New York City—the United States' busiest, most populated metropolis—offers a crazy amount of attractions and activities, and there's no doubt you could spend a lifetime in NYC And never get bored. What most people don't realize, though, is that the area surrounding New York City also has tons of must-see destinations and attractions, and there are some world-class, must-see destinations close to the city that are just a short drive away. Locals and visitors looking to escape the hustle and bustle of the city should consider hopping in a train or car and spending a day in one of these places, which are undoubtedly the best day trips from NYC.
Beacon is an artsy mountain town in the heart of the Hudson Valley. Beacon is a haven for creative types who are drawn here because it's home to several live music venues and Dia: Beacon—a contemporary art museum built by the Dia Art Foundation in an old Nabisco cookie box factory on the banks of the Hudson River. Beacon offers an especially unique experience because it's only lit by skylights and windows. Visitors' experiences of the art they see are completely shaped by what time of day and season they visit. In addition to its art attractions, Beacon is home to one of America's cutest and most bustling walkable main streets. The town also sits at the foot of Mt. Beacon, part of the Hudson Highlands—a small mountain that is hikable and offers views from its peak all the way down to NYC if you climb it on a clear, sunny day.
Montauk, one of the legendary Hamptons and the furthest town from NYC on the South Fork of Long Island, offers the same feeling of escape as the rest of the Hamptons, but with a little more rugged wilderness to make you really feel like you're worlds away from the concrete jungle. When you get the Montauk, you'll feel like you're in a quintessential beach town. Head to one of the public beaches or check out one of the many seafood restaurants for just-caught fish. One of the main attractions in Montauk is the scenic Montauk Lighthouse, which is now a historic landmark.
New Haven is home to Yale University and one of the best day trips from NYC. Yale is, of course, filled with tons of fun attractions, including a world-class (free) art gallery, a natural science museum, and a British art museum. However, one of the best reasons to get away to New Haven is the food. There are legendary dining spots here, including Pepe's pizza, often considered the best pizza in the US, and Louie's Lunch, officially the birthplace of the "hamburger sandwich." (These are served a certain way—don't ask for ketchup!)
Princeton, NJ is another college town that's a great day trip from NYC and a tiny, quiet, quaint little village, with a gorgeous gothic campus right in the middle of it. The best reason to visit Princeton is to wander through the ivy-coated campus to take in the beautiful architecture and impressive sculpture. Princeton has many museums and attractions to visit, including the Princeton Art Museum, which is considered one of the best in the region.
Art lovers will love a day trip from NYC to Cornwall, NY, home to the Storm King Art Center. This incredibly unique attraction is an open-air, outdoor art museum and sculpture park, which visitors can wander through while taking in the stunning nature around them. Rent a bike and bike the paths through the art, or walk the whole thing on food. Storm King has its own museum at the center and a restaurant, so you can stop and refuel while you visit to make sure you have a chance to take in all the masterpieces.
The Jersey Shore might have a bad rap, but in reality, Ocean City, NJ—one of the Jersey Shore towns—offers one of the best day trips from NYC. Once you get to Ocean City from the city, you can relax on a lounge chair, dip into the ocean, or take a walk on the sand. The town also has a long boardwalk with restaurants, games, and treats—it'll feel like going back in time. Ocean City is quaint and quiet, especially during the weekdays, so it's a good place to visit from New York if you feel like you need to recharge.
Phoenicia is a tiny bucolic town in the Catskills and home to excellent dining like the Phoenicia Diner, drawing people from all over the region. There are lots of other things to do in town besides eating, including Rail Explorers (where you pedal a vehicle on railroad tracks through the mountain scenery) and the Empire State Railway Museum, which offers a history of trains in NY.
It's hard to believe that two of America's biggest and best cities are so close, but it's true with New York and Philly—they're just a short drive away from each other. Take a drive to Philadelphia from NYC if you want your fill of US history. You can see the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall, the Betsy Ross House, and much more. For some less-well-known historic sightseeing, head to the adorable Elfreth's Alley, which includes 32 houses built for working-class Philadelphians in 1703.
Hyde Park is a town just north of Poughkeepsie. It is also an excellent day trip destination for history buffs—as well as food lovers! Head to Hyde Park to visit the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum and the Eleanor Roosevelt National Historic Site, as well as the Vanderbilt Mansion Historic Site. When you're done learning, head to the Culinary Institute of America, where many of the world's best chefs are taught to cook—you can eat at a student-run restaurant before all the chefs there get too famous!
Many people think of New York State as an urban place. But Hunter is actually quite the opposite—it's a ski town! This Mountain Town in the Catskills is situated at the foot of Hunter Mountain, a destination for skiing, snowboarding, tubing, and more outdoor fun. People come to Hunter for the day to do the zipline or visit the gorgeous, trendy hotel and restaurant that's become a destination unto itself: Scribner's Lodge.