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The best summer getaways from New York City

Discover the best great escapes from the city this summer, from tranquil beaches to happening nightlife hubs

Photograph: Shutterstock

If anyone deserves some much needed R&R, it’s a New Yorker. So we’ve dug up eight damn-good destinations that’ll make you forget your city woes in no time, including quant seaside hamlets, rollicking nightlife, fine-dining faves and everything in between. And if you need a break right now, be sure to check out our guides to the best beaches near NYC and cheap summer getaways.

RECOMMENDED: Full guide to weekend getaways from NYC

Best summer getaways from NYC

Asbury Park, NJ

Asbury Park, NJ

1hr 15mins from NY

Asbury Park is the Jersey Shore’s latest comeback kid. The oceanside retreat enjoyed a beachy heyday in the late 1800s as a Victorian resort town complete with a boardwalk and a casino, but the area fell on hard times starting in the 1970s. Thankfully, the seaside outpost where Bruce Springsteen & Co. first gigged—and where Tony Soprano contemplated the meaning of it all—is on the rise again.

Pay rock & roll homage at The Stone Pony (913 Ocean Ave; 732-502-0600), the waterfront club frequented by the Boss (and, um, Bon Jovi). It still hosts live music virtually every night and sets up an outdoor summer stage, booking heavies like the Pixies, Gary Clark Jr. and Shovels & Rope. Rollicking new bars, restaurants and retro boutiques have been cropping up. Sweet Joey’s (523 Bangs Ave; 732-455-3183) hawks vintage band tees, and Shelter Home (704 Cookman Ave; 732-774-7790) stocks loads of goods featuring Tillie, the ugly-cute, hipsterish mascot of Asbury Park’s beach and boardwalk.

Crash at the trendy Asbury Hotel (210 Fifth Ave; 732-774-7100; $175–$415/night). It’s an Asbury Park microcosm: a deserted Salvation Army building that kinda has it all now—rooftop bars, outdoor movies, food trucks, live music, summery black-and-white photos from Asbury Park’s past and even eight-person bunks, in case you’re traveling with a crew.

Catskill, NY

Catskill, NY

2hrs 30mins from NYC

The ruggedly beautiful Catskill Mountains have a multicentury history of creative inspiration and adventure. Washington Irving set “Rip Van Winkle” among their peaks, and Thomas Cole’s paintings of the area wound up radically changing how artists depict landscapes. For a peek of what these folks found so inspiring, take the Hudson River School of Art Trail, which starts at Thomas Cole National Historic Site (218 Spring St; 518-943-7465), and bask in views like the 260-foot-drop of Kaaterskill Falls.

This respite isn’t strictly about historical appreciation, though. In the past few years, that old Catskill creativity has extended to mountain-modern hotel options like Scribner’s Catskill Lodge(13 Scribner Hollow Rd, Hunter, NY; 518-628-5130; $112–$450/night). A hotshot design firm from Brooklyn (where else?) revamped the ’60s motor lodge last year into a 38-room boutique hotel that we describe as mountain-man sleek, with curvy gray couches near sharp Adirondack chairs, all set off by colorful boho textiles.

The views are of course lovely, but if you’re jonesing for more adrenaline, these days Catskill makes a better base camp than ever for mountain adventures. Zoom at 600 feet in the air with New York Zipline Adventures (64 Klein Ave, Hunter, NY; 518-263-4388) or mountain bike on rippin’ paths with rentals from Catskill Cycles (347 Main St; 518-943-7433).

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Saratoga Springs, NY

Saratoga Springs, NY

3hrs 20mins from NYC

If the Victorians had a Vegas, Saratoga Springs would’ve been it. The resort town got famous in the 1800s for its relaxed vacay options, namely legendary spring water and thoroughbred racing (which included gambling, natch), and you can still soak in the little-bit-tingly rich-in-minerals H2O in the Roosevelt Baths and Spa within Saratoga Spa State Park (19 Roosevelt Dr; 518-584-2535). If you’ve never bathed in warm champagne, here’s your chance to get that sensation for a cool $35, which includes a robe and access to a sauna, an elegant relaxation room and a 40-minute bathtub soak.

