View of Tarrytown lighthouse and Tappan Zee bridge in Tarrytown, New York.

14 Best Small Towns In Upstate New York For Retirees

More than half of the Empire State's metropolitan area is Upstate New York, featuring perfect scenic towns ideal for retirees who desire a slower pace of living. These places allow for a smooth transition to a lifestyle of peace, warmth, and natural splendor. Towns in Upstate New York are located in the Northern and Northwestern regions of New York's bustling metropolitan area. The area offers diversity in its rural landscapes, forested preserves, and suburban and urban communities. Agriculture is a common source of living, especially with the towns' vast landscapes and abundant vegetation. 

The cities in the upstate are also some of the most affordable places to reside in New York, with the cost of living relatively lower than the average. Retirees can expect Upstate New York to have high-quality healthcare facilities, assisted living communities, and fun recreational facilities. From the beautiful lakes surrounding Alexandria Bay to the vibrant cultural life in Ithaca, here are the best small towns for retirement with promising attractions, beauty, and activities for a comfortable lifestyle. 


Sunset over Oswego Lighthouse in the distance with pink and red sky and wavy waters
Sunset over Oswego Lighthouse in the distance.

Oswego is near the Great Lakes region, with relaxing places ideal for retirement. Fort Ontario is one of the crowds' favorites, providing beautiful waterfront views and abundant history. Retirees can join a Fort tour to learn about the town's culture and history and facts about World War II, the American Revolutionary War, and the War of 1812. The H. Lee White Maritime Museum is worth visiting, where seniors can learn about Oswego's abundant maritime history. And for retirees who love the outdoors, Breitbeck Park is the perfect place. It provides a fire pit, seating areas, and an accessible Harbor Trail for jogging, biking, and walking.

Seniors will be happy to know that healthcare is easily accessible in Oswego, with centers including Oswego Health and ConnextCare. Assisted living facilities in Oswego include St. Luke Health Services, Pontiac Nursing Home, and The Gardens by Morningstar. Living costs are more than 20% less than the average town in New York City. The Central New York Regional Transportation Authority mainly provides Oswego's public transportation services. Comfortable temperatures and partially cloudy skies characterize summers in this town, while winters are marked by freezing conditions, snowfall, strong winds, and predominantly overcast skies.


Exterior of Ellicottville Town Hall building
Exterior of Ellicottville Town Hall.

Another cute little town is Ellicottville, which transforms into a beautiful winter wonderland during the holidays. Ellicottville is home to HoliMont Ski Club and Holiday Valley Resort, two popular acco modations during winter. The summer or fall seasons are perfect for picnics king in Ellicottville Village Park. Another unique destination is the Griffis Sculpture Park, America's first sculpture park, just about 15 minutes away. Seniors can discover more than 250 sculptures and an art gallery in an outdoor garden. 

Ellicottville Terrace Apartments is the town's most popular senior-assisted facility. The town's cost of living is nearly 17% lower than the state average, and the Olean Medical Gr is a famous healthcare facility. Buses and train stations are available throughout Ellicottville, and retirees will love the town's breezy weather all year. 


Cityscape- Downtown street view and buildings. Geneva is located at the northern end of Seneca Lake, New York.
Downtown view of Geneva, New York. Image credit PQK via Shutterstock.

Geneva is another picturesque place for retirement in Upstate New York, located in the heart of the Finger Lakes region Seneca Lake's northern portion. The Belhurst Castle is one of Geneva's most iconic historic landmarks, where seniors can taste exquisite beverages at Belhurst Winery, experience massage treatments at Isabella Spa, and fine dining at Edgar's Restaurant. Retirees who love the outdoors can visit Kashong Conservation Area, a nearly 83-acre nature trail with a picnic area ideal for dog walking, hiking, and snowshoeing. Live performances, movie screenings, and film festivals can also catch attention in the Smith Opera House. 

