Many New York City residents rely on public transportation to get around the city day to day, making day and weekend trips a hassle. Instead of going through the trouble of renting a car and driving in the city, area residents can rely on New York and New Jersey public transit to get to a variety of lovely day trip destinations, including charming towns throughout the Hudson Valley that are home to famed historic attractions. New Jersey's shoreline is home to a plethora of tourist destinations, including lovely Asbury Park, known throughout the East Coast for its renowned bars and music venues. The outer boroughs of New York City are also home to delightful attractions that are just a subway ride away, including iconic summer destinations like Coney Island and Rockaway Beach.
1. Governors Island
Governors Island is a charming 172-acre island within New York Harbor, located between the boroughs of Manhattan and Brooklyn within the Buttermilk Channel. The island was historically closed to the public for nearly two centuries, when it was used as an important base for the United States Army and Coast Guard. Today, it has been transformed into a beautiful public park that serves as a popular tourist destination throughout the summer and early autumn months. Visitors can explore the 22-acre Governors Island National Monument, overseen by the National Park Service, and learn about the island's military history. Guided walking tours are offered throughout the year, along with a plethora of outdoor recreational opportunities, including rock climbing courses and zipline adventures. Eachyear, the island hosts amazing special events like the Governors Island Art Fair, held each weekend in September.
2. Wave Hill
Wave Hill is a beautiful 28-acre estate and public horticultural garden in the Bronx's Riverdale neighborhood, overlooking the banks of the gorgeous Palisades and Hudson River. The estate was originally constructed in 1843 and served as a rental summer home for international luminaries such as Theodore Roosevelt and Mark Twain throughout the turn of the 20th century. In 1960, the estate was donated to the city of New York for use as a cultural center and garden facility. Today, more than 65,000 guests visit the estate each year and explore its lovely National Register of Historic Places-listed facilities. Visitors can peruse the estate's lovely landscaped gardens, which include a perennial flower garden, an aquatic and monocot garden, an alpine dry garden, and the 10-acre Herbert and Hyonja Abrons Woodland. Inside, the Marco Polo Stufano Conservatory features a tropical room and a cactus collection. Paid-ticket concerts are showcased at the estate on Sunday afternoons throughout the year.
675 W 252nd St, The Bronx, NY 10471, Phone: 718-549-3200
3. Asbury Park
Asbury Park is a charming seaside destination in New Jersey that is renowned for its rock music scene, attracting legendary acts like Jon Bon Jovi and Bruce Springsteen to its hip bars and music venues. The city sits along one of the state's most popular beachfront stretches, which is home to a picturesque boardwalk filled with unique shops and lively arcade attractions. The restored 1920s-era Paramount Theatre brings in top international concerts, while famed 20th-century bar Stone Pony still draws major acts. Unique family-friendly attractions include the Silverball Museum, which is stocked with playable video and pinball games dating back as far as the 1930s. A full slate of community events is presented in the city throughout the year, including a famed Oysterfest and the world-record New Jersey Zombie Walk.
Beacon is a burgeoning artist district in New York, located just an easy train ride from Manhattan's downtown district. The former industrial town has been revitalized into a bustling day trip location, home to a delightful one-mile Main Street lined with charming shops, art galleries, and restaurants. Visitors can explore the city's downtown at their leisure or as part of Beacon Arts Second Saturday events, which highlight gallery exhibitions, live music performances, and street fair vendors. Midcentury and contemporary artwork is on display at the 30-acre Dia: Beacon gallery, housed within the city's former Nabisco factory. The city's proximity to the Hudson River and Hudson Highlands makes it a prime destination for outdoor recreation at sites such as the hiking trails of Mount Beacon or lovely Bannerman Island, part of the Hudson Highlands State Park Preserve.
