Timeout New York Kids

Make the most of your city

Summer day trips from NYC for kids and families

Load up your backpack for these day trips from NYC: Surfing, pirates, shark dives—plus some stellar waterpark rides—are all a quick train or car ride away.

  • Roosevelt Bird Sanctuary

  • Sagamore Hill

  • Photograph: Catherine L. Yrisarri

    Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture

  • Photograph: Catherine L. Yrisarri

    Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture

  • West Point, NY

  • West Point, NY

  • Atlantis Marine World, Riverhead, NY

  • Canopus Lake at Clarence Fahnestock State Park in Carmel, NY

  • Skudin Surf, Long Beach

  • Courtesy of Westchester County Tourism

    Rye Playland

Roosevelt Bird Sanctuary

New York

Atlantis Marine World, Riverhead, NY

Travel time 2 hours by train or 1 hour 45 minutes by car.
At Atlantis Marine World (431 E Main St; 631-208-9200, atlantismarineworld.com. $22.50, children ages 3--17 $19.50, children under 3 free), you and yours can swim with the fishes instead of just gawping at them. Diaper-free kids can snorkel with tropical sea creatures ($30.50 per person); over-12s and their parents can dive with ten toothy sand-tiger and nurse sharks ($155 per person). The littlest marine lovers can pet the denizens of the indoor Ray Bay and get up-close and personal with crabs and killifish in the salt marsh (must be 42.5 inches tall for the latter). If you traveled by car, make a pit stop at the Garden of Eve Organic Farm (4558 Sound Ave; 631-722-8777, gardenofevefarm.com) for a summery taste of Long Island fruit that'll last the whole drive home.—Lela Nargi

Bear Mountain State Park, Stony Point, NY

Travel time 1 hour 15 minutes by car.
NYC parents who were once NYC kids almost certainly harbor sentiment for some long-ago day trip to Bear Mountain (3006 Seven Lakes Dr; 845-786-2701, nysparks.com. Vehicle entry fee $8). Re-create the drive over the Bear Mountain Bridge and introduce your brood to that most charming of activities, a paddleboat ride ($5 per person per hour). Test how much self-propulsion it takes to tootle all the way round the state park's Hessian Lake: Let Junior count the strokes—and make them, too, for that matter—while you lie back and contemplate the mountain scenery. Get your fix of the mighty Hudson by wending your way home via the historic riverside town of Piermont. Stop at Flywheel Creamery (210 Ash St, 845-398-2433) for a milk shake and house-specialty egg sammie (available till 1pm on weekends) before walking almost a mile out onto the river on the old steamship pier (Ferry Road). Loop back along the salt marsh for a look at one of the last remaining hand-cranked drawbridges (South Piermont Ave) in the country.—LN

Beczak Environmental Education Center, Yonkers, NY

Travel time 30 minutes by train or car.
On weekends from May through September, families with children ages three and up can head to Beczak Environmental Education Center (35 Alexander St; 914-377-1900, beczak.org. Free), and discover what's hiding in the Hudson River. Get the lowdown on the art of seining (net fishing), and then troop down to the rocky beach, don a pair of waders, scoop up creatures with the net and sort the catch. The prize of the day could be an American eel, known for outsmarting captors. Cap off the outing at the Science Barge (99 Dock St; 914-375-2151, groundworkhv.org. $3 suggested donation, children under 11 free), where kids can feed fish, pick basil and touch worms aboard a solar-and-wind-powered floating museum and sustainable farm.—Melissa Fleming

Canopus Lake at Clarence Fahnestock State Park

Travel time 1 hour 30 minutes by car.
This lakeside beach (1498 Rte 301; 845-225-7207, nysparks.com. Vehicle fee $7) is easy on the eyes—hello, trees—and on all the other body parts of sweltering tots too tiny to brave ocean waves. A low-key family vibe, sand beach and gentle waters make for a cool, calm day at Canopus. Arrive early for dibs on a grill—charcoal's available at the fully stocked concession stand—and you can barbecue your own lunch; if it's too darned hot to play with fire, order up the Ranger-recommended chicken tender sandwich. Tack on a rowboat rental ($7 per hour) if you care to do your lazing on the lake, making sure to keep an eye out for the resident otter and schools of trout and pickerel. If your brood begins to crave terrestrial entertainment, row 'em back to shore and trot them down the road for a 1.5-mile hike around Pelton Pond, where they can catalog frogs, lily pads, and wildflowers, then scramble up a primo rock outcropping. —LN

Island Park, NY

Travel time 45 minutes by train or 1 hour by car.
Between Long Beach and the Nassau County mainland is the 1.5-mile village of Island Park, where the Rockaway Indians once raised hogs and clammed in the surrounding marshes. Today there's considerably more hustle and bustle, yet it's easy enough to find a bit of quiet. Rent a double (two-person) kayak from Empire Kayaks (4 Empire Blvd; 516-889-8300, empirekayaks.com. $25 per hour, cash only) and set out on the calm waters of Middle Bay—kids should be on the lookout for egrets, ospreys and the rare diamondback turtle. Families will be given basic instruction (how to use the paddle, and get on and off the kayak) and be provided with an easy route sheltered from the wind. An hour should be plenty of time on the water. Kids as young as three can board a double kayak; for those 12 and up, special clinics and tours are offered throughout the summer.
Still in town but a couple miles south is Jordan Lobster Farms (1 Pettit Pl; 516-889-3314, jordanlobsterfarms.com). Although the queue of lunchers waiting to order can be daunting, the rewards—steamed one-pound lobsters (with corn on the cob and slaw on the side), generous lobster rolls and chicken tenders—are worth the wait.—Eileen Clarke

