Glimmerglass State Park on Lake Otsego in Cooperstown, New York

These Small Towns in New York Come Alive in Summer

The Empire State, with its incredible array of world-famous attractions, is full of superb natural scenery, too. Choose from this loveliest list of towns to enjoy this summer with watersports, mountain hikes, and downtowns full of hotspots to cleanse your city-exposed mind through thoughtless pursuits.

From the soaring Adirondack Mountains to the Poconos and the idyllic Finger Lakes, you can also snatch a town between the Atlantic, Lake Erie, and Lake Ontario. Needless to say, New York and nature really do go hand in hand, to the surprise of many, with some of the most charming towns in the country that come alive under the summer's scenic touch.

Alexandria Bay

The view of waterfront homes surrounded by striking fall foliage along St Lawrence River, via Khairil Azhar Junos /
The view of waterfront homes surrounded by striking fall foliage along St Lawrence River, via Khairil Azhar Junos /

This island village amid the calm St. Lawrence Seaway is a summertime dreamscape for all romantics, sightseers, and warm-weather lovers. Escape into the remote vibe and calm-inducing atmosphere from the daunting city and the daily stressors with water sports, boating, and chillaxing at the views. After the due time spent sprawling along the sands, explore some of the scenically strewn, most spectacular islands of the region, meandering the river and bays with secret caves. Visit the timeless Boldt Castle on the nearby Heart Island, and veer onto the mysterious Dark Island for a tour of the magnificent Singer Castle, an over century-old magnificent feat of architecture with intricate furnishings and perplexing passages.

Back on home isle, Millionaire’s Row inspires with a lux view of seaside real estate envy. while the two historic lighthouses wink at you with the wisdom of events unraveling and the changing scenery through the years. Choose a stay for your taste and let the sea breeze in through the windows of quaint B&Bs, or choose an RV park or camp in state parks. The Otter Creek Preserve calls for a stroll in tranquility along its Nature Trail, while the River Walk beckons with sights in between Bay House Artisans and A Bay International on James Street. Explore the Macsherry Trail and relax in the serenity of Minna Anthony Common Nature Center. The Seaway Trail (NYS Route 12) runs parallel to the St. Lawrence River for a scenic drive before turning in for a movie at the Bay Drive-In Theater.


Main Street near the National Baseball Hall of Fame, via Michelangelo DeSantis /
Main Street near the National Baseball Hall of Fame, via Michelangelo DeSantis /

This is a very fun town to visit during the long summertime season, especially for beer connoisseurs. Visit the flagship brewery, Ommegang, for a craft brew along with its international followers, brewing since 1997. Visit with your family to explore its 136-acre farmstead property and events like "Fire Pit Fridays." While the dads enjoy the time of their lives, the rest of the gang can hang out at the 100-seat Cafe Ommegang over a Belgian-inspired meal made from locally grown ingredients. Cooperstown is also the birthplace of baseball and home to the world-famous National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, with the National Pastime’s history of excellence through generations.

Cooperstown marina and docks on Otsego Lake in New York
Cooperstown marina and docks on Otsego Lake in New York

Enjoy more of the sunny outdoors at the Farmers Museum to see what life was like back in the 19th century, and stroll through the refreshing Glimmerglass State Park or the beautiful trail along the Cooperstown and Charlotte Valley Railroad. Choose the venerable Otesaga Resort Hotel, with over a century in its pocket of delighting guests with prime stays by the southern end of Otsego Lake. Spend an evening in one of its Adirondack rocking chairs, enjoy your morning java there, and peek inside the Hawkeye Restaurant.


Mitchell Marina view from the ocean, via Aleksandr Dyskin /
Mitchell Marina view from the ocean, via Aleksandr Dyskin /

Greenport is a coastal village, lively throughout the year and most exciting under the sunshine, with sparkling waters surrounding its North Fork of Long Island location. Peruse the vibrant downtown with its sea-infused air, rich maritime vestiges from its past, and charming shops. The array of seafood restaurants for all styles of dining will fill you up on omega-3-rich, fresh, locally caught fare every day of your summertime getaway. Stroll along the shores with the views of Shelter Island, or take a breezy ferry ride for a tranquil retreat with a hike through the 2,039-acre Mashomack Preserve and stunning shoreside views.

