New York Travel Guides
Super useful & totally free travel guides, written by locals who love the state of New York
Why We Love New York: New York has everything you could hope for in a destination. There’s endless nature to explore from huge mountains to deep, blue lakes, and some of the most compelling towns and cities in the country. With every turn of a new season comes a new list of exciting activities for both tourists and locals alike. And of course, downstate you’ll find one of the most well-known cities in the whole world – New York City. New York is an eclectic universe in and of itself. Exploring everything that this amazing state has to offer is a necessity on your bucket list.
Best of New York
If there’s one word to describe the complexities of New York, it would be “contrast”. New York is a study in contrast, as it’s both a playground of luscious nature and a maze of sprawling cities. Whether you’re craving a getaway in the mountains or looking for that big city feel, New York’s many destinations have you covered:
- New York City – NYC is the first place everyone thinks of when they hear “New York.” For New Yorkers, it’s simply denoted as “the city.” The truth is that New York City is so different from any other part of the state that it’s almost a separate entity. Getting to know the intricacies of New York City is a total adventure and it’s only a few hours south of the beautiful, expansive countryside.
- The Catskills – The Catskills mountain range is located just two hours north of NYC. It’s an absolute dream come true for people who want an outdoor escape. In the winter, the Catskills is known for its many ski resorts and stunning slopes, and in the warmer months, it’s a great spot for hiking.
- Cooperstown – If you head a little deeper into central New York, then you’ll end up in Cooperstown, right next to Ostego Lake. Cooperstown is famously known for housing the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. The town also has an art museum and a farmer’s museum. It’s a fun, quiet getaway that’s perfect for families.
- Syracuse – Syracuse is one of New York’s big cities in the northern part of the state. It’s definitely more industrial than some of the other NY destinations, but it has many green spaces like Onondaga Lake Park and the Clark Reservation. There are also plenty of activities for children like museums and zoos.
- Hudson Valley – Along the Hudson River is a huge region that includes everything from Westchester to Albany – the Hudson Valley. The Hudson Valley is an artsy, outdoorsy community with lots of interesting places to discover. In the region’s many towns, you’ll find delicious local food, apple orchards, and expansive farmland. The Hudson Valley is also home to many historical sites and includes the state’s capital. Check out our guide to where to stay in the Hudson Valley.
- Saratoga Springs – Just 40 minutes north of Schenectady is the town of Saratoga Springs. The biggest thing here is the Saratoga Race Couse, which attracts thousands of horse racing fans every year. Besides horse racing, Saratoga Springs is also known for their mineral baths at the Saratoga Spa State Park.
👉 See the full list of places to visit in New York state.
✨ Things to Do
There are so many different types of activities in New York that it’s sort of mind-blowing. So to help you narrow down your list, these are five of the best things to do in New York:
- Central Park – Smack dab between the east and west sides of Manhattan is the 843-acre Central Park. It’s a slice of nature that cuts through all the chaos of being in one of the world’s biggest metropolises. In Central Park things to do are aplenty. There are restaurants, tours, live music performances, and even an ice skating rink in the winter. Wandering Central Park can be a full-day activity in itself.
- Brooklyn Bridge – One of the best things to do in New York City is just walking around and taking it all in, and there’s no better place for a stroll than the famous Brooklyn Bridge that connects Manhattan and Brooklyn. It’s a fun alternative to just riding the subway, and will give you breathtaking views of the city skyline. But be prepared, it’s always a little chilly up there, even in the summer.
- Watkins Glen State Park – Watkins Glen State Park is a one-stop-shop for all things New York nature and is located right next to the Finger Lakes region. The state park has rocky cliffs that are up to 200 feet high and features 19 different waterfalls. There are places to swim, lots of hiking trails, and plenty of options for camping in the park.
- Niagara Falls – Nestled right on the border between Canada and New York is one of the most famous attractions in the whole country – Niagara Falls. There are a bunch of hiking trails with different viewpoints, or you can take a tour on the Maid of the Mist boat and ride right under the raging falls. Niagara Falls is open all year round, but you’ll have a very different experience in the icy winter than in the warmth of summer. It all depends on your preferences. See our guide to where to stay in Niagara.
