9 Best Small Towns In New York For A Weekend Getaway

The US State of New York shines bright with renowned cities, while its many small towns offer true getaways from the hustle-n-bustle. These nine small towns come with a change in scenery and atmosphere for the best weekend-spent in the state.

Alexandria Bay

Boldt Castle in Heart Island, Alexandria Bay, New York
Boldt Castle in Heart Island, Alexandria Bay, New York

Set amidst the sapphire St. Lawrence Seaway, this gem village-town is surrounded by amazing islands for endless active adventures. The Dark Island is known for the intricately-designed, magnificent century-old Singer Castle with beautiful furnishings and labyrinth passages, while the abandoned Heart Island comes with Boldt Castle's timeless story. The gentle waters are perfect for boating explorations, including canoeing, paddle boarding, or kayaking to the quiet bays and coves along the St. Lawrence River, along with the two scenically historic lighthouses. Around town, there are biking the Seaway Trail along the river, various camping opportunities, as well as visiting the Minna Anthony Common Nature Center. Hikers will revel in the Otter Creek Preserve and Nature Trail, the lushly-jaded Macsherry Trail, and the scenic River Walk between the Bay House Artisans and A Bay International on James Street. If not sunset-watching from the beaches, one can boat out to the Millionaire's Row for the views of lit-up mansions or catch a movie at the Drive-in Theatre in-town under the stars. 

Beacon

View of Newburgh Riverfront from Long Dock Park in Beacon, New York
View of Newburgh Riverfront from Long Dock Park in Beacon, New York. 

Steeped in history, Beacon is also rich in modern-day culture, with an artsy, indie spirit and like-minded people. Only an hour and a half away from New York City, one can spend the weekend immersed in wholesome nature, back-dropped by the Beacon Mountain. The tallest point of the Hudson Highlands, the peak, played a significant role in the American Revolution. Set on the shore of the Hudson River in an old Nabisco box printing factory, the renowned 300,000-square-foot contemporary and modern art museum displays collections from the 1960s to present-day and exhibitions by artists including Walter De Maria and Dan Flavin. The charmingly gothic Swann Inn of Beacon at the base of the mount dates back to 1866, featuring retro-cool decorated rooms, including the blush-worthy Red Parlor Suite, for a uniquely romantic stay. The hotel at Roundhouse Beacon comes with a room overlooking a waterfall, while for going out, there’s the quirky Dr. Who-themed Pandorica, along with local craft breweries.

Canandaigua

The Italian Garden at Sonnenberg Gardens and Mansion State Historic Park in Finger Lakes region, Canandaigua, New York
The Italian Garden at Sonnenberg Gardens and Mansion State Historic Park in Finger Lakes region, Canandaigua, New York. Editorial credit: Leonard Zhukovsky / Shutterstock.com

Canandaigua is a popular summer getaway for the wealthy families of New York City, known mainly for the dreamy 50-acre estate of historic Sonnenberg Gardens and Mansion State Historic Park. Dominating the otherwise-sleepy, posh town in the Finger Lakes, it was built in the Queen Anne style with nine distinct formal gardens, including Japanese and Italian, for endless wandering marvels. Set on the northern shores of Canandaigua Lake, 24 miles from Rochester, the charming town really is "the chosen spot," as its name translates from the native language. Offering an active yet chill getaway, the nature fans can have a day out on the lake in a pontoon boat, rentable from the Sutter's Marina, recharging thereafter on some authentic Mexican grub at the Rio Tomatlan. Following a relaxing stroll at the Kershaw Park or the Canandaigua City Pier, the famed New York Kitchen awaits with meals, tastings, shopping, demos, and classes, as well as a lakeside restaurant with live music. History fans revel in visiting the nearby Granger Homestead and the Carriage Museum for carriage and sleigh rides, while those who are seeking extreme adventure go for the Zipline Canopy Tour and the Aerial Adventure Park at the Bristol Mountain's Aerial Adventures.

Catskill

Quaint little town on the Hudson River called Catskill in upstate New York
Quaint little town on the Hudson River called Catskill in upstate New York. 

The town of Catskill is a known dream getaway for nature fans and 19th-century history buffs. Home to the famed painter Thomas Cole, who settled there for the unmatched mountain vistas, one can visit his house in the town today. Now a National Historic Site, it is also the setting of the author Washington Irving’s famous short story, “Rip Van Winkle.” The Kaaterskill Falls is renowned as one of the state’s tallest to see via a quick drive or a 15-mile biking trip. In town, the Main Street comes with many eateries, various shops, and boutiques like the Mahalo Gift Shop selling some tongue-in-cheek swag. The Long Neck Inn offers a hotel and campground over the old Catskill Game Farm, spread for more sights and endless scenery in the great outdoors.

