New York City has no shortage of incredible things to do. If you are planning a trip to the Big Apple, rest assured that you’ll have an exciting itinerary on your hands. But what about day trips from NYC? You can escape city life and explore the smaller country towns in the Hudson Valley or take a day trip to Philadelphia or Atlantic City. Whether you want hiking and biking trails or a glitzy day trip to a neighboring city, this guide will cover all the best day trips from NYC. Let’s dive straight in.
New York is surrounded by fantastic day trip destinations, and Grand Central Station is just as functional as it is sightseeing-worthy. You could venture out using public transport like the train or Metro North or hire a rental car to visit somewhere off the beaten track.
Rockaway Beach is a vast sandy beach on the outskirts of New York City. Its 5.5-mile boardwalk is a popular draw and, in summer, Rockaway Beach is the perfect spot to escape the city for beach volleyball or relaxing sunbathing. Visiting Rockaway Beach is easily a half-day activity, although you’ll probably want to stay longer. You can reach the beach in less than an hour by car, while public transport takes around an hour and a half.
Rockaway Beach is where to head on a day trip if you want a beach day, and it is a popular coastal getaway from New York City. The city can get stifling in summer, and this beach is a dreamy place to catch a coastal breeze and cool off in the waves.
New York City might be incredible, but you can still venture out to another nearby gem. Philadelphia is a city known for its history, and it sometimes feels like there is a national historical landmark at every corner. Liberty Bell is the most famous attraction in Philly and is considered a symbol of American Independence and civilian freedom. If you are interested in American history and politics, Philadelphia is the ideal day trip from NYC. Plus, you can catch public transport between the cities in just over an hour or drive between them in two hours.
Apart from Liberty Bell, you can visit Independence Hall, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and the Museum of the American Revolution. For many reasons, visiting Philadelphia is a popular day trip from NYC. You can view our full guide on things to do in Philadelphia here.
You can book this highly rated tour from NYC to Philadelphia and Washington DC. Check off seeing three of America’s best cities (including NYC) with this trip as you leave early in the morning from New York and visit the iconic landmarks of Phili and DC including the Lincoln Memorial, White House, the U.S. Capitol, and Independence Hall.
A day trip to Bear Mountain is one for hiking and nature lovers. Bear Mountain is a 1289 foot (393-meter) high peak in the Hudson Highlands and is just a one-hour drive from the center of New York City. Visitors can drive up Perkins Memorial Drive for beautiful views over the highlands; even better, you only need half a day to do so. Bear Mountain is popular because it is a scenic but convenient hike just a stone’s throw from New York City. And we think you’ll love it.
Bear Mountain State Park has 5,000 acres to explore and besides its famous peak visitors can enjoy activities like boating, skiing, fishing, and more.
The Bear Mountain Loop Trail is 3.8 miles and has 1154 feet of elevation gain. It is a reasonably medium-difficulty route and takes just a few hours to complete. You start at a parking lot by Bear Mountain Inn and loop past Hessian Lake, quickly reaching stunning views over the Hudson River and the surrounding peaks. Be prepared for a bit of scrambling and pack some sturdy hiking boots; it is one of those nature trails you crave after a few days of city life.
If you want to see the Hudson Valley from above, book this helicopter tour where travelers get a taste of the New England fall foliage aboard a private helicopter over the Hudson Valley.
Music lovers, you’ve probably heard of Woodstock. The town in Ulster County is set a two-hour drive from the city and is one of the best day trips from NYC. The town is famed for the Woodstock Festival of 1969, which was essentially a hippie get-together as people gathered to use music as an outlet for growing socio-political tensions. In the face of events such as the Vietnam War, Woodstock Festival was a message of peace and unity.
Today, Woodstock is still famous for its music and art. You can stop by the Woodstock Artists Association and Museum or embrace nature at the Woodstock Waterfall Park. While the original Woodstock Festival was located on a nearby farm, many people also treat visiting Woodstock as a musical pilgrimage. If you are inspired by the story of 1969 or love musical history, it is a great day trip from NYC.
Cold Spring is a tiny town in the Hudson Valley. Known for its antique shops and cute cafe culture, Cold Spring is a fantastic day trip from NYC. It is a brilliant choice if you want a small-town vibe after a few days in the constant flurry that is New York. You can easily spend half a day puttering around all the little shops and grabbing brunch. And in summer, you can enjoy picnics along the Hudson River. Cold Spring is just over an hour’s drive from the center of NYC or under two hours using public transport.
After an hour or two of antique shopping, Cold Spring has an extra selection of attractions that make it popular. Boscobel House and Gardens have 68 acres of diverse gardens to stroll, including woodland and dainty flowerbeds. There’s also the Putnam History Museum and West Point Foundry Preserve. Cold Spring has that small-town aesthetic, but you will never be short of entertainment options, which earns it its place on our list.
