Adirondack Community Church, an ancient church on a snowy day in Winter in Lake Placid, New York

7 Best Towns in Upstate New York for a Winter Getaway

Upstate New York, a vast part of the state, is beautiful in every season, with crisp autumn leaves reflecting in the lakes, the summertime allure of Hudson Valley, and an abundance of winter activities in the Adirondacks and the Catskills. Outdoor enthusiasts continuously visit, especially during summer when lake towns see heightened traffic. Lake Placid, despite being the most remote, is a winter hotspot in the Adirondacks, boasting Whiteface Mountain and its history as a two-time Winter Olympics host.

An hour south, Lake George offers tranquility at the unique Sagamore, a luxury resort with a serene winter atmosphere on the frozen lake. Family-friendly adventures abound, with the iconic New York State Zoo in Watertown and a vibrant après-ski scene at Hunter Mountain in Hunter, a small town brimming with charm under the imposing mountain.


View of the corner of Main Street and South Street in Beacon, New York.
View of the corner of Main Street and South Street in Beacon, New York.

Just 60 miles from NYC, Beacon in the Hudson Valley, known for its artistic flair, is an ideal winter destination. Its standout attraction, Dia:Beacon, part of the Dia Art Foundation, showcases a unique collection of contemporary art and draws visitors from all around. Beyond the numerous galleries, Beacon offers antique shopping and holiday browsing in distinctive boutiques, complemented by local breweries like the esteemed Melzingah Tap House. The town boasts scenic waterfront parks, including the splendid Scenic Hudson's Long Dock Park and Dennings Point State Park on its peninsula, both easily accessible from DIA.

The cultural staple, Towne Crier Cafe, adds to Beacon's charm, while Roundhouse isn’t just renowned for its cuisine but also for providing a restful stay. This historic boutique hotel promises a peaceful sleep and serves only locally sourced fare at its restaurant, including produce from nearby farms, wineries, and distilleries. Alternatively, Beacon Bed & Breakfast offers a delightful breakfast with treats like stuffed French toast and pancakes, perfect for enjoying while watching snowflakes from the porch overlooking Main Street.


Ellicottville Brewing Company in New York, via Ellicottville | Hours + Location | Ellicottville Brewing Co. | Craft Brewery & Pub
Ellicottville Brewing Company in New York, via Ellicottville | Hours + Location | Ellicottville Brewing Co. | Craft Brewery & Pub

Situated in a prime skiing area, Ellicottville, Western New York, offers a range of winter sports, including downhill skiing, snowboarding, cross-country, and telemark skiing for all skill levels at Holiday Valley. This town welcomes visitors with an array of family-friendly activities and accommodations. The Sky Flyer Mountain Coaster operates on weekends, weather permitting, in both summer and winter. Riders control their speed down the mountain's natural contours.

Just four miles from the resort, Holiday Valley Tubing Co. offers snow tubing, including a section for young children, the Lil’ Tubers area. The Inn at Holiday Valley, adjacent to the slopes, features heated indoor and outdoor pools, warm hospitality, and amenities like a hot tub for post-activity relaxation, fireplaces in each room, and a shuttle service to and from the base. Ellicottville Oasis Spa provides massages and other treatments to rejuvenate guests for more skiing adventures.


Downtown Highland, New York
Downtown Highland, New York, By Daniel Case, CC BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia Commons

Described by the New York Times as a "Small Community With a Feel-Good Spirit," Highland in upstate New York is an ideal destination for a winter holiday. The town is known for its scenic landscapes in Ulster County, blanketed in snow, attracting outdoor enthusiasts. The Rocking Horse Ranch Resort, popular in summer, transforms into a winter wonderland, offering activities like horse parades, family carriage rides, and horseback riding for couples and children. The resort also features tractor-drawn wagon rides to campfires with s’mores, keeping the fun alive in the snowy setting.

Highland’s business district is bustling with new bistros, galleries, and cafes, nestled among quaint turn-of-the-20th-century buildings. Among these, Underground Coffee & Ales serves drinks from morning to night, while Vigneto Café specializes in Italian cuisine made with locally-sourced organic ingredients. The district's charm enhances the holiday shopping experience, with diverse dining options and accommodations for all budgets. Recently, Studio 89 opened, showcasing a mural by local graffiti artist Lady Pink, and Knaus Gallery & Wine Bar offers wine and light meals in a relaxed atmosphere.


