We all want a solid two-week block of vacation days in the summer, but even if you can’t get that much time off, you can still get your much-needed R&R! Read on for 11 magical summer getaways right here in New York State that will only take a weekend to make you feel refreshed and revived.
Saranac Lake (Adirondacks)
Immerse yourself in the rugged beauty of the undisturbed nature in Adirondack Park and the charm and culture of Saranac Lake village. Though it shares the surrounding scenery with the village of Lake Placid, Saranac Lake sees fewer tourists, making it a bit calmer—though by no means “sleepy.” Set aside an hour to check out High Falls Gorge, a nature park with a short trail that crosses over bridges—some with glass bottoms—to see the Ausable River cascading over cliffs. You can’t miss a trip to the Wild Center to take its famous “Wild Walk,” an elevated treetop path through the forest with a playful human-sized bird’s nest and spider’s web.
Back in town, little ones can take a spin on the beautifully handcrafted Adirondack Carousel next to a playground and picnic tables. If the kids are too old for a carousel (though...is anyone too old for a carousel?) and are itching for adventure, surprise them with two miles of off-road dirt track at the Farmhouse Go-Carts. The recently renovated Hotel Saranac is a chic lodging option in the center of everything, and Gauthier's Saranac Lake Inn is situated right at the edge of the lake so you can roll out of bed and dip your toes in. Hit up the cozy little Dj’s Rustic Restaurant for cheesy omelettes and enormous fresh blueberry pancakes, or try a sandwich at Blue Moon Cafe where they make all their own breads.
Hunter (Hudson Valley)
Why is world-class ski destination Hunter on a list of summer getaways? Because outdoor ziplining, swimming, fly-fishing, and more prove that there is no wrong season to visit. First off, set down your bags at Scribner’s Lodge where you’ll fall in love with the interior design and atmosphere that are both elegant and cozy, or at Hunter Inn, with its sizeable rooms and two-story suites. Then get ready to take in some serious scenery on Hunter Mountain’s Scenic Skyride, a six-passenger chairlift the whole family can ride 3,200 feet up to the summit, passing over mind-boggling views of the Catskill mountains. If you want the views with a bit more action, try New York Zipline Adventures’ Canopy Tour, the longest and highest zipline in North America (don’t worry, they have other, milder zipline tours as well!).
For some ground-level fun, kick back, have a picnic, and swim at Dolan's Lake. If you’re ready for a new hobby, attend Hunter Mountain Fly Fishing School, where you can sign up for half- and full-day excursions. After you’ve worked up an appetite, head to Mama’s Boy Burgers where you can eat outside and build your own perfect burger, followed by thick and creamy milkshakes. In the mornings, consider Twin Peaks Coffee & Donuts your go-to for fresh, strong coffee and a Samoa-flavored donut (that’s chocolate, coconut, and caramel, if you’re not Girl Scout cookie-obsessed). Finally, for an unusual treat, check out the Last Chance Antiques & Cheese Cafe, a cheese-focused, gluten-free-friendly restaurant / antique shop / live music venue. Swing by their gourmet shop for vintage candy, chocolates, honey, syrup, and cheeses.
Rocking Horse Ranch (Catskills)
Dreaming of a getaway that you don’t have to plan too much? The 2018 Tripadvisor Travelers’ Choice award-winning Rocking Horse Ranch Resort is your all-inclusive, one-stop family fun shop. The rooms in both the Main Lodge and the Oklahoma Building are clean and spacious. As you can probably guess from its name, the ranch offers horseback riding with options for all skill levels, including a pony ride area for little ones.
The resort has its own massive indoor waterpark to help you stay cool and entertained on hot days. Your kids will never run out of things to do, given the arcade with mini-bowling, nightly live performances, a BB gun shooting gallery, archery range, and something called The Fun Barn, with ping pong tables, a bounce house, and air-powered Nerf cannons! You can also roam the gardens, take a dip in the private lake, and try the Mountain Tubing Adventure, a summer version of snow tubing. Each morning you’ll have trouble choosing what to eat from all the options in the massive breakfast buffet, likewise with the sundae bar after dinner. Plus, hot chocolate, coffee, and snacks are on offer 24/7.
