Most head to this part of the US to pay a visit to one of the world’s most famous cities, but iconic metropolises aside this is a state that offers just so much more.
If you stick to just the major urban areas then you’ll be missing out on glitzy island escapes, serene beauty spots, vast areas of pristine wilderness and thick forests, wonderful lakes, and towering mountains.
In fact, New York State offers some of the most enticing scenery in the country and is a dream destination for lovers of the great outdoors. From gorgeous mountain resorts to attractive historic cities here are the best and most beautiful places to visit in New York State…
1. New York Skyline – one of the most stunning and beautiful views in the world
Everyone knows how gorgeous the New York City skyline is, so when you book your room there, make sure you get one that allows you to take full advantage of that skyline.
The lights and the hustle and bustle of the city are active 24 hours a day because this truly is the city that never sleeps.
You don’t just see the tourist attractions when you look at this skyline. You also see people living, working, and touring the city to sample everything it has to offer.
There are even dining facilities that allow you to enjoy your meal while viewing this beautiful skyline, making this a must-see activity when you visit and stay in one of the many incredible New York City hotels or Brooklyn hotels.
2. Adirondack Mountains – one of the most stunning places to explore in New York State
Located in the northeastern part of the state, the beautiful Adirondack Mountains cover roughly 5,000 square miles and are about one mile high. More than 200 lakes surround the area, and this area is an outdoor lover’s dream with pristine scenery, gorgeous hiking trails, stunning lakes, and towering peaks.
Not only are the mountains beautiful, but they house lots of wildlife as well, including spruce grouse, boreal chickadee, black-backed woodpecker, and mammals such as raccoons, river otters, black bears, moose, and coyotes.
My favorite highlights while visiting this stunning area in NY state include a stay at Elk Lake Lodge, and the amazing Lake Placid hotels, a visit to the historic Great Camp Sagamore on Raquette Lake, a gondola ride on WhiteFace mountain, the wonderful lakefront room at the Golden Arrow Resort, dinner at Artisans Restaurant, Lake Placid Lodge and Ausable Chasm the Adirondack Mountain’s answer to the Grand Canyon.
3. Albany – the capital of the U.S. state of New York
Albany is the capital of the state, and it is located 135 miles north of New York City. The city is home to nearly 100,000 people, even though the city and outlying areas have roughly one million residents.
The city is known for its architecture and its educational facilities, but it also offers a lot when it comes to museums, historic sites, parks, festivals, entertainment, interesting Albany hotels great nightlife.
You can visit the capitol building during the day then hit the town that night, because this is one city where you’ll never run out of things to do.
4. Shelter Island – an attractive upscale vacation destination for New Yorkers
Shelter Island is located at the east end of Long Island and consists of several neighborhoods and villages. It is a resort town that is still a popular tourist destination, and it is so unique that it is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
It has also been the site of several movies and is referenced in numerous films and television shows. Just the buildings alone are worth the trip there, especially the big beautiful homes that line the water and present a stately image to everyone nearby.
5. Catskill Mountains – a beautiful place to visit in New York state for outdoor lovers
These mountains are located in the southeastern part of the state. Some of the many activities you can participate in while you’re there include cycling, canoeing, kayaking, hiking, skiing, and camping, not to mention visiting attractions such as various fire towers and the Catskill Mountain House, which was built in 1924 and has been visited by people such as Theodore Roosevelt and Ulysses S. Grant.
Whether you’re a history buff or not, you’ll love the Catskills because of their beauty, making this a great item to put on your bucket list.
6. The Hamptons – a celebrity summer playground which is home to some gorgeous scenery
One of the most famous affluent vacation spots in the country, a string of upscale enclaves located on Long Island’s South Fork which serves as a popular summer destination for New Yorkers.
As well as long stretches of stunning sandy beaches, there are other reasons to visit this wonderful – if expensive – beauty spot in New York State. Also, expect high-end restaurants, trendy bars, and upscale designer boutiques.
7. New York Botanical Gardens – a popular and pretty attraction to visit in New York State
The website for the New York Botanical Gardens says it best: 250 acres, one million plants. You can’t get any better than that, so if you want to see beauty at its finest, this is the place for you. It is located in the Bronx and is open every day except Monday.
It is not only a fascinating place to visit, but it also has educational opportunities and a plant research and conservation area. You can visit a native plant garden, a forest, a conifer arboretum, and a perennial garden because this facility truly offers something for everyone.
8. Finger Lakes Region – a stunning beauty spot to explore in New York State
So, what makes the Finger Lakes region so special? First of all, these are 11 long and narrow lakes that look extraordinary, and they include two of the deepest lakes in the country, with one (the Seneca Lake) reaching down 618 feet below the water.
If you look at them from the air, they do indeed look like 11 fingers, and they are beautiful lakes that you can enjoy for a day or just a few hours.
A few of the activities going on include wine and beer facilities, museums, and a number of educational facilities that include Cornell University, Ithaca College, and even the New York Chiropractic College. Also, make sure you pay a visit to the stunning Taughannock Falls (pictured above).
