It goes without saying that New York City is jam-packed with things to do. Despite having lived there for months, I still haven’t seen all the Big Apple has to offer. Still, the chaos, noise, and vibrating energy of NYC can be a bit much at times, particularly if you’re not used to such big cities.
If you have enough time, try one of the best hikes in upstate New York for the perfect remedy. However, if you only have a day to spare, these amazing day trips from New York City will give you a nice break from the buzz and constant motion of NYC. Some of these locations are more convenient when driving, but all can be accessed via public transportation.
Make sure to read my post The Best Things To Do In New York.
The Best Day Trips From New York City
Day trips from New York City < 1 hour
Sleepy Hollow, New York
Most visitors head to Sleepy Hollow for the legendary tales of Washington Irving’s short story, ‘The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,’ though there are plenty of other things to do here!
At Rockefeller State Park Preserve, outdoor enthusiasts have ample opportunity to hike, fish, birdwatch, or go horseback riding at the main entrance of the park. There are trail maps available at the visitor center.
The old churchyard where the Headless Horseman allegedly rests is a popular stop. In the cemetery, you can find the headstones of Catriena Ecker Van Tessel. Sound familiar? Catriena’s anglicized name was featured in Irving’s tale (Katrina Van Tassel). Visitors can also follow the same path as Ichabod Crane from neighboring Tarrytown into Sleepy Hollow. There aren’t many landmarks from the Tim Burton film rendition, as it was primarily filmed in the UK.
The best time to visit is definitely in the weeks leading up to Halloween, particularly on weekends. There are many events taking place throughout town that tie into the story. Many of these events sell out fast, so make reservations in advance if possible.
To reach Sleepy Hollow from New York City, take a train from Grand Central to Tarrytown – the entire journey takes under an hour. This is easily one of the best (and spookiest) day trips from New York City.
Sandy Hook, New Jersey
*Contrubuted by Anisa, Two Traveling Texans
You may have heard of Sandy Hook because of the unfortunate events of 14 December 2012. In merrier news, Sandy Hook, NJ is one of the best beaches around New York City and makes for one of the best day trips from NYC. You can take a ferry from Manhattan and be there in less than an hour!
It’s a scenic boat ride too, as you will pass right under the Verrazano bridge. Once you arrive, a complimentary bus will take you to your choice of five different beaches, including the only legal nude beach in NJ, Gunnison. There is also the option to rent a bike.
While there were plenty of people swimming in the water, some people found it too cold. If that is the case, you can relax on the sand and enjoy the people-watching. At Lot D beach, there is the option to rent chairs and umbrellas if you don’t want to bring your own. They also have a small selection of food trucks.
Sandy Hook is not the typical beach like you think of on the Jersey Shore. There is no boardwalk or nightlife. It’s just a nice beach, that’s easy to get to for a relaxing summer day. On a clear day, you will be able to see the skyline of New York City in the distance.
Harriman State Park, New York
*Contributed by Daphna, A Tiny Trip
Harriman State Park is one of the best nature-based day trips from New York City, perfect for people of all ages. Only one hour drive from Manhattan, this is one of the closest parks to the city where you can be immersed in the forest without the noise of cars going by. If you are without a vehicle, it is also possible to take New Jersey Transit on the Port Jervis Line train to Sloatsburg and then walk about a mile to the edge of the park.
As with all major parks in the area, all sections of Harriman State Park are officially open from Memorial Day to Labor Day. In particular, there are several lakes with swimming and boating options in the summer. However you should note that summer weekends can get busy!
As an alternative, the park is open year-round and the shoulder seasons of spring and fall are an excellent time to visit and explore the many hiking trails. With over 200 miles of trails and a myriad of streams and lakes, this forested park is one of the best ways to get out in nature and still be in the vicinity of New York City.
Day trips from New York City < 2 hours
Fire Island, New York
Fire Island is a small barrier island situated off of Long Island that has long-been a home to many vacation communities. The Island has a little something for everyone, depending on where you visit. While there are some family friendly areas, the island is largely a party destination, especially popular with the LGBTQ community.
