Summer might be over, but the warm sunny days still live on, which is why autumn is the perfect time to make the most of the awesome weather. It’s not blazing hot and the sun is still out for a good portion of the day. These family day trips from NYC will get everyone outdoors to stroll through nature, see gorgeous fall foliage, and learn a thing or two about art, culture and history.
RECOMMENDED: Full guide to the best family vacations from NYC
These family day trips from NYC in the fall are some of our favorite autumn getaways. The whole family will have a blast and come back home feeling refreshed. And while you're out, stop by some of the best apple picking near NYC, find your future Jack-O-Lantern at these wonderful pumpkin patches or take one of these scenic drives for fall.
Day trips from NYC: Great fall trip ideas for families
Delaware River Railroad Excursions, Phillipsburg, NJ
Drive start point 1.5 hrs from NYC
Enjoy beautiful views of fall foliage along the Delaware River from the comfort of a historic steam train (99 Elizabeth St, Phillipsburg; 877trainride.com). The company offers up a list of family-friendly tours that all ages will enjoy, including the perfect-for-autumn Great Pumpkin Train, which includes a free pumpkin for every child ($18, children $12). Dinosaur-obsessed kiddos will get a kick out of the Dino Days Train tour where they’ll learn about the prehistoric giants from field paleontologists, view real fossils, and participate in fun activities like an obstacle course bounce house and meet and greets with Davey the Dinosaur ($50). For the older kids, a trip to the Ol’ Susquehanna Mine will be a thrill ($23, children 2–12 $16)—they’ll tour a 1700s mine and get the chance to pan for real gemstones. Best yet: all go home with a bag of real fossil ore. When snack time hits, the area is filled with cheesesteak spots, but we recommend paying Toby’s Cup a visit (857 Memorial Parkway, 908-859-1925).
Storm King Arts Center, New Windsor, NY
Drive start point 1 hr from NYC
Traverse 500 grassy acres of large-scale sculptures at this modern art mecca located in the foothills of the Hudson Valley (1 Museum Rd; 845-534-3115, stormking.org; $18, children 5-18 $8, children 4 and under free). Kids will love walking beneath and through the towering tall steel beams and stone columns, truly becoming part of each piece. Museum Hill has a stone indoor museum and restrooms—start there and then head to the South Fields, where your crew will encounter mountain vistas and unique pieces like Wavefield (where the grass itself is the art medium) and Storm King Wall (an expansive, winding stone fence). On Saturdays, special craft activities (think nature-inspired artwork and drawing with remote controlled cars) are offered. (Note: The installations are spread wide apart, so expect lots of walking. A tram does run around the grounds every 20 minutes.) For lunch, stop by the The Storm King Café, which uses locally grown ingredients in their salads, soups and sandwiches, or head to Brothers Barbecue (2402 Route 32, New Windsor, NY; 845-534-4227, thebrothersbarbecue.com) for Southern favorites like collard greens, ribs and grits.
Old Westbury Gardens and Nassau County Museum of Art
Drive start point 30 mins 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, NY; 516-333-0048, oldwestburygardens.org; $12, children ages 7–17 $7, children under 7 free) has formal gardens, woodland trails, pathways that meander along the ponds and lake as well as an early 1900s 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 (One Museum Drive, Roslyn Harbor; 516-484-9338, nassaumuseum.org; $12, children ages 4–12 $4, children under 4 free). Family Sunday tours (1–4pm) 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.
New Paltz, NY
Drive start point 2 hrs from NYC
Prepare your crew for an active day in the Shawangunk Mountain Range (or “the Gunks,” as locals call the jagged cliffs that frame the area). Enter Minnewaska State Park Preserve (5281 Route 44-55, Kerhonkson; 845-255-0752, parks.ny.gov) and park in the Awosting Parking Area for a short (less than 1/2 mile round-trip) but steep hike to Awosting Falls. Then move the car to the main parking lot, where a two-mile trail encircles the turquoise Lake Minnewaska (which gets its rare hue from mineral deposits). Picturesque views, colorful foliage and wooden gazebos dot the circumference. A history lesson can be found on Huguenot Street; kids can view rotating exhibits at the DuBois Fort Visitor Center (81 Huguenot St; 845-255-1889, huguenotstreet.org) and tour restored homes and a church circa early 1700s ($15, children under 12 free). Since New Paltz is a college town, you’ll find bar food and beer aplenty. We like the Gilded Otter (3 Main St; 845-256-1700, gildedotter.com), a brew pub with a vast menu that includes hearty fare like meatloaf, three meat chili and buffalo wings.
West Point, NY
Drive start point 1.5 hrs from NYC
Our nation’s history, Gothic architecture and stunning foliage 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. Fall flavors include pumpkin and southern apple pie.
The Hamptons, Long Island, NY
Drive start point 2.5 hrs from NYC
The summer crowds have thinned, leaving the Hamptons a delightfully relaxing destination. At the Shinnecock Nation Cultural Center and Museum (100 Montauk Hwy, Southampton; 631-287-4923, shinnecockmuseum.com; $8, children 5–12 $4.75, children under 5 free) 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; $10, children 3–12 $7.50, children under 3 free) 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 Candy Kitchen Ice Cream Parlour and Eatery (2391 Montauk Hwy, Bridgehampton; 631-537-9885) has 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.