12 Must-Visit Small Towns in New York State

Written by Maura Hoff
Published: November 16, 2023
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Are you traveling to New York? New York State has plenty to offer besides New York City. From beautiful scenery to charming, quaint towns, there is so much to see when you venture beyond the “Big Apple.” The small towns in New York offer visitors the chance to relax while enjoying antique shops, museums, wineries, and more.

In addition to the sought-after urban lifestyle, New York consists of rural scenery with rolling hills and cascading waterfalls. Whether you travel upstate or choose to spend time in the Hudson River Valley, New York State has so much to offer. We comprised a list of 12 must-visit small towns in New York State. Read on to discover your next destination.

Ithaca

Buttermilk Falls

Buttermilk Falls in Ithaca, NY is a popular destination for locals and visitors to experience scenic hiking trails and beautiful waterfalls.

©Eric Dale/Shutterstock.com

Ithaca, NY, is home to Cornell University with beautiful, historic buildings. From touring an Ivy League campus to exploring the iconic Ithaca Commons downtown, Ithaca has plenty to offer anyone looking for a weekend getaway.

Resting at the base of Cayuga Lake, there are plenty of opportunities for outdoor enthusiasts to enjoy Ithaca as well. Explore the numerous hiking trails, swim in the lake, or check out the beautiful waterfalls like Buttermilk Falls pictured above or the infamous Ithaca Falls.

Lewiston

Queenston-Lewiston Bridge across the Niagara River Gorge

Lewiston is the closest small town to Niagara Falls in New York state.

©Spiroview Inc/Shutterstock.com

You can’t plan a trip to Niagara Falls without stopping in Lewiston, NY. A quaint town just outside the falls, Lewiston is the place to visit if you appreciate the arts.

From its 150-acre amphitheater called Artpark to the annual Northwest Jazz Festival, plenty will keep you busy as you travel to Niagara. Also, take some time to explore the Lewiston-Queenston Bridge, the highest bridge in New York.

Sleepy Hollow

Sleepy Hollow Lighthouse

The Sleepy Hollow Lighthouse is a cast iron tower that was built in the 1880s.

©Ultima_Gaina/iStock via Getty Images

Sleepy Hollow isn’t just an urban legend — it is one of the must-visit towns in New York State. About an hour outside New York City, Sleepy Hollow is considered one of the most haunted towns in the world.

Fans of Washington Irving’s book, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, enjoy visiting town to explore the historic Sleepy Hollow Cemetary. You can also visit Sleepy Hollow Lighthouse (also referred to as Tarrytown Lighthouse), built in 1883.

Cooperstown

Cooperstown

Cooperstown, NY is the famous home to the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

©Kyle Stephens/iStock via Getty Images

Located at the end of Otsego Lake, Cooperstown, NY, is the perfect weekend destination for travelers. It was made famous as the home of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

The historic downtown district offers unique architecture, art galleries, small shops, and more for visitors to enjoy. Cooperstown is also home to the annual Glimmerglass Opera Festival during the summer.

Saranac Lake

Colorful aerial view of Saranac Lake New York in the Adirondack Mountains during the fall.

Tourists enjoy visiting Saranac Lake in the fall for the gorgeous views and in February for its Winter Carnival.

©John Couture/Shutterstock.com

If you’re considering traveling to a small town near the Adirondack Mountains, then add Saranac Lake to your itinerary. Saranac Lake is one of the most picturesque small towns in New York. With views of Lake Flower, beautiful forests, and the mountains in the background, this is a popular destination for those who travel upstate.

Many visit Saranac Lake to enjoy the autumn foliage, but the annual Winter Carnival in February is also a major draw.

Watkins Glen

Rainbow Falls

Rainbow Falls is one of the most picturesque waterfalls in Watkins Glen State Park, and many people hike to this destination for photos of the falls.

©iStock.com/Paul Massie Photography

Whether you’re hoping to explore numerous wineries or hike to beautiful waterfalls, Watkins Glen has it all. Located on the south end of Seneca Lake, Watkins Glen is a beautiful town within the Finger Lakes.

Travelers enjoy wine tasting along the Seneca Lake Wine Trail. Many also visit Watkins Glen State Park to explore the 19 waterfalls including Rainbow Falls pictured above.

Kingston

Rondout Creek flows past under bridges on the waterfront in South Kingston New York USA

Kingston is one of the best small towns in New York because of its numerous attractions and things to do during your trip.