City Island

Set right in New York City, the island offers a truly unique escape with a small-town feel and a quaint seaside essence of a New England resort. The downtown area comes with eye-candy old Victorian homes, including the NYC landmark Schofield House, the oldest home on the island from 1840. The fishing village is also home to several yacht clubs and waterfront restaurants serving fresh seafood. Presenting a laid-back atmosphere for a relaxing getaway, City Island also brims with water activities such as scuba diving, fishing charters, and sailing lessons for the adventurous. The City Island Nautical Museum displays shipbuilding history in local photographs, while the Bronx Equestrian Center offers rides and lessons. For more wholesome family fun, the Turtle Cove Golf Center set in Pelham Bay Park comes with miniature golf, batting cages, and a driving range. The full resort experience in New York City would not be complete without hitting to unwind, the Orchard Beach, and the Promenade at the park.

Goshen

Aerial view of the Historic Goshen Track in Goshen, New York
Aerial view of the Historic Goshen Track in Goshen, New York. 

Named one of the 15 Best Small Towns to Visit by the Smithsonian magazine, Goshen is also home to the state's new hotspot, the LEGOLAND New York Resort. Comprising the world's largest theme park of its kind, it makes Goshen unbeatable for the ultimate family weekend getaway. The nature fans will love venturing to the rolling hills, orchards, and farms around, inclusive with a rich history of harness racing. Horse-lovers can check out the Goshen's Harness Racing Museum and Hall of Fame for the town's historic track, paintings, and lithographs by Currier & Ives. There are also artifacts, including those from Goldsmith's Maid, the top horse in harness racing, along with exhibits on breeding and training and a 3D simulated ride. In town, the Main Street comes brimful with adorable shops and eateries, while the active can take on the 18-mile Heritage Trail that runs from Middletown to Harriman through Goshen. Meandering its way through a bird and wildlife sanctuary with historic landmarks on the way, the trail also bypasses quiet streams and rolling meadows for scenic picnicking or a delightful overnight stay.

New Paltz

The Mohonk Mountain House across a lake with a dock and small rock island in New Paltz, New York
The Mohonk Mountain House across a lake with a dock and a small rock island in New Paltz, New York. 

Set within a quick drive from Albany and New York City, the college town of New Paltz bounded by the Wallkill River features a lively, youthful vibe for a fun and refreshing weekend getaway. Founded in 1678, the town’s rich history is on full display throughout its atmospheric streets, lined with beautiful old buildings, along with notable bars and boutique shops. The scenically-set Mohonk Mountain House offers a memorable stay in its famous Victorian-era castle-like resort, with attractions and amenities to suit any taste. One’s weekend getaway would not be complete without taking a hike or a biking trip through the incredible landscapes in the vicinity. There’s scenic picnicking within the mesmerizing nature of the Wallkill Valley, as well as the feat of climbing some of the craggy tops in the Shawangunk Range for the active.

Sag Harbor

A civil war monument that was erected in 1896 in Sag Harbor, New York
A civil war monument that was erected in 1896 in Sag Harbor, New York. Editorial credit: Jaclyn Vernace / Shutterstock.com

Comprising the ideal weekend getaway destination, Sag Harbor is a part of the Hamptons in the "Out East" among the other attractive East Hampton, Southampton, and Amagansett. A town made for leisurely strolls, there's the adorable Main Street in picturesque downtown featuring many places to eat, shop, and people watch. One must venture into the popular Loveshackfancy luxury lifestyle shop, along with the celebrated home décor shop, Jayson Home, which gets crowded, but for a good reason. The scenic waterfront marina calls for a relaxing walk, followed by a visit to the popular Sag Harbor Whaling & Historical museum set in a mansion. Its exhibits and antiques celebrate the town's fame in shipbuilding history, while the meticulously-preserved façade and interior offer true feasting for the eyes. 

Saranac Lake

Colorful aerial view of Saranac Lake, New York in the Adirondack Mountains during fall
Colorful aerial view of Saranac Lake, New York, in the Adirondack Mountains during fall. 

Set on the beautiful Saranac Lake with a stunning mountainous backdrop, the village proudly proclaims itself as "The Adirondacks' Coolest Place." The climate is ideal for a myriad of outdoor activities, while the excellent in-town attractions include creative eateries, along with cultural and arts events. The unique Saranac Laboratory Museum tells the story of the village as the former warm destination for tuberculosis patients. Many hiking trails in the vicinity include difficult mountain terrain for climbers, while the water fans will love canoeing or kayaking into the turquoise depths or fishing in the clear shallows. For some old-fashioned fun, the Adirondack Carousel is an absolute masterpiece featuring scenes painted by local artists, along with 24 hand-carved indigenous to the Adirondacks animals. 

Easily reachable from significant metropolises in the state, these best small towns offer everything from history, to beaches-galore, to endless arts and culture opportunities at their hearts. Set-surrounded by some fantastic natural scenery, the outdoor activities and explorations provide a real respite during a weekend getaway. 

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