The Best Fall Drives in New York State

Or, How We Learned to Stop Complaining and Enjoy the Only Reason People Stay in this Godforsaken State

Fall in New York is a pretty special time. It’s that magical sweet spot between the hot and muggy summers and the brutally cold winters. It’s really the only season everyone in New York agrees on being awesome and too short. Seemingly every part of the state comes into it own in the early to late autumn.

With these things in mind, here are a few of the best drives in NYS to enjoy this autumn. They are in no particular order.

Rt. 98 South of Batavia to Ellicottville:

The drive on NY-98 from Batavia to Ellicottville is the perfect chance to break out the BMW E30 or your classic Porsche
Screenshot Courtesy: Google Maps

The hills are alive, with the sound of “BRAAAAPBRAPBRAP” Seriously, the entire drive South of Attica through Genesee and Wyoming Counties on Rt. 98 is like a scene out of The Sound of Music. Rolling hills, gorgeous vistas, humongous elevation changes and tight, banked corners: Rt. 98 is hidden gem for petrolheads. Most of the hills around here have gigantic windmills as well all the way to a little Bavarian town plopped right down in the middle of NY: Ellicottville. The absolute best time to go down there is for the Oktoberfest, but mind you, the parking is an absolute nightmare.

Best car to take: Its usually cold up in the hills, and the clientele is definitely upscale. Leave the Buick, take a Porsche for the best results on the undulating roads, fast sweeping curves, and tree lined solitude. Seriously, the Porsche was made for roads like this. However, an honorable mention has to go out to the BMW E30, which we’ve driven on this road hundreds of times on the road to Ellicottville for Oktoberfest and skiing at Holimont and Holiday Valley. 

Lake George, Saratoga, and Greenwich:

The drive through many parts of the 518 is like riding through an Ansel Adams photo.
Screenshot Courtesy: Google Maps

Our Head of SEO is from this area, so going out here in the fall is the absolute best. We’re lumping them all together because it’s different heads of the same animal. Much like Rt. 98 to Ellicottville, these roads are built for speed through the heart of an Ansel Adams photograph. The colors out here in the middle to late fall are positively explosive. Later in the season, Lake George takes on this Noir/Coney Island/faded greatness feel to it. All of the money from Saratoga and the Lake has departed for 5th Avenue and the winter abodes. It really feels empty. Saratoga never really gets the feel, and the Saratoga Battlefield looks awesome with the fall colors. Greenwich is a small town east of Saratoga, and the roads come straight out of the Spa-Francorchamps Formula 1 track.

What to drive: this is a tough one actually. Balance, and power are important with the way that the roads are, but size and stability is also important. These roads are not ones where you want to hang your ass out, so a big German saloon such as a 5 Series BMW or E class Mercedes are probably your best bets.

Seneca Lake:

The Central Finger Lakes are super popular in the fall for everything from wine tours to weddings, and for very good reason. It is absolutely gorgeous. There is a surprising amount of stuff to do in the million little towns that surround the lake, as well as the other lakes that are all pretty much a stones throw away. Belhurst Castle, literally 2 dozen wineries and distilleries, and Watkins Glen State Park(say nothing for the former American Grand Prix circuit at Watkins Glen) Here’s what we suggest, take a weekend, hit a few wineries, and blow out your hangover with a track day at one of the foremost tracks in the North East.

What to drive: Bite the bullet, get a rental Corvette. Why a rental? Well quite simply put, you wont feel bad when you’re bouncing it off the rev limiter at the bus stop. If we’re going to be real, you’re just going to rent a limo when you’re winery hopping, so practicality needs to stop at two duffel bags of clothes and a bag of Doritos. Which you don’t even have to bring you–can just stop at Wegmans.

Letchworth State Park:

Hailed as the "Grand Canyon of the East" Letchworth State Park provides great views and nice curving, driving conditions,
Image Courtesy: Wikipedia

Billed as the “Grand Canyon of the East,” Letchworth State Park is a series of gorges connected with narrow, winding, stone wall lined roads. Three massive waterfalls, tree lined drives, and great places to stop and take it all in: Letchworth really has all of the elements of a great fall drive.

Best car to take: Something small, drop top, and short wheelbase. You don’t need a ton of power, as you really probably shouldn’t drive too fast (the drops are high and frequent). So an MGB or Fiat Spyder would be a great fit.

NY-17

NY-17 cuts through some of the most beautiful country in NYS, providing a scenic passage between upstate and Westchester.
Screenshot Courtesy: Google Maps

The scenic way into downstate NY, Rt 17 cuts through some of the most beautiful country the state has to offer. Then it meets up with the Hudson River in Dutchess County. This is really the only way to get into NYC from Rochester that is worth your time, so it’s one of our favorites when hitting up our pals in Eastchester.

What to drive: Something with good range, as you want to take in the scenery in big chunks. A BMW 3 series works well for this, as it has a comfortable enough ride and long enough range that you can scythe through these banked roads with ease.

Durand Eastman Parkway:

One of the hidden driving gems of the Rochester region, the Durand Eastman Parkway is a great drive anytime of year.
Screenshot Courtesy: Google Maps

Hands down, the shortest drive on this list, the Durand Eastman Parkway is a mere 6 miles long. However, it is the argument that Rochesterians silently make when people say that Rochester is ugly. It cuts through Durand Eastman park along Lake Ontario from the North side of Irondequoit to Charlotte. More importantly, the thing at the end of this road is one of the best roads in the state: The NYS Parkway. This wide open, nearly abandoned 2 lane highway is where we find out as fast cars go.

What to drive: anything that you want to find out how fast it goes. The swooping, winding road gives way to the wide open, balls to the wall parkway. This is not for the faint of heart, and parts of it out in Orleans County are beyond terrible condition.

Overall, New York has some great fall drives. However, we know that sometimes car problems can slow you down. So, if you have a problem with your car before or during one of these fall drives, or want a tech to take a look at one of the cars in this list: use Surfwrench.com. We’re from NY, and we can get you back on the road faster, and cheaper than anyone else.

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