Best day trips for kids NYC families will love

Don't sweat it! These epic day trips for kids pack in the fun but don't require you to pack your bags.

By Danielle Valente and Time Out editors |
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Photograph: Courtesy Shutterstock

Want to get out of town but dread the thought of booking tickets and packing bags? No problemo—these day trips for kids will provide the whole family with plenty of exciting options—plus you can head home when all is said and done (though we threw in some hotel options just in case you want the fun to continue). 

From cities and attractions to events and seasonal programs, our list has year-round options that will make everyone look forward to a day away from the city (as much as we all love it). Hey, sometimes you need a change of scenery (no judgment). Which one of these epic day trips for kids will you embark on first? Happy travels!

RECOMMENDED: Our full guide to the best family vacations

Enjoy these exciting summer activities for kids, such as a visit to the best water parks near NYC and the most refreshing water playgrounds

Day trips for kids NYC families will love

Photograph: Courtesy Long Island Aquarium

Riverhead, NY

Travel hours: 2 hours from NYC

This Suffolk County town boasts more than just the sprawling Tanger Outlet. It's home to the Long Island Aquarium (431 E Main St, Riverhead; 631-208-9200, longislandaquarium.com), which houses penguins, otters, octopus and one of the largest all-living, closed-system coral reef displays. Children will love getting their hands wet in the touch tank and taking a look at the sharks (those who are brave enough can even cage dive with them)! Refuel at Turkuaz Grill (40 McDermott Ave, Riverhead; 631-591-1757, turkuazgrillriverhead.com), a spot full of homey vibes, delicious Mediterranean fare and outdoor picnic tables. If the kids are itching to get into the water, Splish Splash Water Park satisfies that craving with 96 acres of water rides, pools and tube slides (2549 Splish Splash Dr, Calverton; 631-727-3600, splishsplash.com). Book a stay at the Harborfront Inn when you're ready to call it quits for the day (209 Front St, Greenport; 631-477-0707, theharborfrontinn.com)

Photograph: Courtesy NJ Division of Travel and Tourism

Cape May, NJ

Travel time: 2.5 hours from NYC

This beachy destination, located on the southern tip of New Jersey, is full of great spots for families and curious kids. In addition to strolling along its white sand beaches, families can explore the remains of the U.S.S. Atlantus or venture out into the waters on a tour with Cape May Whale Watch and Research Center (1121 Route 109, Cape May; 609-898-0055, capemaywhalewatch.com). Head to the Cape May Count Park & Zoo, (707 U.S. 9, Cape May Court House, Cape May; 609-465-5271, cmczoo.coman admission-free park complete with trolley trains, a carousel, a rock climbing wall and the Tree to Tree Adventure Park. If you’re in town on a day with clear skies, pack a picnic lunch and climb the 199 steps to get to the top of the Cape May Lighthouse (215 Light House Ave, Cape May; lighthousefriends.com). Rest your head at the Beach Shack (205 Beach Ave, Cape May; 609-884-6542, caperesorts.com), where families will find enough space within its suites and four-legged family members are welcomed with a Paws Up! dog package filled with treats, dining credits and special amenities.

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Photograph: Courtesy Jason Lindsey

Bucks County, PA

Travel time: 2 hours from NYC

Whether your kids prefer indoor fun, outdoor adventures or close encounters with their favorite TV characters, this spot has it all. As the home of Sesame Place, children will love meeting Elmo, Big Bird and the rest of the furry gang while experiencing thrilling rides tailored just for them (100 Sesame Rd, Langhorne; 215-702-3566, sesameplace.org). The Bucks County Children’s Museum offers interactive educational exhibits where kids can dig for buried treasure, build their own race car and learn how to operate the Delaware Canal system (500 Union Square Dr, New Hope; 215-693-1290, buckskids.org). Little ones can take a ride on the hand-carved wooden figures on the restored 1922 Grand Carousel at Giggleberry Fair before enjoying arcade games in the Game Room or strolling through the shops at 18th-century Peddler’s Village (2400 Street Rd, New Hope; 215-794-4000, peddlersvillage.com). When hunger strikes, choose from the variety of dining options Peddler’s Village offers. Outdoorsy types can pitch a tent at the Colonial Woods Family Camping Resort (545 Lonely Cottage Dr, Upper Black Eddy; 610-847-5808 colonialwoods.com). If it’s a laid-back escape you’re looking for, hop on the New Hope & Ivyland Railroad for a 45-minute trip through the countryside on a 1925 steam locomotive (32 W Bridge St, New Hope; 215-862-2332, newhoperailroad.com).

