Camping at NY State Parks
When traveling, for the most part, I like to at least have my lodging planned out. And I just found a pretty cool section of the NYS Parks website which helps you find a campsite when you're planning for a last-minute weekend trip.
From the state camping reservation homepage, you can click on "Camping this Weekend" which then lets you narrow down your search by region (ie Finger Lakes, Catskills, Adirondacks, Palisades, Long Island,etc). It then lists all of the state campgrounds in that area and shows which ones are available.
That's how I found the Sampson State Park along Seneca Lake.
Of course, when I first started looking I wanted to stay at Buttermilk Falls in Ithaca since I had heard some good things about their water hole. But I am so glad we stayed at Sampson.
My boyfriend and I were able to enjoy Buttermilk Falls during the day and then drove to Sampson that evening. Sampson has a beach, pier, concession stand, playground, tennis court, and recreation hall. There's even a military museum since the site was the second largest naval training station in the country.
The state park is along the wine trail and right across the street from an area that is known for its white deer.
Our campsite itself was a good size with trees, a fire pit/grill, and picnic table. The restrooms/showers were a short walk away, as was the beach shore from the site.
What I found was that just because a site is well-known or popular does not make it the best. I'm sure Buttermilk Falls is a great campground but I'll probably never know from personal experience since I'll never plan that far in advance to get a site there. ;) And I'm OK with that. I look forward to discovering other places, like Sampson State Park, that I had never heard of before and finding out - for myself - that they're pretty amazing.