A young woman takes off her skiing gear for a midday break at a ski resort in Hunter, New York
A young woman takes off her skiing gear for a midday break at a ski resort in Hunter, New York

Hunter, a picturesque mountain town, is home to the renowned Hunter Mountain Resort, a premier destination for winter sports in New York. Established in 1960s, the town and its resort, featuring the region's second-tallest peak and over 60 trails, have long attracted vacationers from New York City. In addition to skiing, Hunter offers a range of snow sports, ski-in-and-out accommodations, and packages for lift tickets and gear rentals. The town's charm is complemented by its easy access to skiing, snowboarding, and après-ski activities at Hunter Mountain.

Hunter is easily accessible from NYC and offers a rich history and year-round appeal. Scribners Lodge provides a rustic ski lodging experience with vintage room amenities, a skating rink, saunas, heated pools, and stunning mountain views. Mountain Club Spa, located in the Kaatskill Mountain Club on the mountain, offers treatments to soothe and rejuvenate guests after a day on the slopes. The Hunter Inn, near the town's shopping, dining, and nightlife, offers convenient access to Main Street and the nearby Hunter Mountain, which beckons with more adventures to the west.

Lake George

Kids have a fun ride in a dog sled on the ice of Lake George during the Lake George Winter Carnival.
Kids have a fun ride in a dog sled on the ice of Lake George during the Lake George Winter Carnival. Editorial credit: Sean Donohue Photo /

The village of Lake George, situated at the southern tip of the 33-mile-long "Queen of American Lakes" in Adirondack Park, offers a captivating natural setting with old-growth forests and mountain peaks. It's a sought-after destination across seasons, with its stunning lake reflecting nature's palette. The town surprises visitors with unique experiences, making winter getaways unforgettable. Along with classic skiing and snow tubing, activities include ice fishing and dog sledding.

For accommodations, consider the Sagamore, an all-inclusive luxury island resort offering panoramic Adirondack views, heated pools, a spa, and an ice bar. Alternatively, the Cornerstone Victorian Bed & Breakfast provides a cozy atmosphere and a five-course breakfast. In summer, the area offers hiking and golf at the resort.

Lake Placid

Lake Placid during winter, landscape with frozen lake and mountains
Lake Placid during winter, landscape with frozen lake and mountains

Lake Placid, nestled in the Adirondack Mountains, is a delightful destination year-round. This winter wonderland offers a variety of activities, including exceptional holiday shopping. Main Street is adorned with unique shops for home decor, gifts, and souvenirs. Enjoy evenings fireside with a hot chocolate at a local café, restaurant, or pub.

Whiteface Mountain, once an Olympic host, ranks among the top east coast ski destinations, catering to all skill levels. On-site rentals and a lively après-ski scene enhance the experience. Ice skating on Mirror Lake and at historic Olympic rinks is a magical experience. The Mirror Lake Inn, with rustic charm and Adirondack views, provides a cozy stay.


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

In the Thousand Islands-Seaway region, Watertown, a town of over 24,000 residents, exudes cheerfulness, particularly around its historic Public Square. Its independent retail stores, art studios, and local eateries offer a delightful shopping experience. The New York State Zoo showcases local wildlife in their winter habitats, including a variety of animals and a Butterfly House for a summery escape.

Thompson Park, spanning 355 acres, is ideal for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing, with trails for all levels. Its designed pathways, play areas, and indoor sports facilities cater to different interests. Nearby, Flat Rock Inn provides access to Tug Hill Plateau's extensive trail system. The 19th-century Paddock Mansion, now a museum, and the Holiday Inn Express & Suites offer comfortable stays, with the latter featuring an outdoor hot pool.

From the festively decorated Main Street in Lake Placid to the vast Adirondack Park, Upstate New York is brimming with surprises. Offering unique experiences and outdoor adventures suitable for all tastes, skill levels, and ages, the region features destinations like Dia:Beacon in the Hudson Valley, Hunter in the Catskills, and Lake Placid in the picturesque Adirondacks for winter getaways.

Beacon, known for its waterfront charm, is a popular day-trip destination. However, spending a weekend allows visitors to enjoy Sunday morning stuffed French toast on a wrap-around porch of a bed and breakfast, overlooking snowflakes along Main Street. In Watertown, situated in the distinctive Thousand Islands-Seaway region, the 355-acre Thompson Park offers picturesque trails for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing, catering to both beginners and advanced enthusiasts.

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