Road trips are an American institution. Whether you’re from New York or an out-of-towner, you couldn’t pick a more beautiful place to enjoy a sightseeing adventure than upstate New York! Depending on your interests, there are many routes to choose from. We’ve included two of our favorites here to give you some ideas, but, in the spirit of the great American road trip, don’t be afraid to get off the beaten path!
For history lovers
If you’re interested in seeing upstate New York as it was 100 or so years ago, then consider mapping out your road trip along Route 104 from Oswego to Rochester. Over the course of 75 miles, you’ll see little pieces of history, gems that have been preserved in their original condition. Begin your historic journey at Oswego Harbor Lighthouse, which was built in 1880, rebuilt in 1934, and is still operational today. The town owns the lighthouse, but it is run by the Coast Guard
From there, you’ll see working and non-working barns with silos, rain gutters and hay lofts, great for photo ops. There are also vintage cars and signage along the way, so collectors and car enthusiasts will be in heaven. Homeowners and businesses along Route 104 are accustomed to passersby stopping to take pictures of their property and memorabilia.
You’ll soon approach another lighthouse and its surrounding property. Stop and take a walk around Sodus Point Lighthouse, which is still open to the public during the summer as a maritime museum. The original structure was in operation from 1871 to 1901, but the large property includes the current operational lighthouse as well. Stroll along the rocky shores where beautiful driftwood scatters across the stone, and take in the beautiful ocean views.
Finish your trip at Charlotte-Genesee Lighthouse. Its original brick finish is stunning, and you’ll be impressed to learn its history (Hint: It’s the oldest active surviving lighthouse on Lake Ontario!). Here, you can take a walk around and stretch your legs before hitting the road again.
For a one-of-a-kind experience
If you want to experience a little bit of everything, the Taconic State Parkway is the way to go – literally! This magnificent road was designed by Gilmore Clarke, commissioned by none other than Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who wanted some way to show off the beautiful Hudson Valley that he loved. The highway was specifically designed to have rolling hills that allowed the road to dip and curve, showing off the natural beauty of upstate New York.
FDR succeeded in his mission. As you travel along the north part of this highway, you’ll be enfolded between the Catskills and the Berkshires, offering some amazing views at every point along the way. Mind the speed limit for safety and to ensure that you don’t miss even one stunning view!
Begin this road trip at Old Chatham at the general store. There, you can buy unique gifts and souvenirs, or head out to browse the local artwork. Present-day Chatham will be your next must-see stop. This town has a quaint Main Street that can’t be missed, with restaurants, shops, and a movie theater. It also boasts a brewing company that’s open on weekdays.
Then, you’ll move into a unique area of upstate New York where outdoor art is abundant and breathtaking. You can take a hot air balloon ride in Ghent, where you’ll float leisurely over the Catskills and the Hudson Valley, and get a bird’s eye view of the Fields Sculpture Park, where artists show off their sculpting skills for everyone to see.
Hit Spencertown next. This cute little town offers more outdoor art at the Taconic Sculpture Park. Then head on to Hudson, which is just a little detour from Taconic State Parkway. A few miles down Route 23 will bring you to Hudson, famous for a beer and book store called The Spotty Dog. You can also do some shopping and enjoy the great variety of antique shops in this off-the-beaten-path town.
Don’t miss Olana, either, while you’re out that way. Victorian architecture and art abound, especially at the museum that was once home to Frederic Church. Wrap up your trip by enjoying a picnic lunch overlooking Lake Taghkanic. You can hike or kayak before heading back home.
These itineraries barely scratch the surface of what upstate New York has to offer. There are countless “must-see” sights and destinations, some beautiful, some historical, and some just downright interesting! When you are planning a road trip through upstate New York, you won’t be disappointed!
For more information and local happenings, visit Upstate New York.