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5. City Island
City Island is a charming Bronx neighborhood located on the extreme western edge of Long Island Sound, near Eastchester and Pelham Bays. The neighborhood is a great day trip destination for New Yorkers looking to escape the city for the day, filled with quaint homes and businesses that give off a small-town vibe. Visitors can take walking excursions through the neighborhood's historic landmarks, including the 1860s-era Schofield Street House, or explore the exhibits of the City Island Nautical Museum, which offers guided walking tours on the weekends. Unique antique finds abound at Early Ruth, while quirky collectibles and nostalgia items line the shelves of 239 Play. Excellent dining options include the century-old City Island Diner, cash-only seafood joint Johnny's Reef, and the delightful Starving Artist Cafe, which showcases live jazz music performances throughout the week.
6. Cold Spring
Cold Spring is a charming Putnam County village within the picturesque Hudson Highlands, known as a popular weekend getaway for New York City residents for its excellent dining options and unique antique stores. The village's downtown district, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, is home to a plethora of 19th-century buildings, including the West Point Foundry. Visitors can make the train trek to the town in just about an hour and can explore delightful businesses like outdoor outfitters Old Souls, vintage home goods store Poor George, and natural-product-focused Cold Spring Apothecary. Just outside the city, Breakneck Ridge offers one of the Hudson Valley's best hikes, featuring incredible panoramic views at its summit. After hiking, visitors can dine at delicious restaurants like upscale French restaurant Brasserie Le Bouchon or popular pub Whistling Willies, named as the Hudson Valley's best beer bar by Hudson Valley Magazine.
7. Coney Island
Coney Island is known around the world as one of the United States' top boardwalk entertainment destinations, located along a peninsula on Brooklyn's southern coastline in the neighborhood of the same name. The famed boardwalk rose to prominence in the mid-19th century as a resort destination and became known for its amusement attractions with the opening of the Dreamland, Luna Park, and Steeplechase Park amusement centers at the turn of the 20th century. Today, the spirit of Luna Park lives on at a new amusement park of the same name, which is home to attractions such as the brand-new Thunderbolt roller coaster, built in 2014 to honor the defunct historic coaster of the same name. The iconic 1927 Coney Island Cyclone wooden coaster still operates to this day, as does the unique Deno's Wonder Wheel eccentric Ferris wheel. Arcade games and boardwalk attractions line the neighborhood's 2.5-mile amusement stretch, which is also bordered by a large public beach. Annual special events include the Coney Island Mermaid Parade, held each summer along the beachfront.
1208 Surf Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11224, Phone: 718-372-5159
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Cornwall is a quaint historic town located approximately an hour outside of New York City within the beautiful Hudson Highlands district. The town dates back to New England's colonial era, originally established in 1685. Today, it is best known as the home of the Storm King Art Center, which attracts more than 200,000 annual visitors and showcases unique art exhibits. Storm King State Park stands in the shadow of beautiful Storm King Mountain, offering unparalleled panoramic views of the Hudson River and nearby Bannerman's Island and Newburgh Bay. Families can explore attractions such as the Hudson Highlands Nature Museum Outdoor Discovery Center, which features kid-friendly walking trails and a nature-themed play area. Quaint stores and restaurants line the city's Main Street district, which hosts a weekly farmer's market on Wednesday mornings. Nearby, the Shops at Jones Farm convert a 100-acre farmstead into a rustic shopping center and farm bakery, known for its amazing apple cider doughnuts and pies.
9. Fire Island
Fire Island is a lovely resort barrier island located just off the shores of Long Island, known around the world as one of the United States' top LGBT-friendly tourist destinations. The island is home to the charming community of Cherry Grove, which is believed to have been the first community in America that openly embraced gay and lesbian community members. Vibrant Ocean Beach is home to a popular swimming beach, marina, and delightful shops and restaurants. Visitors can enjoy oceanfront dining opportunities at The Sandcastle at the Ocean or sip on delicious cocktails at gay-friendly bars like Cherry's and the Ice Palace. On the island's western end, Robert Moses State Park is home to day-use picnic sites, pitch-and-putt golf courses, and the 19th-century Fire Island Lighthouse.