9. The Hudson Valley – named as a top 20 best of the world destinations
Also known as the Hudson River Valley, this is one of the most popular places to visit in New York State. It is a large area that stretches from Albany and Troy to Yonkers in Westchester County, which includes the border of New York City.
It covers more than 7,200 square miles and houses roughly 2.3 million people.
Many people live and work in the region, and it is certainly one of the most easily recognized areas of the state. You won’t be able to visit all 7,200 square miles, but you can certainly view many parts of it if you want to.
10. Pollepel Island – for beautiful scenery and a unique history
Covering roughly 6.5 acres, Pollepel Island is part of the Hudson River and is home to Bannerman’s Castle, which is an old military surplus store that has since been abandoned.
The castle, in fact, is the main attraction on the island and is currently the property of The New York State Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation.
It is a fascinating building for sure, and it has been mentioned in movies, television shows, and music. Visiting the island would make a great day trip for those who live in this area of New York.
11. Fire Island Lighthouse – a striking historic monument surrounded by a home for wildlife and culture
This is the tallest lighthouse on Long Island and consists of 182 steps to get to the top, but once you get there, you can enjoy a beautiful view of New York City.
The lighthouse is open seven days a week and costs $10 to get in, and it is well worth the visit because it is an absolutely beautiful lighthouse that sits on gorgeous grounds as well.
Interestingly, it is still owned by the United States Coast Guard, and it has been around since the 1850s. If you love lighthouses, you shouldn’t miss the opportunity to visit this one because it is extraordinary.
12. Thousand Islands Region – around 2,000 enchanting and scenic islands on a beautiful stretch of river
This region encompasses a group of more than 1,800 islands that stretch from the U.S. to Canada and which are part of the St. Lawrence River. In the late 19th century, this was the place to be if you were part of the elite, and if you love outdoor activities, this is the place to be.
The Thousand Islands stretch out for roughly 50 miles and offer plenty of things to do, including boating, public parks, and a whole lot more. In fact, in one version, Thousand Island salad dressing came from this region, but no one knows for sure.
13. Watkins Glen State Park – one of the best places to visit in New York State
With scenic views that are literally breathtaking, the Watkins Glen State Park offers 200-foot cliffs, a total of 19 waterfalls, and some of the most gorgeous hiking trails you’ve ever seen. Of all the state parks in the Finger Lakes region, this is the most popular one of all, and it won’t take you long to figure out why.
Amenities include opportunities for biking, hiking, camping, swimming, and snowshoeing, as well as access to pavilions, cabins, playing fields, and a lot more.
14. Niagara Falls and Cave of the Winds – the world-famous North American attraction
The Cave of the Winds is part of Niagara Falls, and both offer some very exciting ways to pass the time. With tons of exhibits and hands-on activities, you get a great way to learn about these magnificent attractions so that you truly appreciate them.
The Cave of the Winds is open daily and has an admission fee of only $5 for adults, so you definitely get your money’s worth each time you visit.
If you think nothing can beat visiting Niagara Falls, consider how much more exciting it will be if you visit The Cave of The Winds while you’re there.
15. Caumsett State Historic Park Preserve – an estate offering outdoor activities, nature trails, and a manor house
Set in the Village of Lloyd Harbor, the Caumsett preserve covers 2.8 square miles and is operated by the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation. It is open every day except for major holidays and consists of nature trails and a historical society.
You can jog, go biking, cross-country ski, or take a leisurely walk along one of their many hiking paths, and it is so extraordinary that you can rent it out for any special occasion, including weddings, birthday parties, retirement galas, and so much more.
16. Saratoga Springs – an attractive historic city with a thriving restaurant, nightlife and arts scene
Saratoga Springs is a city of roughly 27,000 people and is known for its mineral spas, which many people think can improve health. But it offers much more than that, including skateboard parks, museums, live performances, golf, and a whole lot more.
Many movies and television programs are filmed in the town, and the city has a total of 16 locations listed on The National Registry of Historic Places, which includes Arrowhead Casino Prehistoric Site, Petrified Sea Gardens, and the West Side Historic District, to name just a few.
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Scott Balaam – writer and photographer
Scott started his travelling life back in 1999, when he headed off on a solo jaunt to South Africa, Australia, New Zealand and South East Asia with just a backpack, a camera and a spirit for adventure. After that, the travel bug bit hard and now he is always seeking to head off somewhere new. Over the years he has lived in Italy, Qatar, Australia, Ireland, UK and the USA but his spiritual home will always be Rome as this is the city which most satisfies his unrelenting thirst for culture, good food and great football. In his spare time Scott loves nothing better than to be behind the camera and also runs his own blog and Instagram page. He also counts Melbourne, the rest of Italy, Amsterdam, USA, Athens, Cape Town and Tel Aviv among his favourite places. Find Scott on Linkedin, Instagram, or Twitter.
Hotel Reviewing Experience –Asked by many tourist boards and many high-profile travel brands to formally review hotels including Visit Sweden, OET (Spanish Tourism Office), Sultanate of Oman and Travel Alberta. Also travelled around the world scouting out and reviewing all the most unique hotels in the world, check out our Instagram page for photos. Also mentioned as a top UK travel journalist.