Kingston, New York: a landscape view of the shops and restaurants on West Strand Street in The Rondout, Kingstons historic waterfront, via Brian Logan Photography /

9 Underappreciated Towns to Visit in New York

New York, the second most popular state to visit in the US after Florida, is not underappreciated by most measures. The Empire State encompasses the Adirondacks and the Finger Lakes, reaches Niagara Falls in the north, and includes many more natural wonders, such as the Hudson Valley, lakes, and state parks in between. The Hudson River town of Kingston was the first capital of the Empire State.

East Aurora, just 45 miles from Niagara Falls, is one of the most charming towns in upstate New York, with a walkable downtown, historic allure, and beautiful parks. This is where America’s Arts and Crafts movement began over a century ago. In Ellicottville, Sky High Adventure Park features coasters, zip lines, and treetop courses, while its one-square-mile "Village" bursts with fun activities, eclectic shops, fine restaurants, and history in a family atmosphere, with not a single chain store.


Shops in Cazenovia, New York.
Shops in Cazenovia, New York. Image credit Ryan J Long via Shutterstock.

Founded at the end of the 18th century at the southeast end of Cazenovia Lake, "Caz" is a charming, Norman Rockwell-style village. Its vibrant and classic downtown bursts with cool culture and flowing, handcrafted beverages like those from Critz Farms Brewing and Cider Co., perfect for relaxing on an outdoor patio. From the Lakeland Park Pier to the Lorenzo State Historic Site, Brae Loch Inn is a popular woodsy lodging option with Scottish dining. Minutes away, Stone Quarry Hill Art Park features incredible art installations, and it is only a six-minute drive to Chittenango Falls in the namesake gorgeous park.

At the Cazenovia Public Library, visitors can discover the wonders of an Egyptian tomb, complete with a mummy, at the on-site museum. The boutique and specialty shops offer treasures like antiques, collectibles, and brand-name items, including the latest fashion. For excellent fine dining, the casual Lincklaen House serves the popular buttery homemade popover. From quaint history to modern lodging, nothing beckons like adventures on the lake in the summertime, with kayak rentals and stand-up paddleboards, followed by a relaxing evening at the picturesque Owera Vineyards.

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 /

This underappreciated, deeply historic village prides itself on its preserved buildings and traditional way of life. Only 58 miles from NYC, Cold Spring is an easy escape for a day, with enough experiences for longer stays. There are no chain stores, only thriving independent local businesses that invite you to embrace simplicity. Founded in 1730 on the pretty banks of the Hudson River, nature complements the historic allure along the tree-lined Main Street, a hop from popular hikes like Bull Hill at Mount Taurus.

The Old Cornish Estate is a great natural outing into history, while the Breakneck Ridge is a challenging hike on the way to Beacon. Home to several historic homes and buildings with a wide variety of shops and restaurants, the 1825 Pig Hill Inn is a perfect stay and a window into old-time New York. The iconic General Store is the place to stock up on unique handmade local products for gifts and decor to bring some of Cold Spring's calming ambiance home, which undoubtedly makes it one of the Empire State's most memorable towns.

East Aurora

Early Sunrise scene at the Sinking Ponds Wildlife Sanctuary. East Aurora, New York
Early Sunrise scene at the Sinking Ponds Wildlife Sanctuary. East Aurora, New York, via Pierre Williot /

This western New York town, approximately 25 miles from Buffalo and 45 miles from Niagara Falls, is where America’s Arts and Crafts movement began well over a century ago. East Aurora boasts historic allure, beautiful parks, and unique architecture that make it one of the most charming, underappreciated towns in upstate New York. The walkable downtown, peppered with galleries and notable eateries like the popular Elm Street Bakery, makes it easy to enjoy everything just a stroll away, from the Millard Fillmore Museum—the only house built by the hands of a president—to Hamlin Park, home to the Aurora Players.

Roycroft Inn & Campus is a stunning National Historic Landmark, the cradle of the US Arts & Crafts movement, featuring workshops, a museum, and guided tours within a late-19th-century building and an adjacent castle-like structure. Perfect for a good dose of small-town charm, East Aurora sprinkles creative vibes through specialty shops, antique stores, restaurants, and a craft brewery amidst the churches and carefully preserved houses, which add a grounded feel from two centuries ago. Visitors can easily access the nearby Knox Farm State Park to complete their summertime getaway in nature.


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

Ellicottville, a western New York year-round playground for the outdoorsy, features a 19th-century preserved downtown with historic buildings along its tree-lined streets. Most known for skiing and snowboarding at the Holiday Valley Resort, the small town is underappreciated in the summer. Home to genuinely friendly people, there's something for every adventurer, thrill seeker, or sightseer after breakfast at Katy's Cafe. The active can enjoy mountain biking and hiking at McCarty Hill State Forest before sundown drinks at Ellicottville Brewing Company.

From golf to fishing, paddle boarding, and kayaking in the creek, Sky High Adventure Park offers coasters, zip lines, and treetop courses. The one-square-mile "Village" of Ellicottville bursts with fun activities, eclectic shops, fine restaurants, and history in a family atmosphere, with not a single chain store. There are many places to simply unwind for every taste, from the Gin Mill to the summer music festival. Ellicottville Village Park features a playground right across from the iconic Nannen Arboretum, with its unique trees, shrubs, a pretty pond, and sunset views, perfect for strolling, relaxing, and contemplating in nature.


The historic Kingston Stockade District in Kingston, New York, USA.
The historic Kingston Stockade District in Kingston, New York, USA. Editorial credit: Brian Logan Photography /

Nestled along the Hudson River with Rondout Creek running through its heart, Kingston, the original capital of the Empire State, deserves a second look today. With tourism supporting its cultural attractions, small-town businesses, and creativity like the Ulster Performing Arts Center, visitors can admire the vibrant downtown murals and browse the uptown Farmers Market with its authentic appeal of the olden days. The Dutch Club features 20 local vendors, and the modern NCG Cinemas is a popular evening destination.

