Round up your crew and head out on the road this summer. New York State has a variety of adventures just waiting for you to arrive. We’ve pulled together some of our favorite scenic and fun-filled road trips so all you have to do is stock up on snacks and make some overnight reservations for the longer trips. It’s time to hit play on summer plans and that summer playlist! 

Originally published 07/21/2021; Updated 4/11/24

Celebrate Peace, Love, and the Scenic Catskills

A sixties counterculture themed van and posters on display at the museum at Bethel Woods Center for the ArtsCredit: @bethelwoodscenter on Instagram

Start off on Catskills Scenic Route 30 and head to Pepacton Reservoir. There you can rent a kayak or canoe from Al’s Sports Store. After taking in the sights, take in the bites at Phoenicia Diner. The diner (with an Instagram-approved aesthetic) is open for pick-up, indoor dining, or picnic-style outdoor dining in the Lot. Order pancakes, waffles, or choose from five different skillet breakfasts or the extensive sandwich menu. Hot tip: Grab some extra baked goods to eat in the car later.

Enjoy a summer night outdoors and rock out to live music at the site of the 1969 Woodstock Music Festival, Bethel Woods. On the property, you'll also find the Museum at Bethel Woods, dedicated to the culture of the 1960s and the Woodstock Festival with exciting multimedia exhibits. Cool off in the relaxing wave pool, get your adrenaline pumping on the 316-foot Rip Van Racer slide, or race side-by-side on the Grand Prix Splashway at Zoom Flume Water Park. Pack lunch or grab a bite at the snack bar and enjoy your meal waterside.

Savor Views and Culture in the Hudson Valley 

Dia Beacon

Any trip up the Hudson River is memorable as there are a seemingly endless number of cool towns and attractions just a few minutes apart from each other. If you’d like some guidance, start off at the Storm King Art Center in New Windsor. The 500-acre outdoor sculpture park and museum features towering sculptures with the Hudson Valley's stunning landscape serving as the backdrop.

Then it's time to head north and over the Newburgh-Beacon Bridge into Beacon. Spend some time hiking Mt. Beacon, where you can choose your own adventure and trek 1.5 hours for the view, 3 hours for a higher water tower view, or 5.5 hours on an almost 8-mile loop. Cool down in the AC at Dia:Beacon (pictured above), an awesome example of repurposing an old space (warehouse) for something new (a modern art gallery with huge installations). Advance registration is strongly suggested. Hudson Valley Brewery is a great stop, whether you sample some of their beloved beers there or bring some home to enjoy later.

Next stop, New Paltz! If you aren’t all hiked out, use your day pass (pre-purchased online) to hike your choice of the 85 miles of trails at Mohonk Mountain House, some with rock scrambles. Or try the “Summer Sports Pass” which includes access to all trails, a one-hour tennis court reservation, boat usage, and more. There is also a day spa experience with treatments or yoga/meditation, use of the mineral pool, tea, and cookies for anyone wishing to relax. Shop at Water Street Market for that perfect conversation piece from Antiques Barn, Antiques on Main, or CronArtUSA, and peruse the vinyl collection at Rhino Records. Pick up some gourmet cheese from Grazery, then hit up Robibero Wineries for a bottle or two to remember your trip when you’re back home.

Over in Poughkeepsie, watch the sunset from Walkway Over the Hudson, another repurposed attraction, once an elevated train track and now the longest elevated pedestrian bridge in the world. Grab dinner in Little Italy for authentic meals such as thin-crust pizza at Aloy’s or vitello scallopini at Milanese before hopping back home.

Explore the Lakes of the Adirondacks

Mirror Lake - Whiteface Mountain - Lake Placid

This scenic route through the gorgeous waterways of the Adirondacks will take you from Saratoga Springs to Lake Placid, about two hours of driving time, without stops. If Saratoga Race Course races are in session, don’t miss your chance to cheer on the horses at one of the oldest tracks in the country. Special events this meet include the Belmont Stakes (for the first time in Saratoga history) and the 155th running of the $1.25 million Travers Stakes. Place a bet, if you’re feeling lucky. After the races, use your winnings on some excellent dining. Lucky for you, Saratoga Springs has more restaurants per capita than NYC! We recommend going on a “restaurant hop”. Make your way up and down Broadway, choosing antipasti like arancini or polpette meatballs at Forno Bistro, an entree like a grass-fed ribeye or seared scallops at Hamlet and Ghost, and a decadent dessert at Mrs. London’s

Head up to Lake George and get on the water. Take a steamboat ride with Lake George Steamboat Company like your great-grandparents may have a century ago or try whitewater rafting with a tour company down the Hudson or the Sacandaga Rivers.

Back on land, if your time at the races has you itching to saddle up, you can also explore the wilderness of the Adirondacks with a horseback ride.

For a slight detour on your trip up to your final destination, head up to Ausable Chasm, the “Grand Canyon of the Adirondacks” for jaw-dropping views. Take them in on a raft or tube ride down the river, a hike, or using the cable bridges along the chasm. Now drive your last leg to Lake Placid with its hiking opportunities, kayaking adventures on Mirror Lake (pictured above), and mix of accommodations from camping to luxury. Olympic enthusiasts can’t miss the Olympic Center and Museum, where you can take a bobsled ride yourself on tracks used by famous athletes or ride down the Cliffside Coaster, North America’s longest coaster.

Travel Across the State

Earthen spires along the shores of Lake Ontario at Chimney Bluffs State Park, New York

You’ll want to take at least a few days to enjoy everything on this road trip (about 5.5 hours of driving in between destinations). Start off in trendy Troy and spend the night. You won’t be able to resist snapping a pic of your plates at Troy’s oldest restaurant, Manory’s Diner. Save room for brews at Rare Form or Brown’s Brewing or cocktails at The Berlin. If you’re into live entertainment, check out the free outdoor Summer Square series presented by Troy Savings Bank Music Hall on Fridays and Saturdays, July through August.

Grab breakfast at Carmen’s Cafe and head out toward Rochester. You’ll have plenty of lunch and shopping options as you pass by some small towns and even Syracuse (where you can stop at the original Dinosaur BBQ or local hot spot Funk ‘n Waffles). If you’re in town for the New York State Fair (August 21 to September 2), you may be able to catch Blue Oyster Cult, TLC, Dropkick Murphys, Chubby Checker, and more in concert (free with fair admission). Chimney Bluffs State Park (pictured above), with views that will make you think you’re on another planet, is about halfway between Syracuse and Rochester on the coast of Lake Ontario. Hiking options include two easy and one moderate one-hour treks.

Once in Rochester, head to Genesee Brew House for some drinks and a view of High Falls, a waterfall in the middle of the city. If weird food combos are up your alley, don’t miss the “Garbage Plate” at Nick Tahou’s, a mash-up of home fries, beans, meat, and sauces. Hit up Radio Social for indoor and outdoor games, 34 bowling lanes, specialty bars, and lounge areas.

Just an hour past Rochester, Buffalo has a ton of options like Canalside, a waterfront area with hundreds of events a year, or Buffalo RiverWorks, where you can zip line, climb silos, and conquer a ropes course. The icing on the cake of your road trip should be a visit to Niagara Falls, where the classic Maid of the Mist boat tour where Jim and Pam got married on The Office has been refreshed with new eco-friendly rechargeable electric boats. And yes, you’re going to get sprayed!

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