Everyone knows New York City is the greatest city in the world, but for those of us that live here, it’s a city that also needs to be escaped from. The noise, grit, crowds, and constant movement make the city exhausting after a while, and New Yorkers need their getaways just like anyone else. Thankfully, NYC is in a prime position on the East Coast, nestled among forests, mountains, beaches, farms, and other towns and smaller cities in the surrounding areas. Leaving NYC for the calmer locales of Upstate New York, Long Island, New Jersey, Connecticut, or Pennsylvania is super easy—in fact, you can do it in just a day. These short trips can satisfy the desires of nature lovers, art fans, culture hounds, foodies, and more.
Storm King Art Center
Just an hour’s drive north from Manhattan, Storm King Art Center has 500 acres dotted with large-scale, modern sculptural art. The massive sculpture park makes an ideal daylong getaway, where visitors can spend hours strolling among the art. The site’s rolling hills, lush forests, gurgling streams, and verdant meadows are home to sculptures by artists including Andy Goldsworthy, Louise Bourgeois, Sol LeWitt, and Alexander Calder. Some works are even built directly into the landscape, like Maya Lin’s undulating “Wavefield.” After you’ve had your art fill, head to the nearby town of Cornwall and have a late lunch on Main Street at Farmhouse Market or Prima Pizza.
Bear Mountain State Park
Bear Mountain State Park is jam-packed with activities, and it’s just an hour away from Midtown Manhattan, so it’s perfect for a day trip adventure, whether you’re going solo, with friends, or your family. Most people know that the park has miles of hiking trails, but if you’re not a hiker, or are looking to try something new there, there is so much more to discover. You can check out the charming and educational Trailside Museums and Zoo, walk across the picturesque Bear Mountain Bridge for stunning views, take a ride on the carousel, rent paddleboats on Hessian Lake, and go swimming in the pool in summer or ice-skating in winter. And when you’re ready to refuel, have brunch or lunch at Restaurant 1915, or for grab-and-go items, try the Hiker’s Cafe, both at the Bear Mountain Inn.
Beacon, New York
New York’s Hudson Valley is bursting with charming Main Streets, nature havens, and fascinating museums, but rarely does one town offer all three—and at less than two hours away by train (or 1.5 hours by car) from Manhattan. A stop on the Hudson Line of MetroNorth, Beacon makes a textbook-perfect day trip. When you get off the train, cross the street from the station to the waterfront and take in the mighty Hudson River from the Pete and Toshi Seeger Riverfront Park or Long Dock Park. Then, head to the Dia: Beacon, a lauded modern art museum that focuses on large-scale installations and features the work of artists like Richard Serra, Robert Smithson, Dan Flavin, and Agnes Martin. For lunch, cafes like Beacon Falls Café, Beacon Pantry, and Café Amarcord are all good options. Once you’re energized, head to Beacon Mountain (there’s a shuttle bus from the train station if you don’t have a car) for a moderate hike with great views. If you’re not ready to go back to the city just yet, have a cocktail at Wonderbar and catch an indie flick at the restored Beacon Theater, now called Story Screen, next door.
Asbury Park, New Jersey
While music fans might have Asbury Park on their list already, the beach town makes a great day trip for any New Yorker. Just about an hour away from the city, Asbury Park has a bustling boardwalk, great restaurants, a nice beach, and of course, a lively music scene. A visit to the iconic Stone Pony—where Bruce Springsteen got his start—is a must, and other venues like Wonder Bar, the Saint, and the historic Convention Hall and Paramount Theatre on the iconic boardwalk are worthy stops for listening to live music after a day in the sun. Have lunch at Talula’s or Pop’s Garage and grab a beer at Asbury Festhalle & Biergarten.
Rhinebeck, New York
In many ways, Dutchess County’s Rhinebeck is the quintessential Hudson Valley town, and it’s one of the region’s best destinations for a day of antique and independent boutique shopping. Plus, at about 100 miles north of Times Square, it’s an easy drive or train ride away on Amtrak. We suggest strolling along Market and Montgomery Streets, the center of downtown. Pop into apparel and accessory shops like Darryl’s and Haldora for stylish togs and Pegasus Footwear and Rhinebeck Department Store for rugged outdoor brands like Pendleton and Woolrich. Hammertown is an award-winning home goods store, while Land of Oz is a wonderful toy store. Book lovers will adore Oblong Books & Music, and Rhinebeck Antique Emporium and Beekman Arms Antique Market are a must for anyone who enjoys searching for vintage treasures. Recharge at Bread Alone, a locally favorite bakery and café, or make an appointment at Chinese Healing Arts Center or Breathe Studio: Barre & Pilates. To truly relax, visit the full-service spa—complete with saunas and whirlpools—at Mirbeau Inn & Spa. The dining scene in Rhinebeck is also excellent: The Amsterdam, Bia, Terrapin Restaurant, or Willow by Charlie Palmer are all great options.