Rye Playland, Rye, NY

Travel time 45 minutes by train or 1 hour by car.
A National Historic Landmark, Rye Playland (One Playland Pkwy; 914-813-7010, ryeplayland.org. $30, $20 under 48", children under 3 free) has been entertaining families since 1928, and among the more than 50 rides are several water attractions. Enjoy a good soaking when your boat dives 50 feet into a pool at the Playland Plunge (you'll also get sprayed on the bridge while exiting the ride.) The Log Flume drops the screeching masses down a 1,150-foot chute; more sedate pleasures are the pedal boats ($14 for a four-person boat) or a 10-minute cruise on Playland Lake ($3.25). Take a dip in the Olympic-size pool ($6, children ages 5--11 $4, children under 5 free) or build sandcastles on the park's beach ($4, children ages 5--11 $3, children under 5 free). The boardwalk is just outside the entrance gate; at the Pier Restaurant and Tiki Bar there, relax with a pia colada—the kids can indulge in virgin daiquiris—and you can almost hear the beat of steel drums.—Shandley McMurray

Skudin Surf Camp, Long Beach, NY

Travel time 1 hour by train or 50 minutes by car.
Brothers Cliff and Will Skudin, third-generation lifeguards and surfers, run Skudin Surf Camp (1 Monroe Blvd at the Boardwalk; 516-318-3993, skudinsurf.com. $90 per child per day, $250 for half-week, $375 for full week). Kids ages five to 18 learn surf etiquette, ocean-safety techniques, and how to pop up —go from lying on the board to squatting—and enter and exit the water safely (daily, half-weekly or weekly instruction from 9am to 1pm; boards, wetsuits, rash guards, and snacks provided). Parents are welcome to watch and take pictures. Noncampers should purchase a daily beach pass ($12, children under 13 free). You can also arrange semiprivate lessons, starting at $75 per person, for your clan. Before you head home, stop in at Long Beach Craft and Variety (50 West Park Ave, 516-897-5064), just across from the LIRR train station. You'll pass a pleasant bit of time roaming the aisles of the old-school general store, checking out the beach toys, T-shirts and other seaside bric-a-brac.—EC

Oyster Bay, NY

Travel time 1 hour by car or 1 hour 20 minutes by train.
This Gold Coast hamlet is a true gem for families visiting Long Island. Junior history buffs will relish a stop at Sagamore Hill (20 Sagamore Hill Rd; 516-922-4788, nps.gov/sahi. $5, children under 15 free), the picturesque "Summer White House" of President Teddy Roosevelt. Set among 80 sprawling acres, this inviting home's woodland setting lets kids experience nature firsthand, enabling them to earn a Junior Ranger badge upon completing one of several hands-on activities. Little train lovers will surely have to make a stop at the Oyster Bay Railroad Museum (102 Audrey Ave; 516-558-7036, obrm.org. Free), where they'll be able to ring an old train bell, try their hand at managing a miniature train yard and experience travel in the days before the MTA. Just across the street, big kids will be in hog heaven at 20th Century Cycles (101 Audrey Ave, 20thcenturycycles.com), Billy Joel's museum-cum-hangout. Gaze wishfully at his collection of 60 motorbikes, and if you're lucky you might be able to rub elbows with the Piano Man himself, who often shows up on weekends. Cap off the day with lunch at Canterbury's Oyster Bar & Grill (46 Audrey Ave; 516-922-3614, canterburyalesrestaurant.com). Adults can sample the local briny bounty while kids chow down on chicken fingers and pasta.—Pamela Brill

The Waterfront Center, Oyster Bay, NY

Get-wet factor: 2
Travel time 1 hour 20 minutes by train or 1 hour by car.
At this sleek marine-education center on the grounds of a defunct shipyard (1 West End Ave; 516-922-7245, thewaterfrontcenter.org), take a Marine Education Sail ($25 per person), which deposits ye hearties aboard the Christeen, the oldest oyster sloop in North America. The kiddies will help the captain set a course for the waters of Oyster Bay and use the dredge to haul up clams, crabs, sea stars and, of course, oysters. Alternatively, a two-hour Discover Sailing class ($60 per person, children under 19 free when accompanied by adult) puts your clan onto a 23-foot Sonar. Set out into the glittering waters of West Harbor; there will be time aplenty for everyone to learn to trim the sails. If you're already an expert, rent a boat and man your own deck. Enjoy the rest of the afternoon on the sands of adjoining Beekman Beach—encourage tykes to hunt among the reeds for mussel beds and horseshoe crabs. Haul lunch back from nearby Bonanza's (25 Shore Ave; 516-922-7796, bonanzasofoysterbay.com). They've been famous for lemon ice since the turn of the 20th century, and their hot dogs and homemade meatball heroes are tops, too.—LN

Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture, Pocantico Hills, NY

Travel time 45 minutes by car
While city kids are often exposed to a world of cuisines, they rarely have the chance to see where their food comes from. At Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture (630 Bedford Rd, Pocantico Hills, NY; 914-366-6200, stonebarnscenter.org. Free), they can do just that. (The center raises animals, including cows, pigs and chickens, and grows 200 varieties of produce, on 80 acres of land.) A mere 30 miles north of New York City, kids get their hands dirty with such farming tasks as collecting eggs, pulling greens and feeding pigs. Visitors also get to amble through pastures and woodlands, and interact with real-live farmers. On select Saturdays, families can enjoy Story Time at the Farm Store, a free program in which staff members read aloud from books related to their trade.—Amy Carniol

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