Road Trips by State: NY

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New York, known as the Empire State, attracts a wide variety of visitors to annual and special events.

In 1969 it was home to the Woodstock Music Festival, and in 1980 it hosted the Winter Olympics. Those who live here enjoy the four-season environment.

Combine this with lakes, rivers, farms, mountains, museums, and magnificent architecture, there is more than enough to see, be it spring, summer, fall, or winter.

If you are thinking about taking a trip somewhere in New York, the options seem overwhelming. You can think in terms of activities, arts, sciences, and resort living to narrow things down a bit. Here, we’re going to look at some possibilities by season.

Spring

Spring is the perfect time for a Road Trip in New York. There may be some lingering snow, but beneath you’ll see hints of new green and early blooming flowers.

Ball games return, camping areas open, flower shows, fishing derbies, horse racing, and so much more. You can refer to the IloveNY website for complete listings. Let’s just look at a few.

Just Wing it: American Museum of Natural History Butterfly Conservatory

Located in New York, NY, this is a favorite stop or destination point for visitors to the City. The museum has a fantastic line of exhibits, including dinosaurs, mammals (advanced and primitive, a family exhibit celebrating nature’s colors, and the Hall of Pacific Peoples.

The Butterfly Conservatory is breathtaking, housing over 500 free-flying beauties. Butterflies come in many shapes and hues and live in nearly every region of the world. To speed things along, you can get your tickets online 

Flower Power: Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Garden Spring Flower Exhibit.

During April, you can hop in your car and travel to Buffalo, NY. (Western Erie County). Here, the Botanical Gardens (www.buffalogardens.com) offer over 22,000 bulbs for your aromatic enjoyment. You’ll also find a mini-farm for the children, and handcrafted metallic sculpture.

In 1901, the Conservatory gained some fame thanks to the Pan-American Exposition. There were trolley rides to and from downtown Buffalo. Thousands of people considered this stop an event unto itself thanks to the exotic plants and flowers.

While you are here, don’t forget about other lovely parks in the Buffalo area 

Something’s Fishy: Chautauqua Lake (Chautauqua County)

Next on your New York Road Trip schedule comes Chautauqua Lake. Stretching some 17 miles, Lake Chautauqua has long been a destination spot. People came fro casinos, lake cruises, concerts, and amusement parks. Lucille Ball was born at the southern end of the lake (www.lucy-desi.com).

Chautauqua Lake is a major center for fishing. There are numerous sightseeing spots as well, including the National Museum of Comedy (comedycenter.org), www.lilydaleassembly.org, and the Lawson Center Boat Museum 

The Chautauqua Institute website is an excellent source for more information about the region, events, hotels, fine dining, tours, and much more

Fun and Fancy: The Strong National Museum.

We all know that Spring comes with plenty of rain. If you want to make a road trip to an entertaining indoor location, consider Rochester’s Strong National Museum. This is a whole-day visit filled with games and art projects for the children, and a park-like mall for adults.

Hungry? There are 50 places from which to choose. You can also enjoy a suspended rope course (the world’s largest, btw), a comedy club, and a go-cart track. Are you an avid video gamer? Try out the World Video Game Hall of Fame. 

Summer

Summer’s warmth brings more activity. New York State has much milder summer temperatures than the South so that people can take a road trip with the windows down and fresh air moving.

Here’s one website where you can explore more. Note that the page updates as months progress. 

History Repeats Itself: Sterling Renaissance Festival

Good day, Lords and Ladies, take yourself on an adventure back in time. Sterling, NY, has hosted a month-long Medieval muse every year for 40+ years between July and August.

The entire area transforms into a miniature reflection of Warwick, England. You will see jousting, kilts, street performers, turkey legs as finger food, and plenty of beer. If you wish, you can attend a royal feast or go shopping at an artisan market. 

Up, Up and Away: Letchworth State Park Balloon Rides 

The Genesee River carved out a 550-foot gorge running through Letchworth State Park. The size alone gave it the nickname of the “Grand Canyon of the East.” You can take to the air in a hot air balloon and enjoy the scenery from a bird’s eye view.

Letchworth also hosts a Balloon Festival annually, a feast for the eyes of those who have taken to hiking, camping, traversing bike trails, kayaking, and whitewater rafting. You can gather up to date information on all the attractions and how to book a Balloon rides here

Foodies Unite: Buffalo Wing Festival

Toward the end of summer, people in Buffalo and neighboring regions gather together to celebrate chicken wings. Buffalo has become known nationally as the wing king where this finger food began.

There are cooks from around the world serving up over 100 varieties for you to try. This event goes beyond eating, hosting a 5K race, live music, a wing eating contest, and food & wine pairings. Proceeds support local charities. 

Music to my Ears: Ellicottville Summer Music Festival

If you love various music genres in a gorgeous backdrop, the Ellicottville Summer Music Festival is a perfect choice. You can dance the night away with fireworks exploding overhead.

