Manhattan isn’t far from some of the most beautiful places in the Eastern U.S., so if you’ve been thinking of taking a road trip from New York City, I highly recommend it!
From historic cities and resort towns to beaches and majestic mountains, there are many things to discover just a few hours from the Big Apple. If you’re willing to drive a bit further, I’ve got even more NYC road trip ideas for you!
Also, in case you’re visiting Manhattan from out-of-town, you can rent a car in NYC for your road trip. We always use Rentalcars because they have the cheapest rates and operate nationwide.
1. Ithaca & the Finger Lakes, NY, one of the best road trips from New York City
♦ 225 miles, 4 hrs 30 mins total driving
Traveling northwest through the Pocono Mountains, you can make your way to Ithaca, NY, one of the best drivable vacations from NYC. Ithaca offers a nice blend of cultural institutions, natural areas, and recreation, so it’s a lovely year-round destination.
As a college town, Ithaca is home to interesting attractions like the Museum of the Earth, the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, and the Cornell Botanic Garden, among others. Also, the city is at the southern tip of Cayuga Lake, one of the most popular Finger Lakes.
The Finger Lakes region is 9,000 square miles, encompassing 11 thin lakes, a national forest, ski resorts, tons of wineries, and beautiful state parks. Savor the scenery and tastes of the Cayuga Lake Wine Trail, marvel at the artistic creations at the Corning Museum of Glass, and enjoy lovely hiking routes like the Finger Lakes Trail.
A visit to Ithaca and the Finger Lakes is one of the best road trips from NYC, and the drive isn’t too long, so you can venture to lots of different places. I highly recommend going to Buttermilk Falls State Park or Watkins Glen, one of our favorite places to visit in New York state.
2. Niagara Falls, NY, one of the most popular road trips from NYC
♦ 400 miles, 6 hrs 45 mins total driving
Niagara Falls is one of the best tours from NYC that you can take as a family or a couple. The American side of the falls offers beautiful viewpoints and plenty of activities ranging from thrilling to romantic.
For example, the Cave of the Winds attraction and the Maid of the Mist boat ride are two of the best things to do in Niagara Falls, NY. Both will give you an up-close view of the waterfalls, so be prepared to get wet! There are other ways to see the falls, including the lookout areas at Terrapin Point and Prospect Point. You can also go to the top of the observation tower or even take a helicopter tour.
You can also extend this road trip from NYC to Niagara Falls by crossing the border into Canada. Here, you can see the Canadian side of Niagara falls and explore downtown Toronto.
3. Lake Placid (The Adirondacks), NY, the best road trip from NYC to upstate New York
♦ 290 miles, 5 hrs total driving
Lake Placid is one of the best road trips from NYC if you want to stay in-state. Along the way, you can pass through Saratoga Springs, a popular resort town with intriguing and potentially health-boosting mineral springs. If you go here, be sure to also visit Saratoga Springs Heritage Area Visitor Center, Saratoga Spa State Park, and the Geyser Island Spouter.
Then, continue your drive into the Adirondacks, where you’ll find Lake Placid, an ideal destination for a winter vacation. The recreational activities on Whiteface Mountain are plentiful, ranging from alpine skiing and bobsledding to sliding down the toboggan chute.
If you travel from NYC to Lake Placid in the summer, you’ll have your pick of hiking routes, including the Avalanche Lake Trail, the Cascade Mountain Trail, and the Mount Jo Loop. You’ll also want to spend time at Mirror Lake, a stunning watercourse where you can camp, kayak, and paddleboard.
I also recommend a visit to High Falls Gorge, a nearby park with an easy yet gorgeous hiking trail over rushing waterfalls.
4. Boston, MA, one of the best NYC road trip ideas
♦ 225 miles, 4 hrs 30 mins total driving
The driving distance from NYC to Boston is short enough to warrant a weekend road trip. Boston is one of the closest cities to NYC and a haven for foodies, history buffs, and art lovers, so it’s no wonder why it’s one of the top day trips from NYC.
A few must-see attractions to visit while you’re here include the Prudential Tower and its 50th-floor observatory, the scenic Boston Harbor waterfront, and the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway. The latter is a downtown park with beautiful gardens, plazas, and public art, and it serves as a thoroughfare between Chinatown and the North End.
It’s also worth spending some time at the Boston Public Garden, the deCordova Museum & Sculpture Park, or one of the museums at Harvard. Later, you can relax at the Boston Common, the city’s main park, perhaps with a lobster roll or Fenway frank.
