The Best Things to Do in New York State

The 25 Best Things to Do in New York State

When most visitors think of New York State, they immediately conjure up images of New York City. While no trip to the Empire State is complete without ticking off all of NYC’s iconic and buzzing attractions, there’s so much more to New York State than its biggest city!

Outdoor enthusiasts will love hiking to Kaaterskill Falls in the Catskills, soaking up the summer sun from a boat on Lake George, and whitewater rafting in the dramatic Ausable Chasm. But you don’t have to visit in the summer to have a fantastic vacation in New York. 

If you’re planning a trip for the fall or winter, you’ll definitely want to glimpse the fall foliage at Lake Placid or go skiing and sledding at Whiteface Mountain. No matter what time of year you visit, you can always explore the mom-and-pop shops and historic sites in picture-perfect Cold Spring or marvel at the thunderous Niagara Falls.

Kids and adults alike will love riding the roller coasters at the historic Coney Island and enjoying a relaxing beach getaway in the Hamptons. Once you’ve worked up an appetite, foodies can choose from fresh oysters on Long Island, saucy wings in Buffalo, and world-renowned Rieslings in Finger Lakes Wine Country – not to mention all of the iconic bars and restaurants in NYC!

This list of attractions in New York is the best of the best, from its top-rated outdoor adventures to its family-friendly destinations to its historical sites. There’s no doubt you’ll have an amazing time exploring one of the most beautiful destinations on the East Coast.

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25 cool and unique things to do in New York State

1. Tick Off New York City’s Most Famous Attractions

Best Things to do in New York State: New York City’s Most Famous Attractions

No New York bucket list is complete without visiting all of New York City’s most iconic attractions. If this is your first visit to the Big Apple, the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, Times Square, and a trip to the top of the Empire State Building are a must! 

If you’ve got more time, take a stroll through Central Park, pay your respects at the 9/11 Memorial and Museum, and take in a show on Broadway. After that, you can shop till you drop on Fifth Avenue, peruse works of art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and take in the 360-degree city views from the 102nd floor of the One World Trade Center.

Once you’ve worked up an appetite, it’s time to dig into all of New York City’s most famous foods. Head over to Katz’s Delicatessen for the best pastrami sandwich in the city, or grab a slice of New York-style pizza at Lombardi’s, one of the first pizzerias in the US. From authentic Chinese food in Chinatown to seriously good Italian-American cuisine in Little Italy, New York City is a foodie’s paradise!

Book your Statue of Liberty & Ellis Island Ticket

2. Sample the Best of Brooklyn 

Fun Things to do in New York State: Best of Brooklyn

Although Manhattan gets most of the attention, you’d be remiss if you didn’t spend at least one day exploring everything Brooklyn has to offer. Start your day by walking from Manhattan across the Insta-famous Brooklyn Bridge. The bridge will drop you at the industrial-chic neighborhood of DUMBO, where you will find all sorts of funky galleries, trendy shops, and popular rooftop bars overlooking the Manhattan skyline. 

After that, have a picnic lunch in Prospect Park, spend the afternoon exploring the hipster haven of Williamsburg, or escape the hustle and bustle of the city at the lush Brooklyn Botanic Garden. If street art is your thing, you’ll love exploring the colorful warehouse walls of Bushwick, or for a more formal art-viewing experience, make your way to the Brooklyn Museum

When it comes to food and drink, you’ll be spoiled for choice. You can sample some of the best pizza in the US at Grimaldi’s, wine and dine at the iconic Peter Luger Steakhouse, or snack on the most famous hot dogs in the world at Nathan’s Famous at Coney Island. 

If you’ve still got room, be sure to try a bagel with lox and cream cheese at Shelsky’s of Brooklyn or dig into a Cuban sandwich at Habana Outpost. After that, take some time to sample food from a few of the seriously innovative food stalls in Time Out Market.

3. Ride a Roller Coaster at Coney Island

Best Things to do in New York State: Coney Island

Located in southwest Brooklyn, Coney Island is a popular day trip from NYC and is easily one of the top things to do in New York. Dating back to the 19th century, Coney Island is chock full of world-famous rides, delicious restaurants, and thrilling attractions. Plus, it’s set on one of the most beautiful beaches in New York!

