Escape the City: 7 Unique NYC Day Trips

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Let’s face it, New York City can be an intense, exhausting place. If you’re a New Yorker or a traveler looking to escape the hustle and busy of the city for a day and don’t know where to start, I’ve got just the places you can escape to. Not only are these spots totally under the radar, but they’re also all accessible using public transportation.

Grounds for Sculpture – Hamilton, New Jersey

Photo by Alexander Veras

Grounds for Sculpture is an excellent destination for those seeking an escape from the city. Its magical 42 acres are littered with over 270 sculptures nestled amongst beautiful gardens, koi ponds, and exotic trees.  Some of these larger-than-life sculptures depict famous familiar artworks like the Monet bridge and water lily pond. Don’t miss the Seward Johnson Center for the Arts, which has rotating exhibitions indoors year-round. The property also has multiple cafes and a restaurant if you work up an appetite. 


How to get there:
The entire length of the trip from New York City is about an hour and a half. Although Google maps would lead you to believe that the best way to get to Grounds for Sculpture is by taking an Amtrak Train from New York Penn Station, the best approach is to take an NJ Transit train from Newark Penn Station. The trip will not only be considerably cheaper, but the NJ Transit train runs more frequently, which can get you there and back to NYC much quicker.

To get to Grounds for Sculpture, take the Path Train to Newark Penn Station from the World Trade Center Station. At Newark Penn Station, locate an NJ Transit vending machine and purchase round trip tickets to Hamilton, New Jersey. Once in Hamilton, just request an Uber to Grounds for Sculpture. You’ll be there within five minutes.

Amish Country – Lancaster, Pennsylvania

Photo by Clark Young on Unsplash

There is nothing farther away from New York City culturally than Lancaster’s Amish Country. It is hard to believe that there are still entire communities in the United States where horse and buggy is still the main mode of transportation. The Amish community has kept the same lifestyle for almost two centuries. Their use of today’s commodities is at an absolute minimum. Do not expect to see them driving vehicles or talking on smartphones. Take a tour to get a glimpse of their lifestyle. You can learn about everything from their clothing to what it is like to live without electricity.


How to get there:
To get to Amish Country, purchase an Amtrak ticket from New York Penn Station to Lancaster, Pennsylvania. If you purchase a direct trip with no transfers, you’ll be there in two and a half hours. Once in Lancaster, take an Uber ride to your destination of choice. Trips are usually less than 20 minutes.

Mohonk Labyrinth and Lemon Squeeze – New Paltz, New York

Photo by Jack Cross on Unsplash

For those seeking a bit more outdoor adventure, the Lemon Squeeze in New Paltz is the perfect mini-getaway. New Paltz is a small university town with tons of chic restaurants and bars. Although you can spend the entire day just exploring the town, the main attraction is definitely the Labyrinth and the Lemon Squeeze. Both of these attractions (the labyrinth leads to the Lemon Squeeze) will test your upper, core, and lower body strength as you climb ladders, balance and crawl in between rocks. Once you reach the Mohonk Skytop Tower, you’ll be rewarded with the most spectacular view of upstate New York’s sprawling mountains.


How to get there:
Getting here by public transit will require you to take pretty much every available mode of transportation. Beginning at Grand Central, take the Metro-North Hudson Line to Poughkeepsie Station. Once there, take the UPL (Ulster-Poughkeepsie Link) to New Paltz Trailways. From there you’ll have to either call a taxi or request an Uber to Mohonk Labyrinth Parking lot (ten-minute ride), where you’ll be charged about $26 per person. The entire trip is about three hours. The hike to the top will be approximately 3 hours altogether. The trip may seem daunting, but the experience is totally worth it.

Sandy Hook Beach – Middletown, New Jersey

If you’re in New York City during the hottest days of summer, you know a beach day trip is more than necessary. The most popular and convenient beach destinations for New Yorkers and tourists are the Hamptons, Fire Island, and Coney Island, which makes them extremely crowded. If you want to avoid droves of people and spend a pleasant and relaxing day, give Sandy Hook a try. It is home to Gunnison Beach, New Jersey’s only “clothing optional” beach, which admittedly definitely draws a crowd of its own. The western end of Sandy Hook is dog-friendly, which means you and your furry friend can jump in the water together. 


