Home Travel Guide To The Top Things to Do During Summer In New York

Guide To The Top Things to Do During Summer In New York

by Ohio Digital News

Trust us, if you don’t plan ahead, summer will be over in the blink of an eye. Be sure to make the most of the gorgeous weather and longer days. We’ve rounded up everything for your most adventurous and memorable summer to-do list, from beaches to county fairs to music festivals, and plenty of getaways into the beautiful outdoors. You’ll never have to spend another summer day wondering what to do. Photo Credit: @edwardsgparham on Instagram.

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1. Hit the Beach (Long Island)

A white lifeguard chair and cream colored row boat sitting on the white sand beach in Jones Beach State Park on Long Island

Credit: @grainandgrit on Instagram

Calling all beach enthusiasts! For fine white sands and surf bathing along 6.5 miles of beach along the Atlantic Ocean, look no further than the world-famous Jones Beach State Park (pictured). Find expansive beaches, a maritime forest, historic lighthouse, and more on the Fire Island National Seashore, a 32-mile barrier island only accessible by passenger ferry. If you’re looking for sheer luxury, try Coopers Beach in Southampton, rated among the top 10 in the nation by esteemed beach expert, “Dr. Beach.” Coopers is famous for its white sand dunes and stunning nearby mansions. Beautiful, clean, and quiet Main Beach in neighboring East Hampton is another Dr. Beach favorite. Also check out Hither Hills State Park in Montauk, home to weekly sandcastle-building contests and the incredible “walking dunes” of Napeague Harbor. How do they walk? The wind can actually move 80-foot-high mounds of sand! But slowly, over time.

2. Spend a Day at the Amusement Park (Various Regions)

People raise their arms in glee at the first drop on the Jack Rabbit roller coaster at Seabreeze Amusement Park

Summer is the season for a day out at one of New York State’s iconic theme and amusement parks. Rich with old-fashioned charm, Seabreeze in Rochester is home to the oldest continuously operating roller coaster in America, the wooden “Jack Rabbit.” The world’s largest LEGOLAND in Goshen features seven themed lands of LEGO fun, a hotel experience, and water playground! Grab your bathing suit and your nerves of steel, because Six Flags Darien Lake in Western New York has enormous water slides, artificial whitewater rapids, and, for the truly bold, the Tornado. Plunge down a 132-foot-long tunnel and come shooting out into a massive cone which you ride like a penny in a funnel. If it rains, get a splash of adrenaline at Kartrite Resort and Indoor Waterpark in the Catskills — New York’s largest indoor waterpark. And if you crave thrills that don’t involve any water, Adventureland on Long Island has an amazing spinning roller coaster called Turbulence, or try the iconic Coney Island Cyclone at Luna Park.

3. Cheer on the Horses at Saratoga Race Course (Capital-Saratoga)

Saratoga Race Course

Ready to try your luck? Come place your bets at the historic Saratoga Race Course. The action kicks off early on June 8 when the famed race track plays host to the final leg of the Triple Crown, the Belmont Stakes, for the first time in history. Starting July 11, the 40-day thoroughbred racing season begins. You’ll feel the excitement in the crowd as everyone eagerly watches on. You don’t have to bet to enjoy the spectacle. Book seats in the grandstand, reserve a picnic table, or just bring your own lawn chairs.

4. Go on a Summer Wellness Kick (Various Regions)

YO1 - yoga room


With flowers and trees in full bloom, and long bright days, there’s no better time to recenter, connect with nature, and focus on your wellness goals. Nestled in the tranquil Catskills Mountains, YO1 Wellness Resort & Spa (pictured) offers the ultimate wellness getaway, with health programs, spa treatments and curative therapies tailored to your personal goals. The 22nd Annual Solstice in Times Square takes place on June 20, with all-day yoga classes for first-timers and experienced yogis. Register for the Lake Placid Marathon & Half Marathon on June 9 and run through this charming alpine village with epic mountain views along the route. If you like to keep things simple, detox and destress from everyday life on a camping trip in one of New York State’s beautiful state and national parks for some calming forest bathing.