Buffalo (Greater Niagara)
Whether you’re ready to check Niagara Falls off your bucket list, or you’re just after some delicious Buffalo chicken wings—both are valid goals, by the way!—head to the city of Buffalo for arts, culture, and fun family activities to fill your weekend getaway. Post up in the Courtyard by Marriott Buffalo Downtown/Canalside for nice views overlooking the water, or the luxurious Victorian Mansion on Delaware, both placing you in the heart of all the action. The Buffalo Museum of Science offers incredible, interactive exhibits, 3D movies in partnership with National Geographic, and an enormous play supermarket for young kids. The museum also houses a robust dinosaur exhibit with an elephant bird egg, which was long thought to be a replica but recently proven to be the real deal!
Architecture lovers can pop into the Frank Lloyd Wright's Martin House Complex for a quick tour before exploring the nearby 140-year-old Buffalo Zoo and its beautiful animal habitats, including a Gorilla House, indoor Rainforest Falls, and the “Arctic Edge.” Get the full taste of Buffalo by grabbing tickets to a Buffalo Bisons game, soaking in the sights on a Buffalo Harbor Cruise, and, most importantly, chowing down at the site of the original Buffalo chicken wings with a pilgrimage to Anchor Bar. If you need a palate cleanser after all the wings, another fun option is Hertel Avenue Poutine & Cream in the city’s charming historic district. Deciding between a decked out mason jar milkshake and fresh, piping hot poutine is simply too difficult...so we recommend getting both.
Saratoga Springs (Capital-Saratoga)
Known for its healing natural mineral waters ever since the late 19th century, Saratoga Springs has long been one of the nation’s go-to getaway destinations. And even if all you want is that precious R&R, don’t worry, there are plenty of things to do to keep the more restless members of your family happy and entertained. Take the world-famous Saratoga Race Course, for example, where kids will delight in getting to see the horses march through the picnic areas as they make their way to the track. Watch the races from the grandstand or displayed on big screens placed throughout the premises, and check out the Saratoga Family Zone for games, a selfie booth, and more.
Photo Credit: Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce
You can always take kids ages 7 and under to the Children’s Museum at Saratoga for guaranteed fun, or even to the National Museum of Dance (the nation’s only museum dedicated solely to dance), which houses an interactive area for children. Satisfy your culture craving further at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center, where you can catch classic music and dance performances—as well as some not-so-classic shows, such as Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone™ in Concert on August 4, or Star Wars: A New Hope In Concert on August 11. Dig into big, beautiful French toast and pancake breakfasts at Sweet Mimi’s Cafe & Bakery, and for dinner head to Comfort Kitchen for artfully plated comfort food. Hit the hay downtown at the Embassy Suites by Hilton Saratoga Springs, or for something a little homier, try the eco-friendly and certified Audubon Cooperative Wildlife Refuge or Saratoga Farmstead B&B and its locally sourced breakfast menu.
Shelter Island (Long Island)
A local island vacation without the crowds? Sounds too good to be true, but it can be found between Long Island’s North and South Forks on peaceful Shelter Island. Stay at the 20’s-era Pridwin Hotel for incredible views of the shore, or in one of the bright, nautical-themed rooms at the pet-friendly West Neck Guesthouse. There are beaches all over the island, but Crescent and Wades both provide a lifeguard. A word to the wise: the sunset from the West-facing Crescent Beach is absolutely breathtaking.
Because the island is flanked by two peninsulas, the water’s naturally calm and perfect for kayaking, so head to Shelter Island Kayak to rent boats and paddleboards. Try a hike in the gorgeous Mashomack Preserve on a number of trails ranging from short and sweet to 11 miles long. While you’re there, check out the Sylvester Manor, the home of a European settler family that dates back to 1652. After many transformations, the Manor today is an organic educational farm that hosts events like “Story Thyme” for kids, painting workshops, and more. Need something sweet for your beach picnic? Head to Kyle’s for croissants and pastries, such as the “Cruffin,” a cinnamon roll-muffin hybrid. For a sit-down dinner try the super fresh fish tacos from Maria’s Kitchen.
