Disclaimer: While some of these places might be temporarily closed due to the Covid-19 pandemic, it’s likely that you’ll soon be able to see most of them – and with many of us understandably concerned about international travel over the coming months, there’s never been a better time to explore our own backyard.
Sometimes you need a day trip from NYC. The city can be overwhelming. It’s a blur of cabs and trucks and school buses and delivery drivers and joggers and hot dog vendors and impatient commuters that can leave you struggling for breath. Luckily, there are plenty of NYC day trips and excursions to choose from.
Do you want to rekindle your love for the ocean, head for the hills, or see a different take on city life? Here are some ways to break free from great Granny Smith, aka the Big Apple, and be back in time for The Tonight Show.
Experience NYC day trips in Cities Close to New York
Nowhere is quite like NYC, but other places do try – bless ‘em. If you’re a self-confessed city slicker, there are a couple of cities close to New York you can visit for a change of scenery.
1. Philadelphia Day Trip From NYC
NYC to Philadelphia by car: Approx. 1hr 10 min 🚗
NYC to Philadelphia by bus: Approx. 2hr 10 min 🚌
NYC to Philadelphia by train: Approx. 2hr 15 min 🚆
In terms of big cities close to New York, Philadelphia is a tried and trusted NYC day trip. With quick and easy transport options, you’re able to leave at a reasonable hour and be there well before lunch. Philly cheesesteak, anyone?
There’s plenty to do, even on a tight schedule. Run up the famous Rocky Steps, and once you’ve got your breath back, venture inside the Philadelphia Museum of Art for a cultured browse.
Delve into colonial and revolutionary history by visiting the Liberty Bell at Independence Hall, or by exploring the Museum of the American Revolution. The two are just steps away from each other, and make for ideal itinerary options for day trips from NYC.
If you want to immerse yourself in the proud traditions of the City of Brotherly Love, consider squeezing in a guided tour. If you’re a foodie (aren’t we all?) don’t miss the tour of the 9th Street Italian Market for the lowdown on Philly favorites. For an all-encompassing wander, try the History in HD: Philadelphia Walking Tour to see the landmarks that shaped America with a local historian.
2. Atlantic City Day Trip From NYC
NYC to Atlantic City by car: Approx. 2hr 15 min 🚗
NYC to Atlantic City by bus: Approx. 2hr 35 min 🚌
Unless your name is Clarke Kent, Las Vegas isn’t going to be on the list of day trips from NYC. But, did you know there’s a super alternative just a couple of hours away?
New Jersey’s Atlantic City – aka Little Las Vegas – has attracted day-trippers from New York and further afield since the 19th century. In its heyday, it was a regular haunt for the likes of Marilyn ‘Should-Have-Worn-Jeans’ Monroe. Despite falling on harder times in recent years, its famous four-mile boardwalk is still a draw for millions each year.
It’s not just about the casinos. The soft sands of the clean and expansive Atlantic City Beach make it a hit with beachgoers. The boardwalk harks back to holiday pastimes that preceded accessible air travel. Think amusement-park style games, family-friendly piers, bars, restaurants, and salty sea air.
At the northern end of the boardwalk, you’ll see the black and white of Absecon Lighthouse. Make sure to climb its 228 steps for glorious views of Atlantic City’s skyline. And, check out the attached museum for a history of one of the country’s tallest lighthouses.
- You don’t mind the travel time.
- Money ain’t a thang. Amtrak’s high-speed Acela trains make both cities accessible in a single day – but tickets don’t come cheap.
Get Some Fresh Air With These Hiking Day Trips From New York
It’s easy to feel suffocated by the smog, skyscrapers, and overpriced coffee of NYC. Admittedly, New York has some lovely people-made parks, but if that’s not wild enough for you, there are plenty of options for hiking near NYC.
