As much as New York pulls you in with its promises of over-stimulation, over-achievement, and other excess, there’s nothing like leaving it behind with some sorely needed day trips from NYC.
All complicated relationships can benefit from an occasional break, and luckily, the five boroughs extend only so far. With the Shore to the south, the Island to the east, and Upstate woodland to the north, there’s no shortage of small havens to get to know.
Set aside an entire day; these destinations will require a commute, but there are options for drivers, train riders, and even cyclists in need of a break from the Big, Loud, and Very Busy Apple.
Day Trips from NYC by Car
If you’re a New Yorker who owns a car, it’s likely that your desire to get away already outweighs your daily parking-induced neurosis.
Are your usual weekend haunts missing natural appeal or historical value? Check out these sites on your next day trip from NYC.
Minnewaska State Park Preserve
Set aside an hour and a half to drive to this park located between the towns of New Paltz and Kerhonkson.
Minnewaska is one of the most popular destinations in the area, so try to experience it on a weekday. Surrounded by rock walls and greenery, Lake Minnewaska is unforgettable, along with the elegant Awosting Falls.
The park hosts a variety of moderate trails, viewpoints, and other lakes and waterfalls. It’s easy to see why two luxury hotels were built at the location over a century ago; both are long gone, and the area is still maintained as a preserve.
The same family that owned the hotels later established the neighboring Mohonk Preserve, situated a little to the north. Its 70 miles of trails incorporate former carriage roads surrounded by nature. Some are open to hiking, while others accommodate skiing and mountain biking.
Storm King Art Center
Currently open on a limited schedule, Storm King Art Center is an outdoor sculpture park a little over an hour away from the city.
Featuring special exhibits alongside a permanent collection, the park is best seen via the meandering footpaths that cross its grounds.
A large portion of the work shown is site-specific, turning your traditional museum experience into a more intimate, interactive activity.
Summer wildflowers, fall foliage, and winter chill all add to the allure of weaving your own path. You may stumble upon a bronze log hidden in a forest floor, or a Lichtenstein mermaid overlooking the park’s north pond.
Martin Van Buren Historic Site
The Martin Van Buren Historic Site near Kinderhook, NY, is a low-key stop. It features a system of nature trails that run through private farmland, as well as the eighth president’s own farm—active in the mid-19th century.
The trails are tranquil and not too extensive, making this a good detour on the way to Kinderhook, or if you’re visiting the town of Hudson.
Catskills/ Hudson River Art Trail
The Catskill Mountains and the town of Catskill, nestled on the left bank of the Hudson, are well-known destinations for day escapees.
For a mix of culture and American history, plan your day trip to the area around the Hudson River Art School’s most famous members. The 19th century movement, focused on the idea of the sublime American landscape, produced iconic paintings of the Catskills and the Hudson Valley.
The Hudson River Art Trail is a local project that works to preserve the legacy of painters like Thomas Cole and Frederic Church, by providing detailed directions to the sites depicted in their works.
Travel to any of the twenty sites listed on their website, hold up a printout of the painting associated with it, and compare. Incredibly enough, many of the shapes and forms haven’t changed since the 1800’s, making it easy to imagine the artists moving their brushes along with mountain ridges and riverbanks.
Day Trips Out of New York by Train
For those of you who have grown used to a subterranean commute, the Metro North, LIRR, and NJ Transit are a refreshing way to get to where the Subway just can’t take you.
Harriman State Park
While the Metro North’s Hudson line might be the most scenic, NJ Transit’s Port Jervis line is the one that gets you to Harriman State Park.
From the station in Suffern, NY, walk ten minutes to the Suffern-Bear Mountain trailhead. The entire trail adds up to 23 miles and is rated difficult, but a few hours of steadily paced hiking can round out your trip.
With lean-to shelters, lake beaches, and peaks, Harriman is ideal if you decide to turn that day trip out of NYC into an overnight stay.
