The Most Beautiful Towns to Visit in Upstate New York

Lake Placid is popular with outdoor adventurers year-round
Lake Placid is popular with outdoor adventurers year-round | © Charles O. Cecil / Alamy Stock Photo
Photo of Rachel Gould
Art & Design Editor4 May 2021

When you think New York, you probably think of the industrial hubbub of Manhattan. However, there is much more to the Empire State than towering skyscrapers and rumbling subways. Why not escape the urban in some pristine countryside, or stay in a horror-inspiring village? You’ve not gotten the most out of your NY stay until you’ve given these towns a fair shake.

Cold Spring

Natural Feature
Map View
Main Street Cold Spring New York
© Len Holsborg / Alamy Stock Photo
With a spot on the National Register of Historic Places, Cold Spring in Putnam County is a popular weekend getaway for New York City residents. The village center is quaint, featuring restored 19th-century buildings and independent shops. It’s the perfect place for getting in touch with nature: a quiet stroll, biking, boating and kayaking are all at your fingertips. However, there’s also space for shopping, restaurants, and charming bed and breakfasts.

Lake Placid

Natural Feature
Map View
Lake Placid, New York.
© Charles O. Cecil / Alamy Stock Photo

Located in the Adirondack Mountains, the village of Lake Placid was listed in US News & World Report as one of the 6 Forgotten Vacation Spots in North America. Surrounded by natural beauty, Lake Placid is consistently popular among snow skiers, hikers and bikers. The village was founded in the 19th century, and today maintains plenty of original small-town charm.

Ithaca

Natural Feature
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Cornell University in Ithaca New York
© James Schwabel / Alamy Stock Photo

The city of Ithaca is widely known for stunning natural beauty and thriving local culture. Dine at one-of-a-kind restaurants, wander in and out of galleries, attend live-music events, and explore nearby gorges and the shores of Cayuga Lake. Home to a population of university students, Ithaca possesses a diverse community full of history and culture.

Sleepy Hollow

Historical Landmark
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Philipsburg Manor historical Old Grist Mill is part of Sleepy Hollow in Tarrytown, New York.
© The Photo Works / Alamy Stock Photo

Less than an hour from Manhattan, this legendary village was made immortal by Washington Irving’s 1820 horror classic. Appropriately olden are the Philipsburg Manor, the Old Dutch Church of Sleepy Hollow, and the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery. Famed historical figures such as Andrew Carnegie, Brooke Astor and Elizabeth Arden are buried there.

New Paltz

Natural Feature
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Skytop Tower Reflections - Mohonk Mountain House, New Paltz, Hudson Valley, New York, USA
© Bill Gozansky / Alamy Stock Photo

The town of New Paltz in Ulster County lies approximately 88mi (142km) from New York City and 70mi (113km) south of Albany. Largely characterized by the local student population, New Paltz is home to boutique shops and restaurants. The town offers countless outdoor activities, alongside several cultural and historical points of interest, including the Historic Huguenot Street and the Elting Memorial Library.

Tarrytown

Natural Feature
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Lyndhurst Mansion, Tarrytown, New York
© Mira / Alamy Stock Photo

Located only 31mi (50km) north of New York City, Tarrytown sits on the eastern shore of the Hudson River. Steeped in local history, with original Dutch settlements dating back to the 17th century, Tarrytown is an ideal destination for New Yorkers looking to escape the city for a day. Points of interest include Lyndhurst Mansion, Jay Gould’s Gothic Revival estate; Sunnyside, the home of Washington Irving; and Castle Hotel & Spa, a 19th-century Norman-style castle on the Hudson River.

Saratoga Springs

Natural Feature
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Mansion in Saratoga Springs, New York
© Vespasian / Alamy Stock Photo

An ideal place to live within New York State, Saratoga Springs is a picturesque city north of Albany. The area was settled by English colonists in the 17th century and played an important role in the Revolutionary War. Today, Saratoga Springs is best known for horse racing. However, it also prospers culturally from the Saratoga Performing Arts Center, as well as the summer residencies of the New York City Ballet and the Philadelphia Orchestra.

Woodstock

Historical Landmark, Architectural Landmark
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A "head shop" in Woodstock, New York State, in the Catskills
© Philip Scalia / Alamy Stock Photo

A cultural center point, Woodstock is best known for sharing a name with the legendary 1969 music festival – despite it actually taking place 60mi (97km) away in Bethel. It remains a historical and cultural haven, though. The town was a leading site of the Hudson River School in the 19th century, followed by the Arts and Crafts Movement in the early 1900s. The founding of the Byrdcliffe Arts Colony further defined the cultural influence of Woodstock.

Watkins Glen

Natural Feature
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Public dock on Seneca Lake at Watkins Glen, NY. Image shot 05/2014. Exact date unknown.
© Robert K. Olejniczak / Alamy Stock Photo

Popular thanks to a close proximity to the bucolic Watkins Glen State Park, the village of Watkins Glen lies at the intersection between Seneca Lake and the Chemung River. It’s known for ties to auto racing throughout the 20th century and continues to attract tourists each year with summer festivals. When it’s not festival season, you can enjoy outdoor activities such as hiking, camping and fishing.

These recommendations were updated on May 4, 2021 to keep your travel plans fresh.

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