Sometimes, the hustle and bustle of New York City can get to your head. The scenery becomes familiar, and everything blends in with another. While NYC is a great place to explore, you’ve likely been to many of these locations already. Thankfully, New York is centrally located. This means there are plenty of places to visit for short amounts of time.
Regardless if you have a family or are traveling solo, close day trips are sure to satisfy everyone involved. From small beach towns to fun family activities, the options are endless.
While NYC is frequently called the “Concrete Jungle,” there is little room for traditional outdoor adventure. Instead of concrete pavements, there are plenty of options to enjoy nature just outside of New York City.
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Bear Mountain State Park
Located in Rockland County, Bear Mountain State Park attracts outdoor enthusiasts year-round. With over 5,000 acres of land, there are hundreds of hiking and biking trails. Other activities you can participate in include fishing, swimming, and picnicking. One of the most popular destinations here is the Bear Mountain Lookout. Hike, drive, or bike up to the mountain summit and witness 360-degree views of the Hudson River and other surrounding state parks. For an even better view, climb the Perkins Memorial Tower. It’s the highest point in the area and allows for spectacular views.
For the explorers, check out the abandoned hamlet Doodletown. This is a location where the British Army marched through to attack Fort Clinton in 1777. Since then, this town is overgrown and historically marked. Find old cemeteries, schoolhouses, and other faded architectures here.
When warmer months pass, the state park remains open for recreation. In the winter, trails and mountainsides transform into sled and cross-country skiing trails. Also, the state park owns an outdoor ice-rink to enjoy in these colder months. Be aware that the Perkins Memorial Tower and the driving road that takes you there are closed at this time.
Bear Mountain State Park is about an hour drive from NYC. Alternatively, take the Hudson Line via Metro-North from Grand Central Terminal to Peekskill Station. This will take you approximately 1.5 hours.
Sunken Meadow State Park
Alternatively known as the Governor Alfred E. Smith State Park, this King’s Park 1,200-acre state park is sure to amaze. With various landscapes in a single area, you can go from swimming in an ocean to hiking beautiful trails in one day. This state park borders the Smithtown Bay which makes it great for a summertime dip. Boat launches are also available. Bring a kayak, canoe, stand-up paddleboard, and more for a calm row. One of the things that people love most about this water is how far out you can go. During certain times of the day, you can walk on the sandbar out nearly a mile in the water and still have it under knee-depth.
After your swim, you can walk the six miles of mountain trails that overlook the bay. Frequently, people will sit in hammocks and lounge in the shaded views here. If you prefer to walk on a boardwalk instead, the rarely-crowded boardwalk is a three-quarter mile long. For even more recreation, the state park even has a 27-hole golf course on premise. Golf lessons and a driving range are available.
Sunken Meadow State Park is a top location to spend a relaxing day in just outside of New York City. It has everything you may need. From a gift shop to a food court, Sunken Meadow has you covered.
You can drive to Sunken Meadow State Park by means of the Sunken Meadow Parkway in about 1.5 hours. At the gate, they charge between $8 and $10 per car to enter. The price depends on the time of year. Keep in mind; you can enter free if you get there before or after booth opening and closing hours (7 am – 6 pm).
Just 90 miles north of New York City, this preserve protects the entire range of beautiful Shawangunk Mountains. There are plenty of activities for both the beginner and the advanced adventurer. For example, over 75 miles of trails are available. Once carriage roads are now historical places to bike and hike on. A variety of levels are open for all skill levels. Alternatively, enjoy the views on horseback with a horseback ride from the Spring Farm Trailhead.
The part of the Mohonk Preserve that attracts most people, though, are the Shawangunk Mountains. Famous for their cliffs, over 800,000 climbers and boulderers visit yearly. Climbers have nicknamed these ridges the “Gunks.” There are over 1,000 routes available on these mountains. Many of them are currently closed, though, in the event of a preservation goal. Keep this in mind when planning your trip. Even if you’ve never climbed before, you can participate in one of the many climbing clinics the staff hold here.
In the winter months, trails open for skiing and snowshoeing.
After a long day of adventure, the Gunks’ Visitor Center is full of plant and animal life to observe. From a butterfly garden too small turtles and frogs, you can learn about all of the nature surrounding you. Even take a look at the 3-dimensional interactive topographic map they have on display.
It takes an average of 2 hours to reach the Mohonk Preserve by car from New York City.
