Aerial view of a road in trees in New York

7 Day New York Road Trip Itinerary (for 2023)

Taking a New York road trip is one of the best ways to see the state. But of course, planning the perfect itinerary can be a lot if you’re not from the area.

I grew up in New York and am well acquainted with road trips across the Empire State. This insight led me to create this ultimate road trip itinerary through New York. It’ll take you from the gorgeous Hudson Valley, through some of New York’s cutest small towns, and over to the famous Niagara Falls at the Canadian border. 

So, without further ado, here’s your perfect 7-day New York road trip itinerary!

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7 Days New York Road Trip Itinerary

Day 1 – Hudson Valley 

View of a road in Hudson Valley during autumn season

📍 Google Maps | Where to Stay in Hudson Valley

Most of the state’s biggest airports are located near New York City, so it makes sense to start your New York road trip there. I recommend booking your rental car through Discover Cars and then making your way north to the explore the many fun things to do in the Hudson Valley.

A two-hour drive from New York City, there are a bunch of adorable towns in this area such as Woodstock, New Paltz, and Hudson.

First, grab lunch at Oriole 9 in Woodstock. Then, hit one of the local hiking trails. There are some breathtaking NY hikes through the Catskill Mountains such as the quick 1.4-mile hike to Kaaterskill Falls. 

As the sun sets, head over to New Paltz for dinner and drinks. Start the evening at A Tavola Trattoria before having a cocktail at Huckleberry to close out the first day of your New York road trip itinerary.

Day 2 – Lake George

A boat dock under the clear blue sky in Lake George

📍 Google Maps  

When you wake up on the morning of day two, grab a big cup of coffee from The Mud Club in Woodstock before setting off for your next stop. 

Drive about two hours further along the Hudson River until you reach the famous vacation village of Lake George. Along the way, you’ll pass cute towns such as Saratoga Springs and the New York state capitol of Albany.

When you arrive, throw on a bathing suit and get some sun at Million Dollar Beach or Lake George Beach. After soaking up a sufficient amount of sunshine, go to a tasting at the Adirondack Winery Tasting Room. For dinner, you can’t go wrong with the Back Street BBQ.

Turn in early for the night because the next few days will be busy. 

Day 3 – Syracuse

A water fountain in Clinton Square in Syracuse
(photo: Alizada Studios / Shutterstock)

📍 Google Maps 

It’s the morning of day three! Munch down on some breakfast at Caffe Vero and then hop in the car. It’ll be a three-hour drive west to get to the next destination – Syracuse. Unlike the earlier stops along the New York road trip itinerary, Syracuse has much more of a city vibe.

You’ll probably arrive in the late afternoon and be hungry for a good meal. So, fill your belly at Strong Hearts vegan restaurant. Then, get ready to wander some informative New York museums. Visit the Emerson Museum of Art, the Erie Canal Museum, and the Museum of Science and Technology. 

If you need some time outdoors after all that, kick back at Onondaga State Park. Then, make a reservation at Francesca’s Cucina for some delicious Italian food and wine to finish off day three. 

Day 4 – Finger Lakes Region

View of a park during autumn in Finger Lakes Region

📍 Google Maps

You’re right in the middle of your car excursion through New York. Today, it’s time to take a quick hour-long drive further west to the Finger Lake region. As the name suggests, this area is known for its series of long, slender lakes. 

To start the day off, have some brunch at The Elf in the Oak. Their waffle breakfast sandwiches are particularly mouth-watering. 

Once you’re stuffed, head to Watkins Glen State Park in the afternoon. You can do a nice hike on the Gorge Trail to the picturesque Rainbow Falls of Watkins Glen. Buttermilk State Falls is also nearby if you want to hit all of New York’s best waterfalls

In the early evening, discover what the Seneca Lake Wine Trail has to offer. There are plenty of drinks to sample while being surrounded by stunning natural views. You can keep the party going at Rhine House or Nowhere Special Libations Parlor. 

