When one thinks about New York, their thoughts go immediately to the city. I get it constantly - every time I’m away on travels and tell people I’m from New York, I get “oh's” and “ah's” as if I represent something mystical and magical coming from the Big Apple. In reality, Manhattan only accounts for 23 out of the 54,556 square miles in New York State. It may come as a shock, but New York offers more than the Empire State Building and stale street pretzels. Beyond New York City lies places such as Saratoga, Syracuse, the Adirondacks, and the Finger Lake Region. The state is full of breathtaking waterfalls, hiking mountains, and a surprisingly diverse food scene. And not to brag, but we’re pretty badass at fall. So put down the $8 soy chai latte you don’t even like from some hipster cafe in Brooklyn and come upstate!
Stop one: Mohonk Mountain House
About two hours outside of Manhattan lies a full service resort in New Paltz, offering a wide variety of spa services, outdoor activities, and restaurant options, making this your perfect first stop to get the full essence of autumn in Upstate New York. Try out mountain biking, guided hikes, or archery lessons! If the outdoors aren’t your thing, stay in for a hot stone massage, energy therapy, or an aqua yoga class.
As the rest of Upstate New York, Monhonk Mountain House excels during the Fall season. If you’re taking your road trip in September, make sure to check out their Hudson Valley Harvest Festival.
Stop two: Saratoga Springs & Lake George
Another two hour drive north will bring you to Saratoga. This quaint town lies on the outskirts of Albany, giving you the ability to stop by the capital if you have extra time. If your visit is in late summer, you may be able to catch a horse race, or enjoy a day out on Saratoga lake with a boat rental. Are you visiting during the colder Fall months? Check out the Saratoga Winery before grabbing a nice dinner at Saratoga Prime, 15 Church, or Boca Bistro.
If you have an extra day, head up to Lake George (about a 30 minute drive) for a hike up Prospect Mountain, or scale the Adirondack treetops at the Adirondack Adventure Center.
Stop three: Syracuse Area & Skaneateles
Fall in the Central New York region is a dream. With orange leaves, apple donuts, and hard cider, Syracuse and the surrounding towns are an autumn wonderland. Enjoy brunch at The Sherwood Inn before heading to Beak and Skiff for wine & cider tastings and apple picking. You can also make a stop by the 1911 distillery down the street to try some of their apple liquors.
Stop Four: Finger Lake Region
I’m going to let you in on a badly kept secret. I love wine. The thought of good wine is what gets me out of bed in the morning. It’s beautiful, complex, and mature - well-made wine is like the husband you’ve always wanted. Unfortunately, New York wine is like your college boyfriend who couldn’t get his shit together, but hey, everyone has to start somewhere.
Although New York wine isn’t for everyone, myself included, doing a wine tour in the Finger Lake Region is a must do on any Upstate road trip. There are a variety of different options between Ithaca, Seneca, Keuka, and Cayuga, each with a great food scene. To learn more about restaurants in the Finger Lakes, check out Kristy Wenz’s blog on the 16 Best Restaurants in the Finger Lakes Region. If you have an extra day here, stop by Watkins Glen to climb the breathtaking gorge trail.
Stop Five: Buffalo and Niagara Falls
Sadly, your road trip has come to an end, but what better place to do so than at one of the world's natural wonders? While this is a great kid-friendly activity, visiting Niagara Falls isn’t just for young ones. Enjoy a day seeing the falls with Maid of the Mist from below and a jet boat tour from above. Next, head to The Keg Steakhouse + Bar for a five star meal overlooking the falls from nine stories up.
Last on your list, catch a Buffalo Bills game at the New Era Field, complete with an afternoon spent tailgating with the locals and fans. Can’t get tickets to the game? Stop by 716 Food and Sport for their Buffalo Bills Game Day events every Sunday during football season.
What are your favorite things to do in Upstate New York? Share in the comments below!