The Halfdayer

Your on-mountain guide, curated by Halfdays

Halfdays Guide to Upstate New York

Underrated Outdoor Adventures for Escaping the City

Tags: Travel

We go by a golden rule around here: not all outdoors-loving women are the same. Some of us (a lot) are city girls, don’t have access to open spaces, or only get out on the trail or mountain a few times a year. Here’s the thing – it really doesn’t matter how often you adventure on a proper hike or ski day, you can still be an outdoors lover as a certified city girl.

Long before Paige Lorenze made it cool, traveling upstate from New York City has been a way for the city folk to get their outdoor escape fix, away from the hustle and bustle of Manhattan and surrounding boroughs. “Upstate” has an elusive air to it – whether it be the daunting notion that everywhere existing north of New York City proper qualifies as such, or the fact that weekends away to the Hamptons and Montauk are reserved for the city’s elite and wealthy (which is most definitely not the case!). 

Forget the stigmas and stereotypes – we’re in your corner when it comes to wanting to hit the road (or train) to get away for the day or weekend. Here’s our curated list of underrated outdoor daytrips from the Big Apple. This is the Halfdays Guide to Upstate New York, for the gals that don’t want to relinquish their “outdoorsy” status as Manhattan residents, or are simply looking for the good adventure spots in the East! 

Lake Placid

There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to outdoors enthusiasts, but if you’re anything like us – sometimes you’re craving a taste of ski culture during the off-season. One of our top picks for a weekend away from the city is a little town called Lake Placid.

Located a 5 hour drive north from the city, Lake Placid is a small town that sits in Adirondack Park. As the unofficial winter sports capital of the East, Lake Placid is home to a number of Olympic facilities including the Whiteface Mountain, the Olympic Oval, and the Olympic Jumping Facility. Halfdays co-founder Kiley McKinnon started her professional skiing career training at the Jumping Facility for freestyle aerial skiing – so safe to say it has a special place in our hearts. Lake Placid was home to the 1932 and 1980 Winter Olympic games, and most notably the site of the iconic “Miracle on Ice” game in which the U.S. hockey team won against the Soviet Union. 

During the off-season, Lake Placid is a picturesque outdoors retreat for scenic hiking, fall foliage viewing, and shopping and dining in the quaint downtown area. Pick one of many waterfall hikes in the surrounding Adirondack Park, rent a paddleboard or canoe on the lake, or simply soak in the fresh mountain air – Lake Placid is our ideal destination for escaping the city. 

Watkins Glen International

Feeling fast? Check out our favorite location for car and racing-lovers alike. Located about a 4-hour drive northwest of the city, Watkins Glen International is an iconic automobile race track near Seneca Lake. 

The first permanent, paved course was established in 1956 and in 1961, became home to the Watkins Glen U.S. Grand Prix for Formula One racing through 1980. Over the years following, Watkins Glen was home to NASCAR, SCAA, and Formula One racing tracks and competitions. It is well-established as a racing institution in North America. 

For our thrill-seekers and racing enthusiasts, Watkins Glen is the perfect daytrip for getting that same downhill rush as skiing. You can reserve a “Drive the Glen” experience and pilot your own car or truck around the track behind a paced car. Make it a daytrip and drive the glen after a waterfall hike at Watkins Glen State Park, paired with a wintery tasting. 

Storm King

Seeking a more spiritual or relaxed experience for an Upstate New York day trip? Storm King Art Center is our selection for an outdoor art viewing experience and picnic. Located just an hour and a half from the city, Storm King Art Center is a 500-acre outdoor museum in the heart of the Hudson Valley.

As the largest collection of outdoor art in North America, you can wander the forested and grassy grounds of Storm King, viewing monolithic sculptures and immersive experiences, and brush up on your modern and contemporary art knowledge. 

Our Halfdays tip: make it an outdoor workout and bring your best hiking wear, a picnic blanket, and snacks for a mission around the entire center. 

Andie Jo Smith

Andie is the Content Manager at Halfdays. With a background in writing and photography, she bounces between Austin, Texas, California, and Colorado, creating and connecting with outdoor communities across the West.