Fire Island is a beautiful barrier island off the coast of Long Island’s south shores. Rural, remote, and still ‘wild’, Fire Island is an adventurous day trip from New York for anyone wanting to escape beeping car horns and dodging the crowds. It is best known for its coastal reserve, the Fire Island National Seashore. Fire Island is only accessible by car and takes an hour and a half to reach from New York City center.
Visitors to the island can enjoy sunbathing, sailing, cycling, or admiring the famous Sunken Forest. The sunken forest got its name from the unique double dune system what protects the trees. None of which can grow taller than the dunes that protect them. Thus the forest is sunken in the dunes.
The island is an excellent spot for outdoor activities. Fire Island is a calming but versatile beach destination easily reached with a rental car – what more could you want on a sunny day? Note: If you do not have a car there is this Tour of Fire Island that leaves from the Long Island Rail Road Station on the Ronkonkoma Branch from Penn Station, Manhattan.
Storm King Mountain sits in the center of Storm King State Park and rises over 13,123 feet (400 meters) above sea level. Just an hour and a half’s drive north of NYC, the mountain is a convenient nearby hike, which makes it popular with locals and tourists alike. The mound-like mountain is entirely covered in greenery and bursts out of the ground right next to the Hudson River, cutting a striking natural landmark. This mountain is the one for you if you want a hiking day trip.
As we are sure that you’ve already guessed, the mountain summit offers some beautiful views. You’ll be overlooking the Hudson River and all the surrounding greenery of the Hudson Valley countryside. It is a relatively easy five-mile hike to reach the summit, navigating a handful of mild switchbacks and mostly sticking to the easy footing on well-defined paths.
Minnewaska State Park Preserve is a dreamy spot to embrace nature outside NYC. The preserve boasts three lakes, more waterfalls than you can count, and hiking trails galore. Minnewaska State Park Preserve is also fantastic for rock climbing and biking if you want to leave your hiking boots behind and get a bit more adventurous. The preserve is only accessible by car, so rent a car, buckle up, and get ready for a two-hour drive through Hudson Valley.
The preserve has a pretty special location, perched on Shawangunk Mountain Ridge and overlooking the countryside of Ulster County. The preserve is known for cliffs, sweeping views, and natural water features. When you combine this with over 50 miles of hiking trails, it’s easy to see why it is such a sought-after location. For a day of hiking and natural attractions, Minnewaska State Park Preserve is a brilliant day trip from NYC.
So, if you are visiting New York in winter, what then? Many hiking trails close, and you might feel less enthusiastic about trudging around knee-deep in snow anyway. In winter, skiing is the answer. Outside the city center, you can visit fantastic ski resorts – spending your day on the slopes or exploring the countryside by cross-country skiing.
West Mountain is a popular place for skiing activities and is a few hours’ drive from NYC. For a resort experience, you could organize an overnight stay. However, it is close enough to visit for a day trip if you are short on time, especially if you are traveling with multiple drivers to split the driving time. Whether you are a total skiing newbie or an advanced skier, going cross-country skiing is a fun day trip from New York.
Governors Island is located smack bang in the middle of New York Harbor and is the perfect day trip from the city center. You can drive straight over to Governors Island via a connecting bridge from Brooklyn, which take less than half an hour (heavily dependent on traffic). Alternatively, catch a ferry ride to the island. Governors Island is one of the most central NYC day trips. If you are short on time, this is a realistic option for your list.
So, what is Governors Island? Governors Island is a 172-acre area that served as an early home for Dutch colonists who were initially wary of settling on the mainland. The island was then taken over by British rule in the late 17th century, coining its name ‘Governors Island’ after being reserved for His Majesty’s Governors. The island is open for public enjoyment, featuring recreation areas, cultural exhibits, and regular events and activities. You can even take a bike tour. This particular tour is the best one on the island and is likely to sell out! We suggest checking its schedule to see if anything catches your eye.
Fancy a party break or another glitzy urban experience? Atlantic City is an outgoing, flashy coastal city just two hours from New York in New Jersey. The city is known for casinos and beaches, a popular niche for those wanting to let their hair down. If you want to combine multiple states in one trip, New Jersey is also a convenient addition, and you can always stop at attractions like Bass River State Forest on the way.
Like many cities around the US, Atlantic City has a large American-Italian population, and you can expect plenty of delicious restaurants and bars. While you visit Philadelphia for a day trip full of history, you visit Atlantic City for a day trip full of fun and partying. Atlantic City is a brilliant choice for an entertaining venture out of New York.
Iona Island Bird Sanctuary is another of our NYC day trips for nature lovers. The sanctuary is on Iona Island, a 556-acre island an hour and a half drive from the city center. The island itself is lovely to explore and a great place to experience some off-the-beaten-track nature. You can also spot hundreds of birds, from common wetland birds to famous birds like the bald eagle. Whether you are a keen birdwatcher or want to immerse yourself in nature on an NYC day trip, Iona Island Bird Sanctuary is a beautiful spot for your itinerary.
