The 9 Most Beautiful Places in New York State

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New York has been known as the Empire State for quite some time—signifying our great wealth of resources and good looks. The state is filled with sparkling lakes, impressive peaks, incredible vistas and sandy beaches, right in our very own backyard. From the iconic Montauk, known as “the end of the world” to storied Lake Placid and Canandaigua Lake, these local spots, though often tiny, are living up to that moniker in a big way. Here are nine of the most beautiful, scenic spots you can check out in New York, many just a few hours away from Manhattan.

The Most Charming Small Towns in New Jersey

most beautiful places in new york state: sunset over a vineyard that overlooks canandaigua lake
©NYSDED-Photo by Darren McGee

Hidden Gem of the Finger Lakes

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. It’s 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.

most beautiful places in new york state: tivoli bays
Courtesy of Dutchess Tourism, Inc.

For Birding Enthusiasts

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.

most beautiful places in new york state: small cottage on a pier sitting on the banks of a waterway in orient
©NYSDED-Photo by Darren McGee

For Stunning Sunrises

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.

most beautiful places in new york state: lighthouse on fire island by the ocean
©NYSDED-Photo by Darren McGee

Easiest to Get to from NYC

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.

most beautiful places in new york state: sunset over the mountains by lake george
©NYSDED-Photo by Darren McGee

The Adirondacks Getaway

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.

most beautiful places in new york state: glowing city lights from the manhattan skyline
©NYSDED-Photo by Darren McGee

In the Heart of NYC

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...

most beautiful places in new york state: lighthouse at the end of long island in montauk
©NYSDED-Photo by Darren McGee

The End of the World

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.

most beautiful places in new york state: three kayakers paddle in the morning mist on lake placid
©NYSDED-Photo by Darren McGee

For the Most Luxurious Lodges

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.

most beautiful places in new york state: boldt castle peeks over the tree tops in alexandria bay
©NYSDED-Photo by Darren McGee

The True Upstate Getaway

9. Alexandria Bay

Trek all the way upstate to the Saint Lawrence River and you’ll find yourself in the charming village of Alexandria Bay. The town is home to two iconic castles, which you can tour. That includes Boldt Castle’s indoor swimming grotto, Roman-inspired Entry Arch and Alster Tower’s bowling alley. The 28-room Singer Castle features a two-story ice house, endless secret passageways and a dungeon. Want to get outside? Take a cruise on the bay, go fishing, play mini golf or spend the afternoon at Thousand Islands Winery, a local entertainment hub that regularly hosts festivals. Be sure to indulge in some of the local sweets, too—fudge at Lil River Fudge Co and a generous serving of ice cream at The Whole Scoop.

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Dan Koday is a travel and lifestyle writer and editor with 15+ years experience creating content for your favorite websites, print publications and brands. As a native to the NYC...

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