Home to over 19 million people, the state of New York has a rich history. Most people who visit New York have New York City on their trip itinerary to see the Statue of Liberty and other national landmarks. However, there’s so much to see within the state that doesn’t include New York City. New York has natural wonders, landmarks, and must-see attractions throughout the entire state.
With so many places to visit in New York, it can be hard to decide which ones to do during your vacations. Often overlooked, these locations have something to do for everyone. Be sure to consider these unforgettable destinations in the Empire State!
Niagara Falls is split between the United States and Canada in western New York. Within the city, you’ll find the world-famous waterfalls that drive 30 million people to visit each year. You can see the falls from any of the city’s observation decks or by riding the Maid of the Mist through the Falls’ waters. The best time to see Niagara Falls is at night – hundreds of colorful LED lights illuminate the water after dusk!
Consider adding Niagara Falls to your itinerary if you’re visiting nearby cities such as Buffalo (home to the Buffalo Bills) is just 17 miles away from Niagara Falls. When you include Niagara Falls on an itinerary with places that surround it, you won’t get bored of the small tourist city.
An Amtrak ride from Penn Station to Niagara Falls is 9 hours long and costs $68 each way. There are no transfers, and you can easily catch the Amtrak station at Penn Station if your starting point is New York City.
Albany is the capital of New York, and it’s filled with fun attractions. Recently, a hotel was built across from Crossgates Mall to accommodate the people who visit just to see the shopping center. Within the mall, you’ll find a bowling alley, movie theater, comedy club, and other attractions that justify spending an entire day there. Head downtown to check out the New York State Museum’s exhibits on the state’s prehistoric history, diversity, and the 1993 and 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center. If you like festivals, visit in June to catch Capital Pride or in September to check out LarkFest!
Albany is a college city with many bars, and students at the local schools use fake ID’s from other states. For this reason, many bartenders in Albany will not accept an out-of-state ID, even if you look well over 21 and the ID is valid. If you’re hoping to get into the bars in Albany, bring a valid passport with you. Yes, they can be that strict!
An Amtrak ride from Penn Station takes 2.5 hours, and there are no transfers along the way. Trips start at $45 each way, but can go up to $84. Alternatively, you can take a Trailways bus from Port Authority for $22. The trip should take you 3 hours, but Trailways and Greyhound buses aren’t always reliable in the Northeast.
The Catskill Mountains, also known as just “the Catskills” is an exciting area to visit year-round, but it’s an especially popular destination during colder months. Beautiful fall foliage in the area attracts visitors from New York and beyond – the colorful displays can be mind-blowing to those who aren’t used to it!
Throughout the winter, people from all over the country ski at Hunter Mountain in Greene County. If you’re not into outdoor activities, head to any of the college towns in the area (like New Paltz) for some quirky coffee shops and street art. No matter how you spend your time in the Catskill Mountains, don’t leave until you’ve seen the Woodstock Museum in Bethel Woods!
The Catskills is a big area, so there are many places to visit within it. In addition to the towns filled with attractions, get a feel for small-town New York living in Bovina, Delhi, or Woodstock. Most towns in the Catskills are accessible by Trailways, but you may want to take an Amtrak train to Albany before hopping on a bus. Your trip will be shorter, and you’ll be less likely to run into problems.
If you’d rather stay close to New York City, book a hotel room on Long Island. If you visit in the summertime, head to Jones Beach. This public beach is huge, and has a mini golf course, a shuffleboard area, playgrounds, concessions, and lifeguards for those who want to get in the water.
Long Island is also known for its wineries, especially in Suffolk County. Head there to sample some great wines. Too Cole outside? Check out the Cradle of Aviation Museum, Long Island Children’s Museum, Old Westbury Gardens or the Vanderbilt Museum and Planetarium.
Long Island is over 100 miles long, and each community has something different to offer. When you want to see New York City, hop on the LIRR and head into Penn Station.
No matter where go on Long Island, you can easily get there by taking the Long Island Rail Road. The LIRR serves almost every community on the island, especially those in Nassau County.
New Yorkers flock to Saratoga Springs every summer to watch thoroughbred horse races. The town prides itself on its racetrack, and you can find horse-themed artwork in any Saratoga art gallery. A night out in this town may include jazz bars, clubbing, and classic Irish pubs.
Save some money to check out the boutique shops – shopping is a popular activity in Saratoga Springs, and you’ll probably find something to bring home with you!
Saratoga Springs is 40 minutes away from Albany, an hour and 10 minutes away from the Catskills, and not far from the Vermont border. If you visit during horse racing season, you can revolve your entire trip around this town.
The best way to get to Saratoga from New York City is by Amtrak train. The trip takes a little over 3.5 hours and costs $59 each way.
Whether you head to Buffalo, Westchester, Syracuse, Cooperstown or any of the cities above, your Empire State adventures should go beyond Manhattan. Some of New York’s best kept secrets are away from New York City, and any part of the state is cheaper to visit. When you visit this beautiful state, expand your itinerary without expanding your wallet.