Photograph: Courtesy Shutterstock

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 Time Out editors and Danielle Valente
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UPDATE: Hours of operation might have changed. Call ahead before making a trip. 

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). 

RECOMMENDED: Our full guide to the best family vacations

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!

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

1. Riverhead, NY

Travel time: 2 hours from NYC

This Suffolk County town boasts more than just the sprawling Tanger Outlet. It's home to the Long Island Aquarium (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 (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 (splishsplash.com). Book a stay at the Harborfront Inn when you're ready to call it quits for the day (theharborfrontinn.com). 

Photograph: Courtesy NJ Division of Travel and Tourism

2. 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 (capemaywhalewatch.com). Head to the Cape May Count Park & Zoo, (cmczoo.com) an 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 (lighthousefriends.com). Rest your head at the Beach Shack (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

3. 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).

liberty science center
liberty science center
Photograph: Courtesy Liberty Science Center

4. 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 (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 (theactingspace.net).  

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seal
seal
Photograph: Courtesy Pixabay + Pexels

5. Norwalk, CT

Travel time: 1.5 hours from NYC

Make your first stop in Norwalk the interactive Stepping Stones Museum for Children (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 (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.

moreys.jpg
moreys.jpg
Courtesy: Morey's Piers

6. Wildwood, NJ

Travel time: 2.5 hours from NYC

This Jersey Shore town is more family-friendly than MTV cameras led us to believe. Stay at El Coronado Resort (elcoronado.com) and enjoy poolside barbecues, movies and live entertainment. Morey's Piers (moreyspiers.com) offers 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 (crabandseafoodshack.com) before finishing up the day. 

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Storm King
Storm King
Photograph: Courtesy Mark di Suvero / Spacetime C.C., NY. / Storm King Art Center

7. 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 (stormkingartcenter.org). For lunch, stop by the The Storm King Café, which uses locally grown ingredients in its salads, soups and sandwiches.

8. The Hamptons, NY

Travel time: 2.5 hours from NYC

 At the Shinnecock Nation Cultural Center and Museum (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 (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 (sipnsoda.com) has typical diner fare, but their famous ice cream sodas are a must. Sugar Daddy’s Toy Store (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.

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Dorney park
Dorney park
Photograph: Courtesy Dorney Park

9. 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 (dorneypark.com) will 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 (shankweilers.com) before tucking in at Choice Hotels' Comfort Suites (comfortsuites.com). 

10. Greenport, NY

Travel time: 2 hours from NYC

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 (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 (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 (silversands-motel.com).

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

11. Poconos, PA

Travel Getaways

Travel time: 2 hours from NYC

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

12. 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 (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 (845-446-2380) for cones or milkshakes.

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Photograph: Courtesy Adventureland

13. 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). Plus, the family attraction has reinstated its Safari Experience in 2020: 1,200 animals are all available right before your eyes—from the comfort of your car. (sixflags.com/greatadventure).

14. 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 (877trainride.com). The company offers up a list of family-friendly tours that all ages will enjoy, which has included Day Out With Thomas: Big Adventures Tour in the past. 

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Boundless Adventures
Boundless Adventures
Photograph: Monte Isom

15. Boundless Adventures

Attractions Theme parks

Travel time: 1 hour from NYC

Boundless Adventures is an enormous aerial adventure park on a forested part of the campus of Purchase College in Westchester: There are nine courses with more than 90 bridges, 17 zip lines and a diverse terrain that will dazzle you with its natural beauty. New to aerial adventure parks? No problem. Boundless Adventures has four difficulty levels, which means every participant will be matched with the right course - plan on spending around four hours climbing, zipping and cruising through the trees! Also: Plan on your kid deciding you're the Best Grownup Ever for the trip to Boundless Adventures. Note that the park is taking special precautions to ensure everybody's safety for the summer of 2020.  Reservations are required. $60, $55 ages 7-12. Ages 7 and up.

