Pack your bags! In honor of life’s most delicious highways, we give you Hit the Road, Snack, our travel guide of things to eat, see, and do this summer, from coast to coast.
The other night, I was noodling around my local bodega when I noticed that all the coconut oil, which is normally solid and ivory-hued at room temperature, was transparent and liquid, like water. I took that as a sign. “Get outta here,” said Bert (I named the jar). “Do you want your insides to look like mine?!”
I like being solid, in the physical and spiritual sense, and one surefire way to enjoy the outdoors without losing my dang mind (i.e. chatting with inanimate objects) in the oppressive New York City heat is to leave. But then the FOMO sets in—if I’m away for the weekend, I’ll miss Alice’s barbecue or that cool sculpture exhibit, or an elusive reservation I scored because the regulars are in the Hamptons. For all my kvetching, summer in the city is quite the blast.
That’s when day trips come to the rescue. You don’t need to plan them too far in advance, or book a night to stay, or request to take a day off work, or tell Alice you have to miss her barbecue. If you don’t have a car, you can rent or borrow one. Trains and buses are also great options for most of these trips below.
Gather some company or go solo, but however it is you want to avoid walking under a dripping A/C on the sidewalk, here are some suggestions for destinations you—well, I—could do in a day. I personally don’t mind a three-hour commute (the case for two of these four trips), since I love getting deep into an audiobook on these trips; it’s part of the experience for me. But if being in transit for 6 hours gives you the heebie-jeebies (understandable!), consider staying for the night; there’s plenty to do—or not do—when you're taking some time to relax.
This is, by no means, an exhaustive or “best of” list; it’s quite subjective. As a Jersey girl, I avoided my home state—despite its splendid day trip options—because it doesn’t ring “getaway” to me; and as for other states, well, I’m just not familiar. So please do enlighten me about non–New York State day trips from New York City in the comments, because A) I know they exist, and B) I’d love to expand my repertoire!
With the Metro North to Cold Spring leaving from Grand Central every hour, and the trailhead for the 7-mile trek around Mt. Taurus walking distance from the station, all you need to do to plan this day trip is show up (with the appropriate apparel).
After (or before, or in lieu of) the hike, visit two of the town’s eponymous stores: Cold Spring Apothecary, a small-batch manufacturer of hair, skin, and home products, and Cold Spring General Store.
The ivy-coated, Mansard-roofed shop’s natural witch-hazel bug spray works wonders pre- and post-hike, and if you find yourself wanting to linger in the aromatic space for as long as possible, take advantage of the in-house spa and salon (75 Main Street; 845-232-1272). No one does Hudson Valley–proud like Cold Spring General Store, with their stock of home and kitchen goods (first stop, cookbook shelf) and miscellany dedicated to the area’s passion for art, food, and the natural things in life (66 Main Street; 845-809-5522). The easiest way to feel like you’re inside a Hudson River School artist’s painting is to eat ice cream (!!!) at Moomoo’s Creamery, which bills itself as having the world's best ice cream—and with its sweeping views of the river and flavors like pomegranate chip, Samoa swirl, and Nilla wafer, I'm in no mood to argue (32 West Street; 845-554-3666).
Off Main Street in nearby Garrison, there’s Boscobel House and Gardens, a bright yellow Federalist mansion–turned–design museum with a bevy of family-friendly events throughout the summer, from “magic wand tours” to the Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival, as well as a gorgeous decorative arts collection that’ll make you question if this whole minimalist thing is all it’s cracked up to be (1601 NY-9D, Garrison; 845-265-3638).
Best Way to Get There: The Metro North to Cold Spring leaves from Grand Central Station every hour starting at 6:16 a.m. (There’s a 4:56 a.m. train for you early birds.) By car, it takes about 1 hour and 30 minutes, mostly on the gorgeous Palisades Parkway.
No day trip to New Paltz is the same, even if you go several times in one summer, thanks to the fantastic trails and waterfalls in the nearby Minnewaska State Park and Mohonk Preserve. (The 6.6-mile trail of Gertrude’s Nose is particularly stunning.)
The town, too, has a lot to offer—its main drag is crowded with 19th-century buildings, galleries, yoga studios, and cozy coffee houses like Cafeteria, where a Sunday afternoon coffee comes with live jazz (58 Main Street; 845-633-8287). Gadaleto’s Seafood Market & Restaurant is home to the Jooba-Doobie, a gloriously messy sandwich of grilled white shrimp, barbecue sauce, and frizzled onions (aka fancy onion rings) (246 Main Street; 845-255-1717). Speaking of whimsical names, there’s a tie-dye emporium called Groovy Blueberry right by the Wallkill River and I dare you not to crack a genuine smile when you’re in there.