- Statue of Liberty – The Statue of Liberty is a key piece of American history, and if you’re in New York, then you can see it with your very own eyes. It’s located on Liberty Island in New York City, and you can book a trip to Liberty Island to climb it. However, it’s important to note that access to the crown is not permitted anymore.
New York is a very big state, and there are many places to stay. It all depends on what you’re looking for:
- Brooklyn – For people who want all the benefits of staying in New York City with a slightly lower price tag, then Brooklyn is the solution. Brooklyn is a huge borough with 77 different neighborhoods. Some neighborhoods are more affordable than others, but they all have lots of accommodation options. Plus, it’s close to the action of Manhattan without constantly being surrounded by it.
- New Paltz – If your goal is to get in touch with Mother Nature, then consider staying in New Paltz, New York. New Paltz is a little college town with big nature attractions. It’s located right in the Shawangunk Mountains, also known as ‘The Gunks.’ New Paltz provides places to stay at various price points, and there are plenty of hiking and camping spots. There are also lots of cute local establishments and a pretty lively nightlife scene for being out in the country.
- The Hamptons – Located right next to Long Island’s seaside, the Hamptons has long been known as a favorite weekend getaway for rich and famous New Yorkers. The Hamptons is filled with gorgeous accommodations, high-quality restaurants, and lots of places to go on a shopping spree. While it’s on the expensive side, it’s a great spot for travelers with a bigger budget.
- Lake Placid – Located in the Adirondack Mountains, the village of Lake Placid was put on the map after holding the 1980 Winter Olympics. Since then, it’s cultivated a reputation for being a great vacation spot for snow sports. There are many affordable hotels in Lake Placid, right on the water of the town’s namesake. It’s a cozy place to stay, even in the dead of winter.
- The Finger Lakes – The Finger Lakes region is known for the eleven skinny lakes that it gets its name from. There are so many options for resorts and hotels in the Finger Lakes region, and there are lots of cool restaurants and elegant wineries. Of course, there are also a bunch of water activities to choose from, like kayaking or sailing. It’s a beautiful place for couples to kick back and get comfortable.
👉 Read the complete guide to where to stay in New York City.
🛎️ Best Hotels
There are nearly 4,000 hotel options across New York state as of 2022. To narrow it down a bit, here are a few of the top hotels in New York:
- The William Vale – The William Vale is a high-end hotel in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. It’s located in an ultra-trendy neighborhood with lots to do, and the hotel matches that energy. There’s parking, a gym, a gorgeous pool, and views of the city. If you want luxury in New York City for realistic prices, then The William Vale is the one.
- Mohonk Mountain House – The Mohonk Mountain House is a unique resort with more than 150 years of history. It’s in a Victorian-style castle nestled in the mountains of the Hudson Valley near New Paltz. There are insane views of the surrounding forests from each of their incredible suites. Mohonk Mountain House has a world-class spa and a delicious restaurant on-site. They also hold events year-round. It’s ideal for visitors who don’t want to ever have to leave their accommodations and have a total retreat.
- The Sagamore – The Sagamore resort is located in one of the most popular New York getaway destinations – Lake George. The grounds of the Sagamore are absolutely captivating. It’s situated right on the waterfront with panoramic views of expansive nature. Plus, the hotel itself is shrouded in classic elegance. The Sagamore has over 40 acres of space for various things, such as a waterfront pool, The Morgan boat tour, and golfing. It’s a beautiful place to get in touch with nature without giving up luxury.
- The Langham, New York – If you want the best of the best and you’re willing to pay anything to get it, then go for The Langham in New York City. The Langham is a luxury five-star hotel located on super-stylish Fifth Avenue in Manhattan. The hotel has jaw-dropping views of the Empire State Building and the famed Manhattan skyline. It’s about as high-end as you can get, and that’s saying something for New York City.
- High Peaks Resort – The High Peaks Resort is an amazing spot for travelers who want to be among the wilderness – even when they’re all tucked away in their accommodations. It’s located right in Lake Placid with easy access to all things outdoors, and there are areas for fishing, boating, ziplining, hiking, and more. There’s also an on-site restaurant called the Dancing Bears and a super relaxing spa complete with facial treatments and massages.