10. Greenwood Gardens
Greenwood Gardens is a beautiful 28-acre landscaped garden in Millburn, New Jersey, originally constructed on the estate of the same name, which was developed in its current form by Peter Blanchard in the mid-20th century. After Blanchard's death in 2000, the estate's stunning Italianate garden was opened to the public by the Garden Conservancy as a nonprofit organization. Today, it is known for its unique architectural and artistic elements, including a lovely statue of a boy with two geese, crafted by artist Emilio Angela. The gardens' beautiful gates, created by Samuel Yellin, are laced with vines and assorted plantings. Its estate home is preserved on its grounds, which are also home to a summer house, a 1920s-era tea house, and worker cottages. Visitors can explore the gardens via standard admission or become garden members to enjoy exclusive access to special events like educational tours and concerts.
2100, 274 Old Short Hills Rd, Short Hills, NJ 07078, Phone: 973-258-4026
11. New Canaan
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New Canaan is a charming historic town in Fairfield County, Connecticut, originally incorporated in 1726 and known today for its stunning colonial-era architecture and attractions. The town's lovely downtown district hosts a plethora of annual special events, including an acclaimed Holiday Stroll which opens the doors of its businesses and restaurants for open house events. Five historic buildings are preserved by the New Canaan Historical Society, including the 1799 Rock Schoolhouse and the 1764 Hanford-Silliman House. The New Canaan Nature Center is home to an observation tower, a 350-foot cattail marsh boardwalk, and two miles of walking trails, while the Carriage Barn Arts Center, housed within a renovated 19th-century stone barn, showcases the exhibits of the nonprofit New Canaan Society for the Arts. The Glass House, constructed by architect Philip Johnson, has been designated as a site of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
Nyack is a lovely village in Rockland County, originally incorporated in 1872 along the banks of the Hudson River. The town, which is located just half an hour north of Manhattan, is known as the hub of Rockland County's local music scene, showcasing live music performances throughout the year at its bars and venues. Visitors can explore the exhibits of the Edward Hopper House Art Center, which showcases the works of the famed realist painter, or enjoy performances by the Rockland Symphony Orchestra at the Riverspace Arts in Nyack complex. A number of historic buildings are listed on the National Register of Historic Places, including the 1817 John Green House, the city's oldest standing residence. Beautiful Memorial Park offers opportunities for tennis, basketball, canoeing, and kayaking and hosts numerous outdoor festivals throughout the year.
Philadelphia is Pennsylvania's largest metropolis, located just an hour south of New York City via Amtrak train. The vibrant, diverse city is known for its renowned historic attractions connected to the American Revolutionary War, including preserved Independence Hall, the site of the signing of the American Constitution and Declaration of Independence. Other iconic attractions include the Liberty Bell and the Philadelphia Museum of Art, which was immortalized in the feature film Rocky. Visitors can tour the Eastern State Penitentiary, peruse the stalls and food halls of the Reading Terminal Market, or take families to the Philadelphia Zoo, which is home to more than 1,300 native and exotic animals. During the summer months, Spruce Street Harbor Park transforms the city's river shoreline into an urban beach filled with giant games, hammocks, and food vendors. In the winter, the BlueCross River Rink offers waterfront ice skating opportunities.
Princeton is a lovely town in New Jersey that is best known as the home of the Ivy League university of the same name, a top school in the United States for the liberal arts and science. Visitors can explore the gorgeous university campus, which is home to architectural landmarks like the Collegiate Gothic-style University Chapel, or peruse more than 80,000 works of art on display at the renowned Princeton University Art Museum. The region's history is preserved at the 18th-century Morven Museum and Garden, which has been converted into a living history museum furnished with period-appropriate decor. The Tony Award-winning McCarter Theatre Center presents regional theatrical performances, while the Princeton Garden Theatre highlights showings of foreign and classic films. Nearby, Princeton Battlefield State Park preserves the region's American Revolutionary War history.