Street view in Greenport, New York
Street view in Greenport, New York

Back on home soil, visit the East End Seaport Museum and feel free to spend the rest of your time relaxing along the nearby beaches, like at Orient Beach State Park. The scenic harbor beckons with evening sunset strolls, a lively atmosphere, and a historic carousel for a spin. Greenport blends nature, history, and local maritime charm in a summertime haze. Don't leave without a local vineyard stroll, and return for a quintessential wintertime Long Island experience.


Village Tavern Restaurant and Inn, via
Village Tavern Restaurant and Inn, via Hammondsport Attractions

This tiny Finger Lakes village of under 600 full-time residents spreads along the right bank at the end of the aquamarine Keuka Lake. Despite scores of summertime water-loving tourists, it retains a tranquil lakefront ambiance where you can always snatch a private spot for close gatherings, water fun, and recreation around the immense lake. The small town of Hammondsport with laidback streets is a perfect summertime hangout spot with feel-good downtown strolls and porching with a glass of wine over cheese and lake views. Find gift shops and retail options just steps away, in between quality restaurants overlooking the waters.

Choose a local wine from around the region for a scenically refreshing picnic on the beach, or head to the "Home of the Wine" outskirts. You are now primed to visit one of the great Upstate’s "unknown" museums, the Glenn H. Curtiss Museum, honoring the native son Glenn Hammond Curtiss, a contemporary of the Wright Brothers. This modern museum is filled with aviation pioneer memorabilia of the inventor and No. 1 licensed US pilot, aircraft, motorcycles, and exciting vestiges from his life in the village. Find family-friendly waterfront parks, stroll through the lush vineyards, and take a breezy boat ride for a cute town view.


Aerial view of Narrowsburg, New York
Aerial view of Narrowsburg, New York

The charming hamlet of Narrowsburg spreads charmingly in a thin strip along the beautiful Delaware River. It is your ultimate Catskills small town summertime retreat, with arts and culture strewn Main Street and delightful hotspots. Stock up on one-of-a-kind home decor from the cool Maison Bergogne design store with antique hardware and salvaged lighting. Enjoy summer days full of water sports in the lush waterfront scenery, like canoeing and kayak rides down the Delaware River, or take a delightful float under the sun from Skinner’s Falls.

The Heron is the best place to recharge and will keep you coming back to its idyllic river setting and delicious American cuisine incorporating agricultural resources locally grown in the region. The Laundrette is a favorite pizza place, featuring mouthwatering wood-fired flatbreads made from naturally leavened sourdough as well as homemade desserts. Pay a visit to the Delaware Valley Arts Alliance and extend your vacation for the Big Eddy Film Festival in the fall.

Sag Harbor

Beach goers on Foster Memorial Beach in Sag Harbor, via Jaclyn Vernace /
Beach goers on Foster Memorial Beach in Sag Harbor, via Jaclyn Vernace /

This small harborside village bursts with charm on Long Island, nestled in the heart of the Hamptons. Find enchanting accommodations along the pristine beaches and commence your sunny explorations around the island. Sag Harbor's centuries-old streets, lined by ancient trees and stately homes, reflect the old vacationing style, interspersed with modern businesses and amenities.

The bustling whaling port of the past is one of the East End’s loveliest villages, with the Sag Harbor Whaling & Historical Museum and fascinating vestiges. It is Long Island’s only city with a marine port as part of its main shopping area, so swipe away your city stress through boutiques and dine on fare from around the world. This safe haven during the Jim Crow era honors its heroes through three historically black neighborhoods, Sag Harbor Hills, Azurest, and Ninevah, or SANS, which you can discover on a self-guided walking tour.