No visit to Coney Island is complete without taking a ride on the iconic The Cyclone roller coaster and Wonder Wheel Ferris wheel. If you need a break from all the thrills, you can soak up the sun on the beach, stroll along the boardwalk, and check out the old-timey Coney Island Circus Sideshow. And once you’ve worked up an appetite, you’ll be spoiled for options. 

If you’ve got a craving for Neapolitan-style pizzas, Totonno’s Pizzeria Napolitano has been serving customers for nearly 100 years, while the burgers and hot dogs at Ruby’s Bar & Grill have kept customers coming back for more since 1972. And if you want to sample New York’s most famous hot dog, Nathan’s Famous is a must. Plus, anyone with a sweet tooth has to pay a visit to Williams Candy for their famous caramel apples! 

While the beach and boardwalk are open year-round, the rides at Coney Island only operate between April through Labor Day.  

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4. Marvel at Giant Works of Art at the Storm King Art Center

Fun Things to do in New York State: Storm King Art Center

Art enthusiasts will love exploring all of the large-scale art installations at the Storm King Art Center. One of the coolest things to do in New York, this outdoor museum is set on 500 acres of land in New Windsor, overlooking the Hudson Valley below. Plus, it’s just 70 minutes north of Manhattan, so it’s a great pick if you’re looking to take a day trip from NYC. 

The grounds are divided into four sections: North Woods, Museum Hill, Meadows, and South Fields. You’re sure to be wowed by the massive installations, including “Mother Peace” by Mark di Suvero, “The Arch” by Alexander Calder, and “Three-Fold Manifestation II” by Aycock. To truly appreciate these unique works, it’s well worth taking the official audio guided tour.   

Storm King is open from early April through early December. If you want to visit the museum and take in views of the fall foliage, visit between mid-October and early November. Spring is also a lovely time to visit for colorful landscapes full of wildflowers.

5. Go Apple Picking at the Historic Fishkill Farms

What to do in New York State: Fishkill Farms

One of the top New York activities in the fall is to PYO (pick your own) apples from a local farm. Luckily, there are plenty of sprawling farms located a stone’s throw from New York City. Whether you’re traveling with family or friends, you won’t be disappointed with a visit to the quaint Fishkill Farms

Located 90 minutes from NYC, this 270-acre apple orchard has been owned and operated by the Morgenthau family for over 100 years. From peas to pumpkins, the farm produces a range of homegrown organic vegetables and eco-certified fruit for you to choose from. 

Depending on the crops and time of year, you can even pick your own fruits and veggies. If you’re visiting during the fall, you’ll definitely want to pluck your own apples, blackberries, and pears from the orchard. 

Once you’ve got your haul, you can enjoy a cider tasting at the Cider Bar for $29. The tasting includes a reserved picnic table, a flight of four ciders, and a cheese and charcuterie board. The onsite Store & Grill also sells locally produced meats, coffees, and cheese, as well as artisanal bath products, household goods, and delicious homemade doughnuts.

6. Have a Beach Day in Southampton

Best Things to do in New York State: Beach Day in Southampton

Located on Long Island – just a few hours from New York City – the Hamptons has long been a summertime escape from the hustle and bustle of the city. And the best part is, you don’t even need a car to get there. Just hop on the Hampton Jitney or the LIRR (Long Island Rail Road), and you’ll be whisked away to the ultra-exclusive Southampton! 

In Southampton, you’ll find the homes of A-list celebrities and elite CEOs along “Billionaire’s Lane.” Head over to Main Street, where you can shop like an A-lister at the high-end boutiques and shops. 

If that’s not enough, Southampton is home to one of the most beautiful stretches of sand on Long Island. At Coopers Beach, you can enjoy a scenic picnic, work on your tan, or try your hand at surfing. 

Once you’ve had enough fun in the sun, sip cocktails at the Southampton Social Club, watch the sunset at Foster Memorial Beach, and catch a concert at Southampton Arts Center. For dinner, try the Asian-inspired cuisine at Bamboo, graze on the creative rolls at Union Sushi & Steak, or enjoy a prime cut of beef at TBar.   

