It’s no secret that our family has a special place in our hearts for New York, but what’s not to love? Here’s our list of some great adventures that get you out, get you moving, and speak to your soul! We’ve included something from each region of the state to keep your adventuring going strong. If you thought New York was just the hustle and bustle of city life, then you’re in for a surprise. We’ve included caves, waterfalls, sunken forests, natural swimming holes and more!
Western New York
- Niagara Falls State Park, Niagara County- This state park will inspire you with its beauty and power. The New York access to the falls will get you closer than you can imagine. Go under the falls with Maid of the Mist, feel the power of the falls on the Hurricane deck, climb down into the gorge by Cave of the Winds and get the most encompassing view of all three of the falls on the Observation Tower. In addition, there are miles of trails to hike and interesting historical sites for you to discover.
- Chestnut Ridge Park, Eternal Flames Falls, Erie County – This waterfall in Shale Creek Preserve may be small, but it has something none of the others can claim–a naturally fueled eternal flame. We think that’s pretty cool!
- Liberty Balloon Company, Seneca County- Experience a truly unique adventure and possible bucket list item by touring the area in a hot air balloon. This company will fly you over Letchworth State Park, “The Grand Canyon of the East.” This is a great opportunity to witness spectacular views and create breath taking memories! If ballooning and/or heights isn’t your thing, visit the park by foot…
- Letchworth State Park, Livingston and Wyoming Counties- This park has been voted Best Attraction and Best State Park by USA Today readers. With 14,427 acres, a gorge, and three major waterfalls, Letchworth is a must-see destination. Choose from 66 miles of hiking trails, white water rafting, kayaking, skiing, performing arts and more.
- Kaaterskill Falls, Hudson Valley, Greene County- This two tier water fall is one of the tallest falls in the Eastern U.S. and one of the highest in New York. There are several trails to choose from if you want to hike the area, Catskill Forest Preserve. Some of the most note-worthy trails will take you to Buttermilk Falls, Bastion Falls and even Rip Van Winkle’s famed bed of “cloves” or his likeness carved out of blue sandstone. (Cover photo is also Kaaterskill Falls.)
The Southern Tier has a lot to offer, but can you believe the beauty and accessibility of its gorges and waterfalls? This is an outdoor wonderland.
- Watkins Glen State Park, Schuyler County- It is said that you will be spellbound after visiting this park. The Glen’s stream goes down 400 feet past 200 foot cliffs and generates 19 waterfalls within its two mile course! The gorge path will take you over and under waterfalls with rim trails that overlook the gorge. This park encourages your stay with an additional Olympic size swimming pool, campsites, picnic facilities, and scheduled tours. It’s no wonder this park has been rated one of the Best State Parks in the U.S. by USA Today readers.
- Robert H Treman State Park, Tompkins County- Many claim that Enfield Glen, a rugged gorge, is the highlight, but this park boasts trails past 12 waterfalls– including 115-foot Lucifer Falls. Enfield Falls (aka Lower Falls) drops into one of the state’s most scenic swimming holes with a diving board placed at the base of the falls. How’s that for an awesome hard-to-find experience?
- Taughannock Falls State Park, Tompkins County- These falls plunge 215 feet past rocky cliffs that tower nearly 400 feet above the gorge. It is the highest single-drop waterfall east of the Rocky Mountains! Gorge and rim trails offer spectacular views from above the falls and from below at the end of the gorge trail.
Central New York
- Chittenango Falls State Park, Madison County- Yet again, glacial sculpting has left us with another gorgeous waterfall. The park’s 167-foot waterfall flows over 400 million year old bedrock. Some of the other features at Chittenango are a wide variety of plants and wildlife, accessibility to the top of the falls, and a foot bridge that allows you to view the falls from the gorge.
- Filmore Glen, Cayuga County- The beauty of this park is the dense woodlands that create a botanical oasis in the glen along with its unique geology and five waterfalls. You can enjoy swimming in a stream-fed pool, fishing in the Owasco Lake inlet, and even stay in a full service cottage located on the shore of Cayuga Lake. If you need to rough it a bit, there are plenty of campsites too.
Need to add a little variety to your waterfalls and forests?..
- Rosamond Gifford Zoo ,Onondoga County- The Rosamond Gifford Zoo is home to more than 700 animals representing some 275 species over 43 acres. The zoo focuses on animal welfare and a “green building” status.