1. Staten Island Greenbelt, NY
By car: 25 min from Lower Manhattan 🚗
By bus: 44 min from Lower Manhattan 🚌
That’s right, family-friendly hiking is just minutes away. Staten Island’s Greenbelt is the last remaining forest preserve in New York City. There are over 35 miles of marked hiking trails for you to explore, winding through rugged forests, fresh wetlands, picturesque meadows, and rolling hills.
Whether you’re a family in need of a day out, an avid trail runner, or a couple looking for a romantic stroll away from the city hubbub, the Greenbelt the most convenient option for hiking near NYC. The park’s six trails are accessible all-year-round, and leashed dogs are welcome. Be on the lookout for wild deer and an abundance of birdlife.
Difficulty: Easy to moderate
2. The Great Swamp Watershed, NY
By car: 1hr 26 min from Lower Manhattan 🚗
By train: 1hr 52 min from Grand Central to Appalachian Trail Station (weekends only) 🚆
When you woke up this morning, you probably weren’t expecting to yearn for a hike through a giant swamp. But now, you will be.
The freshwater wetlands that make up the Great Swamp are navigable in part via the legendary Appalachian Trail boardwalk, which stretches across its top in the village of Pawling. You would need longer than a day to actually complete USA’s longest and most lauded hiking trail. See this segment as a breezy trial run.
A trip along the wooden pathway begins the moment you leave the train at Appalachian Trail Station. Built by volunteers and opened in 2012, it continues for 1,600 feet, but you can keep going for as long as you like past the boardwalk’s end.
Head past Dover Oak (which boasts the privilege of having the largest white oak tree in the whole of New York) and amble on for rewarding views at Cat Rocks. Just remember to turn around at some point or you might end up in Maine.
Difficulty: Easy to moderate
3. Bear Mountain State Park, NY
By car: 55 min from Lower Manhattan 🚗
By bus: 1hr 40 min from Port Authority Bus Terminal to the base of Bear Mountain 🚌
Bear Mountain is one of the most popular parks for hiking near NYC. Around 45 minutes from the city, it provides a bunch of amenities to go with the fresh air. There’s a zoo, a merry-go-round, an outdoor pool, and the century-old Bear Mountain Inn.
But you’re not here for all that. Leading away from the attractions and into the hills are canopied nature trails just waiting to feel the tread of your walking boots. Because who goes hiking in Yeezys?
There are various signposted routes. The Hessian Lake Loop is a short and easy option. This trail meanders around the water’s edge in an area so serene, it’s hard to imagine its bloody past.
The most rewarding choice is to aim for the Perkins Memorial Tower atop Bear Mountain, which is accessible via another portion of the Appalachian Trail. From here you’re able to look down upon the park and the Hudson Highlands, and toast to your successful adventure with a hearty bump of your water bottles.
Difficulty: Easy to moderate
4. Breakneck Ridge, NY
By car: 1hr 20 min from Lower Manhattan 🚗
By train: 1hr 30 min from Grand Central to Breakneck Ridge (weekends only) or Cold Springs Station 🚆
Don’t let the name put you off – but do bear in mind that this is a challenging trip into the wild for which you should come prepared. It’s best to leave the pooch and other small family members at home for this one.
The rewards for your scrambling and clambering up this ridge are sensational views of the Hudson Valley and the forested hills of New York State. The first mile and a half are the most challenging, with steep, rocky inclines that make appropriate footwear a must. Lucky you invested in those cool but practical walking boots, huh? After that, things get a little easier, with reminders of why you took on the hike at every turn.
If you’re up for the challenge, bring plenty of water and make sure to read this blog of advice from a local trail steward before you go.
The mother of NYC day trips: Take a Niagra Falls Tour From New York
Skip this section if you don’t want to get up at 4.00 am to see one of planet Earth’s iconic natural wonders.
Move beyond this segment if the idea of coming face-to-face with nature at its rawest and most powerful frightens you.
Scroll, onward to the comfort of the beach getaways from NYC below if just contemplating the 3,000 tons of ice-cold water cascading from Niagara Falls every second overpowers your senses.
