Where to Travel in New York Outside of NYC

It's no surprise that New York City continuously ranks high as one of the most popular travel destinations in America. The five-borough city packs in a plethora of attractions, from the light-filled Times Square and lush Central Park to Lady Liberty and the Brooklyn Bridge. But after navigating crowded subway trains, dining elbow-to-elbow with other customers at a tiny restaurant in the East Village, and waiting in line for hours to get to the top of the Empire State Building, escaping the city that never sleeps may be a necessity. There's a lot more to the state of New York than just the Big Apple, thanks to a landscape filled with breathtaking mountains, scenic lakes, and charming towns. Take a look at the seven best places to travel in the state outside of New York City -- all of which are suitable for a weekend getaway or week-long retreat.

1. Long Island

An easy getaway from New York City, Long Island is reachable both by car and train from Penn Station. Though the stretch of land technically includes Brooklyn and Queens, we're talking about going a bit farther east into areas such as Fire Island, Huntington, and East Hampton (about three hours away). There's a host of things to do, whether you're on a romantic getaway, family vacation, or bachelorette party. Consider touring wineries in North Fork, visiting Walt Whitman's birthplace in Huntington, seeing the easternmost edge from the historic Montauk Point Lighthouse, or purchasing fresh lavender in East Marion. Summers can get busy and pricey -- particularly in The Hamptons, as New Yorkers travel en masse to escape the city -- but that's just proof of its allure. 

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2. Catskills

If the nonstop car honking and ambulance sirens in Manhattan have you running for the hills, rent a car and head two-and-a-half hours north to the Catskill Mountains. The Catskills are a large area around a 700,000-acre forest preserve, providing ample recreational activities in both the summer and winter months. Warm weather allows for tubing or kayaking down a river, roasting marshmallows while camping, and hiking an abundance of trails. During the snowy season, visitors can ski to their hearts content, drink tasty ales at breweries, or relax at one of the region's many spas. 

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3. Lake Placid

Perhaps best known for its two-time hosting gig for the Winter Olympics (1932 and 1980), Lake Placid is a village within the Adirondacks. Farther north than the Catskills, it'll take about four-and-a-half hours by car to reach Lake Placid from New York City. Like any lake town around mountains, there are a plethora of family-friendly activities to keep busy throughout the year. Whitewater rafting, bird-watching, and fishing are choices in the summer and fall, while winter and spring present opportunities for ice climbing, snowboarding, and hockey. Horseback riding, dog sledding, and golf courses are also available for families. The pedestrian-friendly Main Street is lined with eateries and gift shops, while the best hotel real estate is right along the water.

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4. Niagara Falls

Yes, it's kitschy, but Niagara Falls is still a sight to behold from both the New York and Ontario side. Actually consisting of three waterfalls, this natural wonder pours a whopping 750,000 gallons of water each second. You won't need a passport if you stay on U.S. soil, but you'll want a camera. Maid of the Mist boat tours operate between April and November, allowing visitors to get up close and personal with the falls for under $20. Kids and adults alike can head to Niagara Gorge Discovery Center to learn about the geology and history of the falls, as well as the Aquarium of Niagara, which has over 40 exhibits and 128 different species of mammals, fish, birds and reptiles. There are several hotels offering lovely views along Niagara River, or cheaper options set just a couple blocks away. The warmer summer months are unsurprisingly the most popular times to visit, and flights from New York City take just over an hour.

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5. Finger Lakes

While it doesn't offer the waterfalls of Niagara, the Finger Lakes are a series of 11 thin lakes (resembling handprints) set amid rolling hills, scenic waterfalls, and top-notch vineyards. Requiring a five-hour drive or 80-minute flight (into Ithaca) from New York City, it's not the quickest getaway, but once there, travelers will have ample ways to fill their itinerary. Festivals for cheeses and lilacs, haunted trails and cemetery tours, and apple orchards and organic wineries offer a departure from the typical recreational activities like hiking and snow sports. Travelers can visit the region year-round, though it'll be less crowded during the winter and spring seasons.

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6. Lake George

Getting the picture that lakes are abundant in New York? Lake George is a stunning 32-mile-long lake located at the southeast end of the Adirondack region. Surrounded by lush trees, the lake is especially striking during fall when foliage is at its peak. In 1791, Thomas Jefferson wrote a letter to his daughter saying, "Lake George is, without comparison, the most beautiful water I ever saw." Today, it remains a popular spot for water and land fun, ranging from hot air ballooning and parasailing to historic fortress tours and mountain biking. From New York City, it's a straight shot north for about three-and-a-half hours by car.

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7. Hudson Valley

Photo courtesy of Dave Overcash via Flickr

Though loosely defined by New Yorkers, the Hudson Valley is a designated 10-county region along the Hudson River. It spans from Westchester County (a 45-minute drive north of Harlem) up to Rensselaer County (near Albany). Though nearly any spot along the river will provide stunning views of the water and surrounding landscape, it's worth noting some particularly enticing areas: Bear Mountain State Park offers a fairly easy hiking trail; Storm King Art Center has stunning outdoor sculptures a 15-minute drive inland; and Vanderbilt Mansion National Historic Site is a museum estate an eight-minute drive from the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum. Visitors to the area should be sure to make time for the numerous farm-to-table fine-dining eateries, antique and art shops, and farms for pick-your-own strawberries or hay rides. 

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