Governors Island
Governors Island
Photograph: Courtesy Shutterstock

16. Governors Island

Attractions Parks and gardens

OK, so this is technically still in NYC, but a visit Governors Island makes for a spectacular day out. Located in the heart of New York Harbor, one of our go-to family attractions offers scenic views, a country environment and a plethora of outdoor activities for kids and adults (like one of the coolest kids' playgrounds NYC—with mighty impressive slides).This year, things will look a little different: Governors Island will open at limited capacity for passive recreational activities like biking, hiking, walking and bird watching beginning July 15. It'll be open on weekdays from 10am–6pm and weekends from 10am–7pm. Beginning Saturday, July 18, The Trust for Governors Island will offer free ferries to all New York City Housing Authority residents. 

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The Land of Makebelieve
The Land of Makebelieve
Photograph: Courtesy The Land of Makebelieve

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

Travel time: 1.5 hours from NYC

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! (lomb.com).

Photograph: Courtesy Rocking Horse Ranch Resort

18. 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). 

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drive in
drive in
Photograph: Courtesy Greenville Drive-In

19. Drive-in theaters

Things to do

You heard it here first: This is going to be the summer of the drive-inWhat could be better than a double-feature under the stars? A new generation is joining the family-run throwbacks, and now it's easier than ever to sit back in your car and enjoy the best family movies to watch together. In fact, many of the films you'll see are from your childhood: Back to the Future, Jaws, Jurassic Park and other family comedy movies your kids will love. Some of the drive-ins on this list have been around for more than 50 years. Others, such as the Greenville Drive-In, Jericho Drive-In and Four Brothers Drive-In, are updated classics with delicious food and craft beers. And some, such as the Skyline Drive-In, BelAire Diner and Mema's Pizzeria, are parking lot pop-ups that appeared this year. Even more will open this summer: The celebrated theater troupe Shakespeare & Company plans to open one in the Berkshires, while the Junk Yard Drive-In is planning to open on Long Island. So go ahead and buy tickets for one of the drive-ins that opened in NYC this year, or head out of town for one of the drive-ins with grassy fields lined by trees.

children hiking
children hiking
Photograph: Courtesy Shutterstock

20. Hiking trails

Things to do

Just because you live in the Big Apple doesn't mean you can't spend time in the great outdoors. There are amazing family-friendly hikes close to NYC—in fact, the Bronx River Greenway and Inwood Hill Park are right in the middle of the city! So: Check the weather, pack a picnic and make plans to visit mother nature with the fam. These hiking trails are great for children of all ages, from toddlers out for a stroll to bigger kids looking to go for a scramble. After all, it's up to you to make this summer great.  

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sunflowers
sunflowers
Photograph: Shutterstock

21. Sunflower picking

Attractions Farms

If you've exhausted all of the PYO fruit options, turn your attention toward beautiful blooms! We've rounded up great locales in New York (and beyond) for sunflower picking that deserve your attention. For those in search of a summer day trip away from the city, there are plenty of outdoor activities that await at these local venues in the North Fork of Long Island, the Hudson Valley and so on. (Think petting zoos, freshly-squeezed lemonade and farm tours.) Plus, you'll get to head home with a bouquet that's sure to make your digs feel like summer. Check out a sunflower farm NY families love! Garden State-bound? We've found a sunflower farm NJ families can't resist! Make sure your summer bucket list includes a floral fix.

Photograph: Courtesy Shutterstock/Romrodphoto

22. Strawberry picking in New York

Things to do

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!

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cherry picking
cherry picking
Photograph: Courtesy Shutterstock

23. Cherry picking in New York

Things to do

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. 

Photograph: Courtesy Unsplash + veeterzy

24. Blueberry picking in New York (and beyond)

Things to do

While it's practically impossible to resist a sweet summer strawberry, let's not let the popular fruit hog all of the attention: Blueberry picking in New York—and the surrounding area—is equally as delightful, and if you're craving homemade sweets, stop by your local farm for a bushel of berries. July and August are the perfect time to head into the fields to gather some fresh produce.

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Photograph: Shutterstock

25. Peach picking in New York (and beyond)

Things to do

What's sweeter than peach picking near NYC? Well, blueberry and strawberry picking are equally as delightful during the summer. If you have a hankering for fresh produce and want to spend some time outdoors with the kiddos, check out the local farms in your area for PYO hours and rules (many of which have changed this year). Not only will you head home with a bushel of fruit, but the adventure makes for a great day trip. Check out our list and enjoy! 

 

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