You can streamline your day trip from NYC to Boston by taking this tour from Manhattan, or consider extending your adventure with a pitstop in Westerly or Newport, Rhode Island. Westerly is a popular resort town in New England with pretty beaches, while Newport sits on the Narragansett Bay. In addition to its 17th-century architecture, it offers coastal cruises, sailing, and vineyards.
5. Montreal, Quebec, a great road trip from NYC to Canada
♦ 375 miles, 6 hrs 10 mins total driving
If you have a valid passport, a New York to Montreal road trip is a must-do! Montreal is one of the most unique cities in Quebec and all of Canada. With its primarily French-speaking population and its incredible 17th-century architecture, Montreal feels like a storybook setting.
As you stroll through the city streets, take in the striking colonial buildings and historic monuments, such as the Palace Royale, the Citadelle de Québec, and the Notre-Dame de Québec Basilica-Cathedral. The narrow cobblestone streets, aromatic bakeries, and sidewalk cafes of Old Montreal exude a Parisian charm, and certainly make driving from New York to Canada well worth it!
The Ramparts of Montreal surround the old city and date back to 1716 when they were built as a protective fortification. They’re a sight to behold, as is the Château Frontenac, a castle-like hotel and National Historic Landmark. It’s next to Dufferin Terrace, a lovely waterfront promenade along the St. Lawrence River where you can people-watch and feel the breeze.
Besides admiring the history and culture of Montreal, the best thing you can do is a whale watching tour in Quebec. Seeing whales, dolphins, and seals in the wild is a magical experience, and I recommend doing the tour on your first or second day here, so you can repeat it if you don’t see any cetaceans.
6. Portland & Acadia National Park, the best road trip from NYC to Maine
♦ 490 miles, 8 hrs total driving
Consider a multi-day road trip from NYC to Maine for a unique outdoor adventure. I specifically recommend Portland, a lovely New England city with a vibrant Arts District full of museums and galleries. Check out the Portland Museum of Art and the SPACE Gallery, a visual arts and performance venue. If you’re traveling with kids, the Children’s Museum of Maine is worth a visit.
Soak in the charm of the Portland Head Lighthouse and the Portland Observatory, and if there is a food festival happening during your trip, I highly recommend checking it out! Also, don’t forget to spend some time at the Old Port and the waterfront, where you can walk along the Eastern Promenade and take a harbor cruise.
After spending time in Portland, travel three hours north to Acadia National Park, one of the best drivable vacations from NYC. Here, you can escape into nature and see one of the tallest peaks in the country, Cadillac Mountain. You’ll love driving along the historic carriage roads or hiking along the exposed cliffsides of Precipice Trail or Beehive Trail.
Otter Cliff is a popular climbing spot, while Bubble Rock and Thunder Hole are two interesting formations. You must also visit the Bass Harbor Head Light, a picturesque lighthouse and one of the park’s top landmarks. The summer months offer kayaking and swimming at the park’s beaches while skiing and snowshoeing are common winter activities.
7. Tour through New England, the best fall road trip from New York City
♦ 430 miles, 7 hrs 20 mins total driving
Without a doubt, one of the best fall road trips from NYC is this ultimate excursion through New England. Start with a three-hour drive to Mystic, CT, one of the best weekend getaways from NYC. Mystic’s small-town charm is evident in its picture-perfect parks, scenic river, and historic sites. Check out the Mystic Museum of Art, the Denison Pequotsepos Nature Center, or Olde Mistick Village, a living-history museum.
Then, head an hour northeast to Providence, RI, one of the oldest cities in the U.S. Admire the works of art at the RISD Museum, learn some history at the State House, and stroll through the Roger Williams Park Botanical Center, the largest glasshouse garden in New England. I also recommend spending time in Federal Hill, Providence’s downtown district.
The next leg of this family road trip from NYC brings you to Boston, MA, a wonderful city that I’ve already mentioned. Take your time soaking in the culture of Boston, then head to Stowe, VT, passing through the breathtaking foliage of New Hampshire along the way.
Once in Stowe, enjoy some time outdoors at Smuggler’s Notch State Park, Moss Glen Falls, and Sterling Falls Gorge. The Vermont Ski & Snowboard Museum is a fun attraction and may entice you to hit the skiing or hiking trails. Satisfy your sweet tooth at the Ben & Jerry’s Factory, and if you’re a fan of The Sound of Music, don’t forget to visit the Trapp Family Lodge.
