The 8 Most Beautiful Places in New York State

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Signifying our great wealth of resources and good looks, New York has been known as the Empire State for quite some time. Right in our very own backyard, the State is filled with sparkling lakes, impressive peaks, incredible vistas and sandy beaches, living up to that moniker in a big way. Here are just some of the most beautiful, scenic spots you can check out in New York.

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1. Canandaigua Lake

Just because Canandaigua is one of the lesser-known Finger Lakes and a bit further from NYC doesn’t make it any less special. In fact, in our humble opinion, this sparkling lake is the best in the region, and in the warm summer months, there is simply nothing better than renting a pontoon boat and getting out on the calm waters with your closest crew.

Upscale homes line Canandaigua’s shores, and the lake is also anchored by the adorable town of Canandaigua, which sits on the northern end. Sonnenberg Gardens and Mansion are big on beauty here, and a definite draw for travelers. The town is also notable for some quality grub spots, including the authentic Mexican fare Rio Tomatlan, and the not-to-be-missed steak dinners from Nolan’s. Naples, a smaller but equally charming town is located several miles south from the southern end of the lake, and offers visitors amazing hiking opportunities and vista views for days. It’s also home to a stunning wildlife area, Cumming Nature Center.

Where to stay: The Lake House on Canandaigua, which is situated right on the banks of the lake and walkable to everything the town of Canandaigua has to offer. It has well-appointed, contemporary guest rooms, beautiful communal spaces, an enviable outdoor pool and hot tub area, not to mention a pretty divine restaurant called Rose Tavern.

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2. Tivoli Bays

An easy, welcomed escape for city folks roughly two hours drive from Times Square, this state park and the quiet town of Tivoli are both situated along an enchanting stretch of the Hudson River. The bays are created by two large river coves that back up to wooded clay bluffs, and the stunning wetlands here make it a unique place to spot plant life and animals—in fact, it’s even deemed one of New York’s most important bird conservation areas.

Where to stay: The adorable Hotel Tivoli is well worth your coins, and in fact, it’s really one of the only hotels in the area that doesn’t require significant driving. This boutique charmer, located in a historical 20th-century stone building, is filled with art and interesting furniture and hosts guests in cozy rooms, each with their own individual personality and flair. The hotel is also home to The Corner, a popular and quite tasty farm-to-table restaurant. Located within walking distance of everything the tiny town of Tivoli has to offer, the hotel and restaurants are also just one mile from the scenic riverfront hiking trails of Tivoli Bays Park.

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3. Orient

Located on the North Fork of Long Island, which is filled with farmer’s markets and pleasing wineries, Orient is home to beautiful beaches, parks and historic homes. The sunrises and sunsets from Orient are what make it truly special in our humble opinion, with our favorite spots to take in these magical colors at Orient Beach State Park and Orient Point. At the latter, you can also peep at a historic lighthouse off the shore which is surrounded by large rocks.

Where to stay: In these parts, you’ll definitely want to opt for a VRBO, like this stunning summer cottage that overlooks the bay and sits on a lush, spacious yard. You’ll also have access to a private beach visible from your windows.

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4. Fire Island

This small barrier island is situated on the southern shore of Long Island, with most points accessible in under 2.5 hours. Well connected by transportation including LIRR trains and ferries that easily whisk travelers here across the Great South Bay, it’s a magnificent escape that shouldn’t be slept on. In fact, for the most part, you can only arrive here by ferry as only one small part of the island allows cars. Being closed to vehicular traffic is part of the charm though, producing a quietness and stillness that keeps New Yorkers coming back season-after-season.

The natural beauty of the beaches, dunes, and some pretty spectacular real estate help, too. The welcoming and inclusive feeling of Fire Island Pines and Cherry Grove have made these towns a longtime respite for the queer community, but there are plenty of towns—each with a distinct look, feel and vibe—that will excite every kind of traveler.

Where to stay: Though vacation homes on Fire Island can book up quite quickly, owners looking to rent open weekends or shares for the season are increasingly doing so on booking platforms like VRBO, Airbnb, and Vacasa. Located in Ocean Beach, look into this well-kept house with a wood-burning stove that’s spoiled with a beachview outdoor eating area, amongst many other charms. There are also plenty of family-friendly options that will take your breath away, like this luxurious five-bedroom option which has a private, heated pool, or this modern and light-filled stunner that’s steps from the beach.

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5. Lake George

Yes, you probably saw that the RHONJ gang recently vacationed to this dreamy spot in the Adirondacks, and for good reason. Aside from being a gorgeous lake surrounded by quaint communities—each with boutique shopping, fabulous dining experiences, quiet parks and beaches for picnicking and swimming, marinas, and plenty of hiking options—Lake George is a popular destination for its many on-lake watersports offerings. The nearby Sacandaga River is also a destination in its own right for fishing and whitewater rafting (!), and visitors to the region are also a quick drive from the Natural Stone Bridge and Caves where trails and caves can keep explorers entertained all day.

