Best Places to Visit in New York State

New York state is home to the most populated city in the United States, sprawling national and state parks, and beach communities that captivate both domestic and international travelers. Trying to figure out where in New York you should visit? U.S. News considered sights, culture, adventurous pursuits and the opinions of experts and readers to compile this ranking of the best places to visit in New York state. Read on for vacation inspiration, and don't forget to vote below for the destinations you think belong on this list. (Note: Some of the below destinations may be affected by the coronavirus outbreak. Check with the CDC and the U.S. Department of State before traveling.)

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Best Places to Visit in New York State

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    New York City

    #1 in Best Places to Visit in New York State

    A hub for culture, the arts, food and sightseeing, New York City is on many travelers' bucket lists – and for good reason. Everyone can find something to enjoy in the Big Apple. You can see a Broadway show, check out the dozens of museums, eat your way through Manhattan's distinct neighborhoods on a food tour or shop till you drop along Fifth Avenue or in SoHo. Don't forget to stroll through iconic Central Park and visit its can't-miss attractions, including the Central Park Zoo and Conservatory Garden.

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    Niagara Falls

    #2 in Best Places to Visit in New York State

    The tumbling, frothy falls – more than 3,100 tons of water flows over the edge every second – are the star attraction in this New York destination that borders Canada. The best way to see Niagara Falls is on a Maid of the Mist boat tour, which takes poncho-clad visitors on a steamboat to the base of the falls. Once you see the falls, check out the area's other attractions, such as Niagara Falls State Park, Niagara Parks Botanical Gardens & Butterfly Conservatory or the nearby casinos.

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    Adirondacks

    #3 in Best Places to Visit in New York State

    The Adirondack Mountains span more than 6 million acres and are home to hundreds of communities, lakes, valleys and trails. Water lovers can canoe or kayak on Saranac Lake or go boating on Tupper Lake; hikers can tackle the area's 2,000-plus miles of trails; and skiers can shred powder on Whiteface Mountain near Lake Placid. Visitors will also want to save some time for checking out history-focused sights like the Lake Placid Olympic Museum and Fort Ticonderoga, as well as sampling regional wine and craft beer at local wineries and breweries.

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    The Catskills

    #4 in Best Places to Visit in New York State

    Considered America's first wilderness because of their role in starting the American conservation movement, southeastern New York's Catskill Mountains beckon to outdoor enthusiasts. About 40% of the Catskill Park's 700,000-plus acres are designated as "forever wild," meaning you'll have access to sprawling spaces ideal for outdoor activities. In winter, the Catskills offer ample opportunities to ski and snowboard. Meanwhile, summer is perfect for hunting, hiking, boating and zip lining, among other activities. After a busy day outdoors, you can satisfy your appetite or quench your thirst at one of the area's restaurants or breweries.

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    The Finger Lakes

    #5 in Best Places to Visit in New York State

    A romantic New York getaway, The Finger Lakes region appeals to travelers seeking a relaxing retreat with lovely scenery. Skiing at the area's resorts, wine tasting at the Seneca Lake Wine Trail's wineries and boating and hiking at local state parks are all popular activities to enjoy in this part of northwestern New York. The Finger Lakes are known for their spectacular fall foliage, but with their wealth of charming towns and variety of seasonal attractions, the lakes are excellent to visit year-round.

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    Fire Island

    #6 in Best Places to Visit in New York State

    Travel about 60 miles southeast of Manhattan to reach this 32-mile-long, car-free barrier island. On Fire Island, you'll find several charming communities, including Ocean Beach (where most of the island's hotels, restaurants and shops are located) and Cherry Grove and Fire Island Pines (two of the island's LGBTQ-friendly areas). Plus, Fire Island is home to Fire Island National Seashore, a protected area that welcomes bird-watchers and campers in droves. If you'd rather spend your vacation swimming, surfing or sunbathing, head to Robert Moses State Park in summer to enjoy its beautiful beaches.

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    Rochester, NY

    #7 in Best Places to Visit in New York State

    The state's third-largest city (by population) is a superb place to visit if you're traveling with children. In Rochester, you'll discover several kid-friendly museums, including The Strong National Museum of Play (the second-largest children's museum in the U.S.) and the George Eastman Museum (the world's oldest photography museum). Additionally, Rochester offers all kinds of outdoor attractions to enjoy during the warmer months. Visit the 96-foot-tall High Falls for impressive panoramas, or stroll through Highland Park Conservancy to see the world's largest lilac collection.

