9-Day New York State Road Trip Itinerary

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There are so many beautiful places in New York state to visit that I’m always perplexed as to why visitors rarely branch out beyond New York City and Niagara Falls to explore other destinations and attractions. The whole state of New York is an incredible natural landscape, with lush valleys, towering mountains, and unbelievably pristine lakes.

If you’re starting to think about taking a trip around New York State, I’m sure you’ll find that there are plenty of unique and wonderful places to add to your itinerary.

Long Lake Adirondack Park Mountains
Long Lake Adirondack Park Mountains

We’ve put together a 9-day New York State itinerary to help you explore the top landmarks and hidden gems on a once-in-a-lifetime road trip through New York.

» Spending time in New York City? Check out our essential city guide and see the top 25 touristy things to do, plus fun activities in Central Park. Also see our other New York State articles:

How to Get Around

Really the only good way to get around New York is by car. If you are flying into New York, without your own car, you will need to rent a car at the airport. I suggest flying in and out of New York City’s airports because there are more connections.

But if you’re not coming from far, you might choose to skip New York City and start somewhere like Buffalo or Albany.

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Planning is the most important part of any successful trip. Do it the easy way:

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Seven Days in New York Itinerary

When preparing a perfect New York itinerary, you’ll want to consider the types of things you most want to see and do. Since there are so many different activities – from big city to rural backwoods – you’ll probably need to narrow it down a bit.

I think that 9 days is the ideal amount of time to see and explore the best bits of this glorious state. So our one week in New York itinerary will take you through the state’s lake, river, and mountain regions in what will likely feel like a whirlwind trip.

You can always remove any bits and pieces you aren’t keen on and add any that you feel are missing, to make it your own.

Map of the Trip

Day 1 & 2: New York City

Manhattan brown buildings and cityspace

Known as the “Big Apple”, New York City is perhaps one of the most famous cities in the world. It’s a melting pot for business, the arts, and luxury shopping. That’s why we recommend starting your itinerary in the city.

Not only will you likely be flying into one of New York City’s airports to start your trip, it’s a great place to rent a car, and it’s the most active part of the trip, which is always best done first.

Here are a few spots you should consider exploring while in New York City.

  • ManhattanManhattan serves as the city’s primary central business district. There are many touristy things to do in Manhattan, including going to the eclectic Times Square, watching a show on Broadway, Ice Skating at Rockefeller Center, and seeing the towering Empire State Building.
  • Central ParkThis gorgeous green space is the largest urban park in New York with lots of things to do. The park has plenty of artificial lakes, meadows, and waterfalls, making it the perfect place for an afternoon picnic.
  • Statue of Liberty – This massive neoclassical sculpture is one of the most famous landmarks in the world—a lasting symbol of freedom. Catch a ferry to Liberty Island and marvel at the 305 feet tall copper and steel monument.
  • BrooklynThis New York borough is a great place to wind down the first day of your 7 days in New York state itinerary. Apart from eating wholesome bagels and attending comedy and music events, you can visit the Brooklyn Museum to see their expansive collection of Egyptian and African art.
  • Long Island – Enjoy some fun in the sun at Long Island’s famed beaches along the North Shore. This densely populated island is also where you’ll find North Fork wineries and get a chance to taste some of the best wines in the US.

Tip: See the best of New York City by going on a one-day guided sightseeing tour.

Day 3: Hudson Valley

Hudson Valley Bridge

On day three of your New York itinerary, you’ll leave the hustle and bustle of New York City and head up to Hudson Valley. This forested region of the state boasts incredible vineyards, orchards, and farms.

It’s about a 2-hour drive, depending on traffic, from New York City to Hudson Valley.

Hudson Valley is every foodie’s dream. This region attracts many chefs who open and run farm-to-table eateries, thanks to the abundance of farmlands. You’ll also find the Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture, a non-profit farm and research facility.

Some things to add to your Hudson Valley to-do list include:

  • Hudson Valley Farmers’ MarketGet the freshest, healthiest, and tastiest foods and local produce from over 30 vendors. You’ll also enjoy a great atmosphere filled with live music and outgoing locals.
  • Hudson State Historic Park WalkwayA popular attraction among locals, this 1.28-mile walkway is the perfect spot to see the great Hudson River and the surrounding landscape. You’ll see people walking, cycling, or running here, and the best part – it’s absolutely free to enter all year round.
  • Benmarl WineryGo wine tasting at the oldest vineyard in America. This lush green estate in Marlboro overlooks the Hudson Valley. You can enjoy a fresh cheese platter while you sip your Marlboro Village Blush wine and gaze at the panoramic views.
  • Minnewaska State Park PreserveIf you’re a nature lover, look no further than this 22,275-acre preserve. Here you can hike, bike, or simply stroll around and get in touch with nature.

Tip: If you want to experience the Hudson Valley from the water, join a Hudson River sightseeing cruise.

Day 4-5: The Catskill Mountains

Kaaterskill Waterfall

Usher in the fourth day of your one week in New York state itinerary with a drive to the breathtaking Catskill Mountains. It’s about a 1-hour drive in good conditions to get there.

Simply known as the Catskills, this mountain range offers excellent hiking, walking, and biking trails. It also has an abundance of wildlife and ski resorts that you’ll fall in love with.

Some fun things you could add to your Catskills itinerary include:

  • Take a Craft Beer Tour – The Catskills locals love to have a good time. Plan a craft beer tour and enjoy the best brews from top Catskills breweries. The Shrewd Fox Brewery uses all-natural and non-GMO ingredients sourced locally.
  • Hike to Kaaterskill FallsThis adventure is ideal for all the camera-happy hikers. These falls are one of New York’s tallest cascades at 229 feet and the most famous. The trek is about a 1.6-mile round trip and varies in difficulty from easy to hard.

