The Big Apple is almost always on the top of the list for most visitors to the States. With its rich history, beautiful streets and booming culture, its tourist draw doesn’t really stop at any time of year. Many people visiting New York marvel at just how much it’s “exactly like the movies”, which is really the only way to describe it.
You can visit all your favorite movie locations and even pretend you’re walking with your favorite characters. Either way, NYC definitely has something for everyone. But the constant flow of tourists is a double-edged knife, because in most popular places it’s almost impossible to get through.
You wanted a photo on Times Square? Too bad, because a million people will be in it too. As it can get quite overwhelming, a lot of New Yorkers like taking a day break or two and if you’re visiting, you might as well see what else the beautiful state has to offer. The best thing to do is to hire a car and drive around all the beautiful landmarks out of town, but some of them are also accessible with New York’s fantastic public transport.
Here are our recommendations for the best day trips from New York.
1. Coney Island
You can drive to Coney Island if you want to, but it’s also a great choice if you don’t have a car handy – just jump on the Subway from Manhattan to get to everyone’s favorite beach resort.
The popular beach resort regularly sees both tourists and locals flock to explore its beauty.
There are activities for children and adults alike.
Make sure to visit the famous Coney Island Cyclone – and, if you’re brave enough, go for a ride on it, as well as the Riegelmann Boardwalk.
For the adrenaline junkies, there’s the option of a great parachute jump.
Another must-see attraction are the New York Aquarium and the immensely popular Luna Park.
2. Wave Hill
We all have days where we just don’t feel like driving anywhere – Wave Hill is a destination exactly for days like these! You can get there by boarding a very quick train from Grand Central.
Not only will you get to experience New York’s most famous train station, but also a gorgeous train ride there.
Rolling hills and green fields accompany you all the way to the beautiful Wave Hill.
Despite it feeling wild, you get the sense of the great maintenance that goes into Wave Hill.
The beautifully manicured lawns are great for a relaxing walk or for a lovely picnic, if the weather allows it.
Some fantastic sights also open towards the river Hudson and the New Jersey Palisades’ cliffs.
3. City Island
Only about a 40-minute drive away from NYC is City Island, the heaven for all seafood enthusiasts.
It’s so close that you can easily be tempted to go there every day and spend a lot of money on its seafood treasures! Along with the great offers of lobsters, oysters and mussels, City Island itself has a very unique atmosphere, reminiscent of British stately homes.
It also has amazing beaches, where you can enjoy gorgeous coastal walks for a perfect romantic experience.
If your hunger for museums hasn’t been quenched by New York, then City Island also has excellent ones on offer – particularly the Nautical Museum and the Bartow-Pell Mansion Museum.
Kykuit is the place to go if you’re on a romantic getaway at NYC and are after a beautiful, enchanting road trip.
Only about a 40-minute drive away, Kykuit has a unique Victorian charm and you feel as if you’ve stepped through a time machine.
Another unique selling point Kykuit has is its altitude – with a wonderful location, it opens up some excellent views towards the Hudson river and the inimitable NYC skyline.
It also has some wonderful gardens, ideal for a romantic leisurely stroll during sunset.
Finally, make sure to visit the John D. Rockefeller Estate, located in Kykuit – it’s a very impressive sight to behold.
5. Oyster Bay
New York locals often joke that it’s easier to get to Oyster Bay than it is for them to commute to work, and there is a lot of truth in this! It takes less than an hour to drive there and it is a very picturesque drive as well.
Oyster Bay boasts a lot of beautiful villages – Bayville, Brookville, Centre Island, Cove Neck, East Hills and Farmingdale, just to name a few.
They’re all great picks for a relaxing day out and perhaps a picnic.
Other places such as Locust Valley, Bethpage, East Massapequa, East Norwich, Glen Head, Glenwood Landing, Greenvale, Hicksville contribute to the peacefulness of Oyster Bay and make it one of the most beloved day trip destinations for nature lovers.
6. Cold Spring
Just over an hours’ drive from NYC is Cold Spring, a perfect choice if you need a break from the hustle and bustle of The Big Apple.
True to its name, there are springs running down almost every rock, making the location look as if it’s out of a fairytale.
It’s located just at the top of the Hudson Highlands.
A definite must-visit in Cold Spring are the unique and picturesque Stonecrop Gardens.
Furthermore, the nearby village is also beautiful and it gives you a chance to explore some local culture with the help of friendly locals.
Visit in fall, as the beautiful colors give Cold Spring a vibe you won’t want to miss.
7. New Hope
Ever wanted to own a time machine so you could jump back in time whenever you wanted? Well, a visit to New Hope may be as close as you can get to your dream becoming true.
There is a lot of cozy accommodation in the classic townhouses, which, if you’re staying overnight, you will definitely be tempted by.
Add gorgeous landscapes for the best picture backdrops and restaurants that you will be tempted by just after smelling their food, it’s very hard to overlook New Hope.
