15 Best Day Trips from Albany, New York

Written by Jan Meeuwesen
Updated on
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The state capital is a thriving example of New York’s wealthy history and an absolute pleasure to explore.

Albany is home to various architectural wonders, most prominently the Empire State Plaza, but you’ll also find various fine collections of public art dotted around the city.

However, the capital is also famous for being the gateway to The Hudson Valley and The Adirondacks, two of the most popular regions in Upstate New York on account of their beauty and the diversity of activities that take place there.

From whitewater rafting in the Hudson River, to climbing mountain peaks, to immersing yourself in the colonial history of former fur trade towns, Albany is an ideal location from which to take some truly spectacular day trips.

1. Lake Placid

Lake Placid, NYSource: Felix Lipov / shutterstock
Lake Placid

Just over two hours away from the city streets of Albany is one of the United State’s long-time favourite vacation spots, the irresistibly beautiful Lake Placid.

The enormous lake is surrounded by long swathes of wildflower fields that shift from purple to orange throughout the year and are simply stunning to observe from the various viewpoints on Whiteface Mountain.

The village here has kept a lot of its 19th Century small-town charm and is a wonderful base from which to plan kayaking outings, hiking routes and even skiing during the winter months.

2. New Paltz

New PaltzSource: Meagan Marchant / shutterstock
New Paltz

Known as one of the most beautiful towns in Upstate New York and only 70 miles south of Albany, New Paltz is a charming waterside town snugly nestled into a forested area of Ulster County and is home to many boutique shops and restaurants.

The atmosphere here is constantly pleasant and jovial thanks to the buzzing student population, though it’s far from rowdy.

The town’s location in the countryside also means there are countless outdoor activities to partake in including everything from sailing to taking a walk in the woods.

3. Howe Caverns

Howe CavernsSource: Donald Mallalieu / shutterstock
Howe Caverns

This natural attraction is second in popularity only to Niagara Falls, which gives you an idea of the amount of people who flock to come and see the underground marvel.

It also happens to be the largest underground cave in the whole of the Northeast of the country, making it a worthwhile visit.

You’ll have the chance to ogle at the various geological formations both by foot and by boat as you embark on tours that take you more than 150 feet below the ground.

The highlight is undoubtedly the vast subterranean lake that was formed over the course of millions of years.

4. Lake George

Lake GeorgeSource: majicphotos / shutterstock
Lake George

In the southeast of the huge Adirondacks mountain range, you’ll find one of the most popular lakes in the country, the beautiful Lake George.

Visited frequently by locals and travelers alike, there are countless ways to spend the days here, from ferry cruises, to water theme parks to every kind of water sport imaginable.

Perfect for people looking for a close-by getaway, it’s only an hour from Albany and if you don’t want to pass up on the home comforts of the city, you’ll also find fine-dining restaurants and shops here.

5. Kaaterskill Falls

Kaaterskill FallsSource: James Parascandola / shutterstock
Kaaterskill Falls

Wildly popular amongst artists who come to the falls every year to capture its majesty, the Kaaterskill Falls are a truly spectacle to behold.

Cascading down two terrace-like tiers, the formation is actually taller than Niagra Falls, standing at 200 feet.

You can easily reach them by following a picturesque trail from the main road through the dramatic landscape of the Catskill Escarpment.

If you feel like taking on more of a challenge than a visit to the cascades, then you can embark on one of the many world class hiking routes in the surrounding Catskill Mountains.

6. Manchester, Vermont

Manchester, VermontSource: Steve Heap / shutterstock
Manchester, Vermont

Nestled into Bennington County in the beautiful Vermont, Manchester has the sophisticated allure of a cultural hub, with everything from artisanal restaurants, coffee shops and bars to galleries and theatrical performances.

With an electric atmosphere thanks to the combination of New Yorkers and New Englanders who visit here, it’s impossible not to get caught up in the pace of life.

The best part is that on your doorstep you also have all the best natural attractions Vermont has to offer and you can indulge in everything from skiing to hiking to your heart’s content.

7. Shawangunk Mountains

Shawangunk MountainsSource: Ruth Peterkin / shutterstock
Shawangunk Mountains

Rising dramatically out of the golden and red forests typical of the Northeast, are the Shawangunk Mountains, or “Gunks” as locals refer to them as.

The sheer 300 feet rock faces form one of the best and most prestigious rock climbing sites in the world and it’s easy to see why.

However it’s not only rock climbers who visit here, as there is an abundance of beautiful hiking trails that you can take through any of the adjoining preserve lands that offer excellent views of the mountain.

If you truly want to unwind, then pay a visit to the enormous and opulent Mohonk Mountain House Spa, complete with its own lake and section of cliff face.