Geneva General Hospital is the primary healthcare facility for emergencies and diagnostic care. Meanwhile, reputable senior-assisted facilities include Seneca Lake Terrace and Finger Lakes Health. The cost of living, including rent, is 26% lower than in New York City. Retirees will surely love the reliability of the public transport system in this town. Plus, the climate does not reach extreme coldness and heat! 


The 1920's landmark Dan's Diner in Chatham, New York on an overcast winter day.
The 19 0s landmark Dan's Diner in Chatham. Image credit Dan Hanscom via Shutterstock.

Chatham is a charming village known for its historic architecture, vibrant arts community, and scenic surroundings. Seniors can enjoy a classic movie experience at The Crandell Theatre; a landmark movie house in Chatham. For those who want to experience nature more relaxedly, the Ooms Conservation Area offers easy wa king trails amid scenic landscapes. It is a peaceful location where seniors can appreciate the outdoors without strenuous physical activity.

Ghent Family Care Center is the primary healthcare facility offering diagnostic and treatment services, with Chatham Nursing and Rehabilitation the most p pular senior-assisted nursing home. Public transportation is readily available, but seniors can choose to walk when touring around Chatham. Living costs are affordable, and the crime rate is excellent. Chatham experiences a continental and humid climate with four seasons, characterized by chilly winters, easy summers, and moderate rains throughout the year.


Shops and boutiques on  Main Street in this charming upstate New York town.
 Main  Street in this charming Cooperstown. Image credit Kenneth Sponsler via Shutterstock.

Cooperstown, a small village in the upstate, features a Hallmark-inspired downtown. Sidewalks are filled with vintage-style street lamps and brownstone buildings. The little cider mill for apple picking, local farmers market, and Brewery Ommegang are just some of the things that make this one of the most thrilling towns in Upstate New York. Notable attractions include the Fenimore Art Museum for American and Indian Folk Art for a creative and cultural experience. The town's location near the southern part of Otsego Lake makes it an ideal place for hiking and chartering boats. Seniors can also visit Glimmerglass State Park, a public park with scenic landscapes, green forestry, and abundant wildlife. 

Senior-assisted living facilities include Woodside Hall and The Clara Welch Thanksgiving Home. At the same time, healthcare centers include Bassett Medical Center and Cooperstown Center. Living costs are at par with most New York cities, but its low crime rate makes it a safe town for retirees. Meanwhile, whatever public transportation retirees need, Cooperstown has it all! The climate is generally suitable for retirees, with cold winters and warm summers offering a mix of seasonal experiences.


Main Street in downtown Canandaigua, New York,
Main Street in downtown Canandaigua, New York. Image credit Ritu Manoj Jethani via Shutterstock.

Canandaigua is an Instagrammable lakeside town on Lake Canandaigua's northern end. Seniors can visit Granger Homestead and Carriage Museum, home to more than 100 antique carriages. The list of famous restaurants has Simple Crepes for dessert, The Green Front for healthy sandwiches, and Rheinblick German Restaurant for the Reuben sandwich. Retirees who want peace can head to Kershaw Park, featuring beachfront views to enjoy the lake. 

Senior living communities in Canandaigua include Clark Manor House and Horizons, while the town also has various healthcare centers, including Ontario Center and Thompson Health. Canandaigua's cost of living is 6% lower than in other US states.  Vehicles are the standard modes of transportation, but the town's climate makes it suitable for walking and biking. 


Snow covered city of Oneonta, New York street
Snow covered city of Oneonta, New York. Image credit Verysmallplanet via Shutterstock.

Oneonta, commonly known as the "City of Hills," is in the Catskill Mountains and is a popular site for road trips. Moreover, Oneonta is one of the most affordable upstate towns for retirement.  The historic Main Street features red brick sidewalks and Victorian buildings for specialty shops and local restaurants. Another famous attraction is the Yager Museum, home to Renaissance and contemporary art collections. The museum is right inside Hartwick College. Retirees with an active lifestyle can play mini golf in Oneonta Sports Park or stroll along Oneonta Susquehanna Greenway.

