There are enough attractions and distractions in Manhattan alone to fill every second of your trip, no matter the length, but taking day trips from New York City to experience the area’s diverse landscapes and culture can enrich an urban vacation.
Majestic mountains, sandy beaches, surfing and sailing meccas, artsy towns, and oddball attractions are but a few of the offerings within a few hours’ drive or train ride for those intrepid travelers willing to venture beyond The Big Apple’s core.
The Best Day Trips from New York City
There’s so much to do and see within easy reach of NYC. Here are nine day trips from New York City that you’ll never forget.
Every summer, New Yorkers pack their flip-flops and head to this car-free barrier island off the south shore of Long Island. The main town of Ocean Beach offers casual restaurants, bars, and boutiques, plus a wide sandy beach with lifeguards. You’ll find various outfitters for kayaking, surfing, and fishing at laid-back Ocean Bay Park. Head farther east, and you’ll arrive at LGBTQI meccas Cherry Grove and The Pines.
Nature lovers can hike along extensive trails at Fire Island National Seashore and explore the Sunken Forest, a 300-year-old holly forest protected by vast sand dunes. On the west end of the island, Robert Moses State Park also offers a serene vibe and gorgeous beaches.
Plan two hours to reach Fire Island. You can purchase a one-day “Beach Getaway” pass from Long Island Railroad that includes round-trip train fare, ferry passes to specified beach towns, and water taxi rides.
Culinary Institute of America
The ultimate day trip from New York City for foodies and chef hopefuls is a pilgrimage to Hyde Park, home of the Culinary Institute of America. The famed school is nestled in the beautiful Hudson Valley, less than two hours from New York.
For a peek into what it takes to be a world-class chef or baker, make reservations for student-led tours, or take a hands-on approach. The only prerequisite for Bootcamp Classes is a passion for food, and topics range from wine to grilling. Reservations are recommended if you want to dine in one of the student-run restaurants on campus.
The name Coney Island has long been synonymous with amusement, and this neighborhood by the sea still delivers thrills. Located in southwest Brooklyn, less than an hour from Manhattan by train, Coney Island is technically part of NYC, but its otherworldly nature deserves recognition on any “day trips from New York City” list.
Hold on tight as you board the historic wooden roller coaster Cyclone, affectionately known as Big Momma, where high speeds and big drops await. Compare the ride to the new steel-track Thunderbolt coaster, featuring a 100-foot vertical loop.
Coney Island also offers more mellow diversions, from lounging on sandy beaches to inhaling hot dogs from Nathan’s Famous. Stroll Surf Avenue for great people-watching, and grab a cold brew at Steeplechase Beer Garden. The beach and historic boardwalk are open all year, so an off-season visit is a worthy endeavor for lunch and a visit to the New York Aquarium. Take the D, Q, N, or F train to Stillwell Avenue.
Towns don’t come more hip or artsy than this Hudson Valley jewel. Visitors flock to Dia:Beacon, a historic printing factory transformed into contemporary art showcase, for bold works like David Flavin’s light installations and Louise Bourgeois’ spine-tingling oversized spider. But there’s much more to Beacon than modern art. Main Street rests at the foot of Mt. Beacon, the highest summit in the Hudson Valley. From here you can set out on a hike to the summit for incredible views. Expect a vertical climb and a roughly two-hour excursion, round-trip.
Local producers tap into the Valley’s unique terroir to craft signature beers, spirits, and cuisine. Sample an appropriately named Climb High IPA at 2 Way Brewing Company, or taste the award-wining Maid of the Meadow honey and wild herb-infused vodka from Denning’s Point Distillery. Second Saturdays are extra festive with a street fair, live music, and tastings. You can get to Beacon with a 90-minute Metro North train ride.
Just 800 yards from the southern tip of Manhattan lies an oasis of rolling green, one of the easiest day trips from New York City. Ferries run all summer from the Battery Maritime Building to this car-free and care-free zone where New Yorkers come to lounge in hammocks, picnic, cycle, and soak up unrivaled views of Lady Liberty.
Although there’s usually a bounty of activity on Governors Island—from art fairs and poetry fests to the fabulous Jazz Age Lawn Party—there’s always room to breathe and stretch out in the sun. Take your own picnic or indulge in delicious eats from New York’s favorite food trucks.
Storm King Art Center
This outdoor sculpture park engages natural bounty and human creativity in conversation across 500-rolling acres. More than 100 installations punctuate—often playfully so—the landscape of woodlands, fields, and ponds. Richard Serra created his site-specific work featuring enormous steel plates to draw attention to the setting, not the art, and Chakaia Booker’s recycled tire work makes an environmental statement about disregarded objects and places. Roy Lichtenstein’s famed pop art provides levity as a levitating canoe in Young America.
Storm King is open from spring to fall and on select winter weekends. You can reach the sculpture park via Metro North (plus a 30-minute taxi ride), Coach USA bus, or your own vehicle.
One of the best day trips from New York City is a hop, skip, and 90-minute train ride to historic Philly, only 100 miles away. Must-see sights are close together, including the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall, and Constitution Square (the birthplace of the Declaration of Independence and U.S. Constitution).
Don’t leave without biting into a cheesesteak from Geno’s or Pat’s—better yet, sample both. Work off those calories with a stroll along Boathouse Row to see the 19th-century boathouses lining the river; then run the stairs Rocky-style at Philadelphia Museum of Art. Don’t miss a stop in America’s oldest farmers’ market at Reading Terminal, celebrating 125 years in 2018.
Organized tours from NYC are abundant, and many combine an excursion to Amish Country. For the independently minded, the journey is 90 minutes by train from Penn Station.
Located 100 miles from New York City on the eastern end of Long Island, this Hamptons hot spot is both far out and chilled out. Often referred to as “The End,” Montauk has a surf-town-meets-fishing-village vibe.
Rent a board and wetsuit to get in on the action, or set up for the day along the soft sand beach for swimming and people-watching. Off-water activities include hiking in Montauk Point State Park and tours of the 200-year-old lighthouse located on New York state’s easternmost point. Grab a cold lobster roll from an aptly named beach shack called Lobster Roll, a Montauk landmark.
Rent a car for the two to three-hour drive from NYC only if you plan to stop in other Hamptons villages along the way. For direct trips, take the Long Island Railroad, Hampton Jitney bus, or Hampton Ambassador luxury bus (reservations are essential for the buses).
The name Sleepy Hollow conjures spooky images of headless horsemen, and the namesake village, located 30 miles north of New York City, celebrates the legacy of Washington Irving’s classic tale at every turn.
Settled in 1640 near Tarrytown, the village also features a historic cemetery at Old Dutch Church and is the gateway to a spectacular Rockefeller mansion called Kykuit. You can tour the home, sculpture garden, and underground galleries, including an exquisite collection of Picasso tapestries. Don’t miss a peek into the garage for the estate’s collection of vintage cars and carriages.
Other historically significant homes are open for tours nearby including Washington Irving’s beloved Sunnyside and the Gothic revival masterpiece Lyndhurst. The trip is particularly beautiful in the fall, when leaves are changing colors and Halloween spirits are in the air. Take Metro-North to Philipse Manor Station.
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Don't Miss: Top Tours in New York City
—Original reporting by Jess Simpson