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Known as the Empire State, New York is full of natural wonder as well as vast resources. Thick forests and rolling hills dominate this region, but wonders such as Niagara Falls and the great lakes can also be found.

Once the Prize of the northeastern United States, Upstate New York is truly a destination to explore. Take this five-day road trip to see why New York is named the Empire State.

Day 1: Buffalo New York

Buffalo is more than just that cold snowy city in Upstate New York with sports fans that enjoy breaking tables. It has become a bastion for art and culture, with destinations like the Darwin Martin House Complex and world-class modern art at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery. Its Canalside is also a fantastic destination for those who enjoy perusing through small shops and watching the waterside events that occur there. Late Spring to early Fall is the best time to visit Buffalo as well as start this road trip.

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Niagara Falls

Just outside the city of Buffalo New York, Niagara Falls is a must-visit for any journey to buffalo. With multiple observation decks, this is a once and a lifetime opportunity to see this natural wonder up close.

Paula's Donuts

Providing the best quality donuts and pastries in the greater Buffalo area, and arguably most of the North East, Paula’s Donuts is a must-visit for travelers to Buffalo. Their Sandwiches are also delicious making this an ideal foodie destination.

  • Address - 2319 Sheridan Drive Tonawanda, Buffalo, NY 14150
  • Contact - (716)862-4246
  • Cost - $
  • Must-Try - Cannoli and Cookie Dough
  • Menu

Related: 5-Day Bucket-List Road Trip Circuit: Explore Massachusetts

Day 2: Golden Hill State Park - Stargazing in a Lighthouse

Not too far from Buffalo is Golden Hill State Park on the Southern Shore of Lake Ontario. This park has many activities and lodging options but the ideal one for travelers trying to get the most out of this venture would be its lighthouse. This is the perfect location for watching the stars over the waters of Lake Ontario.

  • Travel Distance - 53.3 miles, 1 hour 1 minute
  • Google Maps
  • Main Entrance - 9691 Lower Lake Rd, Barker, NY 14012, United States
  • Park Activities - camping, fishing, boating, shoreline hiking, picnicking, nature walks, walking tours of the lighthouse site, snowmobiling, and snowshoeing.
  • Cost for Entrance - Vehicle Entrance Fee: Cars $6 / Non-Profit Buses $35 /Commercial Buses $75
  • Cost for Campsites - $15-$31/night *Additional $5/night for non-NYS residents
  • Cost for Yurts - $83.75 per day / $335 weekly (NYS Residents) $90.00 per day / $360 weekly (Non-NYS Residents)
  • Cost for Lighthouse, Non-Peak - $200/night-$800/week.
  • Cost for Lighthouse, Peak season - $200/night-$1250/week.

Day 3: Plattsburgh - Lake Champlain

This Aesthetic City, full of architecture from the early 20th century, was once a major fur-trading site. Being just 18 miles south of the border with Quebec, French traders used to travel between here in Quebec City to do business. Plattsburgh is a city best explored on foot. With an amazing river walk, travelers can follow the Saranac River until it ends in Lake Champlain. With Champlain right here, travelers should take advantage of activities on or around the lake such as relaxing at Plattsburgh City Beach or venturing out onto the water.

Valcour Boat Rentals

For travelers looking for a larger motored craft, this will be where you want to go. Here you can rent pontoon boats as well as jet boats. You can also rent tubes for some fun on the water.

  • Address - 3984 U.S. 9, Plattsburgh, NY 12901, United States
  • Contact - (518)420-9509
  • Qwest XRE/Qwest Edge Pontoon (11 person capacity) - One Day $700
  • Sweetwater Pontoon (12 person capacity) - One Day $600
  • Sun Tracker Pontoon (7 person capacity) - One Day $500
  • Yamaha Jet-boat (8 person capacity) - One day $700
  • Tube (Single) - Per Day $40
  • Website

Tiny Boat Rentals

For those looking for smaller craft such as jet-skis or perhaps smaller craft such as kayaks or canoes, then Tiny Boat Rentals is perfect for you. These crafts are perfect for exploring the rivers as well as the lake.

  • Address - 241 Moffitt Rd, Plattsburgh, NY 12901, United States
  • Contact - (518)561-0848
  • Two Seater Jet-Skis - $85.00 Tubing $65.00 hr/ $32.00 1/2 hr.
  • Three Seater Jet-Skis - $105.00 Water Skiing $60.00.
  • Kayak or Canoe - $35-$50 per Day or $13.75-$15.50 per Hour.
  • Website

Related: 5-Day Bucket-List Road Trip Circuit: Explore Scenic Maine

Day 4: The Catskills

Journey down south to what was once the main draw of Upstate New York a half-century ago. Now, it is a much more quiet destination, with its aesthetic beauty unchanged. Travelers can enjoy the natural beauty of the Catskills as well as catch glimpses of what is left from a different era.

Callicoon Theater

For travelers who enjoy a bit of nostalgia, Callicoon Theaters has been in operation since 1948 and still brings that back-in-the-day theater charm. Come catch a movie in their massive 350-seat theater that blends the old with a modern cinematic experience.

  • Address - 30 Upper Main Street Callicoon, NY 12723
  • Contact - (845)887-4460, hello@thecallicoontheater.com
  • Website

Christina's Restaurant

Celebrating 30 years in business and having won many Mid-Hudson Valley Choice Awards, Christina’s Restaurant is a can’t miss dining experience in the Catskills.

  • Address - 812 Ulster Ave, Kingston, NY 12401-1748
  • Contact - (845)339-7400
  • Cost - $$-$$$
  • Must-Try - Amaretto Shrimp
  • Menu

Day 5: Back to Buffalo

It's time for Travelers to finish up their lap of the Empire State and return to Buffalo. After traveling through the dense forests and rolling hills of New York State it's time to enjoy Buffalo one last time before making the end of this road trip.

  • Travel Distance - 317 miles, 4 hours 58 minutes
  • Google Maps
  • Total Driving Distance - 930 miles
  • Total Driving Time - 15 hours 22 minutes
  • Route Map