Hudson River
Credit: Leigh Goessl/All rights reserved

Hudson River (Westchester County)

New York is a state that is full of wonderful places to go on a vacation. One of the things I love about New York is its diversity of landscape. From the towering buildings of New York City to the rolling open fields and majestic mountains located upstate, there are plenty of regions to choose from when you plan a trip to the Empire State.

Depending on your time or preferences, you could either focus on one area in the state or select a few different places to see. Road trips are always fun, and if you have the luxury of time, you can always start in New York City, spend a few days, then drive up the Interstates to Niagara Falls (this is about a 7-9 hour drive). During your road trip you can enjoy all of the wonderful places in between.

Here are a few of my top picks of places to see in New York State:

New York City

New York City is one of my favorite cities in the United States. With so many things to see and do within the five boroughs, if you are only going to see New York once in your life, this is one of the regions of New York State you want to consider paying a visit. There's the Statue of Liberty, Empire State Building, Times Square, Rockefeller Center, South Street Seaport, Bronx Zoo, to name a few highlights. Of course there are all of the wonderful museums scattered throughout the Big Apple; the Metropolitan Museum of Art is my absolute favorite. Then of course, there are Broadway shows to take in.

New York City also has some of the most wonderful multicultural cuisine. From the eateries in Little Italy and Chinatown to other areas, some of the best eats are located in The City. New York, hands down, in my opinion has the best pizza anywhere in the United States (with the exception of perhaps parts of New Jersey….).

Times Square/New York City
Credit: Leigh Goessl/All rights reserved

Times Square

Long Island

If the beaches are beckoning your name, Long Island has a nice section of the Atlantic coastline. There's Jones Beach, Robert Moses Park, Fire Island and, of course, if you want to drive to the end, there's Montauk and the nearby Hamptons. These are just a handful of the many beaches located on the Atlantic to the south or the Long Island Sound to the north. If your vacation plans fall during the warmer months, Long Island is a great area to consider. Although, exploring the beaches in off-seasons can be pretty interesting too, especially if you are interested in checking out local wildlife or simply just walking the shoreline.

Hudson Valley

Hudson Valley
Credit: Leigh Goessl

Hudson Valley scenery

Just north of the City the Hudson Valley region begins. This region, which has many picturesque towns and cities along the Hudson River, is also a great place to visit. Some wonderful spots in the Hudson Valley include Bear Mountain State Park, West Point, Fahnestock State Park, Village of Cold Spring (a wonderful quaint riverside town with plenty of antique shops and good restaurants), Bannerman Castle, the home of Franklin D. Roosevelt and Boscobel. This is only a sampling of the amazing places to hit in the Hudson Valley. If history, antiquing and art are areas of interest, this is another reason to explore this region of  New York.

FDR's home in Hyde Park
Credit: Leigh Goessl/All rights reserved

Tour group standing in front of FDR's home located in Hyde Park, N.Y.

Lake George

Whether you love nature, recreation or history, Lake George has something for everyone. Located in upstate New York, this region is also another popular getaway spot. From the amazing views of Prospect Mountain to the beautiful waters of Lake George itself, this region is truly a great vacation spot. For those inclined to gravitate towards historical landmarks, there is Fort William Henry. For the kids, there's lots of water activities and amusement parks and, if you're looking to have that special night with a special person, there are cruises on Lake George.

With Lake George you can enjoy the best of both worlds because you can opt to enjoy the rustic beauty that is upstate N.Y. or stay close to the tourist-type activities. Lots of choice when visiting the Lake George region to suit any mood and whet most vacation appetites.

Niagara Falls

Niagara Falls is another area of in the Empire State you want to consider if you're only going to be in the state once. The amazing natural phenomenon that is Niagara Falls is definitely worth a visit. The summertime is a great time to visit because of the warmer temperatures, wintertime in this region tends to be pretty frigid. The views of the Falls are gorgeous, and you can cross the border and view the Falls from the Canadian side, which is the more picturesque view in my opinion. If you decide to cross the border, be sure you have proper I.D./documentation before trying to cross the border because you'll need it to get back in.1 There are also many parks, museums and other popular tourist locations surrounding the Niagara Falls region on both sides of the border.

Niagara Falls
Credit: Leigh Goessl/All rights reserved

Niagara Falls 

Catskill Mountains

The Catskill Mountains are simply breathtaking in my opinion. For decades this region of New York has been a popular vacation destination and still continues to be a terrific place for a getaway during any season. While times have changed in how the lodging/resorts are set up, some things remain exactly the same. Each season brings its own unique flavor and you can experience anything from skiing, boating, fishing, hunting, hiking, rafting and camping, to name a few.

If outdoor activities aren't drawing you in, there's also the beautiful scenery to consider. Driving through the small towns, you can view the scenery on the mountain roads and enjoy the simply magnificent views. There's also the Hunter Mountain Festivals. Beginning each spring, Hunter's festivals run all summer and into the early fall. Each festival is themed and offers ethnic or musical diversity. A great time to be had no matter when you visit.

Whether you're looking for standard vacation fare or something truly unique, from the southern flavor of New York City to the middle Hudson River Valley to the upstate taste of the Adirondacks, Catskills and Niagara Falls. In a nutshell, New York State truly has a bit of everything.