🚗 Best Road Trips
New York is an enormous state, and one of the most popular ways to see the whole thing is by planning a New York road trip.
- The Adirondacks – If you start a little south of Albany and head north, then you’ll find yourself on a stunning road trip right through the Adirondacks. It’s basically a straight shot north on Route 32 – going through Saratoga Springs and Lake George, all the way to Lake Champlain just south of Plattsburg. If you don’t stop at all, it should take around four hours roundtrip.
- South Tier – Interstate 86, also known as the Southern Tier Expressway, connects Pennsylvania and New York. It also happens to be a gorgeous drive through scenic landscapes that is just over 200 miles long. There are lots of accommodation options along this particular route, so it’s easily extendable into a two-day endeavor.
- Route 9 – The Route 9 road trip starts off in Albany and takes you through some of New York’s breathtaking northern regions. Along the way, you’ll pass by lots of adorable New York towns that make for perfect stop-off points throughout the trip, such as Round Lake, Saratoga Springs, and Glens Falls.
- Niagra Falls – Niagara Falls is one of the biggest natural wonders of New York, and getting there can be an adventure in itself. Niagara Falls is located all the way in the northwest, at the border of Canada. The drive takes you through the bulk of New York’s stunning central areas, depending on where you start. It’ll take around six and a half hours if you’re traveling from New York City, but only a short two and a half hours if you’re heading over from Syracuse.
⛱️ Best Beaches
Beaches aren’t usually the first thing that comes to mind when people think of New York. But there are plenty of fun, inviting beaches across the Empire State:
- Main Beach – Main Beach is located in the East Hamptons, and it’s every bit as beautiful and exclusive as the name makes it sound. It’s very clean and has a clear view of the setting sun over the ocean. There are also lots of places to grab snacks, however, you will need a permit if you plan on parking your car nearby.
- Ontario Beach – In northern New York, right on the shore of Lake Ontario, you can spend hot summer days at Ontario Beach in Rochester. It’s perfect for a day of swimming and relaxing on the beach. Or, you can rent a shelter or lodge on the grounds from May to October 31st if you want to make a trip to it.
- Robert Moss State Park – If you’re in the mood for some beach time while visiting Fire Island, then make a stop at Robert Moss State Park. It has five miles of beaches that stretch along the Atlantic Ocean, so there’s lots of space to get some privacy on your beach trip.
- Brighton Beach – There are a few different beaches around New York City, but I’d recommend Brighton Beach the most. It’s a little more chill than Coney Island if you just want a relaxing day by the waves.
⛰️ Best Mountains
One of the big things that New York is known for is its stunning mountains. Here are just a few of the state’s incredible mountain ranges:
- Peekamoose – Peekamoose is part of the Catskill Mountains. There’s a full-day hike from Denning that you can take to see all the viewpoints that the Peekamoose has to offer. It takes around five and a half hours round-trip.
- Mount Marcy – Mount Marcy is the tallest mountain in New York State with an elevation of over 5,000 ft. It’s right in the middle of the Adirondacks. There are a few different loops you can hike on Mount Marcy, and some are for beginners while others are for expert hikers.
- Whiteface Mountain – Whiteface Mountain is also one of the highest mountains in New York and is located right near Lake Placid. Whiteface Mountain is mainly known for its top-notch skiing and snowboarding.
- Overlook Mountain – Overlook Mountain is located right near the charming town of Woodstock in the Hudson Valley. It’s not the most difficult mountain trek in New York, but it still provides breathtaking views of the surrounding nature. It’s a perfect option for families with young children who don’t want to commit to a backbreaking hike.
- The Adirondack Mountains – The Adirondacks is a huge mountain range that runs through upstate New York. It covers around 5,000 square miles of ground and includes some of the most beautiful mountains in the whole country. There are lots of places to stay around the Adirondacks and the region provides endless outdoor activities.
⛷️ Best Ski Resorts
If you’re a fan of this winter sport, then you’ll have no trouble finding a place to do it in New York’s mountains. Some of the best ski resorts include:
- Hunter Mountain – Hunter Mountain is about three hours north of New York City in the Catskill Mountains. Hunter Mountain’s ski resort has been around since the ‘50s. It has remained a favorite among locals and tourists who want a chance to try its 1,600-foot vertical drop.