For all botany enthusiasts, there is also gorgeous plants growing everywhere that you can learn about.
It’s about an hour and a half’s drive away from New York.
8. Peconic Bay
Peconic Bay is one of those places where every day is different and amazing.
Located just an hour and a half drive from New York, Peconic Bay is a great location for all yacht enthusiasts.
You will get an opportunity to do some luxury boating and see examples of some of the world’s most luxurious private vessels.
Another advantage of visiting Peconic Bay is that you get to experience some of the best parts of the Long Island Wine Country, especially the Sannino Bella Vita Vineyard.
There are also excellent dairy farms and fruit farms where you can enjoy some excellent local traditions.
If you have the time, we recommend taking a cruise from NYC for the full experience.
9. North Fork
Right next to Peconic Bay is North Fork – so if you’re pressed for time, you can easily do both of them in one go.
Its experiences are quite similar to Peconic Bay’s, just the scope is a lot bigger.
Especially in the aspect of vineyards, breweries and restaurants, North Fork overpowers Peconic Bay and even rivals New York.
In fact, many of the chefs in the restaurants are born-and-bred New Yorkers, who moved to North Fork in search of peace and quiet.
Other than that, North Fork is also full of picturesque nature walks and excellent places for a picnic, where you can watch all the boats sell by.
I would definitely put Philadelphia on the must-see list of any trip outside of New York.
The largest city in Pennsylvania is just under a 2-hour drive from New York.
It’s also a great stop on the way to Washington DC. Philadelphia offers a beautiful combination of art, food and music and it has a very distinct image that sets it apart from any other American city.
Its beautifully preserved buildings just add to its natural charm and make it a wonderful place for some great history.
Additionally, if you’re planning a family trip, then Philadelphia is a great holiday destination as there are a lot of fun free tours available that would be of interest to visitors of any age.
If you are a coffee enthusiast, then Providence will become your favorite spot on your whole trip.
Just a three-hour drive away from New York, it’s beautiful any time of year, but especially at Halloween, as that’s when it really comes to life.
Its coffee shops offer unmatched brews that can drive you into a caffeine overload – but it’s infinitely worth it.
It’s also one of the very oldest cities in America, which makes it a real-time capsule of traditional American culture.
Take the chance to visit some of the picturesque shops where you can find some great jewelry and silverware.
Finally, old and young will enjoy the Roger Williams Park Zoo, where you can see animals from all over the world and watch some great shows.
12. Cape May
If the steel skyscrapers of NYC are making you crave the beach and the open sky, then Cape May is a wonderful choice of a day trip for you.
It’s especially good for families with kids, as the wide beaches have lots of activities ready to entertain them while parents pick up some great tan.
Building sandcastles is particularly popular and you can see some amazing creations out of sand – just be careful not to step on them! Cape May also has some fantastic beach resorts and if you happen to visit on the Fourth of July, you will see it in all its celebratory glory.
Great things to see as well are the Emlen Physick Estate, the Cape May County Park & Zoo, and the Naval Air Station Wildwood Aviation Museum.
Just over a 3-hour drive from New York, Boston is often a lot of people’s first choice when picking day trips.
It has a great relaxed vibe that everyone can benefit from.
Boston’s architecture is beautiful, as it’s very reminiscent of that of big European cities, so you can enjoy a change of scenery from the tall buildings in New York.
Furthermore, because of the several big universities there, Boston is very student-friendly and relaxed.
One of the best day activities in Boston is going to watch a game of basketball – even if you don’t have a favorite team! Just be careful with who you end up supporting, Bostonians are notoriously protective of their teams!
Suggested tour: Boston and the Freedom Trail from New York: Day Trip
14. Washington DC
We couldn’t talk about a trip to New York and not mention the US’ flashy capital, Washington.
It’s a tourist hotspot for that exact reason – so if you’re looking for a break from crowds, it probably shouldn’t be your first choice.
There are many ways to get to DC, including bus, train, and van! Make sure to visit the White House, because the sheer grandeur of it is bound to leave you speechless.
Other must-see attractions are the Capitol, the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument.
There is something very enthralling about knowing that the most powerful people in the whole world live there! DC is great to visit at any time of year and, if you feel like, you can also explore its hidden corners – they’re just as fun as the big tourist attractions!
15. Appalachian Trail
This is, hands-down, the ultimate outdoors nature-loving day trip you can take from New York.
It is a bit far out – a four-and-a-half-hour drive – but it is definitely worth every second, because it’s known to be one of the best hiking trails in the whole country.
It’s signposted wonderfully and it’s suitable for both experienced hikers and first-timers, who want to experience the best that American nature can offer.
Must-see sights on the trail are the Grand Caverns, the Chiles Peach Orchard and the King Family Vineyards.
You are definitely about to make some memories that will last you a lifetime – just make sure to bring water and sunblock!