If you are looking for places to visit in Upstate New York, you have come to the right place! I have lived here most of my life and I know for a fact that there are several fun and interesting things to see and do that are great for family day trips or adventurous daters! These places to visit in Upstate New York will keep you entertained and perhaps teach you something new!
Howe Caverns is one of my favorite places to visit in Upstate New York. If you are looking to explore a 6 million year old cave nearly 160 feet below the surface, Howe Caverns offers several unique tours starting with the basic hour and a half guided tour, allowing you to see the stalagmite that forms on the cavern walls and travel via boat on an underground waterway. If you’d like to feel more like an old time explorer, you can take the tour by lantern or flashlight. Should neither of these quell your sense of adventure, you can actually take a spelunking tour (they provide all the gear) led by experienced cave explorers. Above-ground you can expel any energy you have left on their zip line courses or realistic mountain climbing trails. Find out more here.
I spend an incredible amount of time at the Farmer’s Museum. Don’t worry, it is NOT a museum of tractors and farm equipment; it is a 19th Century rural village with live people who perform tasks as though they were living in the time period. There are blacksmiths, apothecaries, a general store, a church, a tavern (which serves delicious food), as well as several other buildings with people acting out the activities of a typical day. They have the most spectacular events year round. My husband and I go to Candle Lit Evening every year where they provide horse drawn carriage rides through the snow, caroling indoors and out, wonderful food and cauldrons of wassail brewing over huge fires scattered throughout the property. In March they have the "Sugaring Off" when they make maple syrup. Every Sunday (and yes, we go every week), for $9.00 you get a full, unlimited pancake breakfast with bacon, sausage and home fries as well admission to the rest of the "village." There are various other activities throughout the year, but just exploring the museum itself and talking to all of the actors is a wonderful experience in and of itself. Make sure to ride the Empire State Carousel and see the Cardiff Giant! For events and info visit farmersmuseum.org.
I may be a little partial to this place because it was mine and my (now husband)’s first vacation destination and also the place where he proposed to me 4 years later. Boldt Castle has a sad history; George Boldt built the castle on Heart Island to surprise his wife. When she died unexpectedly, he ordered that the castle never be finished. You can now tour the (unfinished, but restored) castle on your own and explore the vast amount of rooms, gorgeous archways and lovely out-buildings. Bring a picnic lunch and sit anywhere on the scenic grounds of the heart shaped island and watch the boats drift by on the St. Lawrence River. The castle is beautiful and expansive with a gorgeous main staircase and the ability to wander around at will makes it more fun to explore! You can get there by ferry for a minimal fee or you can take one of the Uncle Sam Boat Tours which takes you through international waters (no passport needed!) and gives you the full tale of the castle as well as the other impressive houses lining the waterway. For the history of the castle and hours of operation, take a look at www.boldtcastle.com.
In a wonderland village, frozen all year long, Santa and Mrs. Claus live in a cozy cottage where you can visit with them and tell Santa in person what you want for Christmas this year! There are storybook characters that also live in the village, putting on a variety of live shows for your family. If you are looking for even more entertainment, there are several Christmas and winter-themed rides for kids and adults! This entire attraction is absolutely phenomenal, providing hours of magical fun for you and your kids! If you’d like to visit, check out www.northpoleny.com.
This park is one of the most naturally beautiful places I have ever been. On your own, you can explore along walkways and paths leading to a plethora of caves and a natural stone bridge. While this entire area is gorgeous any time of year, I particularly recommend going in the fall time when the red and orange foliage complement the craggy beauty all around you. The waterfalls and grottos are spectacular so don’t forget your camera! They also offer a guided adventure tour which takes you through hidden passages in the caves, including one you have to float through water to enter! In the winter, the paths are still open for snowshoeing. This lovely location also offers family-sized swings, mini golf and geode mining. For rates and extras, take a look at stonebridgeandcaves.com.
There are several "haunted" locations all over Upstate NY, but none seem to have the constant encounters that Rolling Hills visitors experience. They have been featured on Ghost Adventures, Spooked TV and several other paranormal investigation shows. They offer a huge variety of options for exploring the asylum, much larger of a selection than anywhere else I have seen. You can start out with one of their two hour tours, choosing from either an informative historical excursion or a flashlight tour. If you don’t think two hours will be enough time to make your skin crawl, they offer private or public 4 and 8 hour events in which you are allowed to wander on your own with paranormal investigative equipment (not provided) and search for your own other-worldly evidence. If all you really want is a few hours of constantly peering behind you to make sure there are no shadowy figures stalking you, they also offer horror movie nights several times per week throughout the summer months. There are tons of videos on YouTube from people who have visited the asylum and seen or heard spooky things. Make your reservations at rollinghillsasylum.vpweb.com.
There are several famous authors whose hometowns are located throughout Upstate New York. L. Frank Baum, who wrote the Wizard of Oz, is from Chittenango, NY, which honors the beloved author with several different events, including the annual Oz-stravaganza as well as the All Things Oz Museum. If you are a fan of the Wizard of Oz this is a great place to check out rare memorabilia and artifacts. James Fenimore Cooper lived in Cooperstown, NY and has a full art museum dedicated to him where you can explore facts about his interesting life and pick up any of the books he wrote, including The Last of the Mohicans. If the Legend of Sleepy Hollow kept you awake at night as a child, face your fears by visiting Sleepy Hollow, NY where the author of the tale, Washington Irving, is buried. The town has an incredible amount of events devoted to the tale and Irving’s life, including a "haunted" tour through the cemetery where he is buried. If you love being scared half to death, you should definitely visit the month of Halloween, you won’t be disappointed. One of my favorite authors, Mark Twain, spent the entirety of his married life living in Elmira and Buffalo, NY. There are diners, museums, tours and several other events or places located in Elmira that celebrate his life and you can pay your respects at his grave site, should you be so inclined.
If history is what you're after, this is the place you must visit. There are several original buildings still standing that are some of the most epic museums you'll be able to find in this part of the country. The town is named after the original settler who came to live alongside the Native Americans in the area. This place saw several battles during the Revolutionary War and offers walking tours that let you revel in the history it has to offer.
For all things water related, the Thousand Islands region is perfect. Claimed by both the United States and Canada, the place is way north, but that doesn't mean it isn't totally enjoyable. Take a cruise or a private boat ride. There is a lot of luxurious lodging and delicious dining as well. There are also diving tours, kayak rides and loads of historical sites for photo ops and education. There is no place like this on Earth and you will never be able to reproduce the beauty and enjoyment that you'll find in the Thousand Islands area.
Called one of the top 10 wonders in the United States, the Ausable Chasm is full of stunning white water rapids and rock formations. The place is open year round for white water rafting and other fun outdoor sports. They also offer a wide range of nearby hotels and restaurants so you can make your trip complete with some rest and yummy meals. If you are feeling really daring, sign up for one of the adventure tours, which are sure to please your inner daredevil.
This French fort resides just outside town, so you won't be far from civilization when you take the trip here. You'll get an insider's look at the entire place, including the barracks and get to hike all over the property to see everything. This is a great example of an 18th century fort and is fun for all ages. It's best to visit during the summer, as the fort is closed during the harsh winter months.
Whether you live in NY and are looking for a day trip, or are from out of state and planning a fun-filled vacation, these are some of the most exciting places to visit in Upstate New York. There is such a wide array of activities, festivals and memorable locations around here that you will certainly be able to find a few that interest you. What are some of the most interesting places you have visited in Upstate New York?
This article written in collaboration with editor, Eliza Martinez
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