5. Take a Scenic Drive (Adirondacks)

Whiteface Mountain Veteran's Memorial Highway

Roll the windows down and cruise up into the mountains, taking in stunning vistas of the majestic Adirondacks all along the way! Make your way up Whiteface Mountain Veteran’s Memorial Highway (pictured), a five-mile toll road with views of the Adirondack High Peaks, and get a snack at the top at 4610′ Grill — the highest food truck in New York State! Want more time on the road? Prospect Mountain Veterans Memorial Highway is a 5.5-mile road with three overlooks and expansive views.

6. Head to Canalside Buffalo for Summer Fun on the Waterfront! (Greater Niagara)

People on the boardwalk at Canalside in Buffalo, NY.

Make your way down to the heart of downtown Buffalo for hours of fun in the sun at Canalside, a waterfront revitalization along the Erie Canal. Every year, Canalside hosts over 1,000 events annually, from children’s games to outdoor yoga, to concerts, movie nights and more. All along the water’s edge, you’ll find restaurants, food trucks, and game tables. Rent a kayak or water bike to take in views of the city from the water and bask in the summer vibes, visit America’s largest inland Naval park, take a spin on the Buffalo Heritage Carousel, and more!

7. Rock out (Various Regions)

The entry to the Herkimer Diamond Mines building

Pardon the pun, but New York seriously rocks. At Herkimer Diamond Mines, try your hand at prospecting for Herkimer Diamonds, 500-million-year-old quartz crystals (OK, so they’re not real diamonds, but they’re still beautiful!) and then turn your finds into sparkly jewelry in the artisan center. Make a whole trip out of it by camping and glamping on their grounds, where you can also go tubing, take a dip in the pool, go crayfishing, and more! Now hold on to your mining hats, because the Penn Dixie Paleontological & Outdoor Education Center south of Buffalo boasts the title of #1 fossil park in the US. Once upon a time, the Penn Dixie Cement Corporation used the area for quarrying and exposed layers of rock from the Devonian Period, about 380 million years ago. Take a tour and seek out one-of-a-kind souvenirs to take home with you. Then there’s the Natural Stone Bridge and Caves in the Adirondacks. Take a self-guided tour through naturally-formed marble caves that took shape during the last Ice Age. The attraction also offers mining, panning, and jewelry-making activities for kids.

8. Get up close and personal with Niagara Falls (Greater Niagara)

A group of people in blue raincoats aboard the green and white maid of the mist electric ship with views of the Niagara Falls behind it

Credit: Courtesy of @maidofthemist

Catch some serious spray off the magnificent Niagara Falls from the deck of the famous Maid of the Mist! The boat tour brings you right into the belly of the beast, so to speak, and 600,000 gallons of falling water causes quite a splash. If you’re craving even more water adventure, kick things up a notch with Whirlpool Jet Boat Tours. On the tour, you’ll travel through the Niagara River Gorge right into the heart of Devil’s Hole Class 5 rapids! It sounds risky, but don’t worry, these boats are specially designed to withstand turbulence. Summer is the best time to go because you most definitely will end up soaking wet! (Prefer to stay dry? Covered boats are also available.)

9. Take a Wild Walk (Adirondacks)

Wild Center and Wild Walk

Head to where the wild things are: the Wild Center in the Adirondacks! This can’t-miss stop is designed to create new and exciting experiences in nature. The famous “Wild Walk,” for example, lets you stroll on an elevated trail through the treetops and includes playful elements like a human-sized bird nest or an enormous hammock-like spider web. It’s also highly educational, with exhibits about various local species of animals inside the learning center. You’ll feel at one with nature in no time.

