Exploring New York: Road Trips in the Empire State
By Kimberly Graf. Published on February 11, 2023
When you think of New York, the first thing that you think of is the city. There's that, but New York is also home to Niagara Falls and a thousand other attractions and views. It's gorgeous countryside that flowers beautifully in the fall and snows monstrously in the winter.
Charming Small Towns of New York
Because so much focus is put on the big city of New York, the small towns that make up the rest of the state often get overlooked. Here, we're going to drive through a few of the smaller communities and take a look at the things you can do away from the hustle and the bustle.
Lewiston, New York is the starting point for this trip. It's a small community right on the edge of Niagara Falls and the Devil's Hole, two parks that offer gorgeous views. They're even both sort of famous! But one of the most remarkable things about Lewiston is the town that has grown up away from the spotlight. There's the Freedom Crossing monument, a huge statue to immigrants, as well as the National Shrine Basilica of Our Lady of Fatima, which features a gorgeous religious fountain.
Grand Island is 17 minutes away, accessible by a bridge across the river. Here, you can go to Fantasy Island, a wooden-coaster theme park that's right out of a time long past. There's also the Herschell Carrousel Factory, where you can check out antique rides and exhibits. There's a lot of fun to be had here!
But when you're finished, head on down to Orchard Park, which is 42 minutes away! It's a larger town whose historic district still has that small-town feel that this trip will make you love! Close by are two state parks, both featuring waterfalls. There's also a beach and ton of churches that will make you want to stop and take pictures. Take it all in!
Westfield, New York is only about an hour from here. Most of the town gets its following from the wineries that populate the area, as well as lighthouses and the odd museum about either of those things. It's New York's wine country!
Ellicottville is a community just over an hour from Westfield that is famous for its ski resorts. There's also an Arboretum for summer fun. Holiday Valley, a ski resort close to the town, even has a summer adventure park so you're never out of the loop.
The small town of Arcade has a lot of bars, grills, pubs, and wineries. Get your party on here! There's also a railroad that you can view, and plenty of adventure parks and animal parks for the whole family. It's probably worth spending the night in Arcade because you might want to spend a couple of days looking at all of the things it has to offer.
Angelica, New York is the perfect end to this trip. There are so many small-town charms that set this place apart, including an old-fashioned sweet shop and antique store that look like they were taken right out of a Hallmark movie.
This entire trip is probably best undertaken over a weekend because of the many things you'll want to stop and do! The trip runs a total of 215 miles, and you're sure to enjoy every minute of it!
New York's Waterfalls
As the home of Niagara Falls, you're probably not surprised to learn that New York has more than just those waterfalls. There's a whole collection of them, and we've put together a tour of the best ones! We'll start at Buttermilk Falls.
Buttermilk Falls State Park is a huge installment with plenty of natural pools, fields, wetland areas, and hikes through gorges. It follows the Buttermilk Creek as it flows down the side of a valley, and the result is some gorgeous waterfalls along the way! Take some time to visit some of the waterfall points and take in the beauty.
It's 25 minutes down the road to Taughannock Falls State Park. It has one waterfall that it's known for, and the waterfalls an amazing 215 feet, where it falls through a gorge and down into a lake. There are so many trails and campgrounds in the area that you are sure to find something to do; in the summertime, they have concerts at the lakefront, and you can even take a guided tour of the Gorge!
Watkins Glen is 30 minutes away, and here it's much of the same with very different views. You can walk the rims of the 200-foot cliffs that create circumstances for 19 waterfalls along the way. There's an Olympic-sized pool at the campground, gorge tours, and even fishing. It's a beautiful park with lots of natural phenomena!
Letchworth is another State Park that's famous for its waterfalls. It's almost two hours away, and along that road, you can take in the beautiful New York scenery. This drive is especially riveting in the fall and early winter months!
When you picture a waterfall, it probably looks a lot like the one at Letchworth. They're as high as 600 feet, and there are no less than three major falls in the area. Go ahead and walk the banks of the Genesee River until it reaches these magnificent places. You can ride your horse or bike through the trails, as well as go on whitewater rafting and kayaking trips. It's an amazing experience, all surrounded by dense forests.
Get ready for another long drive, because our final destination is a glorious two hours away. Stop along the way and get a bite to eat, but then hurry on. Our final destination is, of course, Niagara Falls. The waterfalls here are the most famous in the world. They're huge and crystal blue, and when you go during an event they use them as a backdrop and paint them all sorts of colors with the use of lights.
It's one of those places you have to go in your lifetime and what better time than at the end of a waterfall road trip? You're going to want to spend days here taking in all the sights and doing all of the things that there are to do. It's an amazing experience that we highly recommend!
This trip is 175 miles of natural wonders and roaring waters, and you get to end up in Niagara Falls! Can't ask for much more than that!