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7. Shuck Your Own Oysters on Long Island

Unique Things to do in New York State: Oysters on Long Island

Farm fresh oysters are serious business on Long Island. And if you want to enjoy your oysters like a true New Yorker, be sure to pay a visit to Little Creek Oyster Farm & Market. Located on the historic Greenport waterfront, this 100-year-old bait and tackle shop turned restaurant is the perfect place to learn how to shuck your own oysters!

One of the coolest things about Little Creek is that the menu features a variety of oysters sourced from Long Island’s best oyster farms. In celebration of the local Long Island spirit, you’ll find the names of each oyster farmer listed on the menu. 

Pick your farm-fresh oysters, and the friendly staff will give you all sorts of shucking tips and techniques. Once your oyster is shucked, you can top them off with the locally sourced pepper and horseradish sauces on the table or douse them in the homemade shallot and white vinegar dressing. 

In line with the restaurant’s local spirit, you can sip ice-cold brews from Greenport Harbor Brewing Co. while you shuck. And don’t worry if you’re too lazy to shuck the oysters yourself because the staff will gladly shuck them for you!

8. Spend a Day Exploring the Adorable Town of Cold Spring 

Must do things in New York State: Town of Cold Spring

If you’re looking to escape the chaos of New York City, Cold Spring is the perfect retreat. The city is surrounded by the Hudson River and Hudson Highlands State Park, making it one of the most picturesque towns in New York. From scenic hikes to beautiful botanical gardens, Cold Spring is brimming with natural beauty. 

Plus, the well-preserved downtown area is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, so you know it’s something special! You can easily spend an entire weekend exploring all of the historic sights, cute cafes, and mom-and-pop shops that line Cold Spring’s charming streets. 

If you want to get your heart pumping, you can hike to the Little Stony Point viewpoint or tackle the epic Breakneck Ridge Trail. For something more relaxing, enjoy a picnic lunch at Foundry Dock Park, take a stroll through the lush Stonecrop Gardens, or go kayaking or canoeing on the Hudson River. However you decide to spend your day, be sure to treat yourself to a famous homemade apple cider doughnut from Vera’s!

9. Take a Hike to Kaaterskill Falls in the Catskills 

Best Things to do in New York State: Kaaterskill Falls in the Catskills

If the Catskills are on your New York itinerary, don’t miss out on the chance to hike to Kaaterskill Falls. Kaaterskill Falls is the largest double-tiered waterfall in New York. The falls plunge 260 feet into the pool below, with the upper drop measuring 175 feet and the lower drop falling 85 feet. 

Kaaterskill Falls is so mesmerizing it has been the subject of numerous artists from the famed Hudson River School, including Thomas Cole and Frederic Church. You’ll find the entrance to the trail, as well as a small parking lot, just west of the town of Palenville. 

Although the trail is short – one-half mile each way – the path is steep, rocky, and slippery and is classified by many as “moderate.” Once you reach the falls, you can take in the bird’s-eye view from the upper viewing platform. But for the coolest glimpse of the falls, make your way down to the bottom of the falls, where you can appreciate this natural wonder in all its glory!

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10. Learn About Albany’s Storied History

Fun Things to do in New York State: Albany’s Storied History

You might not know it, but Albany is one of the oldest cities in America. Founded in 1614, the English took over the city in 1664 and named it after the Duke of Albany. With so much history, it’s no surprise that New York’s capital city is brimming with cool historical attractions.

History buffs will want to pay a visit to the New York State Capitol. Built in 1899, this grandiose building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is home to the New York State Legislature. On certain days, you can make reservations for a free guided tour. After that, learn all about the city’s history at the Albany Heritage Area Visitors Center, the Albany Institute of History & Art, and the New York State Museum

Built between 1761 and 1765 for the Revolutionary War general and US Senator Philip Schuyler, the historic Schuyler Mansion is well worth a visit. The mansion is not only listed on the US National Register of Historic Places, but it is home to a fascinating collection of 18th-century artifacts.  You can sign up for a guided tour at the Visitors Center for the full experience. 