10. Attend Art Festivals and Outdoor Performances (Various Regions)

The Chautauqua Institution on surrounded by green grass and blue skies


Some of the biggest art festivals and performances take place in the summer months, taking advantage of longer, warmer days. Celebrating its 150th year, the Chautauqua Institution’s (pictured) nine-week summer season begins, welcoming over 100,000 people for a schedule of performing and visual arts events, workshops, and lectures. On June 18, enjoy free admission to some of the world’s finest art collections at the Museum Mile Festival in New York City. Visit the hometown of Wizard of Oz author L. Frank Baum for the Oz-stravaganza (May 31-June 2), the largest and longest-running Wizard of Oz-themed festival in the world at the All Things Oz Museum in Central New York. Check out Corn Hill Art Festival (July 13-14) in Rochester, the award-winning summer arts festival that takes over nine streets and features hundreds of artists and musicians from across the country, with beer and wine gardens to enjoy from. For theater under the stars, enjoy free performances of The Winter’s Tale (June 20-July14) and The Comedy of Errors (July 25-August 18) at Shakespeare in Delaware Park in Buffalo.

11. Cruise Lake George (Adirondacks)

The Lake George Steamboat Company's Minne-Ha-Ha docked along the pristine Lake George


Soak in the natural beauty of Lake George by cruising the water with the Lake George Steamboat Company‘s fleet of historic cruise ships. Explore the “Queen of American Lakes” aboard the Minne-Ha-Ha (one of the last steam paddle wheel ships in America), the Mohican (the oldest continuously operated tour boat in America), and the Lac du Saint Sacrement (the largest cruise ship on the inland waters of New York State). Choose from sightseeing, to sunset dinner, night-time, and even firework or champagne brunch cruises.

12. Tour the National Baseball Hall of Fame (Central New York)

The green doubleday field in Cooperstown on a clear sunny day

Credit: @gocooperstown on Instagram

Sports fans will go gaga for the exhibits at the National Baseball Hall of Fame & Museum in Cooperstown. Walk the great hall and find your favorite baseball legends and explore all the memorabilia. The kids can even pick up a scavenger hunt to add more fun to the tour. There’s so much American history and culture wrapped up in the sport that it brings out the nostalgia and pride in even non-sports fans. Best of all, July 19-22 is this year’s Hall of Fame Weekend, so you can watch baseball history in the making. Visitors can attend the induction ceremony, award presentation, Parade of Legends, roundtable discussions, and more.

13. Pick up speed at Watkins Glen International (Finger Lakes)

Several cars racing around the track at Watkins Glen International

Put the pedal to the metal! Drive your car on the track at Watkins Glen International, home to the 1968 Formula 1 United States Grand Prix. You’ll drive two laps around the 3.4-mile circuit before pulling up to the finish line to snap a photo. Or come to watch professional racing all summer long, including the popular NASCAR Race Series in September. Check out the schedule of spectator events on their website here.

14. Celebrate ‘National Get Outdoors Month’ This June (Various Regions)

Green tree-lined mountain ranges lining the glimmering river within the Adirondacks on a sunny day


Get outdoors and explore New York’s natural beauty. There are thousands of lakes and ponds, and miles of rivers and streams, with plentiful canoeing and kayaking opportunities, throughout Adirondack Park’s more than 6 million acres — which is larger than Yellowstone, Yosemite, Glacier, Grand Canyon, and the Great Smoky Mountains national parks combined! There’s also amazing hiking, thanks to the 46 mountains that make up the Adirondack High Peaks with more than 1,800 miles of marked trails, including trails accessible to people with disabilities. Nestled in the southwest corner of the Finger Lakes region, Letchworth State Park is a breathtaking hidden gem of the Northeast. Surrounded by lush forests, the 14,350-acre state park features three large waterfalls between cliffs as tall as 600 feet, carved by the Genesee River. In addition to over 60 miles of hiking trails, Letchworth offers trails for horseback riding and biking, as well as whitewater rafting, kayaking, and hot air ballooning. Celebrate 100 years of New York State Parks with the Centennial Challenge and discover even more unique ways to explore our beautiful parks.

