Everyone needs to escape from the concrete jungle from time to time. And our centrally located city allows even the car-less to take easy, affordable, and convenient day trips. All you need is a free Saturday, some friends, and a sense of adventure, and you can flee for sand and surf, charming river towns, or nostalgic boardwalks without too much trouble.
The name of the game is accessibility, and it couldn't be more simple to plan a trip to the outer boroughs, upstate New York, or (gasp!) New Jersey. We've rounded up some stellar day trips for outdoor types, foodies, architecture and art lovers, adventure seekers, and music aficionados. And there are plenty of activities for both the budget savvy and the high-roller (and everyone in between).
Ahead, 12 day trips to take this weekend. Is it (a summer) Friday yet?
Brooklyn Botanic Garden
If you haven't been to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, you don't know what you're missing. Since the early 1900s, the vast and breathtaking grounds have provided New Yorkers with an unlikely escape from the fast life of Manhattan -- a place to experience some urban horticulture, and revel in the majestic beauty of the trees, flowers, and other plant life. Spring and summer are the best times to visit, when the gardens are in full-bloom and the lily pool terrace is at its most serene. There are also indoor exhibitions, should you encounter any untimely April showers.
Getting There: The gardens are located in Prospect Park, and there are are many subway stops and bus routes nearby. See here for specifics. (About 35 minutes from Midtown by subway.)
The Cloisters, Fort Tryron Park, NY
Perched on a hill in upper Manhattan, The Cloisters, a branch of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, houses a world-class collection of medieval art surrounded by 67-acres of gorgeous gardens, stunning river views, peaceful vistas, and flowering walkways. Enjoy lunch at New Leaf Restaurant, housed in a 1930s cottage -- the shady patio is perfect for dining al fresco.
Getting There: Take the A train to 190th Street (about 30 minutes from Midtown) and a 10-minutes' walk through Fort Tryron Park.
Coney Island, Brooklyn
There's no shortage of beachy nostalgia at Coney Island. For a yesteryear experience, cruise the boardwalk or take in a Brooklyn Cyclones ballgame. Adrenaline seekers will love the 125-foot steel Thunderbolt roller coaster (and the 90-degree drop), while sentimentalists and food lovers should opt for a hot dog or two at the original Nathan's Famous or a pie at Totonno's Pizzeria Napolitano (cash only, no slices). And, of course, a ride on the Cyclone is obligatory.
Getting There: D/Q/N/F subways to Stillwell Avenue (about 75 minutes from Midtown).
Rockaway Beach, Queens
This seaside hot spot in Queens is a hip, up-and-coming destination. Rent a surfboard, sunbathe, or go for an invigorating swim. Sample the grub at Rockaway Beach Surf Club (from the same chef as dearly departed Rockaway Taco) or head to Rippers, which doles out juicy grass-fed burgers.
Getting There: Hop the A train to Far Rockaway (1 hour from Midtown) or take the LIRR from Penn Station to the Far Rockaway station.
Dia:Beacon, Beacon, NY
Situated on the banks of the Hudson River, Dia:Beacon is an ideal visual escape. Housed in a stunning 300,000-square-foot space, this light-filled contemporary art shrine exhibits incredible pieces by world-famous artists (think Warhol, Louise Bourgeois) and grand installations (including Richard Serra's metal sculptures). Stroll the lush gardens and grab a bite at the locavore spot Homespun Foods.
Getting There: Take Metro-North's Hudson Line from Grand Central Station to Beacon, then walk a short distance to the museum (85 minutes from Midtown).
Glass House, New Canaan, CT
Architect Philip Johnson's iconic, steel-framed Glass House, built in 1949, sits perched atop a 47-acre estate. This simple, sophisticated transparent box is a celebrated residential dwelling. The 2016 season will feature such exhibits as Yayoi Kusama: Narcissus Garden, a magnificent landscape installation consisting of 1,300 floating steel spheres. Tickets required; reservations strongly recommended.