Where to stay: Opt for a weekend of golfing and laid-back lake life at The Sagamore on Lake George. It’s located on a tiny private island that’s only a short walk to Rogers Memorial Park. This hotel looks like something straight out of a movie, with guest accommodations ranging from spacious rooms with a king bed all the way up to six-bedroom houses. It also offers a full-service spa and delicious on-site dining.

6. New York Harbor

Yes, you can find beauty in even the most urban of settings. As New York rebounds from a pandemic-stricken year, there’s no better reminder of the Big Apple’s prowess and the beauty of the New York harbor and bay than seeing it for yourself at edge. Located at Hudson Yards some 100 stories in the sky, the outdoor observation deck with 7,500 square feet of viewing space and a pretty trippy glass floor is the Western Hemisphere’s highest. It spoils visitors with insane views over Manhattan, New York Bay and the Statue of Liberty, the Hudson River and parts of New Jersey. After a tough year, it will quickly re-spark that New York magic Frank Sinatra so smoothly sings about...

Where to stay: In New York, our money is always on Arlo Hotels for their relatively good value and experience, not to mention contemporary, clean and comfortable digs. Wedged between two major points of interest, Times Square and Hudson Yards, the hotel group just opened their latest offering, Arlo Midtown. For the ideal staycation or vacation, book a King City Terrace room, which boasts a well-appointed private terrace.

Pro tip: To give NYC’s infamously competitive hospitality a boost, consider trying out some NYC restaurants and bars that opened just before or during the pandemic, or recently reopened. Our picks would include sampling the plant based bites and delicious libations from Etérea, a cozy new East Village spot; getting acquainted with updated dishes, like a sweet potato curry, by Trinidad-born Chef de Cuisine Nicole Gajadhar at The Loyal; being one of the first into seeyamaña, a new casual and cool Baja-influenced restaurant with tasty Mexican dishes; or, treating your favorite group of friends to a fancy-pants night on the town at the storied and just-reopened Bemelmans Bar.

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7. Montauk

For a true escape from NYC, head to what’s been coined as the “the end” or even the “end of the world”—at least on Instagram. Montauk garnered this title from its location at the tip of the Long Island peninsula and its reputation for feeling worlds away from NYC. For one, it’s definitely more relaxed and casual than its Hampton’s neighbors, and has an eclectic vibe with a strong surfing culture. The area’s beaches and parks do not disappoint, either. Make sure to carve out some time to get a great photo in front of the Montauk Point Lighthouse and bring your favorite beach blanket to spread out on Ditch Plains, one of the area’s most iconic beaches.

Where to stay: We’re pretty sure you’ll be comfortable with beach chic digs at Gurney’s Montauk, which feature beachfront guest rooms, a beach club, and a delicious on-site restaurant, Scarpetta Beach. Earlier this year, the hotel launched Bungalows by the Sea in collaboration with Jung Lee, the event designer and founder of Fête. These fantasy-like spaces, which can sit up to six guests in a private setting, are reason enough to check in or stop by. Positioned next to the ocean, the beautifully appointed spaces feature comfy seating, plant life and open-air fire pits. Guests here can also order off a curated menu filled with delectable bites and cocktails.

Courtesy of Mirror Lake Inn

8. Lake Placid

The spirit and soul of Lake Placid are actually centered around not one, but two lakes—the larger Lake Placid and a smaller lake that the village bearing its name surrounds, called Mirror Lake. The picture-perfect Lake Placid is steeped in splendor and history, playing home to the Adirondack Great Camps; today, it’s where some *pretty* luxurious resorts live, including Lake Placid Lodge and Whiteface Lodge.

The town’s vibrant Main Street is juxtaposed by a laid-back vibe and filled to the brim with charm. Travelers generally make it their home base to explore the Adirondack Mountains, which cover over six million acres and boasts the largest trail system in the nation, which make it ripe for biking, fishing, hiking or just relaxing with an amazing view. Lake Placid is also celebrated for its winter sports including snowshoeing, ice skating, skiing, ice fishing, and more.

Where to stay: You’ll be hard-pressed to find a more pleasing hotel than Mirror Lake Inn, which has awe-inspiring views of the lake and the Adirondacks from almost every room. With incredible service and opportunities for fine dining at the aptly named The View and the more casual The Cottage, you may not wish to leave even despite the hotel’s location just a stone’s throw from everything in town. We wouldn’t blame you, especially when given the fact that the resort’s full-service spa is highly regarded.

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