New York state is home to what is widely considered the birthplace of the American vacation – and for good reason.
The Empire State has some of the best parks in the country, sandy beaches, family-friendly theme parks and even its own wine country.
When you’re ready to satisfy your urge to connect with nature, here are six destinations that make for unforgettable outdoor adventures.
Visit Lake George
For more than a hundred years, Americans have flocked to Lake George in the foothills of the Adirondacks for a taste of the lake life. Today, the region is known as one of the premier destinations for families and outdoor activities like hiking, camping, boating, parasailing and more.
Its lakefront resorts offer that rustic, relaxed feel many travelers crave come summer – but theme parks like Six Flags Great Escape and Dino Roar Valley (set to open Memorial Day weekend) offer a sense of excitement, too.
In addition to the walkable – and shoppable – Lake George village, where you can watch fireworks over the lake in the summer – the area is home to cute little hamlets like Bolton Landing – where you can dine on the lake or hit the Adirondack Extreme treetop adventure park, with high-altitude ropes courses, zip lines and more.
Plan a trip to the area around one of the many renowned events, including the Americade motorcycle rally in early June, the Adirondack Wine & Food Festival in late June and the Adirondack Balloon Festival in September.
Learn more about the Lake George area.
Ninety minutes north of New York City, the Sullivan Catskills region is known for having some of the best fly-fishing in the Northeast – and for hosting one of the most beloved music festivals ever.
Its resorts include a family-friendly hotel and golf center, numerous bed-and-breakfasts and cottages, a family-friendly indoor waterpark resort, as well as an 18-story casino entertainment complex with 100,000 square feet of Las Vegas-style gaming and year-round live entertainment.
Local farms provide fresh ingredients to restaurants and craft beverage makers along the Catskills Beverage Trail, and the Catskill Fly Fishing Center and Museum offers a truly unique experience when you’re not out enjoying the spectacular scenery.
Plus, Sullivan County is where the original 1969 Woodstock Music Festival was held – and its proud tradition continues this year with Carlos Santana, Ringo Starr, the Doobie Brothers and more headlining shows at its Bethel Woods Center for the Arts this summer, in honor of the festival’s 50th anniversary.
Learn more about the Sullivan Catskills.
On the southern banks of Lake Ontario, between Niagara Falls and Rochester in western New York, Orleans County is a snapshot of 19th-century American life, proudly peacocking its cobblestone architecture and rich rural culture.
The county seat, Albion, has 65 structures listed in the state and national registers of historic places, including an 1858 Greek Revival-style domed courthouse that is a must-see.
The area has dozens of historic B&Bs, boutique hotels and waterfront cottages that all make for a relaxing stay. It has incredible fishing, and the Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge has more than 10,000 acres of marshlands that provide a stopping point to 80,000 geese and 26,000 species of birds during their spring and fall migrations.
For an added treat, time your visit around the Albion Strawberry Festival in June or the Orleans County Heritage Festival in September.
Click here for more reasons to visit Orleans County.
Sixty minutes east of Buffalo, Wyoming County is home to more cows than people – and folks aren’t afraid to tell you that. It’s the No. 1 dairy-producing county in the state, with agritourism as much a part of the culture as the region’s art, railroads and Seneca Nation history.
But its main draw is Letchworth State Park, consistently ranked among the best state parks in the country. The Grand Canyon of the East features nearly 600-foot cliff walls and three major waterfalls along the Genesee River. For a truly unforgettable experience, tour the park in a hot air balloon or a single-engine plane.
The area has some of western New York’s most challenging golf courses, and the Arcade & Attica Railroad is the last operating steam train excursion in New York state.
While you’re there, take part in the Wyoming County Geocaching Trail, an outdoor treasure-hunting game that will bring you to more than a dozen historic landmarks and incredible sights.
Start planning your Wyoming County trip.
Central New York’s Finger Lakes Region is a renowned wine destination, and Cayuga County is a big reason why. It’s home to two wine trails: the year-round Cayuga Lake Wine Trail, with 16 wineries, a cidery, distilleries and a meadery, and the Lake Ontario Wine Trail that stretches along the southern shore of the great lake for which it’s named. (October is a great time to visit if you want to spend time outdoors at the vineyards.)
If cheese is more your speed, the area is also home to the Finger Lakes Cheese Trail, which will take you to 12 different artisan cheese makers offering a variety of farm-fresh flavors and textures.
You’ll find country fare and culinary gems in the villages of Aurora, Weedsport and Moravia, and everything from vintage diners to fine dining in the county seat of Auburn. Downtown Auburn is also home to New Hope Mills, where you can buy New York’s favorite pancake flour and mixes, and the Auburn Doubledays minor league baseball team.
Outdoor enthusiasts will enjoy Moravia Fillmore Glen State Park, which features deep limestone and shale glen, five waterfalls, a campground and a picnic area. There’s also no shortage of inns and hotels when you’re ready to cozy up next to a fire before you turn in.
Special events in Cayuga County include the Wine & Herb Festival along the Cayuga Lake Wine Trail in the spring and the summertime Finger Lakes Musical Theatre Festival.
Get started on your Cayuga County getaway.
Bordering Pennsylvania in southwest New York, the region known as the Enchanted Mountains is home to New York’s largest state park, Allegany State Park. It has 24 miles of loop trails, and premier single-track and double-track mountain biking.
Cattaraugus also has a thriving arts community, headlined by the Regina A. Quick Center at St. Bonaventure University, which houses 3,000 pieces of art and historical artifacts under its roof.
The AAA Four Diamond Rated Seneca Allegany Resort & Casino in Salamanca has 1,800 slot machines and 33 table games, as well as fine dining options like Patria Fine Italian Dining and the Western Door Steakhouse.
The Salamanca Rail Museum pays homage to a simpler time, painting a portrait of New York’s fascinating railroad history.
Cattaraugus County is also home to the New York Amish Trail, the oldest Old Order Amish community in the U.S. Visit Valley View Cheese Company in Conewango Valley as you journey along the trail (look out for horse-drawn buggies and respect the Amish by not photographing them).
When you’re ready to relax, head to Ellicottville Brewing Company or a charming B&B like the Cherry Creek Inn. If you’re looking for more outdoor thrills, you can find those, too: You can go whitewater rafting along the Allegany River or hit the Sky High Adventure Park, where you can swing from 13 ropes courses or take a ride on a roller coaster that zigzags down 3,000 feet of mountain, complete with 15 curves and a corkscrew spiral.
Ready to enjoy a Cattaraugus County getaway? Start booking your trip.