The main tourist stop on Fire Island is Ocean Beach Village. This village was actually once called ‘the Land of No’ due to its myriad of rules and regulations implemented to dissuade tourists from visiting. Over the course of the past few years, however, the rules have eased and now there are primarily two that need to be followed: No littering, and No eating on the beach. On summer weekend nights, you’re likely to find foam parties and fellow island go-ers looking for love.
Kismet is on the west side of the island, which is part single party, part family-oriented. Another family-friendly village to check out is Saltaire, which boasts a number of youth sports programs. Be sure to check out Clam Cove Harbor. Creative types should check out Fair Harbor. For the LGBTQ community, Cherry Grove and Fire Island Pines are popular villages to visit.
Definitely bring some cash with you when you visit, as many places on the island don’t take cards, such as the small shops and transportation services.
For an easy day trip from NYC to Fire Island, the drive takes less than an hour. However, vehicle traffic isn’t permitted in the summer. Your best option is to take a train from Penn Station to Babylon, and then a bus to Islipp Town Hall. This takes just about two hours.
Beacon, New York
*Contributed by Mike, FivePax Family Travel
Beacon, NY is one of the local favorite day trips from NYC for young and old alike. This quaint town is far enough to escape the chaos of the city, but close enough to tackle in a day or a weekend by car or train.
For active travelers looking to burn off goodies from those Manhattan bagel shops, a hike up Mount Beacon offers sweeping views of the Hudson Valley. Before hopping back on the scenic train ride back to the city, hikers can grab a beer and play board games at 2WayBrewing over some pub fare.
The most popular and less strenuous draw to Beacon, however, is Dia:Beacon. Dia was founded in 1974 to help artists showcase visions that cannot be realized in traditional galleries due to size and scope. With large-format masterpieces from artists such as Andy Warhol, Dia spoils visitors with art too grand for New York City itself.
A stroll down on Main Street is chock full of galleries, cafes, pizza shops, ice cream, and of course breweries. Art galore, tasty food, and a good workout are the draw. Throw in a ferry ride to an actual castle, and Beacon really packs a punch.
Storm King Art Center, New York
Storm King Art Center is one of the most intriguing and unique day trips from New York City you could take. This place is a museum…. Sort of? It’s more like a large outdoor nature park with large-scale art installations scattered throughout. It’s perched atop a hill that overlooks the Hudson Valley below, offering one of the most beautiful views in upstate New York.
Storm King has been around for 60 years, but has grown in popularity significantly over the past decade. The grounds spread over 500 acres with permanent and temporary art displayed. Given the current circumstances, it’s easy to see why there’s a surge of interest in Storm King over the course of the past year.
There are large sculptures made with steel, iron, and bronze alongside, each with a tale to tell. The winding stone wall is a favorite as well.
Storm King has been selling out weeks in advance, so be sure to get your tickets in advance if you plan to visit. This is surely one of the hottest art ‘galleries’ in New York right now.
Cornwall-on-Hudson, New York
Cornwall is a small town situated on the banks of the Hudson River. It’s the ultimate family-friendly destination and was actually named the top town in the entire country to take kids trick-or-treating. Cornwall is an ideal day trip from NYC if you don’t want to have a packed agenda, and prefer a day lazily meandering through a charming town.
It’s easy to get around on foot and there are plenty of charming aspects to explore. Main Street has nice, wide sidewalks to allow for a leisurely stroll through town, window shopping and perhaps stopping at a nearby restaurant. Be sure to check out The Canterbury Brook Inn for a delicious meal. The sidewalks are always bustling with people out doing their errands or enjoying the town.
Popular things to do in Cornwall include stopping by Cornwall’s Landing to see the Hudson River, exploring the nearby mountains, or posting up for a picnic in one of the fields by the river.
