The 9 Best Small Towns in New York for a Weekend Getaway

New York State shines with famous cities, while its many small towns offer true escapes from the hustle and bustle. These nine small towns offer a variety of scenery and atmosphere for the best weekend in the state.

Bay of Alexandria

Boldt Castle on Heart Island, Alexandria Bay, New York

Nestled amidst the sapphire blue St. Lawrence Seaway, this jewel village town is surrounded by amazing islands for endless active adventures. The Dark Island is known for the intricately designed, magnificent, centuries-old Singer Castle with beautiful furnishings and labyrinthine passages, while the desolate Heart Island boasts the timeless history of Boldt Castle. The gentle waters are perfect for boat excursions, including canoeing, paddling, or kayaking to the tranquil coves and coves along the St. Lawrence River, along with the two scenic historic lighthouses. In town there are bike rides along the Seaway Trail along the river, various camping options, and a visit to the Minna Anthony Common Nature Center. Hikers will love the Otter Creek Preserve and Nature Trail, the lush Macsherry Trail and the scenic River Walk between the Bay House Artisans and A Bay International on James Street. When you don’t want to watch the sunset from the beaches, you can drive out to Millionaire’s Row for views of the illuminated mansions, or catch a movie under the stars at the town’s drive-in theater.


View of Newburgh Riverfront from Long Dock Park in Beacon, New York
View of Newburgh Riverfront from Long Dock Park in Beacon, New York.

Steeped in history, Beacon is also rich in modern culture, with an artistic, independent spirit and like-minded people. Just an hour and a half from New York City, you can spend the weekend surrounded by healthy nature, with Beacon Mountain as a backdrop. The highest point in the Hudson Highlands, the Peak played a significant role in the American Revolution. Located on the banks of the Hudson River in an old Nabisco box printing works, the acclaimed 300,000-square-foot museum of contemporary and modern art features collections from the 1960s to the present and exhibitions by artists such as Walter De Maria and Dan Flavin. Dating back to 1866, the charming gothic Swann Inn of Beacon at the foot of the mountain offers retro-cool furnished rooms, including the blushing Red Parlor Suite, for a uniquely romantic stay. The hotel at the Roundhouse Beacon has a room overlooking a waterfall, while there’s something quirky about going out dr who– themed Pandorikaalong with local craft breweries.


The Italian Garden at Sonnenberg Gardens and Mansion State Historic Park in the Finger Lakes region, Canandaigua, New York
The Italian Garden at Sonnenberg Gardens and Mansion State Historic Park in the Finger Lakes region, Canandaigua, New York. Editorial Credit: Leonard Zhukovsky /

Best known for the dreamy 50-acre estate of historic Sonnenberg Gardens and Mansion State Historic Park, Canandaigua is a popular summer destination for New York City’s wealthy families. Dominating the otherwise sleepy, posh Finger Lakes town, it was built in the Queen Anne style with nine distinct formal gardens, including Japanese and Italian, for endless wandering wonders. On the north shore of Canandaigua Lake, 24 miles from Rochester, the charming town really is “the chosen place”, as the name translates from the native language. Nature lovers can spend a day on the lake in a pontoon boat available for rent at Sutter’s Marina, and then unwind with an authentic Mexican meal at the restaurant Rio Tomatlan. After a relaxing stroll at Kershaw Park or Canandaigua City Pier, the famous New York cuisine awaits with meals, tastings, shopping, demos and classes, and a lakeside restaurant with live music. History buffs will enjoy visiting the nearby Granger Homestead and Carriage Museum for carriage and sleigh rides, while those seeking extreme adventure check out the Zipline Canopy Tour and Aerial Adventure Park at Bristol Mountain’s Aerial Adventures.

cat skill

Quaint little town on the Hudson River called Catskill in upstate New York
Quaint little town on the Hudson River called Catskill in upstate New York.

The town of Catskill is a well-known naturalist’s and 19th-century history buff’s dream spot. Home of the famous painter Thomas Cole, who settled there for the unparalleled mountain views, his home in town can now be visited. Today it is a National Historic Site and the setting of author Washington Irving’s famous short story. “Rip Van Winkle.” Kaaterskill Falls is known for being one of the tallest in the state that can be seen with a short drive or 15-mile bike ride. The town is home to many restaurants on Main Street, as well as a variety of shops and boutiques such as the Mahalo Gift Shop, which sells tongue-in-cheek swag. The Long Neck Inn offers a hotel and campground above the old Catskill Game Farm, spread over other attractions and endless outdoor scenery.

island of the city

Located right in New York City, the island offers a truly unique retreat with a small-town vibe and the quaint coastal essence of a New England resort. Downtown is home to beautiful old Victorian homes, including NYC’s landmark Schofield House, the island’s oldest home, dating back to 1840. The fishing village is also home to several waterfront yacht clubs and restaurants serving fresh seafood. City Island offers a laid-back atmosphere for a relaxing getaway and is also full of water activities such as scuba diving, fishing charters and sailing lessons for the more adventurous. The City Island Nautical Museum showcases shipbuilding history through local photographs, while the Bronx Equestrian Center offers trail rides and lessons. For more healthy family fun, Turtle Cove Golf Center at Pelham Bay Park offers miniature golf, batting cages and a driving range. The full resort experience in New York City wouldn’t be complete without a visit to Orchard Beach and the boardwalk in the park to relax.


