Travel

The Most Beautiful Places in Upstate New York

The Upper Falls at Sunset
The Upper Falls at Letchworth State Park | Jim Vallee/Shutterstock
The Upper Falls at Letchworth State Park | Jim Vallee/Shutterstock

As many of us have discovered over the last several months, a person can only fit so many plants in an apartment. If you’re in need of a getaway from the city (and a break from your new part-time plant watering job), get lost in the wilds of upstate New York, where you don’t have to work hard to enjoy the verdant views. 

While New York is slowly beginning to reopen, check the following destination websites for the latest updates and stick to the CDC’s recommendation to wear masks and continue social distancing. 

Your mind might be wandering to far-flung places right now, but there are beautiful locales to escape to all across upstate New York, from the Catskills to Rochester -- most of which you probably haven’t even heard of, let alone seen. From a field of gold to the Grand Canyon of the East, these are the spots worth discovering upstate. 

Letchworth State Park, hot air balloons
Gary Glaser/Shutterstock

Letchworth State Park

Castile
Try your hardest not to over-Instagram when you visit Letchworth State Park, known as the “Grand Canyon of the East.” It harbors three spectacular waterfalls, where you’re guaranteed to see rainbows. Whether you hike along the 66 miles of trails, take an air balloon ride, or kayak down the roaring Genesee River, this is one for the New York sightseeing bucket list.
Amazing Airbnb nearby: Nunda Ranch

The Pavilion at The Sagamore, Upstate New York
Courtesy of The Sagamore

The Pavilion at The Sagamore

Lake George
The Sagamore Resort has been around for over 100 years, but you’ll be forgiven for not knowing about this hidden gem, perched on Green Island in the middle of six-million-acre Adirondack Park. During the summer, the most intoxicating place in the state to have a mid-afternoon cocktail -- like a refreshing Country Thyme Lemonade -- is the upper deck at the resort’s Pavilion restaurant, which is currently offering take out only (so remember to pack your reusable utensils).
Amazing Airbnb nearby: The Rustic Mega-Lodge

McGregor Vineyard

Dundee
The Finger Lakes wine region may not boast as many awards as Napa, but standing amidst the grapes of McGregor Vineyard, you’d argue it’s more beautiful. Located off the beaten wine trail overlooking the bluff of Keuka Lake, McGregor’s perch is so stunning you’d probably stay and drink the wine even if it were bad. Fortunately, it’s really, really good. Enjoy a crisp glass of dry riesling on the outdoor patio or make reservations for al fresco Tasting Flights Thursday-Sunday.
Amazing Airbnb nearby: The Hillside Pool House

Rainbow Falls Bridge

Watkins Glen
Get this gorgeous place to yourself by coming early in the morning, when the busloads of tourists haven’t yet arrived. There are 200-foot cliffs and 19 waterfalls, including the famous Cavern Cascade, but the most jaw-dropping spot to soak it all in at Watkins Glen State Park is the Rainbow Falls Bridge.
Amazing Airbnb nearby: The A-Frame Oasis

Frank Lloyd Wright's Graycliff

Derby
Head to Derby, a tiny Lake Erie-based hamlet, for a private behind-the-scenes Gardens and Grounds tour of the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Graycliff. Built from 1926-1931, the property sits at the edge of the lake, where the 70-foot limestone cliffs served as inspiration for Wright’s work. The Master Architectural tour inside the home is expected to return later this summer. In the meantime, tour participants can also pick up locally made bites and crafts at the Graycliff’s newly launched pre-order, drive-thru market on Fridays through July 31.
Amazing Airbnb nearby: The Luxurious Lakeside Retreat

The Devil’s Path

Catskills
You'll sweat in places you didn’t know you could sweat while hiking Devil's Path, but it’ll be worth it for the spectacular views from various summits like Twin Mountain, Indian Head, and Plateau Mountain. With over 14,000 feet of elevation change, this 25-mile trail is considered by many to be the toughest hike in the East.
Amazing Airbnb nearby: The Echo Hill Escape

The Wild Walk

Tupper Lake
Head to this 81-acre playground for nature lovers. Nestled 45 feet up in the Adirondack forest at The Wild Center (the first LEED-certified museum in New York), the permanent High Line-inspired Wild Walk exhibit will reopen mid-July and is the only elevated treetop trail in the state.
Amazing Airbnb nearby: Eagles Lair Lodge

The Corning Museum of Glass, Upstate New York Museums
Courtesy of The Corning Museum of Glass

The Corning Museum of Glass

Corning
The glass collections at this offbeat museum are intriguing, but it’s the striking 100,000-square-foot Contemporary Art + Design Wing that has out-of-towners (and non-glass gurus) planning a trip to the Finger Lakes for more than just wine and waterfalls when it reopens this July.
Amazing Airbnb nearby: The Hand-Built Hilltop Cabin

The Secret Sidewalk

Rochester
A mile west of Ontario Beach Park, in the little hamlet of Charlotte, is the most idyllic street you’ve ever seen. Though it’s technically Rochester, it feels like you’ve landed in Monet’s Garden at Sainte-Adresse in northwestern France. The Secret Sidewalk is a public walkway, but the residents who live in those big lakefront homes from the early 20th century would prefer their slice of paradise remain off the tourist checklist, so keep your cool, don’t take selfies, and just enjoy your Abbott’s Frozen Custard with the rest of the locals.
Amazing Airbnb nearby: The Lakeside Escape

Frederick Farms

Clifton Springs
Every August, 700,000 sunflowers bloom across the rolling hills north of Seneca Lake. Locals know that dairy and sunflower farmers John and Jan Frederick’s fields of gold are the unsurpassable highlight of summer -- whether you take a wagon ride through the fields or simply stop and marvel at the travel-worthy dreamscape.
Amazing Airbnb nearby: The Seneca Sunset Cottage

Griffis Sculpture Park

East Otto
In the 1960s, artist Larry Griffis got the idea to create what would become the first sculpture park in the United States while watching his children romp through the ruins of an emperor’s villa in Italy. Today, visitors can bike 10 miles of trails, cruising around woods, fields, and ponds -- not to mention over 250 sculptures arranged by themes like animals, nudes, and castles. Rent a bike from Tom’s Pro Bike in Buffalo ($50/day with saddle bag, flat pedals, cycling computer).
Amazing Airbnb nearby: The Ellicottville Chalet

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Lauren Matison is a freelance travel writer and an avid cyclist. Lauren is currently pedaling around upstate NY and CT for the #makeyourridecount campaign. It’s easy to join by donating $1 per mile cycled to @blklivesmatter or another charity of your choice. (Hey runners, you can also #makeyourruncount.)