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Day trips from New York – here’s what you can and can't do

The most up-to-date guidance on taking day trips from NYC right now

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With Memorial Day weekend coming up, the desire to escape your tiny apartment and take a day trip is massively tempting—but there's a lot to know before you start packing your day bag.

With PAUSE still in effect, New Yorkers are urged to stay at home, so going out in the first place is not encouraged. But if you are going to leave anyway (you shouldn't), there are a few outdoor places and activities you can do while social distancing.

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Planning to head out? Here's the lowdown on what to expect.

Will I be able to drive?

Right now, all New York State roads, bridges and tunnels are open, so yes, but essential travel is the only kind government officials want to see.

Can I rent a car?

Yes, most car rental companies are still operating and have changed how they clean and disinfect their fleets. 

What about a train?

Metro-North and the Long Island Rail Road are operating modified services. To go to Long Island, trains are running on half-hourly or hourly service on most branches, with strategically added trains during peak travel times and Metro-North is operating on an hourly schedule on the Hudson, Harlem and New Haven Lines, on weekdays and weekends. That being said, the MTA is advising people to stay home and not take the train.

As for New Jersey Transit, only essential workers are asked to ride and has decreased service to deal with capacity issues.

Amtrak is still selling tickets, however, it is limiting sales to 50% of seat capacity on reserved services. You can read more about the precautions it's taking here.

What parts of New York are open right now?

None are fully open.

The Central New York, North Country, Finger Lakes, Southern Tier and Mohawk Valley Regions have met all seven required metrics to begin phase one of the state's regional phased reopening plan, "NY Forward." That means they can start construction and manufacturing work again, and retail businesses can do curbside pickup. That does not mean restaurants and shops are open to walk into.

You can see the status of each region here.

Can I cross state lines?

Yes, but don't.

No state has blocked drivers from passing through on their way to their final destination, but some states like Rhode Island have interstate travel restrictions, meaning that law enforcement is stopping some drivers coming from out of state at the border to remind them of the quarantine requirement, according to The New York Times. Newark and nearby towns, Irvington, Orange and East Orange, are turning around drivers trying to cross their town lines whose travel is seen as nonessential. 

Those driving out of New York, Connecticut and New Jersey may face mandatory self-quarantine for 14 days upon arriving in another state. Before you go anywhere, make sure you check the official websites of the state you're traveling into to find out what it's doing.

Be mindful of where that state is in its reopening plan. On Wednesday, Connecticut reopened its restaurants, stores and malls, but with major limits, the Times says. Respect their laws if you are going to travel there.

Can I go to the beach?

Yes, so long as it is a state-owned beach in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut or Delaware. These states have an agreement to reopen their state beaches for Memorial Day Weekend. (This excludes NYC beaches.)

If you go, there are mandates you must follow: Contact sports on all beaches like football and volleyball will also be prohibited, Governor Cuomo said. Pools, playgrounds and concessions will also remain closed to prevent people from gathering in crowds. Beaches run by the federal National Park Service like Jacob Riis Park and Ft. Tilden Beach in Queens, are already accessible and partially open for walking and running. But, Brenda Ling, the Public Affairs officer for NPS’s Gateway National Recreation Area told the New York Post it's not yet clear if they will have lifeguards, which is why they are only considered partially-opened right now.  

As of right now, the chance of having a beach day at the nearby county-run beaches on Long Island is getting more and more slim, as elected officials fear NYC's eight million people will flock to Long Island beaches, leaving them inundated. Long Island county executives are considering making beaches there residents only.

And as always, social distancing and mask wearing must be adhered to.

What else can I go do? 

If you're going to go anywhere, make it somewhere you can keep your distance—preferably outside.

New York State parks are still open (see a full list here), however, at Minnewaska State Park Preserve and Sam's Point Area, parking capacity has been reduced by 50% and all restrooms are closed. Multiple parking and trail restrictions are in effect at Hudson Highlands State Park and the parking lot and trail for the Bash Bish Falls are closed. Overall at state parks, most indoor spaces (visitor centers, nature centers, and historic houses) are closed. Some but not all public restrooms will continue to be available. Just be sure to practice social distancing there as well.

Golf courses operated by State Parks may be open, but operating schedules will differ across the state. Call courses directly for current information. 

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