11. Spend Some Time on the Water in Lake George

What to do in New York State: Lake George

Surrounded by the Adirondack Mountains, the quaint town of Lake George is nestled at the southwestern tip of a lake of the same name. It’s no secret that the 32-mile-long Lake George is a popular destination for New Yorkers looking to escape the heat in the summer months. And no trip to New York is complete without spending at least a few days in this beautiful corner of The Empire State.

You can easily spend your days hanging out at Million Dollar Beach. Located a short stroll from town, the beach is outfitted with picnic facilities, volleyball courts, showers, and changing areas. Plus, it offers a lovely swimming area perfect for the whole family. 

It would be a shame to visit Lake George and not take to the water. If you’re in town with a group of family and friends, renting a speedboat or pontoon at Lake George is one of the coolest things to do in New York. If you’re based in the town of Lake George, you can easily get rentals from Brodie’s Lakeside.

If you’re feeling adventurous, rent a paddleboard, kayak, or canoe from Lake George Kayak and get paddling. You can either embark on a self-guided tour of Lake George or sign up for one of the shop’s excellent guided tours. 

12. Glimpse Fall Foliage Views in the Northern Adirondack Mountains

Cool Things to do in New York State: Northern Adirondack Mountains

If you’re planning your trip during the fall, chances are seeing the colorful fall foliage is at the top of your New York bucket list. And what better way to see the show than on a scenic road trip through the Adirondack Mountains? 

Located in the northern Adirondacks, it’s no secret that Lake Placid boasts some of the best fall foliage in the state. Start your drive in downtown Lake Placid, where you’ll be surrounded by a kaleidoscope of reds, oranges, and yellows. For amazing views, you can also go for a drive on Mirror Lake Drive, where you can take in stunning vistas of the tree and mountain-framed village.

Make your way to Route 86, which leads to the beautiful Saranac Lake. Along the way, you’ll get amazing snapshots of the region’s fall foliage, as well as Whiteface Mountain. 

Plus, you can stop off and go hiking on one of the many roadside trails or visit the quaint towns and attractions along the way. On your way back to Lake Placid, you can extend your drive up to Jay for more fall foliage views!

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13. Hit the Slopes at Whiteface Mountain 

What to do in New York State: Whiteface Mountain

Located just a stone’s throw from Lake Placid, Whiteface Mountain Ski Resort is a top New York attraction no matter what time of year you’re visiting. 

It’s no surprise that skiers and snowboarders flock here to glide down the powder fresh slopes in the winter months. If skiing isn’t your thing, Whiteface Mountain and Lake Placid have all sorts of cool winter activities. You can tour the Olympic Jumping Complex, go snowshoeing or cross-country skiing around Lake Placid, or try your hand at ice fishing at nearby Connery Pond. 

If you’re planning an epic summer vacation, you’ll be spoiled for choice when it comes to things to do on Whiteface Mountain. Be sure to take a ride on the resort’s Cloudsplitter Gondola. You’ll have beautiful views of Lake Placid and the surrounding mountains from the top. If you feel like hiking or mountain biking, there are a handful of trails for you to choose from. 

After an action-packed day, head down to Main Street’s Top of the Park restaurant. It’s the perfect après-ski spot where you can enjoy small plates, signature cocktails, and views of Lake Placid.  

14. Get Your Adrenaline Pumping at Ausable Chasm 

New York State Things to do: Ausable Chasm

Located in Upstate New York, Ausable Chasm is a mecca for adventure junkies. There’s a reason it’s known as the “Grand Canyon of the Adirondacks!”

Ausable Chasm opened for tours way back in 1870 and still stands proud as the oldest continuously operating natural attraction in the US. Explore this stunning gorge, and you’ll find all sorts of waterfalls, hiking trails, and rafting routes.

You’ll definitely want to start off your day at the Ausable Chasm bridge, which boasts epic views of Rainbow Falls. But don’t stop there! After you pick up your entry tickets, you’ll be spoiled for choice with things to do at Ausable Canyon.

Hikers will definitely want to lace up their hiking boots and trek along Inner Sanctum Trail. The trail traverses the gorge, and the suspension bridges hanging over the gorge are not for the faint of heart! 

To really get your heart pumping, try the eight and up Ausable Chasm Adventure Trail, which boasts a range of activities, including rappelling and rope bridges. If you want to ride the river, there are also plenty of family-friendly options for tubing and rafting.

