Moon New York State

Getaway Ideas, Road Trips, Local Spots

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By Julie Schwietert Collazo

By Moon Travel Guides

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From museum-hopping in the Hudson Valley to hiking the hills upstate, discover the New York you don’t know with Moon New York State. Inside you’ll find:

  • Strategic itineraries ranging from a two-week road trip to weekend getaways from the city, with ideas for art-lovers, foodies, outdoor enthusiasts, foliage-seekers, and more
  • Day trips from New York City to Long Island, the Hudson Valley, and the Catskills
  • The top sights and unique experiences: Explore the charming riverside towns of the Hudson Valley on a brewery trail, sample local wine and cheese upstate, or relax on the beaches of Montauk. Hike to a spectacular sunrise in the Catskills, kayak on the Finger Lakes, and peep the vibrant changing leaves in the Adirondacks. Browse the quirky boutiques of Lower Manhattan, stroll the High Line, and savor skyline views with a nightcap in hand at a rooftop bar
  • Honest advice from native New Yorker Julie Schwietert Collazo on when to go, where to stay, and how to get around
  • Full-color photos and detailed maps throughout
  • Thorough background on the history, culture, and geography of the state
  • Recommendations for families, LGBTQ travelers, seniors, international visitors, and travelers with disabilities

With Moon New York State’s practical tips and local insight, you can experience the best of the Empire State.

About Moon Travel Guides: Moon was founded in 1973 to empower independent, active, and conscious travel. We prioritize local businesses, outdoor recreation, and traveling strategically and sustainably. Moon Travel Guides are written by local, expert authors with great stories to tell—and they can’t wait to share their favorite places with you.

Want to experience NYC like a local? Check out Moon New York City Walks.


Watkins Glen State Park

spring in New York City

DISCOVER New York State


Planning Your Trip

The Best of New York State


The Best of New York City

Fall Foliage Drives

Day Trips from New York City


Wild New York

New York City skyline.

New York. Even those who have never strolled the streets of the Big Apple can instantly conjure its magic, having long been fed stories of the city through movies, novels, plays, and melodies that stick in your head for much longer than a New York minute.

As amazing as it is, though, it’s only a small part of what New York is.

No one can argue that Manhattan is the shiniest, most faceted jewel in New York’s crown, but the gems hidden throughout the other 99 percent of the state are special, too. There are pockets of arts and culture in the Finger Lakes, culinary excellence in the Hudson Valley, and history to experience in Harriet Tubman’s house in Auburn or Indian Field cemetery in Montauk.

Look for these along the state’s labyrinth of scenic highways. Past the city’s bright reflection, you’ll see a breathtaking landscape of rivers, lakes, and mountains. Explore the rural communities of the Catskills, the sublime falls of Niagara, and the high peaks of the Adirondacks, waiting amid the largest semi-wilderness east of the Mississippi.

All of this is New York. Turn the page to discover all the gems of the Empire State’s crown.

beach in Southampton

charter boats on the Erie Canal


1 Take a hike: Watkins Glen State Park offers easy, accessible trails with plenty of photogenic landscapes and waterfalls. And the Adirondak Loj trailhead leads to many stunning hikes with incomparable views.

2 Hit the beach: Long Island’s Jones Beach boasts plenty of sand for every sun-seeker, along with boardwalk lined with art deco facilities, Olympic-size pools, and refreshments.

3 Learn about the fight for rights: Discover how New York State was the cradle of activism at the Women’s Right’s National Historic Park, the Harriet Tubman Home, and the Niagara Falls Underground Railroad Heritage Center.

4 Head off to the races: Dress smart and place your bets for a proper summer experience at the Saratoga Race Course.

5 See the NYC skyline: It’s not just from the top of the Empire State Building or Rockefeller Center where you can enjoy the New York City skyline. A cruise to and from Liberty or Ellis Islands or a stroll across the Brooklyn Bridge also offer stellar skyline views, especially at sunset.

6 Root for a home team: Buy some peanuts and cracker jacks, and celebrate America’s pastime at a Yankees or Mets game, or at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

7 Discover your inner artist: There’s no shortage of art museums or sculpture gardens in the Empire State. You can even create your own piece of art by taking a glass-making class at the Corning Museum of Glass.

8 Feel Niagara Falls: There’s plenty of room for everyone at the ever popular tourist destination. Climb aboard a boat to feel the mist of the falls.

9 Get out on the water: Canoe endless lakes in the Adirondacks, fly-fish the flowing rivers of the Catskills, or relive history on a cruise through the Erie Canal.

10 Feast on farm fresh fare: New York State is an agricultural hotspot for farm-to-table restaurants and markets.

11 Raise a glass: The wineries in the Finger Lakes and Long Island know how to pair delicious wines with beautiful scenery.

