New York road trips by season

By David Farley

Photography by Getty

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So you want to fly drive from the Big Apple? New York-based travel editor, David Farley, lets us in on the best places to drive outside New York City, whatever the time of year.

Spring: Finger Lakes, New York

Best for… wine imbibers

Upstate New York’s Finger Lakes region offers ample amounts of adventure and eye-pleasing landscapes. But the most delicious reason to put pedal to the metal and leave the Big Apple behind is for the Finger Lakes’ various award-winning wineries.

The most delicious reason to put pedal to the metal and leave the Big Apple behind is for the Finger Lakes’ various award-winning wineries

The journey: 250 miles, 5 hours

Hop on Highway 80 and cruise through New Jersey and Pennsylvania, passing through Scranton, the home of the American version of the TV show The Office. But don’t stop until you get to the charming university town of Ithica, New York. The leafy campus of prestigious Cornell University is a good reason to stretch your legs.

  • Don’t forget to stop and visit the prestigious Cornell University © Getty

    High achiever

    Cornell University was ranked 16th best university in the world in 2016-17, and 26% of students who studied at Cornell in 2015 originated from New York State.

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  • Try the produce from the vine at the wineries around Finger Lakes © Getty

    Grape escape

    New York State is the second largest wine producing state in the USA, but still trails California, which makes around 90 per cent of US wine.

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  • Wind your way through the countryside at the Finger Lakes © Getty

    Not just a glass of fine wine

    The Finger Lakes were formed by the Great Spirit of Native American tradition, whose fingers formed imprints as he touch the earth to bless it.

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Once you reach the lakeside town of Finger Lakes, begin the grape-fuelled exploration, driving around the shores of the handful of finger-shaped waters and stopping at the plethora of wineries that offer tastings. Not sure which one to stop at? Then add Americana to your list, which serves its samples in a restored barn from the 1820s and offers live music on Friday and Saturday evenings.

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Summer: The Hamptons, New York

Best for… beachgoers

It’s impossible to separate summer in New York City with the Hamptons. Hop in your hire car and point it eastward, driving over the Brooklyn Bridge and onto the LIE – Long Island Expressway.

The journey: 100 miles, 2.5 hours

Cruise through suburban Long Island until you reach the chic and cool Hamptons. Sure, there’s a see-and-be-seen element to these beach towns in the summer but your main concern is picking the proper strand on which to catch some rays and battle some waves. Mecox Beach in Bridgehampton is good for families, but for the most authentic Hamptons beach experience, unroll your towel on East Hampton’s Main Beach, often included in lists of the best beaches in America for its cleanliness and number of services available.

And if all that sun soaking builds up an appetite, the Hamptons are renowned for great restaurants. Everyone from ordinary folks to celebrities flock to Bostwick’s Chowder House in East Hampton for authentic seafood, served on paper plates – from plus-sized lobsters to fried oysters, this is a real taste of the Hamptons. For something slightly more formal, grab a spot at North Fork Table for just-pulled-from-the-sea fish and grass-fed sirloin steaks.

  • Relax on the sun-bleached sands at the Hamptons © Getty

    Did you know…?

    New York is packed full of hidden beaches and places to lay down your towel.

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Autumn: Vermont

Best for… nature lovers

In the northeastern United States, leaf peeping is a deep-seeded pastime for locals and visitors alike. And it’s easy to see why with the riot of autumnal colours that explode through the low-rolling hilly landscape. Best of all, Vermont – ground zero for leaf peepers – is only a few hours drive from New York City.

The journey: 333 miles, 5.5 hours

As you cruise northward in your hire car, passing through Connecticut and Massachusetts, note that the colours of the trees grow deeper and deeper in reds, yellows, and oranges with each mile.

Make your base in the charming town of Stowe and then drive south down highway 100, considered to be one of the most scenic roads in the United States, absorbing New England nature at its most glorious. Continue driving south until you hit the Green Mountain National Forest, which lights up in autumn with colours galore. In the town of Warren, tuck into a gourmet meal at 275 Main, the restaurant connected to the Pitcher Inn, for delicious inspired delights like roasted duck breast with walnut gnocchi and line-caught halibut.

Where to stay

Stowe Mountain Lodge is about as cosy and rustic as they come and a great base for gawking at the area’s kaleidoscope of leaves.

Winter: Lake Placid, New York

Best for… ski aficionados

Sprinkled around the north-eastern United States and within relatively short drives from New York City are a legion of great ski resorts. One of the best is Whiteface Mountain. The 1980 Winter Olympics were held there. Need any other proof that this is a great place to ski? The drive to Lake Placid is an aesthetically pleasing cruise through coniferous forests and small towns, complete with charming high streets.

  • Only 30 minutes’ drive from Lake Placid, the Whiteface Mountain offers panoramic views of the American wildlands © Getty Images

    Winter is coming

    Whiteface Mountain’s latest addition is the Veterans Memorial Highway, a road that travels to the peak featuring nine stops for breath-taking views.

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The journey: 290 miles, 6 hours


Take a breather about halfway through the journey in Saratoga Springs, where you can “take the waters,” as travellers have been doing for centuries. Said to have healing powers, the water flows out of public fountains or you can even take a rejuvenating mineral bath at the Roosevelt Baths & Spa.

When you arrive in Lake Placid, take a drive around town to see some of the Olympic sites, such as the ski jump and the Herb Brook Arena, where the legendary “Miracle on Ice” took place (the US hockey team upsetting the Russians).

Finally, hit the slopes at Whiteface Mountain, a 35-minute drive from the centre of town.

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