15. Check Out the Millionaires’ Castles at the Thousand Islands

Unique Things to do in New York State: Thousand Islands

The Thousand Islands are a 50-mile archipelago in the St. Lawrence River that separates Upstate New York and Canada. Despite its name, the Thousand Islands actually consists of 1,864 islands scattered both in the US and in Canada. 

This beautiful area is a popular vacation spot for the wealthy northeastern elite, many of whom own private islands in the area. But you don’t have to be a millionaire to visit the many wineries, castles, and other attractions the Thousand Islands are known for!

If you want to check out the Thousand Islands’ cool castles, be sure to visit Boldt Castle. George C. Boldt, the owner of the New York City Waldorf Astoria, began construction on the massive castle in 1900. Although Boldt abandoned the project just months before its completion, the original plans called for 120 rooms, six stories, sprawling Italian gardens, a drawbridge, and all sorts of luxurious extras. 

Although you can’t stay here overnight, taking a boat tour of Boldt Castle is one of the most unique things to do in New York. Boats will whisk you from the mainland to Heart Island, where you can learn all about the history and architecture of Boldt Castle.

If you want to add another Thousand Islands castle to your New York bucket list, you can also take a tour of the lavish early-1900s castle of Frederick Gilbert Bourne, the president of the Singer Manufacturing Company.

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16. Visit the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum

Must do things in New York State: National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum

Baseball fans can’t visit New York without paying a visit to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. Located in the quaint village of Cooperstown, the museum houses over 3 million library items, 140,000 baseball cards, and 40,000 baseball artifacts.

Explore the museum’s three levels, and you’ll find a range of exhibits that highlight baseball’s role in the country’s history and culture. For a history lesson in baseball, the “Taking the Field” exhibit takes visitors back in time and explains the origins of the sport and its fascinating evolution. 

Be sure to take some time to explore the Babe Ruth exhibit, where you’ll find the ball he hit more than 500 feet at New Haven’s Lighthouse Point Park, as well as his No. 3 jersey. The Plaque Gallery is another must-see exhibit, where you can peruse the induction plaques of members of the Baseball Hall of Fame.  

When you’re done, take some time to explore picture-perfect Cooperstown. Dubbed “America’s Most Perfect Village,” you can spend your time sipping craft brews at Brewery Ommegang, doing downward dog at NY Goat Yoga, or stepping back in time at The Farmers’ Museum. There’s always something going on in Cooperstown!

17. Learn about the History of Photography at the George Eastman Museum

Fun Things to do in New York State: George Eastman Museum

Film and photography buffs won’t want to miss out on the George Eastman Museum, which is the world’s oldest museum dedicated to photography. The museum is housed in the lavish estate of George Eastman, the founder of Eastman Kodak Company. Located in Rochester, the 50-room mansion was completed in 1905 and is a destination in its own right! 

Explore the museum, and you’ll find all sorts of incredible collections of photographs ranging from 19th-century photographs of the American West to Ansel Adams’ early and vintage prints. Peruse the different collections, and you’ll find works from over 14,000 photographers, including Andy Warhol, Nickolas Muray, and Charles Chusseau-Flaviens.

The museum is also home to the 500-seat Dryden Theatre, which screens over 300 movies a year. The theater also happens to be one of the only venues in the world that can screen highly flammable nitrate film. Depending on when you visit, you can take a docent-led tour of the grounds, attend talks by visiting artists and scholars, and take workshops on historic and alternative photographic processes.

18. Marvel at the Massive Falls at Niagara Falls State Park 

Unique Things to do in New York State: Niagara Falls State Park

It’s no secret that Niagara Falls is one of the top attractions in New York State. Nestled along the border between the US and Canada, Niagara Falls State Park is actually home to three massive cascades: Bridal Veil Falls, American Falls, and Horseshoe Falls. The 2,700-foot-wide Horseshoe Falls is the biggest of the bunch and plunges 167 feet into the water below.

There are tons of incredible ways to view the falls. If you’re on the New York side of the border, one of the most popular options is to embark on the Maid of the Mist boat tour. Boats depart from the Observation Tower, pass the base of American Falls, and sail into the basin of Horseshoe Falls so you can get unobstructed views of this natural attraction. 

