It’s no secret that while New York City is a tourist spot to some, it’s just home to more than 8.6 million people—which means you need to escape every now and then, am I right? Especially in the summer when it’s nearly 100 degrees and waiting for the subway every morning feels like standing in a really dirty sauna.
But if you’re looking for something on the quick (and cheap) the options can feel limited. Sure, the Hamptons are always in rotation and you would be remiss if you didn’t consider a day trip to Atlantic City. But what about when you want to take a break from the sweaty city and also avoid been-there-done-that spots? Read on for a few fun and affordable weekend trips from NYC that will help you discover the local adventure you’ve been seeking.
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1. Take a ferry to Fire Island, New York
Hop on the Long Island Railroad train line until you reach Oyster Bay, where you can take a ferry to Fire Island (about an hour and a half of travel total). The barrier island off the south coast of Long Island is one of the most “LGBTQ-friendly places on Earth,” says Vicki Winters, a travel advisor at Bucket List Travelers,
“Fire Island is a great place to spend the day on a beach, at a pool bar, or just strolling along the sand,” she says. “Everyone on the island is open- minded; there is dance music blaring everywhere, and it is a literal party all day and night.”
There are also no cars allowed on the island which Winters says adds to the exclusive feel of Fire Island. “Ferries from Oyster Bay run all day long, and the boat trip really is half the fun,” she says. (Plus, that means more chances to max out your step count!) However, hotel options are slim, so you might want to plan for a day trip to the island or check out the local Airbnb options.
2. Cruise the boardwalk in Long Beach, New York
If you’re more focused on sand, surf, and riding bikes along the boardwalk than navigating the Hamptons traffic, then Winters says a trip to Long Beach, NY is a no-brainer.
“Literally a stone’s throw from the train station, Long Beach is an ‘easy to get to’ location that is underrated and often overlooked,” Winters says. A trip to the locale is a less than 60-minute ride from NYC via the Long Island Railroad, she says. On your way there, Winters suggests downloading the bike sharing app, Social Bicycles, to reserve a bike that will be waiting for you post-train ride at one of the many locations along the boardwalk. Cruise for treats from Ralph’s Ices, a 91-year-old family business that began in Staten Island, then stop by any one of the popular beach spots for fun in the sand. (Don’t forget the SPF!)
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3. Go full Mrs. Maisel in the Catskills, New York
If the three-episode stretch of the Weissman family’s visit to the Catskills in season two of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel had you yearning for your own outdoor adventure in upstate New York, then Winters says you’re not alone. “With hotels like Scribner’s Catskill Lodge and The DeBruce earning props for being small, luxurious and affordable, and restaurants—some of whose chefs have ventured up to the Catskills from NYC and other upstate destinations—there’s much to rediscover,” she says. “Hiking in Catskill Park plus mountain music festivals make summer a great time to escape to the region.”
Winters says her clients also love the newly-opened YO1 Wellness Center, a luxury wellness destination focused on Eastern-inspired natural health and philosophy. You can also discover a rich art scene, including the Thomas Cole National Historic Site, which features the work and history of the Hudson River School, as well as LUMBERYARD, a contemporary performing arts center.
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4. Experience new heights in Woodstock, Vermont
Whether you hit the road for Vermont in the summer (hello, endless green rolling hills) or winter (piles of gorgeous snow), Jenny Hagan, founder of ATLAS + VALISE and a luxury travel advisor, says you’ll get an Instagram-worthy view. Woodstock in particular, she says, is a “quintessential New England town.” (Expect the drive from NYC to take you around five hours.)
“I love to stay at the iconic Woodstock Inn, but for those looking for something a bit more remote, the Relais & Chateaux property — Twin Farms — is a perfect retreat,” Hagan says. “In the summer and fall, you can hike up to the top of Mount Tom for great views of the surrounding valleys, and in the winter, you can ski at nearby mountains including Killington and Okemo.” Want to follow up your outdoor activities with some R&R? Hagan says the spa at the Woodstock Inn is a must.