To get to Cornwall from New York City, take a train from Grand Central to Cold Spring. From Cold Spring, you’ll need a 25 minute taxi ride to Cornwall. A cheaper option would be to take a bus to Newburgh – from there, it’s only a seven minute taxi, saving you some cash. Bus and train both take roughly an hour and forty minutes (including the associated taxi rides). Alternatively, driving is an option if you have access to a car.
The Catskills, New York
*Contributed by Margie, DQ Family Travel
At just two hours away from New York City, an escape to the Catskills is the perfect getaway from the hustle and bustle. For those looking for some fresh mountain air, consider visiting this area filled with spectacular outdoor opportunities and charming towns.
From the 1950s to the 1970s, many wealthy Manhattan families would vacation in the Catskills every summer, drawing celebrities and famous musicians during its heyday. As time passed, the allure of the Catskills faded and many wealthy Manhattanites vacationed elsewhere. However, in the last ten years, the area has seen a resurgence in visitors as the hospitality industry has renovated resorts and introduced the farm to table dining scene to many local towns.
For your visit to the Catskills, stay at The Emerson Resort and Spa in the town of Mt. Tremper. This resort is situated right on the Esopus Creek, with beautiful views of the surrounding area and a perfect home base for outdoor adventure or relaxation. For those that enjoy hiking, be sure to check out the Kaaterskill Falls, Onteora Lake Trail, and the Mt. Tremper Overlook.
At the resort, there are complimentary bikes for you to enjoy around the property or take them to the Ashokan Rail Trail for a ride around the reservoir. For a unique experience, you can ride a pedal powered vehicle on railroad tracks and enjoy the gorgeous mountain and creek views. Don’t forget to visit a few towns nearby as well, like Phoencia, Woodstock, and Hunter for a delicious meal during your Catskills getaway.
*Contributied by Neha, Travelmelodies
Philadelphia is one of the oldest cities in the US, rich in history and culture. This is the place where America’s independence struggle began and the constitution was written. The Liberty Bell, the historic landmark is the symbol of Independence and a must visit. Right across from the Liberty Bell is the National Constitution Center, where you can learn more about the Constitution in an interesting and interactive manner.
Philadelphia is a city with beautiful architecture and lovely parks, trails, and fountains – all of which add to its beauty. Franklin Square, Logan Square, Spruce Street Park, and Schuylkill River Trail are the best places to get close to nature. There is so much for everyone, be it history buffs, the outdoorsy type, or foodies. There are also many things to do in Philadelphia with kids – they will love the variety of things to see, both indoors and outdoors.
The city also boasts the world’s biggest LED screen wall at the ground floor of Comcast Center, measuring 85 ft. by 25 ft. It is a delight to watch the videos on the screen that are displayed every 30 minutes. However, it does get a bit crowded during the evenings and holiday season.
Walk along the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, admiring the flags of different nations blowing in the wind. Taxis are available, but exploring the city on foot will give you more insight into its rich cultural and historical significance.
Philadelphia, aka Philly, makes for a great day trip from NYC. Philly is around one and a half to two hours away from NYC and is well connected by bus and train, making it a convenient option. For a guided day trip, click here.
Hudson Valley, New York
*Contributed by James, Travel Collecting
The Hudson Valley makes for one of the best day trips from New York City, at just under two hours away. Stretching all the way from NYC to the state capital Albany, there are lots of things to do and see for everyone from active hikers, couples on a romantic day out, or families looking for a fun excursion.
There are dozens of amazing hikes, from simple walks like Poets’ Walk to vertical ‘hikes’ like the appropriately named Breakneck Ridge (which you can access by train from Grand Central). Day trippers can also cycle along one of the many rail trails.
There are plenty of farms that are open for visits and u-pick fruit in season. It’s possible to pick cherries in early summer, or apples and pumpkins in the fall. Kids can take hay rides and find their way around a corn maze in the fall.
For people who want to get out on the water, scenic river cruises leave from Kingston and sail past lighthouses. It’s also possible to visit a cider house or vineyard and sample their wares. There are loads of great restaurants, from waterside dining in Kingston to wood fire pizza in an orchard such as Westwind Orchards in Accord.