Of course, you can also glimpse bird’s-eye views of Niagara Falls from the Observation Tower. For an extra-special experience, make a reservation at Top of the Falls Restaurant, where you can dine on modern American cuisine while taking in stunning waterfall views!

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19. Tour Frank Lloyd Wright’s Darwin D. Martin House Complex 

Architecture enthusiasts will want to add a tour of The Martin House to their New York bucket list. The home was designed by famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright in 1902 and is hailed as the finest work from Wright’s Prairie-style period. 

The home was commissioned by Buffalo-based executive Darwin D. Martin, one of the wealthiest executives in the country. Rumor has it that Wright had an unlimited budget to design and build the home, which ultimately cost around $300,000!  

The house boasts eight bedrooms and an incredible living room, which connects to the dining room and the outdoor patio. Explore the home, and you’ll find hundreds of Wright’s intricately designed art glass windows. You’ll even see his famous “Tree of Life” windows in the reception room and second-story bedrooms!

The Martin House was placed on the National Historic Landmark in 1986. Today it’s possible to take a variety of tours of the house, including the Architectural Photography Tour & Workshop, the Candlelight Behind-the-Scenes Tour, and the exclusive Private Tour.

20. Eat Your Way Through Buffalo

Best Things to do in New York State: Eat Your Way Through Buffalo

Buffalo may get overshadowed by NYC as the state’s best city for foodies, but when it comes to food and drink, Buffalo is doing something right! 

No trip to Buffalo is complete without visiting at least a few wing-centric restaurants. You can find the city’s best Buffalo wings at Anchor Bar, Gabriel’s Gate, and Duff’s Famous Wings. However, while Buffalo wings are a must-try, there’s so much more to Buffalo than its saucy wings. 

Stop off at Charlie the Butcher, which has been serving up its famous Beef on Weck sandwich (a Kaiser roll stuffed with slow-roasted beef and homemade horseradish) since 1914. If you want to try Buffalo-style pizza or a Buffalo-style hot dog, pay a visit to Bob and John’s La Hacienda and Ted’s Hot Dogs, respectively. And for the city’s iconic chicken finger sub, Jim’s Steak Out slathers its subs with plenty of hot sauce and blue cheese.   

While Buffalo is the birthplace of all sorts of addictive dishes, be sure to sample the city’s diverse global cuisines at the West Side Bazaar. Here, you’ll find authentic Southeast Asian and Middle Eastern restaurants helmed by members of the city’s immigrant and refugee population. 

21. Check Out the “Grand Canyon of the East” at Letchworth State Park

New York State Bucket List: Letchworth State Park

If it’s not obvious by now, New York is chock full of unreal natural attractions, and Letchworth State Park is one of the best of the bunch. Dubbed the “Grand Canyon of the East,” the park boasts a dramatic gorge, cascading waterfalls, scenic hiking trails, and so much more!  

Letchworth State Park is set on over 14,000 tree-filled acres and features a gorge that stretches for 17 miles along the Genesee River. Explore the park, and you’ll stumble across three huge waterfalls and over 50 smaller cascades. 

One of the coolest things to do in New York is to hike the park’s popular Gorge Trail. This moderate trail extends for seven miles along the western side of the Genesee River and takes you to all three of the park’s largest waterfalls. But if you’re not up for a long hike, you don’t have to complete the whole trail if you don’t want to.

Once you work up an appetite, you can dine at one of the few restaurants which dot the park. Better yet, pack your own supplies, pick a scenic overlook, and have an unforgettable picnic lunch!

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22. Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth at Sprague’s Maple Farms

New York just happens to be the second-largest producer of maple syrup in the country. If you’re looking for a fun, family-friendly New York activity, you’ll love touring Sprague’s Maple Farms. Located in Portville, the Sprague family has owned and operated the farm for over 40 years and hosts all sorts of fun events perfect for all ages. 

You can visit the farm year-round, but it’s best to visit in March or early April during the maple-sugaring season. At this time of year, farms from around the state welcome guests and offer interesting demonstrations about maple syrup.

