Downtown Ithaca, New York.

13 Most Underrated Towns In New York To Take A Trip To

New York's most underrated towns are overshadowed by the state's major cities, leaving them unrecognized for their unique charm and value. However, as tourists increasingly seek out more welcoming and memorable experiences, there's a noticeable shift away from the hustle and bustle of big cities like New York City towards these smaller towns. These towns stand out for their efforts to preserve their culture and allure, successfully drawing in more visitors eager to explore beyond the usual urban attractions. From the cheerful, artistic community of Woodstock to nature-centric small towns with a tight-knit community like Ithaca, the Empire State is a joyous escape for all appeals and interests.

Cold Spring

Sidewalk scene in Cold Spring, New York
Sidewalk scene in Cold Spring, New York, via Joe Tabacca /

Cold Spring is an underrated historic village that preserves and prides itself on being untouched by modernization and city development. Located 58 mi from New York City, Cold Spring is one of the only places you can go to embrace an authentic form of the slow life in the Empire State. Founded in 1730, the town’s appeal lies in its natural beauty that complements its historic ambiance and the thriving independent small business hub of the town's main street.

From the Cold Spring General Store, known for selling an array of handmade local products, to the iconic Pig Hill Inn built in 1825, visitors are granted insights into old-times New York, with little to no chain stores in the area. Adding to its appeal is the natural side of Cold Spring, allowing those seeking to venture away from the center to find a calming allure. Some of the best destinations to see much of the natural side include the town’s popular hiking trails like the Old Cornish Estate, Blue Hill at Mount Taurus, and the Challenging Breakneck Ridge located between Cold Spring and Beacon.


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

Lockport, located in Niagara County, differentiates itself with its aquatic experiences, agricultural scene, vineyards, and more. Blackman Homestead Farm, Arrowhead Spring Vineyards, and Honeymoon Trail Winery are a few of the town's agricultural attractions that add a touch of countryside living to the lively city. Highlights of your visit to Lockport include Erie Canal Tours, exploring the Lockport Caves that run under the city, and indulging in some of the town’s best cuisine like Shamus, Kalamata Family Restaurant, and Tom’s Diner, which provides an unforgettable old-time allure.


Downtown view of Geneva, New York.
Downtown view of Geneva, New York. Image credit PQK via Shutterstock.

Geneva is one of the less frequented destinations in the Finger Lakes Region and is located in the heart of the state’s Wine Country. The beauty of the historic town of Geneva lies in its upscale ambiance depicted through aquatic vistas, historic buildings, and a booming wine production industry. Geneva Belhurst Castle, the Smith Opera House, and Rose Hill Mansion are a few of the most notable landmarks narrating tales of the town’s developing history. Travelers to Geneva can also find endless recreation, from kayaking to swimming and hiking at the 151-acre Seneca Lake State Park. Additionally, a visit to Geneva is incomplete without visiting the town’s many vineyards and cellars, with the top-ranked destinations being Ventosa Vineyards, Ravines Wine Cellar, and the old-school wooden Lacey Magruder Vineyard & Winery.


Main Street in Cooperstown, New York
Main Street in Cooperstown, New York. Editorial credit: Steve Cukrov /

Cooperstown is one of the best towns for exploring preserved American heritage, with the town’s National Baseball Hall of Fame and The Farmer’s Museum being some of the most popular attractions. Founded in the late 1700s by William Cooper, there is a historic attraction for all interests in Cooperstown. Those who aren’t interested in baseball can find live performances and classic entertainment at places like Glimmerglass Opera and old businesses like the Fly Creek Cider Mill & Orchard, which have been continuously operating for over 167 years. Cooperstown also makes an ideal family escape with endless group fun and tours like the Rail Explorers tour that stretches through the town's lush nature and the Clark Sports Center that allows for a range of engaging activities, from bowling to rock wall climbing.


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

Once a transportation hub connecting numerous railroads, Oswego is also Central New York’s main port town and one of the most underrated small towns for its endless engaging events. Oswego is the ideal destination for those seeking to get involved and become part of local culture rather than just touring attractions. Harborfest in July is among the town’s main events, while the street-held Oswego Farmers Market brings out the best of creative local efforts, selling everything from homemade crafty goods to local produce and more. The relatively new Porchfest will celebrate its 9th annual event in 2024, as homeowners lend their porches to live music performers in September, providing visitors with a live neighborhood tour of all talents and genres. Adding to the town's appeal are also some natural attractions like Salmon Falls, located an hour away from town, and the must-visit Chimney Bluffs State Park, located 30.4 mi, making it an excellent daytime trip when escaping to Oswego for the weekend.


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

Ithaca is a more popular town in New York compared to other underrated destinations. However, its natural allure and well-rounded small-town experience qualify it to make any ranking of the best New York towns to take a trip. From waterfalls to gorges, Ithaca is a nature lover's paradise with a sense of engaging community. Aside from nature, the town also stands out for its diverse atmospheres, from a lively student-centric business scene thanks to its Cornell University, to a tight-knit community that can be experienced in places like the Farmers Market. The well-rounded experience is also complemented by old-school entertainment options along with galleries and museums that set Ithaca apart from other nearby towns and help attract tourists. The Kitchen Theatre, Johnson Museum Of Art, State Theater, and the Museum Of Earth are a few of the popular destinations to add to your list of places to visit when in town.