Day 5-6: The Adirondack Mountains

Adirondack Mountain range and lake during fall

A week in New York may not be enough to explore all that the state has to offer. But one place you should definitely have on your list is the lush Adirondack Mountains. It’s about 3 hours 50 minutes to drive to Lake Placid from the Catskills.

Simply known as the Adirondacks, this chain of mountains has over 2,000 miles of hiking trails, more than 3,000 lakes and ponds, and about 1,200 miles of rivers.

Some things you could enjoy in the Adirondacks include:

  • Lake Placid – This upstate New York destination is an alpine village and a lake. The quaint village boasts plenty of hiking trails and green rolling hills. This town is a famous Winter Olympics venue and a hub for snow sports like skiing and snowshoeing.
  • Fort Ticonderoga – Learn some history at this 18th-century fort that serves as a strategic point during the American Revolutionary War.
  • Whitewater Rafting – With so many rivers in the Adirondacks, going whitewater rafting is a can’t-miss. You can also opt for kayaking or river tubing.

Day 6-7: Thousand Islands

Boldt Castle on Thousand Islands, New York

Tucked between the United States and Canadian border, the Thousand Islands archipelago boasts more than 1,800 islands dotted across the St. Lawrence River. This region is a water wonderland offering plenty of outdoor activities and waterparks.

The drive to Thousand Islands is about 2 hours 50 minutes.

You’ll also find plenty of mansions and castles like Singer Castle, featuring Gothic windows and secret passageways. Another beauty is the German-inspired Boldt Castle on Heart Island. There is no shortage of outdoor activities in the Thousand Islands. You can also go fishing, boating, and hiking.

Here are some more activities to consider when visiting Thousand Islands:

  • Antique Boat MuseumSee America’s leading nautical collection on the shores of the St. Lawrence River. The museum has a collection of more than 320 unique boats and thousands of artifacts and archives. It hosts the annual Antique Boat Show and the biennial Antique Raceboat Regatta, which take place in August and September, respectively. The museum is also closed for winter.
  • Wellesley IslandThis island has several state parks with sandy beaches, hiking trails, and all-season cottages for the perfect upstate New York vacation. You can enjoy outdoor activities like kayaking, cross-country skiing, and trophy fishing.

Day 8: Rochester

Lake in Rochester, New York

Located on Lake Ontario, Rochester is a city full of history and creativity. You’ll find plenty of museums, art galleries, and historical stops. The city’s proximity to the Finger Lakes makes it a popular New York state vacation destination. It’s about a 3-hour drive from the Thousand Islands area.

Thanks to the Genesee River, which runs straight through Rochester’s center, you’ll have access to waterfront parks and restaurants. Outdoor activities you may enjoy include hiking, fishing, boating, and swimming. In winter, tourists love skiing and snowboarding.

Thrill seekers will appreciate visiting the Seabreeze Amusement Park, a historic fun park.

Other Rochester activities you can do include:

  • The Strong National Museum of Play – You’ll have access to the museum’s vast collection of toys and dolls. The museum’s highly interactive collection of toys teaches you about the history of play.
  • Finger Lakes – Enjoy the region’s vast array of wineries dotted along its eleven long and narrow lakes. Popular wine varieties in the area include reds like Pinot Noir and Cabernet Franc. And white wines, such as Chardonnay and Pinot Gris.

Day 9: Niagara Falls

Niagara Falls in New York

The final stop on your itinerary needs no introduction. Niagara Falls attracts over 30 million visitors a year, and for good reason. This 16.83 sqm natural wonder is part of the Niagara Falls State Park, which straddles Canada and the United States.

You’ll want to get views of the falls from numerous different vantage points. Everyone’s favorite is from the Maid of the Mist boat tour, where you’ll come upon the falls from below. You can also see the falls from the Observation Tower or Prospect Point Viewing Area at Niagara Falls State Park, or the viewing ledge at Terrapin Point on Goat Island.

Another thing we love to do in Niagara Falls is go wine tasting in Niagara on the Lake. The wineries are quite unique, with their own personality, making everything from fruit wine to Ice wine.

If you want to stay longer in Niagara Falls, see our guide on how to plan the perfect Niagara Falls vacation.

Here are some tours you can take to admire Niagara Falls:

Top Tips for Visiting New York State

1. Pack for all seasons – The weather in New York State can be unpredictable, so it’s best to pack for all types of weather just in case. From late spring through early autumn, temperatures can range from mild during the day to cold at night, so layering is key.

In winter, make sure to bring warm clothing such as hats, gloves and snow boots as well as a heavy coat or parka.

2. Prepare for high prices – While visiting New York State, prepare yourself for high prices on food and lodging. Additionally, restaurants where locals eat generally have lower prices than touristy spots near popular attractions.

Buffalo New York
Buffalo New York

3. Take time to explore smaller cities – New York City is a must-see city, but don’t miss out on small cities where you can experience authentic local life away from the hustle and bustle of the larger metropolitan area.

Cities such as Buffalo, Rochester and Syracuse are filled with historic buildings where you can learn about NY’s rich history while enjoying delicious local cuisine.

4. Enjoy outdoor activities – With its diverse landscape (think mountains, valleys, rivers, lakes), New York State is perfect for nature lovers and adventure seekers.

Be sure to see the views of Niagara Falls from all angles, explore the hiking trails around Lake Placid, go rock climbing at Shawangunk Ridge or white water rafting on the Hudson River.

5. Visit nationally significant sites – There are numerous important sites throughout New such as Saratoga National Historic Park where visitors can learn about the Revolutionary War battles, or the Women’s Rights National Historical Park where the fight for women’s suffrage began in 1848.

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9-Day New York State Road Trip Itinerary

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