Timeout New York Kids

Make the most of your city

NYC winter day trips

Within two hours of the city are all sorts of ways to take advantage of-or ignore-the weather.

  • Newark Museum Fire Musuem

  • Newark Museum Planetarium

  • Edward Hopper House

  • Edward Hopper House

  • Pickwick Books

  • The Pink Chandelier

  • TreatStation, Peekskill NY

  • Paramount Arts Center

  • Seal Cruise, Freeport, NY

  • Seal Cruise, Freeport, NY

  • New Hope and Ivyland Railroad, Bucks County, Pennsylvania

  • Mohonk Mountain House

  • Sahara Sam's Indoor Water Park, West Berlin, NJ

  • Sledding at Mills Mansion

Newark Museum Fire Musuem

The Newark Museum, NJ
With its renovated planetarium, real fire trucks and money-filled bank vault, the Newark Museum (49 Washington St, Newark, NJ; 973-596-6550, newarkmuseum.org) combines some of the most intriguing aspects of the American Museum of Natural History, the NYC Fire Museum and the Finance Museum—all in one compact package ($10, senior and students under 18 with ID $6; Planetarium: $5, children under 12 $3). Interactivity abounds: Kids can touch moose antlers and examine fossils in the Look/Touch/Learn: Nature & Art hall. In the on-site Fire Museum, they'll try on firefighter gear and rehearse the stop, drop and roll in a room that fills with special-effects smoke. The Dynamic Earth exhibit encourages curious tots to discover why earthquakes shake, see a volcano blow its top and peek inside the Earth to its very core. If you can, visit during the weekend of February 11 and 12, when the museum hosts one of its most popular annual events: Circus Science. Under a big-top tent, kids get lessons in tightrope walking, plate spinning, trapeze swinging and juggling from Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus performers, who also let kids in on the physics behind their feats.—Jennifer Bleyer
Travel 40 minutes by car; 30 minutes by train from Penn Station to Newark Broad Street, then ten-minute walk.

Nyack, NY
The quaint riverside Rockland County town places a huge emphasis on arts of all sorts. Start the day like any good artist—with a coffee (and sticky buns for the kids) from the Runcible Spoon (37 North Broadway; 845-358-9398, runciblespoonbakery.com)—and then get ready to create a masterpiece. Beadwildered Women (76 S Broadway, 845-353-3827) also caters to creative kids. Walk-ins are welcome to string keychains, earrings or bracelets at a cozy back table. The hardest part is choosing materials from the floor-to-ceiling selection of beads.

Find more inspiration at the Edward Hopper House Art Center (82 North Broadway; 845-358-0774, hopperhouse.org. $5, children under 13 free), the painter's boyhood home. Kids will get a kick out of the Hopper's dilapidated bicycle (circa 1890s) while adults peruse his early oil works.

Nyack is also home to plenty of eclectic shopping. Maria Luisa Boutique (77 South Broadway; 845-353-4122, marialuisaboutique.com) has bejeweled tutus, birthday bibs too exquisite to drool on, and hand-dyed onesies. Hickory Dickory Dock (43 South Broadway; 888-646-7474, hickorydock.com) boasts a kids' corner with an impressive collection of imported German toys. Grab a kaleidoscope kit, animal-sound alarm clock or Earthopoly, a board game that teaches kids to conserve natural resources. Bargain-hunting bookworms will surely find a good (albeit gently used) read among the cluttered aisles of Pickwick Book Shop (8 South Broadway, 845-358-9126); the shelves of the eclectic Sign of the Times (112 Main St; 845-353-4059) toy store are stocked with everything from giant rubber ducks to Melissa and Doug puzzles.

