The Best Fall Day Trips From New York City

Autumn in the Catskills

 

Frank Spinelli/Getty Images 

When it comes to visiting New York City, many travelers often overlook the many easily accessible sights and attractions within driving distance of the city. Each of these day trips offers a quick escape from the hustle and bustle of one of America's largest metropolitan areas, especially in the fall when foliage across New England transforms into an array of bright reds, yellows, and oranges.

From taking your family on a safari through a wildlife preserve in Connecticut to sipping on merlot at the nation's first winery, there are plenty of adventures waiting just a few hours outside New York City. Fortunately, you don't have to leave the city for long to feel refreshed this autumn, so these quick trips make the perfect getaway if you're feeling overwhelmed by all the noise of the city.

  • 01 of 05
    Hand-cranked Saugatuck Chain Ferry

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    If you don't own a car or don't want to rent one, you can take a Metro-North train out of NYC to Westport, Connecticut (time on the train ranges from 67 to 74 minutes), where you'll be a five-minute walk from Downunder, a kayak and SUP outfitter located directly on the Saugatuck River where you can launch off for a day of paddling.

    This stretch of tree-lined river is gentle and beginner-friendly, and you can choose to rent kayaks or paddleboards to explore on your own, book a lesson, or join a guided tour. In addition to admiring foliage views from the water, you may glimpse birds making their annual fall migration, and experienced paddlers can head downriver to explore islands in the Long Island Sound.

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    Action Wildlife is a 116-acre zoo and museum located two hours northeast of New York City in Goshen, Connecticut. This outdoor park is an affordable destination for a family adventure where you can meet an oryx, stare down a water buffalo, watch bison roam, touch moose hair, ride an orange snail and have a deer feeding out of your hands. 

    The main attraction of Action Wildlife is the drive-through safari, which allows guests to drive through the park where over 350 exotic animals call home, many of which will come right up to your car to say hello. Unfortunately, the park is only open from spring through fall since the animals need to be sheltered during the cold winter months, so autumn will be your last chance to see them out this year.

    Although it will add about 40 minutes each way to your trip, driving Route 7 through Ridgefield and Kent, Connecticut, is the most picturesque way to go.

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    White Memorial Conservation Center

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    Litchfield, Connecticut, with its antique shops, galleries, scenic roads and rolling hills, is one of the prettiest places to visit in New England each fall, and the White Memorial Conservation Center is one of the best destinations in town to immerse yourself in nature. In addition to 4,000 acres of spectacular foliage, the Center has a nature museum, hiking trails, and a gift shop, which is a great place to start your holiday shopping.

    The grounds of the Conservation Center are open 24 hours a day year-round, but the museum and gift shop are only open Monday through Saturday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sundays from noon to 5 p.m. If your day trip is on a Sunday, you might want to make reservations for brunch at the White Horse Country Pub & Restaurant located in nearby Marbledale.

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    Red Lion Inn

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    You'll enjoy a lovely drive from New York City to the Berkshires of Western Massachusetts this autumn if you plan a day trip to Chesterwood, the former studio and home of renowned sculptor Daniel Chester French. French was a leading turn-of-the-century sculptor, most famous for crafting the seated Lincoln statue at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.

    Located in Stockbridge, Massachusetts (a two-hour and 45-minute trip from New York via the Taconic State Parkway), Chesterwood is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. through Columbus Day. You'll see nearly 500 models, studies, and full-size sculptures created by French on exhibit in the studio, museum, gallery, and gardens.

    While you're in Stockbridge, plan to have a memorable lunch or dinner at the Red Lion Inn or a more casual dining experience at the restaurant's pub. A Stockbridge landmark since 1773, The Red Lion Inn is sure to satisfy your cravings for cozy Yankee hospitality.

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  • 05 of 05
    A wine barrel at Brotherhood Winery

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    Brotherhood Winery in Washingtonville, in the foothills of New York's Catskill Mountains, is an ideal day trip destination for wine lovers who want to escape to the country. Time your trip right, and you'll see the Catskills displaying their full autumn splendor.

    Established in 1839, Brotherhood is the oldest continually operating winery in America. The winery is open for tours and tastings daily through December. You'll learn all about grape growing and wine making, sample a wide variety of award-winning wines and can spend the day exploring the winery store and other small shops and restaurants on the winery grounds.