5. Find adventure at Lake George, New York
Just a four-hour drive from NYC (there are also buses via Adirondack Trailways and Greyhound), is the Lake George area, a trip that Winters calls “the southern gateway to the Adirondack Mountains and a perfect transition from city life to wilderness.”
“Its picturesque waters are lined with mountains and feature 183 islands, many maintained by the state and open for public camping,” she says, noting that, at 32 miles long, Lake George is home to one of the largest Adirondack lakes. “An important stronghold in both the French and Indian and Revolutionary Wars, the history of Lake George is fascinating with museums in nearly every town and village along its shores.” Fort William Henry, a reconstructed fort on the southern basin of the lake, offers daily tours and demonstrations.
Plus, Winters says, a visit to the Lake George Area isn’t complete without getting out on the water. Steamboats host a variety of tours from Lake George Village complete with narration about the history of the area, wives tales and fun facts. There are also lots of places to rent kayaks and canoes for a DIY take on a lake tour.
There are lots of towns along Lake George, including Glens Falls, an area known for its robust restaurant scene. Order oysters with a kale & Brussels sprout salad from Morgan & Co. or head to Doc’s Restaurant, which is located in the basement of a renovated Vaudeville theater.
6. Indulge your inner history buff in the Hudson Valley in New York
Extending 150 miles above the tip of Manhattan north to Albany, Winters says you’ll discover the Hudson Valley, which is home to a number of can’t-miss historic sites.
“Located along the Hudson River, museum hoppers can enjoy Dia: Beacon comprised of art from the 1960s to the present and the outdoor sculpture park Storm King Art Center,” Winters says. “Stop in Hyde Park for a trip to the lifelong estate of Franklin D. Roosevelt National Historic Site and the FDR Presidential Library and Museum.”
You can also stroll around the only National Historic site dedicated to a first lady, Eleanor Roosevelt’s Val-Kill Cottage which boasts its own lovely grounds and gardens. Nearby is the Vanderbilt Mansion National Historic Site, one of the last few surviving monuments to English-style country life. “After a tour of the house, take in magnificent Hudson River and Catskill Mountain views and enjoy the budding Italian gardens and centuries-old tree-plantings,” Winters says. While in the Hyde Park area, you’ll also want to check out The Culinary Institute of America, the world’s premier culinary college founded in 1946. The campus has several restaurants, so you know your food needs will be in good hands.
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7. Sip your way through craft breweries in New York’s Capital-Saratoga region
If you’re seeking a bit of history paired with a (literal) taste of the area, then Winters says you need not look further than Capital-Saratoga (the area surrounding Albany and Saratoga, New York). The region boasts a mix of attractions and architecture plus tranquil farms, beautiful woodlands, and scenic lakes. Just hop in the car for a three-hour drive or catch the bus to get to Albany. You can also take Amtrak’s Empire Service train.
When you arrive, Winters recommends starting a free tour of the New York State Capitol building and check out the Empire State Plaza, then making your way to more than 20 local craft breweries, wineries and distilleries. “You’re sure to find a beverage to enjoy on-site or to take home,” Winters says. “Some of the best farm-to-growler breweries, cideries and distilleries call this region home.” This includes Saratoga Springs’ award-winning Druthers Brewing Company and C.H. Evans Brewing Company in historic Quackenbush. You’ll also find Nine Pin Cider in Albany, which serves award-winning farm-to-glass cider from fresh pressed apples sourced entirely from the Capital region.
8. Get a private getaway at Gurney’s Newport, Rhode Island
What Woodstock, Vermont packs in mountain views, Newport does with its proximity to the water. Especially when it comes to a resort like Gurney’s Newport, which Hagan says has been named one of the best spas in New England.
“Located on Goat Island, Gurney’s Newport gives the feeling of an isolated getaway, while still within close proximity to all the popular shops, restaurants and activities in Newport,” she says. Hagan says you can plan on a three-and-a-half-hour drive from NYC or hop on three-hour Amtrak ride from NYC to Providence, then take a 35- to 40-minute Uber to Newport.
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