15. Attempt the Sky High Adventure Park Challenge (Chautauqua-Allegheny)

Holiday Valley Sky High Adventure Park

Take to one of America’s largest playgrounds in the trees at the Sky High Adventure Park this summer. Navigate your way through log bridges, ropes courses, and more at the difficulty level of your choosing. Adventure awaits around every corner of Sky High, including an Aerial Park with obstacle courses and zip lines across 5 acres of woods, a Climbing Forest with a 40-foot climbing wall, a Mountain Coaster that zigs and zags through the forest, and Gem Mining for a yesteryear experience that mimics old-fashioned panning for gold. For scenic views, take a chair lift ride up to Spruce Lake, or if you’re searching for more thrills, grab your mountain bike (or rent one at Sky High) and head up the mountain for a 4-5-mile “race loop” and trails catering to all levels.

16. Celebrate Pride Throughout June! (Various Regions)

Two people dance on stage at Southern Finger Lakes Pride

Credit: Credit: Southern Finger Lakes Pride

Pride is on every summer bucket list, and folks from all over the world are coming to celebrate. Of course, you’ll want to attend the NYC Pride March in Manhattan on June 30, but also make your way to Long Island, the birthplace of Harvey Milk, for its annual Pride celebration happening this year in Huntington. The ripple of joy reaches all the way to Niagara Falls, which will be lit up in rainbow colors on June 30.

17. Check Out The Great New York State Fair or a County Fair (Finger Lakes)

Rollercoaster rides and stalls at the New York State Fair on a clear sunny day

Don’t let summer get away without attending at least one county fair, or The Great New York State Fair in Syracuse (August 21-September 2), the first and longest-running state fair in the country that gets bigger every year. Expect animals, fireworks, battered and deep-fried morsels, carnival rides, competitions in everything from jam-making to storytelling, and big-name music headliners like TLC and Joan Jett. The Erie County Fair is the state’s largest county fair and the third-largest county fair in the country. From August 7–18 it will provide a fantastic taste of local New York culture with exciting acts taking the stage at the Buffalo News Grandstand including Paul Russell, Gabriel “Fluffy” Iglesias, and more! The Dutchess County Fair in the Hudson Valley is close to NYC and includes a historical experience amid the array of rides, food offerings, and activities. Costumed actors tell stories and you can step into recreated historical buildings including a printing press, train station, schoolhouse, and more.

18. Celebrate Black History & Culture (Various Regions)

A crowd of people wandering the streets at Harlem Week

Throughout summer, a number of historical and cultural holidays and events take place, with celebrations held across the state. Held every year on June 19, Juneteenth, an official state holiday in New York State, commemorates the abolition of slavery and the preservation and promotion of African American heritage. The 49th Juneteenth Festival of Buffalo is one of the largest Juneteenth celebrations in the U.S., taking place in Martin Luther King Jr. Park. In August, share in the culture, history, and resilience of Harlem throughout Harlem Week (pictured), a two-week-long festival with over 100 events, featuring performances, food, sports, and more (August 7–18). August is National Black-Owned Businesses Month, dedicated to celebrating and supporting black-owned businesses nationwide. Check out our blog for inspiration on black-owned businesses to visit in New York State. For more information, see our highlights on Black History & Culture in New York State.

19. Laugh Your Socks Off (Chautauqua-Allegheny)

Lucy-Desi Museum

Laugh all summer long at the leading celebrator of comedy history in Jamestown! Known for being the hometown of Lucille Ball, this western New York city is home to the National Comedy Center – the world’s largest center dedicated entirely to comedy! Fans of the beloved classic sitcom and comedy lovers alike can enjoy a larger-than-life I Love Lucy experience at the Lucille Ball-Desi Arnaz Museum, a specialty museum celebrating the life and work of America’s most loved and famed comedy duo. Head to Jamestown this summer for the Lucille Ball Comedy Festival (August 1–4) featuring special events and performances by some of today’s biggest names in comedy.

