New York is one of the most incredible cities in the world, but sometimes you just need to get away for the day. Fortunately, it's easy to drive to plenty of exciting places where you and your kids can make some unforgettable memories. Head to one of the nearby beaches to enjoy the sand and surf, spend the day hiking in one of the area's beautiful state parks, or visit Washington or Philadelphia for a taste of a different city. No matter how old your kids are or what they're interested in, here are the best day trips you can take from New York City.
The picturesque riverside community of Beacon is widely known as one of the coolest cities in the Hudson Valley, but its appeal isn't reserved just for bar hoppers and craft beer enthusiasts. If you're traveling with kids, the first stop on your itinerary should be Dia:Beacon, a unique contemporary art museum with a maze of airy gallery rooms housing enormous sculptures and beautiful paintings. After exploring the museum, head down to Main Street to admire the art galleries, look at the waterfall behind the Roundhouse, and have lunch or a snack at one of the many family-friendly restaurants.
2.Bear Mountain State Park
Encompassing more than 5,200 acres on the western side of the Hudson River, Bear Mountain State Park is the perfect place to visit if you want to enjoy the great outdoors. Picnic areas and playgrounds can be found all throughout the park, and there are hiking trails for people of all ages and abilities. An outdoor pool is open on a seasonal basis, and during the summer months, paddle boats can be rented at Hessian Lake. Visitors can also stroll across Bear Mountain Bridge, visit the rescued wild animals at the Trailside Zoo, and take a spin on the park's whimsical indoor carousel.
Route 9W North, Bear Mountain, NY 10911, Phone: 845-786-2701
Despite its ominous name, Breakneck Ridge is a hike the entire family can enjoy if the weather is good. The five-mile trail is quite steep and requires scrambling over rocks at some points, so proper footwear is essential. However, the climb is well worth the effort; it leads up to a spectacular viewpoint that offers a birds-eye view of the Hudson Valley below. It takes approximately three hours to hike the entire trail, and if you need a bite to eat before heading back to the city, you can stop in the nearby town of Cold Spring.
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Situated on Long Island Sound, Bridgeport, CT is a charming coastal city with plenty of family-friendly activities for visitors to enjoy. The top attraction in the city is the Discovery Museum and Planetarium, a hands-on science museum that offers an excellent selection of exhibits meant to teach kids about space, sound, electricity, and other science-related topics. However, there are plenty of other things to do as well, including a museum of circus history, a beautiful park that stretches for three miles along the coast, and a zoo that houses everything from leopards to vampire bats.
5.Cape May, NJ
Set on the southernmost tip of a New Jersey peninsula, Cape May is a wonderful family vacation spot, particularly during the summer. Many visitors come here simply to enjoy the sun and sand on the town's gorgeous beaches, but if you're looking to do something a little more active, you can play a round of mini golf or rent bikes to ride along the boardwalk. The town also hosts all sorts of family-friendly events in the summer, including outdoor movie nights at Stockton Beach, carnival games on the Congress Hall lawn, and magic shows at the Convention Center.
Nestled in the beautiful Hudson Valley, the quaint little hamlet of Cold Spring offers a welcome respite from the busy streets of New York City. The downtown has been designated a Federal Historic District, and it's filled with beautiful Victorian buildings that now house shops and restaurants. The town is particularly well known for its antique stores, and it's easy to spend a few hours browsing through the antique toys and unique knick knacks. Many visitors also use the town as a base to explore the surrounding area, which offers plenty of opportunities to hike, picnic, and kayak down the Hudson River.
Established in the late 17th century, the riverside town of Cornwall is surrounded by beautiful farmland and forests. People are often drawn here simply by the beautiful setting, but there are more than enough things to keep visitors entertained, including a nature museum that offers guided walking tours, a farm and country store that dates back to 1914, and a network of trails that meander through the scenic Hudson Highlands. Another highlight just outside the town is the Storm King Art Center, a 500-acre outdoor sculpture park that displays an incredible collection of large-scale contemporary sculptures.
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Found off the shore of Long Island, Fire Island is an inviting barrier island known for its gorgeous beaches and diverse wildlife. It's most popular with visitors in the summer, when the weather is perfect for water-based activities like canoeing through the salt marshes, boating in the Great South Bay, and swimming on the island's life-guarded beaches. However, certain sites on the island are open year-round, including the Wilderness Visitor Center and the Fire Island Lighthouse. Cars are not permitted on most parts of the island, but bikes can be rented by the ferry terminal if needed.
Part of the town of Hempstead on Long Island, Freeport is a wonderful waterfront destination for a summer day trip. The heart of the village is a waterfront strip known as the Nautical Mile, which features excellent seafood restaurants, ice cream parlors, and clam bars. If you'd like to go fishing, it's generally easy to find a charter boat leaving from the Nautical Mile. There are also several family-friendly parks right on the water, including one know as Randall Park, which features both full-sized and kiddie pools that visitors are welcome to use free of charge.