At Sprague’s Maple Farms, you can enter their old-fashioned sugarhouse, where the staff will show you the process of tapping trees and share ancient methods of making syrup. You can even tap the trees yourself! 

The syrup is then used to make fun concoctions from maple cotton candy to maple Chardonnay. You can pick up all sorts of sweet treats and gifts from the gift shop. And if you’re hungry, the onsite Restaurant and Pancake House serves up huge American breakfasts, including pancakes topped with the farm’s very own syrup.  

23. Take Incredible Photos at Watkins Glen State Park

What to do in New York State: Watkins Glen State Park

If you plan on heading to the Finger Lakes region, you won’t want to miss out on hiking in the incredible Watkins Glen State Park. Spanning 778 acres, the tree-studded park is home to 19 waterfalls and some truly stunning gorges. As one of the top attractions in New York, it’s no surprise that over 1 million visitors flock to Watkins Glen State Park each year! 

Watkins Glen Gorge Trail is hands down the best (and most popular!) trail in the park for photographers. The 3-mile (1.5 miles each way) trail takes you along the dramatic gorge, which drops 400 feet. If you’re into photography, you’ll definitely want to bring your gear to capture this stunning natural attraction. 

The photo ops don’t end there, though! The trial will lead you to the park’s 19 waterfalls, with Rainbow Falls being the crown jewel. One look at Rainbow Falls, and you’ll immediately see why this is the most photographed spot in Watkins Glen State Park!

This hike takes about two hours, but it’s well worth taking your time to soak up the scenery and take photos. If you want to enjoy a scenic picnic during your hike, pick up picnic supplies at Glen Mountain Market Bakery & Deli before you head out.

24. Go Wine Tasting at Seneca Lake

Cool Things to do in New York State: Wine Tasting at Seneca Lake

The Finger Lakes region is dotted with over 140 wineries, most of which are located around the 38-mile-long Seneca Lake. If you want to stiff, sample, and swirl the region’s world-famous Rieslings, Seneca Lake is a must-visit New York attraction.

Start your wine tasting journey off at Red Tail Ridge Winery, where you can sip some of the best Rieslings and sparkling wines in town. Next up, make the short drive to Hermann J. Wiemer Vineyard, where you can sample Rieslings in the rustic-chic barn.

Continue to local favorite, Wagner Vineyards, which is a 250-acre estate winery that offers tastings of excellent Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs. End your journey at Lamoreaux Landing’s tasting room, which offers sweeping views of Seneca Lake. 

If you need a meal to soak up all that booze, head over to Kindred Fare in Geneva for their locally sourced American dishes. Think crab cake sandwiches, crispy fried chicken, and gourmet mac and cheese. They also have an impressive menu of local wines in case you want one more glass!

25. Go Chasing Waterfalls in Downtown Ithaca

New York State Bucket List: Waterfalls in Downtown Ithaca

Voted one of the prettiest towns in the US, Ithaca is well worth a spot on your New York bucket list. Not only is the quaint town picture-perfect but you’ll find a whopping 150 beautiful waterfall’s in just 10 miles! If that’s not enough, Ithaca is also home to Cornell University, which means the town has a buzzing and youthful atmosphere. 

If you don’t want to go far to view some of Ithaca’s prettiest waterfalls, you can follow the Cascadilla Gorge Trail. The trail takes you through the Cornell University campus and downtown Ithaca.

Along the way, you’ll come across picture-perfect stone-clad bridges and eight cascading waterfalls. Photographers will definitely want to bring their gear because it doesn’t get much prettier than this!

Since you’re already downtown, you can explore all of the boutique shops, restaurants, and colorful murals on Main Street. If you have a little extra time to tack on the most spectacular waterfalls in Ithaca, it’s well worth making the 15-minute drive to Taughannock Falls State Park. 

Taughannock Falls winds its way through a 400-foot gorge and plunges 215 feet into the picturesque pool below. While it’s not possible to swim in the gorge, you can take a dip and go boating in the nearby Cayuga Lake. 

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There you have it! The 25 best things to do in New York. What’s your favorite thing to do in the Empire State?

Planning a trip to New York State? Check out our favorite books and travel guides!


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