Planning Your Trip

Where to Go
New York City

This dazzling, shape-shifting metropolis belongs more to the world than the state. Great art, theaters, restaurants, nightlife, shopping, hotels, people—and, therefore, people-watching—are all here.

Long Island

This thin ribbon of land east of the city is home to popular beaches that stretch for miles along its southern coast. Jones Beach is the most popular, while Fire Island seashore may be the most unusual. The Hamptons are the summer playground of the rich and famous, while other seaside villages are filled with restaurants, inns, and B&Bs. The northern Gold Coast is lined with grand turn-of-the-20th-century mansions. There are also wineries and, in summer, roadside farm stands to be enjoyed here.

The Hudson Valley and the Catskills

North of the city, the Hudson Valley is rich with historical, cultural, and scenic sites, including sumptuous Hudson River estates, world-class art and history museums, Revolutionary War sites, and plenty of farm-to-table restaurants, resorts, and B&Bs. To the west rise the romantic and mysterious Catskills, where you’ll find the fabled villages of Woodstock, Saugerties, and Cooperstown, home to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

autumn display at Holiday Valley Resort in Ellicottville

The Capital-Saratoga Region

Filled with tales of political intrigue, both historical and contemporary, the capital city of Albany is also host to the ambitious Empire State Plaza, as well as the Albany Institute of History & Art and the New York State Museum. This region is also famous for Victorian-era Saratoga Springs, host to the country’s finest horse racing and home to natural springs. The small towns of central New York have interesting pasts matched by hopeful futures and robust revitalization movements.

The Adirondacks

North of Saratoga sprawls Adirondack Park, the East’s greatest wilderness. Summer vacationers flock to its vast forests, rugged peaks, gleaming lakes and ponds, and rushing rivers and streams. Near the park’s center is Lake Placid, site of the 1932 and 1980 Olympics. To the park’s east is magnificent Lake Champlain. To the park’s west is the Thousand Islands region, scattered over the St. Lawrence River and fascinating, small border towns.

The Finger Lakes

The long, narrow Finger Lakes are flanked by vineyards, stately 19th-century towns, and a number of historical landmarks, many related to civil rights and women’s history. Auburn was once home to abolitionists Harriet Tubman and William Seward; Seneca Falls was the site of the first women’s rights convention.

Buffalo and the Niagara Region

Sublime Niagara Falls is the state’s second-most popular tourist attraction (after New York City). The Erie Canal winds its way west through tiny canal towns. Western New York is also home to Buffalo, the state’s second-largest city, once known for its steel industry.

The Best of New York State

Visit New York City for its cultural, historical, and commercial attractions. Travel to upstate New York for the outdoors—forests, mountains, rivers, and lakes—as well as historic sites and picturesque villages. Combine them to get the best of two very different worlds.

You could easily spend a month exploring this large, diverse state. With less time, you can combine a few days in New York City with another region: Long Island, the Hudson Valley, the Catskills, or the Adirondacks. More suggestions for spending time in New York City can be found on.

The farthest reaches of the state, such as the Thousand Islands, Buffalo-Niagara, and western New York, are more accessible from Rochester or Buffalo. They are best explored as stand-alone summer getaways focused on outdoor recreation.

New York City

Start your day early with a visit to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. Grab a slice of pizza or a simple lunch from a food truck to enjoy on The High Line, and take in the latest art installations at a gallery or two in Chelsea and the Meatpacking District. Browse in quirky boutiques or take a self-guided walking tour through Greenwich Village, SoHo, or other unique Lower Manhattan neighborhoods before having dinner at a popular local restaurant, such as upscale Eleven Madison Park or the more affordable, granddaddy of New York delicatessens Katz’s. Cap off the evening with a cocktail at one of the city’s rooftop bars, such as the one at Hyatt Times Square, the tallest in the city, with views of both the Hudson and East Rivers.

line in front of the famous Katz’s Delicatessen

The High Line in New York City


Spend the morning at the Museum of Modern Art before dipping into beautiful Central Park. From there, walk south on 5th Avenue, shopping or window-shopping along the way. At night, brave the bustle of Times Square to take in a Broadway show and dinner in the Theater District. Visit the Empire State Building, open until 2am, to end the day with the lights of the city laid out before you.


Start the day on the Upper West Side, paying a visit to the iconic blue whale at the American Museum of Natural History. Then, stock up on road-trip snacks at Zabar’s, or swap sides of the park to fill your art tank at the Guggenheim Museum or Frick Collection, both on the Upper East Side, before heading out of the city to explore other regions of the state.

