Ithaca is one of the small cities in New York State well worth a look on your holiday to the Empire State ... photo by CC user vadikunc on Flickr

The Big Apple bustles with art, theater, shopping, and big city adventures. But New York offers a lot more than NYC, including some of the most beautiful scenery in the eastern US. While you’re in the area, you might enjoy a day trip or a weekend in one of these smaller cities for a change of pace.

Chautauqua: A Summer Learning Event

Since 1874, this lakeside community near the Pennsylvania border has been the home of a summer lecture and arts program. Art openings, opera performances, and lectures by Supreme Court justices, celebrities, and top minds from every field liven up the Chautaqua Institution campus. Besides lectures and arts events, you can enjoy golf, swimming, and other activities in Chautauqua.

Ithaca: Wineries, Sports, and More

In summer and fall, the wineries along the Cayuga Wine Trail near Ithaca are popular spots to relax and sip freshly vinted reds and whites. Hikers love the nearby gorges and trails around Cayuga Lake. In winter, the Ithaca area is popular with both cross-country and downhill skiers. Cornell University offers year-round attractions, like the Cornell Plantations’ arboretum, wildflower and botanical gardens, or the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art.

Buffalo: Birthplace of Wings


Image via Flickr by Scott Kinmartin

Buffalo, NY is a spicy wing-lover’s pilgrimage of sorts. Try all the local variation in the down-to-earth bars and taverns scattered around the city. While you’re in town, get tickets for a football or hockey game, enjoy the rich architectural features downtown, and visit the Albright-Knox Art Gallery for good measure.

Saratoga Springs: Thoroughbred Racing and Culture

The end of July until the first of September is race season in Saratoga Springs, and you can root for your horse at the small city’s famous Race Course. Summer is also the season to enjoy open-air concerts in the park and boating on Saratoga Lake. Catch a performance by the New York City Ballet or Philadelphia Orchestra while you’re in town. You can still enjoy Saratoga Springs if you come in winter; just shift your focus to ice skating and cross-country skiing.

Millerton: Small Town Living



Image via Flickr by Dougtone

A sweet, small town like Millerton makes a great contrast to the rush of the Big Apple. With a population of less than 1,000 and a Main Street that’s lined with Mom and Pop shops, this is old-school America at her best. Sip a coffee at the Irving Farm Coffee House, or shop for a sweet souvenir at the Millerton Card & Candy Co.

Lake Placid: For Outdoor Adventures

For a complete change of pace from the urban adventures of NYC, take a road trip to Lake Placid. Hiking, boating, and canoes are the best way to enjoy the lake, which lives up to its peaceful name. Winter sports are popular here, too. Ice skate on the lake, ski Whiteface Mountain, or try your hand at dog-sledding or bobsledding.

Once you’ve seen all that the state of New York has to offer, you might decide to abandon NYC next time. The great outdoors is at once wilder and more peaceful than the streets of the city.