Downtown Sylvan Beach, New York. Image credit Mahmoud Suhail via

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

Small towns in Upstate New York are often underrated and passed over for major city attractions. However, even small towns in northern New York State can surprise tourists with fun activities, beautiful landscapes, and unique adventures, from skiing in the Adirondack mountains to relaxing in a lakeside resort. Visitors will find these towns wholly unique from the top-rated cities of New York but with just as much to offer.

These towns all share the trait of hosting the beauty of the natural parks, lakes, and rivers, providing trails for sightseeing places like the Saranac River or Seneca Lake. These towns also have a vibrant life of local small businesses with decades of history in the community, and local museums and historical monuments like Fort Ontario or The Ark Marker. Whether it is nature or history you seek, come discover the most underrated towns in upstate New York to take a trip to.


Lockport Railroad Bridge (Upside-Down Bridge), This bridge is a multi-span railroad bridge built in 1902 in Lockport, New York, USA, via JHVEPhoto /
Lockport Railroad Bridge, New York. Image credit HVEPhoto via

Approximately 20 miles east of Niagara Falls, Lockport is a small town full of waterways and canal locks, famous as revolutionary engineering marvels. Tourists will be enamored with the underground boat tour of 19th-century Lockport Cave and Locks for only $24.95 per person (plus taxes). Regular cruises of the various Locks and the Erie Canal are available for visitors year-round.

For overnight stays, the Lockport Inn and Suites is an inexpensive stay with impeccable ratings and rooms start at $99. For fine dining in a contemporary setting, Steak Stone & Sushi is a wonderful restaurant on Transit Road serving pan-Asian favorites like fried calamari and miso soup. For after-dinner dessert, try Kith & Kin Bakeshop & Bistro with its famed 100% gluten-free baking and even some dairy-free options.


Lewiston, New York as seen from the dock on the Niagara River, with Queenston, Ontario, Canada in the background.
Lewiston, New York, as seen from the dock on the Niagara River. Image credit Atomazul via

Just upriver from Niagara Falls on the US–Canada Border, Lewiston sits apart from the big city development. Lewiston parks, like Joseph Davis State Park, offer activities such as largemouth bass fishing, a beautiful nature trail, a 27-hole frisbee golf course, and trails for skiing and snowmobiling. After a long day of adventure, visitors can rest at the Niagara Crossing Hotel & Spa for a relaxing evening at only $89 a night.

The history of Lewiston is another reason to stop in this town, as it has been a key part of many historical events from the War of 1812 to the Underground Railroad. The Lewiston Museum features these stories and more in exhibits and walking tours. Lewiston is also full of cultural wonders like the world-famous ARTPARK, where artists come from around the globe to showcase their work and be inspired by others.


Liftbridge over the Erie Canal at Medina, New York
Liftbridge over the Erie Canal at Medina, New York.

Medina is a lakeside, riverside, and railroad town with a plethora of water activities like freshwater fishing on Glenwood Lake or simply taking in the views of Medina Falls. The two historic bridges, Medina Lift Bridge and Horan Road Bridge offer great views of the river and town.

Visitors will also enjoy the many local businesses like Zambistro, fine dining and catering, and Fitzgibbons Public House, a pub built for all. History lovers cannot miss the Medina Railroad Museum featuring railway memorabilia, sprawling model train setups, and a vintage passenger car excursion. The Hart House offers a night stay at a historic brick hotel that first opened in 1876; rooms start at $149.


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

Oswego is a town of cultural advancement and historical sights with amazing views of the Oswego River which bisects the town. Visitors will be delighted by the mix of cuisine and tastes from local restaurants like Canale’s Family Restaurant, which serves Italian dishes featuring seafood fresh off Lake Ontario. Another must-try eatery is Bridie Manor serving Tuscan cuisine like pasta di’amore and the popular fried haddock in the last Oswego flower mill. A popular bar is Gibby's Irish Pub featuring activities alongside the bar like mini-bowling and live music.