Held in Holiday Valley, NY, there is certainly more than the dulcet notes from famous and emerging artists to enjoy here.

The Summer Music Festival works in concert with the local Holiday Valley Summer Festival. You can enjoy arts and crafts shows, street food with local brews, and carnival rides for kids of all ages.

Fall

As the seasonal wheel turns, you can still get your tires turning on more NYS road trips. There’s a slight, crisp chill in the air but not cold. A medium-weight jacket will do just fine!

Foliage Fantasy: Whiteface Mountain

Whiteface Mountain has become famous for the Winter Olympics, but in Fall, the Adirondack peeks burst with kaleidoscopic colors from the leaves changing. People often take a day trip to ride through the area and take pictures. Time your visit by checking the foliage report here

If you’re looking for a more extended stay, you can hike through High Falls Gorge for breathtaking views and waterfalls. Or take the younger children to Santa’s Workshop (it opens in June, Santa’s busy season is coming up!).

The neighboring town of Lake Placid offers charm, lakes, and ponds, and locally owned shops everywhere you look. It is a fantastic sport for big views coupled with quiet enjoyment. 

Water, Water Everywhere: Watkins Glen State Park

Located in the Finger Lakes, NY, if you love waterfalls, you miss something special if you don’t try out this park. There are 19 waterfalls over a two-mile trail. You can also enjoy camping, tours, picnic areas, and fishing.

You could also hop on a boat excursion, take yourself to a spa, or go horseback riding. We recommend fall because it is much less crowded than Spring and Summer. 

Things that go Bump: Frightworld & Haunted History Trail

If you love all things ghostly, you can enjoy zombies, ghouls, and terrifying creatures ideal for the Halloween season. Called “America’s Screamhouse,” Frightworld features five haunted attractions, winning awards for their quality. It is America’s biggest indoor haunted adventure. 

Should you stay for more than a day, you can also consider taking to the Haunted History Trail. Here you can discover some of the most haunted regions in the Greater Niagara area. Feeling brave? 

Wine & Cheese: Harvest Wine Tours

When you take to the road in New York State during the fall, you’ll find wine tours advertised on the roadside. One of the most highly rated is Experience! The Finger Lakes.

Experience! provides not only wine tours, but also cultural expeditions, boat adventures, and waterfall visions. Located in Ithaca, NY, these tours give you access to some of the region’s best winemakers. Food and wine pairings are part of each tour, and you can make reservations online! 

Winter

You might have to take your NY road trip a little slower this season thanks to the snow. That blustery white stuff is also part of the beauty you will encounter. Glimmers of blue jump off icicles and the whole area looks magical.

Icy Elegance: Niagara Falls State Park

While you might think of Niagara Falls as a summer destination, winter gives you a whole different perspective. The view of a partially frozen waterfall is quite simply majestic.

Niagara Falls creates a light show for the falls from November until January. You can see the results from anywhere but try the Observation Tower for a panorama you will never forget. 

Besides the falls themselves, you can enjoy some New York State ice wine or stop at the Aquarium of Niagara. The Aquarium houses exotic fish and sea life, the Humboldt Penguins, and plenty of educational programs for the whole family. 

Zippity-do-dah: Hunter’s Mountain

People come to the Catskills region for a variety of winter activities. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can enjoy a Zipline Adventure along a long, fast line, 600 feet in the air at Hunter’s Mountain. You may reach speeds of 50 miles per hour while seeing this winter wonderland from the sky. 

There are scaled-down Zipping experiences that move through the tree canopies and across suspension bridges. Learn more about sky tours here. Of course, you can ski, skiboard, and snowboard here too.

Celebrate Snow: Syracuse Winterfest.

In mid-February, Syracuse enjoys an event encompassing all-things snow. Syracuse is the snowiest city in the United States (100 inches a year!), so if you can’t beat it, play with it! See unique sculptures, enjoy ice skating, and even participate in a treasure hunt.

Local museums turn out their winter finest, and a dogsled race is on the venue. Note that other local attractions like the Erie Canal Museum are also open for your enjoyment. 

Glass Reflections: Corning Museum of Glass

Not everyone wants to be outdoors in the wintertime. New York State road trips thankfully offer all kinds of inside activities. One is the Corning Museum of Glass. Exhibits include Glass Innovation in Automotive Design, 3500 years of Glass Making, and also live demonstrations.

Let the inner child come out, and try a make your own glass experience. Choose from a flower, frame, ornament, pendants, clocks, and much more. You get to take home your art! 

The Takeaway

As you can see, road trips in New York state span the imagination. Think about the things you’ve always wanted to do or see. New York is home to over 270 National Historic Landmarks, more than any other US state.

With a catchphrase of “I Love New York,” your car adventures can show you New York’s finest and best, so you can fall in love too.

Conor

I'm the owner of Beast Auto. I live in Phoenix, Arizona. I love anything automotive related, and taking road trips all across my beautiful state.