New York State's Best Lake Towns
Yes, yes, New York City is amazing. We won't deny it. But there is plenty more to its eponymous state.
With mountains, forests, waterfalls and vineyards, the beauty of the Empire State is undeniable. If you want to enjoy it all at once, plan a perfect vacation to one of the state's charming lake towns.
Some are bougie, others are more laidback. But one thing is for sure, New York state has a laketown for every type of traveler.
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New York Lake Towns, Ranked
We'd encourage you to visit every single one of these lake towns at least once.
But since time is often short, we've ranked them from pretty to so-beautiful-you'll-cry.
The Lake Experience: Chaumont
Tiny Chaumont is located on the upper end of Lake Ontario. Besides having access to the Great Lake, it has the Chaumont River, Chaumont Bay and Guffin Bay. Needless to say, you'll spend the vast majority of your time enjoying the water.
Visit the Chaumont Barrens Nature Preserve or a golf course to stay active off the water. Or take a tour of White Caps Winery for a scenic tasting.
And since you're only about an hour from Canada's Fronterac Islands, don't miss your chance to cross the border.
The Lake Experience: Bethel
The Catskills have long been a popular mountain getaway for New Yorkers. If you want to enjoy the mountains with a side of history, head to Bethel.
With almost 4,000 people, Bethel has a major claim to fame: It was the site of the generation-defining Woodstock Festival in 1969. This has earned it a title as a National Historic Site and continues to bring pilgrims who want to see where the (chaotic) magic happened.
But nostalgia isn't the only thing Bethel has to offer. Catch a show at the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts, do a tasting tour at the Catskill Distilling Company or go hiking. As for enjoying the water, the best place to do so is at Lake Superior State Park or doing watersports in the nearby White Lake.
Year established: 1786
Where to stay: Visions Inn
The Lake Experience: Cooperstown
If you've heard of Cooperstown, it's probably because you're familiar with the National Baseball Hall of Fame. But you'll want to visit this tiny town even if you know nothing about the sport.
For one, there's the long Ostego Lake, as well as Gimmerglass State Park and the oldest covered bridge in the U.S. Visit the impressive Kingfisher Tower, a tiny stone castle that was built in 1876. Today, it sits quietly on the shores of the lake, making it even more scenic.
Cultural travelers will enjoy the Fenimore Art Museum, which boasts a collection of American art.
7. Long Lake
Year established: 1892
Where to stay: Motel Long Lake
The Lake Experience: Long Lake
If you want to feel like you're an intrepid traveler visiting one of Alaska's remote national parks (but without actually doing so), Long Lake will provide that illusion.
The secret to its charm is its collection of seaplanes, small "air taxis" that take people on rides above the Adirondacks. They land on the town's small beach, providing plenty of opportunities for pretty pictures.
After riding the seaplane, visit Buttermilk Falls, hike in the mountains and spend time at the beach.
Year established: 1823
Where to stay: Theater Motel
The Lake Experience: Westfield
Set on the shores of the massive Lake Erie, Westfield has beautiful public beaches that will make you forget you're a long way from the ocean. It also has numerous vineyards. The town is in Chautauqua County, which produces the second-highest number of grapes in the country after California.
This flex earned Westfield its nickname of the "Grape Juice Capital of the World." You wouldn't know it based on how it tastes today, but when Welch's opened in 1897, it used real grapes for its juice. It simply made sense for the company to open up its first factory in this town.
Besides vineyards, you can visit the Barcelona Lighthouse, hike to Fitch's Fall or enjoy a round of golf. Of course, it would simply be silly not to dedicate at least half a day to visit Niagara Falls, which is just an hour and a half away from Westfield.
The Lake Experience: Hammondsport
Hammondsport is set on the shores of Keuka Lake, which claims two important distinctions: It's the only lake in the world shaped like a Y, and it's the only lake in the U.S. that flows north to south.
One of the Finger Lakes, Keuka provides most of the activities in Hammondsport. Of course, water activities reign supreme, especially within Keuka Lake State Park. But local breweries and wine cellars also offer tours and tastings.
You'll be sharing space with fewer than 600 people, so tranquility will come easily.
The Lake Experience: Sodus Point
About an hour from Rochester, Sodus Point is a convenient getaway when you want to enjoy the lake without the pollution and crowds of the city.
The village's most iconic landmark is its namesake lighthouse. It stands at the end of a long dock, with soft bluffs serving as its background. Around town, you'll find a tranquil pace that will help you ground yourself and disconnect from the stress of everyday life.
For another experience that will help you rebalance, spend a day at Chimney Bluffs State Park.
Year established: 1830
Where to stay: Mirbeau Inn & Spa
The Lake Experience: Skaneateles
The Finger Lakes provide endless fun in the water, with its collection of 11 long bodies of water that (if you squint) look like fingers. Of these, the clearest might be Skaneateles Lake. When the weather cooperates, its water can turn a shade of turquoise blue that some liken to the Caribbean.
Boating is the most popular activity on the lake and in the small town that bears its name. Kayaking, sailing and joining cruise tours are also fun ways to enjoy the fluvial landscape. Other activities include biking around the lake, hiking in Bear Swamp State Forest, or paddling to Staghorn Cliffs for gorgeous views.
Don't leave without hitting up at least one of the region's vineyards.
The Lake Experience: Lake George
Lake George (the body of water) is known as the "Queen of American Lakes." Lake George (the town) sits right at the tip of its southern end and is considered one of the best lake towns in the U.S.
Dating back to the 19th century, the town is known for its vintage steamboats, which continue to operate during the summer, taking people around the gorgeous lake. Go swimming at Million Dollar Beach. The cold water provides a respite from the sweltering heat and really does make you feel like a million bucks.
Before or after getting in the water, go hiking in the gorgeous Adirondack Mountains. As this is a premier vacation spot, you can also expect premium wine from local vineyards and food good enough to please the spoiled and picky vacationers from New York City.
The Lake Experience: Lake Placid
Another beautiful lake town in the Adirondacks, Lake Placid is farther north than Lake George. Its prominence comes mostly from being the host of the Winter Olympics in 1932 and 1980.
One of the best things about this town is that it's a wonderful destination in summer and in winter. Water dominates summer activities, with boats and swimmers spending endless hours floating on the lake. Winter offers superb skiing in an idyllic mountain setting.
When you need to rest, enjoy fine dining or shopping around town. If you're a sports fan, visit the Lake Placid Winter Olympic Museum.