All American Road Trip: The Best Way to Spend 3 Days in New York (That Don’t Include NYC)

Away from the buzz and bustle of the Big Apple, New York offers a diverse spread of breathtaking destinations that promise to lower your blood pressure and ease you into a blissful state of relaxation.

This three-day itinerary will leave you feeling refreshed for much longer! Our road trip starts at one of the world’s great natural wonders, Niagara Falls. With towering waterpower and a serene park setting, Niagara Falls State Park is the picture-perfect place to begin your journey. Traveling east, we take in winding country roads, fresh air, and Rochester’s cool arts and culture scene. A stop in Saratoga Spa State Park and a night at the palatial Gideon Putnam Hotel are a storybook ending on this relaxing weekend getaway.

This trip is an ideal escape for a busy couple looking to reconnect or an unforgettable weekend with close friends. Or why not embark solo? However you enjoy this trip, you’re sure to find inner peace while appreciating some of the most remarkable landscapes the Empire State has to offer.

Getting Started

This trip is best enjoyed by car, so fill up your tank and head to Niagara Falls to begin the tour. There are several car rental options near Niagara Falls International Airport if you plan to arrive by air and cruise away in the ride of your dreams.

Niagara Falls International Airport is served by Spirit and Allegiant airlines and is located just seven miles from the State Park. For a wider choice of airlines, choose Buffalo Niagara International Airport, which is a short drive or taxi ride to downtown Niagara Falls.

Seneca Niagara Casino & Hotel is a casino located in Niagara Falls, New York. Photo Courtesy of Ken Lund

Where to Stay Near Niagara Falls

There are several hotel options on the American side, including the lively and luxurious Seneca Resort & Casino or Sheraton Niagara Falls. For a quaint option with direct views of the falls, choose Red Coach Inn, a Tudor-style country house that has been a mainstay of Niagara Falls downtown for over a century.

On the Canadian side, many visitors love The Tower Hotel – an actual tower overlooking the top of the falls. Dinner on the 26th floor at Sky Fallsview Steakhouse will give you an incredible view. Be sure you have the proper identification and vehicle authorization (if renting) to cross the international border.

Niagara Falls State Park with Niagara Falls, New York in the background. Photo Courtesy of Andy Nystrom

DAY 1 – NIAGARA FALLS STATE PARK

Niagara Falls State Park is America’s oldest state park and home to one of the most spectacular waterfalls in the world. The famous Horseshoe Falls are the main attraction, set in a waterway that extends between two of the Great Lakes, Erie and Ontario. Nestled between Canada and the U.S., this area has a rich cultural history. Enjoy a serene day exploring all the park and its surrounding attractions have to offer.

The Maid of the Mist boat at Niagara Falls. Photo Courtesy of Eheik

Maid of the Mist

Start by marveling at the ferocity of the falls from one of many viewpoints in the park. Then, grab your blue plastic poncho and set sail aboard the Maid of the Mist, a popular up-close experience at the base of the falls. Prepare to get wet as the tour boat disappears from view, engulfed in the eruption of mist steaming from the falls.

Cave of the Winds on Goat Island. Photo Courtesy of Northfielder

Cave of the Winds

Not close enough to the action for you? Buy your tickets for the Cave of the Winds on Goat Island. Begin your experience with “The World Changed Here” presentation which takes you back in time for an interactive display of Niagara Falls history. From there, ride the elevator deep into the gorge and then take the wooden walkways across to Hurricane Deck, where you’ll be just 20 feet from the tumultuous rush of white water.

As the only restaurant overlooking Niagara Falls, Top of the Falls Restaurant offers visitors to Niagara Falls State Park a one-of-a-kind dining experience. Photo Courtesy of jpellgen (@1179_jp)

Hiking Trails

After a scrumptious lunch with a view at the Top of the Falls Restaurant, enjoy a relaxed afternoon of hiking to appreciate the full breadth of scenery and wildlife in the park. The Upper Great Gorge Hike is an easy two-hour circular trail that follows the Great Gorge Railway route. If you’re a more experienced hiker and want a burst of adrenaline, tackle the Whirlpool Rapids Adventure Hike. This round-trip hike takes three hours and includes boulder hopping across the cool water.