For a learning experience outside of your city, take a day trip to the surrounding areas. Full of historical landmarks, you’re sure to learn a lot about important places in time. Not only are they filled with stories, but they are beautiful as well.
Old Westbury, NY
The village of Old Westbury is a picturesque town full of past secrets. First settled in 1658, it was home to native Quaker settlers. Large farms lined the area. A couple of hundred years later in the 1890s, a new era called the Estate Era began. New, large homes were built for wealthy New York City livers who wanted a change of pace. These enormous abodes are still available to view today.
A famous historical landmark in Old Westbury is the Old Westbury Gardens. This was the home of late Henry Phillips. He was a friend of Andrew Carnegie and director of the United States Steel Corporation. This residence was built in the early 1900s for him and his family. The mansion itself is over 16,000 square feet large and has 26 rooms. Located on more than 200 acres of land, the consistently landscaped grounds have various ponds, lakes, woodlands, and traditional flower gardens.
In the modern day, a variety of iconic movies took place here. Some include American Gangster, The Muppets (2011), and North by Northwest. The beauty provided by the grounds makes Old Westbury Gardens an ideal location for movie shooting.
Old Westbury Gardens is accessible by taking an LIRR train and transferring to the N22 bus. Alternatively, it will take you about an hour to drive from New York City.
New Canaan, CT
Located in Fairfield County in Connecticut, New Canaan boarders the state of New York. With this, it is the perfect day trip for those looking for a historical and architectural experience. Prior to the Revolutionary War, this area was agriculturally driven. Following that period, shoe factories emerged, as did wealthy New Yorkers developing homes. This combination of wealthy estates and rural culture highlighted New Canaan and brought it to light.
As New Canaan was considered the perfect location, a man named Phillip Johnson had an idea to build a house of glass. It was one of the first of its kind, declared “a modern home.” In 1945 he started working on the schematics of the project. The plot of land was found in 1946, and two years later Johnson began construction. By the following year, the house was complete. The house Johnson designed was a piece of beauty and was eventually declared a landmark.
Today, you can visit the Glass House along with other pieces of architecture that were built after. This is an important monument because it highlights innovation and timelessness. It transcended fashion standards and worked with the house’s surrounding environment. This was quite a work of art.
Driving from New York City to New Canaan’s Glass House area is a mere hour and 20 minutes. If you prefer to travel via public transportation, head to Grand Central Station and take the New Haven line to the New Canaan line. This will also take you an hour and 20 minutes.
Sleepy Hollow, NY
In Westchester County, Sleepy Hollow is famous for its historical significance. Most people know this town from famous author Washington Irving. This town got its name because he wrote a story titled “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.” Before the story, the location was part of North Tarrytown. After the story was published, the village adopted this name. Visitors far and wide come to experience what it’s like to be in the setting of a Washington Irving story.
One of the famous historical locations in Sleepy Hollow is the Rockefeller Estate. The plot of land is over 3,000 acres large, and the mansion itself is an astonishing 36,000 square feet. Construction of this 40-room mansion, also called Kykuit, commenced in 1913. This is considered a landmark because it was built for John D. Rockefeller. He was a wealthy industrialist and businessman at the time. When inflation is considered, if Rockefeller was still alive today, he’d be worth three times the amount as Bill Gates.
Now, you can take a tour of this astonishing mansion. With options for everyone, you can decide which aspects of the estate you’d like to see most. For example, the classic tour offers a general overview of the main level mansion as well as art galleries and certain special rooms. The grand tour offers the same as the classic as well as added time in the gardens. They also take you to see the second floor. Pick the best tour for your interests!
Kykuit tours offer a special $5 discount on tours if you take the Metro-North from Grand Central to Tarrytown – keep your receipt! If you prefer to drive, it’s only an hour away.
Drink and Dine
Getting out of town is perfect for the date night – or day! If you’ve already tried the cuisines in your area and want to try something new, try taking a day trip. With plenty of exquisite options, you won’t be disappointed!
Blue Hill at Stone Barns
Located in Tarrytown, NY, this option is great for those looking for a night time meal. Just 30 miles north of NYC, Blue Hill at Stone Barns is not just a dining facility – it is a holistic experience. This farm-to-table restaurant is known for its tasting menus. You won’t be served a large, dense meal at once. Instead, you’ll be given at least 25 smaller courses. Each will be very different than the other. Chef Dan Barber changes the menu every month to highlight the crops grown at the farm during that time. This way, each time you visit, you’ll always get a new experience.