Day 5 – Niagara Falls 

View of the Niagara Falls at night
(photo: hw22 / Shutterstock)

📍 Google Maps

Day 5 might be the most exciting one of the whole trip because it’s time to visit Niagara Falls! It’s a must-see on all the good New York road trip itineraries. From the Finger Lake area, it’ll only be a two-hour drive west on I-90 to reach Niagara Falls by the Canadian border. 

First, get some food at Scoops Restaurant. Preferably, some pancakes and bacon. Then and only then, make your way to the famed Falls. 

After taking your initial photos from above, get a better look at the natural wonder on the Maid of the Mist boat tour. You’ll get a pink poncho to protect your clothes as you ride right up to the roaring waters of the Falls. There are a few other things you can do at the Falls in the afternoon, like the funicular and ziplining. 

Once you’re tuckered out from exploring one of the most famous natural attractions in the entire USA, settle down and relax. Get a table at Sēvā Tapas Bar & Lounge for dinner. Wind down the exciting day with a nightcap at The Craft Kitchen and Bar. 

Day 6 – Ithaca 

Colorful sky over the Uris Library on Cornell University
(photo: Jay Yuan / Shutterstock)

📍 Google Map

On day 6, mosey on over to Ithaca. It’s about 3 hours east of Niagara, so you’ll probably want to grab a bite to eat before you head out. Stop by Betty’s in Buffalo before you get on the I-90 East to fulfill your hunger.

When you get to Ithaca, stop by the massive campus of Cornell University. The Ivy League is home to some really beautiful architecture and the Cornell Botanic Gardens. Then, head to Cayuga Lake and rent a kayak or canoe – it’ll feel great to get back in touch with nature after being in a car for hours every day. 

If you happen to land in Ithaca on the weekend, take a stroll through the Ithaca Farmers Market to buy some local produce. If you have a kitchen in your accommodations, you can find everything to make your own dinner. Or, opt for a prepared feast by one of the restaurants in Downtown Ithaca like Moosewood or Loumies. 

Day 7 – Tarrytown

The Sleepy Hollow Lighthouse under the clear blue sky
(photo: Brian Logan Photography / Shutterstock)

📍 Google Maps

It’s going to be a bit of a long haul back to the southern tip of New York, so I hope you like scenic drives! It’ll take you around 3 hours and 45 minutes to get from Ithaca to Tarrytown. 

Tarrytown is a good finishing point. It’s right next to New York City and easy to reach the NY airports or any car rental location. On top of that, Tarrytown is a chill spot with lots of places to unwind from your trip. When you arrive in the late afternoon, try some BBQ pulled pork tacos from the Taco Project. 

In the mood to finish your trip with a bit of New York history? Carve out some time to see Washington Irving’s Sunnyside House and Lyndhurst Mansion. Getting tired after visiting all these attractions? Grab a cappuccino from Muddy Water Coffee and Cafe.

To finish it all off, catch a show at the Tarrytown Music Hall followed by dinner at Mr. Nick’s Brick Oven and dessert at Main Street Sweets. 

New York Road Trip Itinerary Planning Tips

Tip #1 – Consider the Season

A wooden hut covered with snow during winter season

The changing weather in New York is no joke. It’s crucial to consider the best time to visit New York on road trips. 

The best time for a long drive through New York is during the autumn season, from late August to November. You’ll see the fall foliage, have comfortable weather, and won’t have to worry about snow. 

Tip #2 – Plan to Make Stops Between Destinations

Even if you’re only driving a few hours a day, you should plan to make stops. Between the destinations along the itinerary, there are lots of other sites to see. Like Black River Forest on the way to Syracuse. Or Binghamton on the journey out of Ithaca. 

Tip #3 – Book Accommodations Ahead of Time

View of a bedroom on a hotel room in New York

Hotels and Airbnbs in New York sell out fast and get rather expensive if you don’t book in advance. While it’s possible to book hotels along the way during your road trip, these places are usually less nice and more pricey. Booking in advance is the best choice for a New York road trip. 