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Tucked away in the Great Northern Catskills, Hunter Mountain is a destination the whole family can enjoy no matter what the time of year. The mountain is home to the largest snowtubing park in the state, which boasts nine 1,000-foot chutes, but there are also plenty of ski and snowboard trails, including some that are serviced by two carpet lifts intended for children and beginners. During the warmer months, highlights of the mountain include an exhilarating canopy zipline tour and adventure course, family-friendly hiking trails, and a scenic chairlift ride that takes riders right to the summit.
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Best known as the home of Minnewaska State Park Preserve, Kerhonkson is a charming hamlet in the Hudson Valley. The park was formerly the site of two luxurious hotels, but it's now a popular destination for visitors who want to hike the excellent network of trails, photograph the three waterfalls, and swim in the two beautiful lakes. Another spot in the area that's well worth a visit is Kelder's Farm, a 200-year-old family farm that offers U-Pick fruits and vegetables, a petting zoo full of farm animals, a mini golf course, and a fun "jumping pillow" for kids.
12.Liberty State Park
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Liberty State Park is famous for its incredible views of the Statue of Liberty, but there are plenty of things to do here besides ogle at the iconic landmark. Attractions include a historic railway terminal, an interactive science museum, and a touching 9/11 memorial, but the park also features a welcoming picnic area and a two-mile promenade that offers wonderful views of Manhattan and the Hudson River. If you have some extra time, you can also take the ferry over to Ellis Island to visit the Museum of Immigration and the Statue of Liberty.
200 Morris Pesin Dr, Jersey City, NJ 07305, Phone: 201-915-3403
If you and your kids are longing for a taste of the Atlantic Ocean, Long Beach is the perfect place to spend the day. The community has been welcoming visitors and vacationers of all ages since it was established in the 1880s, and its long sand beaches are ideally suited to sunbathing, boogie boarding, swimming, and boating. If you'd like to stretch your legs, there is also a two-mile-long boardwalk open to walkers, joggers, and cyclists. All sorts of restaurants and shops can be found within walking distance of the beach, but it's also easy to rent bikes if you want to cycle around town.
Montauk is technically part of the Hamptons, but it has its own special atmosphere that keeps visitors coming back year after year. Fondly nicknamed "The End of the World" for its location at the tip of the Long Island peninsula, the village is famous for its idyllic beaches, its picturesque 18th-century lighthouse, and its many seafood restaurants. These things along are enough to keep most visitors occupied for the entire day, but if you'd like to venture further afield, you can fish in Fort Pond, visit Camp Hero State Park, or stroll through the Walking Dunes to the hamlet of Napeague Harbor.
15.Mountain Creek Resort
Mountain Creek Resort is located in New Jersey, but it's less than 50 miles away from New York City, making it an ideal spot for a day trip. It's the region's largest ski area, and it boasts four mountain peaks with trails for skiers and snowboarders of all ability levels. Lessons are available for anyone who wants to hone their skills. During the summer, the resort's biggest attractions include a 70-acre waterpark with more than 20 rides and slides, a treetop aerial adventure park with something for visitors of all ages, and a zipline tour that boasts incredible panoramic views of the tri-state area.
200 NJ-94, Vernon Township, NJ 07462, Phone: 973-827-2000
16.New Haven, CT
Sitting right on the coast on Long Island Sound, New Haven, CT is a college town with a vibrant cultural scene. The downtown core offers plenty of art galleries and boutique shops to explore, but when you need a break from the city streets, you can visit East Rock Park or the beautiful 16-acre New Haven Green. The city's beaches are popular with families as well, particularly Lighthouse Point Park, which boasts a working carousel as well as a charming lighthouse. Other family-friendly attractions include the Adventure Ropes Course, the PEZ Candy Museum, and the Connecticut Children's Museum.
Philadelphia is the largest city in Pennsylvania, but it boasts a welcoming small-town charm that makes for a different experience than New York City. It's well known for its rich history, and the top attractions include the famous Liberty Bell and Independence Hall, the birthplace of both the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. When you and your kids have had enough of history, you can also visit the tigers and monkeys at the Philadelphia Zoo, enjoy the hands-on science exhibits at the Franklin Institute, or stroll along the boardwalk at the Spruce Street Harbor Park.
18.Point Pleasant Beach, NJ
New York has its fair share of family-friendly beaches, but if you want to pay a visit to the Jersey Shore, Point Pleasant Beach is a great option. The beach itself is wonderful for swimming and sunbathing, but the real highlight is the boardwalk that stretches for approximately a mile along the coastline. Not only is it a pleasant place to stroll, but it offers everything you need for a day of family-friendly fun, including exciting amusement rides, games of chance, a mini golf course, and vendors selling hot dogs, cotton candy, and ice cream.
Named for its location at the mouth of the Peconic River, the town of Riverhead is a welcoming rural community with plenty of things for visitors to see and do. The biggest attraction in the town is the Long Island Aquarium, which invites visitors to feed sting rays, take a boat tour of Peconic Bay, and snorkel through a pirate wreck. Visitors can also take advantage of the town's rural nature and visit an organic farm with a friendly petting zoo, learn about the region's history at the Hallockville Museum Farm, or stop by one of the family-friendly wineries.