Photograph: Creative Commons/Flickr/Shinya Suzuki

Jersey City, NJ

Travel time: 40 mins from NYC

Moms and dads can keep the schlepping to a minimum by hopping across the Hudson for a hassle-free day with their little ones. Jersey City boasts some amazing family-friendly entertainment that can be tackled while keeping the Manhattan skyline within view. Hours of awe-worthy entertainment await at the Liberty Science Center (Liberty State Park, 222 Jersey City Blvd; 201-200-1000, lsc.org) where curious kids will have a blast making their way through the various exhibitions. After a morning of exploration, treat the tots to an interactive story theater show at The Acting Space (83 Wayne St; 201-275-2699, theactingspace.net).  

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Photograph: Courtesy Shutterstock/Romrodphoto
Things to do

Strawberry picking in New York

Nothing says summertime like a bowl of freshly-picked fruit. When the warm weather hits, grab the whole family and enjoy the best strawberry picking in New York. These extra-sweet destinations will certainly inspire delicious seasonal baking that the whole clan will love—plus time outdoors certainly beats a trip to the grocery store. These spots will leave you hungry for more, so don’t venture out on a full stomach!

Photograph: Courtesy Creative Commons/Flickr/Jack Vinson

Norwalk, CT

Travel time: 1.5 hours from NYC

Make your first stop in Norwalk the interactive Stepping Stones Museum for Children (Matthews Park, 303 West Ave; 203-899-0606, steppingstonesmuseum.org) for kids 10 and under. The Energy Lab is one of the venue's must-see science-themed offerings. Next, be sure to hit up the impressive Maritime Aquarium (10 North Water St; 203-852-0700, maritimeaquarium.org) where kids learn about marine animals that live in the Long Island Sound, meet several varieties of real, live dragons and even touch the tops of jiggly jellyfish. Afterward, choose from a varied selection of its epic IMAX films to enjoy.

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Photograph: Courtesy Wikimedia Commons/Americasroof

The Hamptons, NY

Travel time: 2.5 hours from NYC

 At the Shinnecock Nation Cultural Center and Museum (100 Montauk Hwy, Southampton; 631-287-4923, shinnecockmuseum.com) an unassuming log cabin holds paintings, wood carvings, tools and jewelry that collectively tell the story of Native Americans’ presence on Long Island since the end of the last ice age. The South Fork Natural History Museum and Nature Center (377 Bridgehampton/Sag Harbor Tpke, Bridgehampton; 631-537-9735, sofo.org) immerses kids in each exhibit by engaging all five senses. Kids smell foxes, touch marine animals and look through telescopes as they explore. The nature trail behind the museum connects to the nine-mile Long Pond Greenbelt—little ones will have a ball crunching fall leaves. The quaint Sip 'n Soda (40 Hampton Rd, South Hampton; 631-283-9752, sipnsoda.comhas typical diner fare, but their famous ice cream sodas are a must. Sugar Daddy’s Toy Store (103 Main St, Westhampton Beach; 631-288-3537) has a huge selection of Rainbow Looms, Disney Infinity characters and a life-size illuminated Iron Man that makes for fun photos.

Photograph: Courtesy Flickr Creative Commons/krh006

Wildwood, NJ

Travel time: 2.5 hours from NYC

Rejoice: This Jersey Shore town is more family-friendly than MTV cameras led us to believe. Stay at El Coronado Resort (8501 Atlantic Ave, Wildwood Crest; 609-729-1000, elcoronado.comand enjoy poolside barbecues, movies and live entertainment. Morey's Piers (3501 Boardwalk; 609-522-3900, moreyspiers.comoffers two parks for one price: Raging Waters and the Ocean Oasis Waterpark and Beach Club, a 10-minute walk or five-minute tram ride away. Those who want to remain on dry land can hit up carnival rides and other attractions at three amusement piers though combo tickets are available if your little ones can't decide. Grab a bite at Crab & Seafood Shack (4520 Park Blvd, Wildwood; 609-770-8509, crabandseafoodshack.com) before finishing up the day. 