Stroll down the shopping village at Water Street Market to reach the more straightforwardly named, two-floor Antiques Barn, where time stops at the 1970s, and toast to a day well spent at Jar’d Wine Pub, a cozy wine bar with a sloped wall and William Morris-style wallpaper (10 Main Street; 845-255-1403).
Best Way to Get There: There are about 41 buses that travel between New York’s Port Authority and New Paltz every day, and it takes about 1.5 hours to get there; here’s the complete schedule, effective until early September 2018. To drive there, it takes about 2.5 hours on I-87.
To Extend Your Stay: To stay overnight in nature, camp or consider the Mohonk Mountain House, a resort/literal Victorian castle overlooking the lake (1000 Mountain Rest Road; 855-883-3798), or the more quaint Minnewaska Lodge, where you can gaze up at the Shawangunk Mountains from the comfort of an Adirondack chair (3116 US-44, Gardiner; 845-255-1110).
Nyack, in Rockland County, is a suburb that looks like a village and quacks like a village, and hey, it actually identifies as a village. I used to drive up to this postcard-esque town when I was a high school student in North Jersey quite frequently (and have the parking tickets to prove it) just for the pretty drive. Oh, and homemade ice cream at the peppy, colored brick walled Temptations Cafe, which still exists today, but with a more robust take on American classics, from Memphis-style hot dogs made of kobe beef to jicama slaw (80 1/2 Main Street; 845-353-3355).
This is where Edward Hopper was born and raised (his former home is currently a museum with a sculpture garden and more), so you might recognize the soft teals and impressionistic quality the painter was known for throughout the town (82 North Broadway; 845-358-0774). Thai House, a refreshing change-of-cuisine-pace, is housed inside an old diner cart, and what it lacks in scenic outdoor views, it makes up for in larb (12 Park Street; 845-358-9100). Relax at Art Cafe (65 S Broadway; 845-353-4230) with a book purchased at Pickwick Book Shop (8 S Broadway; 845-358-9126), a local institution that’s been around since 1945.
Adventurous history buffs should heed Atlas Obscura’s suggestion to visit the nearby Clausland Mountain Tunnels, formerly a World War I training camp and currently a series of spooky but powerful, graffiti-filled concrete pathways, one of which is accessed by crawling under the roots of an old tree (Valenza Lane; Blauvelt State Park). For a decidedly less rugged activity, picnic by the riverfront at the 61-acre Nyack Beach State Park, after picking up a couple of 5-inch pies (so you can get multiple!) at Pie Lady & Son (366 North Highland Avenue; 845-535-3290).
The Runcible Spoon is a popular meet-up spot with the area’s many cyclists, due to the town’s proximity to scenic, smoothly-paved Route 9W (37-9 North Broadway; 845-358-9398). A bicycle is, in my opinion, the best way to get around the area, not only because the roads are friendly towards two-wheelers, but also because this area is filled with adorable towns (see: Piermont) and state parks that are difficult to access without a means of independent transport. CrankWorks and 9W bikes offer daily rentals, but make sure you call ahead because there’s high demand in the summer. Otherwise, a car or ride-share service (widely available in the area) would do you good.
Best Way to Get There: Both the Metro North (from Grand Central) and Rockland Coaches (from Port Authority) have trains and buses, respectively, that leave every hour and get you to Nyack in an hour.
If You’d Like to Extend Your Stay: The Time, Nyack is an upscale boutique hotel with bright turquoise curtains and pool to lounge around (400 High Avenue; 844-200-8715). Across the Tappan Zee Bridge in Tarrytown is the Tarrytown House Estate, a more traditional take on luxury, with its Gilded Age style of ruffled curtains and chandeliers galore (49 East Sunnyside Lane; 914-591-8200).
If you listen to Carly Simon’s “You’re So Vain” as often as I do, you know this Revolutionary Era town just outside Albany is iconic for its horse races—and the lovely, ornate hats worn at them, which you can examine without rudely ogling at its adorners at haberdasheries like Saratoga Trunk or Hatsational. The most famous event of the sporting season is the annual Travers Race on August 25, but as an alumnus of the nearby Skidmore College, I can assure you that any of the less-chaotic races throughout the summer are just as fun to spectate.
Horses or no horses, this Adirondack gem has a whole load of sights, though you do have the option to unplug and relax, as the area is known for its spas. I’ll admit here that I perhaps too wishfully added it to this “day trips” list, as it does take 3 hours to reach from New York (2 1/2, if you drive like I do), but it’s such a stunning place that I couldn’t not.