15. Red Bank
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Red Bank is a delightful New Jersey borough in Monmouth County, located along the banks of the Navesink River. The charming town, which was incorporated in 1870, is named for its picturesque red shoreline soils. It has become a major artistic tourism destination in the New York City region over the past several decades, home to cultural attractions such as the Count Basie Theatre, which has hosted legendary performers and artists like Bob Newhart, Tracy Morgan, David Sedaris, and B.B. King. The Two River Theater, which has hosted internationally-renowned acts like Bruce Springsteen, presents regional theater productions throughout the year. Visitors can stroll through the shops and restaurants of Broad Street or enjoy opportunities for year-round recreational activities, including baoting, sailing, fishing, and ice boating. Annual special events include a spectacular July sidewalk sale, a KaBoom Fourth of July Festival, and a lavish Christmas celebration that lights up the entire downtown with holiday lights.
16. Rockaway Beach
Rockaway Beach is America's largest urban beach and boardwalk, stretching for more than 5.5 miles along Queens' Atlantic Ocean shoreline. The delightful beachfront is New York City's top destination for surfing, offering legal surf sites at the borough's 67/69 and 87/92 Streets. Its sandy beach stretches make for popular sites for picnics and sunbathing throughout the year, with areas provided for pick-up games of basketball, baseball, handball, and beach volleyball. The iconic Rockaway Doughboy Statue honors Queens' fallen World War I soldiers, while the Sandpiper Playground protects significant populations of migratory birds. A roller hockey rink is open at select times throughout the year, along with several children's playgrounds and concession areas.
8601 Shore Front Pkwy, Rockaway Park, NY 11694, Phone: 718-318-4000
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17. Sleepy Hollow
Sleepy Hollow was the inspiration for Washington Irving's short story "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow," written in 1820 and known as a popular Halloween classic today. The charming Hudson Valley village, which is located adjacent to the city of Tarrytown in Mount Pleasant, is located just half an hour north of New York City and accessible via the Metro-North Hudson Line. It is considered to be one of the world's most haunted places, home to spooky attractions such as the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, which serves as Irving's final burial site. Visitors can explore preserved historic attractions such as the beautiful Kykuit estate, the former home of the Rockefeller family, or the National Historic Landmark-designated Old Dutch Church of Sleepy Hollow. A plethora of special events are hosted in the village throughout the autumn months, including an annual Great Jack O'Lantern Blaze, which showcases more than 7,000 hand-carved pumpkins each year.
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Trenton is New Jersey's beautiful capital city, located halfway between the cities of New York City and Philadelphia and easily accessible from both cities' public transit systems. Visitors can explore a plethora of historic and government attractions, including the New Jersey State Museum, which features archaeology and art collections, and the 1792 New Jersey State House, which offers guided historical tours. The Trenton City Museum is housed within the beautiful 1848 Ellarslie Mansion, showcasing artwork and artifacts related to the city's history. The beautiful Grounds for Sculpture, located on the former New Jersey State Fairgrounds campus, showcase 42 acres of stunning modern sculpture and art. Other attractions include the Trenton War Memorial, honoring fallen World War I soldiers, and the Old Barracks Museum, which showcases Revolutionary War-era British barracks.
Warwick is a charming Orange County town that is comprised of three smaller villages and eight charming hamlets. The lovely New York village is best known as the home of the annual Applefest, which has been selected as one of North America's top 10 annual festivals. More than 35,000 visitors attend the festival each year, which brings food vendors, rides, games, and live music performances to the city's downtown district. The Warwick Summer Arts Festival has been held at the city's agricultural sites since 2000, while the Village Concert Series and Music in the Courtyard bring live music performances to the city's green spaces on summer evenings. Other annual special events include the Hudson Valley Jazz Festival, known as one of the New York area's top annual jazz festivals.
Westport is a charming Connecticut town on Long Island Sound, originally incorporated in 1835. The Fairfield County town retains its classic New England charm today, known for its beautiful beachfront stretches, including the 29-acre Compo Beach, which features sand volleyball courts, a large children's playscape, a marina, and an ADA-accessible boardwalk. 234-acre Sherwood Island State Park, which is located directly on the sound, is home to Connecticut's official 9/11 Living Memorial and offers swimming beaches, surf fishing spots, interpretive programming, and a nature center. The 1930 Westport Country Playhouse, associated with actor Paul Newman in the mid-2oth century, is considered to be one of America's most respected summer theaters. Visitors can also attend award-winning concerts throughout the summer months at the Levitt Pavilion for the Performing Arts.