Once you’re relaxed, it’s time for the ponies. Bring your poshest sun hat to the United States’ oldest horse-racing track, the Saratoga Race Course (267 Union Ave; 718-641-4700), which hosts the Travers Stakes and others on weekends from late July through early September. From the grandstand, gamblers can watch these majestic creatures battle it out. Afterward, visit the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame (191 Union Ave; 518-584-0400). The spot’s racing simulator is so authentic, you have to wear a helmet and vest—jockeys use it too. And you can actually stay along the racetrack at the reimagined Brentwood Hotel (15 Gridley St; 518-450-7861; $195–$350/night), where rooms are accented with antique brass.

Outside the track, Saratoga Springs has held onto its atmospheric core of old buildings downtown (Victorian, Federal and neoclassical, for you design fiends), but these days its also emits a modern, eclectic college-town vibe with a mix of shops like Tushita Heaven (423 Broadway; 518-450-1622, tushitaheaven.com), which offers New Agey incense burners and prayer beads.

Skaneateles, NY

Skaneateles, NY

4hrs 10mins from NYC 

For a classy and understated getaway, you can do a lot worse than the pastoral and chill Finger Lakes region. And the refined yet low-key village of Skaneateles is ace for tooling around the eponymous lake in an ultraquiet electric boat or exploring the many wineries nearby.

Launch your morning elegantly at the quaint Patisserie (2 Hannum St; 315-685-2433, sherwoodinns.com/dine/patisserie) with a butterific French croissant. Break for lunch at the nostalgic, summer-campy Doug’s Fish Fry (8 Jordan St; 315-685-3288, dougsfishfry.com)—yep, the place famous for turning away Bill Clinton in the ’90s—where a model train runs through the whole facility. And of course, end with booze. Lately the Finger Lakes’ historically vino-centric beverage scene has diversified into cider, craft beer and whiskey; sample the full range at the sleek, waterfront tasting room of White Birch Vineyards Tasting Room (18 W Genesee St; 315-685-9463, whitebirchvineyards.com).

Wind down at the Mirbeau Inn & Spa (851 W Genesee St; 877-647-2328, mirbeau.com; $270–$480/night; various spa treatment prices), with its Claude Monet–inspired water gardens, luxe spa and—melding the best of both—an outdoor hot tub that looks like a natural outgrowth of the craggy rocks and lush plants all around you in this super gorgeous setup. 

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Assateague Island, MD

Assateague Island, MD

4hrs 30mins from NYC

Want to get away from civilization and get in touch with your wild side? Plant yourself right on the beach on this 37-mile barrier island for an affordable respite. Two thirds of this wave-tossed ribbon of dunes and salt marshes is in Maryland, where camping is allowed; the rest is Virginia.

For a flat fee of $30 at Assateague Island National Seashore (7206 National Seashore Ln, Berlin, MD; 410-641-1441), you can build a beach bonfire, stargaze over the Atlantic Ocean and straight-up hang with wild horses. But that’s not all: Whales, dolphins—dolphins, you guys—sika deer, island foxes and great blue herons also flock to Assateague. Sea kayaking, crabbing, beach yoga and tours of 18th-century coastal plantation Rackliffe House are also on offer.

Naturally, getting away from it all means roughing it a bit. The sandy “primitive camping” setup includes toilets and cool-water showers. Stock up on firewood, sunscreen, practically mandatory bug repellent and steamed Maryland crabs at various provision stores along the way. And if you start craving off-island action, the sweet brick village of Berlin, which Huffington Post named the Absolute Cutest Town in Maryland (Welcome Center, 14 S Main St, Berlin, MD; 410-973-2051) and the Ocean City Boardwalk (Visitor Center, 4001 Coastal Hwy, Ocean City, MD; 410-723-8600) are each less than 10 miles from the island.

Portsmouth, NH

Portsmouth, NH

4hrs 30mins from NYC

This New England fave is the salty dog of New Hampshire’s seacoast—old, sure, but not tired. One of the three oldest towns in the nation, the waterfront settlement of 21,000 is ideal for imagining yourself in the United States’ (pub-jammed, beer-soaked) colonial past.