Famous for being the setting of Washington Irving’s short story ‘The Legend of Sleepy Hollow’, the town of Sleepy Hollow is one of the spookiest day trips you can take from New York City. Many of the attractions here center around the legend of the Headless Horseman; visitors can take a guided tour of the cemetery, watch an outdoor theatrical production of the famed story, and visit Washington Irving's house to learn about the author's life and work. The town is also popular with outdoor lovers, largely thanks to the Old Croton Aqueduct and the nearby Rockefeller State Park Preserve.
21.Storm King Art Center
Located in the picture-perfect town of Cornwall, the Storm King Art Center is an incredible contemporary art museum. The center has a focus on large-scale sculpture, and most of its pieces are displayed outside in a 500-acre park, which visitors can tour on foot, by renting one of the center's bicycles, or on the center's accessible hop-on hop-off tram. The Visitor's Center also offers a few indoor galleries that are open May through early November, and there are several outdoor cafes and food trucks serving food made with locally grown ingredients. Tours are available if arranged at least two weeks in advance.
1 Museum Rd, New Windsor, NY 12553, Phone: 845-534-3115
22.The Palisades, NJ
Stretching along the lower banks of the Hudson River, the Palisades are one of New Jersey's most spectacular natural gems. These breathtaking cliffs are the edge of a low-lying mountain range, and they were named for their resemblance to a palisade fence made from wooden stakes. Visitors can drive along the top of the cliffs and stop to admire the view from several lookout points, and if you want to get some exercise, there are more than 30 miles of trails that wind their way through the park. Other amenities include children's playgrounds, waterfront picnic areas, and a boat launch.
© Bill Perry/stock.adobe.com
As the capital of the country, Washington DC is a wonderful place to take the family for an educational day trip. Learn about American history by touring the United States Capitol, the White House, and the Library of Congress; all of these attractions offer special kid-friendly information sheets and activities to keep younger visitors entertained. Another great place to spend some time is the National Mall, which boasts an incredible collection of world-class museums such as the National Air and Space Museum, the National Museum of Natural History, and the extremely family-friendly United States Botanic Garden.
© Joel Villanueva/stock.adobe.com
Westchester County is New York's intellectual capital, but it's anything but boring. There are plenty of fun, interactive museums for visitors of all ages, including the Katonah Museum of Art, the Hudson River Museum, and the Yorktown Museum, which has an excellent display of miniature doll houses and train tracks. Other big attractions in the area include the LEGOLAND Discovery Center and Rye Playland, but if you're looking for a more cultural experience, watch a show at the Emelin Theatre or attend an outdoor classical music concert at the Caramoor Center for Music and the Arts.
Made up of six distinct hamlets, the town of Johnsburg is one of the best places to go if you want to enjoy the natural beauty of the Adirondacks. Opportunities for outdoor recreation abound no matter what the season; summertime visitors can whitewater raft down the Hudson River, hike along the beautiful nature trails, or go swimming in the Black Hole, a favorite local swimming spot. Skiing is the most popular outdoor activity in the winter, but if you'd rather stay warm, you can visit the chocolate factory in North Creek or relax in front of a cozy fire.
25 Best New York City Day & Weekend Trips with Kids of All Ages
- Beacon, Photo: xmasbaby/stock.adobe.com
- Bear Mountain State Park, Photo: Laila/stock.adobe.com
- Breakneck Ridge, Photo: jonbilous/stock.adobe.com
- Bridgeport, CT, Photo: Ritu Jethani/stock.adobe.com
- Cape May, NJ, Photo: Pearl/stock.adobe.com
- Cold Spring, Photo: rmbarricarte/stock.adobe.com
- Cornwall, Photo: _jure/stock.adobe.com
- Fire Island, Photo: Sylvana Rega/stock.adobe.com
- Freeport, Photo: pavellukashin/stock.adobe.com
- Hunter Mountain, Photo: U. J. Alexander/stock.adobe.com
- Kerhonkson, Photo: Byelikova Oksana/stock.adobe.com
- Liberty State Park, Photo: Edi Chen/stock.adobe.com
- Long Beach, Photo: viii/stock.adobe.com
- Montauk, Photo: Approximatt/stock.adobe.com
- Mountain Creek Resort, Photo: fotoyou/stock.adobe.com
- New Haven, CT, Photo: pabrady63/stock.adobe.com
- Philadelphia, PA, Photo: Opeyemi/stock.adobe.com
- Point Pleasant Beach, NJ, Photo: blanchardimage/stock.adobe.com
- Riverhead, Photo: khuruzero/stock.adobe.com
- Sleepy Hollow, Photo: cfarmer/stock.adobe.com
- Storm King Art Center, Photo: vadiml/stock.adobe.com
- The Palisades, NJ, Photo: oldmn/stock.adobe.com
- Washington DC, Photo: Bill Perry/stock.adobe.com
- Westchester County, Photo: Joel Villanueva/stock.adobe.com
- Johnsburg, Photo: soupstock/stock.adobe.com
- Cover Photo: Ritu Jethani/stock.adobe.com