Get us in your inbox

Oneida Lake
Photograph: Kaitlyn Rosati

The best lakes to escape to in New York State

There’s a New York State lake for every need, whether for relaxation or sport.

Kaitlyn Rosati
Written by
Kaitlyn Rosati

New York State has over 7,600 lakes, so narrowing down which ones to visit on a weekend getaway or day trip from NYC can feel like a daunting task.

Whether it’s for a family-friendly getaway, for wine enthusiasts, or just for a serene city break, we’ve done the legwork for you to make planning your next lake getaway a breeze based on what you’re looking for.

RECOMMENDED: 9 gorgeous hidden waterfalls near NYC

The best lakes to escape to in New York State

For Scenery: Lake Placid
Photograph: courtesy of Courtesy of Mirror Lake Inn Resort and Spa

1. For Scenery: Lake Placid

Set against the dreamy backdrop of charming villages and the dramatic Adirondacks, it’s no surprise that the most scenic lake in New York goes to Lake Placid. While taking in all its beauty, enjoy one of the 74 hiking trails, or kick back and relax at the spa at Mirror Lake Inn. Make sure to hit the Lake Placid Olympic Museum, and if you find yourself craving something afterward, grab a bite from Smoke Signals, a scoop from Emma’s Lake Placid Creamery, and a libation from Great Adirondack Brewing Company.

Distance from NYC: 290 miles
How to get there: Driving is your best bet (about a five-hour ride)
Where to stay: Mirror Lake Inn Resort & Spa, this Tiny Home Airbnb or Eastwind Lake Placid.

For Wine Lovers: Seneca Lake
Photograph: courtesy of the New York State Department of Economic Development, the New York State Urban Development Corporation

2. For Wine Lovers: Seneca Lake

Out of all 11 Finger Lakes, Seneca Lake is the premium choice for wine and food enthusiasts. It’s the largest Finger Lake, and its depth creates a unique climate for wine to thrive in. “The lake is deep enough to store heat from the summer, which protects the vines from the freezing temperatures in the winter,” Nicole Muscari, wine consultant and founder of the blog Grape Chic says. Some of the best wineries are Zugibe Vineyards, Weis Vineyards, Nathan K., Keuka Vineyards, Fox Run Vineyards, and Forge Cellars, but the list certainly does not end there. Wine aside, at the southern point of Seneca Lake is Watkins Glen State Park which is filled with waterfalls and naturally jaw-dropping scenery.

Distance from NYC: 253 miles
How to get there: Fly to SYR or ROC and rent a car, Amtrak to Syracuse and rent a car, Drive (a little under 5 hours)
Where to stay: Find the perfect spot to fit your needs at Finger Lakes Premier Properties

For Families: Lake George
Photograph: courtesy of New York State Department of Economic Development, the New York State Urban Development Corporation

3. For Families: Lake George

Traveling with little ones? Then Lake George is for you. Lake George has amusement parks such as Six Flags Great Escape and Magic Forest, but also more laidback activities such as mini-golf at Pirate’s Cove. Make sure to get out on the water on a Lake George Steamboat Company vessel, where you can enjoy some family-friendly sightseeing. For a unique Lake George experience, enjoy the upcoming Adirondack Balloon Festival (September 21-24).

Distance from NYC: 215 miles
How to get there: Greyhound from NYC to Lake George, or Amtrak to Fort Edward
Where to stay: The Heritage of Lake George or The Sagamore Resort for a luxurious getaway

For Boaters: Oneida Lake
Photograph: Kaitlyn Rosati

4. For Boaters: Oneida Lake

If you’re looking to get out on the water and want to join a community of people who love to do the same, look no further than Oneida Lake. Oneida Lake is the largest lake that is entirely in New York State, but some parts can be shallow, so it’s advisable for boaters to drive slowly. Need to rent a ski boat, a pontoon, a fishing boat, or even a kayak? Head over to Sylvan Beach Supply Co. at The Cove. If you want a quirky feel-good experience, join this year’s Chicken Wing Run (September 15-17), where hundreds of boaters gather for an all-you-can-eat-chicken-wing-fest, and proceeds go to the Sylvan Beach Fire and Rescue Department.

Distance from NYC: 262 miles
How to get there: Amtrak to Syracuse, Rome, or Utica and rent a car, fly to SYR and rent a car, or simply drive from NYC (between four and five hours)
Where to stay: This VRBO has lakefront access, this cottage for a proper country getaway.

For Serenity: Green Lakes State Park
Photograph: courtesy of Visit Syracuse

5. For Serenity: Green Lakes State Park

The color of the water at Green Lakes State Park might have you wondering if you’re in New Zealand as opposed to Upstate New York. Green Lakes State Park is home to two meromictic (meaning the layers of the water do not mix) glacial lakes. This creates a mesmerizing blue hue, and being surrounded by sugar maple, tulip poplar, white cedar hickory, and beech trees, a visit to Green Lakes State Park will give you that serene feeling of being far away from the hustle and bustle of the city. There’s a beach area to swim in, crystal kayaks available for rent, and a few hiking trails to enjoy. Note there is a $10 vehicle fee to enter the park.

Distance from NYC: Approximately 240 miles
How to get there: Fly to SYR, Amtrak to Syracuse, and rent a car from there
Where to stay: Book a campground right at the park or stay in this hobbit house.

    You may also like
    You may also like