New York City is full of energy, and there are tons of things to do in Manhattan as well as the other four boroughs. Trying to see and do everything can wear you out. What happens when you want a change of pace? Here’s a list of where native New Yorkers go. We selected 12 fantastic day trips from New York City. Most are about an hour away, but a few take longer. Many are accessible by public transportation. Cars, buses, and trains will whisk you away to the beaches of Long Island, antique shops and historical sites in the Hudson Valley, and the shores of New Jersey.
1. Visit Fire Island
Fire Island is home to some of the most beautiful and tranquil beaches in New York. The island is 31 miles long and has 17 different communities. Cherry Grove and the Pines are known for the LGBTQ+ community with drag shows, bars, and parties. Ocean Grove has a younger set while Saltaire is family-oriented. The beach communities are accessed via ferries and there are no cars allowed.
There are only three areas accessible by car on Fire Island: the William Floyd Estate, the Wilderness Visitor Center, and the Fire Island Lighthouse. For a bit of history, Floyd was a signer of the Declaration of Independence and was born in the manor. The rest of Fire Island and most of the beach communities are accessible via ferries.
How To Get There: Long Island Railroad (LIRR) and a ferry will get you there in about 2.5 hours.
2. People Watch In The Hamptons
When New Yorkers refer to The Hamptons, we are actually referring to a group of towns and villages on the eastern end of Long Island, including Southampton, East Hampton, Sag Harbor, Watermill, and Bridgehampton. It is a summer playground for the elite with sand dunes, high-end restaurants, boutiques, museums, theaters, and antique shops. If you want to avoid the crowds, before Memorial Day and right after Labor Day are great times for visiting. In the summer, it can take three hours by car in traffic.
How To Get There: Take the Hampton Jitney (bus), LIRR, or a car to the Hamptons.
3. Swim In The Atlantic At Jones Beach State Park
For a closer beach and more New York City feel, try Jones Beach State Park. My family spent many summer days at Jones Beach when I was a child growing up in Brooklyn. The beach is more than six miles long. Walk along the Boardwalk, play shuffleboard, try your hand at miniature golf, or go swim in the pools. In the evenings, there are concerts, fireworks, and other activities.
How To Get There: Take the LIRR and a bus or drive yourself.
4. Stroll Along The Hudson In Carmel
Carmel is a lovely town about an hour north of New York City. Take a hike in Fahnestock State Park or Mt. Ninham State Forest. See the Buddha statue at the Chuang Yen Monastery. Or take a walk across the Hudson River on the pedestrian bridge. You can’t go wrong in Carmel strolling the street or eating in one of the cafes or restaurants. If you are looking for a relaxing weekend trip, Carmel can be a good base to take in the Hudson Valley.
How To Get There: Take Metro-North or drive to Carmel.
5. Walk Among the Sculpture At Storm King Art Center
Windsor, New York
Storm King is an outdoor sculpture museum (and one of our must-stops for a New York to Boston road trip). You’ll find 100+ sculptures on 500 acres of rolling hills and meadows. Among the pieces are works by Alexander Calder, Isamu Noguchi, Richard Serra, Maya Lin, and Roy Lichtenstein. There is a wheelchair-accessible tram and some of the paths are paved. There are also bikes for rent to tour the grounds. Insect repellent and good walking shoes are useful at Storm King.
How To Get There: Take Metro-North to the Beacon Station and then a shuttle bus or taxi. There are also busses from NYC to Storm King.
6. Kayak The Hudson To Bannerman Castle
Beacon, New York
Bannerman Castle sits on Pollepel Island (most people call it Bannerman Island) in the middle of the Hudson River. It was built by Francis Bannerman to hold his gunpowder and military equipment. The ruins are beautiful and evocative. Take a tour by boat or kayak to see the ruins and learn the history. In addition, there are movie nights and theatrical events on the island.
How To Get There: Take the Metro-North to the Cold Spring stop.
