The Big Apple is lots of fun, but if you’re looking for things to do outside NYC, you’ll be pleased to know that there are tons of good options. From sprawling state parks to charming coastal communities and artsy downtown districts, there is a wide variety of attractions near NYC.
This guide includes 10 fun activities just outside New York City and where to find them. So, whether you’re craving some time away from the city, or you’re passing through Manhattan and want to see what you can do nearby, this article will help you out.
1. Take a vacation in The Hamptons, one of the top things to do outside NYC
First, The Hamptons is one of the best places to visit outside New York City, especially during the summer. This luxurious seaside resort has a rich history and beautiful beaches, so it’s a great place to go with friends or as a couple.
Once you visit this popular summer colony, you’ll see why it’s considered one of the most charming places near NYC. The Hamptons include several distinct communities, each with its unique characteristics and attractions.
For example, Southampton is the largest community in The Hamptons and offers museums, vineyards, sidewalk cafes, and the lovely Cooper’s Beach.
A nice alternative is East Hampton, which is home to artsy shops and boutiques, or Montauk Point State Park, where you can see the imposing red-and-white lighthouse. Built in 1796, it’s one of the oldest lighthouses in the U.S., and a National Historic Landmark.
If you want to visit a beach near NYC without a car, take this Hamptons day trip from New York City. You’ll be able to visit Southampton and other nearby villages, making it one of the best day trips from NYC.
- Recommended accommodation: The Southampton Inn is the perfect place to stay in Southampton, as it combines a summer cottage vibe with modern conveniences. The hotel has free parking, a pool, a game room, and it’s a few minutes from Cooper’s Beach.
2. Mohonk Preserve, a lovely place to go near NYC
The Mohonk Preserve is just two hours from the Big Apple, making it one of the best drives from NYC that you can do as a family. This protected natural area spans 8,000 acres in the Shawangunk Mountains, so there is plenty of space to stretch your legs and explore.
The preserve was created as a conservation effort, and you can learn more by visiting the Daniel Smiley Research Center. Here, you can peruse thousands of mammal, bird, butterfly, and herbarium specimens. The center also has a research library and an impressive photograph collection.
It’s also worth checking out the Visitor Center, where you can find maps and other info. Outside the Visitor Center, you’ll find a trailhead that branches off to several hiking routes. Try the Undercliff-Overcliff Loop, which provides lovely views of the Catskills and the Wallkill Valley. A good alternative is the J & S Grafton Sensory Trail, an easy ¼-mile route that goes past the Weinstein Butterfly Garden.
You can also go biking or horseback riding along the old carriage roads or do some rock climbing on the “Gunks cliffs.” The Mohonk Preserve also has a campsite, so it’s a beautiful place close to New York where you can escape into nature.
- Recommended accommodation: The picturesque Minnewaska Lodge in Gardiner is a few miles from the Mohonk Preserve and Lake Minnewaska State Park. The oak furniture and cabin décor give the inn a super rustic vibe that’s perfect for staying in upstate NY.
3. Visit Jones Beach State Park, one of the best things to do just outside New York City
Jones Beach State Park has one of the best beaches near NYC, so visiting it is a great thing to do outside NYC during the summer months. Located on the southern shore of Long Island, this park boasts over six miles of coastline along the Atlantic Ocean, as well as a family-friendly atmosphere.
Part of what makes this one of the top places near New York City is the clean beach where you can sunbathe, go swimming, or enjoy the surf. The park also has a public pool and children’s playgrounds, so you can come here with the entire family. Other fun activities include basketball, corn hole, pickleball, ping pong, and shuffleboard.
Spend the morning enjoying the sea breeze along the walking and jogging path, stop for lunch at a boardwalk café, and join family or friends in a game of mini-golf in the afternoon. You’ll find no shortage of ways to spend the day here, plus you’ll be close to nearby attractions like Fire Island and Old Westbury Gardens.
- Recommended accommodation: Check in at the Jones Beach Hotel, which is less than a 10-minute drive from Jones Beach State Park. You’ll enjoy free Wi-Fi, on-site dining, and a spa bathtub where you can relax after a long day.
4. Visit Thomas Edison National Historic Park, another top thing to do outside NYC
Thomas Edison National Historic Park offers lots of fun things to do outside NYC, so it’s worth a visit. The park has two distinct areas about a ½-mile from each other: Edison’s lab complex and his former home in Llewellyn Park.
Edison himself built the lab in 1887, and the entire complex contains several buildings, including his library, office, photography studio, machine shop, and labs for chemistry, metallurgy, and physics. He had a previous lab before this one, which he built in 1876. It’s located in Menlo Park, about 40 minutes away.