Healthcare facilities in Oneonta include SUNY Health and Wellness Center, FoxCare Center, and Oneonta Community Health Center. Hampshire House, Heritage at The Plains, and Robynwood Assisted Living are the best senior-assisted living communities. Oneonta's cost of living is highly affordable, and even the crime rate is low. Retirees can opt to walk to reach various areas in this small town, but buses are also available. The climate in Oneonta is favorable for retirees, featuring cold winters and warm summers.

Alexandria Bay

Aerial view of Boldt Castle in Alexandria Bay, New York
Aerial view of Boldt Castle in Alexandria Bay, New York. Image credit BeatoAerialPhotography via Shutterstock.

Alexandria Bay in the Thousand Islands Region is another stunning town to retire in Upstate New York. In fact, this is the smallest town on the list,  with a population of less than 1000! As the birthplace of the famous Thousand Islands salad dressing, Alexandria Bay boasts stunning views of the St. Lawrence River, the Thousand Islands, and the Boldt Castle. 

River Family Health Center is a reputable Alexandria Bay healthcare facility that offers primary and diagnostic care services. At the same time, the most popular senior-assisted living area is Thousand Islands Adult Home. Crime rate and cost of living are low, and seniors can choose from buses, trains, and bikes to navigate through the city. 


Tarrytown lighthouse and Tappan Zee bridge
Tarrytown lighthouse and Tappan Zee bridge.

Tarrytown, a picturesque village along New York's Hudson River, boasts majestic views of the Tappan Zee Bridge against the river. The scenic jewel Kykuit, offers well-preserved gardens and breathtaking vistas. The Lyndhurst Mansion is an iconic historical site in Tarrytown, one of America's Gothic Revival mansions. It's home to an extensive collection of decorative arts. Washington Irving's Sunnyside is also a remarkable tourist spot where retirees can tour the renowned author's historic house. The Scenic Hudson RiverWalk Park should also not be missed, offering a public park and trail where seniors can stroll and watch the sunset. 

The Tarrytown Senior Club conducts different activities, including live exercises, bingo, and movies. A shuttle bus can also take the elders to the grocery store or nearby attractions. Healthcare facilities include Tarrytown Rehabilitation and Nursing Center and ColumbiaDoctors. Tarrytown is also famous for having one of the towns with the most senior-assisted living communities, including Kendal, Brightview Tarrytown, and Atria Woodlands. 

Saranac Lake

Main Street in village of Saranac Lake in Adirondack Mountains, New York
Main Street in village of Saranac Lake in the Adirondack Mountains. Image credit Wangkun Jia via Shutterstock.

Right in the heart of the Adirondack Mountains is Saranac Lake, a haven for nature enthusiasts looking for a peaceful retreat. The Lake Flower shores feature vibrant blooms in the summer, and as autumn arrives, travelers will witness red and gold hues blanketing the mountains. Moving on, the Saranac Laboratory Museum is a famous historical attraction that allows visitors to learn about the town's past tuberculosis cure center. Retirees can join self-guided walking tours in the downtown area. The Charles Dickert Memorial Wildlife Museum features taxidermy collections of Charles Dickert. Retirees can browse the Adirondack region's over 100 animals, including elk and bears. 

The Saranac Lake Adult Center provides nutrition and health education for the seniors. Weekday meals are also given for free to retirees aged 60 and above. The town's cost of living is cheaper than in other cities in the US. Senior-assisted living communities in Saranac Lake include Saranac Village at Wi l Rogers and Adirondack Apartments. Buses are the main public transportation; the climate ranges from warm summers to breezy autumns, springs, and chilly winters. 


Avalanche Lake in the High Peaks Wilderness Area of the Adirondack State Park in Potsdam, New York
Avalanche Lake in the High Peaks Wilderness Area of the Adirondack State Park in Potsdam, New York.

Potsdam offers locals beautiful landscapes, especially the St. Lawrence River. You can find the historic Potsdam Sandstone architecture along its shores, lending an old-world charm to the town. The Potsdam Farmers Market allows seniors to connect with the local community and enjoy fresh produce. Retirees can also explore nearby attractions like the 40-minute drive away from Frederic Remington Art Museum in Ogdensburg, showcasing local artists' masterpieces, or take scenic drives to the Adirondack Mountains. For those interested in arts, The Crane School of Music and the nearby St. Lawrence University host cultural events and performances. 

