The best spring day trips from NYC for families

Spring day trips from NYC pack in a ton of fun in a short amount of time, regardless of where families decide to venture

Photograph: Courtesy Shutterstock/Helen89
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Spring day trips are the perfect time for families to go on an adventure without committing to a long stay. If you only have 24 hours to spare, we've got you covered. 

Whether you're craving a visit to kids' amusement parks or looking to enjoy fun outdoor activities for kids, our roundup of destinations in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and beyond are at your disposal. 

RECOMMENDED: Full guide to the best family vacations

Do the kids have time off from school? Our favorite locales also make great spring break day trips! Rent a car and get ready for a mini getaway (and if the ride seems lengthy, brush up on our go-to tips for how to travel with kids). 

What spring day trips are you planning this year? 

Spring day trips from NYC for families

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Photograph: Creative Commons/Flickr/Heidi

Philadelphia, PA

Travel time: 2.5 hours by car from NYC

When warmer weather comes to the East Coast, strolling through the streets of this historically significant city is a no-brainer day trip for families. Important landmarks from America’s past are everywhere, and age-old architecture makes it easy to picture the likes of Benjamin Franklin riding through the narrow streets in horse-drawn carriages. If the kids aren’t so inclined to learn about the Constitution or Liberty Bell, the Philadelphia Zoo is reason enough to make the trip. America’s first zoo (founded in 1859!) houses an impressive variety of animals for families to get acquainted with—plus there are plenty of interactive activities each day. Don't forget to explore Time Out Philly's roundup of things to do with kids, including the Philadelphia Magic Gardens and the unusual Mutter Museum of medical mysteries. You can't leave the city without a Philly Cheesesteak, and there are plenty of suggestions about where to find one 

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Photograph: Creative Commons/Flickr/Jim

Camden, NJ

Travel time: 2 hours by car 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 where kids can view tropical fish, meet new creatures in the Touch A Shark exhibit and take a peek at the newly renovated Penguin Park. Your clan won’t want to miss daily feedings for many of the aquarium residents, especially the 3,000-pound hippos, Button and Genny. When little tummies start to growl, grab a quick bite at the aquarium's marketplace. 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 Continue the maritime theme by hopping aboard Battleship New Jersey.

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Photograph: Creative Commons/Flickr/Jack Vinson

Norwalk, CT

Travel time: 1 hour 45 minutes by car from NYC

Make your first stop in Norwalk the interactive Stepping Stones Museum for Children 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 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 epic IMAX films to enjoy. Burger Bar and Bistro will be a hit with the crew when you're ready to refuel after an afternoon of activities. 

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Photograph: Creative Commons/Flickr/Shinya Suzuki

New Windsor, NY

Travel time: 1 hour 45 minutes by car 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. 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 its salads, soups and sandwiches.

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Photograph: Creative Commons/Flickr/Eden

Jersey City, NJ

Travel time: 35 minutes by car from NYC

Moms and dads can keep the schlepping to a minimum by hopping across the Hudson for a hassle-free day out 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 Cente 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 or, to end the day on a sweet note, pop into the Cake Boss Cake Factory.

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Photograph: Creative Commons/Flickr/Kirspel Travis (DOS)

Wilmington, DE

Travel time: 2.5 hours by car from NYC

Embrace the glory of springtime with outdoor adventures in Delaware. Start by browsing some seriously beautiful blooms on the grounds of the Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library where families can participate in kid-friendly activities. Duck into the enchanting woods, listen for frogs by the reflecting pool and play hide-and-seek along the scenic wooded paths. A tram ride gives little legs a break from walking while indoor tours and the touch-it room keeps them entertained if the weather goes south. For a dose of exercise, head out for a hike in Bellevue State Park and stop for catch-and-release fishing on the pond or a picnic in one of the pavilions. If you can, try to plan your trip to coincide with one of the town's many family-friendly festivals, including the Wilmington Flower Market or the Great Delaware Kite Festival and Dover Days (complete with Maypole dancing and a Civil War–era baseball game) held nearby.