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Photograph: Creative Commons/Flickr/Shinya Suzuki

New Windsor, NY

Travel time: 1 hour 45 minutes from NYC

Families looking for a cultural getaway are free to traverse 500 grassy acres of large-scale sculptures at Storm King Arts Center, a modern art mecca located in the foothills of the Hudson Valley (1 Museum Rd, New Windsor; 845-534-3115, stormkingartcenter.org). For lunch, stop by the The Storm King Café (5-19 Ryder Rd, New Windsor; stormking.org/visit/food/which uses locally grown ingredients in its salads, soups and sandwiches.

Things to do, Markets and fairs

Strawberry picking in NJ

Looking for the perfect summer activity? Rent a car and head across the river for some strawberry picking in NJ, where you'll find spectacular pick-your-own farms with strawberries. It's a great excuse to enjoy the summer sun, and it's also—might we add—a spectacular family photo op. Some of the PYO farms on our list also offer additional activities, like adjacent petting zoos, seasonal festivals and even hay/tractor rides! Happy picking!

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Lehigh Valley, PA

Travel time: 2 hours from NYC

If the family can’t choose between thrilling amusement rides and swimming pools on a hot summer day, then an itinerary centered on Dorney Park & Wildwater Kingdom (3830 Dorney Park Rd, Allentown; 610-395-3724, dorneypark.comwill satisfy all. The older set will enjoy the twisting, turning dry and wet roller coasters while little ones enjoy Peanuts-themed rides. Come nighttime, watch movies under the stars at Shankweiler's Drive-In Theatre (4540 Shankweiler Rd, Orefield; 610-481-0800, shankweilers.com) before tucking in at Choice Hotels' Comfort Suites (3712 Hamilton Blvd, Allentown; 520-257-4563, comfortsuites.com). 

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Greenport, NY

A picturesque former whaling village, Greenport boasts a walkable downtown of shops, galleries and restaurants featuring local seafood. At Preston's Dock, sign up for a cruise aboard the Glory (631-477-2515, greenportlaunch.com), a 30-foot solar-powered sailing vessel. Just 15 minutes away, kids can swim at Orient Beach State Park, which has a restored lighthouse at its tip, while keeping an eye out for wildlife like great blue herons and osprey. Back in Greenport, chow down at Claudio's (111 Main St; 631-477-0627, claudios.com), a favorite since 1870. Dine on the catch of the day while kids sample fish filet sandwiches. Bunk at the beachfront Silver Sands Motel and Beach Cottages (1400 Silvermere Rd; 631-477-0011, silversands-motel.com).

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Silver Birches Resort, PA
Photograph: Courtesy The Silver Birches
Travel, Getaways

Poconos, PA

No matter the season, the Poconos have something to offer—lakeside activities, skiing, great food, comfy accommodations and more. Plus, the adventurous will love the indoor waterparks and theme parks. Fortunately, each of the destinations we've rounded up aren't terribly far from NYC, so you won't have to stress about lengthy trips.  What are you waiting for? There's no excuse not to visit! 

Photograph: Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

West Point, NY

Travel time: 1.5 hours from NYC 

Our nation’s history and Gothic architecture await at the prestigious United States Military Academy (all visitors over 16 must present ID). Begin at the Visitors Center (enter from Route 218 in Highland Falls; 845-938-2638, usma.edu) where you can buy tickets for the one-hour bus tour (no self-guided tours are permitted; check westpointtours.com for schedule). The first stop is the massive granite Cadet Chapel, home of the world’s largest pipe organ as well as astounding stained glass windows. Trophy Point is another highlight, with its breathtaking vista overlooking the Hudson River. Post-tour, peruse the gift shop, which has an ample selection of kiddie-sized Army gear, from hooded sweatshirts to plush mascots and make a stop at the free West Point Museum, where weapons aficionados of all ages will gawk at the collection of swords, rifles and tanks from every time period. After leaving the grounds, head to the Ice Cream Shoppe in Highland Falls (419 Main St; 845-446-2380) for cones or milkshakes.