Aerial view of the historic Goshen Track in Goshen, New York
Aerial view of the historic Goshen Track in Goshen, New York.

Named one of the top 15 small towns to visit by Smithsonian Magazine, Goshen is also home to the state’s new hotspot, LEGOLAND New York Resort. As the world’s largest theme park of its kind, it makes Goshen an unbeatable location for the ultimate family weekend getaway. The outdoors fans will love venturing into the rolling hills, orchards and farms surrounding the area, including a rich history of trotting. Horse lovers can visit Goshen’s Harness Racing Museum and Hall of Fame with the town’s historic racetrack, paintings and lithographs by Currier & Ives. There are also artifacts including that of Goldsmith’s Maid, the top trotting horse, along with exhibits on breeding and training and a simulated 3D ride. In town, Main Street is packed with delightful shops and restaurants, while the active can tackle the 18-mile Heritage Trail, which runs from Middletown to Harriman through Goshen. The trail meanders through a bird and wildlife sanctuary with historical landmarks along the way, and also skirts tranquil streams and rolling meadows for a scenic picnic or delightful overnight stay.

New Paltz

The Mohonk Mountain House over a lake with a dock and small rocky island in New Paltz, New York
The Mohonk Mountain House over a lake with a dock and a small rocky island in New Paltz, New York.

Bordered by the Wallkill River, the college town of New Paltz is just a short drive from Albany and New York City and offers a vibrant, youthful atmosphere for a fun and refreshing weekend getaway. Founded in 1678, the city displays its rich history in its atmospheric streets lined with beautiful old buildings, along with notable bars and boutiques. Picturesquely situated, Mohonk Mountain House offers a memorable stay in its famous Victorian-era castle-style resort, with attractions and amenities to suit all tastes. A weekend getaway wouldn’t be complete without a hike or bike ride through the incredible landscapes in the area. There’s a scenic picnic in the stunning natural beauty of the Wallkill Valley, as well as the feat of climbing some of the rugged peaks in the Shawangunk Range for the more active.

Say port

A Civil War memorial erected in Sag Harbor, New York in 1896
A Civil War memorial erected in Sag Harbor, New York in 1896. Editorial Credit: Jaclyn Vernace /

Sag Harbor is the ideal destination for weekend getaways and is part of the Hamptons in the “Out East” along with the other attractive locations of East Hampton, Southampton and Amagansett. A city made for leisurely strolls, there’s delightful Main Street in the quaint downtown area, filled with restaurants, shops and people. You have to dare to be popular Loveshackfancy Luxury lifestyle shop, along with the famous Home Decor Shop, Jayson house, which gets crowded, but for good reason. The picturesque waterfront marina invites for a relaxing stroll followed by a visit to the popular Sag Harbor Whaling & Historical Museum in a mansion. Its exhibits and antiques celebrate the city’s fame in shipbuilding history, while the meticulously preserved facade and interior are a feast for the eyes.

Saranac Lake

Colorful aerial view of Saranac Lake, New York in the Adirondack Mountains in Autumn
Colorful aerial view of Saranac Lake, New York, in the Adirondack Mountains in Autumn.

Set on beautiful Saranac Lake with a breathtaking mountain backdrop, the village proudly proclaims itself as “The coolest place in the Adirondacks.” The climate is ideal for countless outdoor activities, while the city’s outstanding attractions include creative restaurants and cultural and artistic events. The unique Saranac Laboratory Museum tells the story of the village as a former warm destination for tuberculosis patients. Many hiking trails in the area include difficult mountain terrain for climbers, while the water enthusiast will love canoeing or kayaking into the turquoise depths or fishing in the clear shallows. For some old-fashioned fun, the Adirondack Carousel is an absolute masterpiece with scenes painted by local artists, along with 24 hand-carved native Adirondack animals.

Easily accessible from the state’s major metropolitan areas, these premier small towns offer everything from history to beaches galore to endless arts and culture at their heart. Surrounded by fantastic natural scenery, the outdoor activities and explorations offer a real respite during a weekend getaway.

About Stephanie McGehee

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