Stays in Oswego are made all the better with a night at Clarion Hotel & Suites Riverfront for only $136 a night visitors can enjoy riverfront views and be just next door to the Splash Indoor Water Park and Resort. History lovers must visit the historic Fort Ontario dating to the early 1840s. As a military stronghold, now visitors can take guided tours, view historic exhibits, and even watch videos explaining the history of the fort.

Sylvan Beach

People at Sylvan Beach (Oneida Lake) in Upstate New York.
Beach at Sylvan Beach, New York. Image credit Mahmoud Suhail via

The lakeside paradise of Sylvan Beach offers water activities from freshwater fishing to river rafting. Nature lovers can enjoy a night under the stars at Paradise Cove Campgrounds. It is about 10 minutes away, and is a scenic location surrounded by rivers and ponds, ideal for fishing. For the more city-focused visitor, there is the Cove at Sylvan Beach Cottage Rentals offering two and three-bedroom cottages plus pet-friendly rentals; prices vary based on rental.

The Lake House at Sylvan Beach is a casino and resort with over 100 slot machines and regular live entertainment from DJs to magicians. For the best eats in Sylvan Beach visit Eddie's, a family-run restaurant serving classic American breakfast and lunch with a mix of Italian and American dinners.


View of the small village of Brewerton , New York
View of the small village of Brewerton, New York. Image credit Wirestock Creators via Shutterstock

Brewerton is one of the small towns in New York often overlooked but with a closer investigation one can find just how rich vacation in this town can be with some of the most unique bars and eateries in the state like Wild Horse Bar and Grill or Waterfront Tavern. Another feature of this small town is the number of boating tours exploring Oneida Lake. Visitors can find these tours at Big Bay or 43 North Marina.

Days Inn by Wyndham Brewerton gives visitors a fantastic stay only minutes from the water’s edge for only $71 a night. For Friday night fun the Brewerton Speedway has a ⅓ mile track with activities for young enthusiasts.


Overlook of Cornell University Campus from Uris Library
Cornell University Campus, Ithaca, New York.

Located in New York’s Finger Lake Region on the southern tip of Cayuga Lake, Ithaca is a center for education home to the prestigious Cornell University. For tourists visiting Ithaca the Sciencenter is a museum featuring scientific exhibits focused on educating visitors young and old. Another impressive museum worth visiting is the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art a cultural center featuring works from Ancient Rome to Modern New York in a historic monument to architectural design.

Those staying in the Finger Lake Region should consider The Hotel Ithaca, a top-rated and well-priced accommodation at only $149 a night. Visitors should also try as many local eateries as possible such as Collegetown Bagels or More Than Pizza Ithaca for classic New York cuisine.


The Dunkirk Lighthouse.
The Dunkirk Lighthouse, New York.

On the southwestern edge of Lake Erie, the community of Dunkirk is an easy-to-miss small town that offers great vacation opportunities to prospective tourists. From historical tours of Dunkirk Lighthouse to lounging on the beautiful Wright Park Beach, Dunkirk is a top-rated town for relaxing vacations. Tourists can stay close to the water with a stay at the Clarion Hotel for $106 a night and only a seven-minute walk to Dunkirk City Pier with clear views of Lake Erie, plus instant access to a serene garden gazebo on the water’s edge.

The several shops and eateries on Dunkirk City Pier are famous attractions, such as 64 On The Pier, a local bar and grill well known for their delicious burgers and beer-battered onion rings. Also near the Pier is Fredonia Technology Incubator, a local science and business center and university, which offers regular tours and open house events showcasing their most advanced innovations.


City Hall and Farmer's Market in Massena, New York.
City Hall and Farmer's Market in Massena, New York. Image credit Gary Stevens, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Massena is a beautiful small town at the northernmost border of New York State. Two rivers bisect this scenic town, the Raquette River and Grass River, providing ample opportunity for fishing and other water sports, while the St Lawrence River flows to the north of the town. Quality Inn, at $120 a night, has rooms with instant access to some of Messena’s finest establishments and is only two blocks from the Grass River.

