The best day trips from NYC

Need to escape the city for a hot minute? These excellent day trips from NYC to beaches and wineries come in handy.
Philadelphia, PA
Photograph: Shutterstock
By Tazi Phillips, Annalise Mantz and Time Out contributors |
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Incessant honking cabs, sardine-packed subway cars and overcrowded streets are enough to drive any New Yorker mad. That’s why day trips from NYC are essential. A change of scenery is a great way to clear your head, and our list of quick and easy getaways are not only excellent places to relax, but they offer activities for the adventureous set. Want to go surfing at one of the best beaches near New York? We got you. Whether you’re looking for things to do outside, upstate art museums , wineries and more, there are a ton of day trips from NYC you can travel to in just a few hours.

RECOMMENDED: Find more weekend getaway ideas

Day trips from NYC

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best weekend getaways from nyc
Photograph: Bill Jacobson

Beacon, NY

Good for culture hounds
1hr 20mins by Metro-North

This quaint city in Dutchess County boasts an an exceptionally good eating, drinking and art scene for its size. Walk five minutes from the train station to Dia:Beacon, a modern art museum housed in a former Nabisco box factory. It houses the Dia Foundation’s permanent collection of works from the ‘60s on, including minimalist sculpture by Anne Truitt and Dan Flavin’s work with fluorescent lights. If you’d rather spend the day sampling some booze, Dennings Point Distillery on Main Street also offers tours and tastings of their bourbon, whiskey, gin and vodka every Friday and Saturday. Before you board the train back to the city, spend a few quiet minutes watching the sun set over the Hudson at Long Dock Park. –Annalise Mantz

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Sands Bethlehem
Photograph: Courtesy Sands Bethlehem

Bethlehem, PA

Good for gamblers
1 hr 44mins by car

Take a walk on the wild side when you visit Bethlehem, Pennsylvania’s prime casino and resort: The Sands. Rattle the dice, try your luck on the slots, play table games or simply go for the cocktails. While there are ten fine dining options (including three Emeril’s eateries—bam!), we recommend hitting Main Street in historic Bethlehem for a bite. Enjoy a flight of sangria and eat small plates such as bacon wrapped dates and, hummus ad burrata at Tapas On Main. Afterward, oblige your sweet tooth across the street at Penn State’s Creamy Ice Cream shop inside Hotel Bethlehem.

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Fire Island lighthouse
Photograph: Shutterstock

Fire Island, L.I.

Good for sunseekers
1hr 30mins by LIRR and ferry

Once a haven for nude sunbathers, Fire Island’s federally managed beaches have made clothing very much mandatory since 2013. There’s still plenty of fun to be had on the 31-mile barrier island, including lifeguard-supervised, all-ages swimming on Sailors Haven, Watch Hill, Davis Park and Atlantique. Nature lovers might want to walk along the elevated boardwalk at Sunken Forest Preserve, a rare maritime ecosystem growing in the low spot between two sand dunes. Holly trees, sassafras, black cherry and prickly cat-briar all grow together in a tangle of vegetation. Staying through the evening? The bar scenes in Ocean Beach and Kismet draw crowds of attractive young professionals, while Cherry Grove and the Pines thrive with vibrant LGBT communities. —Rosie Haney

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Cape May, NJ, Cape May Whale Watcher
Photograph: Courtesy Cape May Whale Watcher

Cape May, NJ

Good for adventurers
2hrs 30mins by NJ Transit bus

Aboard the Cape May Whale Watcher, you’ll skip into the Delaware Bay on a quest for dolphins, humpbacks and finbacks. The knowledgeable captain explains cetacean behaviors, such as spyhopping (popping the head up and holding the position to have a look around) and breaching (the classic Shamu jump-splash routine), and the company promises a free future trip if you don’t spot any marine mammals between spring and fall. Once you get your back on dry land, feast on seafood at Lucky Bones Backwater Grille, a local restaurant named for the hooklike claw found on male horseshoe crabs that superstitious sailors used to wear for a safe return. Continue your day with a friendly game of putt-putt at Cape May Miniature Golf. If you want to up the stakes, bet on who can get the lowest score; winner buys a round of Italian ices or sundaes from the ground’s old-school ice-cream parlor, Cocomoe’s.—Caren Oppenheim

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Storm King Art Center, Art day trips
Photograph: Courtesy of Storm King

Cornwall, NY

Good for culture hounds and adventurers
1hr by car

With its rolling green hills and massive sculpture installations, Storm King Art Center is tailor-made for stunning photographs. Art aficionados and nature lovers alike will enjoy wandering the 500-acre art park featuring works from more than 100 artists including Alexander Calder and Maya Lin. Take the guided tram tour around the park once to get the lay of the land, then set off on foot or rent a bike for a day of exploring and Instagramming. Visitors can even climb inside a select number of the works. The artistic flair extends to the riverfront village of Cornwall-on-Hudson, where you can dine at the eclectic restaurant–art gallery combo Painter’s–Annalise Mantz

