10 great day trips from NYC

Capital of the World and City of Dreams, whatever you label her New York City remains enigmatic. While shoppers and museum-goers throng under Manhattan’s impressive skyscrapers, trickling through Central Park and landing on MOMA en masse, other visitors will prefer to chink single-origin espresso with the hipsters of Williamsburg, Greenwich Village and Queens. Whatever cultural pursuit you choose, a rushed New York remains energetic and eager to please. When the times comes for a breather and more reasonably priced coffee, however, don’t hesitate to leave! Discover the wonders of New York State in its entirety, from the Hudson Valley to Long Island, getting your fill of pool-side pampering, riverside dining and rural wine tasting. Here’s our selection of the top 10 day trips from NYC, curated just for you.

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Montauk | Photo: Bridget Shevlin

New York City

While New York City needs no introduction, it still has the capacity to surprise. As well as the obvious delights of neon-lit Broadway or the commerce of Times Square, New York City is a celebration of diversity and newness in a constant state of flux. Discover the city’s multitude of communities, from the Hispanic area of Bushwick to the hipster hub of Williamsburg and get a feel for local life. Sink your teeth into the best bits of New York with our dedicated New York City travel guide, offering a taste of the best activities, places to stay and more. But, with everything happening at all hours, planning an escape route out of New York is a good idea. Luckily, we’ve compiled a list of the best day trips out of New York City for relaxing city breaks within the verdant New England region.

NYC | Photo: Florian Wehde

Photo: Steven Jones

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Once on Fire Island, you’ll find small sleepy towns nestled along pristine sandy beaches, where the trifecta of sun, sand and sea is pretty much guaranteed

1. Fire Island

Those looking for a low-key version of the Hamptons should take a day trip to Fire Island, an idyllic, sandy ridge off the southern coast of Long Island. Stretching 32-miles along a thin barrier island known as the Fire Island National Seashore, Fire Island is a true city escape. The question of how to get to fire island is easy, thanks to the LIRR and Fire Island ferry service taking just over 90 minutes from NYC. Once on Fire Island, you’ll find small sleepy towns nestled along pristine sandy beaches, where the trifecta of sun, sand and sea is pretty much guaranteed, making for a popular summer break destination. Although Fire Island was once a nudist’s haven, the prudish federal government has since made clothing mandatory. No worries, however, because there’s still so much to arouse your excitement on the island. Popular swimming spots include Atlantique, Davis Park, Sailors Haven and Watch Hill, while nature lovers can take a walk along the boardwalk at Sunken Forest Preserve, home to a unique marine ecosystem ensconced between two tall sand dunes.

Get your adventure in the afternoon over at Great South Bay where canoeing, boating and fishing are offered alongside ranger-led tours. As night falls, you’ll soon see the lights grow bright around Ocean Beach and Kismet, while young professionals come to mingle. Over at Cherry Grove and the Pines meanwhile, the streets fill with the local LGBT community and its advocates. In addition to 24-hour restaurants, bars and spa resorts, Fire Island is a great place to camp. Opt for peak position on Watch Hill or shelter behind the dunes in Otis Pike Fire Island High Dune Wilderness.

Fire Island | Photo: Ostap Senyuk

2. Wineries near New York: North Fork

One of the more boozy day trips from NYC can be scouted out on Long Island within North Fork, a rural peninsula region comprised of back-to-back vineyards and world-class vino. New York’s answer to Napa Valley, North Fork has its own Wine Trail where guests can sample local stock – whether it’s a glass of award-winning Sauvignon Blanc or a crisp rosé – before being ferried to the next winery by a personal chauffeur. Make a stop at the impressive Bedell Cellars house or, for a splash of cider, visit Woodside Orchard. Less than 2 hours from NYC, North Fork is a proud alternative to the Hamptons (located on the much-hyped South Fork), ranking first for great hospitality and charming locals.

New York state’s wine industry is not just reserved for Long Island, however. Warwick NY, in particular, offers a happy alternative to North Fork. Book in for a tasting session at the Warwick Valley Wine and Distillery, where you can get a taste of the distillery’s own wine, cider, liqueur and gin while enjoying free live music and unmatched views of the Hudson River.