The Hudson Line train leaves from Grand Central and hugs the east side of the river all the way to Albany. However, having a car for the day is the best option to explore all the river valley has to offer.
*Contributed by Vanessa, East End Magazine
The Hamptons on the eastern end of Long Island is located ninety minutes away from Manhattan, making it one of the best day trips from New York City. The Hamptons comprises towns and villages on the South Fork including East Hampton, Southampton, Sag Harbor, and others.
The Hamptons is a beautiful place to visit year-round, particularly for the historical seaside village of Sag Harbor, and the old rustic artist communities like Springs. To note, the best times to visit is during the holiday season in December, and between May and October. Those that love nature, shopping, art, history, and of course glamorous events, parties and sightseeing will love visiting the Hamptons.
Between Memorial Day and Labor Day weekend, all hotels, shops and restaurants are in operation. Though many of these businesses close during the off-season, between the months of November and April, there are many exceptional choices for dining and lodging that are open year-round.
For dining, top choices include the American Hotel in Sag Harbor or Bridgehampton Inn & Restaurant in Bridgehampton. For hotels, Mill House Inn is great for couples and is dog friendly. Baron’s Cove has a beautiful view of Sag Harbor’s marina, and Southampton Inn is both pet and family friendly.
The best and fastest way to get to the Hamptons is by the Long Island Railroad directly from Penn Station in Manhattan. You can also travel via Jamaica Station in Queens on the Long Island Railroad (LIRR). Taking your own vehicle is an option, but with traffic in the summer months, it will likely take much longer.
For a guided day trip to the Hamptons, click here.
Cold Spring, New York
This small village in Putnam County is found in the scenic Hudson Highlands. Its close proximity to the city makes it an ideal weekend escape as well as one of the nicest day trips from NYC.
Cold Spring offers an outdoorsy escape from New York City, and kayaking (solo or with a guided tour) is really popular in the area. Breakneck Ridge is one of the most visited hiking destinations in the Hudson Highlands, particularly for city dwellers looking for their dose of nature. If you’re not up for any strenuous activity, birding and nature strolls are yet another option. In town, be sure to hit up Whistling Willie’s for one of the best burger’s you’ll ever taste.
To get to Cold Spring for a day trip from New York City, hop on a train at Grand Central to Cold Spring. Driving and taking a train both take roughly an hour and fifteen minutes, so don’t fret if you don’t have access to a car.
Day trips from New York City < 3 hours
Hunter, New York
If you’re in need of some time on the slopes and are based in NYC, Hunter Mountain is the perfect place to go. Nestled in the Great Northern Catskills, Hunter Mountain has trails spread over three individual mountains with superb snowmaking, covering the entirety of its trails. It actually has the reputation of ‘snowmaking capital of the world’. You can actually get a voucher if you aren’t satisfied with their snow quality.
Hunter One is a whole mountain that is designated for beginners, families, and lessons. Hunter West and Empire Terrain park offer expert and competent skiers challenging terrain to conquer.
There are many places to stay in the area, but given its nearness to NYC, you don’t need to shell out money for an extra night of lodging if you don’t want to.
From NYC, you can drive or take a bus. Both take approximately the same amount of time (two hours and twenty minutes). The bus route you’d want to take is from Union Square to Hunter Mountain. It costs about $70 each way, so if you have a car and want to save a bit, opt for driving.
Atlantic City, New Jersey
Atlantic City is a well-known coastal resort destination located in New Jersey. Thanks to its legal casino games and its beach and boardwalk, it’s a popular destination for day trips from New York City: tourists go there to get a taste of the sand, sun, and (sometimes) debauchery.
There’s more to do in AC than just gambling. The Absecon Lighthouse is a popular tourist attraction. It was built in the mid-19th century and is the tallest lighthouse in NJ. You can ascend the 200+ steps to the top to find impressive views of the Jersey Shore.