When you're all shopped out, head to Temptations Cafe (80 Main St; 845-353-3355, temptationscafe.com) for lunch and learn why the charming eatery has been a local mainstay for decades. Your soup of the day might be cauliflower or sweet red pepper; pair a cup with a hearty half-sandwich. The kids' menu has choices like pita pizza and grilled cheese, but save room for dessert instead of finishing your brood's generous portion. Cookie pie (deep-dish gooey cookie dough baked with chocolate chips and walnuts) is a crowd fave, and may be ordered la mode. Afterward, bundle up and work off the calories at Memorial Park (53 Piermont Ave). There's a fenced-in playground, spectacular views of the Hudson River and Tappan Zee Bridge, and a wide field for a good old-fashioned snowball fight. —Michele Wallach
Travel 40 minutes by car

Peekskill, NY
Parents may think of Peekskill as the setting of 1980s sitcom The Facts of Life, but there's more to the city than TV fame. A manufacturing hub in the 19th century, the town maintains some of its industrial grit and retro charm. At TreatStation (21 S Division St; 914-788-4141, treatstation.com), a hybrid candy shop, soda fountain and toy train mecca, kids can work props on the 200-square-foot railway layout. Paramount Center for the Arts (1008 Brown St; 914-739-2333, paramountcenter.org) is a 1930s movie palace--turned--performing arts center. For a dose of modernity, BeanRunner Caf (201 S Division St; 914-737-1701, beanrunnercafe.com), in the downtown gallery district, not only showcases local work but also offers a blessedly well-appointed playroom.—JB
Travel 1 hour by car or train from Grand Central Station.

Seal Cruise, Freeport, NY
It's oh-so-easy for urban kids to forget that our city waterways are also outlets to the wilds of the Atlantic Ocean. A great reminder is the two-hour afternoon seal cruise run by the Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research and Preservation, on weekends through April 17 (via the Captain Lou Fleet, 28 Woodcleft Ave, Freeport, NY; 631-369-9840, riverheadfoundation.org. $25, children ages 3 to 12 $20, under 3 free. Advance reservations strongly recommended). Midwinter is when harbor and gray seals' migration south is complete, making the chances of spotting one—or one hundred—of the untamed creatures extremely good, even if not absolutely guaranteed. Bundle up the family and keep watch for the playful sea mammals from the outdoor viewing deck, or from a window in the indoor cabin. An on-board naturalist lends a scientific slant to the outing and will answer your children's sure-to-be-abundant questions.

The gang just might be inspired enough by the afternoon's sightings to eat like ravenous seals; happily, you'll debark along Freeport's Nautical Mile, which teems with crab shacks and seafood restaurants. Because unlike seals, most children prefer their fish cooked and headless.—Lela Nargi
Travel 1 hour by car; 45 minutes by train from Penn Station to Freeport, NY, plus 5-minute cab ride.

New Hope & Ivyland Railroad, Bucks County, Pennsylvania
Begin your family's 45-minute round-trip ride on the New Hope & Ivyland Railroad at Lahaska Station (one mile east of Rte 202 on Street Rd), where parking is free—it's $15 at the other end in New Hope. Settle back into an upholstered bench seat on the restored 1920s passenger train, hear about the history of the area and enjoy the view: Bare trees make winter an ideal time to spot deer, turkey and other wildlife along the ride through the hilly region (newhoperailroad.com, 215-862-2332. $17.50--$40, children ages 2 to 11 $15.50--$38, children under 2 $3.50--$10).

Disembark at New Hope and walk across the bridge to charming Lambertville, New Jersey, known for its antiques stores, boutiques and galleries. Stop by The Missing Peace (15 Kline's Ct; 609-397-3999, tmppuzzles.com)—the shop specializes in puzzles and games for kids as young as six months. The day's railway theme continues at Lambertville Station Restaurant (11 Bridge St; 609-397-8300, lambertvillestation.com), a renovated 19th-century train depot.

After your crew detrains in Lahaska, visit the 75 or so shops and eateries of Peddler's Village (Rte 202 at Rte 263, 215-794- 4000). The star for kids is Giggleberry Fair (check peddlersvillage.com for admission prices), which boasts an arcade, caf, multiple play areas and a refurbished 1922 carousel.—Alison Lowenstein
Travel 1 hour 30 minutes by car.