3. Cold Spring

Heading North from New York, this time we find ourselves in the Hudson Highlands, 70 minutes away on the Metro-North. Prepare for wild expanses, rising peaks and sloping trails, with the Hudson River in the west serving as your compass. In the midst of it all lies the arty 19th-Century town of Cold Spring NY, well placed for leisurely weekends interspersed with hiking, biking and kayaking adventures. Those seeking thrills should tackle the Breakneck Ridge hike, clambering to the summit in order to bask in the 360° views of surrounding peaks, namely Storm King Mountain, Bannerman Castle and Catskills. With or without the walk, pack an epic picnic to enjoy atop a rolling hill of your choice.

In the town of Cold Spring itself, visitors can unwind with a stroll through the picture-perfect historic centre, over Main Street’s babbling brook and past beautifully preserved buildings now housing restaurants, boutiques and antique stores. Open-air cafés and bars set up outdoor patios along the river, presenting live music come nightfall. Relax in Stonecrop Gardens – one of the town’s open green spaces – or enjoy a seasonal treat; autumnal walking trails and foliage cruises are popular come fall, while in summer the Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival takes over Boscobel House and Gardens. Another theatrical intrigue can be had all year round at the Philipstown Depot Theatre in Garrison.

Photo: Jake Ingle

Cold Spring | Photo: Jeffrey Blum

4. Hudson Valley

Travel any distance north from NYC along the Hudson River and you’ll soon find yourself in the Hudson Valley region which stretches from the capital all the way into the LGBTQ-friendly communities of Albany, Troy and Yonkers. Take advantage of the region’s contemporary art scene, farm-to-table dining and local wineries, wherever in the valley you are. Of the many small river towns nearby, most offer clusters of boutiques, galleries and cafés in old-world surroundings. Antique lovers should head to Nyack, Cold Spring or Saugerties in particular, while those wanting bustling markets should check out Hudson and Asian-fusion foodies will be content in Kingston. Lovers of nature meanwhile can venture deeper inland for apple orchards, horse stands and farmer’s markets. While the valley has myriad country-style inns, spas and destination restaurants, the yoga and meditation retreat at the Omega Institute in Rhinebeck is worth a bookmark for ultimate destressing.

An added American history lesson is to be had within the United States Military Academy at West Point, where Civil War heroes and US presidents are remembered. From an architectural point of view, the Hudson shoreline is the place to be, lined with grand mansions owned by New York families of old, such as Boscobel Restoration, the Livingston Mansion and the Rockefeller Estate, some of which offer seasonal tours. Learn more about everything happening in the Hudson Valley here.

5. Beacon

While Beacon lies within the valley above, we think this Duchess County town is worth a separate mention. Culturally vibrant and exploding with great food, drink and art, Beacon is a just 80 minutes from NYC via Metro-North making it popular among New Yorkers and travellers alike. The town’s claim to fame lies within the edgy Dia:Beacon museum. Here, a striking contemporary art collection, dating from the 1960s onwards and lit by 34,000-square feet of skylights, fills a former Nabisco factory building. As well as its main collection, Dia:Beacon also hosts a number of seasonal exhibitions as well as public programs and educational activities. Find out more about the museum here.

Photo: Hazal Ozturk

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Pass Saratoga Springs and Lake George on an epic 5 hour drive from New York City, to finally reach the base of the lofty Adirondack Mountains

6. The Adirondacks

Way up north towards the Canadian Border lies every hiker’s dream. Pass Saratoga Springs and Lake George on an epic 5-hour drive from New York City, to finally reach the base of the lofty Adirondack Mountains. The largest protected area in the US spanning six million acres, the Adirondacks range and the surrounding wilderness is jam-packed with adventure and inhabited by over 100 welcoming communities. While you can arrive simply to embrace the tranquillity of the area, viewing the lakes and lush valleys from the rugged cliffs above, we suggest you choose your stop-off point before starting out, opting to kayak and canoe within the Saranac Lake and Tupper Lake areas or hike the High Peaks Wilderness in the Lake Placid region, with the elevated Wild Walk sending you way up into the forest canopy. Down at sea level, grab a wetsuit and dive to meet the shipwrecks on the Adirondack Seaway or, for a more laid-back day trip, try biking along the Adirondack coast stopping at a winery or two if you’re inclined.

Read up on safely hiking the Adirondacks and the best points of interest in the region, here.

