Aerial view of Cooperstown, New York.

8 Breathtaking Towns To Visit In Upstate New York

New York is an interesting state, as the northern half and southern half are widely considered to be distinct from each other. The southern portion is dominated by the major metropolis of New York City, and the relatively sparsely populated northern half is culturally and geographically different from its counterpart in a number of different ways. Whereas the South is known for sprawling cities, the "upstate" North is notable for its abundance of lakes, mountains, forests, and parklands. It is a place where city slickers can spend a weekend at the cottage during the summer or hit the ski hills in the winter.

Learn more about eight of the most breathtaking towns in Upstate New York that are worth seeing.


Beautiful scenery on the Skaneateles Lake
Beautiful scenery on the Skaneateles Lake, New York. Editorial credit: PQK /

Skaneateles, on the northern shore of Skaneateles Lake, is one of the most picturesque towns in the Finger Lakes region. Its lakefront setting provides stunning views of the unique, elongated Finger Lakes, while the town itself contains many well-preserved buildings from various periods of history, giving it a quaint, old-world feel. A notable historical destination is the Harriet Tubman Home, the residence of the important historical figure who played an integral part in the Underground Railroad.

Skaneateles also has several parks for outdoor activities. A popular place to hike is the Charlie C Major Nature Trail, and within driving distance of several Finger Lakes, you can find wineries like Anyela's Vineyards, just a short drive south of town. Here, you can explore the vineyards that feed off the rich glacial soil carpeting this area.

The annual Skaneateles Dickens Christmas Festival brings Skaneateles to life with costumed characters and street performances, giving you something to do in the winter.

Saratoga Springs

Downtown Saratoga Springs, New York
Downtown Saratoga Springs, New York. Editorial credit: Brian Logan Photography /

Saratoga Springs, renowned for its natural mineral springs and equestrian culture, blends history with modern amenities that provide something fun to do or see for just about anyone. Be sure to visit the legendary Saratoga Race Course, which has been hosting horse races since the 19th century.

In downtown Saratoga Springs, Victorian architecture complements a variety of local boutiques, galleries, and restaurants. While in town, see the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame either before or after your visit to the track for extra context regarding the equestrian culture of this region. For a little relaxation, the Saratoga Spa State Park offers natural mineral baths and miles of trails through lush landscapes, perfect for a pleasant afternoon walk. The park also hosts the Saratoga Performing Arts Center, which presents concerts and dance performances year-round.

Lake Placid

The Lake Placid Ski Lift in autumn
The Lake Placid Ski Lift in fall.

Lake Placid, famous for hosting the Winter Olympics twice, is a gorgeous place to stay in the mountains and lakes of upstate New York. Surrounded by the Adirondack Mountain range, this historic destination is full of streets that have 360 views of the verdant, forest-covered hills. Restaurants, like the renowned Italian comfort food spot Luna Restaurant, and a variety of Olympic-related attractions, including the Olympic Center and the Lake Placid Olympic Museum, are all within walking distance of each other, making an afternoon in town not just fun but convenient, too.

Make sure you enjoy some outdoor destinations, too, like Mirror Lake, which has a path going around its circumference that leads back to the downtown area. Feeling a little more adventurous? You can venture into the surrounding mountains for hiking in the summer and skiing in the winter at resorts like the Whiteface Ski Resort for downhill or the Jackrabbit Ski Trail for Nordic. This town is also home to the Adirondack Experience, a museum that delves into the interesting history and culture of the region.


Town center at Woodstock, New York, in the Catskill Mountains
Town center at Woodstock, New York, in the Catskill Mountains. Editorial credit: Little Vignettes Photo /

Woodstock, synonymous with the iconic Woodstock music festivals, has much to offer in a variety of different aspects. This town, located in the Catskills, a popular destination for cottaging and outdoor activities, also has a thriving arts scene, with galleries, studios, and theaters that draw creatives from many different disciplines. The Woodstock School of Art Inc. calls this town home. Here, you can not only learn how to improve your craft, but spaces are constantly opening to display pieces by local artists.

