With the holidays over and temperatures continuing to drop, winter in New York State provides terrific opportunities to fight off the cold weather doldrums. From outdoor winter fun to shopping for post-Christmas bargains and taking in art exhibits or one-of-a kind performances, the Empire State offers great destinations for a long weekend getaway or a full-fledged winter break.
Of course, some people look forward to winter all year long and the opportunity to ski, snowboard, snowshoe, and more, and New York is a paradise for lovers of outdoor winter sports. With more ski areas than any state in the nation, there are multiple slopes within an hour of New York City — whether traveling by car or on one the many available bus excursions — some offering equipment rentals and lessons. Whiteface Mountain in the Adirondacks is the longest and highest vertical drop east of the Rockies, ski areas in the Catskill Mountains range from beginning to expert, and full-service resorts in the Chautauqua-Allegheny region in western New York include amenities like spas and indoor water parks.
An equally good workout at a slower pace is available via cross-country skiing at resorts, state parks, and nature preserves, with trails traversing varied landscapes from lakeside to forests to mountaintops. Or trade the skis for snowshoes to take a beautiful and exhilarating trek through the winter scenery. Motorized snow fun comes in the form of snowmobiling over 10,000 miles of groomed trails in areas like the Tug Hill Plateau east of Lake Ontario, whose average 200 inches of annual lake-effect snowfall make it one of the snowmobile capitals of the US.
Other snow fun includes tubing at parks with tubes, lifts, hills, and everything you need for a day or night of fast-sliding fun. Saranac Lake hosts what National Geographic calls one of the two best winter carnivals in the world, complete with a magical ice palace. There are similarly wonderful winter events statewide, like Jazz on the Vine Winterfest on Long Island and the Snommegang craft beer festival in central New York. You can also take in the scenery on horseback — or open sleigh! — at places like Rocking Horse Ranch in Ulster County or the Ridin-Hy Ranch in the Adirondacks.
You don’t need any equipment or experience to go down the Olympic bobsled at America’s only dedicated bobsled track in Lake Placid, twice host to the Winter Olympic Games. Just join your driver and hold on for the thrilling 55 mile-per-hour ride! Afterward, enjoy the Alpine town’s shops, restaurants, and activities on frozen Mirror Lake, with rides down a toboggan chute or on a real dogsled. Lodging choices range from posh to family-friendly for a great winter escape.
Even those who balk at outdoor fun in the winter find great getaways in New York State, some at off-season discounted rates. Cares bubble away at luxurious spa resorts, from Gurney’s Montauk on Long Island to the Gideon Putnam Resort & Spa in Saratoga Springs and Mirbeau Inn & Spa in the Finger Lakes town of Skaneateles. Dine in world-famous restaurants or take cooking classes at the Culinary Institute of America in the Hudson Valley. Eat (and stay) at Belhurst Castle in the Finger Lakes. Try ice wines along the Niagara Wine Trail.
See music, dance, and comedy in unique venues, from historic Proctor’s Theatre in Schenectady to the Cooperstown Concert Series at the grand Otesaga Resort Hotel. The shopping, food, and entertainment options of Destiny USA await in Syracuse at one of America’s largest malls, where you can try the largest suspended indoor ropes course in the world! And New York’s museums offer a tremendous variety, from western art at the Frederic Remington Art Museum in the Thousand Islands, to Frank Lloyd Wright’s Martin House Complex in Buffalo, to the Lucille Ball-Desi Arnaz Museum in Jamestown.
Whether indoors or out, an amazing winter awaits you right here in New York State.
Ross D. Levi is New York State’s executive director of tourism and coordinator of I LOVE NEW YORK LGBT. More information on planning a New York State getaway is available at iloveny.com/winter or iloveny.com/lgbt.