I always start my visits—yes! a day trip visit!—with a croissant at Mrs. London’s, or if I’m not solo, a pizza at the next-door brother restaurant Max London’s, and I’ll buy loaves of fresh-baked bread to take home, trying my darndest to not to eat it all in the car ride back (466 Broadway; 518.-587-0505). If there’s a line at either of these places (likely), stop by the nearby Saratoga Olive Oil Company for an improvised appetizer of bread with many different sample-size varieties of classic and infused olive oils, balsamic vinegars, seasoned salts, and the like (484 Broadway; 844-465-4836). Browsing the mostly independently-owned boutiques on Broadway, the city’s wide central artery and its side streets could easily take up most of your day if you’re no mindful of time. Buy a bag of an ultra-smooth blend called “The Clean Bean” at Saratoga Coffee Traders, and get a free coffee with it (447 Broadway; 518-584-5600).
If you’ve talked yourself out of buying five or six books at the idyllic, sprawling-for-its-size Northshire Bookstore (424 Broadway; 518-682-4200), go around the corner to used bookstore Lyrical Ballad (7 Phila Street; 518-584-8779), which is located in a former bank vault, and stock up on antique atlases and cookbooks because you will totally use them later! You will!
A disappointing meal is hard to find; for casual, grab a sandwich at Putnam Market (431 Broadway; 518-587-3663) and eat it at a gazebo in Congress Park, and for fancy, head to the iconic Southern restaurant Hattie’s (45 Phila Street; 518-584-4790), which still operates out of its original 1938 wooden shack (albeit it now lives, stylishly updated, in their courtyard).
Off gallery-studded Beekman Street, eat at The Local, a gastropub with the British fare (Welsh rarebit! Bubble and squeak!) to match the small city’s Victorian architecture (142 Grand Avenue; 518-587-7256). Oh, and there’s no way you can leave without a scoop of black raspberry ice cream, available at any Stewart’s gas station, or the soft serve version of it at Dairy Haus (476 Maple Avenue; 518-796-5568).
Best Way to Get There: A car is your best bet if you’re doing a day trip—as long as you have the stamina to leave early and come back late, like I do (for this town, because it’s worth it). If you’re staying the night, take one of the two Amtrak trains that leave from Penn Station daily.
If You’d Like to Extend Your Stay: The newly remodeled (but still possibly haunted) Adelphi Hotel (365 Broadway; 518-678-6000), with its porch seating and stupendous lobby bar, is an out-of-towner favorite right on Broadway, and the just as luxurious but more secluded Gideon Putnam is a spa-focused resort just outside of town (24 Gideon Putnam Road; 866-890-1171). You’ll find no shortage of Airbnb listings, either, since horseracing season brings the crowds.
At North Fork Roasting Company, you may have trouble deciding between the sausage Sammy and duck egg burrito, but accompanied by their house-roasted coffee, there’s no room for regrets (55795 Main Road; 631-876-5450). In more caffeine news, don't roam the pier without an iced coffee from Aldo's in hand (103-105 Front Street; 631-477-6300). Pick up a book at Burton's Book Store (43 Front Street; 631-477-1161), then bike over, if possible, to the quiet-ish 67 Steps Beach (66 Sound Road).
Bruce & Son, a tastefully decorated restaurant with white-washed walls, serves matcha pancakes, ratatouille toast with vegetable ash, and iced beetroot lattes like it's no big deal (208 Main Street; 631-477-0023). 1943 Pizza Bar always features specials that utilize local ingredients from all the farms nearby (garlic scape ricotta or peppercorn-crusted bacon, for example) (308 Main Street; 631-477-6984).
If you’re not operating a vehicle, then play a round of corn-hole, summer ale in hand, at the original Greenport Harbor Brewing Company, which is a stone’s throw from a historic jail-turned-museum (234 Carpenter Street; 631-477-1100). Notable vineyards in the area include Bedell, with its elegant, sun-washed tasting room (36225 NY-25; 631-734-7537), and Kontokosta, where you can walk out and sip your wine while gazing at the bluffs (825 North Road; 631-477-6977).
Best Way to Get There: The Hampton Jitney bus has about 7 trips to Greenport daily, and both the Metro North and LIRR offer multiple options to get there by train (duration by bus or train is usually around 3 hours). Getting there by car takes about the same amount of time.
If You’d Like to Extend Your Stay: The comfortable, 35-room Harborfront Inn at Greenport overlooks Peconic Bay (209 Front Street; 631-477-0707). Stirling House is a small B&B fronting Shelter Island (104 Bay Avenue; 631-477-0654), and Tapestry House is a 1908 revival mansion with 10 guest rooms (503 Front Street; 631-477-0371); both are strolling distance from Greenport village.
Additional reporting by Grace Montgomery, Katie Macdonald, and Posie Harwood.