Exploring the Boardwalk is a fun option for families and party-goers alike. The AC Boardwalk is the oldest in the US, and most of the casinos in the city are found here. The beaches offer sunbathing, fishing, and surfing. You can also take the family to AC’s amusement park for rides, games, and food. Visit Garden Pier for your arts and culture fix, or check out the AC Historical Museum and Art Center.
Be sure to check out White House Sub Shop for the best sandwiches in the city.
Taking a day trip from NYC to AC entails either driving, which will take you just over two hours, or taking a bus, which takes about two and a half hours. Ditch the car and take a bus to save yourself from parking hassles.
New Haven, Connecticut
*Contributed by Lyndsay, The Purposely Lost
Situated off the final station on the New Haven Metro-North train line, New Haven, Connecticut, is the perfect place for day trips from New York City.
You’ll find yourself with several things to do in New Haven after you’ve arrived! One of the elite Ivy League colleges is located here – Yale University. Begin at the Visitor’s Center to tour the campus grounds with a student guide or enjoy a stroll around the campus. You could also visit the Yale University Art Gallery or the Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History to view some of their renowned collections.
You can also see a performance at any of the city’s three regional theaters, try the largest indoor ropes course in the United States at Jordan’s Furniture, or stroll all along the Long Island Sound shoreline at Pardee Seawall Park, and then see the old lighthouse and carousel at Lighthouse Point Park.
A day trip to New Haven will not be complete without a pizza! It’s a pizza style produced by the large Italian-American community that migrated to New Haven in the early 20th century. Although all pizza places are delicious, Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana has often ranked the best pizza in the United States.
When you take a direct train from Grand Central Terminal, you can arrive at New Haven’s Union Station in a little over two hours.
Stony Brook, New York
Stony Brook is a small community adjacent to the Long Island Sound in Suffolk County. It’s a relatively peaceful college town, home to SUNY Stony Brook.
Many city dwellers escape to Stony Brook to visit the West Meadow Beach Historic District, which is an area of park land where you can enjoy long and rocky beaches, hiking, biking, picnicking and more.
In addition to outdoorsy activities, Stony Brook is also home to the Long Island Museum of American Art, History, and Carriages. This is an open-air museum that boasts gardens and fountains, and is very popular with families.
For one of the most serene day trips from NYC, take a train from Penn Station to Huntington, transfer and take a second train from Huntington to Stony Brook. The entire journey takes about two and a half hours. It’s much faster to drive, however, which will get you there in less than an hour and a half.
*Contributed by Annick, The Common Traveler
Located three hours southwest from New York City lies Lititz, Pennsylvania. Visitors love the small-town charm of this historic village in Amish country. Founded in the mid-1700’s by Moravians, Lititz oozes history without feeling stuffy.
Lititz boasts the first commercial pretzel bakery in the country. Founded in 1861, today’s visitors can even make their own pretzel while touring the bakery.
But the epic food scene in Lititz doesn’t only mean pretzels. A food tour in town combines the best of food and history, highlighting delicious Amish recipes with a modern twist – including the famous whoopie pie. Chocolate lovers, in particular, will love visiting Lititz, which takes its chocolate affair to a whole other level. Home to Wilbur Chocolate, known for their chocolate buds, the town honors its chocolate-loving theme by hosting events throughout the year.
The annual Lititz Chocolate Walk, held the Saturday before Columbus Day, includes over 25 stops where chocolate is king. Local restaurants frequently feature a dish or two on their menu highlighting this amazing delicacy. The town’s walkable center makes for a perfect day outing. Window shopping, visiting art galleries, trying different dishes, are all part of the best things to do in Lititz. Lititz PA makes for a perfect day trip from NYC!
Providence, Rhode Island
Providence, the capital city of Rhode Island, is undoubtedly one of the most underrated cities in the US. For such a small city, there are so many things to do here that it’s well-worth the time it takes to arrive from NYC. If you’ve got more than a day to spare, Rhode Island has plenty to do and is highly worthy of your time.