Tip #4 – Set a Budget Before You Leave

Taking a road trip is a favorite style of traveling because it can be cheaper. However, you’d be surprised how fast a road trip can get expensive if you’re not budgeting properly. 

With accommodations, restaurants, and paying for activities, it can take a pretty fat chunk of change. Particularly in a costly state like New York. Set a budget ahead of time and stick to it. 

Tip #5 – Ask Locals About the Best Things to Do 

A barista handing a cup of coffee

In my experience, finding the best thing to do in a place comes from asking the right people. Such as the locals. They have a lifetime of insight into the best things to do around their area. 

On your New York road trip, take a minute to ask the person getting your coffee or a hotel receptionist for their recommendation. They might enlighten you about a hidden treasure.

Tip #6 – Do Your Research If You’re Renting A Car

If you’re renting a car for your New York road trip, make sure you do your research beforehand. There are lots of rental options out there at various price points. I’d recommend searching Discover Cars to compare prices before you commit to anything. 

Tip #7 – Keep Your Loved Ones Updated

Whether you’re traveling alone or with other people, you should still keep someone at home in the loop when you’re out on the open road. You never know what can happen. 

So, it’s always best to be on the safe side. Let a trusted friend or family member know your route and provide them with updates along the journey. 

Tip #8 – Prepare Your Vehicle For an Adventure 

A woman checking her car tire during a trip in New York

Driving around New York state isn’t the longest trip in the world. But you should still ensure that your car is prepared for anything that could possibly happen. 

Check all the usual car things, like your tire pressure and lights. Do a deep cleaning on the inside of the vehicle (unless it’s rented) to make sure you feel comfortable on the drive. Basically, get your car ready to be put to good use for a week. 

Tip #9 – Make a Playlist

A woman opening Spotify on her car
(photo: Armando Oliveira / Shutterstock)

Music is a crucial detail of the best road trips. When you’re driving along in New York, changing the song is the last thing you want to worry about. Making a playlist in advance solves this issue. 

Plus, it gives you the chance to cultivate a vibe for your road trip. A good playlist can set the tone for an entire drive. Make that mood an upbeat one that can get you through a week of driving!

Tip #10 – Resist The Urge to Eat Fast Food Everyday

Orlen and McDonals signage on a pole
(photo: Cronislaw / Shutterstock)

Many people make the fatal error of eating unhealthy food throughout a road trip. When you’re constantly passing fast food places on the highway, it’s hard to resist. However, these types of foods will make you feel tired and drained. It’s not the ideal condition for driving for hours on end. 

Tip #11 – Be Flexible With Your Plan

The beautiful thing about road-tripping is that you can be spontaneous with your travels to a certain extent. As you’re driving between locations, you might pass an eye-catching attraction or a nice place to pull over and eat a picnic lunch. 

Don’t shy away from unexpected fun just because it wasn’t part of the original plan. You might miss out on a lifetime’s memory if you aren’t flexible. 

FAQs About Planning a New York Road Trip

Where should I go in upstate New York?

There are several interesting places to go in upstate NY including Saratoga Springs, the Adirondack Mountains near Lake Placid, or Plattsburgh.

What is the prettiest place in New York?

Niagara Falls, the Catskill Mountains, and the Finger Lake region are some of the prettiest places in New York. However, there are lots of beautiful locations across the state, depending on what type of beauty you’re looking for. 

How many hours should you drive a day on a New York road trip?

If you’re taking a short excursion around New York, you won’t need to drive more than 4 hours per day. Alternatively, if you’re going all the way to California from New York, you’ll need to drive around 6 to 8 hours per day. 

***

That’s a wrap on my 7-day New York road trip itinerary. For more inspiration, check out my essential New York City travel tips.

Enjoy the drive!

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