The service at Blue Hill is impeccable. For one of your courses, your server will take you to visit a particular part of the farm and try the specialized food there. For example, the bread bakery and vegetable garden are two options. Such personalized service makes the experience worthwhile. To end the night, you’ll receive a personalized parting gift after your meal.
Reservations can be difficult to come by, so make them early. The schedule comes out at 9 AM two months prior to the date you’re looking for. Because this location is in high demand, be sure to check the schedule fast. Keep in mind the cost is quite high, but if you have the chance, you won’t regret the experience.
It takes approximately an hour by car from New York City to reach Blue Hill at Stone Barns.
Oyster Bay, NY
Located in Nassau County, Oyster Bay is home to plenty of activities. Compared to other towns, one thing that stands out about this one is their food festival. Occurring just once a year, for two days in October, Oyster Bay holds its annual Oyster Bay Festival. As the town name suggests, the event is focused around oysters. Oysters are used to commemorate Theodore Roosevelt, whose family vacationed in Oyster Bay every summer. In 1983, the town decided to come together and create this festival to celebrate his 125th birthday.
This is considered the East Coast’s largest waterfront festival, as more than 200,000 people turn out each year. Most famous about these days is their oyster eating and shucking contest. People register to compete against others in the number of oysters they can eat in 2 minutes and 40 seconds. To begin, contestants are given 36 oysters and replenished in numbers of 12. The person to eat the most oysters wins $50 and a plaque.
Even if you don’t compete, there is a food court full of fresh oysters. Different vendors make and top them in various ways, so the flavors are all unique. Not a fan of oysters? They also serve clams and other types of seafood. While admission and most of the events there are free, you do have to purchase your food. The best part it, though, is all of the profits raised goes to various charities!
From Penn Station, you can take the Port Jefferson or Ronkonkoma line and transfer to the Great Neck LIRR to arrive in Oyster Bay. Alternatively, it’s about an hour drive.
Warwick Valley Wine and Distillery
For a little more adulting, the Warwick Valley Wine and Distillery is a great treat. Located in Warwick, NY, their winery is open year-round. Each season, their itinerary and wine lists change. For example, in the autumn months, they offer apple picking and fresh cider. They have over 60 different apple varieties, and each bushel costs just $30.
Wine tasting is the most well-known activity here. The process takes place in a renovated apple packing house. With large glass windows, you’ll have a great view of the orchards and goose pond on site. On warmer days, the barn windows open out to a large, beautifully lit deck. When this occurs, you can enjoy your tasting experience outside.
Remember to make sure you visit on the weekend. That’s when they have live music and offer more food and wine. The ambiance is calming and interactive so that you won’t regret your visit!
From New York City, you can expect it to take about an hour and a half to get there by car. Unfortunately, there are no clear paths for public transportation. Because of that, remember to use caution when drinking if preparing to drive later on in the day!
While New York City is seen as one of the art centers of the United States, there are more experiences outside of town. Art is universal and exists everywhere in some way or form. For new views, head out of town.
Storm King Art Center
The Storm King Art Center is located in Orange County, NY. This 500-acre museum has been around since 1960. It highlights large sculptures in an open outdoor area. With each season, new sculptures are added. It’s perfect for people who can appreciate art in nature. All of the commissioned pieces have a deeper meaning and fit into the environment well. The size of this museum makes for little crowding. This means that whenever you visit, it’ll feel like you have the whole place to yourself.
Because there are so many sculptures to see, it’ll take you hours to get through them all on foot. Make sure you arrive early and in good weather for the best experience. If you are in a hurry or don’t feel comfortable walking for long, there is a tram. The tram will take you through some of the most popular sculptures on premise. It’ll stop at the main museum where you can jump off and head to the gift shop. Pick up some smaller versions of sculptures or images of them there to remember your experience.
One of its best parts is how many sculptures are interactive. They’ll be marked, so you know which ones are free for climbing, sitting, and touching. It’s important to remember that artists spent time on each individual project, so respect the pieces. Also, bring sneakers in case you’d like to participate in the interactive portions.
Storm King Art Center is just over an hour drive from New York City. This makes for a quick drive to a beautiful artistic location.
Grounds for Sculpture
Similar to the Storm King Art Center, the Grounds for Sculpture is a 42-acre sculpture park in New Jersey. This is a smaller setting, and thus, the sculptures are more densely packed. This location has surprises around every corner, so you’ll always see something new and unique. In addition to the outside space, there are six indoor galleries. Because of this, don’t fear the weather. You’ll always have something to do regardless of the season. While the outdoor sculptures remain the same year-round, those in the six galleries rotate frequently. This means there’ll always be something new to see!