- Windham Mountain – Windham Mountain Ski Resort is super close to Hunter and is only about a 15-minute drive away. But, Windham is better for newbie skiers who want a calmer experience. It’s usually a lot less busy than Hunter Mountain, but since both ski resorts are so close, you can easily work both of them into your ski trip itinerary.
- Gore Mountain – Gore Mountain is located in the Adirondack Mountains near North Creek, New York. It’s an area where skiing is extremely popular, so there are lots of lodges and a variety of trails on Gore Mountain.
- Whiteface Mountain – Whiteface Mountain Ski Resort is located near Lake Placid. It features 90 trails that vary in difficulty and has 11 lifts. In addition to great skiing terrain, Whiteface Mountain has super gorgeous scenery in general.
🎢 Best Theme Parks
New York isn’t necessarily known for its theme parks. But, if you’re looking for some thrilling rides and carnival food, there are a few options:
- Luna Park, Coney Island – Luna Park is the revitalized amusement park of Coney Island. It’s located at the site of the Astroland amusement park that has been in operation since ‘62. It still has a bunch of classic rides like the Cyclone and the Sling Shot.
- Playland Park – Playland Park is another theme park that has a lengthy history of nearly 100 years. It’s a huge park on Long Island with almost 300 acres of land to explore. However, this particular theme park is mainly geared towards kids.
- Six Flags Great Escape – While Six Flags has over 20 locations across the United States, two of them are in New York. The top recommendation is Six Flags Great Escape. Not only does the park have exciting rides on land, but they also have an indoor waterpark. Great Escape has a few lodging options, too, so you can turn it into a full-blown vacation.
🖼️ Best Museums
New York features a long list of incredible and well-respected museums. You’ll find them around the state, but many of the best museums are in NYC. To name just a few:
- The Metropolitan Museum of Art (Met) – The Metropolitan Museum of Art, often just called the Met, is a world-renowned art museum. It’s located right on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan and features more than two million pieces in its permanent collection. Plus, the Met always has interesting seasonal exhibits.
- American Museum of Natural History – For travelers with children, the American Museum of Natural History is one of the best museum options. It’s located on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. The Natural History Museum features thorough exhibits about many different things like bird migrations, sharks, and dinosaurs, and there are also special seasonal exhibits like the butterfly conservatory.
- National September 11 Memorial & Museum – Sometimes, visiting a museum is about acknowledging a part of local history, even if it’s painful. The National September 11 Memorial and Museum is located at the site of the incident in Manhattan. The museum will give you an in-depth look at the impact of 9/11 and pay tribute to the people who lost their lives in the attack. It might be hard to get through, but it’s still a must-see.
- The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) – The Museum of Modern Art, or the MoMA, is a key contributor that’s shaping the modern art world. It’s also located in midtown Manhattan, so you can hit the MoMA and Met on the same day. It’s one of the largest modern art museums in the entire world so, even if you’re not the biggest art fan, there’s always something interesting to see at the MoMA.
New York Travel Advice
New York has very distinct seasons, and you should visit a season that best suits your tastes.
- 🍂 Fall – Fall is a magical time of the year in New York. It’s a brief window from September to November. The foliage takes a turn to shades of amber, and pumpkin patches and apple orchards are everywhere. It’s a welcoming moment before the weather turns brisk.
- 🌼 Spring – Spring in New York lasts from late March to late May. Even though there are occasional afternoon showers, spring is the best season to visit New York weather-wise. It’s not too hot yet, but everything is green and coming to life again. It’s a rejuvenating time of year.
- 🌞 Summer – Summer, June-August, is a great season for people who want to bask in the sun and spend a lot of time by the water. There are lots of outdoor activities, events, and festivals to choose from. Even though New York gets super cold in the winter, don’t underestimate its summer. It is hot, especially in New York City. So, if you’re sensitive to the heat, maybe steer clear of New York’s summer months.
- ❄️ Winter – Winter is extremely cold and snowy, but there’s still lots of stuff to do. It’s a terrific place for skiing and snowboarding from December to early March. But come prepared. You’ll need a car with snow tires and warm clothes!