20. Get Out on the 1000 Island Waters (Thousand Island-Seaway)

Boldt Castle aerial view

Credit: George Fischer

Grab a six pack or some lemonade and get ready to relax by the water before it’s time for dinner—fresh fish is on the menu! Picturesque Lake Ontario and its tributaries offer world-class sportfishing, with the chance to reel in a steelhead, Chinook, or walleye. K&G Sportfishing and High Adventure Sport Fishing offer charters and professionally guided trips, so round up the gang. Be sure and read up on how to get a fishing license before you cast your line! The Thousand Islands also has two gorgeous rustic castles for your family to explore this summer. Boldt and Singer Castles both date back to the early 1900s when they were built by wealthy American magnates for their families. Venture out by boat and be mesmerized by their architecture as you learn all about their history on guided tours, or just explore these architectural gems on your own. From August 2–4, head to the 60th Annual Antique Boat Show & Auction in Clayton, where you can marvel at the vessels, make a bid, or enjoy some sailboat rides, vintage skiff rowing, and more!

22. Feel the Rhythm at a Music Festival (Various Regions)

A crowd gathering on the fields of Bethel Woods Center for the Arts festival in the Catskills

Credit: @bethelwoodscenter on Instagram

Dance it out this summer at one of New York’s many music festivals. The Freihofer’s Saratoga Jazz Festival (June 29–30) has two stages for performers, including an amphitheater that typically features big names and a “Jazz Discovery” Stage to see up-and-comers. Add some oomph to your Independence Day weekend with the Ellicottville Summer Music Festival (July 5-7), where the Buffalo Philharmonic will play a score to a fireworks show. Bring the kids! Children 12 and under get in free. Find exciting summer concert series at Central Park and Bethel Woods Center for the Arts.

22. Tour a Winery or Wine Trail (Various Regions)

Two people walking through a leafy vineyard drinking wine in the Finger Lakes

Credit: Courtesy of Finger Lakes Wine Country

​​What better time than summer to sip on a glass of wine overlooking a vineyard? Thankfully, New York State has plenty of wineries and trails in world-famous regions throughout the state. Head to Pellegrini Vineyards and Bedell Cellars in Long Island’s North Fork for international medal-winning wines. Brotherhood, America’s oldest winery, is another can’t-miss stop for wine lovers in the Hudson Valley, offering tours through its vast network of underground cellars used throughout Prohibition. Sip and savor your varietal of choice with scenic lake views along one of the Finger Lakes’ most revered wine trails: Cayuga Lake Wine Trail, Keuka Lake Wine Trail, and Seneca Lake Wine Trail. Find your New York State winery getaway here.

23. Row Canals (Various Regions)

Still waters along a canal underneath a bridge with views of green forests in the background

Credit: @j_bono on Instagram

Take a tour of New York State’s scenic canals this summer at your own pace or at a canal event! The Erie Canalway Challenge is now open for registration, welcoming everyone to participate in cycling, paddling, running, hiking, rolling, or walking along the New York State Canal System spanning 524 miles! Choose your own mileage goals or plan a wellness getaway to remember. From May 31-June 2, it’s Fairport Canal Days, one of the state’s most popular canalside arts festivals that is now in its 47th year! Technically a chasm rather than a canal, grab your kayak and head to Ausable Chasm, a.k.a the Grand Canyon of the Adirondacks, for a leisurely row through naturally formed sandstone aging back 500 million years.

24. Explore Famous Film Locations (Various Regions)

The front of Ghostbusters HQ in Soho New York City

Credit: @brett_schaber_88 on Instagram

New York State is the setting for some of the greatest moments in film and television, with hundreds of productions filmed in the Empire State every year. See how many sights you can cross off our must-see list of Great Movies and TV Shows Featuring New York Attractions. Make it a date by scoping out New York’s Most Iconic Romantic Movie Locations. Also, from June 5-16, New York City will host the Tribeca Film Festival, an annual film festival celebrating storytelling across film, music, games, art, and other immersive experiences.

Masks are encouraged, but optional in most settings per New York State guidelines. Individual businesses or attractions may require mask-wearing. Call ahead and check websites and social media to make sure attractions and amenities are open and available.

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