Upstate New York is a beautiful area to settle down with family and experience all the four seasons. But where are the best places to live in the Empire State?

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If you’re searching for the best places to live in Upstate New York, you’ve come to the right place. New York is arguably one of the best states to call home, boasting charming towns, impressive schools, and the unmatched beauty of four distinct seasons.

Making the move to New York in the near future? With over 50 different counties plus numerous suburbs and small towns, you may be wondering: Where exactly in Upstate New York should you live? The good news is we’re here to help!

Here’s everything you need to know about the best places to live in Upstate New York.

Is New York a good state to live in?

Moving to Upstate New York - Winter hits hard in upstate New York

New York is split into two distinct areas: New York City and Upstate New York. So if you’re looking to move to New York state, ask yourself: Do you prefer to live in a studio apartment in the middle of the city? Or would you rather be in the country overlooking mother nature’s backdrop? Your answer will determine where in New York you should move to. 

Luckily, in the state of New York, you can do both. That versatility is what makes the state so great.

So why do people move to Upstate New York, specifically? In the Upstate region of the state, scenic parks double as residents’ backyards (while nearby cities are only a short drive away). The state also has endless events for families all year long, whether you’re a museum-goer, foodie, or outdoor adventurer. While New York’s state taxes are among the highest in the nation, there are more-than-affordable towns to choose from. And, let’s face it: the perks of living in the state make up for them.

Reasons to move to Upstate New York:

  • Nature. Getting outside is good for the soul—and for mental health. Adirondack Park, located in Upstate New York, offers over 100 mountains, 2,000 miles of hiking trails and 3,000 lakes.
  • Health. When it comes to healthy eating, it’s never been easier for Upstate New York residents. This is partly due to the fact that the number of farmers’ markets have skyrocketed over the last decade, with NY having the most markets per state in the country.
  • Safety. Some of the safest cities in New York state can be found in the Upstate region—especially in comparison to the New York City area.
  • Seasonality. Two words: Fall foliage. Upstate New York’s picturesque scenery is to die for. In fact, all of its seasons are. While many states experience mild changes in weather patterns, New York residents are lucky enough to experience four distinct seasons.
  • Family. Whether you’re looking to raise a family or searching for the best schools for your kids, New York offers a variety of family-friendly communities throughout the Upstate region. You’ll discover the best places to live in Upstate New York for families in no time.

Upstate New York vs. New York City: Geographic Location

Covering almost 55,000 square miles, the state of New York ranks as the 27th largest state by size. It’s a common misconception to consider New York State and New York City one in the same. The truth is, they couldn’t be more different. Just ask any Upstate New York resident and see what they have to say about being grouped in with NYC.


Moving to Upstate New York - New York City is not upstate-New York

Covering almost 55,000 square miles, New York ranks as the 27th largest state by size. It’s a common misconception to consider New York State and New York City one and the same. The truth is, they couldn’t be more different. Ask any Upstate New York resident and see what they have to say about being grouped in with NYC.

When people refer to “New York City,” they mean Manhattan—the heart of the Big Apple. Manhattan is home to Central Park, Broadway, The Empire State Building, and many more iconic locations. But “The City” extends far beyond Manhattan. NYC comprises five boroughs or counties: Manhattan, Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn, and Staten Island. Together, they make up the largest (and most populous) city in the entire country. The area has a population of more than 8,500,000 distributed over 300 square miles.


Pros and Cons of Living in New York City vs. Upstate

Life in New York City is full of opportunities. While it comes with a price tag, it’s home to some of the world’s best companies, restaurants, theaters, parks, and cultural activities. If there’s one thing you need to know, it’s that life moves quickly in the city that never sleeps. Residents become accustomed to around-the-clock people, traffic, and noise in exchange for career experience and the opportunity to create a better life. Cons of living in the city include a competitive job market and generally high cost of living.

Halfway across the state and several hours away, there’s an entirely different world: Upstate New York. If you’re from out of state, “Upstate New York” most likely refers to any part of the region that isn’t New York City. But if you’re a New York state native, you already know it’s much more nuanced.

Technically, the Upstate NY region includes most of the state of New York, excluding New York City, the Lower Hudson Valley, and Long Island. The Upstate region can be broken down further into Western New York and Central New York.

Why Should I Move to Upstate NY?

While Upstate is made up of midsize cities (Buffalo, Syracuse, Albany, etc.) there’s no comparison in size or population to NYC. The residents also couldn’t be more different. Upstate New York is where city dwellers go to find a break from the hustle and bustle of their everyday lives. The region’s lakes, mountains, trails and fall foliage make it easy to plan the perfect getaway. Residents can enjoy living in the suburbs, while still being in proximity to downtown areas and outdoor adventures.


