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9 Most Overlooked Towns in New York

by Staff

While the “Big Apple” New York City remains the most famous attraction in the State of New York, a number of other smaller towns are also worthy of appreciation for all those who visit the “Empire State.” Indeed, these often-overlooked places have plenty of cultural allure, stunning natural beauty, and loads of charm that showcase not just another side of New York State but some of the best in small-town America. So, take a trip outside of New York City and its boroughs and discover these wonderful towns that will surely leave an impression on the young and old!

Ithaca

Ithaca, New York: Cayuga Street in downtown Ithaca with trees in fall colors, via Steve Cukrov / Shutterstock.com

Ithaca is a picturesque town right in the heart of the Finger Lakes Region and that was first founded back in the 1790s. Home to a modern population of just over 32,000 inhabitants, this seat of Tompkins County is beautifully situated on the shores of Cayuga Lake making it a great place to truly take in all the wonders of the outdoors. Enjoy a nice abundance of biking and hiking trails, stunning foliage (in both summer and autumn), charming little waterfalls, and the vastness of Cayuga Lake, for a truly memorable vacation. In addition, visitors can experience such events like the Apple Festival or the Dragon Boat Festival which are great ways for the whole family to have fun. And with the welcoming campuses of Cornell University and Ithaca College in town, even just an afternoon stroll here will surely create a positive impression of the town of Ithaca.

New Paltz

Summer street scene in New Paltz, New York.
Summer street scene in New Paltz, New York. Editorial credit: Michael LaMonica / Shutterstock.com

Both a town and smaller village found within it share the name of New Paltz, which is just some 80 miles from New York City. A great place for a road trip away from the big metropolis, New Paltz is indeed a charming and welcoming community with a modest population of just over 14,000 residents. Established back in the 1670s, this relaxing destination is a beautiful spot to enjoy splendid natural surroundings in thew confines of small-town America. Spend time at a number of welcoming parks, bicycle trails, and hiking routes, for a close encounter with the outdoors without the loud sounds of a major urban centre. Stop by the Wallkill River or the famed Lemon Squeezer Trail, where in addition to a rigorous workout one can also marvel at the unique rock formations found in the vicinity. And do not forget about New Paltz’s historic attractions, which include the Mohonk Mountain House Resort and the Huguenot Street Historic District. These stops bring one back to a time when New York State was still in its infancy, but ready to become one of the nation’s most important centres.

Lake Placid

Autumn colors in Lake Placid, New York.
Autumn colors in Lake Placid, New York.

Lake Placid is located within the Adirondack Mountains, where just over 2,000 permanent residents call home. Still this small town attracts thousands of tourists from across America, and on two occasions welcomed the world as the host of the Winter Olympics in 1932 and 1980 respectively. Indeed, for the outdoors enthusiast, Lake Placid is the place to be and not just in the winter. Beyond the great opportunities for alpine sports like skiing and snowboarding, in the summer visitors can also partake in biking, hiking, fishing, swimming, and sailing in a most picturesque and relaxing ambience. Meanwhile, the sounds of the Lake Placid Sinfonietta are a great way to enjoy lighter classics with the special sound only an orchestra can provide.

Aurora

The buildings at the Wells College campus in Aurora, New York.
The buildings at the Wells College campus in Aurora, New York. Image credit PQK via Shutterstock.

Also known as Aurora-on-Cayuga, this central New York town is beautifully located on Cayuga Lake’s shores where a population of just over 600 permanent residents call home. Established in the 1790s, this small historic community is a perfect place for a sojourn where quaint Americana and natural beauty come together nicely. Explore Main Street and the Aurora Village Historic District and its assortment of 19th century landmarks, while hot summers and cool winters mean spending time on the lake can be enjoyable throughout the year. Meanwhile a stroll on the campus of Wells College (1868) is a charming outing that captures the essence of American college life. And do not forget about the nearby Cayuga Lake Wine Trail, where some of the best international and local wines can be sampled and brought home. It is indeed a most unique experience that will satisfy both the professional sommelier and the casual wine drinker.

Narrowsburg

View of the Main Street in Narrowsburg, New York
View of the Main Street in Narrowsburg, New York

With a population of just under 400 permanent residents, the town or hamlet of Narrowsburg in Sullivan County may be easy to ignore, but its quaint natural beauty and special small-town charm make it a nice little place to explore. Situated on the banks of the Delaware River, guests can enjoy calming kayaking opportunities or even embark on an adventuresome journey to the nearby Skinner’s Falls. Here wild currents and rapids challenge even the most tested outdoors person, while getting totally soaked will definitely make for a fun set of memories sure to be talked about for a long time. Meanwhile in town itself, a most charming and welcoming Main Street await where a lovely assortment of boutique shops, local restaurants, and other family run businesses create the perfect snapshot of New York State outside of the major cities.