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Photograph: Courtesy Adventureland

Adventureland in Farmingdale, NY

Travel time: 1.5 hours from NYC

With its mix of roller coasters, carousels, swings and 10 acres of greenery, Adventureland feels like a Midwest county fair. Catering mostly to Long Island families seeking a mellow good time, Adventureland offers a veritable smorgasbord of colorful rides such as the Hip Hop, the Balloon Tower and the Little Dipper log flume—perfect for kids to twirl their hearts out. Little ones will dig the spinning cars, Pirate Island, Helicopters, Viking Voyage and Merry-Go-Round, plus there are water rides like Adventure Falls (flume ride) and Crocodile Run where kids will zoom around the water on green crocodiles. (2245 Route 110, Farmingdale; 631-694-6868, adventureland.us).

Photograph: Courtesy Adventureland

Six Flags in Jackson, NJ

Travel time: 1.5 hours from NYC

Check out amazing activities from A–Z at Six Flags Great Adventure! You can zip down a log flume, brave a swinging pirate ship, brave a 15-story ferris wheel and even fly like Superman (not for the faint of heart). (1 Six Flags Blvd, Jackson; 732-928-2000, sixflags.com/greatadventure).

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Photograph: Courtesy Nyswths

Delaware River Railroad Excursions in Phillipsburg, NJ

Travel time: 1.5 hours from NYC

Enjoy beautiful views along the Delaware River from the comfort of a historic steam train (99 Elizabeth St, Phillipsburg; 877-872-4674, 877trainride.com). The company offers up a list of family-friendly tours that all ages will enjoy, which includes Day Out With Thomas: Big Adventures Tour.

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Old Westbury Gardens, Old Westbury, NY

Travel time: 1 hour from NYC

Two of Nassau County’s cultural gems are located within four miles of one another, both on Long Island’s North Shore. Old Westbury Gardens (71 Old Westbury Rd, Old Westbury; 516-333-0048, oldwestburygardens.org) has formal gardens, woodland trails, pathways that meander along the ponds and lake as well as an early 1900's mansion filled with English antiques and artwork. Check the calendar for educational family workshops, including fact finding hunts and sampling recipes made with ingredients harvest from the onsite gardens. Lunch at Kitchen Kabaret (409 Glen Cove Rd, East Hills; 516-484-3320, kitchenkabaret.com) is an experience in itself. The gourmet pizza, fresh deli and omelette station make for difficult decisions—but be sure to recaffeinate at the cappuccino bar (and good luck getting the kiddies past the bakery) before continuing your excursion at the Nassau County Museum of Art (1 Museum Dr, Roslyn Harbor; 516-484-9338, nassaumuseum.org) include an interactive tour and hands-on art activity. In addition to the three-story Georgian mansion that houses the main collection of European and American art from the 19th and 20th centuries, the complex has a sculpture garden and nature trails on its 145 acres.

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Fun Zone in New Rochelle, NY

Travel time: 1 hour from NYC

There's something for everyone at this epic destination. Head to FunFuzion for arcade games, bumper cars, kiddie rides (helicopter, frog hopper, carousel, mini whip), a Mexican jungle-themed mini golf course and laser tag in a glow-in-the-dark arena. Families who are just interested in bowling will also find an awesome time at FunFuzion, since the Roc n’ Bowl offers 17 lanes and glow bowling, plus a full-service bar for adults (and snack bar for everyone)! 29 LeCount Place, New Rochelle (29 LeCount Pl, New Rochelle; 914-637-7575, funfuziononline.com).

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The Land of Make Believe & Pirate's Cove in Hope, NJ

Land of Make Believe & Pirate’s Cove amusement park is just a short drive from NYC, making it a perfect pick for warm-weather weekends—the younger set will find plenty to do, including jumpy frog rides, a swaying tugboat ride, a splash park area with a fort and a 1000-gallon dump bucket, a lazy river ride with single or double tubes, a shallow wave pool with a pirate ship that has slides and spray showers, and some sumer fun water slides…just to name a few! (354 Great Meadows Rd Route 611, Hope; 908-459-9000, lomb.com).