Saranac Lake

Cabin coastline on Saranac Lake in upstate New York bathed in the morning sunrise
Cabin coastline on Saranac Lake in upstate New York bathed in the morning sunrise

Saranac Lake is a quaint town along the beautiful Saranac Lake and surrounded by stunning mountain vistas. Choose a lakeside stay and enjoy one hell of a summertime getaway in the self-proclaimed "Adirondacks’ Coolest Place." The village wakes up during the summer through nature and a vibrant streetscape with local hotspots. Enjoy an optimal climate for outdoor pursuits, pleasantly moderated by natural features, where hikers and climbers enjoy trails diverging from the town while fishermen cast lines in lakes and rivers. Swim along the shores or paddle out into nature with options like canoe and kayak rentals from St. Regis Canoe Outfitters.

Main Street in village of Saranac Lake in Adirondack Mountains, New York
Main Street in Saranac Lake in the Adirondack Mountains, New York

Browse through the creative eateries, galleries, and shops, with regular cultural and arts events throughout. The Adirondack Carousel is a must-experience for all ages atop one of its 24 hand-carved indigenous animals of the Adirondacks and locally painted rounding boards of regional scenes. Stop by the Saranac Laboratory Museum, with its unique history of a tuberculosis treatment center, and return for the utmost fun at the Winter Carnival with renowned foods, local craft beverages, and a community-built ice palace.


Shops and Restaurants on Skaneateles Lake in upstate New York, view from the pier, via
Shops and Restaurants on Skaneateles Lake in upstate New York, view from the pier, via PQK /

The picturesque lakeside village with a charming name is a mecca for summertime getaways and vacations. Escape to this shore of Skaneateles Lake, one of the Finger Lakes' most stunning, for delightful pursuits under the sun by the refreshing waters. The crystal-clear lake beckons for watersports, swimming, and strolls along the sands with the views, while the downtown awaits with boutique shops, galleries, and world-class dining, with the same sparkling waters peaking through the businesses.

Enjoy kayaking and paddleboarding, or take a misty cruise aboard Judge Ben Wiles or Barbara S. Wiles. The surrounding lush green hills couldn't be lovelier for a stroll and a sunny day picnic with a local bottle of wine from several wineries, such as Anyela's Vineyards and White Birch Vineyards, with more spectacular lake views. Visit for the July-long Skaneateles Festival celebration, presenting world-famous artists.


Soap Box Derby in Tannersville, NY, via KMarsh /
Soap Box Derby in Tannersville, NY, via KMarsh /

"New York's Painted Village in the Sky" is one of the loveliest places to visit in the Poconos during the summer. Tannersville is part of the Town of Hunter, with its own centuries-old Main Street, a candy wrapper of historic architecture. Take a delightful stroll along the brightly painted buildings in lively colors with decorative shutters and eye-catching signs of the small businesses like boutique shops, antique stores, and exceptional eateries. Hunt for the quirky characters related to each business and stop by one of the unique small town shops for memorabilia about this genuinely happy, one-of-a-kind place.

You will feel dopamine rise through the roof in an instant from the infectious scenery under the summertime vibe and sunshine. Drive around Greene County and choose a venture at your pace amid the serene nature, like fishing, hunting, hiking, or a picnic. Enjoy convenient access to miles of pristine wilderness through the refreshing Catskill Park, and visit the Mountain Top Arboretum to zen out. This beautiful public garden offers a natural extension of color from the village through its own 178 scenic acres of meadows, wetlands, and native plants.

New York is not all about the heated steel walls of the other glamorous Big Apple during the summer. Escape the crowds to one of the smaller towns that come alive with nature and are under the hands of locals catering to visitors without the tourist vibe. Choose a small town, each with its own identity, in the embrace of nature with a quaint vibe despite its summertime popularity.

Enjoy vineyard strolls, serene lakeshore recreation, and beach time before perusing through local downtown favorites amid historic sites and local cultural events. New York has everything for a relaxing weekend getaway or a whole summertime vacation through its small towns, with something for everyone to immerse themselves in.

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