You’ll need a car to visit Iona Island since navigating solely on public transport is tricky. But, if you have a rental car and enjoy finding more remote places on day trips, the sanctuary is an exciting spot to visit.
There’s something ridiculously romantic about exploring the countryside on horseback, and what better place to do so than Westchester County? The county is sandwiched between two bodies of water – the Hudson Valley Sound and the Hudson River. It might be one of New York’s most populous counties, but it also has some stunning natural areas. You can ride along the beautiful waterfront and wooded trails with Westchester Trail Rides, stables are located just an hour and 20 minutes drive from the city center.
Cross streams, lope along woodland trails, and admire the Westchester scenery. Even better, the stables are also accessible via the Metro North. Horseback riding in Westchester County is an easy, romantic, and fun day trip from NYC.
Did you know that award-winning wineries surround New York City? North Fork is the most famous region for wine tasting and is situated at the eastern end of Long Island – surrounded by water, which is said to be ideal for growing the perfect wine. It is nicknamed Long Island wine country and is a fantastic day trip when visiting NYC. The 30-mile stretch of the peninsula is around two and a half hours from the city center and is only accessible via car. However, to enjoy the tasting experience, we recommend booking a tour from NYC, which covers transportation for you.
Most of the best wineries are located along Main Road and include Peconic Bay Vineyards, Jason’s Vineyard, and Paumanok Vineyards. You could easily walk between them, although those who purchase tours will have the luxury of vehicle transfers. Wine tasting in Long Island’s North Fork is a fun activity, especially for wine enthusiasts wanting to experience New York’s take on vino.
Montauk Point Lighthouse Museum is an attraction for history buffs. The 1796-built lighthouse was authorized by President George Washington and was the first ever lighthouse to be built in New York. It is now the fourth oldest working lighthouse in the US – a pretty staggering title. The museum is an adjoining attraction where you can learn more about the lighthouse and its history. One of the best ways to explore is on an electric bike. This tour takes you around the island with minimal effort.
Montauk Point Lighthouse has one of the longest travel times out of all our day trips and takes nearly four hours to reach by car. Because of this, we recommend pacing the drive out as a one-day road trip and stopping at attractions like Parrish Art Museum and Hook Windmill along the way. You could combine it with a beach day at East Hampton Main Beach. Take your time, take in the sights along the way, and have multiple drivers take turns at the wheel.
Sleepy Hollow Cemetery is one of the strangest NYC day trips. Not only was the cemetery the focus of the story The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, but it is also the burial place of many rich and famous people, including William Rockefeller. You can visit to spot famed resting places and tour the cemetery. If you are visiting New York in the fall, visiting Sleepy Hollow Cemetery is a popular, spooky activity, and the graveyard is exceptionally atmospheric.
The cemetery is an hour and a half drive or an hour on the metro. You can hop on at Grand Central Terminal and take the Hudson Line 745 to Philipse Manor, walking around fifteen minutes to reach the cemetery. Visiting this famed cemetery as a day trip from NYC is straightforward and an unusual addition to your itinerary.
New York has some tremendous ice-skating rinks; that much is for sure. However, The Rink is easily one of the best options if you are looking for an ice-skating day trip. The NHL regulation-size rink is just a forty-minute bus ride or drive from New York City center. You can don a pair of skates yourself or leave it to the professionals and watch a figure skating or hockey tournament. The Rink is fantastic as it caters to those who want to get involved and those who are ‘passionate onlookers’.
Wrap up warm and get excited to pull off or watch some cool moves; ice skating is one of NYC’s most entertaining day trips. For those wanting a winter sports experience but aren’t wanting to venture to the nearest ski slopes, ice skating is also a great compromise.
New Hope Railroad is a heritage railway just under two hours drive southwest of NYC. If you are a locomotive enthusiast or just love all things vintage, New Hope Railroad is a fascinating and immersive place to visit. It makes a great day trip for those who like to get involved and experience history for themselves. The 18-mile route has both steam and diesel trains, and visitors can embark on scenic rides through Buck Country.
New Hope Railroad is a perfect standalone day trip from NYC, but if you are okay with a longer travel day, consider combining it with a visit to Philadelphia. Philadelphia is just over an hour south of the railway – too close not to be tempted by surely.
Asbury Park is another New Jersey gem just an hour’s drive from New York City. The seaside city is the perfect coastal getaway if you want a traditional seaside experience. You have everything from a wooden boardwalk to beach arcades with games and machines dating back to the 1930s. It is a popular destination for those wanting to unwind and have a fun, light-hearted day. Asbury Park will keep you entertained whether you are traveling as a family or just want to unleash your inner child.