Some people don’t like walking through alone and would like more information about each art piece. With this, there are a variety of tours you can take. Options include indoor, outdoor, and even moonlit tours. These are an extra cost in addition to the entry fees. Ticket prices range from $12 to $20 depending on the age and day you visit. Members enter free.
Driving from NYC to Grounds for Sculpture will take you about an hour and a half. For public transportation, take the Northeast Corridor line from Penn Station and transfer to the 608 bus. This will take you just under two hours.
Known as the revolutionary capital of the country, Philadelphia is home to more than just liberty and cheesesteak. There are beautiful pieces of art in every corner. Not far from New York City, if you’re looking to escape your city and head to a different one, Philadelphia is the place to go. From architecture to museums, you’ll always find something to do.
With museums in mind, one of the most famous art museums of the country is in Philadelphia. The Philadelphia Museum of Art was established in 1876 and originally contained industrial pieces. This gradually transformed to decorative porcelains and ceramics, as well of paintings. Today, if you visit, you can see classic pieces by Claude Monet, Pablo Picasso, Andy Warhol, Henri Matisse, and more. This is perfect for those that appreciate classic pieces.
Every Friday night, the museum holds a special event. From 5 pm to 8:45 pm, enjoy live music, food, gallery access, and performances. Often focused around culture, learn more about different ways of life. This is a great art experience outside of New York City.
By car, driving to Philadelphia from New York City should take you just under two hours. Alternatively, you can take the Acela Express line from Penn Station and arrive in Philadelphia in just over an hour.
For a day full of family fun, getting out of your city and changing the scenery can be just what everyone needs. With close and easy adventures just outside your doorstep, the opportunities are endless. Take your family and spend a day in a new location like the ones listed below.
Long Island Aquarium and Exhibition Center
Animal lovers of all ages are sure to enjoy the Long Island Aquarium and Exhibition Center. Located in Riverhead, this aquarium will give you and your child an up close and personal connection with a variety of wild animals. The great part about Long Island Aquarium is that they’re AMMPA accredited. This stands for Alliance of Marine Mammal Parks and Aquariums and means that they treat their animals with the highest level of care and respect.
Not only marine creatures are here, though. Visit to see different snakes, otters, reptiles, and other mammals as well. Each week, the aquarium holds different events specialized for family interaction. These include shark dives, aquarium yoga, and more. The interactive nature of this location is perfect for both kids and adults – you can even pet stingray!
The admission cost ranges from $24 to $33 per person depending on age and day of arrival. You can add extras to your general admission for additional prices, including sea lion encounters and a snorkeling adventure! For a cheaper experience, if it’s within a week of you or a family member’s birthday, the birthday person will enter free if you have proof of identification.
When driving, expect to take anywhere up to an hour and a half to get there. You can also take the Ronkonkoma line from Penn Station and get there in two and a half hours.
Take a trip back in time and visit Tuxedo, NY, for a once in a lifetime experience. On a 65-acre piece of land, the staff and grounds here are based around the time period between 1300 and 1600. Known for cultural, artistic, and scientific “rebirth” after the middle ages, this time period highlights the acquisition of knowledge. From plays and performances to horse jousting, you and your family will be transformed.
Walk around the park for over 125 different talented artisans. They make goods with their hands, just like they did in the past time period. Observe candle making, hair and body art, psychic readings, pottery making, and even the making of armor and weaponry. Your children will love getting involved with these processes and watching how things were made before technology.
One thing that draws people to the Renaissance Fair is the ability to experience eating a meal just like they did in the past. Use your hands and dig into classic meals. If you have a picky eater in the family, don’t worry – there are over 20 food stations to choose from. Also, don’t worry about food limitations – their menu highlights everything gluten-free, vegan, and vegetarian.
While prices are reasonable, ranging from $13 for children to $30 for adults, different discounts are available. Ages 4 and below enter free, and ages 65 and up have a senior discount.
The Renaissance Fair has a unique partnership with Coach USA. From the Port Authority Bus Terminal, get dropped right at the festival’s front gate and back in just about an hour! You can also drive there, which takes only about the same time.
Getting out of town for a day is always a great experience. You’ll get to see new views and participate in experiences you wouldn’t be able to in New York City. If you’re tired of finding things to do close to your home, take a day trip to one of the listed locations to enjoy your time!