, whether it is skiing, boating, or hiking. Mirror Lake, located at the heart of town, is ideal for kayaking, paddleboarding, and ice skating in the winter. There is also a paved path circumnavigating the lake. Hiking enthusiasts looking for something a little more difficult can explore trails leading to the stunning High Peaks nearby, while Whiteface Mountain provides year-round recreational options, including skiing, snowboarding, and mountain biking.


Chatham Wine and Liquor vintage sign, Chatham, New York
Chatham Wine and Liquor vintage sign, Chatham, New York, via jonbilous -

Chatham is a quiet village in Columbia County to the far western side of the state. Known for its beautifully preserved Victorian-era buildings, which house an array of local businesses, and the renowned Crandell Theatre, a historic movie theater that has been a community staple since 1926. Chatham's arts scene also includes the PS21 performance space, which features regularly held contemporary dance, theater, and music performances.

Chatham is also a truly rural town and celebrates this with events like the Chatham Farmers Market, where you can pick up local produce, crafts, and foods for yourself. For more to do in the rolling countryside of this region, you may appreciate nearby attractions like the Ooms Conservation Area, with its many scenic trails and birdwatching spots around a peaceful pond.

For cold brew after a long day, Chatham Brewing Company provides a local taste of craft beer, often featuring live music and events too.


The historical B&H Railroad Depot in Hammondsport, New York.
The historical B&H Railroad Depot in Hammondsport, New York.

At the southern tip of Keuka Lake in the Finger Lakes region, Hammondsport is renowned for its lakeside setting and reputation for excellent winemaking. Hammondsport is also famously home to the Glenn H. Curtiss Museum, dedicated to the aviation pioneer and showcasing a fascinating collection of aircraft, motorcycles, and other items of interest in regard to local history.

Wine lovers come here for its proximity to several renowned wineries along the Keuka Lake Wine Trail, Like Bully Hill Vineyards and Keuka Lake Vineyards, to name a couple, most offering tours and tastings of award-winning wines. Hammondsport also hosts the popular Hammondsport Festival of Crafts and the Wings and Wheels event, celebrating vintage cars and aircraft.

The nearby Keuka Lake is a great place to spend the day by the water, with things to do like boating, fishing, swimming, and kayaking.


Main Street lined with colorful buildings in Cooperstown, New York
Main Street lined with colorful buildings in Cooperstown, New York. Editorial credit: Steve Cukrov /

Cooperstown, situated in Central New York, is famously known as the home of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. Because of this, it is a major attraction for sports enthusiasts from all over the world. Beyond its tight association with baseball, the town is brimming with other historical, natural, and cultural attractions.

The Farmers’ Museum will teach you about 19th-century rural life with its historic buildings and interactive exhibits. Adjacent to the museum, the Fenimore Art Museum showcases American folk art, including pieces by prominent artists who are local and from abroad. Cooperstown is also home to popular festivals like the Cooperstown Winter Carnival and the Glimmerglass Festival, an internationally recognized opera event.

Outdoor adventures or anyone just looking to relax outside by the water should pay Otsego Lake a visit, also known as Glimmerglass Lake, which is perfect for boating, fishing, and swimming. The lake is also the backdrop for Glimmerglass State Park, which has trails and picnicking areas.

Cold Spring

Sidewalk scene in Cold Springs, New York, on a crisp fall day.
Sidewalk scene in Cold Springs, New York, on a crisp fall day. Editorial credit: Joe Tabacca /

Cold Spring is a village that is located on the banks of the Hudson River, about an hour and a half directly north of New York City. The Main Street of town is filled with 19th-century buildings that now house shops, stores, and other important amenities. One notable landmark is the Hudson House Inn, dating back to 1832, it is still a running hotel and has a highly-rated restaurant and bar, all while offering a firsthand look into the area's storied past.

The Hudson Highlands State Park contains numerous hiking trails, including the popular Breakneck Ridge, known for its challenging climb and views of the river and surrounding mountains. For something a little less extreme, Cold Spring’s waterfront park is perfect for a leisurely stroll, with more views of the Hudson River and West Point across the water.

Easily accessible by train from New York City, Cold Spring offers a perfect day-trip destination for those looking to experience the charm of a small town with both historic and natural attractions.


Main Street in Downtown Tarrytown
Main Street in Downtown Tarrytown via quiggyt4 /

Tarrytown's most famous landmark is the Lyndhurst Mansion, a Gothic Revival estate set on beautifully landscaped grounds that offer great views of the mighty Hudson River. The Philipsburg Manor is a faithfully rebuilt colonial-era trading post and manor "living museum" that is perfect for the whole family to explore. Nearby, the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, immortalized by Washington Irving's "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow," attracts history, horror, and literary fans alike. Mixed with the beautiful changing of tree colors in the fall, Tarrytown is perhaps one of the best towns on this list for a visit around Halloween.