After your adventure-filled day, head back to your hotel for a second night by the falls. Or, hop in the car and drive about 90 minutes east to Rochester ahead of tomorrow’s day of culture and photography.

The Berenstain Bears at The Strong National Museum of Play in Rochester, New York. Photo Courtesy of Ellen Forsyth

DAY 2 – ROCHESTER

Rochester is a formerly-industrial city on the banks of Lake Ontario. Today, it’s known for a range of uniquely niche museums and impressive cultural depth. You’re sure to find many interesting experiences here.

Start the day by embracing your inner child at the Strong National Museum of Play, a wonderfully interactive museum dedicated to the history and exploration of play. With 100,000 square feet of play space, this is quite possibly the largest playground in the world. Step into Sesame Street, tackle the Skyline Climb ropes course and explore the world of video games. Kids from one to 100 will love every minute.

A mile down the street, check out the George Eastman Museum, situated on the estate of the Kodak founder and photography pioneer George Eastman. Delve into the history of photography with galleries dedicated to film archives as well as modern work. The museum is built into Eastman’s old residence, complete with stunning natural and curated gardens that will give you a truly awe-inspiring afternoon.

Grab a late lunch or early dinner at Nosh, a modern upscale restaurant set in the warm industrial glow of a former factory. For an authentic Italian vibe, Fiamma serves up wood-fired pizza and is a popular choice with locals.

Your evening in Rochester can be spent on a quiet walk along the river or among the lively Rochester nightlife scene. Take in some comedy at the Carlson or bowling and live musicals at Radio Social. Whatever you choose, this city won’t disappoint.

The Riverwalk at night in Rochester, New York. Photo Courtesy of Maximilian Kapitonoff

Where to Stay in Rochester

With no shortage of unique hotels, you’ll find relaxation and rest at the top of the list. Try the Inn on Broadway or School 31 Lofts for ultimate hip and modern accommodations.

A race at the famous Saratoga Race Course in Saratoga Springs, New York. Photo Courtesy of O World of Photos

DAY 3 – SARATOGA

Get an early start on your way from Rochester to Saratoga and enjoy a relaxing three-hour drive through the New York countryside. Rolling green hills and quaint farms dot the landscape as you head east. You’re back to thrills on the final day of this New York road trip with a visit to the Saratoga Race Course. With hooves charging and hearts beating, you can’t top a summer day at the races.

If you’re visiting off-season—or horse racing just isn’t your thing—Saratoga has a lively arts scene, centered around the Saratoga Performing Arts Center. An outdoor covered amphitheater, this breathtaking space has hosted some of the biggest names in music. Be sure to check out who will be in town while you’re there! The Beekman Street Arts District on the west side of the downtown is bustling with galleries, studios, and artisan shops selling local crafts.

You’re spoiled for choice when it comes to dinner options in Saratoga. For a special meal, make a reservation at 15 Church Restaurant for food that looks as delectable as it tastes. Seafood is their specialty, though they serve a wide array of vegetarian and vegan options, too. For a budget-friendly option, Triangle Diner serves up tasty home-style dishes at a really affordable price point.

Legend has it that Don McLean penned “American Pie” while sitting in a Saratoga club, so why not head to Caffe Lena to round off your final evening for a buzzing atmosphere and top-quality live music in an intimate setting? And see if you are inspired to write your own masterpiece!

From waterfalls to street art, New York is a beautiful state full of delightful sights and sounds that will fill your senses and help you make memories for a lifetime. Three amazing days and countless rich experiences await!

Reflecting pool in front of Roosevelt Bath and Spas in Saratoga Springs, New York. Photo Courtesy of Sandra Foyt

Where to Stay in Saratoga

The place to stay in Saratoga is the Gideon Putnam Hotel. Set in gorgeous, landscaped gardens, threaded together with interweaving paths, this is the perfect spa resort to round off a wonderful weekend of exploration. Just moments from the famed Saratoga Springs, the Gideon Putnam is also home to the exquisite Roosevelt Baths & Spa, with an overflowing menu of treatments.


The Great American Road Trip. Photo from our Original Series Venturing Out: Park 2 Park

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