Best Places to Live in Upstate New York

If you’re searching for some of the best places to live in New York State, look no further. Upstate New York offers various landscapes and environments to choose from quaint towns in the country to up-and-coming metro areas. Are you looking to raise a family? Pursue a job opportunity? Plan for retirement? No matter your reason for moving to Upstate New York, there are plenty of options for everyone.

Here are some of the best Upstate NY towns to live in—beginning with Western New York.

Where to Live in the Western New York & Finger Lakes Region

Buffalo, New York

Moving to Upstate New York - Buffalo is one of the best places to live

Interested in moving to Buffalo, NY? In short, you should be. Buffalo is undoubtedly one of the best cities to live in when considering the Upstate New York region as a whole. 

Why Should I Move to Buffalo, New York?

Buffalo has seen a massive renaissance over the last few years and offers residents endless things to do. Its waterfront revitalization has helped create new restaurants, bars, bike lanes, kayak tours, free outdoor yoga, and more. Residents will also tell you how much they love their football, chicken wings, beef on weck, and holiday celebrations like St. Patrick’s Day, Dyngus Day, Pride, and more.

Buffalo is also booming with education and technology. It’s one of the top places for entrepreneurs and startups.

Everything is also conveniently within a 20-minute drive—despite Buffalo being the second-largest metro in the state of New York. Whether you prefer to reside in the suburban outskirts or close to downtown, Buffalo has you covered.

But the best part? Its people. For an excellent reason, Buffalo is known as the City of Good Neighbors. Whether they’re cheering with you at a Bills game or helping shovel your car out of the driveway, Buffalo residents are some of the friendliest people you will ever meet. 

  • Region: Western New York
  • County: Erie
  • 2020 Population: 281,000
  • 2022 Average home price: $175,000
  • 2022 Average rent: $1,211

Reasons to move to Buffalo: Downtown revitalization, sense of community, wonderful people.

Rochester, New York

Moving to Upstate New York - Rochester is one of the best places to live

About an hour east of Buffalo, you’ll find the city of Rochester, NY. While it’s the third-most populous city in New York, Rochesterians get to enjoy being part of a tight-knit community.

Why Should I Move to Rochester, New York?

Suppose you’re planning on moving to Rochester, NY. In that case, you will enjoy a great cost of living and ample job opportunities at some of the area’s largest employers, including institutions like the University of Rochester, Strong Memorial Hospital, the Rochester General Health System, and Wegmans Food Markets, Inc. But job opportunities aren’t all that Rochester has to offer— the city’s arts and culture scene is booming, too! With popular events and celebrations like Rochester Fringe Festival, Rochester International Jazz Festival, Rochester Lilac Festival, and more, there’s no shortage of things to do in the city of Rochester and the surrounding area. 

If you’re a self-proclaimed foodie, you’ll also love the city for its abundance of bars and restaurants to explore. Its close proximity to the Finger Lakes region also makes it a popular destination for wine trails and craft breweries galore.

Just don’t forget to try Rochester’s iconic garbage plate, a regional dish piled high with delicious guilty pleasures like hamburger meat, home fries, and macaroni salad. You’ve got to see it to believe it!  
As for the logistics of finding a place to live in Rochester, the city offers some of the most affordable homes in the area. Whether searching for a house in Downtown Rochester or the suburbs, you’ll find fairly priced homes from town to town. And getting around is a breeze if you live in a suburb of Rochester. For the most part, everything is centrally located. You can easily travel from place to place in about 15-20 minutes via Interstates 390, 490, and 590.

  • Region: Western New York/Finger Lakes
  • County: Monroe
  • 2020 Population: 206,000
  • 2022 Average home price: $134,000
  • 2022 Average rent: $1,246

Reasons to move to Rochester: Affordability, location, economy.

Ithaca, New York

If you’ve ever had the pleasure of visiting Ithaca or the surrounding Finger Lakes region, you already know that Ithaca is one of the most beautiful places in all of Upstate New York. From vibrant fall foliage to breathtaking snowscapes, there’s no shortage of picturesque scenery in Ithaca, no matter what time of year it is. 

Moving to Upstate New York - Ithaca is one of the best places to live

Why Should I Move to Ithaca, New York?

Located at the southern tip of Cayuga Lake in the Finger Lakes Region of New York state, Ithaca is a quaint college town with 25,000 acres of public land for hiking, biking, and outdoor recreation. Known for its many state parks, gorges, hiking trails, and impressive collection of 150 beautiful waterfalls, Ithaca is one of the best places to live if you’re outdoorsy. As the saying goes: “Ithaca is gorges!” 