Check out the Rockefeller State Park Preserve, which features extensive trails for hiking, horseback riding, and birdwatching. Tarrytown Lakes Park is another leisurely park with easy-to-navigate trails close to downtown.

The Tarrytown Music Hall, one of the oldest theaters in Westchester County, hosts a variety of performances, including concerts, plays, and films. For a meal and a show, go across the street to the Jazz Forum, a venue that primarily plays, as you guessed it, jazz acts.


Aerial View of Rosendale, New York.
Aerial View of Rosendale, New York.

A key attraction in the town of Rosendale is the Rosendale Trestle, a restored railroad bridge that offers stunning views of the Rondout Creek and surrounding woodlands. The trestle is part of the Wallkill Valley Rail Trail, which provides miles of scenic paths for walking and biking.

Rosendale is home to the Rosendale Theatre, a community-run cinema that screens independent films, documentaries, and hosts live performances. Each summer, this town also hosts the Rosendale Street Festival, a lively outdoor event with music, food, and crafts that draws visitors from across the region.

Nearby Joppenbergh Mountain, a hill that rises over 500 feet, contains hiking trails with panoramic views, along with a look into the town’s historic cement mining past through remnants of old industrial equipment and mines that still lay in the hills.


Lewiston, New York as seen from the dock on the Niagara River, with Queenston, Ontario, Canada in the background
Lewiston, New York as seen from the dock on the Niagara River, with Queenston, Ontario, Canada in the background. Editorial credit: Atomazul /

Sitting on the Niagara River, Lewiston is a pleasant town just above Buffalo in the far reaches of Upstate New York that borders Canada. This little town played a crucial role in the War of 1812 and was a key stop on the Underground Railroad, with several historical markers and sites commemorating these events. More of this can be learned about at the Lewiston Museum, which is home to the Lewiston Historical Society.

The Lewiston Waterfront Park is a great place to take a walk and see the river. You can also boat and fish here. Be sure to go on an exciting adventure on the white rapids of the Niagara River with Whirlpool Jet Tours! Nearby, Artpark is a cultural venue that hosts concerts, plays, and other art installations throughout the summer.

No trip to this region is complete without a visit to one of the greatest wonders of the world: Niagara Falls, just a short drive south of town.

Saratoga Springs

The shopping district on Broadway in Saratoga Springs, New York, USA.
The shopping district on Broadway in Saratoga Springs, New York, USA. Editorial credit: Brian Logan Photography /

Saratoga Springs, known for its mineral springs and thoroughbred horse racing, is a picturesque town with a vibrant cultural scene. The historic Saratoga Race Course, one of the oldest in the United States, is the heart of the town's summer season, attracting horse racing enthusiasts from all over. For those interested in history, the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame offers insights into the sport’s storied past.

Beyond the racecourse, Saratoga Springs has a range of attractions including the Saratoga Spa State Park, which features mineral baths, a performing arts center, and miles of hiking and biking trails. Broadway, the main street, is lined with locally owned boutiques, art galleries, and many world-class dining options, like the hugely popular Wheatfields Restaurant and Bar. This town is also home to the Saratoga Performing Arts Center (SPAC), which hosts bands, ballet, and other theater performances.


The Pettibone House at Wells College campus in Aurora, New York, USA.
The Pettibone House at Wells College campus in Aurora, New York, USA. Editorial credit: PQK /

On the eastern shores of Cayuga Lake in the Finger Lakes region, is a picturesque village steeped in history and natural beauty known as Aurora. This village, or town, is home to Wells College, a historic institution founded in 1868, known for its stunning architecture and serene campus overlooking the lake.

Downtown Aurora contains many well-preserved buildings dating back to previous centuries, a great place for anybody looking to feel what life was like in central New York's storied past. Visit the MacKenzie-Childs Farmhouse and Pottery Barn, known for its whimsical designs and handcrafted ceramics that you can take home.

Many come here for Cayuga Lake, which has beaches and launching docks for boating, fishing, and water sports, while nearby Long Point State Park provides hiking trails and picnic areas with unobscured lake views.

Set Your Sights in New York This Summer

From the mountains of upstate New York to the rivers and valleys further, south, New York is an easy place to discover scenic beauty, whether it is on a road trip or right in your backyard. Take notes of these 12 towns, and realize that there are dozens more just like them in this magnificent state. Remember, there is more to do in the Empire State than just visit the Big Apple (although spend a few days there if you have never been to NYC).

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