Forget about downtown New York City, the quintessential image of America’s power and prestige. While it’s true that downtown New York is a traveler’s paradise with many landmark buildings and natural features—Upstate New York can be a spectacular get-away for some weekend fun and adventure—for those who want a quick escape from the city. If one has the time, even a week outside New York City metropolitan area would not be enough.


Still, timing is key. For anyone planning for what will be a thrilling escapade northwards, knowing when to visit Upstate New York-based on a particular season is crucial. Else, what would have been a thrilling trip may turn out to be a boring drag.

What Is The Best Time To Visit Upstate New York

This will look like a trite answer and while we would have gladly picked something off the beaten path, summer is just the best time to visit Upstate New York. Of course, it’s not an open-and-shut case. Each season has its own unique charm and allure. There’ll always be something to see or do in Upstate New York regardless of the season. Then again, it depends on what one will want to indulge in. For an avid ice skater, for instance, summer will obviously be the month to avoid. That’s the problem with answers that appear like oversimplified generalizations. So let’s delve into the details.

What To Do In Upstate New York In Summer

Considering all the four seasons, summer is the best time to visit Upstate New York. This is because of the range of fun-filled activities that’ll be on offer. For those looking out for some beach experience and other thrilling water sports —and are wondering whether Upstate New York has beaches that one can take a dip in during summer —the answer is “yes.” Forget about the Hamptons on the far southeastern tip of Long Island where celebs like Alec Baldwin frequent, there are about 2,300 lakes and ponds in the Adirondacks region alone. This area is about four hours north of Manhattan, New York City by car. This stunning world-famous region is home to Lake George, which, due to its clear, shimmering waters, has been proudly crowned as the Queen of American Lakes. It’s a popular hub of numerous thrilling water sports.

Related: The Upstate Eats Trail Now Invites You To Eat Your Way Through Upstate New York's Best Cities

In west-central New York, the Finger Lakes await, a stunning group of 11 narrow lakes including Keuka Lake where skiing, boating, and kayaking, among other summer vacation water sports—can be enjoyed with great abandon. Skaneateles Lake is also insanely attractive because of its glassy cleanliness. It’s the second-cleanest lake in the United States—and the cleanest in the state of New York. It’s so clear that city authorities use its waters without filtering. Swimming here is downright heavenly. There are many other sandy beaches and sparkling lakes in the western regions of the Empire State.

Another reason why summer is the best to visit Upstate New York is that during this time, the ground is usually dry and firm enough—to make hiking, riding, or just walking—on the many winding trails all fun and pleasurable. In wetter months, the ground would be slippery and muddy. Of course, that’s not to say that it never rains during summer to make riding a nightmare.

For those looking for a gentle, relatively easy trail in Upstate New York, Ausable Chasm in the Adirondacks has trails suitable for almost all ages. In addition, the scenes are just out of this world. Not to mention the many onsite activities like tubing, floating, rappelling, rock climbing, and lantern tours that can also be enjoyed. For a hike that’ll be more grueling, Devil's Path in the Catskills is one of the most challenging in the country. Before venturing out, some guide to the Devil’s Path will be absolutely necessary.

  • Cost Of Hiking At The Ausable Chasm: Admission is $15 while a raft ride is $18.
  • How Long Is The Ausable Chasm Trails? 5 miles.

For summer outdoor dining, Upstate New York is home to a wide array of mouth-watering cuisines. Then biking and camping are also much more doable during the summer months as is visiting public places like museums, national parks, and art galleries, including the Albright-Knox Art Gallery at the south end of Elmwood Park—which houses a decent collection of contemporary painting and sculpture. Of course, in the picturesque Upstate New York, winter camping has its own allure. However, it requires more nerve and verve—and is just not for everyone.

Related: Summer vs Winter: When Is Better To Travel? (5 Reasons For Each)

Vacation Activities To Do In Upstate New York In The Non-summer Seasons

Looking at it, apart from activities that revolve around water like swimming, the shoulder seasons of spring and fall are also a perfect time for visiting Upstate New York. One can still enjoy hiking, biking, wandering in the forests, and visiting museums and other public places, among many other activities—with one important advantage—there’ll be fewer crowds.

On the other hand, popular winter vacation activities in Upstate New York include ice fishing, ice biking, dog sledding, snowboarding, ice skating, and tobogganing. Popular winter festivals include the Winter Wanderland that takes place in Nyack, a Hudson River waterfront village. Also, during winter, Niagara Falls exhibits a dazzling if frozen display of a waterfall that’s one of the most stunning in the whole country.

From any city, Upstate New York is literally a breath of fresh air.