Credit: @wanderwomanpics on Instagram

If you’re wondering how to plan the seemingly endless things to do in New York State in the summer, look no further. We’ve planned your weekends for you, allowing you to sample the best of everything New York State has to offer, from surfing, hiking, and camping to festivals, fireworks, and live outdoor theater. Make your summer an unforgettable one in New York.

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.

Learn to Surf at Rockaway Beach (June 24-25): New York City

Row of surfboards lying side by side on the beach.

Spend the weekend chasing the perfect wave at Rockaway Beach with New York Surf School. They’ve been teaching novices how to hang ten since 2005 and they offer instruction for both kids and adults. Private, semi-private, and group lessons are available. Students will learn about surfing basics, paddling techniques, and ocean safety from CPR and first-aid certified instructors. If you want to extend your stay beyond the weekend, Surf School Summer Camp and BoogieBoard Camp are offered on weekdays.

After class, take a walk on the 5.5-mile Rockaway Boardwalk. You’ll have worked up an appetite on the waves so stop in at Cuisine by Claudette. They serve energizing juices and smoothies, along with salads, sandwiches, and more. Tacoway Beach, known for fried fish tacos, tofu tacos, and cucumber and mango salads, is another favorite haunt for fueling up, as is Bungalow Bar, with menu items from mussels to lobster rolls to burgers and French dips. Need to ease those sore surfing muscles? Book a room and a massage at The Rockaway Hotel + Spa. You can also ride the NYC Ferry from Rockaway Beach to Manhattan for the big NYC Pride March and PrideFest, happening June 25.

Celebrate Independence Day (July 2-4): Thousand Islands

Fireworks over Boldt Castle in Alexandria Bay, NY.

What better way to observe summer’s biggest holiday than by watching fireworks light up the sky over the beautiful St. Lawrence River? You can even make the fireworks a two-day event. Catch the Clayton Fireworks on July 3 followed by Independence Day Fireworks over Boldt Castle on July 4. Watch the celebrations from land or book a fireworks cruise with Clayton Island Tours (July 3) or Uncle Sam Boat Tours (July 4). Accommodations will fill up quickly for this major holiday weekend, so book now at Riveredge Resort or Otter Creek Inn in Alexandria Bay. Head to Riley’s by the River for breakfast, lunch, or dinner with waterfront views, and top off any meal with dessert at Whole Scoop or Lil’ River Fudge Co

Listen to Live Music by the Light of a Bonfire (July 8-9): Chautauqua-Allegheny 

Peek 'n Peak-Clymer-Chautauqua-Allegheny

Kick off your weekend at Peek’n Peak Resort & Spa with Bonfires & Brews, an evening of live music, food, and beer, along with lawn games and a s’mores station, making it an event the whole family is welcome to attend. The free event takes place on July 8 from 5-9 PM at Gazebo Grill, with tunes from Tiny Music. Spend the rest of your weekend at Peek'n Peak having summer adventures. Zip 2,000 feet over the treetops on a two-part zipline, navigate a series of treetop obstacles on the Aerial Adventure Course, ride the Soaring Eagle, a 1,400-foot seated zipline, play a few rounds of golf (regular or miniature), and relax at the indoor/outdoor pool complex (fees apply to activities). For a dose of zen, book a massage, facial, or body treatment at Serenity Spa. Dining options at Peek'n Peak will meet your mealtime needs but if you prefer to dine off-site, there are plenty of choices. Go to French Creek Tavern for pizza and wings or Dutch Village Restaurant & Gift Shop for fluffy pancakes, hearty salads, and extensive sandwich options to choose from. 

Visit a Historic Waterfront Village in the North Fork (July 15-16): Long Island 

View of the water and boats at Greenport docs

Get to know Greenport, an adorable waterfront village packed with activities. After browsing antique stores, shops, and galleries, take a walk at Orient Beach State Park, then catch the French lavender in bloom at Lavender by the Bay. To sample local craft beverages, order a pint at Greenport Harbor Brewing Company, located inside a renovated firehouse, or taste award-winning wines at the waterfront Kontokosta Winery (reservations required). When you’re ready to eat, Greenport has restaurants to suit every taste. Brix & Rye serves classic cocktails and pizza in a casual, speakeasy-type setting. Claudio’s Waterfront has your summertime seafood fix, and Noah’s offers fantastic higher end farm-to-table fare. Hotels and bed-and-breakfasts in the North Fork tend to fill up quickly so book accommodations now at Sound View Greenport, Harbor Knoll Bed and Breakfast (3-night minimum), or The Shoals Suites and Slips

Watch an Outdoor Play in the Ruins of a Castle (July 22-23): Hudson Valley

Bannerman Castle in Fishkill, NY.

