Discover the Top 10 Must-See Places to Visit in New York City: Your Ultimate Guide to Iconic Sights!

New York state captivates both domestic and international travelers with the most populated city in the United States, sprawling state parks and a few beach communities. Whether you want to visit New York City to see Times Square and go ice skating at Rockefeller Center, or retreat to the mountains of upstate New York, there are plenty of one-of-a-kind vacation spots in the Empire State. U.S. News considered sights, culture, adventurous pursuits and the opinions of experts and readers to compile this ranking of the best places to visit in New York state. Read on for vacation inspiration, and don’t forget to vote below for the destinations you think belong on this list.

  • #1 in Best Places to Visit in New York State in 2024The tumbling, frothy falls – more than 3,100 tons of water flows over the edge every second – are the star tourist attraction in this New York destination that borders Canada. The best way to see Niagara Falls is on a Maid of the Mist boat tour, which takes poncho-clad visitors on an electric tour boat to the base of the falls. Or, more daring visitors can experience this natural wonder on a thrilling whirlpool jet boat tour. Just don’t forget to check out the area’s other unforgettable attractions, such as Niagara Falls State Park’s hiking trails, Niagara Parks Botanical Gardens & Butterfly Conservatory or the nearby casinos.
  • #2 in Best Places to Visit in New York State in 2024The Adirondack Mountains of upstate New York span roughly 6 million acres and are home to hundreds of communities, lakes, valleys and trails. Water lovers can canoe or kayak on Saranac Lake or go boating on Tupper Lake; hikers can tackle the area’s 2,000-plus miles of trails; and skiers can shred powder on Whiteface Mountain near Lake Placid. Visitors will also want to save some time for checking out history-focused sights like the Lake Placid Olympic Museum and Fort Ticonderoga, as well as sampling regional beverages at local wineries and breweries.
  • #3 in Best Places to Visit in New York State in 2024Despite its name, the Thousand Islands region is composed of more than 1,800 islands. The best way to see this vast area, which also stretches into Canada, is during an open-air boat tour. A scenic cruise here will take you past lighthouses, mansions and castles and include commentary about the real-life pirates who used to roam the islands’ waters and the Gilded Age magnates who once called the region home. When you’re ready to return to land, hike the trails in Wellesley Island State Park or fish in Mary Island State Park, both on Wellesley Island.
  • #4 in Best Places to Visit in New York State in 2024A hub for culture, the arts, food and sightseeing, New York City is a must-visit on many travelers’ bucket lists – and for good reason. Everyone can find something to enjoy in the Big Apple. You can see a Broadway show, visit the world-famous Empire State Building, walk the High Line, check out the dozens of museums, eat your way through Manhattan’s distinct neighborhoods on a food tour or shop till you drop along Fifth Avenue. Don’t forget to stroll through iconic Central Park and visit its can’t-miss attractions, including the Central Park Zoo and Conservatory Garden.
  • #5 in Best Places to Visit in New York State in 2024romantic New York getaway, the Finger Lakes region appeals to travelers seeking a relaxing retreat with lovely scenery. Skiing at the area’s resorts, wine tasting at the Seneca Lake Wine Trail’s wineries and boating and hiking at local state parks are all popular activities to enjoy in this part of northwestern New York. The Finger Lakes are known for their spectacular fall foliage, but with their wealth of charming towns and variety of seasonal attractions, the lakes are excellent to visit year-round.
  • #6 in Best Places to Visit in New York State in 2024With 98 peaks, southeastern New York’s Catskill Mountains beckon to nature enthusiasts. About 40% of Catskill Park’s 700,000-plus acres are designated as “forever wild,” meaning you’ll have access to sprawling spaces ideal for outdoor activities. In winter, the Catskills offer ample opportunities to ski and snowboard. Meanwhile, summer is perfect for hunting, hiking, boating and zip lining, among other activities. After a busy day outdoors, you can check out the region’s art scene (the Catskills were home to America’s first art movement – the Hudson River School) or enjoy the amenities at one of the area’s top resorts.
  • #7 in Best Places to Visit in New York State in 2024Located on the western banks of the Hudson River in the Palisades region of New York, Bear Mountain State Park offers sweeping views of the Hudson Valley and the surrounding highlands. The forested park’s trails (including a stretch of the Appalachian Trail) take hikers through lakes, gorges and valleys. What’s more, Bear Mountain State Park features a zoo, a swimming pool, a hand-painted merry-go-round and a seasonal outdoor ice skating rink, ensuring family fun both on and off the trails. (Note: Portions of this park are closed due to storm damage sustained in July 2023. Please check the park’s website for the current operating status.)