👉 Read the whole guide to the best time to visit New York City
🚌 Getting In & Around
There are a million ways to travel around New York. Whether you need to get from Buffalo to Lower Manhattan or just need a ride to the grocery store.
- ✈️ Airports – New York has airports in all parts of the state. Some of the biggest international airports are located in New York City, like JFK and LaGuardia, but there are other options in the North. Including Albany International Airport and Buffalo Niagara International Airport.
- 🚗 Driving – A vehicle is needed to get around most of New York state. Luckily, it’s easy to drive and rent a car throughout most of the state, with the exception of New York City. Driving in New York City is extremely hectic and scary if you’re not used to it, but you won’t need a car in NYC anyway. There’s plenty of reliable public transportation.
- 🚇 Public Transit – Public transit is the best way to get around NYC by far. The metro goes absolutely everywhere. New York also had pretty great public transportation to get around the whole state. You can take a bus or train to just about any other area.
- 📲 Ride Share – The biggest rideshare apps in New York are Uber and Lyft. However, it’s also possible to get a ride with lesser-known services like Via and Curb.
- 🚴♀️ Biking – Biking is another awesome way to explore New York City. It gets a little more difficult to get around on a bike outside of the city, though. But, if you’re just planning on staying within the bounds of one town, you can use a bike as your main mode of transportation.
- 🛴 Scooters – Once again, there are scooters like Lime and Bird in New York City or other major cities. But you probably won’t find them in other parts of New York
- 🚶♀️ Walking – New York City is one of the most fun places to wander on foot. However, the rest of New York State isn’t very walkable at all, unless you’re only staying in one little town.
👉 Tips & Things to Know
- 🚆 – Take Public Transportation – There’s no reason to be driving yourself around when you’re in New York City. Public transportation is just so good and cheap that it’s a shame to waste your money stressing on the roads. For the rest of New York state, that isn’t a hard and fast rule. You can definitely get anywhere you need to go in the state by using public transportation.
- 💰 – Budget Properly – New York is infamously known as one of the most expensive states in America. That means if you’re planning a visit to New York, you need to come to terms with this reality. A one-week vacation in New York City can cost over $1,650 per person on the low end. You could get yourself in a lot of trouble if you find yourself short here.
- 🍕 – Try the New York Food Staples– New York has so much incredible food such as pizza, bagels, cheesecake, and pastrami sandwiches on rye (from Katz’ Delicatessen, especially). New York has many delicious dishes in the place where many of them started.
- 🎨 – Visit the Museums – Some of the most incredible museums in the entire world live in New York. A few of the biggest names are the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Guggenheim, the American Museum of Natural History, and the Museum of Modern Art. Some other popular ones are the Whitney, the Intrepid Museum, and the Frick Collection.
🧳 What to Pack
- 🎒 – Day Pack – No matter where you go or what you do, you should be taking a reliable day pack. Something that will keep your camera, phone, money, and anything else safe. Plus, it’s just easier to carry than a regular handbag.
- 🧴 – Sunscreen – Even in the dead of winter, when the cold is piercing, the sun will still be beating down on you in New York. Be sure to pack a full tube of sunscreen when you’re visiting New York in any season.
- 🚰 – Reusable Water Bottle – A reusable water bottle is a must in New York, just be sure to fill it with filtered water!
- 🔋 – Portable Phone Charger – Getting around in New York can be really confusing so, it’s important to always have access to your phone. To make sure your phone is always ready to use, bring a portable phone charger with you.
- 🛡️ – Safety Keychain – New York is a safe place, generally, but you should still be prepared in case you run into any trouble. Carrying a safety keychain with a covert defense weapon can make you feel a lot better about roaming the streets. Just avoid carrying pepper spray because you could run into trouble at the airport.
