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 9 Most Beautiful Places in New York State
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Hidden Gem of the Finger Lakes
- Why We Love It: charming lake town, beautiful wildlife area, great food
- What to Do: Naples Walking Tour; Canandaigua Wine Trail; Sonnenberg Gardens & Mansion
- Where to Stay: The Lake House on Canandaigua (from $270/night); Sutherland House Victorian Bed and Breakfast (from $206/night); Lapham House (from $144/night, sleeps 2)
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.
For Birding Enthusiasts
2. Tivoli Bays
- Why We Love It: two hours from NYC, stunning wetlands filled with wildlife, one of state’s most important bird conservations
- What to Do: Saugerties Lighthouse; Tivoli Artists Gallery; Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome
- Where to Stay: Mirbeau Inn & Spa (from $430/night); The Wiltwyck (from $143/night); Tivoli Apartment (from $201/night, sleeps 4)
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.
For Stunning Sunrises
- Why We Love It: lots of local farms and wineries, quality beaches, majestic sunrises
- What to Do: Shelter Island Private Bike Tour; Oyster Ponds Historical Society; Mattituck Guided Farm and Wine Country Bike Tour
- Where to Stay: Holiday Inn Islip Arpt East (from $139/night); Hampton Inn Brookhaven (from $149/night); Beachfront Cottage (from $1,436/night, sleeps 6)
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.
Easiest to Get to from NYC
4. Fire Island
- Why We Love It: access via the Long Island Rail Road, closed to cars, rolling sand dunes
- What to Do: Patchogue Distillery Tour; The Sunken Forest; Fire Island Lighthouse
- Where to Stay: Residence Inn by Marriott Holtsville (from $169/night); Mod 8 Cabin (from $156/night, sleeps 2); Fire Island Tree House (from $1,120/night, sleeps 6)
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.
The Adirondacks Getaway
5. Lake George
- Why We Love It: plenty of watersport activities, surrounded by quaint villages, explore nearby caves
- What to Do: West Pawlet Pasture Walk; Leaf’s Air Tours; Shelving Rock Falls
- Where to Stay: The Inn of Lake George (from $235); Mohican Motel (from $155/night); Earthen Home (from $199/night, sleeps 2)
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.
In the Heart of NYC
- Why We Love It: right in bustling NYC, the Edge gives unparalleled views, explore the city
- What to Do: Private NYC Helicopter Tour; Staten Island Ferry; Edge
- Where to Stay: The Standard High Line (from $429/night); The Maritime Hotel (from $329/night); Greenwich Village Apartment (from $377/night, sleeps 4)
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...
The End of the World
- Why We Love It: relaxed and casual, great surf culture, iconic lighthouse and beach
- What to Do: Oyster Shucking; Private Sailing Experience; Montauk Point Lighthouse
- Where to Stay: Montauk Blue Hotel (from $199/night); Marram (from $465/night); Montauk Cottage (from $201/night, sleeps 2)
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.
For the Most Luxurious Lodges
8. Lake Placid
- Why We Love It: quaint Main Street, easy access to Adirondack mountains, great winter sports activities
- What to Do: Forest Bathing; John Brown Farm State Historic Site; Mount Van Hoevenberg
- Where to Stay: Grand Adirondack Hotel (from $159/night); Lake Placid Inn (from $189/night); Lakeside Hideaway (from $133/night, sleeps 3)
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.
The True Upstate Getaway
- Why We Love It: scenic river cruises, iconic castle, myriad outdoor activities
- What to Do: Boldt Castle Tour; Thousand Islands Cruise; Thousand Islands Winery
- Where to Stay: Riveredge Resort Hotel (from $159/night); Abay Getaway (from $145/night, sleeps 2); Thousand Islands Cottage (from $250/night, sleeps 5)
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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