You could relax on Asbury Park Beach, which has typically calm waters perfect for swimming or paddling. Otherwise, you could treat yourself to a meal overlooking the ocean, walk the scenic boardwalk, or spend a few hours in Silverball Retro Arcade. The best thing about Asbury Park is its old-world atmosphere; for a vintage beach day, don’t look any further.
You can get river cruises everywhere in New York. One of the most popular things to do in New York City is to cruise up the East River for ultimate views of the cityscape and New York’s major waterfront attractions. Ready for more adventure, though? One of the best day trips from NYC is to head up the Hudson River on a cruise. You can usually take cruises straight from New York City, so your travel time is low, and the cruises usually last a few hours.
The Hudson River splits New Jersey and New York, with the state boundaries falling somewhere in the river itself. From New York City, you’ll cruise upstream, under the George Washington Bridge and past stunning scenery like Tallman Mountain State Park. You’ll also get to sightsee some of both states’ lesser-known attractions, including waterfront mansions like the Gothic revival property Lyndhurst Mansion. The Hudson River is one of the most famous rivers in the world and is nicknamed the ‘river that flows both ways’ because the flow is controlled by the tide. It is easy to see why the Hudson River makes such a popular day trip.
When you think of things to do near New York, whale watching probably isn’t one of them. The waters off of Long Island are full of marine animals, though, including humpback, fin, and north Atlantic right whales throughout summer and fall. Even if you don’t spot whales, you’ll likely see bottlenose or common dolphins.
The best way to see whales on a day trip from NYC is to book a whale-watching boat trip from Long Island. You can easily drive or take public transport to Long Island, enjoying a fully organized tour experience from there. If you’ve never seen whales up close, going whale watching from Long Island is one of the best wildlife day trips from NYC. Seeing whales in the wild is a humbling and awe-inspiring day trip – the perfect balance for a city break.
Storm King Art Center is a day trip for art lovers. The open-air museum showcases a huge collection of contemporary sculptures, some so bizarre that you’ll be head-scratching for a while before you figure them out. There are over a hundred sculptures spread out over 500 acres. In the summer of 2022, Storm King Art Center also invested a staggering $45 million in redesigning the center. It is a massively popular day trip from New York, partly for its art and partly because it makes such a lovely outdoor day out.
The outdoor art gallery is an hour and a half’s drive from the city center or just under two hours on public transport. You’ll have some great views along the way, though, and will drive along the banks of the Hudson River and between Harriman and Bear Mountain State Park.
South Mountain Reservation is one of the best New York City day trips. The 2,000-acre public park is the ultimate day out, featuring a sports arena, zoo, and hiking trails galore. The reservation is the perfect place to spend a day – especially in spring or summer on a warm, sunny day. You can pack a picnic, walk the grounds, and even go pond fishing. And on a hot day, there’s a pavilion with ceiling fans to retreat to.
The reservation is a 45-minute drive from NYC or around an hour on public transport. It is massively popular amongst New Yorkers and much less touristy than any parks in the city center. A win, win.
Has Woodstock made you intrigued to visit the Hudson Valley’s small towns? Well, New Paltz should be another on your list. The college town is an hour and a half’s drive from NYC and is set in the dramatic countryside right on the curve of the Wallkill River. The town has that wholesome atmosphere, with farmers’ markets and romantic hiking trails that whisk you straight from the town center. It makes a great day out, and New Paltz is easily one of the most popular places to visit in the beautiful Hudson Valley.
Make sure to stop by Historic Huguenot Street, a National Historic Landmark District consisting of seven stone houses built by Huguenot settlers in the 18th century. The street usually has immersive history demonstrations in full flow. It is a fascinating spot for history lovers and those interested in early American history. And when you are satisfied with a history fix, we suggest embarking on the Ridge-to-Ridge Trail for beautiful views.
Last but not least, here’s our most ambitious day trip from NYC. Washington, D.C., is the U.S. capital city and one of the most famed cities on Earth. Washington is known for its history, memorials, and museums. For any serious sightseers, it is a fantastic add-on to your NYC itinerary. You could visit the Lincoln Memorial, United States Capitol, National Gallery of Art, or Library of Congress. Read more: 12 Must-See Washington DC Monuments and Memorials in Photos
For full disclosure, getting to Washington, D.C., is tiring, and you should allow for an eight-hour round trip of driving. If you can rotate drivers, you can manage this on a self-guided day trip, but if not, we recommend booking a guided tour. These tours include transfers from NYC. You can kick back and just enjoy the ride.
Are you excited to try out these day trips from NYC? You should be. New York City might be an action-packed, exciting place, but these destinations also deserve a place on your itinerary. Besides, it always feels more adventurous to stray out of the city center.
If you’ve got any more questions about visiting New York, you can check out our guides on where to stay and a special New York Christmas guide. Have a fantastic trip.
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