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things to do in atlantic city
Photograph: Shutterstock

Atlantic City, NJ

Good for sunseekers and history buffs
2hrs by car or 2hrs 30mins by bus

The casino town remains lively as ever since Hurricane Sandy, and several new events and recent additions to the boardwalk prove it’s possible to spend a pleasant day here without ending up at the blackjack table. The annual Atlantic City Airshow provides an opportunity to sprawl on the beach while watching vintage planes take stomach-dropping nosedives over the ocean. After an afternoon of sunning yourself on the sand, sample the old-fashioned salt-water taffy at Fralinger’s on the boardwalk. The historic family-run business has been making the candy since 1884. Atlantic City is also home to Absecon Lighthouse, the tallest in New Jersey. For a nominal fee, you can climb the 228-step spiral staircase to the top of the tower and take in the sweeping views of the waves. —Alex Schechter

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Minnewaska State Park Preserve
Photograph: NYS Parks / J. Rozell

Kerhonkson, NY

Good for adventurers
2hrs by car

Between its rugged landscape and forested pine-barrens area, upstate has some stellar natural spots, and Minnewaska State Park Preserve is one of the best. The more than 22,000-acre spread has been converted into an egalitarian playground with 50 miles of trails, a new rock-climbing spot at the Dickie Barre cliffs, as well as old carriage roads well suited for mountain biking. Cool off with a swim in Lake Minnewaska or Lake Awosting, nestled between towering white bluffs and known for their translucent aquamarine color. Afterward, head to New Paltz for a break at the Water Street Market, where you can eat, shop, and take in art, outdoor movies on Monday nights (June–Aug) and free music on Tuesdays. Historic Huguenot Street is also worth a gander; the road features seven 300-year-old stone houses from the original settlement and provides a tangible glimpse at the history of the town.—Rosie Haney

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Freeport, L.I., Captain Lou Fleet
Photograph: courtesy Captain Lou Fleet

Freeport, L.I.

Good for adventurers 1hr by car

This sleepy, bucolic town is the perfect location for casting a line. Take a four-hour fluke-fishing excursion on a 100-foot-long supercruiser with the Captain Lou Fleet. To stay on land, head to Sea Isle Tackle, grab freshly shucked clams for bait, and make for the dock at the Town of Hempstead Marina (we hear striped bass and fluke are biting). For dinner, try seafood-centric dinners like cedar-planked Atlantic salmon with Vermont maple glaze and horseradish-crusted rare tuna with shrimp dumplings at the cozy Nautilus Café, and if you’re not the designated driver, stop by fisherman shanty Jeremy’s Ale House for a 32-ounce Styrofoam cup of the house brew. Just mind the signed bras hanging from the ceiling—you don’t want to be the one getting hooked.—Christopher Ross

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Philadelphia, PA
Photograph: Shutterstock

Philadelphia, PA

Good for culture hounds
1hr 30mins by Amtrak, 2hrs by bus

Skip southward to shop Philly’s flourishing secondhand scene of vintage clothing shops and thrifty treasure spots. A few steps off South Street (but still not far from a cheesesteak) is Heres2CoolStuff, acclaimed for its colorful and inexpensive collection of men's and women’s apparel. For dapper gentlemen, Briar boasts a meticulously edited collection of classic Americana style, including tailored sport coats, varsity jackets and military boots alongside sartorial accessories (bowties, cufflinks, hats) and oddities for the curious collector. Don’t leave without hitting up what just might be every Macklemore fan’s fantasy come true: Bulk Vintage, a warehouse for hunters who don’t mind digging—literally—for retro duds sold at wholesale prices that rival any thrift shop north of Jersey. If you can’t make the public opening hours (Mon, Sat noon–6pm), make an appointment to rummage. Done shopping early? Spend the rest of the afternoon perusing the permanent collection at Philadelphia Museum of Art, which includes works by Pablo Picasso, Frida Kahlo and Edgar Degas. —Sammy Davis

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Montauk
Photograph: Shutterstock

Montauk, L.I.

Good for adventurers and sunseekers
2hrs 30mins by car, 3hrs 15mins by LIRR, 3hrs 30mins by Hampton Jitney

Known to locals as “the End,” the chilled-out Hamptons village at the easternmost reach of the South Fork offers some of the best surfing in the region. Rent a board—fiberglass, foam or epoxy—and a wet suit from the family-owned Air and Speed Surf Shop. Drive your gear to Ditch Plains beach for a lesson with local fixture and professional instructor Corey Senese. Towel off and refuel at Ditch Witch, a beloved food truck slinging breakfast burritos, addictive Asian sesame noodles  and Zen Blend iced green tea. Before you head home, join everyone else in town at the Montauket, a neighborhood joint where you can sip a pint of Blue Point toasted lager while watching the sun melt into the rippling horizon of Fort Pond Bay.—Chris Ross

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Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Khürt L. Williams
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