There’s nowhere in the world quite like New York City, making it an obvious choice on every traveler’s bucket list. Visitors to New York are never going to run out of things to do there, as the city has a special way of offering something for everyone no matter their interests. But if you have enough time during your New York trip, you might start to think about using the city as a base to explore other interesting destinations nearby. If that sounds like you, here is a broad assortment of the best day trips from New York City to show you what is possible. If you hadn’t considered spending longer in New York before, this list might just change your mind.
1. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Philadelphia is easily one of the best places to visit from New York City due to its vastly different feel and compelling history. To see Philly’s historic side, it’s best to go for a walk down the cobblestone streets of its Old City neighborhood. From there, head over to Independence National Historical Park to visit major revolutionary landmarks like Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell, and Congress Hall. Across town, you’ll not only find museum exhibits at the Philadelphia Museum of Art but also the iconic steps from the film Rocky and a statue dedicated to the character. The other thing that Philadelphia is especially well known for is its tasty Philly cheesesteak sandwiches, which you should have no trouble hunting down while you’re there.
Getting there: Philadelphia is an easy train trip from New York City and takes just over an hour to reach. Visitors can also get there by car in under two hours or visit the city together with Washington, DC, in a massive day-long guided tour.
2. Washington, DC
From one great American city to another, Washington, DC, is one of the best side trips from New York City for tourists. The capital city of the United States is jam-packed with places to visit, especially if you make your way to the impressive National Mall. Along this long landscaped park are many of the city’s most famous landmarks and monuments, including the Lincoln Memorial, the Washington Monument, the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Memorial, and the Capitol Building. Of course, visitors to the city will also want to see the White House or even take a tour, although those need to be planned well in advance. A good indoor alternative to sightseeing is to head for one of the excellent museums of the Smithsonian Institution, such as the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History.
Getting there: Getting from New York City to Washington, DC, takes a little over three hours by train and roughly four hours by car. Alternatively, travelers can see the city on guided day tour.
3. Beacon, New York
Along the Hudson Valley, you’ll find a lot of pleasant historic towns that make great New York City day trips. These include the artistic city of Beacon. In recent years, Beacon has reinvented itself as a hub for creatives and artisans, giving travelers a reason to visit beyond its river views and fall foliage. A key element of the city’s transformation is Dia Beacon, a modern art museum set inside an old box-printing factory that boasts compelling artwork from the 1960s onwards. Other things to do in Beacon include exploring its various breweries and distilleries among the red brick buildings of Main Street, hiking up Mount Beacon, and kayaking down the river to the scenic ruins of Bannerman Castle.
Getting there: Reaching Beacon from New York City takes around 1.5 hours by train and a little less by car.
4. Fire Island, New York
If the best day trips from NYC are ones that show you places vastly different from the city, then a trip to Fire Island definitely fits the bill. Fire Island is a narrow barrier island along the southside of Long Island and is known for its clean sandy beaches and laid back vibes. In fact, things are so relaxed here that the island has long been known for its nude beaches, although various state laws have changed things in recent years. Other popular (clothed) things to do around this lively summer resort destination include following its coastal boardwalks through the holly forest of the Sunken Forest sanctuary, visiting the historic Fire Island Lighthouse, and dining on seafood in its waterfront eateries.
Getting there: It takes around one hour to drive to Fire Island from New York City, but cars are not allowed beyond the car park at Robert Moses State Park. Alternatively, you could take the train or drive to Bay Shore, Sayville, and Patchogue on Long Island and then take a ferry across to different parts of Fire Island.
5. Storm King Art Center, New York
One of the best things to see in New York state outside of New York City for those interested in art is the Storm King Art Center. This open-air museum sits on 500 acres outside the town of Mountainville on the Hudson Valley and incorporates its rural landscape into its exhibitions. Storm King is best known for its expansive sculpture garden full of large-scale monumental sculptures that visitors explore by following long paths around its grounds. The museum’s collection places a focus on artwork from the 1950s onwards and boasts works by acclaimed masters like Douglas Abdell, Henry Moore, and Magdalena Abakanowicz.
Getting there: It takes a little over one hour to reach the Storm King Art Center from New York City.
6. Niagara Falls, New York
While it may be one of the further day tours from New York City, there’s no doubt that Niagara Falls is worth the journey. This iconic waterfall along the border between Canada and the United States is one of the most beautiful waterfalls in the world and an iconic destination in New York state. Visiting Niagara Falls, you’ll have the chance to see each of its three waterfalls, whether from observation decks or from a boat cruise on the Niagara River. Horseshoe Falls is the largest and most recognizable of the waterfalls, but American Falls and Bridal Veil Falls are also quite beautiful to behold.
Getting there: Because of the great distance between New York City and Niagara Falls, driving there for a day trip isn’t really a viable option. Instead, it’s better to visit with a guided tour that includes roundtrip flights to Buffalo airport to cut down on travel time.
