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Family trip ideas: Great summer day trips from New York City

These family trip ideas—all within two hours of New York City—will keep the adventures coming all season long.

While it's gearing up to be a great summer in the city (think Dinosaur Safari at the Bronx Zoo, the reopening of the Statue of Liberty on July 4, a vintage carnival festival at Governors Island), the warm-weather season is also a great time to plan some day trips. From the white-sand beaches of Sandy Hook to the brand-new Crayola Experience in Pennsylvania, our family trip ideas have something to entice every member of your family. Plus: All of our family trip ideas are within two hours of the city—just a quick train or car ride away. Click on the arrow below to read about our favorite excursions, then start planning!


  • Photograph: Provided by the NYS OPRHP

    Family trip ideas: Great summer day trips from New York City

    Bear Mountain State Park, Stony Point, NY
    This upstate park (nysparks.com) is just far away enough to sate one’s urge to get away. Learn about local fauna by meeting them firsthand at the 40-acre Trailside Museums and Zoo ($1 donation per person); the menagerie of rescued animals includes an orphaned coyote, a fox that was hit by a car and a bald eagle struck by a bullet. The four small museums house a variety of reptiles, a geology display and an American Indian exhibit. Families with strollers can admire the sylvan surroundings while they circle Hessian Lake on the paved (albeit hilly) path, and those with older kids can cover a section of the Appalachian Trail. The wooden Bear Mountain Merry-Go-Round ($1 per ride) has 42 animals, so bring enough singles for a bunch of rides. Grab a burger or salad at the 1915 Restaurant on the ground floor of the recently restored Bear Mountain Inn. Enter Bear Mountain State Park on Route 9W/Route 202 just south of the Bear Mountain Bridge; $8 per car. Travel time: 1 hour.—Michele Wallach

  • Photograph: Courtesy of the NPS

    Family trip ideas: Great summer day trips from New York City

    Sandy Hook, NJ
    Less than an hour away on the Seastreak catamaran (catch it at E 35th St or Pier 11, near Wall St; round-trip $45, children under 12 free), the peninsula of Sandy Hook (nps.gov) beckons with three gorgeous white-sand beaches (North, South and Gunnison—note that clothing is optional at the latter), which you can get to via a free shuttle; a historic lighthouse (the country’s oldest, built in 1764); the colonial-era Fort Hancock; and plenty of paths for bird-watching or biking ($5 extra on the ferry, or rent some at Ray’s Bike Rentals, by the ferry). Make sure to come early (the beaches fill up fast), and pack a cooler with treats and beverages, as the on-site snack bars offer limited fare. If you’re wondering how the Jersey Shore can be so chill, it’s because the whole spit is part of a vast national park: the Gateway National Recreation Area. Travel time: 40 minutes.—Lee Magill

  • Photograph: Courtesy Philadelphia Zoo

    Family trip ideas: Great summer day trips from New York City

    Philadelphia Zoo, Philadelphia, PA
    In mid-April, the Philadelphia Zoo (philadelphiazoo.org) debuted an interactive, educational children’s corner called KidsZooU. The hub’s outdoor component features a barnyard area with fenced-in goats and sheep that kids can pet, an area with mini horses, and a special “parallel play” section where kids can climb a tower right next to climbing goats. Inside, younger kids will flock to the likes of a rat exhibit, an ant colony and a chick hatchery while older kids reinforce the relationship between human action (say, energy conservation) and animal well-being (stopping global warming to save polar bears and other arctic creatures). Travel time: 1.5. hours.—LM

     

  • Photograph: Jessica Lin

    Family trip ideas: Great summer day trips from New York City

    Legoland Discovery Center, Yonkers, NY
    At the Northeast’s first Legoland (legolanddiscoverycenter.com/westchester), a 32,000-square-foot space that opened in March, kids learn how Legos are made, take a master builder class and work on Lego creations of their choosing. In the Build & Test area, mini mechanics can build a vehicle to race down ramps and around a track; at Olivia’s House, pastry chefs–in-training make Lego cupcakes; and in the no-shoes Duplo Village, little ones mimic their older siblings by playing with soft Lego blocks. Don’t miss Miniland, filled with models of major NYC (and Westchester) landmarks made of Legos. Kids will be in awe as they spot Times Square, the Statue of Liberty and Grand Central Station, some of which are interactive: Press a button and music plays at the Central Park bandshell. Travel time: 1.5 hours.—Rory Halperin