The Hudson Valley

Let the city recede in your rearview mirror and head north on Route 9 to Tarrytown. Though it’s just a 30-minute drive, you’ll notice a dramatic transition between the throbbing energy of the city and the more pastoral, rural rhythms of the Hudson Valley. Here, you can tour the historic homes of Washington Irving at Sunnyside, John D. Rockefeller Sr. at Kykuit, and Jay Gould at Lyndhurst. If time permits, take a late afternoon walk through Rockefeller State Park Preserve. At night, dine in one of the area’s many excellent restaurants, such as the farm-to-table Blue Hill at Stone Barns. If your budget permits, overnight at one of the Hudson Valley’s castles; Castle Hotel and Spa, looming large over the Hudson River in Tarrytown, is one grand choice.


Head north on Route 9 to Hyde Park, where The Culinary Institute of America offers a tasty lunch at one of its signature restaurants. Nearby, you’ll also find FDR’s Home, Library, and Museum and lovely, free paths overlooking the Hudson within the Vanderbilt Mansion property. Farther north is Rhinebeck, a town featuring indie bookshops, cafés, an organic and sustainable product farmers market on Sundays, or the unique Aerodrome classic biplane show on summer weekends.

Vanderbilt Mansion in Hyde Park

The Capital-Saratoga Region

Continue north another 40 miles (64 km) or so to the historic town of Hudson, home to the Persian-style castle Olana, numerous antiques shops, and plenty of restaurants for lunch. Afterward, head on to Albany, about a half hour farther north on I-87. Stop at Albany Heritage Area Visitor Center for a good introduction to this historic region or go straight to the New York State Museum at Empire State Plaza, admiring impressive art and architecture en route. For a free, bird’s-eye view of Albany, take an elevator to the observation level of Corning Tower.


Continue another 40 minutes north on I-87 to Saratoga Springs. In the morning, hit the track for breakfast and enjoy a behind-the-scenes tram tour, or drop some belongings to secure your seats or picnic table for afternoon races. Head downtown to shop and eat lunch along quaint Broadway, admiring the street’s historic buildings. If you’re not returning to the races, take in a spa treatment or go for a dip in one of the pools at Saratoga Spa State Park, or drive out to nearby Yaddo and stroll its calm, pretty gardens.


Before leaving Saratoga, make a stop at Saratoga National Historical Park, where battles that turned the course of the American Revolution were fought. From there, continue on Route 9 another half hour to Glens Falls, home to the Hyde Collection, a mansion filled with Old Masters paintings. Alternately, head to the town of Cambridge and the nearby New Skete Monastery, famous for its onion-domed structures and pay-by-honor-system cheesecake made by New Skete nuns.

Saratoga National Historical Park

The Adirondacks

Head back to Saratoga Springs and take I-87 north to Lake George. Along the way, stop at Grant Cottage to see the literal deathbed of the former U.S. president. Keep driving north along the shores of Lake George and Lake Champlain. In picturesque Westport, continue on Route 9N (which turns west), past the mountain villages of Elizabethtown and Keene, to Route 73, which leads to Lake Placid. Spend the rest of the day exploring Lake Placid; if time permits, observe feats performed year-round at the Olympic Ski Jump Complex or go snowless sledding with a bobsled experience on the Olympic track. If your interests are more historic, visit the John Brown Farm State Historic Site.

DAY 10

Drive 8 miles (12.9 km) south of Lake Placid and visit Adirondak Loj on the shores of Heart Lake. Set out from the lodge and spend the day hiking, snowshoeing, or cross-country skiing on Adirondack trails, depending on the season. If you have small children, head instead to nearby Tupper Lake, where The Wild Center, opened in 2015, will delight the whole family with its interactive nature exhibits.

DAY 11

Start heading south again, taking leisurely, scenic Route 30 through the heart of the Adirondacks. You can stop at Adirondack Museum along the way, but budget 3-4 hours for driving; your destination is the Catskills. Overnight at The Graham & Co., a hip hotel in the town of Phoenicia.

The Catskills
DAY 12

Fuel up at one of Phoenicia’s breakfast spots and then head east toward Woodstock and Saugerties. Along the way, you may want to stop for a ride on the Catskill Mountain Railroad or take a short detour to Mount Tremper to see the Kaatskill Kaleidoscope. Woodstock and Saugerties are both home to numerous restaurants, shops, and B&Bs. In Saugerties, be sure to visit outdoor sculpture park Opus 40.

DAY 13

From Woodstock and Saugerties, head south to explore the tiny canal town of High Falls. Along the way, take a break at one of the area’s many organic farms to pick your own snacks of apples or raspberries, natural fuel to get you ready for climbing the Shawangunks before you check in at Mohonk Mountain House and Preserve. The Victorian mountaintop castle is more than 140 years old and the region’s loveliest resort. Purchase a day pass to enjoy miles of gorgeous hiking trails, dotted with hand-hewn wooden gazebos for rest stops. If visiting in winter, take a cocoa break by the massive stone ice-skating pavilion’s bonfire.