Massena Museum is a must-visit location for any lovers of history, with exhibits featuring a history of the St Lawrence Seaway, and National Aluminum Production. Morley's American Grill is a classic American bar and grill serving favorites like the famous morley burger or Philly cheesesteak.


Plattsburgh New York Monument Aerial
Plattsburgh, New York, Macdonough Monument.

Located in Cumberland Bay on the New York–Vermont state line, Plattsburgh is a town famous for its history with some of the most interesting historical sights in the area, such as the Ark Marker, a historical marker erected in 1815 to remember the place where the first village officers were elected. Battle of Plattsburgh Associates is an educational museum featuring exhibits, theater, and a gallery on the War of 1812 and the Plattsburgh Battle.

The Golden Gate Lodging grants a spectacular view of the water and Cumberland Head for only $85 a night. For the best Greek cuisine, Aleka’s serves famous Greek dishes like Greek steak with feta, garlic, and herb butter compote.


Historic sandstone and brick commercial buildings with Italianate style on Main Street in downtown Malone, Upstate New York
Historic buildinga on Main Street in downtown Malone, New York. Image credit Wangkun Jia via Shutterstock

In the foothills of the Adirondack Mountains, the township and village of Malone is a historic hotspot dating back to 1802, when the town was first settled by just two men. Now, the town is a thriving community featuring beautiful golf courses and ball fields like no other. The Malone Golf Club is famous in New York and Canada for its 36 championship golf holes and beautiful outlooks of the Adirondacks.

Red Roof PLUS+ & Suites Malone is the highest-rated hotel and stay in Malone, offering free breakfast and pet-friendly rooms for only $105 a night. While in town, the Franklin County Fairgrounds is a cannot-miss attraction with exhilarating rides, community events like farmers markets and Agricultural Society Car Shows, and regular concerts.


Street View of A Historic Spot Near Fort Stanwix in The Historic City of Rome in Upstate, New York State.
Historic street in Rome, New York. Image credit Mahmoud Suhail via

In the heart of Upstate, New York, the town of Rome thrives as a town of industry and innovation. Also known as the Copper City, Rome once produced nearly 10% of all copper in the United States, making Rome a historic stop for any vacation. A famous historical attraction is The Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers of the American Revolution, available year-round and open to events upon request.

Hampton Inn Rome is the closest hotel to the Griffiss International Airport, offering premium rooms, a complimentary breakfast, an indoor pool, laundry service, and a fitness center all for just $144 a night. For family fun, the Peterpaul Recreation Park is an unbeatable experience featuring bumper boats, go-karts, laser tag, and an arcade.


Colorful main street storefronts in Geneva, New York, US.
Main street storefronts in Geneva, New York. Image credit Spiroview Inc via

Known as the Lake Trout Capital of the World, Geneva is a small yet bustling town on Seneca Lake in the northern Finger Lakes region of New York. Though best known for trout fishing, the town is also famous for its beautiful parks and community-centered activities and events, such as the Martin Luther King Jr. March and Memorial Service on January 15 or the Geneva Farmers Market running every Saturday from May 27th to October 7th from 8:00 am to 1:30 pm.

41 Lakefront Hotel, Trademark Collection By Wyndham is a stay with an unbeatable view of Seneca Lake featuring outdoor seating, a golf course, a restaurant, free breakfast, and a bar; this $99 stay is hard to beat. For local dining, try Redman's Chicken & Rib, a down-to-earth American-style restaurant serving food for the soul.

The small towns in Upstate, New York offer just as many vacation opportunities as any of the big cities but without the crowd and lines. When planning a vacation in New York, consider the smaller towns off the beaten path, as many will surprise tourists with their cultural history and natural beauty. Many places hold ancient historic sites and feature a robust history in popular museum exhibits.

Upstate New York is a beautiful place, home to the Adirondack Mountains and rivers easily visible from small rural towns with hiking and walking paths. So next time that vacation opportunity comes, do not forget the diamonds in the rough.


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