Some of the most popular destinations in the Ithaca area include Buttermilk Falls State Park, Robert Treman State Park, Watkins Glen State Park, and Taughannock Falls State Park. These feature expansive gorges and waterfall hiking trails just waiting to be explored. 

Not into hiking or outdoor activities? You’ll love exploring Ithaca’s surprisingly robust public art scene. You can easily spend a day or an entire weekend tracking down all the beautiful murals scattered throughout the city— most of which have been painted by local artists! 

Given Ithaca’s prime location in the Finger Lakes region, you’ll also find over 30 fantastic wineries and microbreweries to try, plus an impressive restaurant and bar scene in the city center. No matter what you’re into, there’s always something new to explore.

If you’re planning a move to Ithaca, it’s important to note: The housing market is competitive in Ithaca and rental supply is limited—mainly because the housing market isn’t growing as fast as the job market. With a solid educational foundation, Ithaca has a constant stream of renters due to nearby Ithaca College and Cornell University. 

That said, Ithaca’s proximity to these educational institutions makes it a phenomenal place if you’re heading off to college for the first time or looking to start a new graduate program soon. No matter what phase of life you’re currently in, Ithaca has something for everyone!

  • Region: Finger Lakes
  • County: Tompkins
  • 2020 Population: 30,000
  • 2022 Average home price: $370,000
  • 2022 Average rent: $1,350
  • Reasons to move there: Strong education, natural beauty, modern development.

Where to Live in the Central & Eastern Upstate NY Regions

Syracuse, New York

Moving to Upstate New York - Syracuse is one of the best places to live

Located in Central New York—about an hour East of Rochester—is the city of Syracuse. Just last year, U.S. News and World named Syracuse the No. 1 place to live in New York State.

Why Should I Move to Syracuse, New York?

First, you’ll never run out of things to do in Syracuse. Unlike Buffalo, Syracuse’s downtown district is small and walkable. You won’t want to miss Armory Square, a strip packed with restaurants, bars, shops, and more. Syracuse is also home to Destiny USA, the sixth-largest shopping mall in the United States, which offers six stories of shopping and entertainment near Onondaga Lake.

If you’re planning on moving to Syracuse, NY, one of the biggest perks you’ll enjoy is its convenience. Not only are surrounding suburbs a short 15-minute drive from the city, but Syracuse is also centrally located in the region. It’s only four hours from New York City and a short drive to Saratoga Springs. Compared to similar metro areas, Syracuse also comes at a more affordable price.

Syracuse is famous for its heavy snowfall— averaging over 120 inches per year. But Central New Yorkers get used to the winter weather, and still get to enjoy pleasant summers and gorgeous fall seasons. Syracuse is the educational and economic hub of Central New York, with prestigious Syracuse University and a variety of career opportunities throughout the area. Some of the largest employers include: Lockheed Martin, Syracuse University, St. Joseph’s Hospital Center and Upstate University Health System.

  • Region: Central New York
  • County: Onondaga
  • 2020 Population: 142,000
  • 2022 Average home price: $135,000
  • 2022 Average rent: $1,356

Reasons to move to Syracuse: Affordability, size, endless things to do.

Related: Moving to Syracuse, NY? A Guide for Living in America’s Snowiest City

Albany, New York

Moving further East, we head into Albany, NY: the Capital District. Two and a half hours north of New York City, Albany is located directly between the Adirondack Mountains and the Hudson Valley. Locals refer to it as the Tri-City Area, a region including Troy and Schenectady.

Moving to Upstate New York - Albany is one of the best places to live

Why Should I Move to Albany, New York?

You’ll love Albany’s old-world appeal if you’re a history buff. The downtown area is home to more than 400 years of impressive architecture, like City Hall and the Empire State Plaza. Made up of 98 acres of buildings (including the Capitol and State Museum), the Empire State Plaza serves as the hub of all things government-related for New York State. It also offers tours, farmer’s markets, fitness classes, and free events for its residents.

The Capital Region also offers world-class education for its residents. The University at Albany, part of State University of New York’s (SUNY) system, has more than 1,000 study abroad programs, 200 clubs, 18 NCAA Division I teams and nationally renowned programs in criminal justice, social work and public affairs.Even younger students can enjoy great education options, too. Tech Valley High School launched in 2007, in part with a $400,000 grant from Bill Gates’ New Technology Foundation. The school offers a project-based academic program with special emphasis on technology.

  • Region: Capital District
  • County: Albany
  • 2020 Population: 96,000
  • 2022 Average home price: $245,000
  • 2022 Average rent: $1,500

Reasons to move to Albany: Proximity to a political hub, solid cultural scene, rich history.