The laboratory complex at the national historic park helped Edison achieve his advancements in phonographs, sound recordings, and motion picture cameras, so it’s quite an important site.
At Llewellyn Park, you can visit the Glenmont Estate where Edison lived with his second wife, Mina. The beautiful home was built in the 1880s in the Queen Anne style and features 29 rooms and a greenhouse with native and exotic plants. The home was also one of the first to have the modern amenities we enjoy today, such as indoor flush toilets, electrical wiring, and a water heater.
The home was declared a National Historic Site in 1955 and, behind the house, you can see Thomas Edison’s and Mina’s burial sites.
- Recommended accommodation: Stay at the Cambria Hotel West Orange, where you’ll be just three miles from the Thomas Edison National Historic Park. Plus, the hotel has free parking, an indoor pool, and private bathrooms.
5. Bear Mountain State Park, another great place to visit near NYC
If you’re looking for a beautiful place near NYC where you can enjoy nature, head to Bear Mountain State Park. Named for Bear Mountain, which looks like a bear when viewed in profile, the park spans over 5,200 acres and grants you sweeping views of the Hudson River.
The recreational activities here include biking, hiking, boating, swimming, and, in the winter, cross-country skiing, sledding, and ice skating. If you’re looking for family things to do outside New York City, you can rent a paddleboat at Hessian Lake, take the kids to the playground, or visit the Trailside Museums, which have exhibits on geology and history.
Also, Bear Mountain is right next to another park, Harriman State Park, which is home to hiking routes like the Blue Disc Trail and Long Path, as well as the beautiful Lake Sebago. It’s a popular place to do some wildlife viewing and camping, but if you just want to pass through these parks, take the Perkins Memorial Drive, a scenic road that leads to the summit of Bear Mountain. From there, you can get a panoramic view of the park and the greater Palisades Interstate Park, which I’ll talk about next.
- Recommended accommodation: Stay at The Overlook Lodge & Stone Cottages at Bear Mountain for views of the Hudson River and Hessian Lake. It has woodland hiking trails, an ice skating rink, and a pool, plus it’s less than a 15-minute drive to Harriman State Park.
6. Palisades Interstate Park, a beautiful place to go near NYC
Bear Mountain State Park and Harriman State Park are part of the larger Palisades Interstate Park, a huge riverfront park that stretches across New York and New Jersey. Declared a National Historic Landmark in 1965, the park features breathtaking cliffs, overlooks, and hiking trails. It’s certainly one of the best things to do in New Jersey, so if you’re looking for natural attractions near NYC, be sure to check it out.
The New Jersey portion of the park takes up about 12 miles in Fort Lee and offers picnic areas, lookout points, hiking routes, and other natural features. Hiking enthusiasts can enjoy over 30 miles of trails, such as the Long Path route, which leads to the stunning Rockefeller Lookout. Another great route is the Shore Trail, which goes past the Kearney House, a historic homestead and tavern from the 1800s.
The Kearney House is just one of the historic landmarks in the park, several of which date back to the American Revolutionary War. For example, Fort Lee Historic Park was an important encampment during the war, while the Hasbrouck House was the home of General George Washington during the final year of the war. You can also visit the Stony Point Battlefield State Historic Site, where the battle of Stony Point took place in 1779.
Again, Palisades Interstate Park is huge, so if you want, you can drive along the Palisades Scenic Byway, which runs through forests and along the cliffs of the Hudson River.
- Recommended accommodation: Hyatt Place Fort Lee/George Washington Bridge is a 12-minute drive from Palisades Interstate Park, or you could check our guide on where to stay in NYC.
7. Storm King Art Center, one of the best attractions near NYC
Visiting the Storm King Art Center is another fun thing to do outside NYC, and it’s just an hour from Manhattan. This open-air museum originated as a museum for the Hudson River School’s paintings, and it eventually evolved into an outdoor sculpture garden.
Today, it’s home to the biggest collection of contemporary outdoor sculptures in the U.S., with works by Alexander Calder, David Smith, Richard Serra, and Isamu Noguchi, among others. The Storm King Art Center takes up about 500 acres, so you can rent a bike from the visitor center to cover more ground. Besides the intriguing sculptures and landscaped grounds, you can marvel at the beautiful natural backdrop, which looks especially gorgeous during the fall.
The permanent collection contains 115 sculptures, and the museum holds special exhibits throughout the year. Admission is $20 per person, and you should plan on spending a few hours here. Before or after your visit, consider visiting nearby Storm King Mountain, which stands 1,340 feet above the Hudson Highlands.