  • #8 in Best Places to Visit in New York State in 2024Nicknamed the Grand Canyon of the East because of its impressive gorge, Letchworth State Park is a hidden gem for travelers who love the outdoors. The park is home to three large waterfalls and dozens more on tributaries, many of which you can see as you trek some of Letchworth’s 66 miles of hiking trails. Additionally, the park offers ample opportunities to go whitewater rafting, kayaking, horseback riding, biking and even hot air ballooning. If you prefer winter sports instead of summer pursuits, arrive when temperatures fall to go cross-country skiing or snowmobiling.
  • #9 in Best Places to Visit in New York State in 2024This 118-mile-long island is frequented by New Yorkers looking to escape the city to relax on white sand beaches with a glass of wine. Summer hot spots like the Hamptons and Montauk boast charming seaside allure and can’t-miss stretches of sand, like Ditch Plains Beach, a popular place to surf. Meanwhile, family-friendly Jones Beach State Park is a more approachable option with a swimming pool, a mini-golf course and shuffleboard areas, among other amenities. Beyond beaches, Long Island boasts more than 50 wineries and tasting rooms, some of which are part of the island’s North Fork Wine Trail.
  • #10 in Best Places to Visit in New York State in 2024The presence of two renowned institutions – Ithaca College and Cornell University – makes Ithaca a true college town. But this small town in New York’s Finger Lakes region is also known for its stunning natural beauty, so much so that its slogan is “Ithaca is gorges.” Ithaca is surrounded by more than 150 waterfalls, as well as gorges and dense forests with hiking and biking trails. What’s more, the town overlooks the southern shore of Cayuga Lake, a superb spot for boating, fishing and swimming. For groups with budding naturalists, follow Ithaca’s Discovery Trail to must-see attractions like the Sciencenter and the Cornell Botanic Gardens.
  • #11 in Best Places to Visit in New York State in 2024Those looking to get away from skyscrapers can travel about 60 miles southeast of New York City to reach this 32-mile-long, car-free barrier island. On Fire Island, you’ll find several charming communities, including Ocean Beach (where most of the island’s hotels, restaurants and shops are located) and Cherry Grove and Fire Island Pines (two of the island’s top LGBTQ-friendly areas). Plus, Fire Island is home to Fire Island National Seashore, a protected area that welcomes bird-watchers and campers in droves. If you’d rather spend your vacation swimming, surfing or sunbathing, head to Robert Moses State Park in summer to enjoy its beautiful beaches.
  • #12 in Best Places to Visit in New York State in 2024Ever since the Mohawk people came to Saratoga Springs and discovered its mineral waters, which were believed to have restorative properties, the town has blossomed into a popular vacation destination. Visitors can still drink from or soak in the town’s mineral springs, 12 of which are located in Saratoga Spa State Park. However, many travelers now flock to Saratoga Springs to see one of the country’s oldest racetracks, the Saratoga Race Course. Take a walking tour of the facility to learn more about its history and horseracing, or visit in August to attend the venue’s premier event, the Travers Stakes.
  • #13 in Best Places to Visit in New York State in 2024Cooperstown may be small, but it attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors every year thanks to its ties to America’s pastime. Although most experts agree that baseball wasn’t invented here, Cooperstown remains a mecca for sports lovers because of its must-visit sight, the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. However, the village offers other kinds of attractions, too. Travelers can visit the Fenimore Art Museum to see impressive works of art or check out The Farmers’ Museum’s exhibits about local agriculture. Cooperstown also features beautiful neoclassical buildings, such as Hyde Hall, and a variety of breweries and wineries.
  • #14 in Best Places to Visit in New York State in 2024Situated between the North and South forks of Long Island, Shelter Island features a quiet, laid-back atmosphere perfect for escaping the hustle and bustle of New York City. One-third of the island is occupied by the Mashomack Preserve, a protected area with more than 200 bird species and hiking trails through meadows and salt marshes. The rest of Shelter Island boasts charming Victorian-era buildings that house boutiques and eateries, plus stunning stretches of sand with calm waves ideal for swimming, such as Crescent Beach and Wades Beach.
  • #15 in Best Places to Visit in New York State in 2024New York’s capital city teems with culture and history. Visitors can admire the elaborate beauty of the New York State Capitol building on a tour and observe natural history exhibits at the New York State Museum (both of which are free), or explore Albany’s Dutch heritage at Crailo State Historic Site and the Schuyler Mansion State Historic Site. Meanwhile, art enthusiasts can view landscape paintings from the Hudson River School at the Albany Institute of History & Art. Beyond the tourist attractions, travelers can stretch their legs in Washington Park, grab a local craft beer or catch a show at The Egg.

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