Providence has an established (yet always-evolving) culinary scene, brilliant museums and libraries, festivals and events, and much more. Given the fact that Johnson and Wales Culinary Institute is located in Providence, it should come as no surprise that Providence is home to some excellent chefs. Definitely do your research before visiting to ensure you visit one of the best restaurants in Providence during your stay.
On the museum front, Providence is home to RISD Museum, which belongs to Rhode Island School of Design, one of the premiere art schools in the nation. Head to Brown University’s John Hay Library to see their special collections, or visit the Museum of Natural History and Planetarium.
If your day trip from NYC coincides with Waterfire, all the better. On Saturdays during summer months, the Providence River is lit up with fires for a beautiful display. Food trucks, vendors, and street performers are eager to share their talents with you as you walk along the riverfront. Gondola rides are also available if you want privileged viewing.
To take one of the best day trips from New York City, taking a train will be the fastest option. Clocking in at just over three hours, grab a train at Penn Station to Providence Amtrak Station. Driving takes a bit longer (three and a half hours), but parking in Providence is plentiful if that’s what you choose to do.
Day trips from New York City < 4 hours
*Contributed by Caroline, Happy When Abroad
From New York City, the U.S. capital can be reached in under four hours by car and bus. Washington, DC is the perfect destination for people who want to dive a bit into American culture and history.
The city is relatively budget-friendly and popular among young people as there are plenty of hostels, vibrant nightlife, and free entrance to many museums across the city. Spending two days in Washington, DC would properly be the perfect amount of time for a visit. However, the main sights are not far apart from each other and can be explored on a day trip as well.
The most impressive attraction might be the Capitol and the White House. The Library of Congress, the Supreme Court and the Washington Monument are also popular tourist attractions, particularly if you’re into US history. Depending on how many sites you’d like to see, the Lincoln Memorial, the Arlington Cemetery, or one of the many museums are also worthy of a visit. Don’t forget to stop by the historic district of Georgetown, which emits a certain charm with its quaint boutiques, cozy cafés and the world-class Georgetown University.
You can easily get to Washington DC by train from New York. If you want, you also have the option of a guided day trip. For more information, click here.
Boston is an epic city to visit, and the largest in New England. It’s among the most historic, affluent, and influential cities in the entire nation. There are so many things to do in Boston, it’s easily worth more than a day. Still, if a day is all you can spare, it’s worth the trip (just anticipate getting up early!).
One of the best things to do in Boston is to walk the Freedom Trail. This entails a walk that traces 16 sites of historical significance in Boston. The trail lasts two and a half miles, going from Boston Commons to the USS Constitution. If you’re into American history, this is a must.
Boston is also home to some of the country’s best museums. The Boston Children’s Museum, Museum of Fine Arts, Harvard Museum of Natural History, Museum of Science, and MIT Museum are all very good (just to name a few!).
Explore Italian culture in Boston in the North End, head to Chinatown, or explore the tourist sites downtown for the ultimate Boston experience. While you’re downtown, be sure to visit Faneuil Hall and Boston Public Garden.
Exploring the city on foot is a great option, as Boston is clean and relatively safe. Avoid taxis if you don’t want to spend an arm and a leg – the T is a better option.
To reach Boston from New York City for a day trip or weekend getaway, take an early morning train from Penn Station to Boston South Station. The ride takes just under four hours. If you take the first train leaving NYC and the last train departing Boston, you can enjoy a nice day in Beantown. Don’t worry about getting up early if you’re not a morning person – just sleep on the train!
If you’d rather join a guided day trip, you may book it here.
Are you planning a trip to New York? These posts will come in handy!
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- How To Get 9/11 Museum Tickets
- The Best Museums In NYC
- A Complete Guide To Visiting The Statue Of Liberty
- A Fun Itinerary For 4 Days In New York
- The Best Itinerary For Your 5 Days In New York
- A Fabulous Itinerary For 3 Days In New York
- The Best Itinerary To See New York In 2 Days