Still here? Hopefully, we didn’t overdo it. Anyway, Niagara Falls is a long way from the city. It saves a whole lot of hassle if you sign up for an organized day trip from NYC.
Join an English and Spanish-speaking guide as you peruse the grounds of Niagara Falls State Park. Learn all about the three waterfalls – American Falls, Bridal Veil, and Horseshoe Falls – that mark the border between Upstate New York and friendly old Canada. It’s a day that’ll take your breath away!
Scout Sun, Sea and Sand With These Beach Getaways From NYC
New York is surrounded by coastline. But where to go? And how to get there? Here are a few beach getaways from NYC, including some Long Island day trips, that you can do in one day.
1. Sandy Hook, NJ
By ferry: 40 min from E. 35th Street or Wall Street ⛴️
You know what they say: it’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey. They being internet moms who share motivational quotes on Facebook.
Ferries allow you to take a breezy trip from E. 35th Street or Wall Street straight to the seven-mile outdoor haven of Sandy Hook. It’s one of the more idyllic NYC day trips.
This narrow barrier peninsula is home to bird sanctuaries, fully-catered beaches, glorious seafood shacks, and prime fishing spots. Got a bike? Take it along for the freedom to explore, and pedal out to the cute beach town of Highlands.
2. Long Beach, NY
By train: 1hr from Penn Station 🚆
One of the easiest beach getaways from NYC, Long Beach is just 20 miles away as the seagull flies (before swooping in and stealing your french fries. Winged criminals, I tell ya!).
Long Beach is a dream for family day-trippers. It’s not too far, and there’s plenty to do. Enjoy boardwalk activities, lifeguarded beaches, and loads of food options. Take advantage of Long Island Railroad’s beach getaway package to save a handy amount on travel/beach access.
3. Jones Beach, NY
By train and shuttle: 52 min from Penn Station and 20 min by shuttle from Freeport 🚆🚌
Long Island is a go-to for sun-loving New Yorkers, with its close proximity to the City and endless sandy straits. Despite welcoming millions each year, Jones Beach National Park is large enough that it still boasts some hidden gems.
Enjoy the vast beach, swimming pools, surfing, picnic areas and more. The Jones Beach Theater also plays host to a list of iconic musical names throughout the summer, plus bands like Nickelback.
Looking for something a little more chilled? Take a pleasant hour’s walk from Jones Beach to surf-sanctum Gilgo Beach.
4. Fire Island, NY
By train and ferry: 1hr 20 min from Penn Station and 20 min by ferry from Bay Shore 🚆⛴️
Pristine beaches, a laid-back vibe, and a unique cultural identity make Fire Island worth the ever-so-slightly tricky journey. Nature lovers are especially drawn to the 26-mile barrier island, which, as well as being quaint and beautiful, protects the mainland from storm swells.
Wander the elevated boardwalk at Sunken Forest Preserve, a rare, dune-protected ecosystem. Swimming, fishing, and bird watching are favored activities for the island’s residents and annual visitors. Fire Island is car-free, so you’ll have left the honking cabs of the city well behind you.
5. Montauk, NY
Train: 2hr 30 min from Penn Station to Montauk 🚆
You’ve missed the wave on this Hamptons spot being a hidden gem, but you can still enjoy an enriching Long Island day trip in the surf hotspot of Montauk.
What was once a chilled east-coast retreat is increasingly a magnet for Manhattan socialites and big business. But, there’s a good reason people and money are flocking there.
A surfer’s paradise, Ditch Plains Beach is just as good a spot as any to soak up the sun if water sports aren’t your thing. Montauk Point State Park is alive with flora, fauna, and fishing spots. It’s also home to the oldest lighthouse in the state of New York, which also makes for a picturesque sunset walk.
Montauk is loaded with restaurants, beer halls, and bars. These, along with everything else the seaside village has to offer, make it a perfect beach getaway from NYC.