You can even take in a tiny and adorable Manhattan skyline from certain viewpoints near the Suffern trailhead—just so you don’t forget it’s still out there.
Few day trips from NYC offer a great escape 365 days a year, but New Jersey’s Asbury Park is always worth a visit, even in the colder months.
While the boardwalk is busy with nightlife during the summer, in the winter it holds a carnivalesque, slightly deserted charm.
Though it has a beach town reputation, the community boasts a vibrant local culture without the summer crowds. Amidst the town’s revival, its historic seaside architecture has become a draw, along with the local businesses that have sprung up in the past decade.
The NJ Transit ride to Asbury Park is a little under two hours from Penn Station.
If Martin Van Buren didn’t spark any recognition, how about a visit to Teddy Roosevelt’s final home?
Roosevelt lived at Sagamore Hill on Long Island for over 30 years, and his estate is open to the public. While the buildings are temporarily closed, the grounds offer wooded trails and access to the Cold Spring Harbor beach via the Eel Creek Bridge.
The former president’s actual house, painted a soft blue, can be viewed from the outside. Take the LIRR to Oyster Bay, then a brief cab ride to Sagamore.
If the visit is shorter than expected, return to Oyster Bay for waterfront views from Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Park.
And if you tire of Teddy, look across the water towards Centre Island, where Oyster Bay native Billy Joel owns a mansion.
Day Trips from NYC by Bike
If you’re determined to spend your entire day trip out of NYC enjoying the great outdoors, both Nyack and Tarrytown can be reached from the city by bike.
Don’t worry: they still feel plenty removed to qualify as a getaway.
Nyack/ Edward Hopper House
The Edward Hopper House in Nyack, NY, is a gem on the Hudson in Rockland County. The 20th century painter, famous for his scenes of American life, was born in the home on North Broadway in 1882.
The home gallery now features contemporary artwork, and Hopper’s early work and supplies, among other rotating exhibitions.
Starting on the Upper West Side, cross the George Washington Bridge to reach bike Route 9w. Find detailed directions here.
This is a long, 60+ mile round trip ride, but it’s a good challenge for experienced cyclists. Consider staying overnight if you do want to devote time to Nyack’s Main Street, and attractions like the Hopper House.
New York to Tarrytown, NY, is another smooth ride to an idyllic town north of the city.
The best part about this one is that you and your two-wheeled friend can take the Metro North one way, leaving you more time to spend in Tarrytown and neighboring Sleepy Hollow.
From the Bronx, connect to the South County Trailway just beyond Van Cortlandt park, then ride a little over 20 miles north to reach Tarrytown.
The paved, traffic-free path allows you to focus on the tree-lined road ahead and enjoy the journey.
Once in Tarrytown, lock up and stroll the main drag, or relax by the Hudson in view of the Tarrytown Lighthouse.
Sleepy Hollow, located right above Tarrytown—and the site of Washington Irving’s classic tale—is best visited deep into the fall. The town embraces its uncanny history during Halloween season, and there’s plenty of historic sites to visit.
Stop by Sleepy Hollow Cemetery any time of year, though, to read centuries-old epitaphs and get lost among the serene stone structures.
Get Away for a Bit
Too much of a good thing applies to all cities, and New York is no exception. Fortunately, great destinations sit within a stone’s throw of the concrete jungle, giving overwhelmed city dwellers the perfect opportunity for a few day trips from NYC.
Don’t hesitate to skip town by car, train, bike or all three. Be warned, though: if you get stuck in FDR traffic, a delayed train, or ill-chosen gear on the way back from your day trip, you might wish you were still there in the woods, on the beach, or in that charming village.
Luckily, you can do it all over again on your next free day. One of the best things about the city is the variety in what surrounds it, and how simple it is to unplug, pack up, and get away from it all.
For more travel inspiration and tips, check out this comprehensive guide to planning a bike tour, even if you’re a beginner. You can also check out the coolest places to travel, or the best places to shower on a road trip.