A mention of New York usually conjures images of the Chrysler building or the Statue of Liberty. But north of NYC’s sleek skyscrapers and urbane atmosphere is a whole new world of small-town charm and picturesque scenery.

Upstate New York is an explorer’s paradise dotted with bustling towns and hamlets that are perfect for visiting in the summer. There’s plenty to offer, from lively dining and local shopping scenes to hiking trails and lakes for the outdoorsman in you.

Here are the five must-visit towns in upstate New York for your next road trip:


This colorful college town is brimming with opportunities for a tired road-tripper to eat, drink and make merry. There’s something for everyone here, with accommodations ranging from camping and glamping set-ups to cabins, cottages, and full-fledged hotels.

Nearby Cornell University and Ithaca College are already home to a crowd of international students, but the diversity is well-reflected in the local dining, arts, and shopping scenes.

And when you want a change of pace, explore one of the many local hiking trails to discover the gorgeous waterfalls in the area. If have a fall or accident, you can walk into an urgent care clinic to seek treatment with no appointment needed.


New York state’s bustling capital has plenty to keep you occupied on your weekend getaway.

Architecture enthusiasts will love the stately elegance of historical buildings like the New York State Capitol and the New York State Education Building.

Albany is steeped in a rich history that you can learn more about through both the New York State Museum and the Iroquois Indian Museum.

And when you’ve had your fill of history, you can explore more contemporary pursuits, including Albany’s array of breweries and restaurants as well as its sparkling nightlife.

Summer travelers can look forward to local seasonal fairs as well as exciting outdoor concerts. It’s a good idea to check Albany’s event calendar online to see what events line up with your visit dates.


Tucked away in the High Peaks Region of the Catskills Mountains, Phoenicia is a small hamlet with significant tourist appeal.

Foodies will enjoy the variety of environments ranging from wood-fired artisan pizzerias to old-school taprooms and even a classic diner serving locally sourced classics.

Phoenicia is also home to a resort and spa that allows your troubles to melt away. This is the perfect place to visit for anyone looking to escape city life briefly.

Watkins Glen

No round-up of upstate New York towns is complete without a mention of Watkins Glen. Located in Schuyler County, New York, this sparsely populated village offers more than you think.

Wine connoisseurs may be pleasantly surprised by the award-winning wineries here that offer all your favorites, from crisp whites to classic reds and modern rosés. Nearby are a few niche museums like the Finger Lakes Boating Museum (dedicated to boatbuilding and boating) and the National Soaring Museum (known for its collection of vintage and contemporary sailplanes).

Watkins Glen International is the region’s racetrack which has hosted plenty of road races, including NASCAR events.

Meanwhile. Watkins Glen State Park offers plenty of hikes with stunning waterfalls, beautiful foliage, and unforgettable views.

Alexandria Bay

Located in Jefferson County, Alexandria Bay is a village in the Thousand Islands region of New York.

Take a boat tour to get a close-up view of the islands and don’t miss the beautiful and melancholy Boldt Castle. If you’re feeling a little more unconventional (or romantic!), you can also get on board a helicopter or hot-air balloon.

In the summer, this village comes alive with events and activities, from fairs and festivals to concerts. Kids will love the “Pirate Days” in August, an 11-day festival celebrating the pirate Bill Johnston and the area’s swashbuckling past.

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