Upstate New York is rife with adventurous options for a stint outside the city. From picturesque New England towns to skiing, hiking, biking and even wineries, you’ll be overwhelmed by the array of activities at hand. Hop in the car or take a train from NYC and within a mere hour or so you’ll feel like you’ve entered another world. And while you could truly spend the rest of your life exploring all that this region has to offer, here’s a list of suggestions for interesting things to do and see in upstate New York.
Storm King is an absolute must-do for any New Yorker. A massive outdoor sculpture garden that makes for a perfect day trip, Storm King is just an hour north of Manhattan in the lower Hudson Valley. Its 500 acres of landscape is home to over 100 sculptures by some of the most famed artists of the 20th century through to today, and right now they have two seasonal exhibitions, Dennis Oppenheim: Terrestrial Studio and Outlooks: Josephine Halvorson, on display. Wander the grounds or even sign up for a bike tour. If you’re looking to get outside and see some art this is the place to do it.
Upstate New York is full of small, picturesque towns to explore, and perhaps one of the most interesting is Sleepy Hollow. Located in Mount Pleasant, Sleepy Hollow has become known as a ‘Halloween town’ due to its significance in Washington Irving’s iconic story The Legend ofSleepy Hollow. And while there are lots of spooky things to see and do, it’s a lovely town to explore any time of year, so check out our guide for how to best enjoy it.
You might not expect that a 55ft waterfall would exist in the heart of an Ivy League university campus, but that’s exactly where you’ll find Triphammer Falls, nestled inside Cornell University’s environs. There are actually quite a few waterfalls in the gorges of Ithaca, but this one is particularly accessible since you can reach it from campus. Plus, there’s a unique castle-like structure attached to it that’s actually an abandoned hydraulics lab – a surprising stunner that only adds to this gorgeous natural wonder.
Spending a day in Cold Spring, New York is a perfect way to escape the hustle of NYC, and one of its most beautiful attractions is Stonecrop Gardens. Just 55 miles north of NYC, there are 12 acres of gardens to enjoy. It’s been open to the public since 1992, and before that it was privately owned by the Cabot family. The Cabots were avid plant collectors, and today the care they took to nurture their garden can be enjoyed by all visitors.
One of the best ways to enjoy an East coast winter is to just get into the spirit, and that means skiing. Whiteface Mountain is theplace to do it if you’re coming from NYC, and its the highest ski mountain in the Northeast. On a super clear day you can even see the buildings of Montreal from its summit, but you’ll probably be too busy skiing down the mountain to notice. Located in Lake Placid, you’ll also find plenty to do in town if skiing isn’t your thing.
Though it’s located in the same state, Chimney Bluffs State Park feels like another planet from NYC. Located in the town of Huron, this 597-acre state park sits on the Southern side of Lake Ontario and is home to large clay rock formations on the water’s edge. The area was acquired by the state in 1963, and now you can explore the bluffs on hiking trails in the summer and cross-country ski trails in the winter.
The Finger Lakes is a gem of New York state, and while there’s everything to do here from hiking to biking to kayaking, wineries are perhaps its best attraction. The landscape is stunning with waterfalls, gorges, and forests at every turn, but its 100+ wineries are what truly make it unique. It’s the largest wine-producing region east of California, and wineries like Ravines Wine Cellars or Sheldrake Point Winery have stunning lake views.
For something a bit whimsical, take a trip to The Mushroom House in Perinton, New York. A work of modern architecture built in the 1970s, the Mushroom House consists of four pods each weighing 80 tons. One pod serves as the living/dining room, another serves as the kitchen, the other two function as bedrooms, and there’s also a ‘half-pod’ deck area. Though the house isn’t always open to the public, they do offer occasional special tours.