The best way to explore Bannerman Castle, an early 20th century Scottish-style castle that’s now in ruins, is to attend a special event on Bannerman Island. From July 19-23, see “Nunsense” a hilarious musical farce about a convent staging a fundraiser to enable them to bury the last four nuns of their order. Or book a cruise and walking tour, where, after the 30-minute boat ride, a docent will lead a tour describing the history of this intriguing island in the Hudson River. If you have a kayak or canoe, you’re invited to paddle your way to the island and take a self-guided walking tour when you arrive (fees apply to all tours and events; advance registration is required). When you’re not poking around castle ruins, check out the charming town of Beacon. Stay at Beacon Bed and Breakfast, conveniently located near Main Street so you can easily get to popular downtown cafes and restaurants like Homespun Foods, Brothers Trattoria, Meyer’s Olde Dutch, and BJ’s Soul Food Restaurant. Be sure to leave time to see the large-scale sculptures at Dia Beacon, a must-see museum if you’re visiting Beacon.

Play in the Park in Saratoga Springs (July 29-30): Capital-Saratoga 

Gideon Putnam Hotel in Saratoga Springs, NY.

Within the boundaries of Saratoga Spa State Park, you’ll find all the summertime fun you can pack into a weekend. Start by checking in at The Gideon Putnam*, a historic hotel with on-site restaurants and a spa where you can book a massage or a mineral bath soak. (*Operations will resume May 1, 2023 for Thursday-Sunday stays, moving to 7 days a week beginning Memorial Day Weekend.) Grab a map at reception and strike out on the easy hiking trails; for a unique hiking experience, follow the trail that leads to a natural mineral spring spurting up out of the ground like a geyser. After hiking, cool down at the Victoria Pool or the Peerless Pool Complex, two fabulous swimming pool facilities at Saratoga Spa State Park. The Peerless Pool Bathhouse Complex includes a football-sized swimming pool, a smaller kids pool, and a 19-foot winding double water slide. There’s also a 27-hole golf course in the park. At dinnertime, dine at Putnam’s Restaurant, which serves upscale dishes that change with the seasons. Or dine al fresco on the pet-friendly outdoor patio. Enjoy a night out on July 30, when Matchbox Twenty and Ben Rector will play a concert at Saratoga Performing Arts Center.

Visit a Vintage Amusement Park in a Summer Resort Town (August 5-6): Central New York 

Sylvan Beach Amusement Park

Spend a weekend in Sylvan Beach, a resort community on the eastern shore of Oneida Lake. The village comes alive in the summer, when jet skis and boats zip across the lake, sun-lovers catch rays on the sand, and the sound of live music flows from beachfront restaurants and bars. In other words, summer is celebrated whole-heartedly at Sylvan Beach. When you need a break from the sun, head to the midway at Sylvan Beach Amusement Park for a spin on nostalgic rides like the Scrambler and Tilt-A-Whirl. Then sharpen your arcade game skills at Playland, and get your fill of carnival treats like cotton candy and popcorn. 

Summer rentals are plentiful at places like Sunset Cottages, which offers 1-4-bedroom cottages and is located in the heart of the village. You’ll also find the quintessential dining options that every good beach town should have. Eat a hearty breakfast at Pancake House, feast on a seafood platter for lunch at Eddie’s Restaurant, have dinner with a view at the Canal View Cafe. Top it all off with ice cream from What’s the Scoop. If you’re feeling lucky, head to the Lake House at Sylvan Beach, a casino with more than 100 slot machines, a lakefront dining room, and live entertainment from local musicians. 

Bask in the Cool Breeze on Buffalo’s Waterfront (August 12-13): Greater Niagara

People on the boardwalk at Canalside in Buffalo, NY.

