If there's one thing New York City does better than most other US destinations, it's overloading the senses.

Should you want to escape the Big Apple to unplug from the noise and disconnect from the constant activity, you only need a full tank of gas or a ride on the city’s public transportation. Within two hours of the city, you can find a complete change of scenery: step away from technology in the forests, soothe your serotonin levels in the sand or get cultured in upstate museums. Here’s our pick of the best day trips from NYC.

1. Free your spirit in Woodstock, New York

Travel time: 2 hours

Although the infamous 1969 music festival took place on a dairy farm in Bethel, tie-dye is still found in Woodstock, a New York town filled with independent art and the bounteous nature of Catskill Park. It's the perfect destination for getting into the great outdoors by taking a hike up Overlook Mountain and enjoying expansive vistas of red spruce, balsam fir trees and red oak.

A ban on chain stores keeps this town feeling free-spirited and Tinker St, Woodstock’s main drag, entices travelers with unique gift stores and cafes. The town has a plethora of restaurant choices, but for an extra special breakfast, take a 20-minute drive to Phoenicia Diner, an elevated restaurant known for its unbelievable pancakes. It even has its own cookbook and take-home pancake mix should you miss them when you return to NYC.

How to get to Woodstock from New York City: It takes two hours by car to get to Woodstock. Alternatively, a direct bus runs to Woodstock from Port Authority, which takes two hours and 45 minutes.

2. Take a luxury trip to Bedford-Katonah, New York

Travel time: 1 hour

Hemmed in by the navy waves of Long Island Sound and the blue of the Hudson River, lush Westchester County is the ideal place to recharge. Hone in on Bedford-Katonah, a trio of sleepy hamlets with quaint downtowns that lean back onto a pillow of rolling green hills.

Start at the Katonah Museum of Art, known for showing up-and-coming and established modern artists in a small but innovative setting. Afterward, an eight-minute drive takes you to the Bedford Post, an eight-room luxury hotel owned by Richard Gere that hosts restorative yoga classes and sound baths in The Loft. 

Finish with a meal at The Barn, one of the on-site restaurants. This casual and charming wood-beamed room has a lovely porch for eating alfresco.

How to get to Bedford-Katonah from New York City: Take the Metro-North Harlem Line to Katonah Station. A short taxi ride gets you to the Katonah Museum of Art. The trip takes about one hour by train.

Two people ride bikes down a boardwalk in Asbury Park, New Jersey
Explore the Jersey Shore at Asbury Park, a transformed beach town © Image Source / Getty Images

3. Hit the beach in Asbury Park, New Jersey 

Travel time: 1 hour, 15 minutes

Synonymous with rocker Bruce Springsteen, the Jersey Shore beach town of Asbury Park is the ideal NYC day trip destination. Its renovated boardwalk crowns a mile-long freeway of golden sand and sparkling blue waters. Add in a slew of trendy restaurants and impeccable independent shopping opportunities and you may not even want to go back to New York.

As well as spending time on the beach, don’t miss the Wooden Walls Project, a public art initiative started in 2015 consisting of large-scale murals. If you have time, check who's playing at the legendary rock venue Stone Pony.

The restaurant credited with transforming the Asbury Park food scene is upscale pizza spot, Porta. Make a reservation in advance.

How to get to Asbury Park from New York City: The quickest way to get to Asbury Park is by car (one hour, 15 minutes). You can also take the NJ Transit train (from Penn Station to Bay Head) or the NJ Transit bus (Port Authority to Asbury Park Transportation Center).

Travel time: 1 hour, 30 minutes

A hotbed of creativity in a historical blue-collar town, Beacon has art, fine dining and shopping all along the Hudson River. 

A stop at Dia Beacon is a must on a day trip to Beacon. The light-filled 300,000-sq-ft gallery space in a converted factory hosts conceptual large-scale art by Gerard Richter, Louise Bourgeois and Richard Serra. Storm King Art Center, a 500-acre outdoor sculpture garden, is a short drive away, bringing together fine art and fresh air.

The most charming setting to eat is Roundhouse, a farm-to-table restaurant overlooking a waterfall. Inventive favorites like spicy lobster mac and cheese pair nicely with a signature cocktail or a glass of wine. After your meal, stroll up the street to the trendy HÅKAN Chocolatier for artisanal chocolate that's worth the trip alone.

How to get to Beacon from New York City: By car, take I-87 North to Palisades Pkwy to NY-9D. By train, take Metro-North Hudson Line to Beacon Station. Whichever transportation you use, travel time is about one hour and 30 minutes.

A man relaxes in a wooden chair on a grassy lawn in New Hope, Pennsylvania
Relax in the small town of New Hope © Blasius Erlinger / Getty Images

5. Float down the river in New Hope, Pennsylvania

Travel time: 1 hour, 30 minutes

New Hope might be one of the most progressive small towns in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, with a giant yearly LGBTIQ+ festival, late-night bar scene and artistic stores. It is also the perfect relaxing getaway. Find a spot by the Delaware River and let your urban stress melt away.

When it's time to eat, you won’t go wrong with Salt House, a charming gastropub in a historical building constructed in 1751. Eat chowder by the fire in the tavern, steak frites in the upstairs library or oysters on the half-shell alfresco on the stone patio.

How to get to New Hope from New York City: From Port Authority, take a direct bus to New Hope. The trip takes about two hours. By car, take I-78 west and US-202 south. Travel time by car is one hour and 30 minutes.

6. Experience NYC's surf scene at the Rockaways

Travel time: 45 minutes

For a hip surf scene that is reachable by subway, grab your swimsuit and catch the A train to the Rockaways. Technically still in New York City (it’s in Queens), at Rockaway Beach, you’ll feel like you’re in a seaside town, but without the unbearable traffic.  

For a unique experience in the summer, book a tent at Camp Rockaway, a seasonal “glampground” located mere steps from the ocean, where the sounds of the surf will lull you to sleep. 

The Riis Park Beach Bazaar concession stands have updated seaside fare, including a weekly lobster boil at Rockaway Clam Bar. Grab a picnic table on the boardwalk, crack open a beer and groove to the live music playing most summer nights.

How to get to the Rockaways from New York City: Take the NYC ferry directly to Jacob Riis Beach or the A train to a shuttle bus. The trip takes about 45 minutes. 

This article was first published October 2017 and updated September 2023

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