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While New York State is home to the Big Apple, New York City, it also boasts irresistible charm as found in its small towns. Set amidst majestic mountains, featuring wonderful wineries, and close to all sorts of outdoor adventure, New York's adorable small towns offer visitors a place to relax and rejuvenate while enjoying the surrounding natural beauty. You’ll discover great places to eat, one-of-a-kind shops, and easy access to some of the state’s best outdoor experiences such as hiking, biking, boating, ziplining, and more! Plan your getaway to one of New York’s amazing small towns today with this guide to some of the best locations in the state.
Masks are encouraged, but optional in most settings per New York State guidelines. Individual businesses or attractions may require mask wearing. Call ahead and check websites and social media to make sure attractions and amenities are open and available.
Originally published 06/09/2021
Saranac Lake (Adirondacks)
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Situated on the banks of beautiful Saranac Lake (pictured) and surrounded by stunning mountains, this village calls itself “The Adirondacks’ Coolest Place,” in reference to both its climate and great variety of fun and exciting things to see and do. Visit creative eateries, galleries, and shops, and enjoy cultural and arts events, all within a short drive to outdoor activities. In summer, hikers climb mountain trails, fishing enthusiasts cast their lines in lakes and rivers, and there are plenty of ways to get out on the water. Rent a canoe or kayak from St. Regis Canoe Outfitters and paddle into nature. Looking for old-fashioned fun for all ages? Check out the Adirondack Carousel, which features 24 hand-carved carousel animals indigenous to the Adirondacks, and rounding boards of regional scenes painted by local artists. The Saranac Laboratory Museum is fascinating for history buffs, highlighting the village's unique history as a tuberculosis treatment destination. The community’s largest event of the year, the Winter Carnival, is an amazing celebration featuring delicious foods, local craft beverages, and an awesome community-built ice palace.
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Enjoy the natural splendor of rolling hills, rushing rivers, and powerful waterfalls, in this small village. You’ll discover many farms and farmers markets to shop, as well as great fishing and canoeing on the Battenkill River (pictured). Wintertime activities include an ice skating area in the village, and sledding and snowmobiling in many open fields. Additionally, the village features truly great outdoors attractions that offer hiking, birdwatching, and more, including Carters Pond Wildlife Management Area, Mildred Denton Wildlife Sanctuary – Southern Adirondack Audubon Society, Livingston Brook Preserve – Battenkill Conservancy, and Thunder Mountain Recreation Area, and the Washington County Fair Farm Museum, which displays artifacts of life in the area from the 1800s to the 1940s.
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This charming hamlet on the banks of the Delaware River is the perfect destination for a Catskills small town retreat. Narrowsburg’s Main Street features cool shops like Maison Bergogne, a design store featuring antique hardware and salvaged lighting. Head outdoors and canoe or kayak down the Delaware River, or take a relaxing float from Skinner’s Falls. Restaurant options include The Heron, set against the scenic Delaware River and incorporating the region's agricultural resources into its modern American menu, and The Laundrette, featuring mouth-watering wood-fired, naturally leavened sourdough pizzas, and homemade desserts. Arts and culture lovers will want to pay a visit to the Delaware Valley Arts Alliance and the hamlet’s annual Big Eddy Film Festival.
Chittenango (Central New York)
Named for Oneida's creek—Chu-de-naag, meaning "Where waters run North"—this town is home to the beautiful Chittenango Falls State Park (pictured), and is also the birthplace of L. Frank Baum, author of “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.” Baum is honored at the All Things Oz Museum (host of the popular annual celebration Oz-Stravaganza!), which displays original props and costumes from movies and musicals, rare collectibles, Judy Garland's autograph, and more. If you feel like playing games, head to the Yellow Brick Road Casino & Sports Book, which features slots, table games, bowling, golf, and a variety of great dining options. History buffs can see the area’s Erie Canal past come to life at the Chittenango Landing Canal Boat Museum. Hungry? Stop for lunch or dinner at Nina’s Pizza & Italian Restaurant, a favorite local stop for pizza and wings.
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Travelers looking for fun and adventure will discover hundreds of terrific recreational opportunities, from fishing to sailing and golfing to water skiing, on the shores of Lake Erie in the Town of Westfield. Lovers of art and culture can take in concerts, browse galleries, and attend theater and dance performances. Internationally renowned Chautauqua Institution (pictured) is only minutes away and offers incredible summer programming including performances, lectures, visual arts shows, and more. Westfield is also in the heart of the world’s largest Concord Grape Belt; local farms and wineries offer tours and tastings all year long. Experience and learn about all things grape at the Grape Discovery Center, the official Visitors Center for the Lake Erie Concord Grape Belt.
Canandaigua (Finger Lakes)
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Just 24 miles south of Rochester, this charming town on the northern shores of Canandaigua Lake, whose name means "the chosen spot," is perfect for an active but relaxing getaway any time of the year. Satisfy your culinary cravings at New York Kitchen, which offers meals, tastings, shopping, demos, and classes, and a lakeside restaurant featuring live music. Afterwards, take a relaxing stroll along Canandaigua Lake, either in Kershaw Park or along Canandaigua City Pier. Experience the beauty of the 50-acre estate of historic Sonnenberg Gardens and Mansion State Historic Park. If you’re up for more of an adrenaline rush, Bristol Mountain’s Aerial Adventures await all year long, including the Zipline Canopy Tour and the Aerial Adventure Park. History buffs or those just looking to travel back in time will relish a tour of the nearby Granger Homestead and Carriage Museum.