8. Saratoga Springs

Saratoga SpringsSource: Daniel Case / Wikimedia
Saratoga Springs

This 17th Century colonial town is in fact ranked as one of the top 10 places to live in New York and it only takes a few hours exploring it’s picturesque streets to understand why.

Saratoga Springs is renowned for its public springs and historic spa, attracting people from around the country to come and relax.

Most iconic, however, are the variations in water taste, which you can find to be sweet, or bitter depending on its location in town.

There’s also a buzzing shopping area with a range of spectacular restaurants and all only 40 minutes away from Albany.

9. Hudson

Hudson RiverSource: Alexey Smolyanyy / shutterstock
Hudson River

The Hudson is one of those rivers that quite literally has something to suit every taste and if you follow its route from Albany all the way to New York City, it’ll be impossible for you not to find something either fascinating, exhilarating or both.

Enjoy breathtaking views from the Walkway Over the Hudson – the world’s longest pedestrian bridge, or visit the river’s namesake, the town of Hudson where you’ll find some excellent foodie destinations.

For those looking for something a little more adventurous, head down to Hudson River Park for some world-class kayaking with gorgeous city views.

10. Columbia County

Olana State Historic SiteSource: North woodsman / shutterstock
Olana State Historic Site

A mere half hour away from Albany, you’ll find one of the densest concentrations of historical sites in the Northeast, featuring everything from ex-Presidential retirement houses to huge museums and libraries.

Columbia County is a region full of old mansions and stately homes in residential areas that are surrounded by farms and country markets that give the town a feel of being disconnected from the city.

During the summer, there is always music to listen to and art to see with pop-up galleries round every corner and jazz festivals occupying the streets.

A wonderful escape to a quintessentially American settlement, Columbia County is an excellent day trip for those looking for a more relaxed pace of life.

11. Adirondack Park Region

Adirondack Park RegionSource: Asim Patel / shutterstock
Adirondack Park Region

This vast region is home to mountains, parkland, woodland and beautiful wildernesses that can be visited for the day, or if they take your fancy you can stay for longer and camp at countless spots.

A true escape from city life, the Adirondacks contain glacial lakes, waterfalls and more, making them popular amongst adventure lovers.

Get back to nature with some canoeing, hiking or cross-country skiing, all only just over two hours away from the bustling center of Albany.

During the winter, there’s even more on offer, with the chance to partake in once-in-a-lifetime activities like ice-climbing, dog-sledding and ice-fishing.

12. Pottersville Caves and Park

Pottersville CavesSource: superba_ / Flickr
Pottersville Caves

The caves at Pottersville are famous for their size, but none more-so than Stone Bridge, the largest marble cave in the entire country.

You can explore the billion year old formation on a guided tour, or if you’d like to discover the area by yourself, you can venture above ground and take advantage of the enormous park, which features over 14 miles of snowshoe trails during the winter, rock climbing and a museum full of the area’s geological history.

13. Catskills Scenic Trail

Catskills Scenic TrailSource: mervas / shutterstock
Catskills Scenic Trail

Less than two hours away from Albany lies the 100 mile-wide Catskills Mountains region, owned by the state but open to campers and hikers.

Ideal for overnight stays due to the gorgeous camping areas but also pleasant to visit for the day, the area has an astonishing amount of different activities on offer.

The Catskills Scenic Trail is a perfect example of this, as it comprises of a 26-mile route that you can hike, ski, cycle or even horseback ride through.

14. Boston Massachusetts

BostonSource: Rsphotograph / shutterstock

Though it’s one of the oldest cities in the nation, Boston does not have a pompous or stuffy air about it.

In fact, it’s got one of the most diverse and prospering communities in New England and between clam chowder festivals, movie tours and bustling marketplaces, there’s endless enjoyment to be had in the city.

As one of the brainiest cities in the nation however, there’s also ample opportunity to indulge in Boston’s rich history, whether that means a visit to Harvard or to one of its countless museums.

15. Ausable Chasm

Ausable ChasmSource: ujjwalstha / shutterstock
Ausable Chasm

Most famously known as the Grand Canyon of the Adirondacks, Ausable Chasm is an astonishingly majestic sandstone gorge that is fed by waterfalls and runs into Lake Champlain.

Here you’ll find endless ways to enjoy the natural beauty of the site, from adventure hikes to rappelling and white water rafting.

One of the highlights is the night tours option where you’ll get the chance to marvel at the natural formations by moonlight.

15 Best Day Trips from Albany, New York:

  • Lake Placid
  • New Paltz
  • Howe Caverns
  • Lake George
  • Kaaterskill Falls
  • Manchester, Vermont
  • Shawangunk Mountains
  • Saratoga Springs
  • Hudson
  • Columbia County
  • Adirondack Park Region
  • Pottersville Caves and Park
  • Catskills Scenic Trail
  • Boston Massachusetts
  • Ausable Chasm