Portsmouth’s trusty vintage features include cobblestone streets, retro sailboats and centuries-old brick shops selling antiques and curios. But the city has new tricks, too. Try the 2,800-square-foot Portsmouth Book & Bar (40 Pleasant St; 603-427-9197), in the refurbished, stately Custom House, for a highbrow mix of reading and drinking. Keep the old-timey appreciation going at Strawbery Banke Museum (14 Hancock St; 603-433-1100), an old waterfront settlement turned living-history museum with blacksmiths and other craftspeople at work.

Lap up more recent—and boozy—history at Portsmouth Brewery (56 Market St; 603-431-1115), brother brewhouse to the well-known Smuttynose Brewing Co. that helped start Portsmouth’s craft-brew revolution 20 years ago. No need to leave the suds behind at bedtime: Ale House Inn (121 Bow St; 603-431-7760; $129–$269/night) features 10 rooms set in a former brewery, with all the exposed brick and industrial-chicness that implies. Free bicycle use and tickets to its next-door Seacoast Repertory Theatre are part of the deal, too.

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Portland, ME

Portland, ME

5hrs 20mins from NYC

Mix eco-conscious chefs, Northeastern ingredients and a critical mass of adventurous young eaters, and you know damn well what’s been cooking during the last decade: one of the best dining scenes anywhere. Earnest, creative Portland has crafted itself into a fever dream of sorts for diners, and it goes way beyond lobster to include offbeat all-local ingredients like sea beans and beach peas foraged on Maine’s coast.

So get up there and stuff yourself already. A few clutch recommendations on a choice-rich scene: New-classic Fore Street (288 Fore St; 207-775-2717) helped get the whole local-gathering trend started. Central Provisions (414 Fore St; 207-805-1085), serving tapas like soft-shell crab banh mi on reclaimed heart-pine tables, was recently a James Beard Award finalist for Best New Restaurant. And Eventide Oyster Co. (86 Middle St; 207-774-8538) draws massive lines for its genius placement of a lobster roll on an Asian-style steamed bun.

But don’t just stay on the mainland: Some 4,600 islands sit off the coast of Maine. Even on an urban stay, catch that rugged-rural beauty by ferrying to Peaks Island (Via Casco Bay Lines ferry, 56 Commercial St; 207-774-7871). Pedal off the calories by renting bikes and tooling around the sweet three-mile land chunk. For lodging that jibes with Portland’s local-sustainable ethos on the mainland, bed down at Mercury Inn (273 State St; 207-420-2420; $165–$300/night). The ornate Victorian holds seven guest rooms, bright with poppy graphics against clean white walls, and careful sourcing throughout like local, seasonal breakfasts and natural-ingredient soap and shampoo.

Provincetown, MA

Provincetown, MA

5hrs 20mins from NYC

Back in the day, the dune-backed Portuguese fishing village at Cape Cod’s outer end drew writers (Tennessee Williams and Norman Mailer, to name two), but over the decades it has morphed into the funky-fun LGBTQ hot spot it is today. During the morning, give P-town’s ethnic history a breakfast nod with a creamy little custard tart, or pastel de nata, at the zero-frills Provincetown Portuguese Bakery (299 Commercial St; 508-487-1803), then jump to the modern era of fine art and rocking good times.

Provincetown is all about laid-back mingling—and there’s no better way to get into it than hopping among the town’s color-saturated galleries and boutiques. Get teased en route by drag queens who tickle you with feathers while inviting you to shows. Chow on crispy cod tacos at the casual but fabulous and friendly spot The Canteen (227 Commercial St; 508-487-3800), where you’ll try in vain to resist a frozen-rosé drink dubbed the frosé. Suck it down out back, where day-drinking fun meets ocean views. With the Provincetown pier as a backdrop, you can play the most Instagram-worthy game of Ping-Pong in town.

If you’re ready to rage, the seaside destination has your number, too: The afternoon Tea Dance that goes down from 4 to 7pm every day is justly famous at Boatslip Beach Club (161 Commercial St; 508-487-1669). Gems like the crooner-boasting Cabaret Room in the Crown & Anchor (247 Commercial St; 508-487-1430) are also teasingly fun. P-town bars close at 1am, but the after-hours party continues on the street. When you’ve finally exhausted yourself, crawl home to the White Porch Inn (7 Johnson St; 508-364-2549; $179–$469/night), a grand 19th-century home renovated into a thoroughly beachy, unstuffy, clean-white B&B steps from the bay, and get ready to do it all over again tomorrow.

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