7. Cape May, New Jersey
For a brilliant day away at the beach or out on the water along the Atlantic Coast, it’s hard to beat the appeal of Cape May. This seaside resort sits at the southern tip of New Jersey’s coast on the threshold between Delaware Bay and the Atlantic Ocean. From the Cape May Lighthouse, you can enjoy spectacular views of the area’s coastal scenery. Cape May is also home to one of the best beaches in the country and made even more delightful by the old Victorian houses that line its beachfront. But what draws many visitors to Cape May is the chance to spot dolphins and whales on a cruise tour along its coastline.
Getting there: Cape May is just under a three-hour drive from New York City.
8. Bear Mountain State Park, New York
What better way to balance out the hustle and bustle of New York City than with a trip out to the peace and quiet of Bear Mountain State Park. The park is another destination north of the city on the Hudson River, but this time nature and the outdoors are the focus. Bear Mountain State Park makes a perfect backdrop for all sorts of outdoor activities, although hiking and cycling are definitely the most popular. Marked trails link up throughout the park, allowing visitors to explore the rugged landscape. For a hiking suggestion, look no further than the Bear Mountain Summit Loop that runs for a little under four miles to the top of the mountain.
Getting there: Bear Mountain State Park is around a 1.5-hour drive from New York City. Alternatively, you can take the train to Peekskill and get a taxi from there, which will take roughly the same time.
9. Governors Island, New York
We’re bending the rules here a little as Governors Island is actually part of New York City, but the island is often overlooked and feels worlds away from the likes of Manhattan. Governors Island sits in the Bay just off the coast of Brooklyn and was once a coastal fort that’s now managed by the National Park Services. One of the best things about visiting the island is its fantastic views of iconic sights like the Statue of Liberty and the Manhattan skyline. Visitors can also visit the remains of Fort Jay, stroll through the island’s various gardens and parks, or go for a bike ride.
Getting there: Travelers can take the ten-minute ferry from Whitehall Terminal in Manhattan across to Governors Island.
10. Montauk, New York
Tourists excited to experience the Hamptons while in New York should consider a day trip to Montauk, a relaxed village right at the far eastern end of Long Island that is surrounded by beaches and wild coastal scenery. One popular sightseeing spot in the area is the Montauk Point Lighthouse within Montauk Point State Park, which features documents signed by George Washington and stunning seaside views. More adventurous visitors may want to instead take to the water and make the most of Montauk’s great surf conditions. You can also treat yourself to the hamlet’s abundant options of seafood restaurants before heading back to the big city.
Getting there: Montauk is a 2.5-hour train ride or drive from New York City.
11. Greenwood Gardens, New Jersey
If you enjoy historic gardens, Greenwood Gardens in New Jersey is a short trip from New York City. This lovely garden covers 28 acres and sits on a former private estate within the forests of the South Mountain Reservation. What makes Greenwood Gardens so pleasant to explore is its Italianate garden terraces and both classical and contemporary garden styles. Beyond walking around Greenwood, other activities available to visitors include gardening lectures, guided tours, painting classes, scavenger hunts, and demonstrations in the meditative art of Qigong.
Getting there: Getting to Greenwood Gardens from New York City takes 45 minutes by train and 30 minutes by car.
12. Sleepy Hollow, New York
Known around the world for the fictional story regarding the town and the Headless Horseman, Sleepy Hollow is certainly among the best places to visit in New York state. The town truly embraced its connection to the famous Washington Irving story by changing its name to Sleepy Hollow in 1996. But the appeal of the town extends beyond its storybook ties, with plenty of historic buildings and landmarks to admire. Philipsburg Manor features a charming mill from the 18th century but also a dark history of slavery. Further historical sights include the Rockefeller Estate of Kykuit, Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, and the Old Dutch Church. It’s worth mentioning that the town is also surrounded by some gorgeous scenery, from the riverfront of the Hudson River to Rockefeller State Park Preserve.
Getting there: It takes just under an hour to catch the train from New York City to Sleepy Hollow and a little over 30 minutes to get there by car.
13. Cold Spring, New York
Yet another wonderful destination in New York state’s Hudson Valley is the pretty town of Cold Spring. This charming small town on the Hudson River is known for its antique stores and artisanal shops, ideal for a low-key day of window-shopping. But Cold Spring also makes a great starting point for exploring the wilds of nearby Hudson Highlands State Park. There among the highlands you can take to the park’s hiking trails that range in difficulty from the gentle Little Stony Point Loop to the more intense climb to the summit of Breakneck Ridge. Finally, much further out of town lies Stonecrop Gardens, a wonderfully picturesque and peaceful public garden.
Getting there: Reaching Cold Spring from New York City takes roughly 1.5-hours by train and a little less by car.