Getting There: Take the Metro-North New Haven line from Grand Central Station to New Canaan (about 75 minutes from Grand Central).
Blue Hill at Stone Barns, Pocantico Hills, NY
Located on an old Rockefeller estate, Blue Hill Farm is a working farm, education center, and home to a top-notch restaurant helmed by chef Dan Barber. Stroll the peaceful grounds, tour the barnyard, and enjoy the delight of eating the day's harvest as part of chef Barber's multi-course tasting menus. A restaurant this popular requires advanced reservations. Grab iced lattes, light snacks, and baked goodies from the café to enjoy on the train ride home.
Getting There: Take the Metro-North Hudson line from Grand Central Station to Tarrytown (about 35 minutes) and a 10-minute cab ride to the farm.
From Manhattan, a free ferry ushers you to 30 acres of blissful (car-free) green park at Governors Island. Enjoy a picnic lunch, lounge in a hammock, eat ice cream, rent bikes, and kayak (free of charge). Check out one of the guest food vendors and grab a cold brew at Little Eva's. In August, the fashionable Heminway-esque Jazz Age Lawn Party showcases an array of 1920s costumes and musical performances.
Getting There: Take a ferry from Lower Manhattan or Brooklyn Bridge Park's Pier 6 (only on Saturdays and Sundays).
Cold Spring, NY
Experience the arty, charming, and well-preserved 19th-century town of Cold Spring, 50 miles north of Manhattan, along the Hudson River. Enjoy the leisurely pace, take in the rolling hills, and go hiking, kayaking, or biking. Pack a basket with some provisions (think cheese and charcuterie), a bottle of your favorite Champagne, and set up an epic picnic.
Getting There: Take the Metro-North Hudson line from Grand Central Station to Cold Spring (about 75 minutes from Grand Central).
Asbury Park, NJ
Embrace your inner Jersey girl (or guy) at this boisterous, summertime haven, made famous by Bruce Springsteen. You'll find Victorian architecture, a lively 130-year-old boardwalk scene (with old-school spots like a pinball museum), and vibrant live music. Don't miss the artisanal pizza at Porta's, or the raw bar at Asbury Oyster Bar.
Getting There: Take New Jersey Transit from Penn Station to Asbury Park (about 98 minutes from Midtown).
Storm King, Mountainville, NY
The picturesque, open-air sculpture collection at Storm King is set on 500 rolling acres and includes 100 strategically placed works by unique artists, à la Alexander Calder, Roy Lichtenstein, Henry Moore, and Andy Goldsworthy. Pack a picnic lunch and take a leisurely bike tour of the surrounding grounds. Afterward, sip a cold drink or a grab a quick nap by Maya Lin's Wave Field.
Getting There: Coach USA (Short Line Bus) offers day packages to Storm King, leaving from the Port Authority Bus Terminal. Click here for more details.
If you stop by Arthur Avenue, locals will tell you you've discovered New York's real Little Italy. Less crowded than its Manhattan counterpart (and a bit harder to get to by subway), this stretch of Belmont Avenue in the Bronx has had an Italian presence for over 100 years. Artisans from Northern Italy were originally recruited to live in the area and help construct the Bronx Zoo just up the road. The community they created around Arthur Ave remains a vibrant neighborhood full of stores selling cheese, handmade pasta, cannoli, pizza, and olives. You could spend a day wandering from storefront to storefront, but don't miss Teitel Brothers, a fourth-generation salumeria that has been declared the best pork sausage in New York (never mind that the owners are Jewish). Grab pasta from Borgatti's Ravioli and Egg Noodles, and try some fresh mozzarella from Casa Della Mozzarella. For dessert, you can't beat cannoli from Artuso. After all that dining, consider a stroll to the nearby zoo or New York Botanical Garden, both worthwhile destinations in their own right.
Getting There: Take the 4 or D train to Fordham Road or the 2 or 5 Train to Pelham Parkway; then, board the Bx12 Bus headed west. Alternatively, take the Metro North Harlem or New Haven line to Fordham Road.
By: Kate Donnelly