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    Saratoga Springs

    #8 in Best Places to Visit in New York State

    Ever since the Mohawk Indian Tribe came to Saratoga Springs and discovered its mineral waters, which were believed to have restorative properties, the town has blossomed into a popular vacation destination. Visitors can still drink from or soak in the town's mineral springs, 12 of which are located in Saratoga Spa State Park. However, many travelers now flock to Saratoga Springs to see the country's oldest racetrack, the Saratoga Race Course. Take a walking tour of the facility to learn more about its history and horseracing, or visit in August to attend the venue's premier event, the Travers Stakes.

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    Long Island

    #9 in Best Places to Visit in New York State

    This 118-mile-long island is frequented by New Yorkers looking to escape the city to relax on white sand beaches and with a glass of wine. Can't-miss stretches of sand here include family-friendly Jones Beach State Park (with a swimming pool, a mini-golf course and shuffleboard areas, among other amenities) and Ditch Plains Beach (a popular place to surf). Plus, Long Island boasts 73 wineries and tasting rooms, some of which are part of the island's North Fork Wine Trail.

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    Syracuse

    #10 in Best Places to Visit in New York State

    Syracuse provides activities and attractions to satisfy every type of traveler. For culture hounds, this city in the middle of the state offers numerous museums, art galleries, performing arts venues and historical attractions, including the Everson Museum of Art and the Landmark Theatre. Meanwhile, sports fans can catch a baseball game at NBT Stadium or watch Syracuse University's football and basketball teams play at the Carrier Dome. Families with little ones won't want to miss a visit to the Rosamond Gifford Zoo.

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    Letchworth State Park

    #11 in Best Places to Visit in New York State

    Nicknamed the Grand Canyon of the East because of its impressive gorge, Letchworth State Park draws outdoor enthusiasts in droves. The park is home to more than two dozen waterfalls, many of which you can see as you trek some of Letchworth's 66 miles of hiking trails. Additionally, the park offers ample opportunities to go whitewater rafting, kayaking, horseback riding, biking and even hot air ballooning. If you prefer winter sports instead of summer pursuits, arrive when temperatures fall to go cross-country skiing or snowmobiling.

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    Cooperstown

    #12 in Best Places to Visit in New York State

    Cooperstown may be small, but it attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors every year thanks to its ties to America's pastime. Although most experts agree that baseball wasn't invented here, Cooperstown remains a mecca for sports lovers because of its main sight, the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. However, the village offers other kinds of attractions, too. Travelers can visit the Fenimore Art Museum to see impressive works of art or check out The Farmers' Museum's exhibits about local agriculture. Cooperstown also features beautiful neoclassical buildings, such as Hyde Hall, and a variety of breweries, distilleries and wineries.

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    Thousand Islands

    #13 in Best Places to Visit in New York State

    Despite its name, the Thousand Islands region is composed of more than 1,800 islands. The best way to see this vast area, which also stretches into Canada, is during a boat tour. A scenic cruise here will take you past lighthouses, mansions and castles and include commentary about the real-life pirates who used to roam the islands' waters and the Gilded Age starlets who once called the region home. When you're ready to return to land, hike the trails in Wellesley Island State Park or fish in Mary Island State Park, both on Wellesley Island.

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    Ithaca

    #14 in Best Places to Visit in New York State

    The presence of two renowned institutions – Ithaca College and Cornell University – makes Ithaca a true college town. But this small town is also known for its stunning natural beauty, so much so that its slogan is "Ithaca is gorges." Ithaca is surrounded by more than 150 waterfalls, as well as gorges and dense forests with hiking and bike trails. What's more, the town overlooks the southern shore of Cayuga Lake, a superb spot for boating, fishing and swimming. For groups with budding naturalists, follow Ithaca's Discovery Trail to must-see attractions like the Sciencenter and the Cornell Botanic Gardens.

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    Shelter Island

    #15 in Best Places to Visit in New York State

    Situated between the North and South forks of Long Island, Shelter Island features a quiet, laid-back atmosphere perfect for escaping the hustle and bustle of New York City. One-third of the island is occupied by the Mashomack Preserve, a protected area with more than 200 bird species and hiking trails through meadows and salt marshes. The rest of Shelter Island boasts charming Victorian-era buildings that house boutiques and eateries, plus stunning stretches of sand with calm waves ideal for swimming, such as Crescent Beach and Silver Beach.

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