The intricate architecture, street art, and live oaks provide a picturesque backdrop along Broadway St., which is alive with a range of cafes like Broadway Lights Diner & Cafe for American cuisine, Hacienda’s Mexican Restaurant, or Sonder for a health kick. From the Hudson River Maritime Museum to the Catskill Mountain Railroad and the old-fashioned half-trolley at the Trolley Museum of New York—these are windows to the past. Catch one for a ride at T.R. Gallo Park on Broadway to Kingston Point Beach. Right across, the Kingston Point Rail Trail is a beautiful walk with water on both sides.


Lockport Railroad Bridge, New York
Lockport Railroad Bridge, New York. Image credit HVEPhoto via

Niagara County offers a plethora of aquatic experiences, and Lockport, located along the Erie Canal, is an underappreciated gem between Lake Erie and Lake Ontario. Blending history with modern attractions, the canal is perfect for summertime strolls and various activities, including fascinating and insightful excursions on the Lockport Locks & Erie Canal Cruises. From cool and creative wineries to year-round skating and ice bumper car rides at Cornerstone Ice Arena, there's something fun and interesting for the whole family, such as a day visit to Blackman Homestead Farm.

Lockport Cave, open seasonally, offers under-the-city sightseeing via walking tours and guided boat tours through the 19th-century Erie Canal locks, tunnels, and caves. Lockport also boasts a robust agricultural scene, which adds a sense of countryside living to this sizable town, providing quick access to nature, as well as fine and farm-to-table dining options like Shamus Restaurant and Kalamata Family Restaurant. For outdoor activities, how about a stroll with a glass of wine at Arrowhead Spring Vineyards or Honeymoon Trail Winery?

Mount Tremper

Zen Mountain Monastery in Mount Tremper, Catskills, New York
Zen Mountain Monastery in Mount Tremper, Catskills, New York

Two and a half hours from NYC, Mount Tremper welcomes visitors with the natural beauty of the Catskills and authentic mountain-style hospitality. Easy to explore even on a short getaway, the popular 5.9-mile trail is great for birding, hiking, and snowshoeing, offering year-round exercise and sightseeing right from town. Home to a world-record-breaking attraction, the Emerson Kaleidoscope is the largest of its kind in existence. This "Emersive" experience is accessible for a small fee and makes you feel like a tiny human inside a giant children’s toy lens.

Don't miss the smaller kaleidoscopes on display and the variety of stores at Emerson. The town's namesake, Mount Tremper, offers two rigorous trails to the steel Tremper Fire Tower, which stands 47 feet tall at 2,730 feet above sea level. Accessible from the parking lot near Old Route 28 on the west side of the mountain, the 6.1-mile trek from the trailhead features an elevation gain of about 1,967 feet. The Willow parking area on Jessop Road provides an alternative route from the east side of the mountain, covering 7.6 miles with an elevation gain of 1,633 feet. After feeling small at Emerson, you'll feel on top of the world at the summit.


Riverwalk in downtown Oswego, New York.
Riverwalk in downtown Oswego, New York. Image credit debra millet via Shutterstock

Oswego, Central New York’s main port town, connects many railroads but remains underappreciated for pleasure rather than convenience. Home to Oswego Speedway and regular engaging events, Oswego is easy to discover and fall for its local charm during the upcoming Harborfest in July, a vibrant celebration by the Lake Ontario waters. This year, Porchfest will be in its ninth year, uniquely designed for anyone to tour a lively neighborhood with all kinds of live talent and music genres performed on homeowners' porches in September.

Notable sites like Fort Ontario State Historic Site and West Pierhead Lighthouse offer visitors year-round enjoyment against the sparkling lakefront. The warmer months are perfect for communing with nature after an hour-long drive to Salmon River Falls, 30 miles to Chimney Bluffs State Park, or the popular Sunset RV Park & Cabins right in town. Nearby, the iconic Rudy's Lakeside Drive-In complements every summer escape, while Oswego Farmers Market along the streets features the best of creative local offerings, including fresh produce, art, and homemade crafts that make perfect gifts.


The Mud Club, Woodstock, New York.
The Mud Club, Woodstock, New York.

Home to the notable Catskill Park, lush nature complements Woodstock's natural creativity. Attracting like-minded free spirits to commune with nature when not exploring its artistic edge, outdoor attractions like hippie-painted buses make it easy to enjoy both in the fresh air. Synonymous with the legendary rock festival, which actually took place near Bethel, Woodstock offers street art, sculptures, and craft boutiques along Tinker Street. It is also just 11 minutes to the boho-style Rip Van Winkle Campgrounds and Opus 40 in nearby Saugerties.

Ashokan Reservoir, just south of Esopus Creek, is indispensable for an excellent summer trip of fishing and tubing. To the north, Overlook Mountain Trailhead is a popular trek in the state, with a Fire Tower observation at the summit. Extending into the culinary sphere, Cucina is an enticing Italian restaurant, and unique lodgings range from classy homestays in town to the lush heart of nature, like the Woodstock Inn or the Howland House, immersed in a calm ambiance. For the evening, don't miss a performance at the Colony or the Levon Helm Studios, a live music venue.

Underappreciated towns are remarkable for preserving their culture and charm amid modern-day attractions. Just six minutes from Chittenango Falls, the lakeside town of Cazenovia is home to Stone Quarry Hill Art Park and a public library where visitors can discover the wonders of an Egyptian tomb, complete with a mummy, at the on-site museum.

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