6 Daycations So Close to NYC
New York City will always be one of my favorite places in the entire world. I love the energy, the people, the bagels, the pizza, and the public transportation. The public transportation has a special spot in my heart, because it makes it so easy to leave the city when you really need a break. New Yorkers are surrounded by travel options, so get out there and make the most of them. If you’re a current NYC resident considering moving elsewhere, take time to visit these six places before you go. (Even if you have no plans to move out of the city, these destinations deserve a spot on your to-see list.)
Bear Mountain State Park
When you want to spend time in nature, and you feel like Central Park and Prospect Park aren’t going to cut it, put on your hiking boots, and head for the woods. Bear Mountain State Park features several hikes of varying difficulty, including the first section of the Appalachian Trail. Bring an outdoorsy friend, and pack a lunch to eat in one of the picnic areas. Walk around the lake, visit the park’s zoo, and climb to the peak to take an impressive panoramic photo of the Hudson River and the surrounding mountains. (Your social media followers will be so impressed.)
When to visit: Whenever you need a nature fix. The swimming pool and boat rentals are only open during summer months. The ice rink opens November 1, weather permitting.
How to get there: Take the Metro-North (Hudson Line) to Peekskill, and a short cab ride (about $20) to Bear Mountain.
Photo: wagon16, via Flickr
Located in Fort Tryon Park in Upper Manhattan, The Cloisters is a museum of medieval art and architecture. The buildings themselves are constructed from European abbeys that were taken apart, shipped to New York, and reassembled stone-by-stone. This is the perfect place to visit when you’re craving a trip to Spain or France, and your bank balance says it’s not an option. (Officially, tickets to the museum are $25/adult, but if you buy them at the ticket window, you can pay whatever you wish. Nobody will judge you if you’re on a budget.) Bring a friend who believes in unicorns to see the Unicorn Tapestries, and spend the day imagining what it was like to be a monk in the Middle Ages.
When to visit: The Cloisters are open year round (except Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day), but if you plan to explore the gardens, go when it’s nice out.
How to get there: Take the A train to 190th Street and take the elevator to exit. Walk north on Margaret Corbin Drive for about 10 minutes or take the M4 bus one stop.
Photo: Allison Meier, via Flickr
Yes, Coney Island is technically part of NYC, but the wild and crazy vibe makes it daycation worthy. This place is packed with people pretty much all summer long, but it’s the perfect day trip when you find yourself with a random day off and no real plans. You can sleep in, because most of the attractions open at noon, and you don’t need a special train ticket or bus ticket. Your Metrocard works just fine. Bring a fun-loving friend who’s up for a classic New York adventure. Ride the Cyclone and the Wonder Wheel, visit the New York Aquarium, check out the circus sideshow, get a hot dog and fries at Nathan’s Famous, take a walk on the boardwalk, and see a Brooklyn Cyclones game.
When to visit: Go between Memorial Day and Labor Day for the full experience.
How to get there: Take the D, F, N or Q train to Stillwell Avenue.
Photo: Lisa Beebe
The next time you’re in the mood for a smart, arty daycation, head upstate and check out Dia: Beacon. This museum has something many New York City art museums lack – space. It’s located in a huge (160,000 square feet) former printing plant, and features large-scale installations of art from the 1960s to the present. Bring a friend who appreciates modern art, and soak up as much creativity as you can handle. The museum has a cafe, but if you’re up for a 15 or 20 minute walk, head into town and visit one of the local restaurants before you catch the train back to the city.
When to visit: Friday through Monday. They’re always closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, and they’re closed on Thursdays in January, February, and March.
How to get there: Take the Metro-North train (Hudson line) to Beacon. If you sit on the left side of the train on your way up (and the right side on the way back), you’ll have a beautiful view of the Hudson River. The museum is a five-minute walk, or a short shuttle ride, from the train station.
Photo: Brandon Morse, via Flickr
Want to feel like you’re spending a summer day in a small seaside town, without renting a car and driving to New England? Fire Island, a small barrier island off the south shore of Long Island, is ready to make that dream come true. (There’s even a lighthouse!) You can get to Fire Island on public transportation, and since there’s a ferry involved, it’ll feel like a real getaway. This trip is perfect when you’re dying for a little peace and quiet. Spend a day relaxing on the beach, strolling on the sand, and listening to the crashing waves. When you’re hungry, head into one of the small towns to find a restaurant. Most of the island is car-free, so expect to walk, rent a bike, or take a water taxi to get around.
When to visit: Between mid-May and mid-October.
How to get there: Take the LIRR to Bay Shore, and connect with the Fire Island Ferry.
Photo: Jack Wickes, via Flickr
If you’ve ever seen someone carrying a surfboard on the subway, they were probably headed to Rockaway Beach. Located along the edge of Queens, this is the only legal surfing beach in New York City, but you don’t have to be a surfer to appreciate it. Bring an athletic friend, and spend the afternoon playing handball, kayaking, jet-skiing, or stand-up paddle boarding. When you’ve worked up a hunger, fuel up at a food truck or kick back at one of the outdoor bars.
When to visit: Beach season. If you want to swim, go between 10am and 6pm, when lifeguards are on duty.
How to get there: The lyrics of the Ramones song “Rockaway Beach” mention hitching a ride there, but it’s easier (and probably a whole lot safer) to take the A train. Take the A to Broad Channel, and transfer to the S to Rockaway Park – Beach 116th St.
Photo: Mig Gilbert, via Flickr