Skaneateles (Finger Lakes)
The village of Skaneateles, where the downtown runs right up against the Skaneateles Lake, is the bucolic remedy you’ve been waiting for to get rid of everyday stress. The lake water is so pure that more than 220,000 households in and around Syracuse use it unfiltered! Stay in one of the beautiful, rustic (and pet-friendly) rooms at Finger Lakes Lodging by Mirbeau. Another option is Skaneateles Suites where you can book the family a private bungalow or opt for their classic hotel rooms (or the Main House, which sleeps up to eight people). The Skaneateles Lake is breathtaking, and you’ll understand instantly upon seeing it why so many people call its bright blue waters the prettiest of the Finger Lakes.
Visit the public beach for swimming and snorkeling, or take a sightseeing cruise with Mid-Lake Navigation (they offer Dinosaur Bar-B-Que dinner cruises as well!). Explore nature with a nice hike on the Charlie Major Nature Trail where you’ll pass remnants of its days as a railroad in the 19th century. Breathe in the scent of lavender at Lockwood Lavender Farm, where you can actually pick your own, and try apple cider at Beak n’ Skiff, the #1 apple orchard in the country! Be sure you make it to the famous Doug’s Fish Fry for the freshest, crispiest fried fish sandwich served on a soft hamburger bun. Grab breakfast and delicious scones, cinnamon buns, whoopie pies, pop tarts, and more, all baked daily from Skaneateles Bakery.
Alexandria Bay (Thousand Islands-Seaway)
Escape to Alexandria Bay where you’ll be perfectly situated to explore thousands of islands sprinkled on the St. Lawrence River between the U.S. and Canada (hence the region’s name of 1000 Islands!). Stay at Capt. Thomson's Resort or the family-run Edgewood Resort for rooms with a view overlooking the water and passing boats. And since boating is a way of life here, learn about all the history of watercraft at the Antique Boat Museum. You can walk right up to more than 300 unique, preserved boats and paddle around French Creek Bay aboard a traditional St. Lawrence Skiff, included with the cost of admission.
For a more in-depth (and a bit more luxurious) water tour, Uncle Sam Boat Tours offer an exciting “Two Nation Tour,” which travels through American and Canadian waters (no passport necessary), including an optional stop at Heart Island where you can hop out for a tour of the majestic Boldt Castle, the family home of George C. Boldt, built in 1900. If you need a little break from all the water travel, get the gang over to Alex Bay 500 Go-Karts to drive a few laps around the mile-long track. Kids 10 and older can drive alone, and ages 9 and under can ride with mom or dad for free. Riley’s by the River delivers on the promise in its name—it is right by the river. Hop out of the docking station and sit down at a table to munch on paninis, sweet potato fries, and fresh seafood. Coffee Pot Cathy will hook you up with wonderfully strong, gourmet coffee, crispy hash browns, and fluffy pancakes for breakfast.
Queens (New York City)
There is so much more to New York City than just Manhattan! The massive borough of Queens has so much to do, see, and eat that we’re betting you’ll have a hard time fitting it into one weekend. First of all, it’s the home of the Mets, so you can finally see them in action (ticket prices start as low as $20), or simply tour the stadium for only $9-$13. Next up, visit the super fun Museum of the Moving Image where you’ll find a massive permanent exhibit dedicated to the Muppets and their creator, Jim Henson, as well as interactive experiences, like adding your own voiceover and sound effects into classic movies. Head to the NY Hall of Science for another amazing, hands-on museum adventure, with 450 interactive displays that make science fun and exciting for all ages. Learn about physics through sports simulations, step into the immersive digital “Connected Worlds” exhibit about different environments, and see this summer’s exhibition all about animation, “From Pencils to Pixels.”