- Fishkill Farms, Hudson Valley, Dutchess County- This farm specializes in an ecological approach to growing produce and some organic certified options too. There’s plenty of room to explore and enjoy nature with 270 acres of greenery, orchards, crops, and gardens. Their sustainable farming is sure to inspire you to be more eco-healthy. Hike the grounds or take a ride around to pick your own seasonal fruits and vegetables. During the summer months, you can enjoy their fresh outdoor grill, live music and festivals too.
- Rail Explorers, Ulster County- Travel the train rails on peddle powered vehicles along the historic Ulster & Delaware Railroad. This Catskill Mountain tour will bring you along Esopus Creek and through the woods. You will definitely get a heart-healthy workout here!
New York City
There’s way too much for us to list about adventure in New York City! Here are two that fulfill our criteria to get you outdoors, get you moving, and speak to your soul…
- Statue of Liberty, New York County- You can visit a New York City Landmark, a National Park, a National Monument and a UNESCO World Heritage Site all in one day! How’s that for a bucket list filler? Reserve a ticket to climb to the Crown and you’ve got a serious challenge and work out—393 steps!
- Brooklyn Bridge, Kings County- There’s just way too much culture and history to skip this experience. Walk across the bridge and enjoy all of the amenities, events, and food either side has to offer.
This is an area of New York State that has grown in tourism exponentially. There seems to be an unlimited supply of activities and adventures you can have in North Country, especially around the Adirondacks. Here’s two we found particularly original…
- The Wild Center, Franklin County- Walk the woodland trails (81 acres to explore), canoe or paddle board on the river, explore the Wild Walk (an elevated trail around Adirondack tree tops), or go inside their 54,000 square foot hall of exhibits and planned animal interaction. Wow! This adventure really fills our qualifications for this post.
- Ausable Chasm, Clinton County- Located in a primeval Adirondack forest is “The Grand Canyon of the Adirondacks,” features walking trails, ancient rock formations, and tons of outdoor activities. You can float on a raft or tube down the Ausable River, enjoy cliff walks with cable bridges, or tour the mountain bike and hiking trails. This 500 million year old rock is a marvel that will captivate you with its different formations– Elephant’s Head, Table Rock, Cathedral, The Devil’s Oven, The Flume, and Sentinel Rock. This is one terrific example of the powerful glaciers that moved through the state 10,000 years ago.
- Howe Caverns, Schoharie County- Want to try caving or spelunking, but don’t have the advanced equipment, training, or even certainty? This natural attraction will bring you 156 feet below the surface to a subterranean riverbed. Their family friendly tours lead you in a cavern, through galleries, under boulders and to an underground lake. These caves, discovered in 1842, are six million years old. What a great way to celebrate Earth Day!
One of the best parts of Long Island is its pristine and abundant white sand beaches. If you have time for only one amenity during your visit, the ocean beaches are the way to go.
- Sunken Forest, Fire Island- Suffolk County- Visit a place that has been ranked “globally rare.” This 300 year old primeval holly forest grows sunken behind the island’s protective sand dunes. It’s a fun ferry/boat ride to Sailor’s Haven, swimming options in the Atlantic Ocean or Great South Bay, and a short hike through the Sunken Forest. Want to up the ante on your adventure? Enjoy the day boogie boarding or body surfing the ocean’s waves or hike over to the nearest beach town, Cherry Grove.
- Montauk Point Lighthouse, Suffolk County- Climb to the top (137 steps) of this history-laden lighthouse at “The End” of Long Island or enjoy the grounds and beaches. The views are magnificent and the air is intoxicating!
- Robert Moses State Park, Fire Island, Suffolk County- This state park is home to an oceanfront beach of white quartz sand that extends for nearly five miles along the Atlantic Ocean. Park at Field 5, the “gateway to Fire Island”, and you can enjoy a .75 mile nature walk to the Fire Island Lighthouse. For an added workout and spectacular view, climb to the top (182 steps!). If you’re really in for even more of an adventure, you can walk over to some of the neighboring towns that are only accessible by foot or boat.
This list only scrapes the surface of the adventures you can find in New York State, but we hope it will inspire you to get out and experience something new and invigorating. Being outdoors in nature can have wonderful, positive effects on your soul and body, especially when you share it with friends and family. Have you planned an adventure in New York State that gets you out, gets you moving and speaks to your soul that we didn’t include here? We’d love to know about it!