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Photograph: Courtesy Yelp.com + Alan W

Riverhead, NY

Travel time: 2 hours by car from NYC

When the temperature finally gets warm and the sun starts to shine, kids will start begging their parents to take them out East. Between water rides at Splish Splash and the chance to explore an underwater world at the Long Island Aquarium, they'll fall in love with the warm weather activities. Have a little shopper on your hands? No problem! Tanger Outlets offers plenty of opportunities to browse different stores. Make a 15-20-minute drive nearby to Mattituck for a small-town feel, particularly on Love Lane, where you'll find a great place to eat, a sweet shop and more. 

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Photograph: Courtesy Yelp.com + LICM

Garden City, NY

Travel time: 1.5 hours by car from NYC 

Take a breather from urban life and make your way to the 'burbs. Garden City in Nassau County is a short distance from NYC and offers plenty of fun activities for adventurous families. Trust us, the car trip with rowdy tykes will be well worth it when you arrive. Little ones will most likely want to spend the whole day exploring Museum Row, which is chock full of family attractions. Long Island Children's Museum boasts 14 interactive exhibits where kids can immerse themselves in STEAM topics. A short distance nearby, visitors will also find the Nassau County Firefighters Museum and the Cradle of Aviation Museum. Make sure you don't leave the vicinity without a spin on Nunley's Carousel. When hunger strikes, venture over to the quaint Seventh St near the Garden City Middle School and the larger and busier Franklin Ave, both of which are lined with great restaurants. Although a variety of cuisines are available, kids will most likely opt for the Shake Shack-esque Burger Spot (that secret sauce packs in the flavor.) Lastly, if you're not terribly intimidated by crowds, venture to the mecca of Long Island malls: Roosevelt Field, a multi-level facility with 240 stores (Build A Bear and the Disney Store are both on the lower level) and nearby eateries such as Seasons 52 and the Cheesecake Factory. 

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Photograph: Courtesy Shutterstock

New Hope, PA

Travel time: 2 hours by car from NYC

A mere two hours away from NYC, and you'll feel like you're in another world. Located in Bucks County, New Hope boasts a quaint, country atmosphere with shops, attractions, restaurants and annual community festivals. You'll want to take in a show at Bucks County Playhouse and bring the kids to Bucks County Childrens Museum, which features a digging station, a hot air balloon VR experience and a mini town square that transports little visitors to the turn of the century with a cute general store, ice cream shop and other amenities. For the little locomotive fans in your life, hop aboard the New Hope & Ivyland Railroad for a glimpse at the bucolic scenery. Don't forget to visit during the holidays, as both Easter Bunny Tours and the North Pole Express are available for families. Venture to the historic Peddler's Village for shopping and dining. Seven full-service restuarants allow families to pick and choose selections that work for them (American classics, cafe brunches and more options are available). One thing's for certain, no trip to the sweet destination is complete without an equally sweet scoop of ice cream from Nina's! If you're looking for an amusement park environment, Sesame Place is certainly the way to go! 

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Photograph: Courtesy Timothy Schenck
Attractions, Parks and gardens

Governors Island, NY

Governors Island is the ultimate outdoor oasis. With just a quick hop on the ferry, New Yorkers are transported to the calm, serene setting of Hammock Grove...or the adrenaline-inducing zip-lining course. Truly, this location is the best of both worlds.  If you're planning to visit the Governors Island playground (a kid-only spot) with your tots, make sure to take full advantage of the other amenities before heading home. There's a multitude of craft options, athletic activities and of course, places to take a load off (parents will love a pitstop on those hammocks). Plus, the annual Governors Island events are practically essential happenings on all New Yorkers' calendars.  Don't let the ferry leave without you!  When does Governors Island open? This year, Governors Island opens on May 1, 2019. 

More to explore

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