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Attraction Spotlight: Coney Island
Located in Brooklyn, Coney Island is a peninsular New York City neighborhood that is best known for its entertainment area, featuring two incorporated amusement parks along with a number of independently owned attractions. The area now known as Coney Island was originally part of the early Dutch colony of New Amsterdam.
It was referred to as Conyne Eylandt by early settlers, a name that may have referred to its wild rabbit population. Prior to the 1920s, the 4-mile-long neighborhood was one of the outer barrier islands of Long Island, separated from Brooklyn by Coney Island Creek, but the creek was filled in as part of the area’s commercial development, turning it into a peninsula.
Coney Island’s roots as an entertainment and resort area date back to 1829 developments by the Gravesend and Coney Island Road and Bridge Company, which built the first bridge across the former creek, as well as the area’s first hotel. Initially, the area was a resort for wealthy New Yorkers, far enough away from Manhattan and Brooklyn’s business and residential districts to provide an illusion of a getaway, but a ferry line opened in 1847 made its beaches a popular destination for lower and middle-class residents as well. In 1868, the Brighton Beach resort was built by William A. Engeman, a reference to Brighton, a popular British resort city. Similar hotels were built throughout the late 19th century, dividing the neighborhood into three main resort areas, Brighton Beach, Manhattan Beach, and West Brighton, which offered bath houses, vaudeville theaters, and attractions such as the 300-foot Iron Tower observation tower, acquired after the 1876 Philadelphia Exposition.
The history of amusement parks at Coney Island dates back to the turn of the 20th century, with the opening of Steeplechase Park in 1897, Luna Park in 1903, and Dreamland in 1904. Independent amusements and rides also filled the area’s beaches and resorts, and with the advent of excursion railroads and steamboats, the area became the largest amusement area in the United States, attracting seven million annual visitors. A fire destroyed Dreamland in 1911, however, and after World War II, the area began to decline in popularity, with Luna Park closing in 1946 following a series of fires and Steeplechase Park following in 1964. The area fell into crime and disrepair in the 1960s and 1970s, with several city and commercial revitalization efforts failing before completion. The downturn continued with the 2000 demolition of the historic Thunderbolt roller coaster by mayor Rudy Giuliani, but recent interest in the area by the Coney Island Development Corporation has led to revitalizations, including the reopening of a new Luna Park facility in 2010. A $1.5 billion renovation of the area has been proposed by Thor Equities, including the construction of a Vegas-style hotel.
Controversy over the development of the area dates back to its early 19th-century development, with many residents wishing to preserve the area’s beaches as a park space. In the early 1900s, the city condemned all buildings and structures south of Surf Avenue in an attempt to reclaim the neighborhood’s beaches, but opposition from amusement owners resulted in the creation of a city-owned boardwalk marking a development line 1,000 feet south of the avenue. In the 1940s and 1950s, city housing commissioner Robert Moses took notable measures against the amusement area, moving the New York Aquarium to the former Dreamland site and building low-income housing high-rises near the beaches, increasing crime in the area. Opposition to Moses’ plans to demolish all amusements and zone the area as residential-only resulted in current amusement zoning protections of the area 100 feet north of Surf Avenue, between West 22nd Street and the Cyclone roller coaster.
Attractions and Events
Coney Island currently has two theme parks in its amusement area, Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park and Luna Park, although many of its attractions are unincorporated rides. Three rides are protected as National Historic Landmarks: The Wonder Wheel, built in 1918, the Cyclone roller coaster, built in 1927, and the Parachute Jump, a now-defunct 1939 New York World's Fair ride that serves as a landmark for the area, commonly referred to as “Brooklyn’s Eiffel Tower.” The B&B Carousell is the area’s last remaining classic carousel, built in 1906 and restored in 2013. Sideshows by the Seashore offers a revitalization of Coney’s classic circus shows, and the Abe Stark Rink offers seasonal ice skating. In 2014, a new Thunderbolt roller coaster was built by Zamperla in homage to the demolished classic coaster. Visitors can also enjoy bumper cars, traditional haunted houses, and arcade games such as skeeball.
