The Best Small Towns in New York
Charming shops, delicious dining, and picturesque scenery await in New York's best small towns.
Now more than ever, travelers are seeking places with a low population density and easy access to the great outdoors. From quaint downtown areas to rolling horse farms to pure wilderness, these New York towns are ideal for peaceful weekend trips and balance-restoring getaways. We've rounded up some of the best small towns in New York State with fewer than 10,000 residents, so you can plan your next relaxing vacation.
The itty hamlet of Amenia near the Connecticut border is a delight for weekenders in search of old architecture, antique shops, and zen-inspiring views. Amenia is named for the Latin word meaning "pleasant to the eye," and it shows: Everywhere you look are bale-dotted pastures, lush woodlands, and the Berkshire foothills. Fly fishing and horseback riding are big pastimes, and hikers can hit the Harlem Valley Rail Trail, a 23-mile paved route that passes right through the village. Stay immersed in nature at Troutbeck, a historic hotel sitting on 250 acres with barns, streams, a heated pool, and fire pits circled with Adirondack chairs.
In the heart of the one-time Borscht Belt, Livingston Manor is making a major comeback. The cute Catskills town and its Sullivan County neighbors are in the throes of a hotel and housing boom, with everything from five-star Chatwal Lodge and chic Callicoon Hills - both opening nearby in 2021 - to the carbon-neutral Catskill Project, a group of contemporary eco homes set on 90 beautiful acres. Local faves include The Kaatskeller for wood-fired pizza and cocktails under twinkly lights, Upward and Catskill breweries, and Main Street Farm (two words: smoked trout).
A hamlet in the town of Shandaken, Mount Tremper is a rural haven with a handful of shops, places to eat, and local farm stands surrounded by the storied Catskills. The namesake mountain (once the site of an 1800s resort with Oscar Wilde on its guest log) is just one of the area's many hiking opportunities; its trails ramble through oak and pine forest to a fire tower at the peak. Phoenicia Diner is near the trailhead, and it's worth the hype.
Saranac Lake isn't far from Canada (about 70 miles), so it says a lot that it pulls vacationers - many of them year after year - to its upper New York reaches. The gorgeous setting in the Adirondacks is prime for all sorts of outdoor diversions, from camping and hiking in the summer to skiing and snowshoeing in the winter. The picturesque village holds its own against all that big, beautiful nature with pretty preserved architecture, a river walk, and Main Street shops, cafes, and art galleries. Check into The Point Resort for a luxe edition of the mountain-cabin experience.
A two-hour drive north of Manhattan, this Hudson Valley hamlet attracts big-city folks looking for tiny-town charm, a gentle pace, and peaceful scenery. Locals and weekenders alike relish the natural beauty at pick-your-own orchards and on nearby Mohonk Preserve trails, including the much-loved Bonticou Crag and Table Rocks loop. Want to meet Dolly the llama and a pig named Curly? Head to Woodstock Farm Sanctuary to say hello to rescued cows, chickens, rabbits, and other sweet creatures.
Lake George has been a magnet for nature-deprived - and often quite glam - New Yorkers since the 1800s. (Years before Georgia O'Keeffe began painting the New Mexico desert, she made the lake and its environs her muse.) This Adirondack village swells to full-on touristy status in the summertime, and the lake bristles with kayakers, parasailers, and even scuba divers. Lake George has over 100 islands equipped for campers, including the single-site Little Gourd Island. Despite its well-deserved popularity, Lake George, at its core, offers major vintage appeal and pristine lakeside wilderness; it's part of Adirondack Park, whose millions of protected acres are "forever wild."
A prime lakefront spot kicks off Skaneateles' long list of selling points. This time capsule of a town is peak Rockwellian slow-town America, complete with lakeside greens, rocking chairs on front porches, and a parade of small business along a handsome main street. As for activities? Boating, hiking, antiquing, and sampling riesling and cabernet franc from local vineyards can easily fill up a week. Combine two on the Charlie Major Nature Trail, an abandoned rail bed trail with a pit stop at Last Shot, a small-batch distillery right along the path.
Smack between the Hudson River and the Berkshires, Chatham is a classic upstate small town. Among all the rolling farmland and nature preserves are heritage sites, craft breweries and cideries, and excellent American eats (Old Chatham Country Store & Cafe has been a mainstay for ages). Head to nearby Ghent for an afternoon at Art Omi, a site-specific sculpture park sprawling over field and forest (think Storm King's kid sister).
Lovely Gothic and Greek Revival architecture, proximity to sapphire-blue Cayuga Lake, and a cool local vibe are all on the Trumansburg menu. An appealing Main Street winds through the village, harboring farm-to-table cafes, vintage shops, B&Bs, and pubs. Looking for outdoor adventure? Hike gorge or rim trails at Taughannock Falls State Park to see a 215-foot-tall waterfall plunging over vertical rock. New York's only national forest, Finger Lakes National Forest, is a wonderful venue for hiking, biking, or horseback riding to see the area's famous gorges and ravines. If you've had your fill of local wine, try a cider at Black Diamond Farm or a house-brewed ale at Garrett's in town.
Need to unwind? Station yourself in sweet Pine Plains for a weekend of hiking, wine tasting, and grilling dinner in the woods. Intrepid hikers without an ounce of vertigo can survey the land from the top of Stissing Mountain's 90-foot fire tower, while antique shoppers can sift through the vintage finds at Hammertown Barn. From Buttercup Farm Audubon Sanctuary's six miles of nature trails through woods and marshes, birders can spot bald eagles, great blue herons, and even hummingbirds.
Parked at the top of Keuka Lake's eastern arm, Penn Yan fully embraces the lake country life, anchored by a main street that looks straight out of a storybook (save for all the trucks tugging speedboats in the summer). The Keuka Outlet Trail kicks off in Penn Yan and meanders toward Seneca Lake, passing by waterfalls that once powered the area's many 1800s mills. Check out the Windmill Farm & Craft Market for a county fair-like experience where you can buy local goods like freshly dug creamer potatoes and a four-pound jug of honey.
Right on the New York-Pennsylvania border, this Delaware River gem is the stuff of weekend-trip dreams. Even the car trip there is stunning, with a portion of the NY-97 route (dubbed Hawk's Nest Drive) twisting high above the Delaware River. Once in town, it's all about rafting, tubing, fishing, and other river-centric activities. Plus, a 27-room boutique hotel from the Foster Supply husband-and-wife team just opened in next-door Beach Lake, Pennsylvania.