Potsdam Sandstone Senior Citizens Club Inc. is a famous center for senior citizens, providing wellness programs and facilities to keep retirees active. The renowned Canton-Potsdam Hospital is the primary healthcare facility in the town, while an assisted living community exists in the Midtown Apartments. St. Lawrence Public Transit is the standard commute transportation for the residents. 

Watkins Glen

Rainbow Falls of Watkins Glen State Park Finger Lakes region of New York state.
Rainbow Falls of Watkins Glen State Park Finger Lakes region.

One of the most scenic attractions in Watkins Glens is Watkins Glen State Park, a gorge with waterfalls and rock formations. Seniors can hike the Gorge Trail, winding through lush forests and passing behind the iconic Rainbow Falls. The nearby Finger Lakes Wine Country also offers a delightful experience for retirees interested in vineyard tours and wine tastings. Watkins Glen Harbor is a peaceful spot to watch boats or enjoy a quiet afternoon. For those interested in history, the Seneca Lake Wine Trail features historic wineries with unique stories to share. 

Retirement communities in Watkins Glen include Home Instead, and living in this town is also affordable compared to other cities in the New York metropolitan area. While there is no primary healthcare facility in Watkins Glen, it is near major centers, such as Schuyler Ho Hospital and Guthrie Corning Hospital. Seniors can rely on Greyhound buses to get to any location. 


Cayuga Street in downtown Ithaca with trees in fall colors.
Cayuga Street in downtown Ithaca. Image credit Steve Cukrov via Shutterstock.

Ithaca is a famous college town with pristine wilderness, with Buttermilk Falls State Park as one of the renowned outdoor destinations. This state park is formed by the traversing Butterm lk Creek that flows to Cayuga Lake. Seniors can also find Larch Meadows, a wetland area. The Cornell Botanic Gardens' diverse plant collections, serene trails, and themed gardens provide a peaceful setting for relaxing strolls for retirees. The Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art inside Cornell University's campus offers a cultural retreat with an impressive art collection from various periods and regions. 

Senior-assisted living communities in Ithaca include Kendal, Longview, and Brookdale Senior Living. The average rental rate reaches $1800, and the total living cost is more affordable than the average. Convenient public transportation is easily accessible even for retirees. The city experiences a humid continental climate characterized by cold, snowy winters and warm summers.


Landscape view of the corner of Main Street and South Street in Beacon, NY
Landscape view of the corner of Main Street and South Street in Beacon, NY. Image credit Brian Logan Photography via Shutterstock.

Beacon along New York's scenic Hudson River boasts beautiful landscapes like Mount Beacon. Dia Beacon, a contemporary art museum housed in a former Nabisco factory, showcases art installations and large windows with stunning Hudson River views. Long Dock Park also provides a peaceful setting with walking trails, green spaces, and picturesque river views. Retirees can also enjoy kayaking, boat riding, and fishing along the Hudson River. The Beacon Farmers Market is also great for connecting with local producers and artisans, creating a sense of community.  

Senior-assisted communities in Beacon include Hedgewood Home, Fishkill Health Center, Inspire of McClelland, and Davies South Terrace Apartments. Beacon Health Center is the primary healthcare facility, but seniors can browse several nursing homes like Sun River Health Beacon. Public transportation is easily accessible, and the climate will relax the retirees. The cost of living is slightly higher than the average, but the crime rate is low. 

The towns in Upstate New York feature a unique blend of culture, charm, and natural beauty. With each city's quaint streets, charming historical landmarks, and touristy destinations, retirees will never run out of exciting activities, peaceful retreats to visit, and relaxing parks with unique recreational activities. Whether it is the historic architecture, vibrant arts scenes, or picturesque waterfronts, these Upstate gems provide a backdrop for an enriching lifestyle. These places become standout destinations for seniors embracing the next chapter of life.

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