A large public beach, bordered by the Riegelmann Boardwalk, stretches from West 37th Street through the central amusement area, running 2.5 miles through Brighton Beach and Manhattan Beach. The New York Aquarium is accessible from the beach and boardwalk, along with a number of famous food shops, including the iconic Nathan’s Famous Hot Dogs. Additionally, a 400-meter public beach stretches into Manhattan Beach, and a private resident-only beach spans the west end of the neighborhood.
An annual Coney Island Mermaid Parade is held every summer along the boardwalk, organized by the nonprofit Coney Island USA association. Coney Island USA also runs the Coney Island Film Festival in October and operates the Coney Island Museum. Major concerts and events are held at the Ford Amphitheater, and Brooklyn Cyclones minor league baseball games are hosted regularly at MCU Park, built on the former site of Steeplechase Park.
1208 Surf Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11224, Phone: 718-372-5159
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Attraction Spotlight: Toy Museum of NY
The Toy Museum of New York in Brooklyn is the dream destination for a child. One of a few of its kind, the Toy Museum is bound to be a magical and enjoyable experience for children. A museum is always a good option for a family outing since it combines learning and education, but the Toy Museum has taken that to a whole new level.
The main aim of the museum is to be able to educate children about different things through the use of toys as mediums for stories and plays. The Toy Museum is one of the few institutions that emphasize the importance of toys and dolls in facilitating learning in children. The Toy Museum stresses the importance that toys have played in society and how they have had an impact on culture and vice versa. The museum has a collection of dolls and toys so big that it is bound to create a lasting impression on a child and leave them with nothing but wonderful memories of the place. The museum works alongside a theater company to create a more engaging experience. By doing this, they can transcend the barriers that exist with everyday exhibits and can thus get their point across better in order to facilitate learning through the use of more immersive mediums.
The Toy Museum has numerous programs that are specially catered towards kids to teach them more and make their entire learning experience a lot more informative and immersive. The museum offers various in-house programs and workshops to achieve their purpose of teaching children through this not commonly used medium.
One of the more well-known programs within the Toy Museum is the “History of Toys” show. The show is an interactive session that uses toys from within the museum to give students a better understanding of the ones that they play with today. There are various values that the play tries to perpetuate in its audiences through the use of this theater method. The entire play is done in a professional setting complete with elaborate costumes and special effects. The play is designed to teach kids not only about the history of toys, but also about the social and political scenarios of the times during which the toys were made. By appealing to them in a way in which children understand, the Toy Museum has been extremely successful in imparting knowledge to students and keeping them engaged in learning.
The Toy Museum also has numerous workshops for kids that can teach them different art forms and other things. The museum’s playwriting workshop is particularly popular and uses different toys as a means of teaching kids the various aspects of theater and also gives them the perfect tools to be able to come up with their own stories and perform their own plays. The Toy Museum also uses this as its way to teach classes of students on school trips how to work together as a team and learn the various aspects of leadership. The Toy Museum gives kids the toys from the museum itself to provide them with the perfect tools they need to come up with a short play, which they are then asked to perform in front of the entire class.
The Toy Museum also brings itself to the classroom through the numerous workshop and programs they host. Through the use of dolls and puppets, the Toy Museum teaches kids about different topics, depending on what the schools pick from the museums list of subjects. The program is especially unique because it introduces children to the world of puppet theater as a form of art, performance, and learning.
There is no doubt that children will love the Toy Museum and will have a great time here. For people on a family visit, you can enter the museum as a viewer, but if you want to partake in any of the workshops that are taking place at the museum, it is advised to call the Toy Museum in advance and book your seat since they fill up rather quickly. The yearly membership program is especially recommended if you plan to make multiple visits. The museum also conducts summer camps and workshops that require parents to sign up their children at least a month before the workshop commences.
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Brooklyn, NY, 11201, Phone: 718-243-0820
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