You might be wondering why you’d want to leave one city for another, but Philadelphia is a fun-filled excursion just an hour-and-a-half away from NYC that has a lot to offer. History buffs will obsess over sites like the Liberty Bell Center, Independence Hall (where the Declaration of Independence and Constitution were signed), the Benjamin Franklin Museum, the Betsy Ross House, the Museum of the American Revolution, and the Mother Bethel AME Church, the mother church of the African American denomination that is built on the oldest parcel of land continuously owned by African Americans (the basement was a stop on the Underground Railroad). Art lovers will be happy at museums like the Barnes Foundation, Philadelphia Museum of Art, and the Rodin Museum, while one-of-a-kind institutions like the Mutter Museum of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia, the Mummers Museum, and the Please Touch Museum ensure everyone will be entertained. Foodies will feel right at home as well; a must-visit is the Reading Terminal Market, which has been around since 1892. Inside, sample a roast pork sandwich at DiNic’s, fresh-made doughnuts at Beiler’s, Peking suck at Sang Kee, a pastrami sandwich at Hershel’s, and ice cream at Bassetts. If you don’t eat meat, not to worry: Vedge is easily one of the city’s best restaurants, and it just so happens to be vegan. Other restaurants to check out include Zahav, K’Far Café, Federal Donuts, Baology, Rangoon, and Vernick Food & Drink. And after all that running around, if you need a quiet moment of calm, the serene Shofuso Japanese House and Garden should do the trick.
Fire Island, New York
While New York City is blessed with many beaches close by, Fire Island tends to feel like a real getaway—after all, you can take a ferry ride, and cars aren’t allowed to drive across the island (bring a bicycle if you want to move around). Just off the southern shore of Long Island, about an hour and a half from Brooklyn, the barrier beach island is home to Robert Moses State Park on the west end and Smith Point County Park on the east end. Plop yourself on one of the beaches like Kismet, Saltaire, Ocean Beach, or Cherry Grove, walk along the boardwalk, play golf, or visit the Fire Island Lighthouse.
Cold Spring, New York
Clocking in at around an hour outside the city, Cold Spring is a favorite day excursion from the city, thanks to its accessibility by train, great hiking and kayaking, and charming Main Street. Hikers make their way to Breakneck Ridge for sweeping Hudson Valley views. And while the name shouldn’t scare you, this hike does feature a steep scramble, so be prepared. Otherwise, get your steps in on Main Street, stopping at Instagram-worthy shops like Poor George, Old Souls, Cold Spring General Store, and Cold Spring Apothecary. If you prefer to be on the water, rent a kayak or canoe and head out on the Hudson River to visit the historic and impressive Bannerman Castle on its own island. When hunger strikes, hit up Hudson Hil’s or Cold Spring Depot for classic pub fare.
New Canaan, Connecticut
New Canaan is known as the home of Philip Johnson’s Glass House, an architectural masterpiece, and it’s a worthy outing all on its own—and less than an hour from Manhattan by car or train. Thankfully, New Canaan has a few other attractions, making a daylong excursion ideal. There’s the beautifully landscaped Waveny Park and its mansion, the galleries at Silvermine Arts Center, and the nonprofit nature and art center Grace Farms, with its stunning undulating edifice created by Japanese architecture firm SANAA, tea pavilion, amphitheater, and immaculate grounds. Downtown New Canaan has a handful of charming shops to pop into, like Elm Street Books and jewelry store Wave, and you can get your caffeine fix at Zumbach’s Gourmet Coffee. Rosie is the spot for brunch, and Solé is great for dinner.