Explore the 21-acre revitalized waterfront space known as Canalside Buffalo, which offers activities for every outdoor-lover. Take a stroll or bike ride along the Boardwalk, relax on Adirondack chairs and play table games on the Great Lawn, or join a yoga or fitness class on Dart Lawn or Pierce Lawn. Kids will love the Buffalo Heritage Carousel and the Children’s Museum. If they’re not too wiped out afterwards, they can play on the sandy beach at the end of the Boardwalk. BFLO Harbor Kayak rents kayaks and standup paddle boards if you want to get inside that cool Buffalo River breeze. Explore Buffalo leads a Canalside Walking Tour, and Buffalo Boat Tours runs informative history tours on the city’s waterways. Wind down your day of waterfront adventure with a cold one and dinner at Southern Tier Brewery Buffalo or spice up your trip with a drive to Anchor Bar, home of the original Buffalo chicken wing. Convenient stays near Canalside include Courtyard by Marriott Buffalo Downtown/Canalside or Buffalo Marriott at LECOM Harbor Center.

Continue exploring the next day with a visit to the Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens to see exotic blooms, native and tropical plants, and an aquatic garden that’s home to a family of koi fish.

Camp in the Catskills (August 19-20): Catskills 

Two people paddling a canoe on a lake.

In addition to more than 200 tent and trailer sites, North-South Lake State Campground offers all sorts of amenities and opportunities for outdoor recreation. Numerous hiking trails at varying levels of difficulty lead to some of the most beautiful views in the Catskills. Be sure to get a look at the site of the Catskill Mountain House, a long-gone resort that was built in 1824. It’s a short easy walk with the reward of a truly breathtaking panoramic view. Longer hikes lead to scenic vistas like Artist’s Rock or Sunset Rock. Whether you choose easy, moderate, or difficult trails, you’ve earned some relaxation time at North-South Lake’s beach. Swimming is allowed and canoes, kayaks, stand up paddleboards, and paddle boats are available to rent. And while you may be immersed in nature, you’re only about five miles away from the cafes, boutiques, and restaurants in the colorful village of Tannersville. If you’re looking for a break from campsite cooking, try a cheese plate, steak, or sandwich from Last Chance Antiques & Cheese Cafe or sit down to fine farm-to-table fare at Jessie’s Harvest House

Explore Syracuse and Attend the New York State Fair (August 26-27): Finger Lakes

People riding in a skyride at the New York State Fair.

Spend a day at the New York State Fair viewing exhibits that feature the very best the Empire State has to offer. If you’re there for the live music, Blues rock band George Thorogood and The Destroyers hit the stage at 8 PM on Saturday. Two more performers take the stage on Sunday, The Prodigals at 1 PM and Matt Stell at 6 PM. Book a stay at an area hotel like Hampton Inn & Suites Syracuse North Airport Area, Hilton Garden Inn Syracuse, Homewood Suites by Hilton Syracuse/Liverpool, or Staybridge Suites Syracuse (Liverpool). After the fair, get to know Syracuse on a deeper level by visiting attractions that shaped the city and in some cases, all of New York State. Did you eat your fill of salt potatoes at the fair? Find out why at the Salt Museum, where you’ll learn that Syracuse was once the center of the salt industry. At the Erie Canal Museum, gain a deeper understanding of the canal and the impact it had on the economy and growth of New York State. A visit to Syracuse isn’t complete unless you spend some time in the Armory Square Historic District, and then sample succulent barbecued meats at Dinosaur Bar-B-Que. The Syracuse location was the first of what’s now a popular chain of restaurants.

Close Out Summer at a Three-Day Music Festival (September 1-3): Adirondacks

Colorful lights on a stage during a music festival.

Celebrate Labor Day weekend at the Adirondack Independence Music Festival, made up of three days of music and partying at The Festival Commons at Charles R. Wood Park in Lake George. Plan to jam all weekend long to the music of premier touring bands in a family-friendly atmosphere. When you’re not rocking out, take advantage of summer’s last hurrah by taking a dip in the lake at Million Dollar Beach or Shepard Park Beach, and dining at The Lagoon and other waterfront restaurants. As a summer resort town, Lake George has no end of lodging options from resorts, to motels, to camp sites. Accommodations convenient to the Adirondack Independence Music Festival include Holiday Inn Lake George, Fort William Henry Hotel, and Lake George Battleground State Campground.

Don't forget to post photos of your New York adventures on Instagram and Twitter with #iSpyNY and tag us on Facebook!