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FunPlex in East Hanover, NJ

Travel time: 1.5 hours by car

This indoor amusement center boasts 100+ arcade games (a combination of classic and new selections), plus bumper cars, an interactive XD theater and electric go karts. Little visitors will go crazy for Foam Frenzy, a three-level play space where kids and shoot foam balls from air cannons/blasters, and laser tag. Last but not least, there are also free-fall rides and a Super Twister gravity ride. For those in search of outdoor activities, Splashplex (an outdoor water park) opened its doors (or shall we say pools!) in 2016 and operates in summertime. (182 NJ-10, East Hanover; 973-428-1166, funplexeasthanover.com).

Photograph: Courtesy Great Wolf Resort

Great Wolf Lodge Water Park in Poconos, PA

Travel time: 2 hours from NYC

Carved bear sculptures and faux raw-wood siding lend a rustic, log-cabin feel to this lodge. But don’t get too cozy: The state-of-the-art water park and recreation areas make this spot anything but a sleepy retreat. Little ones will delight in splashing around in the 84-degree water park—especially in the wintertime when there’s snow falling right outside. You’ll see a 1,000-gallon tipping bucket, a roller-coaster water-slide hybrid, on-water agility course and activity pools for smaller ones, plus a brand-new, interactive Slideboarding challenge. Once they’ve dried off, try mini golf, a wizard-themed scavenger hunt that comes with an electronic wand or an ice cream–themed manicure at Scoops Kids Spa (including a scoop of ice cream and a bottle of nail polish) while Mom and Dad treat themselves to a massage at Elements Spa. The kids will feel like they’re on an outdoor adventure as they watch a Forest Friends sing-a-long show, go on a Wolf Walk through the Grand Lobby and meet the Great Wolf Kids characters. (1 Great Wolf Dr, Scotrun 800-768-9653, greatwolf.com/poconos). 

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Photograph: Courtesy Rocking Horse Ranch Resort

Rocking Horse Ranch Resort

Travel time: 2 hours from NYC

This all-inclusive resort offers up family entertainment year round, but the onsite indoor waterpark is always a guaranteed kid pleaser, even if the weather doesn’t cooperate for your horseback riding excursion or ski trip. With awesome features like the 250-foot long Gold Rush Flume and the Dynamite Alley Water Walk Challenge, your youngsters will be doing much more than splashing around in a pool. There are tons of slides, plus interactive fountains at the Fort Geyser Aqua Station to keep them entertained all day long. If Mom and Dad want some alone time, programs like the Wild Buckaroos Day Camp (ages 6–12) or Little Tykes Nursery (ages 5 and under) keep the kids busy with tons of activities. (600 State Rte 44/55, Highland; 800-647-2624, rockinghorseranch.com). 

Photograph: Courtesy Shutterstock
Things to do

Cherry picking in New York

There's a lot to love about summer vacation—the gorgeous weather, the carefree feeling and of course, the tasty treats that come with the season.  If you're starting to get hungry, take a trip to your local farm or orchard for the best cherry picking NY has to offer. Not only will you come home equipped with delicious fruits (and plenty of supplies if you decide to bake) but you'll also have a great day outdoors with loved ones.  This summertime adventure are as irresistible as the sweet treats themselves. 

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Photograph: Creative Commons/Flickr/Jim

Camden, NJ

Travel time: 2 hours from NYC

Just a short drive to the Garden State yields a plethora of kid-friendly fun that parents can get on board with, too. First is Camden’s renowned Adventure Aquarium (1 Riverside Dr, Camden; 844-474-FISH, adventureaquarium.com) where kids can view tropical fish, meet new creatures in the Touch A Shark exhibit and take a peek at what's happening in the Penguin Park. Your clan won’t want to miss daily feedings for many of the aquarium's residents, especially the 3,000-pound hippos, Button and Genny. Afterward, get your hands dirty, hop on fun rides and learn about nature’s many plants, flowers and critters at the nearby Camden Children’s Garden (3 Riverside Dr, Camden; 856-365-8733, camdenchildrensgarden.org). You might want to continue the marine theme by hopping aboard Battleship New Jersey (62 Battleship Pl, Camden; 856-966-1652, battleshipnewjersey.org).

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