How to get there:
Getting to Sandy Hook from NYC is super easy with Seastreak’s Ferry Service. This ferry service runs from Memorial Day to Labor Day with two departing times, and one return time. The Ferry departs from two locations in New York City, East 35th St, and Wall St, at 8:45 AM and 11:15 AM. The trip takes about 45 minutes. The Ferry back is at 4:10 PM. There is a shuttle bus service to and from the Sandy Hook Beaches. For more info on Seastreak, visit https://seastreak.com/.

Bear Mountain State Park – Bear Mountain, New York

Photo by Sudhagar Shanmugasigamani on Unsplash

Central Park does a great job at blocking outbuildings and noise pollution, but New Yorkers that really want to get away from the city can head north along the Hudson to Bear Mountain State Park. There are endless things to do. Visit the Trailside Zoo. Walk around Lake Hessian and rent paddle boats. Take a dip in the spacious pool, or hike to the mountain’s highest point for fantastic views of the Hudson Valley. The scenery is particularly stunning in early fall when the foliage starts to turn the trees a multitude of colors.


How to get there:
The best way to reach Bear Mountain State Park is by taking a Hudson River Cruise. There’s no better way to see the fantastic sights without the crowds. The Hudson River Cruise offers round trip transportation with breakfast upriver, and a picnic-style BBQ downriver included. The trip in total is 9 hours; three hours to get there, three hours for you to explore, and three hours heading back. The meeting location for this day trip is on Chelsea Piers (pier 62). Guests receive complete details upon purchasing a ticket. Tickets sell out fast so make sure to plan your trip ahead of time. For tickets visit https://sail-nyc.com/.

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Photo by Heidi Kaden Lopyreva on Unsplash

Escaping a city to visit another city? Yes, just like New York City, Philadelphia is full of history and unique places to visit. Best of all, the train ride to Philadelphia is only 90 minutes long. You have infinite choices in The City of Brotherly Love. My favorite place is the Eastern State Penitentiary, which held infamous criminals such as Al Capone and Willie Sutton. You can also opt to check some well-known sights like the Liberty Bell, the Philadelphia Zoo, Independence Hall, the Rodin Museum, and the Rocky Steps, off your list. And no trip is complete until you try at least one Philly cheesesteak. I suggest you share a few with friends, then you can proudly claim to be a fan of Pat’s or Geno’s.


How to get there:
One Amtrak train. That’s all it takes to get to Philadelphia. There’s at least one train heading to and from Philadelphia every hour (sometimes even more) so you do not need to worry about being stranded there. Just purchase your ticket either online or at one of their kiosks at the station and that’s it! You’ll be on your way in no time.

Great Falls – Paterson, New Jersey

Photo by Alexander Veras on Unsplash

Such a close destination that you could walk to it. It would take you seven hours to get there, but you can still walk to it. Paterson, NJ is one of the most important cities in the history of industrialization. In fact, Alexander Hamilton was so impressed when he first visited, he chose it to be the nation’s first planned industrial city. Nicknamed Silk City, it was the leading manufacturer of cotton and silk fabrics, paper, locomotives, and airplane engines. The Paterson Great Falls are some of the largest in volume in the northeast. Not only are the falls are a sight to see, but Paterson is a multicultural city known for its great Dominican, Peruvian, and Italian restaurants. Other great places in the area worth a stop are Lambert Castle Museum, Garret Mountain Reservation, and the Paterson Museum. There are little to few tourists visiting due to the city’s less than stellar reputation. However, as long as you exercise caution, Paterson is not only safe but very much worth the trip.


How to get there:
Getting to the Paterson Great Falls is simple. Just one bus. From 42nd Street’s Port Authority, take bus 161 to Paterson’s Broadway Station (the very last stop). From there it’s only a short walk to the falls (about ten minutes). The entire trip is about an hour, but this is mainly because the 161 is a local bus with many stops. Avoid rush hour for a smoother, quicker trip.

Cover Photo by Jen G

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