🤓 Facts & Info
- Population – 19.51 million
- Capital – Albany, New York
- Largest Metro Areas – New York City, Long Island, Mid/Lower Hudson Valley
- Time Zone – ET Time (UTC -5:00 / UTC -4:00 during daylight savings)
- Airports – John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK), LaGuardia Airport (LGA), New York Stewart International Airport (SWF), Albany International Airport (ALB), Syracuse Hancock International Airport (SYR)
- Colleges & Universities – New York University, Columbia University, Cornell University, CUNY Hunter College, University at Buffalo SUNY
- Nickname – The Empire State
- Demonynm – New Yorker
- USPS Abbreviation – NY
- Governor – Kathy Hochul (Democratic Party)
- Country – United States of America
💵 Costs & Budgeting
- MERIC Cost of Living State Rank – #49
- 3 Star Hotel Room – $180/night
- 1 Bedroom Apartment Rental – $300/night
- Rental Car – $75/day
- Public Transit Ticket – ~$2.75 (Metrocard) ($10.50 to airport from center)
- Take Out Meal for Two – $40
- Sit Down Dinner for Two – $80
- Draft Beer – $6
FAQs About Visiting New York
Is New York safe for tourists?
New York is very safe for tourists. Like anywhere else, crimes and natural disasters like hurricanes happen. But, as long as you take proper safety precautions and stay alert, you probably won’t encounter any safety issues in New York. Travelers should also remain aware of the current COVID regulations because they frequently change in New York.
What is the best month to visit New York?
The best months to visit New York are May and October. These months are at the height of the spring and fall seasons. The weather is perfect right before the change of the season. In the fall, you have the chance to see the leaves change colors. In the spring, the entire state is turning green and just getting warm.
Is New York worth visiting?
New York is definitely a state worth visiting. There are so many different activities, and every season brings something unique to the table. New York state has something for every type of traveler.
What food is New York known for?
New York is known for its pizza, bagels, cheesecake, buffalo wings, and the Manhattan cocktail.
How much money do I need to visit New York City?
You’ll need at least $1,600 a person to comfortably visit New York for a week. However, this price can fluctuate depending on what area of New York you’re staying in.
Meet Our New York Travel Experts
Sky Ariella is a professional writer from New York with an insatiable craving for exploring the world. After a post-college adventure around 6 Asian countries, she dove head-first into a writing career and travel lifestyle. Sky currently lives in Mexico City with her dog Bear. When she’s not whipping up content for Travel Lemming, she writes for Booking, Zippia, and her blog.
Larissa Albright is a New York City-based writer and travel enthusiast. She loves trying local restaurants and coffee shops in her neighborhood and exploring every inch of Central Park. She visits London whenever she can and spends her summers in Narragansett, Rhode Island.
Victoria Folz is a freelance writer and travel enthusiast based in Southern California. She enjoys red eye flights, hiking, road trips, running, and solo adventures. Her favorite destination abroad is a tie between the island of Roatan and Porto Xeli, Greece. Visit her website here.
📰 New York Travel Guides
To learn more about New York, check out our other New York travel guides:
- 17 Best Places to Visit in New York State (By a Local)
- 21 Best Day Trips from NYC in 2023 (By a Local)
- Camping in Long Island in 2023 (9 Best Spots)
- 15 Best Long Island Restaurants (in 2023)
- Where to Stay in Long Island in 2023 (Best Places & Areas)
- 13 Best Hikes in Long Island (in 2023)
- Camping in New York State in 2023 (8 Best Sites & 7 Tips)
- NYC On a Budget in 2023 (How to Do It On the Cheap)
- 21 Best New York State Parks in 2023
- 21 Best Lakes in New York (in 2023)
- 5 Day Hudson Valley Itinerary (A Perfect 2023 Planner + Map)
- 25 Best Things to Do in Hudson Valley (in 2023)
- 7 Day New York Road Trip Itinerary + Map (2023)
- Where to Stay in Hudson Valley (in 2023)
- 21 Best Things to Do in Central Park (in 2023)
- 15 Best Hiking Trails in New York (in 2023)
- 15 Best New York City Neighborhoods (in 2023)
- 21 Best New York City Travel Tips (for 2023)
- 15 Best Waterfalls in New York (in 2023)
- 14 Best Towns in New York (in 2023)
- 17 Best Museums in NYC (in 2023)
- 13 Best Music Venues in New York City (in 2023)
- 33 Best Things to Do on Long Island (in 2023)
- Best Time to Visit Long Island in 2023 (By a Long Islander)
- Best Time to Visit New York City in 2023 (By a Local)
- Where to Stay in New York City (12 Best Places, By a Local)