©Real Window Creative/Shutterstock.com

Nestled along the Hudson River halfway between Albany and New York City, Kingston is one of the top small towns in New York. Many people enjoy visiting the waterfront restaurants throughout town.

Kingston, NY, contains numerous shops, museums, art exhibits, and opportunities to enjoy live music. Also, visitors enjoy exploring the Hudson River Maritime Museum.

Saratoga Springs

Early afternoon autumn aerial photo view of in Saratoga Springs New York

Visitors flock to Saratoga Springs to visit the many beautiful natural springs located throughout the town.

©TW Farlow/iStock via Getty Images

From the unique architecture to the relaxing natural springs, Saratoga Springs is a great small-town destination in New York State. Considered one of the most picturesque towns in upstate New York, Saratoga Springs offers small-town charm with a twist. The bubbling natural springs are the perfect spot for some rest and relaxation.

Saratoga Springs is also home to many museums including the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame.

Lake Placid

Snowy Whiteface mountain with reflections in Paradox Bay, Lake Placid, Upstate New York

The beautiful Lake Placid is surrounded by the infamous Adirondack Mountains in upstate New York.

©Mihai_Andritoiu/Shutterstock.com

Lake Placid, NY, hosted the Winter Olympics in 1932 and 1980. Nestled in the Adirondack Mountains, Lake Placid is a winter destination for those who enjoy skiing, ice skating, or other winter activities. Olympic enthusiasts also enjoy exploring different sites like the Olympic Center and the Olympic Jumping Complex.

It’s a popular destination for winter sports enthusiasts but also offers a cozy charm for the less athletic. Downtown Lake Placid has plenty of small-town shops, restaurants, and more to enjoy. If you’re hoping for even more relaxation, explore some of the spas and wellness centers located in Lake Placid as well.

Canandaigua

Canandaigua Lake in the Finger Lakes region of New Yrok State in the USA

Canandaigua is a picture-perfect small town in New York located in the Finger Lakes area.

©Jim Schwabel/Shutterstock.com

The Finger Lakes region is home to some of the best wines in the United States. Located north of Canandaigua Lake, Canandaigua is a lovely small town for travelers looking to enjoy good wine and the outdoors.

In the local indigenous language, Canandaigua means “The Chosen Spot.” Locals work hard to keep the town beautiful with floral arrangements, and visitors enjoy the shops, dining, and historic sites. Visitors can also hike and bike the nearby trails for leisurely outdoor activity.

Aurora

View of Cayuga Lake, Aurora, NY

The town of Aurora, NY is located next to Cayuga Lake and is full of small-town charm and history.

©MarianLynn/Shutterstock.com

Located along Cayuga Lake, Aurora, NY, is a tiny town with less than 1,000 people in population. The small town is a beautiful weekend getaway with historic charm. Visitors can choose from the many bed and breakfast locations and enjoy the small-town life.

The famous Mackenzie-Childs store is headquartered in Aurora where visitors can tour the farmhouse and shop. The farm is located high on a bluff looking over the scenic lake.

Montauk

Montauk Lighthouse in Long Island, New York

Many people choose to bike to the Montauk Lighthouse in Long Island, New York.

©iStock.com/MikeRega

Montauk is located in the Hamptons in New York State on Long Island. The town is as far east travelers can possibly reach on Long Island, and many locals refer to it as “The End.”

In addition to the small-town charm, Montauk offers beautiful, sandy beaches and gorgeous bluffs along the coast. The Montauk Lighthouse is a popular attraction for photos in the coastal town, and there are numerous parks for picnic opportunities.

Summary of the 12 Must-Visit Small Towns in New York State

Small Town in New York State
1Ithaca
2Lewiston
3Sleepy Hollow
4Cooperstown
5Saranac Lake
6Watkins Glen
7Kingston
8Saratoga Springs
9Lake Placid
10Canandaigua
11Aurora
12Montauk

The photo featured at the top of this post is © Mountain Man Photos/Shutterstock.com


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About the Author

Maura Hoff is a writer at A-Z Animals where her primary focus is dogs, travel, and hiking. She has been writing for over 10 years and earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Communications from Pennsylvania State University in 2016. When Maura isn't writing, she spends time with her husband and two Golden Retrievers, Basil and Sunny, in the Colorado mountains. Her passions are cooking, reading, music, and quoting her favorite show, The Office.

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