Cooperstown

A street in Cooperstown, New York.
A street in Cooperstown, New York. Editorial credit: Kenneth Sponsler / Shutterstock.com

Cooperstown is noted for its authentic New York folk art scene and is beautifully situated on the southern edge of Otsego Lake. With a population of just under 1,800 residents, the historic Cooperstown can trace its modern founding to the 1780s and today guests can continue to explore the town’s past through visits to places like the Historic District. With landmarks including the Fenimore House Museum, the Farmer’s Museum, and its recreated village from the early 1800s, a true sense of early America can be felt and appreciated. Meanwhile a visit to Cooperstown would never be complete without stopping at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum established in 1936. Chronicling everything that is “America’s Favorite Pastime”, interactive exhibits and rare memorabilia make this a cannot miss experience for both the most passionate fans and casual observers.

Hudson

Streetscape of Warren Street in downtown Hudson, New York
Streetscape of Warren Street in downtown Hudson, New York

The town of Hudson is situated on the eastern side of the same named River and is some 120 miles north of New York City. Home to a population of just under 6,000 inhabitants, Hudson can trace its modern history to the 17th century when Dutch colonists first arrived. A charming historic destination with loads of small-town allure, Hudson is indeed a most welcoming place to get away from the big metropolis while still feeling the comforts of modern life. Enjoy a wide variety of shopping boutiques, inviting restaurants, bakeries, cafes, galleries, and numerous historic landmarks, that all make Hudson a most special destination for a day trip or two. Amongst the landmarks and museums of note include the Cornelius Evans House (1861), the Hudson-Athens Lighthouse (1874), and the Museum of Firefighting. At the latter, a moving and informative look at the history of firefighting in the United States will surely delight all ages through its tribute to those who have fought the dangers of ravaging fires.

Jamestown

Downtown Jamestown, New York in the winter
Downtown Jamestown, New York in the winter, By Dr. Blazer – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons

Jamestown is just some 75 miles from the city of Buffalo in Western New York State and is situated between Allegheny National Forest and Lake Erie. Founded in the early 1800s, today just under 29,000 residents call the “Pearl City” home. An ideal destination for those looking for easy access to the great outdoors, Hudson’s close proximity to the aforementioned Lake and Forest in addition to the scenic Chautauqua Lake and Panama Rocks make it perfect for a nature filled vacation. Enjoy activities like swimming, sailing, fishing, hiking, or even just an old-fashioned family picnic, there is always a vibrant outdoors outing to be had in Jamestown and area. Meanwhile the downtown area is also of note, where a fine array of tasty restaurants, novelty stores, galleries, theatres, and historic charm all make a most inviting urban centre. Amongst the most unique of these cultural attractions includes the National Comedy Center, which honors not only the history of American comedy but the life of icon Lucille Ball who was born in Jamestown in 1911.

Rhinebeck

East Market Street in Rhinebeck, New York.
East Market Street in Rhinebeck, New York.

For some of the best views of the Catskill Mountains, look no further than the most charming town of Rhinebeck and the same named village within it. Located in the Hudson Valley, just over 7,500 inhabitants call this delightful place home that is just some 105 miles north of the “Big Apple”. A peaceful and welcoming community, guests can expect to find a nice variety of tasty home style eateries, local galleries, specialty boutique shops, small theatres, and plenty of small-town hospitality. Indeed, Rhinebeck is an old-style place, where the feeling of yesterday permeates the atmosphere. Take in the splendid natural setting and its mountain views, enjoy the quaint cultural attractions, or simply pause and reflect in a quiet setting, Rhinebeck is a great New York destination that shows a slower, more contemplative side of the “Empire State”.

Think of New York State, and many will automatically focus solely on New York City. But like many places in America, there is so much more to see outside of the major urban centres. New York is no different and a number of wonderfully inviting naturally beautiful and culturally alluring towns also populate the “Empire State”. From the outdoor haven of Lake Placid to the special historic ambience of Aurora, these and other overlooked New York towns offer guests another view of the State beyond the confines of Manhattan and the other boroughs. So, when visiting New York State consider these truly delightful towns, where a renewed appreciation of small-town America can be had by all ages.

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