Tinker Street, Woodstock's main thoroughfare, houses an eclectic variety of eateries, stores, and hotels for your convenience. Places like Allison Restaurant and Pearl Moon are popular spots for locally sourced foods. The area's natural beauty can be explored with hikes in the nearby Catskill Mountains or visit the Woodstock Farm Sanctuary to connect with rescued animals.


The marina in Cooperstown, New York
The marina in Cooperstown, New York.

Cooperstown, most famous for the National Baseball Hall of Fame, is a great place to go for any sports enthusiasts out there. Located in Otsego County at the base of the pristine waters of Otsego Lake, this town has many attractions that are more than just baseball-related. Here, you can visit the Fenimore Art Museum, which showcases various examples of American folk art and Native American artifacts. You should also see The Farmers' Museum, where historical buildings and live demonstrations bring 19th-century rural life to life.

Cooperstown's idyllic setting on the shores of Otsego Lake provides opportunities for boating and fishing. You can walk up and down the trails of nearby Fairy Springs Parks, where the lush forest and cliffs surrounding the lake can be seen up close. Bring your swimsuit for a swim after a day of adventure outside.

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, on the eastern bank of the Hudson River, is a historic village with a small population of just under 2,000 residents. The abundance of old buildings dating back centuries and the quaint neighborhoods create a true small-town setting, ideal for an escape from the big city.

The nearby Boscobel House and Gardens provide a glimpse into the region's history, showcasing the importance the Hudson River plays in the life of many different towns and cities in upstate New York. Outdoor enthusiasts can see the geologic history of this region in person and can hike in the Hudson Highlands State Park, with trails leading to panoramic views of the Hudson River and surrounding mountains. Cold Spring's location along the Metro-North Railroad makes it easily accessible from New York City, offering a convenient escape from the urban hustle of the metropolitan south.


Ellicottville Town Hall in Ellicottville, New York.
Ellicottville Town Hall in Ellicottville, New York. Image credit: Jimmy Emerson DVM via

Ellicottville, located in Western upstate New York, is a popular year-round destination known for its skiing in winter and a plethora of things to do in the warmer spring, summer, and fall months.

Holiday Valley Resort is an ideal destination for skiers and snowboarders in winter, containing huge hills and several hotels and motels to stay the night. Summer provides many opportunities for hiking, mountain biking, and golf in the same hills. The town itself contains a few notable spots to visit during your trip here, with a historic downtown filled with shops, restaurants, and breweries, like the Ellicottville Brewing Company and 42 North Brewing Company Outpost, to name a few.

Ellicottville is also home to some festivals throughout the year, including the annual Fall Festival, which draws visitors with live music, crafts, and food vendors. With its combination of outdoor adventure and small-town charm, Ellicottville is an appealing destination for visitors seeking both relaxation and excitement.


Wells College campus in Aurora, New York.
Wells College campus in Aurora, New York. Editorial credit: PQK /

Aurora, located on the eastern shore of Cayuga Lake, is another tiny gem in the Finger Lakes region. Despite its small size, with a population of merely 641 residents as of 2022, Aurora is packed with destinations to explore during a road trip or even a plonged overnight stay.

Aurora is notable for being home to Wells College, a major contributor to the economy of the downtown, with a gorgeous lakeside campus for all to explore. Visitors can also check out the MacKenzie-Childs estate, famous for its whimsical ceramics and home decor.

For a place to stay for the weekend, the Aurora Inn offers elegant dining and lodging with yet more beautiful lake views, while the surrounding countryside provides many places for hiking and winery tours, most notably the Long Point Winery just south of town. Lake Glass Beach is a popular place to spend a relaxing afternoon in the sun or to launch a canoe or kayak for a day on the expensive waters of Cayuga Lake.

Escape The City In Upstate New York

Upstate New York is a diverse and captivating region, with its many picturesque small towns that cater to a variety of interests. From the historic streets of Saratoga Springs to the lakeside tranquility of Aurora, each town gives you a dose of culture, history, and natural beauty. Whether you're drawn to the great outdoors, the arts, or historic landmarks, these eight towns are just some of many that provide a rich experience for every traveler. Plan a trip to Upstate New York this upcoming summer and discover the wonders that make these towns unforgettable destinations.

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