Saratoga Springs, New York

Located only a couple hours from Albany and New York City is Saratoga Springs, NY, also known as “Spa City.” And if you’re a fan of summer and winter recreational sports, you’ll definitely consider Saratoga Springs one of the best places to live in Upstate New York. 

Moving to Upstate New York - Saratoga Springs is one of the best places to live

Why Should I Move to Saratoga Springs, New York?

Best known for its iconic horse races, fascinating mineral springs, and rich history, Saratoga Springs is, without a doubt, one of New York State’s best-hidden gems. And while the city itself might not be one of the most affordable places to live in the state, it does offer some of the most beautiful and spacious houses on the market today, all of which are priced relative to its higher quality of life. 

Despite Saratoga Springs’s higher cost of living than other cities on this list, the city is still a fantastic place to live for individuals and families alike. Looking for a bustling city or nightlife scene? Saratoga Springs has an adorable and completely walkable downtown area that’s filled with restaurants, bars, and shops to explore. Hoping for a calmer neighborhood to start or raise a family in? Saratoga Springs also offers an excellent school system and a low crime rate, with some of the safest suburbs in the state. 

Finally, you’re in luck if you’re into summer or winter sports and activities. Saratoga Springs is bustling during the summer months for horse racing season at the Saratoga Race Course— you may even run into a celebrity or two if you attend the races! But the fun doesn’t end during the colder months. Saratoga Springs is also a top winter sports destination where you can enjoy skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, tubing, and more. It’s safe to say that no matter what season you’re in, there’s never a shortage of things to do.

  • Region: Upstate
  • County: Saratoga
  • 2020 Population: 28,000
  • 2022 Average home price: $494,000
  • 2022 Average rent: $2,000

Reasons to move to Saratoga Springs: Great school system, safe suburbs, an ambulance of summer and winter activities.

Hudson, New York

Moving south, we come to the Hudson Valley, one of the richest agricultural areas of New York—it’s even been called the “Napa Valley of the East.” For an eclectic urban experience surrounded by large swaths of stunning open land, look no further than Hudson, New York.

Why Should I Move to Hudson, New York?

Hudson has a long history as a port city, where goods and services flowed up and down the Hudson River to other parts of the state. The downtown retains this historic look, with many of its original Federalist-style buildings repurposed into shops, galleries, restaurants, and artists’ studios. Hudson’s easy access to New York City—two and a half hours by car, or a little over two hours by train—has made it one of the most desirable cities for those looking to move out of the city but still enjoy an urban atmosphere. It’s also a short drive to several other growing Upstate New York cities and towns, including Poughkeepsie, Beacon, Kingston, Newburgh and Rhinebeck.

Despite its small size, Hudson is one of the best up-and-coming areas for business, with affordable rental rates and a strong talent pool to draw from. The city is also buzzing with arts and culture of all types—performing arts, visual arts, handmade goods, literature, food and more. From Olana State Historic Site to Basilica Hudson and the Hudson River Exchange, you’ll never tire of the dozens of unique things to do and see in Hudson, and the fascinating people who make the city tick.

  • Region: Hudson Valley
  • County: Columbia
  • 2020 Population: 6,100
  • 2022 Average home price: $333,400
  • 2022 Average rent: $1,500

Reasons to move to Hudson: Historic urban feel, proximity to natural parks and trails, ease of access to New York City.


Are you ready to move to Upstate NY?

From charming small towns to prospering cities and everything in between, any part of Upstate New York makes a wonderful place to call home. Whether you’re drawn to its beautiful waterfalls, winter wonderlands or family friendly communities, you will love everything the state of New York has to offer.

Now that you know some of the best places to live in Upstate New York, it’s time to make your move. We’re here to help make that process as seamless as possible. If you’re moving to Buffalo, Rochester, Albany, or Syracuse, we offer self-storage units to make your life easier:

Are you planning on moving to Upstate NY? Are you a current resident with some tips and insiders? We’d love to hear about your experience. Let us know on Twitter, @LifeStorage!

Update: This post was originally published on August 3, 2018, and was revised on August 25, 2019, with new information from New York expert, Robin Catalano.

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5 reasons to move to Upstate New York, plus where to live


About the Author

Robin Catalano

Robin Catalano is a freelance writer and editor who has published over 100 articles and 1,000 blog posts. She has lived in Upstate NY, near Albany, for more than 15 years, and frequently works with clients and colleagues in the capital city as well as in Hudson and Troy. Robin is also a two-time speaker and mentor at the Women in Travel Summit. View more of her work on her website and blog.

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