East Aurora (Greater Niagara)
Discover where America’s Arts and Crafts movement began over a century ago, the Village of East Aurora, which continues to embrace a creative vibe today. Located 20 minutes from downtown Buffalo, East Aurora is full of distinctive attractions, from the only house built by a U.S. president with his own hands to a family-owned 5 & 10 store, as well as a variety of cafes, boutiques, and restaurants. Enjoy elegantly restored accommodations at Roycroft Inn (pictured), featuring original Roycroft furnishings and artwork. Built in 1895, the inn features a fine dining restaurant and banquet facilities, along with weekly jazz music in the bar/lounge. Visit the National Historic Landmark Roycroft Campus to explore the rich history of Elbert Hubbard and the Roycrofters from the early 1900s Arts and Crafts movement.
Goshen (Hudson Valley)
Recently named one of the 15 Best Small Towns to Visit by Smithsonian magazine, the Town of Goshen is the home of New York State’s hot new attraction, LEGOLAND® New York Resort, the largest LEGOLAND® theme park in the world, and the ultimate theme park destination for kids ages 2–12 and their families. The town is set in an area of rolling hills, orchards, farms, and is also steeped in harness racing history. Goshen’s Harness Racing Museum and Hall of Fame overlooks the town’s historic track and has artifacts relating to its steeds, including Goldsmith's Maid, the winningest horse in harness racing. Goshen’s charming Main Street boasts adorable shops and lots of spots to grab a bite to eat. Stay at the Stagecoach Inn, a former 18th century stagecoach stop and add on a day trip to the 18-mile Heritage Trail, which runs from Middletown to Harriman through Goshen, Chester, and Monroe, winding through a bird and wildlife sanctuary, historic landmarks, quiet streams, scenic vistas, and rolling meadows.
Sag Harbor (Long Island)
For small town charm on Long Island, the Village of Sag Harbor, nestled on a bay in the heart of the Hamptons, enchants with gracious accommodations, pristine beaches, and centuries-old streets lined with ancient trees and inviting homes. Sag Harbor is home to destination restaurants and shops that offer fare from around the corner or around the world. The community, one of the East End’s loveliest villages, was once a bustling whaling port, and you can learn all about the village’s whaling past at the Sag Harbor Whaling & Historical Museum (pictured). Today, Sag Harbor is Long Island’s only village with a marine port as part of its main shopping area. It also has fascinating history as a safe haven during the Jim Crow era, commemorated in the village’s three historically Black neighborhoods, Sag Harbor Hills, Azurest, and Ninevah (collectively known as SANS).You can discover these historic neighborhoods for yourself by taking a walking tour.
City Island (New York City)
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For a truly unique small town experience in New York City, head to City Island, a quaint seaside escape in The Bronx. This fishing village, which feels more like a New England resort than a city neighborhood, is home to old Victorian homes (be sure to see the NYC landmark Schofield House, built in 1840 and the oldest home on the island), several yacht clubs, and waterfront restaurants. The island is popular during the warmer months for its laid-back atmosphere, fresh seafood dining options, and a range of water activities including scuba diving, fishing charters, and sailing lessons. Explore the Island’s shipbuilding history and see local photographs from days past at the City Island Nautical Museum, head to Turtle Cove Golf Center in Pelham Bay Park for miniature golf, batting cages, and a driving range, or go for a ride at the Bronx Equestrian Center, which offers trail and carriage rides and lessons for beginners. Finally, to cap your full resort experience within New York City, hit the beach, get some sun and unwind at Orchard Beach and Promenade at Pelham Bay Park!
Alexandria Bay (Thousand Islands-Seaway)
Alexandria Bay, situated amidst the gentle waters of the St. Lawrence Seaway, is a wonderful destination. This sportsman’s and boater’s paradise is surrounded by the region’s most amazing islands. Discover Boldt Castle’s timeless story of love on Heart Island (pictured). On Dark Island, tour the intricate architecture, beautiful furnishings, and puzzling secret passages of the magnificent 100-year-old Singer Castle. Take an Uncle Sam Boat Tour along Millionaire’s Row and see inspiring seaside homes. There are also two historic lighthouses if you want to get a better view of both the area’s history and scenery. In and around Alexandria Bay, there are a myriad of accommodation options, from quaint B&Bs to RV parks to camping in state parks. If you run or bike, try experiencing the Seaway Trail (NYS Route 12), which runs parallel to the St. Lawrence River. Nature lovers will enjoy walking at the Minna Anthony Common Nature Center, Otter Creek Preserve and Nature Trail, and Macsherry Trail. The River Walk commences between Bay House Artisans and A Bay International on James Street in Alexandria Bay and Carnegie Bay, and there are quiet bays and coves looking to be explored by canoe, paddle board, or kayak all along the St. Lawrence River. After dark, catch a movie at the Bay Drive-In Theater.