Tarrytown and Sleepy Hollow, New York
These twin Westchester towns are just 25 miles from NYC, ideal for a day trip, and MetroNorth will take you there if you don’t have a car. In Tarrytown, you can visit Sunnyside, the restored home of Washington Irving, the author of "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow," and the 67-acre estate of Lyndhurst Mansion dating back to 1838. You can then take the train one more stop to Sleepy Hollow Philipse Manor Station and visit the famed Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, which houses the remains of Irving along with Andrew Carnegie, Walter Chrysler, Elizabeth Arden, and Leona Helmsley. The circa-1838 Sleepy Hollow Lighthouse is worth a stop, and Philipsburg Manor is devoted to showcasing the African slave experience at this mill from 1750. Check the schedule and stop by the TaSH Farmers Market if it's open, or make a reservation at Top Chef Dale Talde’s Goosefeather in an 1840s era mansion. Not surprisingly, Sleepy Hollow is a popular place to visit on or around Halloween, so if you can make it to the town’s famous Great Jack O’Lantern Blaze event, which runs from early September through Halloween night, you’re in for a spooky treat. And keep your eyes peeled for the Headless Horseman; he tends to just show up out of nowhere.
Princeton, New Jersey
Home to the famed university, the town of Princeton is an idyllic New Jersey destination a little over an hour from New York. Strolling the gorgeous Princeton University campus is a worthy pursuit, especially for Gothic and Georgian architecture fans. You can sign up for a guided tour, or just explore on your own. Make a day of it by exploring the area around Palmer Square, where there’s a mix of chains and independent restaurants and shops, like home goods store Homestead and the longtime favorite of music fans, Princeton Record Exchange. If school is in session, follow students to PJ’s Pancake House or Hoagie Heaven for casual eats, or nab some wood-fired pizza at Nomad. Save room for the inventive ice cream flavors at the Bent Spoon. In the fall, make a pit stop at Terhune Orchards for pick-your-own apples and more.
Kingston, New York
A Catskills darling, Kingston, about 90 miles north of the city, makes for a lovely excursion from the city for a day. New York State’s first capital city, Kingston suffered a decline for many years until the last decade or so, when it experienced a renaissance. Now, it’s home to a scenic waterfront, historic districts filled with charming shops and small museums, and a booming restaurant scene. It’s also larger than many of the Catskill and Hudson Valley towns, making it more than possible to amuse yourself for the day and then some. If you have little ones, take the historic trolley along the water and visit the Hudson River Maritime Museum. Shoppers will enjoy boutiques like Clove & Creek, Oak 42, Anderst, Milne, and Blue Cashew, and foodies should make reservations at Zak Pelaccio’s Restaurant Kinsley or Lis Bar. The city is also near some beloved Catskills hikes like Millbrook Mountain, Minnewaska State Park, and Kaaterskill Falls.
North Fork, New York
New York is blessed with several wine regions, and Long Island’s North Fork is a great one to explore on a daylong winery tour. Wineries like the 35-year-old family-owned Pindar Vineyards, the 38-year-old Bedell Cellars, and McCall Wines, which debuted in 2007, should all be on the list, and Kontokosta Winery, Macari Vineyards, and Lenz Winery are also worthy stops. If you don’t have a designated driver, tours like North Fork Wine Tours will drive you and your crew from vineyard to vineyard. Stop for a bite at Little Creek Oyster Farm & Market, Cliff’s Elbow Room, or North Fork Table & Inn and take a walk on the beach between sips. In the summer, make time for a stroll through the fields at the Lavender by the Bay.
Mountain Creek, New Jersey
A skiing day trip is perfect for a winter day, and many mountains are easily accessible from the city. While Hunter Mountain is often overcrowded, there are plenty of other nearby resorts to choose from. Located in Vernon Township, Mountain Creek is the closest ski resort to NYC. With a 1,040-foot vertical rise, 167 skiable acres across four peaks, and eight lifts to ferry skiers up the mountain, Mountain Creek will easily occupy any skier for a day. And while there may not always be a ton of natural snowfall, the resort makes its own snow all season, ensuring good conditions. Not a skier? There’s also snow tubing and fat biking. Oh, and don’t count out the summer for a visit: warm weather transforms the mountain into a bike park, and there’s also golf and ropes courses, zip-lining, and a mountain coaster, plus there’s a nearby water park.
New Hope, Pennsylvania
Known as an enclave for hippies and artists, the eclectic town of New Hope situated along the Delaware River in Bucks County has a funky Main Street with shops like the Soap Opera Company, Farley’s Bookshop, and Mystickal Times. Or, explore the Bucks County Wine Trail, taking sips at nearby Buckingham Valley and Wycombe Valley. More of a beer person? Check out Triumph Brewing Company in town. Soak up the alcohol with a bite at the historic Salt House, vegan spot Sprig & Vine, or the new Odette’s at the River House, then catch a show at the iconic Bucks County Playhouse before heading home.