Stay for the night and take time to enjoy afternoon tea and cookies, a wealth of unique activities, or the resort’s excellent spa. If more rustic accommodations are preferred, continue down the south side of the mountain past New Paltz and historic Huguenot Street to Bear Mountain State Park.

DAY 14

Take Route 9W south to Bear Mountain State Park, where you can take a short hike or drive to the top of Bear Mountain, where a clear day reveals the NYC skyline. Continue, depending on your interests, to Washington’s Headquarters, Storm King Art Center, or West Point.

Then head back to New York City to finish the trip with a walk across the Brooklyn Bridge. Toast to the Empire State at one of the city’s craft cocktail bars.

The Best of New York City

The city’s most impressive attractions are packed within a short distance, allowing you to enjoy a classic New York experience in one whirlwind day.

• Start your day with a bagel with cream cheese and smoked fish at Upper West Side institution Barney Greengrass.

• Cross Central Park in a pedicab or taxi to explore Frank Lloyd Wright’s final masterpiece, the Guggenheim Museum.

Sheep Meadow in Central Park

• Take the subway—itself a New York must—to Lexington Avenue. Grab a hot dog or pretzel as you walk over towards Tiffany & Co. on 5th Avenue, and window-shop the renowned stretch of high-end fashion retail.

• At 53rd Street, hang a right and head toward the Museum of Modern Art.

• It’s just a few blocks to Rockefeller Center, which features ice-skating and the famed Christmas tree during the winter and impressive floral displays in other seasons. Majestic St. Patrick’s Cathedral is just across the street.

• Hail a taxi and travel down 5th Avenue to 34th Street, making sure to view every inch of the Empire State Building as you approach. Ride the elevators to the 86th-floor observatory to take in the magnificent views at twilight.

• Now that you’ve worked up an appetite, take a cab over to Gramercy Tavern for a classic New York City dining experience.

• Visit Times Square to gaze at the billboards, news tickers, and giant TV screens. They’re so bright, you’ll swear it’s daytime.

• Top off the evening with a Broadway show. Be sure to buy tickets ahead of time—you can scout out discount tickets to same-day performances at the TKTS booth.

• Enjoy a nightcap at one of the bars in the elegant, wood-paneled Algonquin Hotel.

Fall Foliage Drives

New York’s New England neighbors tend to grab more fall foliage headlines, but New York’s autumn leaves are equally spectacular, and its backdrops even more magnificent.

Between late September and late October, the Catskills and Adirondacks are ablaze with flame-colored leaves, making these regions the obvious destinations to visit. But many other areas of the state offer leaf-peeping opportunities, too, and some of the best itineraries for optimal leaf-viewing are below.

What really sets New York State’s leaf-peeping apart is the fact that you’re not limited to road trips through these regions. In fact, name a mode of transportation, and you can probably find a fall foliage tour that will offer you a special view, the kind that can’t be seen from the car. Possibilities include Erie Canal boat rides, either guided or self-piloted; aerial leaf-peeping from the Whiteface Mountain Cloudsplitter Gondola in Lake Placid; and glider and biplane rides at the Harris Hill Soaring Center in Elmira or the Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome in the Hudson Valley.

autumn colors on Whiteface Mountain

The New York State tourism website,,


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On Sale
Jan 30, 2024
Page Count
456 pages
Moon Travel

Julie Schwietert Collazo

About the Author

Like most New Yorkers, Julie Schwietert Collazo took a long time to discover the state beyond “the city so nice they named it twice.” When she finally started exploring beyond the five boroughs while on assignment for the BBC, she discovered just how much of America’s history can be traced back to New York. She also realized how incredibly diverse the state is, both culturally and geographically. From the Amish country in western New York to the watery Thousand Islands, New York State has so much for travelers to discover.

Together, Julie and her husband, Cuban-born photographer Francisco Collazo, have published work in TIMEDiscoverNational Geographic TravelerScientific American, and numerous other publications. They live in Long Island City with their two children, who both got their passports at one month of age and are accustomed to being packed up and buckled into the seat of a car, plane, or train at a moment’s notice.

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Moon Travel Guides

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Moon City Walks is an innovative series of pocket-sized guides to the world's trendiest cities, designed to help travelers explore on foot, discover hip neighborhoods, and experience the city like a local. These full-color guidebooks feature foldout maps, turn-by-turn directions, and lively pages jam-packed with photos. Moon Travel Guides are published by Avalon Travel, an imprint of Hachette Book Group, in Berkeley, California. For more information, check out the full series at

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