Adirondacks | Photo: Renee Burnell

Adirondacks | Photo: Dylan Sauerwein

7. Shelter Island

Travelling back through Long Island, we resist the call of the Hamptons once more in order to discover the paradisiacal coastal retreat known as Shelter Island. Separated from the rest of the county and sparsely populated, Shelter Island offers a unique maritime ambience and an intriguing history. Calm and tranquil with some spectacular scenery, the island continues to evolve for tourists in its choice of great dining options, shops and accommodation.

Although covering just 8,000 acres, Shelter Island blends the best bits of North and South Fork, adding in an extra dose of authenticity and sophistication thanks to its remote location and exclusive ferry access. Explore the island’s 17 miles of shoreline, where several harbour villages throng with fishing boats and colour. Crescent Beach is famed for having the island’s best sunsets, while the Mashomack Preserve on the south-eastern peninsula offers over 2,000 acres of untouched woodlands, marshes and creeks, penned in by 12 miles of undeveloped coastline. The five main hiking trails at Mashomack vary in difficulty and length, but the water trail is worth a mention for its rugged coastal trail to Coelce Harbor.

Photo: Asaf R.

8. Mohonk Preserve

Moving up the Hudson River past Poughkeepsie, we venture to the Mohonk Preserve in New Paltz for some of New England’s best natural scenery. Covering a total of 8,000 acres, the Mohonk Preserve lies on the slopes of the Shawangunk Mountains some 90 miles north of New York, brim-full of protected forests, cliffs, streams and open wilderness.

In addition to great accessibility, the preserve is carved with around 40 miles of hiking, biking, horse riding and cross-country skiing trails, and as many as 1,000 mountain climbing trails. The modest entrance fee contributes towards research, education and protection of the preserve’s 1,400 plant and animal species, including the endangered peregrine falcon. To uncover the best Mohonk preserve hiking opportunities, start your day by dropping in at the Mohonk Preserve Visitor Center.

9. Montauk

Montauk is our fourth day trip in the vicinity of Long Island, but our only Hamptons highlight. Unlike a traditional Hamptons vacation of spas and champagne cocktails, Montauk is an off-the-beaten-track surfer’s utopia, with fishing village vibes. Nicknamed “The End”, at the easternmost prong of South Fork, Montauk treats pilgrims to unparalleled ocean views and a mellow atmosphere throughout its bars and hotels. After a two to three hour drive from NYC, travellers will be rewarded with highway ocean views leading towards the still Lake Montauk and shore-lined marinas.

Of the many Montauk things to do, try surfing at Ditch Plains, with boards and wetsuits for hire (as well as surfing lessons) at the Air and Speed Surf Shop. Out of the sea meanwhile, visitors can opt to visit the Montauk Point State Park, horseback riding within the grounds, touring the 200-year-old lighthouse, or birdwatching in the adjacent Hither Hills State Park. After one too many lobster rolls, get your daily exercise with a swim in the ocean or, alternatively, sign up for a spin class at Cinema Cy-cle Theater.

Montauk | Photo: J. Bigora

10. Philadelphia

Why not just skip state entirely and take a day trip to Philadelphia, an easy-breezy trip south into the state of Pennsylvania? Home of the eponymous Philly Cheese Steak and a cooler set of urbanites than even New York can brag about, Philadelphia is a definite mover and shaker on the list of top US cities. Just 90 minutes from New York City by train, Philadelphia needs no excuse to visit. Historical sites are compact within the Old City, meaning a short walk downtown can take you from the Liberty Bell, past Independence Hall and through to Constitution Square (the birthplace of the US constitution).

Philadelphia is also an art hub, with world-class galleries spread wide (including the Philadelphia Museum of Art championed by Rocky). Art and history buffs will be kept busy in Philly, but fashion hunters are not forgotten, thanks to Philly’s thriving thrift movement which centres on vintage shops and hidden treasure spots, such as Bulk Vintage, with the addition of Briar, a chic man’s mecca for Americana tailoring and throwback fashion. When you find yourself flagging, make a stop at a popular family diner – such as Geno’s or Pat’s – for a cheesesteak like no other. Those calories will serve you well on an afternoon walk down Boathouse Row. While there’s no shortage of things to do in Philadelphia, as a New York one day trip, Philly is very doable. However, those liking the industrial vibes can choose to stay a while longer, taking in the old farmers’ market at Reading Terminal or venturing out for excursions to Amish Country. Develop your itinerary with help from our full Philadelphia travel guide.

Philadelphia | Photo: Trebreh Baaheth

Philadelphia City Hall | Photo: Leo Serrat

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