There are cabins and lodges, ski slopes and other icy distractions and there’s food and drink and family fun that cannot wait to be asked., “What’s there to do in winter in Upstate New York?”Published Jan. 4, 2021, 11:51 a.m. | Updated Jan. 4, 2021, 12:37 p.m. |
Winter is well underway in the state. New York City has romance. But the mountains upstate have adventure. The rest of New York State has enough attraction and a trip upstate — a Covid-safe trip, we stress — is advised. We can’t tell if it’s the pandemic-induced, self-imposed incarceration but the outdoors look so magical, dripping with “winter wonderland” cliches at every twist.
There are cabins and lodges, ski slopes and other icy distractions and there’s food and drink and family fun that cannot wait to be asked., “What’s there to do in winter in Upstate New York?”
Here’s a shortlist.
The Adirondack mountains long for winter. While there is lots to do throughout the year here, winter is when the region comes alive. Whiteface Mountain is one of the highest peaks in New York State and is one of the premier ski resorts in New York. There are lodges and cabins in Lake Placid, Willmington, and Saranac Lake. There are also B&Bs and other accommodations to suit every budget.
Lake Placid has the Olympic sites and the Olympic Jumping complex for ice skating and activities other than the ski slopes.
Mirror Lake once frozen over becomes an ice skating rink. The dog sled rides are another popular activity around the lake.
The southeastern part of New York State is where the Catskills Mountains are part of the larger Appalachian Mountains. Hunter Mountain and Belleayre Mountain is where all the skiing action takes place. Hunter Mountain is also where New York State’s biggest beer event, TAP NY is held.
Rarely does one go chasing waterfalls in winter, but the Kaaterskill Falls are a sight to see when frozen over. Close to the Haines Falls region, the hotels and lodges here offer great views of the mountains.
Hardly a two hour drive from New York City, Hudson Valley is the closest winter getaway. The town of New Paltz is a break from the busy city life. Here the Mohonk Mountain House is a historical lodge where past guests like Teddy Roosevelt and John Rockefeller enjoyed the house and the grounds. The horse drawn carriage rides and snowshoeing give one real winter feels.
Hudson Valley, where the Culinary Institute of America sits is also the best place outside of New York City to revel in the restaurant scene. Cafes, farm to table, BBQ or brunch, there are lots of options to try.
The Capital Region and Albany are a particularly great place to witness the holiday lights. The holiday lights are open to witness till after Christmas.
Saratoga Springs is where the natural springs of Roosevelt Bath & Spa is. Mineral baths, facials, and body scrubs have been enjoyed for nearly 100 years.
Winter is also the time the Saratoga Spa State Park, a National Historic Landmark, opens for cross country skiing.
Lights On The Lake on Onondaga Lake in Syracuse is a true winter wonderland. The holiday tradition follows all wintery themes.
Strong Museum of Play has some indoor fun for the kids like storytelling and visits from Frosty the Snowman.
The Annual Festival of Fire and Ice in Ithaca showcases interesting ice sculptures and frozen creations.
The NY Ice Wine & Culinary Fest celebrates winter in the wine region. And it celebrates the german tradition of making eiswein by letting the Finger Lakes grapes to freeze on the vines through the winter months, before pressing.
The Holiday Valley Ski Area in Ellicottville is a mile long space for galleries, microbreweries, restaurants, winter activities and shops.
If you are done riding the ski lifts to ski the slopes, the Sky Flyer Mountain Coaster is a low roller coaster that zigzags through the snowy mountains.
Lake Erie’s tributaries in Chautauqua County have winter fishing spots, called Steelhead Alley, that attract tons of steelhead in the winter months.
For some indoor fun in the winter months, Jamestown, the birthplace of Lucille Ball is also home to the National Comedy Center. And then there is the craft beverage tour of the Chautauqua-Lake Erie region.
The sights of frozen over Niagara Falls is a magnificent winter wonderland. But the Aquarium of Niagara is a taste of winter at the South Pole where one can feed the penguins.
Canalside, the waterfront area of Buffalo transforms during the winter months. There is an outdoor ice skating rink that you can reach via ice bikes. There are breweries to have a Buffalo craft beer and the restaurants like Anchor Bar is where the famous Buffalo Chicken Wing was born.
Long Island is where the rich and famous summer, but the winter months are not with lack of things to do. The same beaches like Long Beach light up the Boardwalk with various winter themes.
There are other activities that can be done only in winter. Like seal-watching which starts in December. The seal-watching cruises happen from inside warm cabins with hot beverages.
Visit the museums like the Train Masters Babylon Train Club that showcases tracks and layouts of the model trains. There is also the Long Island Children’s Museum that has indoor and outdoor exhibits.
The McCauley Mountain Ski Area’s slopes may not be as steep as the Adirondacks but the region is located in the foothills of those very mountains.
Cooperstown, famous for the National Baseball Hall of Fame, has some custom tours in the winter. There are also some ice hockey games to catch. Then warm up with some beverages at Cooperstown Distillery.
Glimmerglass State Park is lovely this time of the year and you can also go ice skating on Otsego Lake.
Watertown hosts the snowshoe 5k in the winter months. Outside of New York City, there are also some great fireworks to witness in winter at Watertown.
If you are staying at the Holiday Inn Express & Suites Watertown-Thousand Islands, you can take a soak in the heated pool.
Ganonoque has a helicopter tour to witness winter from the skies. There are also flea markets and you can browse the Beggar’s Banquet Books, a little bookstore that also sells vinyls and vintage stereo equipment.
There is also the Shorelines Casino Thousand Islands in Gananoque where there are bright lights that are not fireworks.
And of course, New York City. Not upstate really, but attracts so many from upstate to visit the city.
The OG Winter Wonderland, what does New York City not have to offer? Ice skating at Rockefeller Center, the tree lighting, and the Times Square New Year Ball Drop are just some of the activities that have been most enjoyed in Manhattan this winter.
There is also the Bryant Park Holiday Market for winter crafts and treats.
The Train Show in the Bronx New York is unmissable and held every winter.
If nothing else, New York is a lovely place to walk around and just look up at the buildings and the lights in winter.