7. Shop Till You Drop At Woodbury Commons
Central Valley, New York
Looking to shop in NYC and not break the bank? Woodbury Commons is the place to go. All of the top stores, from Nike to Coach to Bose, Dolce and Gabbana to Jimmy Choo, have outlets at Woodbury Commons. With more than 200 stores, you name it, and it’s there. You can easily spend the entire day and not finish your list.
How To Get There: Busses leave regularly from Port Authority to Woodbury Commons. By car, it takes less than an hour to get there.
8. Experience The Borscht Belt In The Catskills
Watched Dirty Dancing? A Catskills resort was the setting for the 1987 Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey movie where families came to get away from New York’s summer heat. Today the Catskills boasts a number of yoga retreats, rustic farmers’ restaurants, theaters featuring live music, as well as music and film festivals. You can even tour some of the older hotels to catch the vibe of the Borscht Belt as it was known from the ’20s to the ’60s.
New Paltz in Eastern Catskills is a cute town known for its breweries, wineries, distilleries, and cider houses. More into nature than alcohol? Check out the various scenic hikes, spectacular views, and rock climbing.
If you’re interested in Woodstock memorabilia, visit Bethel Woods Center for the Arts in Southern Catskills where the 1969 Woodstock Music Festival took place. The center today still hosts concerts and buses from Port Authority runs on concert days.
How To Get There: Take Metro-North to Poughkeepsie and a taxi across the Hudson, or a Trailways bus from Port Authority.
9. Visit the Ghosts At Sleepy Hollow
Known as the setting for Washington Irving’s The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, the town is a great place to visit around Halloween. Irving is buried in the cemetery. On a trip, you will not find the Headless Horseman bridge over the Pocantico River as depicted in his tale. You will find the beautiful Rockefeller State Park and a wide expanse of carriage networks that crosses woods and streams. Worth checking out is the ornately beautiful Rockefeller mansion Kykuit, which has wonderful gardens atop a hill.
How To Get There: Take Metro-North to Tarrytown for a short train ride or a short drive from the city.
10. Hike In Bear Mountain State Park
If you are looking for a place to hike, swim, boat, fish, or just be in nature, Bear Mountain State Park is the place to go. In the winter, the park offers cross-country skiing and ice skating. It’s also a great place to view the changing leaves in the fall.
Combine a trip to Bear Mountain with shopping at Woodbury Commons and Storm King Art Center, and you have a nice weekend getaway.
How To Get There: Take Metro-North to Peekskill and then transfer to a taxi. The Mountain is best reached by car, which is about 50 miles north of the city.
11. Experience History And The Arts In Princeton
Founded in 1746, Princeton University is the fourth oldest university in the US. Many leading intellectuals have walked the grounds, including Albert Einstein. The Princeton University Art Museum is one of the best art museums in the state. The McCarter Theater presents cutting-edge theatrical works. Main Street features Tudor architecture housing small quaint shops, cafes, and businesses.
How To Get There: You can reach Princeton Junction on the NJ Transit or Amtrak.
12. Enjoy The Music Of Asbury Park
The coastal town of Asbury Park has for many years been the final destination for those heading to the Jersey Shore. Buy a day pass and enjoy the mile-long beach popular with families and hipsters. With many restaurants and shops situated on its famed historic boardwalk along the oceanfront, Asbury Park is popular with New Yorkers looking to get away to the beach. There is often live music and street art. You can even play a round of mini-golf on the boardwalk. Check out the Asbury lanes for bowling and other evening entertainment.
How To Get There: Take NJ Transit to Asbury Park. If you decide to make a weekend out to the beach, The Asbury Hotel is well located right in the center of things and features a fabulous rooftop bar.
So here you have it: 12 fantastic day trips from New York City. Whether you are looking for shopping or hiking or the beach, you can find it within an hour of New York City. Most of these destinations are reachable via public transportation. Enjoy exploring the world beyond the city.