8. Philadelphia & Washington, D.C., a fun family road trip from NYC
♦ 235 miles, 4 hrs 10 mins total driving
Driving from New York to Philadelphia takes less than two hours, so it’s perfect for a weekend road trip from NYC. Philadelphia is one of the most important cities in the country, so take advantage of your time in Manhattan to see this historic place!
Of all the top things to do in Philly, visiting Independence National Historical Park is a must-do. Here, you can see the Liberty Bell and visit Independence Hall, as well as City Hall and the Betsy Ross House a few blocks away. I also recommend visiting one or two museums along the Ben Franklin Parkway, checking out the waterfront at Penn’s Landing, and stopping by Franklin Square.
Also, you may want to maximize your time with this full-day trip to Philly and nearby Amish Country. Or, if you’d like to see another major city, do this day trip from NYC to Philly and Washington, D.C.
As the nation’s capital, Washington, D.C. is a haven for museum and history lovers. Exploring the Smithsonian Museums along the National Mall is one of the best things to do in Washington, D.C., although choosing which museum to visit is difficult.
Of course, you must walk past the White House and contemplate the memorials and monuments to George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson, Martin Luther King, Jr., and other historic figures. Also, pay your respects at the Vietnam Veterans, Korean War Veterans, and World War II Memorials.
9. Outer Banks, the best summer road trip from NYC to North Carolina
♦ 475 miles, 10 hrs 15 mins total driving
The Outer Banks make for one of the best beach road trips from NYC. It’s a long drive, so I recommend breaking up the trip with a stop at Cape May, one of the top New Jersey beaches.
Cape May is a National Historic Landmark at the southern tip of Jersey, and it’s known for its Victorian mansions, B&Bs, and pretty beaches. Keep an eye out for dolphins, or do a Cape May whale-watching tour!
From here, you can take the Cape May-Lewes Ferry over to Delaware, and continue driving south to Virginia Beach. This beautiful resort town is home to seaside attractions like the Virginia Beach Boardwalk, the Cape Henry Lighthouse, and the Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge. There are also state parks, museums, and wineries here, so you can tailor your itinerary to your tastes.
Outer Banks is 2.5 hours from Virginia Beach, and besides its tranquil beaches, it offers unique oceanfront attractions. Check out the striking black-and-white-striped lighthouse along the Cape Hatteras National Seashore and the impressive dunes at Jockey’s Ridge State Park. The stately Elizabethan Gardens are worth a visit, as are the shipwrecks at the Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum. There are ample recreational activities here, including golfing, hang-gliding, and jet skiing, so this is one NY to North Carolina road trip you won’t forget!
10. Road trip to the Pennsylvania Wilds, a great road trip from NYC for nature lovers
♦ 265 miles, 5 hrs 30 mins total driving
One of the things we learned during our time living in Philadelphia was that Pennsylvania is full of stunning natural areas. I couldn’t end this list of NYC road trip ideas without mentioning the PA Wilds.
The Pennsylvania Wilds is a huge area encompassing over 2 million acres of forests, parks, trails, rivers, and the largest free-roaming elk herd in the northeastern U.S. Some of the most beautiful parts of the PA Wilds are Cherry Springs State Park and Pine Creek Gorge. The former is a fantastic stargazing spot, while the latter is a geological wonder offering amazing views. Here, you can go hiking along the Pine Creek Rail Trail or Golden Eagle Trail. You’ll see why this region is called the Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania!
I recommend maximizing this road trip from NYC by visiting two other popular places in Pennsylvania. First, the Poconos is one of my favorite places in PA. It’s known for its ski resorts, although you can come here in the summer for warm-weather activities like hiking, camping, and white-water rafting. The Pocono Mountains are also home to Bushkill Falls, which are often called “The Niagara of Pennsylvania,” and amazing state parks like Promised Land, Lehigh Gorge, and Hickory Run.
Another worthy stop is Ricketts Glen, an old-growth forest and National Natural Landmark. This scenic area is full of waterfalls, rock formations, and beautiful flora, and we even run photo tours here.
I hope this guide gave you some NYC road trip ideas! Here is a map with all of the road trips I recommend, so you can plan your itinerary.
If you’d like to share your favorite road trip from New York City or a route that you plan to do, leave me a comment below. Until then, have an awesome trip!