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Lonely Planet Writer

Forget the Hamptons, these are the best summer escapes from New York City

Of all the summertime rituals of New York City life patio dining, Shakespeare in the Park, regular visits to farmers markets for fresh tomatoes one absolute favorite among locals is the weekend getaway.

The five boroughs sit within driving distance or an easy train ride to quaint small towns, glorious seaside destinations, arts and culture hubs, wineries galore and vast expanses of farmland where you can score fresh-picked goods. Here are a few summer weekend trips from New York City that will help you escape the city’s steamy heat without getting out of a New York state of mind.

Long exposure of some rocks on a beach, with an orange sunset in the distance; summer weekend trips from New York City
Beaches like Hammonasset in Madison, Connecticut, are the perfect summer escape from NYC © Connecticut Office of Tourism

Madison, Connecticut

This summer marks the debut of the Madison Center for History and Culture, a shrine to all things Madison, past and present. It’s a quick skip from the Madison Green National Historic District, a stretch of the historic Boston Post Road plus surrounding churches and community buildings built in the 19th century and war memorials. This old-meets-new setup defines this charming beach town in southeastern Connecticut on the Long Island Sound.

Local institutions like Lobster Landing, a century-old seafood shack that locals promise has the best lobster roll, and R.J. Julia Booksellers, a celebrated independent shop, give Madison a distinctly New England vibe.

But the big draw here is Hammonasset Beach State Park, a two-mile stretch of shoreline with camping sites, fishing, walking trails and picnic shelters. The park is also where you find Meigs Point Nature Center, an environmental education center that underwent renovations in advance of the summer and houses more than 50 species of wildlife in various habitats.

All in all, Madison feels like a remote, well preserved oasis, a bit of a surprise given that it’s a two-hour drive from Manhattan or 2.75-hour train ride on Metro North’s Shore Line East from Grand Central Terminal.

Architectural window details in silhouette at historic old casino along the boardwalk in Asbury Park, NJ; summer weekend trips from New York City
Asbury Park's recent revitalization has brought new life into this Jersey Shore destination © littleny / Shutterstock

Asbury Park, NJ

You might say that the multimillion-dollar renovation of the 1.5-mile Asbury Park Boardwalk last year was the crowning jewel of this Jersey Shore town’s renaissance. Long a victim of urban decay, the recent revitalization has turned Asbury Park – immortalized by Bruce Springsteen, who got his start playing concerts as the still-rocking Stone Pony – into a buzzy destination for urban beach bums seeking an escape.

And did someone say waves? If you’ve got a surfboard, bring it. The development boom has brought condos, hotels and hip restaurants and brewpubs, many of which are cleverly retrofitted into old warehouses and industrial buildings, but it still maintains a firm grip on the bohemian culture that sustained in bad times.

The Stone Pony still offers a packed calendar of local musicians and national touring acts alike, and the renovated retro-chic Asbury Lanes features burlesque and punk shows. Artists and designers have also opened galleries, design-forward boutiques and vintage clothing shops along the boardwalk.

For eats, hit Porta for excellent Neapolitan pizza and Barrio Costero for creative twists on Mexican fare. And don’t leave without a session or three at the Silverball Museum, which houses more than 600 working pinball machines.

New Jersey Transit’s North Jersey Coast Line from Penn Station will get you here in less than two hours, usually with a transfer at Long Branch.

Grapes growing on a vine at a vineyard; summer trips from New York City
North Fork's wineries rival those found on the West Coast © Nancy Brennan / Shutterstock

North Fork, NY

Never mind Napa. A two-hour-and-forty-minute ride on the Long Island Railroad from Penn Station will land you at Mattituck, a small hamlet on Long Island’s North Fork, the more down-to-earth cousin of the ritzy South Fork where society folks clink glasses in the Hamptons. It’s also the east coast’s answer to Napa or Sonoma, what with more than 60 vineyards to visit.

Of course, you’ll need some food throughout the day to go with North Fork’s celebrated merlot. Options range from elegant farm-to-table eateries like Love Lane Kitchen in Mattituck to a smattering of fish shacks that dish out top-notch lobster rolls. Or swing by one of the many family farms for fresh produce and other local eats.

And speaking of farms, Lavender by the Bay is 17 acres of aromatic lavender fields you can pick your own buds. And, of course, pack your swimsuit. The North Fork’s chill beaches seem to have been designed for fishing, sailing, and swimming.

A small downtown street, with blue skies above; summer trips from New York City
Millerton's downtown area has plenty to while away an afternoon © Dutchess County

Millerton, NY

You’d be hard pressed to find a town within 100 miles of Manhattan that embodies the classic Small Town, USA, vibe better than Millerton in Dutchess County. Established as a railroad hub in the 19th century and listed on the National Registry of Historic Places in 2010, it’s quaint old-world vibe serves as an antidote to the steamy New York City heat.

Summertime draws are plentiful. Three old rail lines have been remade as the Harlem Valley River Trail, a 16-mile trail for biking and walking. The McEnroe Organic Farmers Market sells whatever produce was picked that morning as well as sandwiches and other picnic-ready food. Or slow down and while away the afternoon downtown with a cup of java at Irvington Farm Coffee House, made with beans they roast a mile down the road, a cup of tea from Harney & Sons, a tea ‘tasting bar and lounge’ known for its epic selection of 250 varieties.

There’s also a bar at the tapas spot 52 Main where you can work your way through the thoughtfully curated wine list. In the evening, join locals at the popular Moviehouse, which is known for live-streaming opera, dance and theater performances.

Millerton is a two-and-a-half-hour drive up from NYC, so consider making a night of it and book yourself at the recently renovated Millerton Inn, a time capsule of old-time elegance.

Overhead view of buildings and green rolling hills; summer trips from New York City
Located on the site of the original Woodstock, the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts is worth a weekend trip from New York City © Bethel Woods Center for the Arts

Bethel, NY

There’s a good chance you think you’ve never heard of Bethel, New York, a small hamlet home to about 4,100 people about 100 miles northwest of Manhattan, about a tw0-hour straight shot on the scenic Palisades Parkway. We promise, you know it.

On August 15, 1969, 350,000 people descended on the town for the epic three-day concert and lovefest called Woodstock, and the freewheeling, arts-loving spihrit that defined that moment endures.

One of the main draws here is Bethel Woods, a performance venue that opened in 2006 on the original festival site. Each summer, it plays host to a roster of marquee name musicians. Carlos Santana, Alice Cooper and Nelly are just a few of the familiar faces appearing this year. Bethel Woods also houses an interactive museum that commemorates Woodstock and the cultural history leading up to it.

Go for the music, stay for the lakes. The White Lake is popular among anglers for its bounty of bass and trout food. And in Lake Superior State Park, there are rowboat and paddleboat rentals.

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