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 /

Kingston is home to an engaging shopping experience and makes an excellent trip for those who enjoy supporting creativity and small businesses. The town is also beautified with street art and vibrant murals that add to its downtown allure. Visitors seeking an authentic shopping experience can visit the uptown Farmers Market at the Dutch Club, where they'll find over 20 local vendors, while Broadway St., the town’s Main Street, is abuzz with cafes, dining options, and more. La Hacienda’s Mexican Restaurant, Broadway Lights Diner & Cafe for some American grub, and Sonder for healthy dining are some of the endless dining destinations in town. Additionally, memorable experiences in town include touring Kingston the old-fashioned way with a half-trolley ride at the Trolley Museum of New York, which starts at T.R. Gallo Park on Broadway and stops at Kingston Point Beach.

Niagara Falls

Old Falls Street in downtown Niagara Falls
Old Falls Street in downtown Niagara Falls. Editorial credit: quiggyt4 /

Although not underrated, the town of Niagara Falls is a must-visit destination for any traveler looking to experience the beauties of the Empire State. Highlights of your visit to Niagara Falls include natural excursions with the Maid Of The Mist tour, offering unique viewing points from behind the waterfalls, walking the Cave Of The Winds path for a closeup look, and ziplining across waters. Additionally, the town makes a perfect family-friendly escape with memorable experiences like visiting the town’s Aquarium and even crossing borders to explore the Canadian side, which is located 15 mi away for endless arcades, exhibits, and more. One of the town's best lodging options is the Seneca Niagara Casino, where travelers can try their luck and spend a night in a luxurious 4-star hotel.


Town center of Woodstock, New York
Town center of Woodstock, New York. Image credit littlenySTOCK via Shutterstock.

Woodstock ranks as an underrated city that appeals to creative tourists and artists. Synonymous with music and the legendary Rock Festival, Woodstock also displays its artistic edge through its streets with sculptures, craftsy boutiques like the ones on Tinker Street, and more. Like any other small town in New York, Woodstock also has lush nature that compliments its quirk, with some of the most notable destinations being Catskill Park, Ashokan Reservoir, and Esopus Creek, which makes an excellent trip away from the town for fishing and tubing. Visitors to Woodstock are also allowed the advantage of choosing from unique lodging options, ranging from classy homestays in the town's vibrant downtown to nature-centric stays near the outskirts of town. Top-ranked stays include The Woodstock Inn on Millstream, Hotel Dylan, and the Howland House, which are surrounded by a calm, nature-rich ambiance.

New Paltz

Summer street scene in New Paltz, New York.
Summer street scene in New Paltz, New York. Editorial credit: Michael LaMonica /

Unlike any other small town in New York, New Paltz’s allure lies in its historic waterfront architecture, lively student atmosphere, and well-preserved historic attractions. Old Stone houses dot the town’s historic district, some dating as far back as 1689. Some of the oldest homes to browse include the Jean Hasbrouck House, Bevier-Elting House, and the Abraham Hasbrouck House, which dates back to 1721. For the ultimate small-town experience in New Paltz, visitors, and city escapers can book their stay at the Victorian Castle-like Mohonk Mountain House that spans over 30,000 sq ft and dates back to over 100 years standing as one of the town's main picturesque attractions.

Saranac Lake

Main Street in Saranac Lake, New York
Main Street in Saranac Lake, New York. Image credit Wangkun Jia via Shutterstock

Balancing mountainous vistas with a welcoming small-town feel complemented by a forestry ambiance, Saranac Lake is the best-underrated town in New York for a wilderness trip. From train excursions through the town's forests to hiking paths up Baker Mountain overlooking the chain of lakes in town, Saranac Lake makes an excellent destination to zone out from the city bustle and regroup. Though nature is the main appeal for those visiting Saranac Lake, visitors can also appreciate artistic local talents in the town’s central business district. Adirondack Artists Guild Gallery, NorthWind Fine Arts Gallery, and The Small Fortune Studio are a few of the many displays in town, all conveniently located near each other on Main St.


Aerial view of Goshen, New York
Aerial view of Goshen, New York

Finally, Goshen makes a memorable family escape for its newly constructed Legoland that was built in 2021. Though the town was one of the Empire State’s best-kept secrets, it’s becoming increasingly popular among vacationers for its attractions that are tailored to all ages and interests. From insights into the town’s past in places like the Harness Racing Museum & Hall Of Fame to live horse races at the town’s Goshen Historic Track, which stands as one of the longest continuously operating venues. Conveniently located 65 mi from New York City, Goshen makes the perfect weekend escape for city dwellers and part of an excellent small-town hopping itinerary to see more of the Empire State with stops like the Orange County Arboretum, a 35-acre vibrant garden for those taking route 84.

Ultimately, the 13 most underrated Towns in New York to Take A Trip to are a memorable escape that tailors to all interests and appeals extending from the artistic flair of Woodstock to the hidden Caverns of Lockport. Whether looking for an enriching cultural experience, a peaceful retreat into nature, or the thrill of adventure, look beyond the bustling metropolises, and you won’t be disappointed.


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