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Fall Day Trip Locations Near Syracuse, NY

Fall Day Trip Locations Near Syracuse, NY

Central New York has a wonderful green landscape that’s undoubtedly breathtaking during the summer months. The best part? All that green is turning red, orange, brown and gold and we want front row seats! If you’re planning on taking a fall day trip (or several), check out our handy guide listing five spectacular spots that cater to everyone from the nature lover to the history buff:

1. Green Lakes State Park

Distance from Syracuse: 9.3 miles/15 km

How to get there: Take a short 15 minute drive to 7900 Green Lakes Rd, Fayetteville, via I-690 E and NY-290 E/Manlius Center Rd

  • green lakes state park
    Green Lake shore. Photo by Tanisha Narang.

Just east of Syracuse lies a wondrous scene of glacial green-blue lakes, fascinating hiking trails with breathtaking views, popular camping grounds and much more. Located in the Town of Manlius, Green Lakes State Park is one of Central New York’s natural wonders, and is a fall day trip worth taking!

From biking to boating, there are tons of water and nature activities to experience at Green Lakes. If you have some time on a nice afternoon, try taking a walk on a 90-minute trail around Green Lakes and Round Lakes, where you can get first hand views of the aqua colored waters. If you’re in for an overnight stay, camping is always a go-to activity, featuring hundreds of individual campground sites. Even your dog is welcome! 

A regular visitor to Green Lakes, Tanisha Narang says, “I love coming here to go for a jog on the weekends. It’s also a really nice place for dates. Sometimes I come here on picnics with my boyfriend.”

If you’ve already checked Green Lakes off your list, explore this list of the best parks in Central new York!

Bonus: For the sport lovers, Green Lakes has an 18-hole golf course where you can golf while taking in panoramic views of the park.

2. Beak and Skiff Apple Farms

Distance from Syracuse: 12 miles/20 km

How to get there: Make the 20-minute drive to the town of LaFayette. If you and your friends are in the mood for an adventure, take the SY-510 Centro bus from Syracuse Transit Hub to the town of Tully and then to LaFayette. The one hour bus ride will take you to within a mile of the Farms!

  • beak and skiff apple campus
    The Apple Campus. Photo by Raiha Akram.

At the nation’s best apple-picking farm, you can not only pick and eat some crisp apples straight off the tree but also enjoy fresh apple cider and warm maple donuts among other exceptional food and drink! Known for its apple varieties, cider, distillery and bakery, Beak and Skiff is a fall hotspot for people all over CNY. Start off with the apple wagon ride into the orchard to pick your apples and then enjoy the various items available at the cafe, tavern and general store.

A visitor from Urbana-Champaign in Illinois, Sarah Gaither, said of her fall day trip to the Beak and Skiff, “I enjoyed the green landscape and the leaves turning color on our drive up to the farm.” She also recommended trying Beak and Skiff’s sparkling apple cider available at their general store.

Bonus:  Try the 1911 Distillery’s signature drink and State Fair favorite; the Tipsy Cow – a boozy frappuccino topped off with a maple donut!

3. Skaneateles Lake

Distance from Syracuse: 23 miles/37 km

How to get there: You can take the Centro Aub 36 or 38 bus or drive along NY-321 S

  • skaneateles dock
    Skaneateles Dock. Photo by Ilda Meshi.

Skaneateles Lake is a well-known gem among central New Yorkers. The 16-mile-long lake reaches across the counties of Onondaga, Cayuga and Cortland but the town of Skaneateles is the main attraction for those on a fall day trip. During fall weekends, the New England village attracts bicyclists for sights of the gleaming blue lake. 

The Lake is also a popular spot for sailing. The Mandana Boat Launch is a short 6-mile distance from downtown Skaneateles and offers breathtaking views to hundreds of guests from all around the world. For those of us without a boat, the Sailboat Shop at the Skaneateles Marina offers kayak and canoe renting services. The warmer southern ends of the Skaneateles Lake are an ideal spot for fishing, with over a dozen species of fish. This area is also especially popular during the hunting season in the fall. 

A Syracuse University student, Jean-eric van der Elst, says “Skaneateles Lake is one of my favorite places to visit during the fall time because all of the leaves changing color look really beautiful around the clear blue lake. There’s also so many things to do. Sometimes I go hiking to Carpenter Falls, other times I just come here to kayak. It’s a really relaxing place.”

Bonus: For those looking for special views of the lake and local wildlife, the Bear Swamp State Forest is great for hiking. The 1.3-mile trail called Old Jug Path follows a road north of the Skaneateles Village and opens into a stunning view of Carpenter Falls

4. Fillmore Glen State Park

Distance from Syracuse: 47 miles/75 km

How to get there: Drive south on I-81 through the scenic finger lakes region

  • photo of cowshed fall at fillmore glen
    Cowshed Falls. Photo by Raiha Akram.

Is it a rare sunny fall day? Take advantage of warmer temperatures and pack your snack bag for a fall day trip to Fillmore Glen State Park. Situated near Owasco Lake, the park is around an hour’s drive from Syracuse. It features five stunning waterfalls and a number of hiking trails. The Cow Shed waterfall doesn’t require any hiking and offers a fairy-tale backdrop for your photos, complete with an old stone bridge in the foreground. Various hiking trails lead to viewing decks, event venues and picnic spots. The trip can be customized to make it as easy or as challenging as you want! You’ll find old bath house buildings and other interesting historical markers throughout the park.

Want to know more about the 13th President of the United States? A replica log cabin of the one President Millard Fillmore was born in is located on the rolling greens and gives the park its name! Scan the QR code inside the cabin for a short virtual tour.

If you’re looking for more activities in the area, check out this detailed account of a summer day trip to Fillmore Glen and Skaneateles!

Bonus: Stop at the Firekeepers Restaurant off I-81 for a hearty homestyle midday meal at the family-owned, cash-only eatery!

5. Thousand Islands

Distance from Syracuse: 99.6 miles/160 km

How to get there: The easiest and fastest way is to go there by car. This takes about an hour and a half from Syracuse. If you do not have a car, you could ask a friend or rent a car. Unfortunately, there is no way by bus. 

  • fall day trip to thousand islands
    Need an overview? Enjoy the outlook over the Thousand Islands on top of this tower. Photo by Joe Breuer via

We all know how relaxing it is to spend time in nature. But what if you also want to see more than a beautiful forest and lakes? There is one place that combines stunning nature with human history and incredible architecture. With more than 1,800 islands, the Thousand Islands are a breath-taking destination right at the border between Canada and the US. 

This magical group of islands in the St. Lawrence River used to be an exclusive haven for the elite in the late 19th century. Today, it offers several outdoor activities and a boat trip is only one of them. Some of the islands are so small, all that fits on it is a castle or a mansion, such as the Singer Castle on Dark Island or the German-style Boldt Castle on Heart Island. The local guide Michael Rachid says, “The islands and the lake work together to create a stunning landscape, extremely beautiful all-year around. Take a boat tour and then have a great picnic. On a sunny summer day, there’s nothing better.”

Bonus: Besides the Gothic architecture, there is a lot to discover – how many secret passageways can you walk?

About The Author


This site celebrates the people places, and culture that make Central New York one of the most vibrant and livable regions in the country. From Auburn to Utica, from Syracuse, to Ithaca, this is LivableCNY.

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