View of Seneca Lake from the pier, New York.

8 Coolest Towns in Upstate New York for a Summer Vacation in 2024

Upstate New York has long been a summer vacation haven for travelers, and the reasons for this are not far-fetched. This region is home to endless natural endowments, from crystal clear lakes to towering mountains, forests filled with exciting wildlife, and more. Fortunately, amidst all those incredible natural features are several small towns that serve as launch pads for the region's experiences. In summer, these towns become beehives of activities, with tourists trooping in to enjoy all the adventures under the bright sun. Join these tourists and enjoy unforgettable experiences in these coolest towns in Upstate New York.

Lake Placid

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

Lake Placid is a gorgeous town in the Adirondack Mountains, renowned for its Olympic and winter sports history. However, Lake Placid is vibrant year-round, and summer is one of its peak seasons. For recreational pursuits in summer, the town is home to two lakes - Lake Placid and Mirror Lake-- great for kayaking, fishing, boating, canoeing, and hiking. Mirror Lake is also particularly great for photography more stunning. Next, enjoy charming natural beauty at the nearby High Falls Gorge, home to four scenic waterfalls with steel bridges for panoramic views of the falls alongside the gorge. Before leaving, learn about the world-famous Winter Olympic Games held twice in the town at the Olympic Museum Center and Museum.

Lake George

The charming town of Lake George, New York.
The charming town of Lake George, New York.

Lake George is a charming town positioned on the southern shores of one of the American lakes which is also a prime attraction in the area. Visitors can enjoy the lake via the town's waterfront cruises and offshore expeditions with the steamboat cruise. Back on land, visit Million Dollar Beach to bask under the sun, swim in the lake, enjoy picnics on the sands, boat on the water, and stroll around to admire the scenery. Elsewhere, spend time with the family at Lake George Expedition Park, where kids can behold life-sized dinosaurs in Dino Roar Valley and enjoy amusement rides at the magic forest. History buffs would cherish a visit to Battlefield Park, which preserves important French & Indian War and Revolutionary War battle sites. For more history, head to Fort William Henry Museum to step back in time and experience life at a British Fort in the 1700s.

Saranac Lake

The beautiful settings of Saranac Lake, New York.
The beautiful settings of Saranac Lake, New York.

Saranac Lake is a charming small town in Adirondack Park of New York that is perfect for a laid-back summer experience. The city is close to three lakes, upper, middle, and lower Saranac Lakes, all of which are great spots for boating and fishing. In addition, Lake Flower runs through the downtown area and is a scenic destination from which to unwind and enjoy the warm air of the great outdoors. The lake is home to Riverside Park, which serves as a launch pad for boating, canoeing, and kayaking on the water while beholding the splendor of Dewey Mountain above. Meanwhile, mountain bikers can explore the trails at Dewey Mountain Recreation Center to reignite adventurous spirits. If visiting with family, spend time at the Adirondack Carousel in William Morris Park, where all 24 carousels take the shape of wildlife native to Adirondack.


Long Point State Park in Jamestown, NY
Long Point State Park in Jamestown, NY

Jamestown is a vibrant upstate town sandwiched between Lake Erie and the Allegheny National Forest. Also, the freshwater Chautauqua Lake is nearby, and the Chadakoin River runs through the downtown area, so there's much to see and do here. Visitors can begin by walking on the five-mile Jamestown Riverwalk along the Chadakoin River and stopping at municipal parks like McCrea Point, Comedy Center, and Jackson-Taylor Parks for relaxation and adventures. Next, head to Chautauqua Lake to cool off from the summer heat with exciting adventures like boating, fishing, and kayaking. For visitors who love comedy, Jamestown is home to the National Comedy Center, dedicated to everything laughter. Before leaving, wrap up with some history at Fenton History Center, which is dedicated to the heritage of Jamestown and Chautauqua County.

Seneca Falls

Trinity Episcopal Church in Seneca Falls, New York.
Trinity Episcopal Church in Seneca Falls, New York.

Seneca Falls is a gem in the Finger Lakes region, beside the famous Cayuga Lake. As a result, the Cayuga Lake State Park is one of the towtown'sime outdoor attractions, offering scenic views of the majestic lake and setting the stage for swimming, boating, and kayaking. Seneca Falls also features a canal harbor where visitors can stroll along a promenade to admire the Cayuga-Senecal Canal or boat on the water. For bird lovers, visit the Montezuma National Wildlife Preserve to see various birds and wildlife from hiking trails and observation towers. For something unique, walk along the Bridge Street Bridge, where a man jumped into the river to save a suicidal girl but died in her stead.


Town Center at Woodstock, New York in the Catskill Mountains.
Town Center at Woodstock, New York, in the Catskill Mountains. Image credit littlenySTOCK via Shutterstock.

Woodstock is a quaint town at the foot of the Catskill Mountains with much to offer. Here, only the surrounding 700,000-acre Catskill Park can steal all the summertime, with miles of hiking trails bustling with wildlife such as bears, deer, and cougars. While hiking, ascend to Overlook Mountain at 3,000 feet to capture scenic and magical views of the area. Still in the park, proceed to Ashokan Reservoir to hike around its two-mile trail that offers stunning views of the Catskill Mountains. For art lovers, the famous 60-acre Opus 40 is just outside the town featuring many interesting sculptures. Before leaving town, be sure to stroll through Tinker Street, the town's famous street, and stop by art galleries, restaurants, shops, and boutiques lined up on the street.


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.

Beacon is a pretty town by the Hudson River that boasts a handful of attractions to spice up summer retreats. This town plays host to the 20th-century Bannerman Castle on the tree-covered Pollepel Island which can be explored on guided tours. The town also features numerous parks, notably Mount Beacon (featuring trails to the highest peaks of the Hudson Highlands), and Long Dock Park (great for water sports). For more adventures, stroll through the main street and check out some top galleries like Clutter Gallery and Hudson Beach Glass. Also check out Dia Beacon, the most famous contemporary art museum in the town.


Downtown Ithaca, New York. Image credit Spiroview Inc via Shutterstock
Downtown Ithaca, New York. Image credit Spiroview Inc via Shutterstock.

The college town of Ithaca is one of the finest destinations for a summer retreat in Upstate New York. This lovely town lies beside Cayuga Lake in the Finger Lakes region amid several waterfalls. Hence, a summer vacation here could begin at the Buttermilk Falls State Park, just southwest of the town and featuring 10 different waterfalls, nature trails along Buttermilk Creek, and fishing activities on the creek. Robert H. Treman State Park is another outdoor attraction in town featuring a large swimming area at the foot of a waterfall, playing fields, picnic tables, and camping facilities. Visitors can hike the park's trails to capture its many waterfalls, including the 115-foot stunning Lucifer Falls. Next, head to the adorable Ithaca Falls and wash off summer's heat at the splash pool below. Before leaving town, explore the Ithaca Discovery Trail and stop at the Cayuga Nature Center (featuring information about the area's plant and animal life), and Cornell Botanical Gardens (featuring gorgeous natural beauty).

Beyond the Big Apple, New York State is still incredibly charming as it features scenic and cool towns in the Upstate region. These towns are alluring as they host some of the state's prized natural jewels like lakes, mountains, waterfalls, rivers, creeks, and more. Hence, they offer an escape from the Big Apple that never sleeps and give visitors a respite against the backdrop of nature. With fewer crowds and more attractions to explore, a summer vacation in these top towns in Upstate New York promises to be unforgettable.

  1. Home
  2. Places
  3. Cities
  4. 8 Coolest Towns in Upstate New York for a Summer Vacation in 2024

More in Places