BY SAMANTHA LEAL
The Big Apple is one of the greatest (if not the greatest) cities in the world. But while there are a plethora of incredible things to do in New York City, waiting just beyond the metropolis is even more adventure, including good eats, beautiful scenery, and some of the most unique sites anywhere on the east coast. Whether you’re looking for a seaside escape or a hiking adventure, you can find it all right outside the city. If you’re planning a vacation to NYC, consider heading off the beaten path and check out any of these worthwhile experiences; if you’re a local, getting out of the city for a long weekend is a great way to reset, relax and renew your love affair with the Empire State. Here, a look at some of the best NYC day trips, for natives and tourists alike.
Greenport, Long Island
When people think of summer in New York, most everyone pictures the Hamptons, but on the other side of the fork—the North Fork, to be precise—lies Greenport, a quaint fishing village that’s become the ideal low-key getaway for some New Yorkers. Go wine-tasting at Kontokosta Winery on the Long Island Sound, or hit the brewery at Greenport Harbor Brewing Co. Hungry? Head to Little Creek Oyster Farm & Market—located in an old bait and tackle shop!—to get some of the freshest oysters, beer, wine, and more. The Halyard in the Sound View hotel offers unique spins on east coast classics, like fried oysters and lobster sliders. (Pro tip: check to see if they’re doing the Chef’s Table during your visit.) Then, grab a cocktail at Brix & Rye. There’s a ton to do in this little town—including seeing the lavender bloom. The easiest ways to get there are either by car, the LIRR, or by taking the Hampton Jitney. Looking to turn the respite from city chaos into an overnight or weekend stay? The Sound Viewis an ideal little place, while the newly opened Menhadenis absolutely idyllic and close to everything you could want to explore.
Just across the way from Greenport is Shelter Island, right smack dab between the North Fork and South Fork and just 90 miles from Manhattan. The picturesque place features protected preservations (one-third of the island is protected nature reserves), beaches, golf courses, trails to explore, and all sorts of good things to get you out of your city headspace. Take a stroll through Shelter Island Heights, one of the most charming areas of the island, then grab a bite at Osprey Bar & Loungeat The Shelter Island House, or try out the Pridwin Hotel, which comes with some great balcony dining views. The island does not have a lot of nightlife, so your best bet is Sunset Beach, a hotel and restaurant perfectly situated for a day or evening drink and socializing. (Too tired to go back to the city? The Chequitis one of the longest-running inns on the island, and it’s walking distance to the North Ferry.)
Fire Island is a worthwhile NYC-area pilgrimage for anyone, but it’s especially known for it’s LGBTQ-friendly communities in Fire Island Pines and the adjoining Cherry Grove. Cars aren’t allowed on the island, so you’ll need to figure out the ferry schedule to get you where you need to go. (Another must? Bring cash! The ATMs are few and far between.) Expect very cool, laid-back beach vibes, with biking (because of that whole car-free thing), water sports, hiking, and pretty much any outdoor activity you can imagine. There are also wildlife preserves and maritime forests to explore. Make sure to check out the Fire Island Lighthouse, a historical landmark rich in amazing stories.
Montauk, Long Island
Located at The End of the World, aka the easternmost end of Long Island’s South Fork, Montauk has transitioned from a small fishing town adored by surf types to a popular getaway for twenty- and thirty-something New Yorkers. You can get there a number of ways, including the LIRR, the Hampton Jitney, or even flying in on a helicopter with Blade. Roam around the beach; get rowdy at Sloppy Tuna; eat, drink, and revel in the grown-up summer camp vibes at Ruschmeyers (the food here is especially good, by the way); dance and see DJs and performances on the patio at Surf Lodge; relax and spa at Gurney’s. There are a ton of shops, restaurants, and more in this village, and you’ll want to leave ample time to explore. Opting to stay overnight? It’ll be incredibly hard to get a last-minute room at any point during the summer (or anytime after that, really), so make sure to decide your plans before you head out. (The Montauk Beach House is a great option for pretty much any type of group, and it’s located close to the beach and downtown Montauk.)
Bear Mountain State Park
Bear Mountain State Park is located about 52 miles from Manhattan, but it feels like it’s a world away. It’s an easy drive, but if you’re not in the mood, take a Metro-North train. Once you arrive, get ready to hike up mountains rising from the west bank of the Hudson River, or just sit back and hang by the lake, where you can rent a paddleboat or go fishing. There’s a span of the Appalachian Trail here, which you’ll definitely want to explore at some point. There’s also a huge pool open in the summer months, so bring your swimsuit. The Perkins Memorial Tower features a spectacular 360-degree view of the Hudson River, Harriman State Park, and the Palisades. Don’t miss The Merry-Go-Round, which has an impressive 42 seats, each one uniquely hand-carved to resemble one of the area’s native wild animals, including the black bear, wild turkey, deer, raccoon, skunk, Canada goose, fox, swan, bobcat, rabbit and more. (We’re not saying do it solely for the ‘gram, but…)
Beacon, New York was (and still is) home to many artists, and you can feel that vibe the second you get to the town. Many attractions, restaurants, and galleries are walkable, and the town is an easy train ride from NYC. You can’t miss Dia: Beacon, the 240,000-square-foot of gallery space situated on the Hudson River, which houses the Dia Art Foundation’s permanent collection of works dating from the 1960s and 1970s, as well as some new exhibitions. Flea markets, art galleries, vintage shops, record stores, and more are waiting to be discovered in this little town, most located on or right near its charming Main Street. Looking to make a weekend of it? Stay at Roundhouse, a historic property looking (casually) over a waterfall.
Hudson, New York
With a similar vibe, Hudson, New York is also just a quick train ride away from the city on Amtrak, but the scenery is ideal for a drive—it’s about 120 miles away. It has a slew of boutique hotels, antique shops, art galleries, farm-to-table restaurants, and more, making it the ideal day or weekend getaway. Make sure to visit the Olana State Historic site, the former home and studio space of Frederic Edwin Church. Learn about Church and his Persian-inspired home (designed by architect Calvert Vaux), then walk the 250 acres of landscaped grounds (definitely wear comfortable shoes!), which were designed by the artist himself. There, you’ll see amazing views of the Hudson River and valley, too. Check out the calendar of events and see a show at Basilica Hudson, a venue created by Melissa Auf der Maur (formerly of Hole and Smashing Pumpkins) and her husband, filmmaker Tony Stone. Peruse books (and get a drink!) a The Spotty Dog Books & Ale, and grab a great burger at Grazin’, a sustainable burger joint. (There are a lot of excellent options for food and drink in town, so come hungry and thirsty.) Sleeping over? Stay at the adorable Wick Hotel, almost directly across the street from the train station and located in an old candle factory.