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The Top 6 Day Trips from New York City

Explore the East Coast with these easy weekend getaways from NYC

The Vacationeer
Couple holding hands and walking happily across a New York City street, New York.

New York City — called by some the Capital of the World or even the Center of the Universe — has everything you could want on vacation, from art museums to award-winning restaurants to iconic neighborhoods. Even though it could take years to fully explore New York City, there are other hidden gems of the East Coast.

Aerial shot of Bear Mountain Bridge illuminated at dusk with purple sunset skies overhead, New York.    

If you need to switch up your trip without traveling far from the city, plenty of adventures await you a few hours away. Consider planning a day trip to escape the hustle and bustle of the City That Never Sleeps and experience everything the East Coast offers.

Read “How to Plan Weekend Trips With Maximum Bang for Your Buck” for top tips on how to getaway to NYC on a budget.

Here are our top 6 best day trips from New York City. These destinations are about or less than a 2-hour drive from New York City, and some are even accessible by train. These are day trips in New York state, New Jersey, Connecticut and Pennsylvania.         

Sleepy Hollow, New York     

While New York City has its fair share of ghost stories, consider leaving NYC to see the town that inspired the famous story “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” by Washington Irving. The Old Dutch Church is supposed to be the haunting grounds of the headless horseman. However, if you’re not up for diving into the paranormal, Sleepy Hollow has much to offer. 

Gorgeous panorama of the Sleepy Hallow Lighthouse at day break, New York.  
  • The Sleepy Hollow Cemetery has a variety of walking tours, including a spooky ghost tour, with unique insights into local colonial history.
  • Stroll the grounds of Kykuit, the Rockefeller Estate, home to philanthropist John D. Rockefeller and four generations of his family. This landmark has beautiful gardens and outdoor sculptures from artists like Alexander Calder and Henry Moore.
  • Take in the engineering marvel that is the Old Croton Aqueduct Trail. These aqueducts, over 40 miles long, pumped over 35 million gallons to thirsty New Yorkers in the 19th century. Even though the aqueduct was sealed in 1955, the flat terrain lends itself to hiking, horse trails, biking and cross-country skiing.

Beacon, New York

Beacon is an emerging artistic hub in an old industrial town. Stroll Main Street and enjoy the local art galleries, mom-and-pop shops and cafés and experience the up-and-coming community.

  • Visit the Dia: Beacon Museum, which repurposes a former Nabisco box-printing factory into a collection of 1960-70s art. Dia: Beacon features more exhibition space than Manhattan’s Guggenheim, Whitney Museum and MoMA combined.
  • Take a tour of the ruins of Bannerman Castle, an abandoned military warehouse that looks more like an deserted fairytale castle. If you’re feeling particularly adventurous, you can even kayak to Pollepel Island.
  • Stop by the Roundhouse Restaurant and enjoy dinner and cocktails while overlooking a serene waterfall.

Bear Mountain, New York

Bear Mountain State Park is an ideal outdoor escape within an hour of NYC. No matter the season, there’s plenty to do. From biking to boating, camping to hiking, even ice skating and snowshoeing in the winter, you’ll be able to enjoy the fresh air and spectacular views of the Hudson River.

Young family of three throwing hurling snowballs while laughing.    
  • Check out the Bear Mountain State Park Merry-Go-Round, notable for its hand-painted scenes and hand-carved seats with native animals. If you’ve ever wanted to ride a carousel with a black bear or swan, this is your chance.
  • The Woodbury Commons Premium Outlet center is a 20-minute drive from Bear Mountain. More than your typical outlet mall, Woodbury Commons offers discounted items from popular, designer and luxury brands like Gucci and Burberry.
  • If you’re an art appreciator, the Storm King Art Center is a similarly short drive and offers an open-air art museum experience. Experience large-scale sculptures in the 500-acre museum, often incorporating the landscape itself.

New Canaan, Connecticut

 If you’re looking for a day trip in the Nutmeg State, New Canaan is a gem in southwestern Connecticut. The charming town boasts a thriving downtown with small-town vibes.

  • Explore the Glass House and the adjoining 49-acre grounds full of unique architectural structures. There’s also a gallery of modern paintings if architecture isn’t your thing.
  • Grace Farms is a humanitarian and cultural center with the community in mind. What this means for you is that they offer a wide variety of public programs — including performances, community dinners, lectures and tours — that encourage cooperation and unique approaches to age-old problems, all within the River Building itself. The building simulates the twists and turns of a river in glass and concrete.
  • Learn about local plants and ecosystems at the New Canaan Nature Center, an all-in-one botanical garden, arboretum and nature preserve. The non-profit that runs the center offers a variety of activities for all ages, including a Secret Gardens Tour, scavenger hunts, boxwood mazes, and bird watching. 

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Accessible by car and Amtrak, Philadelphia has an urban feel that is distinct from New York City. With historical sites and Philly icons within reach, this is a great day trip option that could easily stretch into a longer trip or double-up with another destination, like Washington, DC.

Sun shining through golden fall foliage onto a Central Park bench, New York, New York.    
  • Tour Independence National Historical Park and see historical landmarks, such as the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall. There’s plenty to do for an American history buff, from taking a “bell-fie” (selfie with the Liberty Bell), standing where Lincoln stood at Independence Hall or touring the Benjamin Franklin Museum.
  • Brush up on your art history at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The museum includes the works of Marcel Duchamp, Auguste Rodin, Constantin Brancusi, impressionists and other great American artists.
  • What Philly trip is complete without a cheesesteak (locals debate Geno’s versus Pat’s) or a selfie at the Rocky steps?  There’s even a statue of Rocky created for Rocky III that you can pose with.

Princeton, New Jersey

A quick train ride away, Princeton’s tree-lined streets offer easy transit and access to NYC and Philadelphia while still feeling quaint. And though it’s a college town, the food and arts scene is top-notch, all accessible along Princeton’s Main Street, with its distinct Tudor architecture.

Aerial view of fall foliage sprinkled throughout New York City.   
  • The Princeton University Art Museum is one of the top art museums in the US, featuring over 68,000 works from all over the world. They offer plenty of resources for anyone new to art history, including gallery activities to engage even the youngest in your travel group.
  • Another recognized arts center is Princeton’s Tony Award-winning McCarter Theater. See a show or participate in one of their events, such as their Sunset Sonnet Slams, which are open to all ages and require no experience in performance. Check out our list for more multi-generational travel destinations in New York.
  • Visit Hopewell Valley Vineyards, a local favorite because of its award-winning wine, live music and Old World vibes. 
  • Explore the Glass House and the adjoining 49-acre grounds full of unique architectural structures. There’s also a gallery of modern paintings if architecture isn’t your thing.
  • Grace Farms is a humanitarian and cultural center with the community in mind. What this means for you is that they offer a wide variety of public programs — including performances, community dinners, lectures and tours — that encourage cooperation and unique approaches to age-old problems, all within the River Building itself. The building simulates the twists and turns of a river in glass and concrete.
  • Learn about local plants and ecosystems at the New Canaan Nature Center, an all-in-one botanical garden, arboretum and nature preserve. The non-profit that runs the center offers a variety of activities for all ages, including a Secret Gardens Tour, scavenger hunts, boxwood mazes, and bird watching.

Check out our guide to Hilton Grand Vacations’ New York City timeshares and see which resort is the best home base for your East Coast excursions. 

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Vacationeer

The Vacationeer

The Vacationeer is a collective of Hilton Grand Vacations storytellers whose goal is to inspire travelers to go further. We're always on the lookout for new destinations to explore, useful travel tips, and unique ideas to help you plan the most memorable vacations possible.

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