Queens is home to gorgeous Rockaway Beach where families can barbeque, play volleyball, build sandcastles, and swim. Plus it’s the city’s only legal surfing beach, so here’s your chance to ride the waves of the Atlantic. Rest up at the Holiday Inn L.I. City or the Boro Hotel in Long Island City. From both hotels you can take about a 20-minute walk to Queensbridge Park and gaze over the Manhattan skyline. If you don’t mind waiting in line, give local favorite Queens Comfort a try for delicious, probably-not-super-nutritious comfort food brunch. You’ll find options such as the “American Hardcore Benedict:” pecan-crusted bacon, a poached egg, hollandaise, a buttermilk biscuit, and hot honey (heaven). Finally, to get a true taste of Queens’ international flavor, hit up the Queens International Night Market which opens every Saturday night from 6pm to midnight through mid-August. Roam row after row of stalls hawking jerk chicken, Moldovan waffles, Indonesian street food, Hungarian chimney cakes, crispy, juicy empanadas, and more.
Calling all comedy connoisseurs, and people who just like to laugh, this August the brand new $50 million National Comedy Center will be opening its doors in Jamestown. Featuring more than 50 immersive exhibits celebrating the art of comedy, the museum lets you trace the history of comedy from the days of Charlie Chaplin up to today’s Internet memes. You can also test your comedy chops with games and competitions, and even fake pie fights! Swing by the Lucille Ball-Desi Arnaz Center, a tribute to the town’s native star. This museum takes you into the lives of the actors who brought us beloved characters Lucy and Ricky, and offers a behind-the-scenes look at the making of the show, including costumes and sets (you can actually step into a recreated Tropicana nightclub!). Summer is one of the best times to visit the Chautauqua Institution, a lakeside resort and cultural center that hosts lectures and arts performances, including ballet, opera, and choir concerts. Reconnect with nature at the Audubon Community Nature Center, a 600-acre wetland preserve home to more than five miles of trails, an arboretum, educational gardens, and perfect picnicking spots. You can also explore its Nature Center where you can meet and learn about live animals.
Finally, spend some time by sparkling Chautauqua Lake where you’ll find one of the nation’s oldest continually operating amusement parks, the Midway State Park, replete with vintage midway rides and games, including a charming carousel, mini golf, go-karts, bumper boats, and old-fashioned treats. Spend your nights in the sleek and convenient Hampton Inn & Suites Jamestown or the Comfort Inn Jamestown - Falconer. If your belly hurts from laughing with Lucy or at the Comedy Center, fill it up with hand-cut fries and burgers or a classic Reuben sandwich at the Allen Street Diner, followed by ice cream on the unique sprinkle-infused cone at the aptly named The Sprinkle Cone.
Binghamton (Central NY)
In Binghamton you can pack river exploration, world-famous animal exhibits, local BBQ delicacies, and more into one incredible weekend. Spend your nights in the centrally located DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Binghamton, or go for something more intimate in the stylish Park House Bed & Breakfast. You’ll have to try the city’s original Spiedie (“speedy”) sandwich at least once. Visit local hotspot Lupo’s S&S Char Pit to try the signature cubes of marinated meat cooked on a skewer and sandwiched in a soft Italian long roll. Say “hi” to April the Giraffe, baby Taj, and all their friends at the Animal Adventure Park.
Let loose at the Discovery Center with interactive play-learning at exhibits including a kiddie supermarket, a full-size fire truck, TV station, and Story Garden. Take your science-loving family members to the Roberson Museum and Science Center for playful explorations of science, history, and culture, as well as the region’s largest model train display and a 50-seat digital planetarium. Get out onto the stunning Susquehanna River with canoe and kayak rentals from Enchanted Gardens and tour Iroquois and Algonquin homelands. Finally, snag a table at the Lost Dog Cafe and sit down for affordable, casual New American cuisine with out-of-this-world desserts, such as the local coffee-infused crème brûlée.