New York City is known for its skyscrapers, gridlocked traffic, and frenetic pace. Conversely, the Big Apple also has exceptional green spaces in and around the city, offering respite from busy city life.
Both the inner city and surrounding areas offer loads of opportunities for outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers, from the perfect picnic spots in NYC to stunning urban parks. Whether an addition to your New York Itinerary or you are a New Yorker looking for a breath of fresh air, there’s a green escape for everyone to enjoy in New York.
If you want to stray a little further from the city center to really escape the hustle and bustle, we have partnered with Hotels.com to bring you these seven fabulous day trips from New York. Day trips that offer wonderful sights and natural attractions – some as close as a train ride from the city.
Where to Stay in New York City
New York City is divided into five major neighborhoods or “boroughs” – Staten Island, Queens, Brooklyn, Manhattan, and The Bronx. Each of these boroughs is divided into dozens of neighborhoods.
While accommodation in New York has a reputation for being notoriously expensive, it is still possible to land some really great deals, especially if you plan and book in advance. There is also a surprising array of accommodation in New York beyond the standard hotel variety, which is good news for those who want to self-cater or are traveling as a family or group.
When choosing where to stay in NYC, consider your visit’s focus, the style of accommodation you need, and, of course, your budget. New York is very well connected by public transport, but you don’t want to waste too much time commuting.
Manhattan is where you will find most tourist attractions, so it is perfect for first-time visitors. There is plenty of variety in neighborhoods to choose from in Manhattan to suit different budgets and interests.
Williamsburg in Brooklyn is also worth considering as it is close enough to Manhattan and offers an entirely different vibe. Long Island City in Queens is another underrated neighborhood for visitors as it is only 15 minutes from Times Square and the place to be if you’re on a budget.
Whatever neighborhood you choose to stay, check the location of the nearest train station or bus line for convenience.
Also, be aware, the New York City hotel and occupancy taxes (14.75 %, plus $3.50 per day) are often not included in room rates, so make sure you factor this in your budget.
7 Best Day Trips from NYC
Cold Spring, Hudson Valley Day Trips from NYC
- Distance from NYC: Roughly 60-miles north
- Travel Time: 1.5-Hours by train (Hudson Line) and 1.5-hours by car
Nestled on the banks of the Hudson River is the charming village of Cold Spring. Thanks to its proximity to New York, it’s long been a favorite weekend getaway for New Yorkers wanting to escape the city for a little tranquility amongst nature.
Apart from the charming historical center listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Cold Spring also offers an abundance of outdoor activities and natural attractions.
Hike through the short but challenging Breakneck Ridge Loop for superb views over the Hudson. Wander through the expansive 15-acre Stonecrop Gardens, initially founded by Frank Cabot and his wife in the 1950s. Or, hike the extensive network of walking trails in the 8000-acre Hudson Highlands State Park Preserve. There is also the option to enjoy the area’s serene beauty from a kayak or canoe on the river.
Storm King Art Center, Cornwall, NY
- Distance from NYC: 65-miles north
- Travel Time: 1.5-hours by car
Another Hudson Valley gem, and one of the best day trips out of NYC, is a visit to the Storm King Art Center.
Storm King, founded in 1960, is one of the largest outdoor museums and art exhibitions in the US. It features over 100 pieces of art and outdoor sculptures set among 500-acres of lush green meadows and forests.
Storm King Art Center’s vision and mission is to support artists and provide space to produce some of the most creative and ambitious works. Exhibitions at the center change seasonally, and they offer up a host of different programs throughout the year, so you can revisit and always experience something new.
Find details for current exhibitions and ticketing for Storm King Center here.
Bear Mountain State Park
- Distance from NYC: 50-miles north
- Travel Time: 1-hour by car
Set along the Hudson River’s western bank in the Orange and Rockland counties of New York is the 5205-acre Bear Mountain State Park. It is undoubtedly one of the best day trips from NYC for nature lovers, thanks largely to the sheer number of activities and facilities in the park.