- Recommended accommodations: The Beacon Hermitage is about 30 minutes from the Art Center, but it’s also in the town of Beacon, so it’s worth staying at if you’re also visiting this city. If you prefer something closer to Storm King, the Caldwell House Bed & Breakfast offers private suites with a kitchenette and bathroom.
8. Go to Greenwich, CT, a popular thing to do outside New York City
Even though it’s in Connecticut, Greenwich is just an hour from the Big Apple, so it’s another great place near New York. Greenwich offers a bit of everything – history, architecture, public parks, a downtown district, and even a beautiful coastline.
History buffs can check out the Revolutionary War-era buildings like the Bush-Holley House and Putnam’s Cottage, while those in search of art and culture can explore downtown Greenwich’s museums and shops.
If you plan to spend more time here, then you should check out the nearby natural surroundings. For example, Greenwich Point Park is a beautiful park with a beach where you can swim, sunbathe, and bike along the water.
Alternatively, Montgomery Pinetum Park at the Greenwich Botanical Center offers scenic walking trails, and it’s right next to Pomerance Park, a wooded area with hiking routes, a pond, an old mansions, and other historical buildings.
- Recommended accommodation: The J House Greenwich Hotel is conveniently located between Greenwich and Stamford, close to Putnam Cottage and Montgomery Pinetum Park.
9. Sleepy Hollow, NY, a place to visit near NYC during the fall
Located along the banks of the Hudson River, Sleepy Hollow is notorious for its portrayal in the Legend of Sleepy Hollow, which describes the ghost of the Headless Horseman. While it’s considered a haunted place, Sleepy Hollow is one of the safest and most charming small towns in the country and a beautiful place near NYC to visit.
This town offers lots of historical sites and unique structures, so you’ll feel like you’re walking through a storybook. Pay a visit to the Old Dutch Church, built in the 1690s, and the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, which is just steps away from the Headless Horseman Bridge.
It’s also worth visiting the old Tarrytown Lighthouse and the Philipsburg Manor House, a Colonial-era estate with a water mill and museum. The home dates back to the 1690s, and the living-history museum employees wear period clothing and demonstrate old colonial chores like milking cows, grinding grain, and farming.
Sleepy Hollow is also close to the Rockefeller State Park Preserve, a lush 1,1770-acre park with wooded hiking trails and carriage roads. A Visitor Center and non-profit farm are also located in the park, as well as Rockwood Hall, the former home of William Rockefeller.
Since it’s just 30 miles from NYC, visiting Sleepy Hollow is the perfect thing to do outside New York, especially if you’re a fan of history.
- Recommended accommodation: If you want the full experience, stay at the Castle Hotel & Spa, where you can sleep in a castle room and enjoy pristine facilities like an outdoor pool and hot tub, terrace lounge, and daily breakfast in the Garden Room.
10. Beacon, NY, another great thing to see near New York City
Last but not least, Beacon, NY is one of the top weekend getaways from NYC, offering all kinds of fun attractions outside New York City.
Located in the Hudson Valley, Beacon is a beautiful relic of the past, full of historic landmarks like Bannerman Castle, an abandoned military warehouse. You can also see old Victorian and Gothic architecture at the Eustatia cottage and the Madam Brett Homestead.
There also lovely public parks and art galleries, particularly Dia Beacon, an impressive gallery space housed in an old Nabisco box-printing factory. Dia Beacon contains paintings, photographs, and sculptures from the 1960s to present-day, and is one of the biggest art museums in the country.
If you’re looking for nature-related things to do outside New York City, Mt. Beacon Park is gorgeous and full of scenic hiking trails, as well as an old 60-foot fire tower that you can climb. It’s also worth seeing Hudson Highlands State Park, home to endangered species like the bald eagle and the Wilkinson Memorial Trail, leading to the highest peak in Beacon.
It’s also worth noting that Beacon is close to another beautiful city, Cold Spring, NY. Its Historic District has an impressive collection of 19th-century buildings, and its Main Street is lined with cute little shops and restaurants. You can also visit the Stonecrop Gardens, a public alpine garden; or go hiking on the Foundry Preserve Trail or the Breakneck Ridge Loop.
- Recommended accommodation: Stay at the lovely Beacon Hermitage, a bed and breakfast surrounded by landscaped gardens in the Hudson River Valley. It’s about three miles from downtown Beacon’s galleries and shops.
Now you know the 10 best things to do outside New York City! You can download this map with all the places I mentioned; it’ll help you decide where to visit near New York and, maybe plan longer road trips from NYC.
I hope you enjoyed reading about some of the most interesting places close to NYC. If you have any questions or you’d like to add your recommendation, leave me a comment below. I’ll be happy to answer you! Until then, have a safe trip.