  • Family trip ideas: Great summer day trips from New York City

    Crayola Experience, Easton, PA
    The new Crayola Experience (crayolaexperience.com) in Easton, Pennsylvania, formerly known as the Crayola Factory, is being completely redesigned and is set to reopen to the public on Memorial Day weekend. (Design work is being done by the same team that worked on Coca-Cola World and Legoland.) Kids and their families can look forward to four floors of activities, where they’ll learn how crayons are made, customize coloring pages, slide down a crayon box slide, create a ring out of crayon wax, watch a live theater show, make puzzles, print a personalized crayon label, pose in a photo booth and more. Also on the menu: Café Crayola, with Crayola-inspired foods like colorful cupcakes, and the biggest Crayola Store in the world. Travel time: 1 hour and 30 minutes.—RH

    Discounted tickets to Crayola Experience are available through Time Out Offers until September 1, 2013.

  • Photograph: Courtesy Sesame Workshop

    Family trip ideas: Great summer day trips from New York City

    Sesame Place, Langhorne, PA
    If you have a young fan of Elmo, Bert or Ernie at home, consider a day trip to Sesame Place (sesameplace.com). Once inside, don't miss Blast Off, which launches kids and parents to Planet Elmo, and Grover's World Twirl, which takes little ones on an internationally themed teacup ride. On hot days, head straight to Big Bird's Rambling River, which sends your family floating around the park on inner tubes, or to the Count's Splash Castle, a combination of slides, water wheels, bridges and an eight-foot-tall bucket that dumps a thousand gallons of H2O on the folks underneath it. Before leaving, take a stroll through the life-size re-creation of the Sesame Street set. The park is also scheduled to host several special activities throughout the season, including a Laurie Berkner concert in June and Bert's birthday bash in July. Travel time: 1.5 hours.—RH

    Discounted tickets to Sesame Place are available through Time Out Offers until August 12, 2013.

  • Family trip ideas: Great summer day trips from New York City

    Newark Museum, Newark, NJ
    This New Jersey museum (newarkmuseum.org) has two floors of contemporary, historic and cultural art, featuring artists from around the world. After you journey through the museum’s Dreyfuss Memorial sculpture garden, featuring a stone schoolhouse built in 1784 and the Newark Fire Museum, head back inside for a planetarium show. The Alice and Leonard Dreyfuss Planetarium lets kids explore celestial topics like the Solar System, constellations and space travel from a new angle—literally. Special events throughout the summer include the 46th Annual Fireman's Fair (Sun June 2). Travel: 40 minutes.—Lizzie Plaugic

     

  • Family trip ideas: Great summer day trips from New York City

    Jersey Shore Pirates, Brick, NJ
    If your kids are anything like ours, they think nothing's cooler than pirates. Indulge them with a trip on the Metedeconk River, courtesy of the Jersey Shore Pirates. Once they've been dressed up, face-painted and (temporarily) tattooed, they'll climb aboard the Sea Gypsy II to read a treasure map, discover a secret message in a bottle, find a sunken treasure and man the water cannons in order to defeat Pirate Pete (okay, a Jersey Shore Pirates employee). New for the 2013 season: a new deck and docking area at Riverfront Marina, extra water cannons on the Sea Gypsy II and rumor of a new ship. Travel time: 1.5 hours.—Nina Freeman

     

Photograph: Provided by the NYS OPRHP

Family trip ideas: Great summer day trips from New York City

Bear Mountain State Park, Stony Point, NY
This upstate park (nysparks.com) is just far away enough to sate one’s urge to get away. Learn about local fauna by meeting them firsthand at the 40-acre Trailside Museums and Zoo ($1 donation per person); the menagerie of rescued animals includes an orphaned coyote, a fox that was hit by a car and a bald eagle struck by a bullet. The four small museums house a variety of reptiles, a geology display and an American Indian exhibit. Families with strollers can admire the sylvan surroundings while they circle Hessian Lake on the paved (albeit hilly) path, and those with older kids can cover a section of the Appalachian Trail. The wooden Bear Mountain Merry-Go-Round ($1 per ride) has 42 animals, so bring enough singles for a bunch of rides. Grab a burger or salad at the 1915 Restaurant on the ground floor of the recently restored Bear Mountain Inn. Enter Bear Mountain State Park on Route 9W/Route 202 just south of the Bear Mountain Bridge; $8 per car. Travel time: 1 hour.—Michele Wallach


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