Visitors to the state park can enjoy a network of hiking and biking trails, as well as cross-country skiing trails. The park also has picnic spots, a large outdoor pool, the Trailside Museums & Zoo, a Merry-Go-Round Pavilion, the Perkins Memorial Tower offering stunning views, an outdoor ice-rink during the winter months, and plenty of lake and riverside fishing opportunities.
If you want to spend a little longer to take advantage of all these excellent things to see and do in Bear Mountain, you can book a night at the charming Bear Mountain Inn and Overlook Lodge, overlooking the Hessian Lake.
- Distance from NYC: In the New York Harbor
- Travel Time: 10-mins by Ferry from Manhattan or Brooklyn
In the New York Harbor, set between Brooklyn and Lower Manhattan, is Governors Island – a favorite city escape during the warmer spring and summer months when it opens to the public between May and September.
Easily accessible by ferry, the 172-acre island is home to an award-winning park, impressive historic architecture, as well as The Hills – a series of uniquely engineered hills with different activities and vantage points. Outlook Hill is particularly notable, rising 70 feet and providing visitors with spectacular 360-degree views over the New York skyline, the Statue of Liberty, and the New York Harbor.
The Governors Island also sets out a range of cultural, art, and environmental activities and programs worth visiting. See the official Governors Island website for information, schedules, and ferry timetables.
- Distance from NYC: 20-miles
- Travel Time: 1-Hour by car
Tucked away in Short Hills, New Jersey, Greenwood Gardens was a private residence until 2003, when the Blanchard’s opened the tranquil oasis to the public.
Visitors can enjoy a guided walking tour to admire the Italian-inspired aesthetic and gardens, meandering through moss-covered walks and stumbling across interesting stone houses. There is also an onsite cafe if you want to grab a drink or a snack.
Entry to the gardens currently costs $10 per adult; children under 12 are free. Do note that visits are strictly by ticketed times only, so it’s important to book ahead to guarantee your spot to enjoy this magnificent gem. See the Greenwood Gardens website for ticketing and opening times.
Sleepy Hollow & Tarrytown
- Distance from NYC: 30-miles north
- Travel Time: 1-Hour by train or by car
Located only an hour by train from NYC, another of the best Hudson Valley day trips from New York City is the spooky yet charming town of Sleepy Hollow. Best known for the Headless Horseman tale, a book written by Washington Irving and more recently popularised in the film of the same name.
Explore what many consider to be the most haunted town in the US, seeing its famous attractions, such as the Headless Horseman Monument, the Old Dutch Church, the Philipsburg Manor, the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, as well as the Headless Horseman Bridge.
If visiting New York during the fall, don’t miss out on The Great Jack O’Lantern Blaze in Sleepy Hollow, where you can see over 7000 carved jack o’lanterns – definitely a memorable experience.
Of course, Sleepy Hollow isn’t only defined by ghouls and ghosts. The nearby 1400-acre Rockefeller State Park Preserve is well worth the visit for nature enthusiasts. Forming part of the popular Kykuit Estate, you’ll be able to indulge in a spot of hiking, fishing, birding, or even horseback riding.
- Distance from NYC: 62-miles
- Travel Time: 2-hours by car and then by ferry
32-miles of gorgeous, pristine beaches on the southern shore of Long Island is another popular NYC day trip – the stretch known as Fire Island.
Although small in size, Fire Island offers visitors tons of exciting activities and places worth exploring. Embark on a guided or self-guided tour of the 50-acre Sunken Forest, a distinctive Holly forest that was characterized by the New York Natural Heritage Program as a ‘globally rare’ site.
In search of stunning, unspoiled beaches? Head west to the 875-acre Robert Moses State Park for some of the best beaches on Fire Island. The Park is also home to various picnic spots, a Pitch & Putt golf course, and other great outdoor activities, including fishing & surfing.
Other notable points of interest on Fire Island include Sailor’s Haven, the Fire Island Lighthouse, Smith Point County Park, and the beautiful coastal village of Ocean Beach.
Plan Your Day Trip From New York
It goes to show that despite the urban sprawl of New York City – the largest city in the United States, it doesn’t take much to escape the chaos of the city for a breath of fresh air away from the crowds. There are so many fascinating and beautiful reasons to plan some time outside of the city. These are just a few of them.