14. Atlantic City, New Jersey
It’s probably fair to say that Atlantic City isn’t going to be for everyone, but for the right person, it can make a great day trip destination. As its name suggests, Atlantic City sits on the Atlantic Coast of New Jersey and is famous for its casinos and beachfront boardwalk. The Atlantic City Boardwalk is probably the best focus for a day trip, as it is lined with all kinds of luxury and boutique shops. On the boardwalk, you’ll also find the Steel Pier Amusement Park with its rides and the Central Pier Arcade with its games and go-kart track. Other ways to entertain yourself in Atlantic City include visiting its spas and sampling its inventive food scene.
Getting there: Getting to Atlantic City from New York City takes 2.5 hours by bus and a little over two hours by car.
15. New Canaan, Connecticut
Although New Canaan is surely a nice place to live, there’s really only one thing about this town in Connecticut that will lure day trippers its way – its architecture. New Canaan was a haven for a small group of Modernist architects in the 20th century and, as a result, is home to some truly inspiring architectural landmarks. The most famous attraction is the Glass House, a fully transparent home designed by Philip Johnson on a property that visitors can take tours through. But there are other unusual attractions to seek out here like the modern architecture of the River Building at Grace Farms or the New Canaan Nature Center with its diverse gardens.
Getting there: It takes a little under two hours to reach New Canaan from New York City by train. However, it is only a one-hour drive, and having a car is useful as some attractions are quite spread out from the town center.
16. Hunter, New York
Situated among the Catskill Mountains of Upstate New York, the mountain town of Hunter is a great choice of destination if you want to spend your day outdoors. How you spend your day in Hunter, though, mightily depends on what time of year you’re there. Wintertime offers skiing and other snow sports, while the warmer months mean taking to the sky with zip-lining on the SkyRider Tour or the less vertigo-inducing Mid-Mountain Tour. Highlighting the town’s seasonal versatility, the Hunter Mountain ski lifts are used in summer to show off the mountain’s breathtaking scenery. Those traveling with kids might also want to consider the nearby Bailiwick Animal Park and Riding Stables for its petting zoo and horse riding tours.
Getting there: Hunter is around 2.5-hours by car from New York City.
17. Adirondacks, New York
Another option if you’re looking to get away from city life for the day is heading up into the Adirondack Mountains in northeast New York state. The Adirondacks are synonymous with stunning natural wilderness and an excellent destination for all sorts of outdoor activities. Lake George is a convenient place to visit if you’re after somewhere relaxed to go kayaking or paddleboarding. For skiing or hiking, Whiteface Mountain is hard to beat, although certainly not your only option in this vast mountainous region. There’s even a little bit of local history to explore here thanks to Fort Ticonderoga, a strategic star fort from the 18th century that’s now a living museum.
Getting there: The Adirondack Mountains are three to four hours away from New York City by car depending on where you go.
18. Albany, New York
To learn more about the state of New York, there’s no better place to go than its state capital, Albany. Although Albany is much smaller than New York City, there’s no shortage of things to do there thanks to the city’s deep history and cultural importance. Begin your visit with Empire State Plaza, which features incredible reflecting pools leading up to the palatial building of the New York State Capitol. On the cultural front, Albany has the exceptional New York State Museum and Albany Institute of History & Art, which explore the history of the state and city respectively. One other major historical landmark not to miss due to its ties to the American Revolution is the Schuyler Mansion State Historic Site.
Getting there: Reaching Albany from New York City takes a little over 2.5 hours by either train or car.
19. Mattituck, New York
Wineries may not be the first thing you think of when visiting New York City, given its temperate climate, but a trip out to Mattituck on Long Island is sure to change that. The hamlet of Mattituck sits on the North Fork peninsula, an area of Long Island that is now home to a superb selection of upscale wineries, many of which are found a short distance from Mattituck. While there are too many vineyards to mention, some of the most popular near Mattituck include the Borghese Vineyard, RGNY, and Pellegrini Vineyards. For something a little different, head over to the Harbes Family Farm, where kids are sure to be delighted by their hayrides and petting zoo and adults can indulge in tasty treats.
Getting there: Getting from New York City to Mattituck takes 2.5 hours by bus or under two hours by car.
20. New Haven, Connecticut
Home to the renowned Ivy League institution of Yale University, the coastal city of New Haven, Connecticut, is an interesting choice for a trip from New York. A great way to begin a day trip to New Haven is with a campus tour of Yale University, as you will not only see the university’s gorgeous architecture but learn more about the city as well. There are several major cultural attractions tied to Yale worth investigating, from the historic Yale University Art Gallery and Yale Center for British Art to the informative Peabody Museum of Natural History. The New Haven area also has some beautiful nature spots to explore, such as East Rock Park and Lighthouse Point Park, although the latter is a bit far from the city center.
Getting there: New Haven is roughly two hours by train from New York City and 1.5 hours by car.
While you shouldn’t have any trouble keeping busy while visiting New York City, you now also have a bunch of options for day trips if you have the time. Clearly, there’s much more to New York state and the surrounding region than just this one city.