It’s hard to believe anyone would want to tear themselves away from the teeming streets of excitement that make up New York City. Nevertheless, those fortunate few who have seen it all before, or those nature lovers who need a break from 24-hour urban action, can find respite in a day trip from the Big Apple. Here are five great places to explore within a stone’s throw of New York.
While technically still part of New York City, Coney Island has enough going on to really make a day of it. It sits on a peninsula (not actually an island) in Brooklyn and has a lively boardwalk with carnival rides and a beachy vibe.
Take a rattling ride on the wooden Coney Island Cyclone roller coaster (built in 1927) or try the lovely restored B&B Carousell (1906) for something more sedate. Don’t miss the Coney Island Museum, with its collection of Funhouse Mirrors; Sideshows by the Seashore, with its sword swallowers and fire eaters; and refresh yourself with an ice-cream or a visit to the Coney Island Brewing Company. There is also an annual Coney Island Film Festival and an annual Mermaid Parade.
Getting there: 50 minutes on the subway.
Montauk, on the easternmost point of Long Island, offers a taste of the Hamptons without the old money. Long popular with surf lovers (don’t miss Ditch Plains), it has now attracted boutiques, upmarket hotels, food trucks and restaurants.
Take a surfing lesson, hike along the cliff-tops of Montauk Point State Park to the historic lighthouse, set sail at sunset on a catamaran, and enjoy a lobster dinner. Finish off with a beer at The Montauket.
Getting there: Roughly three hours by car, Hampton Jitney bus or Long Island Rail Road (LIRR).
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Fire Island is just about as cool – or as hot – as it sounds. This barrier island off Long Island has a long history of pirates, shipwrecks and rum-runners.
It attracts some 20,000 extras during the summer months, in addition to its 400 or so full-time residents. There are 17 car-free communities scattered across the island, where deer roam the backyards, bicycles or bare feet are the transport of choice, and the beaches are perfect for lazing about.
Check out the unofficial capital, Ocean Beach, with its restaurants, bars and boutiques, while Cherry Grove and Fire Island Pines are popular with the LGBT community. Plus there is wilderness to explore, including the curious Sunken Forest, and historic lighthouses to admire.
Getting there: 1 hour 30 minutes by LIRR and ferry.
Woodstock, long a haven for artists and musicians – and no, the famous music festival didn’t happen here – is the place to go for hiking, cycling, art exhibitions, antiques, theatre, swimming holes, and live music. Check out the Midnight Ramble concert series in the home studio of late drummer Levon Helm; ski Hunter Mountain in the winter (or zipline in the summer); attend the annual Woodstock film festival; visit the Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary; receive a blessing at the Tibetan Buddhist monastery; or lose yourself in the Opus 40 Sculpture Park and Museum.
Getting there: Roughly 2.5 hours by bus; two hours by car.
Philly is surprisingly close to NYC by train and makes a perfect day trip. Run up the ‘Rocky Steps’ at the Philadelphia Museum of Art; visit the Liberty Bell; get your fill of Philly cheesesteak sandwiches (24-hour Geno’s Steaks is a popular choice); and find your perfect souvenir in the city’s flourishing vintage scene. Grab some gourmet goodies from the Reading Terminal Market, and watch the sun go down from one of the city’s many rooftop bars.
Getting there: 1 hour 30 minutes by Amtrak train; two hours by bus.