Mohonk Mountain House, New Paltz, NY
Uncoop the kids at Mohonk Mountain House (1000 Mountain Rest Rd, New Paltz, NY; 845-255-1000, mohonk.com), where even the littlest tykes can get a taste of outdoor adventure. The turreted Mountain House, nestled in the middle of a nature reserve, resembles a storybook castle. Surrounded by 2,200 acres of woodland—full of hiking trails and some seriously breathtaking views—it's easy to see why families come to Mohonk year-round. But when things turn frosty, the big draw is the enormous ice-skating rink ($17; Fri, Sat $27; children under 3 free). When not practicing their gold medal moves, kids can warm their hands in front of the rink's 39-foot-tall fireplace or grab a cup of hot chocolate ($2). After a buffet lunch ($52 including tax and tip, and access to the grounds; children ages 4 to 12 $28, under age 4 free), you'll still have plenty of time to snowshoe (for those who bring their own equipment $20--$25, ages 12 and under $15--$20; for renters $36--$41, ages 12 and under $31--$36) or cross-country ski (for those who bring their own equipment $20--$25, ages 12 and under $15--$20; for renters $40--$45, ages 12 and under $35--$45). Tiny history buffs can head to the Barn Museum to watch a blacksmithing demonstration, or just have fun exploring the large collection of antique carriages and cars. —Alisha McKinney
Travel 1 hour 30 minutes by car.

Beacon, NY
Even for children who yawn at the mere mention of an art museum, Dia:Beacon (3 Beekman St; 845-440-0100, diabeacon.org. $10, students and seniors $7, children under age 12 free) is a lot of fun. Housed in a former 1929 factory on the banks of the Hudson River, the cavernous museum offers plenty of room to wander, and much of the seminal, large-scale Minimalist art on display is entrancing to all ages. Peer into the seemingly bottomless pits of Michael Heizer's North, East, South, West, hover beneath Louise Bourgeois's creepy, fantastical Crouching Spider, and zone out on the fluorescent light columns and shapes by Dan Flavin. For the thrill of feeling dwarfed by something giant, not much can beat getting lost in the curves of Richard Serra's enormous Torqued Ellipses. After filling up on modern art, wander up to Main Street to check out the town's local art galleries and boutiques, and settle in for grass-fed beef burgers and hand-cut fries at Poppy's Burgers and Fries (184 Main St; 845-765-2121, poppyburger.com).—JB
Travel 1 hour 30 minutes by car or by train from Grand Central Station.

Sahara Sam's Oasis Indoor Water Park, West Berlin, NJ
Pack up the kids and head south...to South Jersey, that is. Heated to a balmy 84 degrees, Sahara Sam's Indoor Water Park offers families a one-day taste of summertime in the dead of winter (535 N Rte 73, West Berlin, NJ; 856-767-7580, saharasams.com. $32, children under 2 free).

Older kids can hone their surfing and boogie-boarding skills on the Flowride wave simulator, or get doused by a 1,000-gallon bucket at the Tim-Buk-Tu Tree Fort. But the H2O playground isn't just for big boys and girls: Lizard Lagoon's zero-depth entry pool and baby bungee swings will delight even the tiniest tots. Children who tire of the water (as if) can get their game on at the arcade.

Come mealtime, float past the underwhelming snack bar and head to Mexican eatery Los Amigos, just a couple of miles away (461 N Rte 73, West Berlin, NJ; 856-767-5216, losamigosrest.com). It's a nice way to indulge in a last bit of southern exposure before heading back north.—Jeff Bogle
Travel 1 hour 50 minutes by car.

Staatsburgh State Historic Site, Staatsburg, NY
After your kids have mastered all the local sledding hills, haul 'em up the Hudson, where the former Mills Mansion awaits (75 Mills Mansion Rd, Staatsburg, NY; 845-889-8851, staatsburgh.org). The Beaux-Arts masterpiece unfurls a back lawn that becomes a sledding hill of some renown after a decent snowfall. It's the kind of slope children dream of, stretching and gliding almost forever—or at least for five acres. (The only rule: no sleds with metal runners.) Pack your own thermos of cocoa; for all the luxury that surrounds you, there's not a concession to be had on the property. When you're sledded out, warm up with an hour-long guided tour of the mansion (Sat, Sun 11am--4pm. $8, seniors and students $6, children under 12 free). Kids love poring over the gilded surfaces and investigating the fireplaces—23 in all—for carvings of fans, lions and other curiosities.—LN
Travel 2 hours by car.

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