Escape The Big Apple: 5 Of The Best Day Trips In New York State

‘’New York, New York, it’s a wonderful town.’’ 

Whilst Sinatra certainly had it right when he sang that perky paean to The Big Apple in the 1949 smash film On The Town, there are times when New York can feel a little stifling, let’s be honest. 

Because when you’re living in the city that never sleeps, that frantic, always-on attitude can get a little wearying. Sometimes it feels like the original lyrics, that New York is ‘one hell of a town’, might have been more accurate.

For those moments when you need to escape The Big Apple, frolic amongst the trees, skinny dip in a deep ravine, and breathe in some fresh air free from exhaust fumes, here are 5 of the best day trips in New York State.

Big Indian Wilderness, Claryville

140 miles north of Manhattan

If you find that rocking up to Momofuku Ssam Bar and ordering a pork bao bun is just too easy, and you’re keen to get more in touch with your primitive side, catching dinner with your bare hands and sleeping out under the stars, then the Big Indian Wilderness in Claryville is where you should be headed.

33’500 acres of gorgeous virgin forest, complete with eight prominent mountain peaks and a whole host of amazing trails, will have you forgetting all about life back in New York. And if it’s hunting you’re after, then the nature reserve is open to hunting and trapping within season, though you’ll of course need a licence alongside additional annual hunting privileges, permits and stamps.

By Cheryl Futon grom Getty images via Canva

Sounds like a lot of bother, don’t you think? For something a little more cerebral, the trout fishing at the Big Indian Wilderness is superb, with the headwaters of the Esopus Creek, the Beaverkill, the Neversink and the Willowemoc boasting some of the finest trout fisheries in all of the Catskills. Again, you’ll need a licence, though. 

Alternatively, you could just enjoy the serenity of this sprawling expanse, with wild camping incredibly popular here if you’re keen to turn this day trip into a longer adventure. If you fancy a few more modcons, there are plenty of glamping options in New York State, including in Big Indian.

It takes around three hours to drive from Manhattan to Big Indian Wilderness. Alternatively, you could catch a bus from Port Authority Bus Terminal, which run three times a day, and should get you to Big Indian in around three and a half hours. You may need to change at West Hurley.

Brotherhood Winery, Washingtonville

57 miles north of Manhattan

If you’d rather kick back with a glass or two, America’s Oldest Winery is just a cork’s throw from New York City. The Brotherhood Winery was founded in 1839 and offers tours of the estate’s underground cellars as well as guided tasting sessions for those who like to compare bouquet, nose, effervescence and transparency. 

And the good news just gets better; a tour and tasting at the Brotherhood Winery is remarkable value, costing just $25 per person. 

The winery is around an hour and a quarter’s drive from Manhattan. Should you be heading to the winery by public transport, your best option is to take the ShortLine Hudson 1711 bus from Broadway & W 167th St towards Montgomery. When you get to Washingtonville, alight at the Municipal Parking Lot on West Main Street. From there, the winery is a short walk.

Read: 6 IDEAL places to visit in New York State

Bear Mountain State Park, Rockland and Orange Counties

40 miles north of Manhattan

Bear Mountain State Park is a sprawling 5000 acre park boasting a wide range of activities, with swimming (both freshwater and in the dedicated swimming pool), biking, hiking, boating, and even sledding, skiing and ice skating, all taking place on the banks of the Hudson River.

If that all sounds a little high octane for someone simply looking to escape the city for a while, then fear not; there’s even a cute little zoo here, and an inn with its own eatery, Restaurant 1915, for those looking to indulge in some creature comforts in a laid back setting.

Bear Mountain State Park is around an hour’s drive from Manhattan. If you’re planning to travel here by train, you can take the Metro-North from Grand Central Terminal to Peekskill station, and then take a taxi across the river to the park. The cab should set you back around $30 one way.

Cold Spring, Putnam County

45 miles north of Manhattan

If you’re keen to escape the Big Apple but still enjoy some semblance of ‘urban’ living, with shops, restaurants and bars, then perhaps Cold Spring, a faithfully preserved 19th century village in the town of Philipstown, might be just what you’re looking for?

Visiting this hugely picturesque place is a wonderful way to spend a day, with a centre characterised by beautifully manicured gardens, boutique shops, hip art galleries and antiques stores, many of which can be found along Main Street.

Make sure you visit the Magazzino Italian Art museum and research centre while you’re here, which exhibits lots of fantastic post-war Italian art and sculpture, before enjoying some superb seafood at Hudson House. The New England lobster and avocado roll is superb! For afters, Moo Moo’s Creamery and its luscious ice cream is something of an institution round these parts.

But that’s not all; Cold Spring is home to a gorgeous riverside park, with hiking and biking trails, as well as water sports, all available.

The drive from Manhattan to Cold Spring takes roughly an hour. Alternatively, hourly trains run from Harlem 125 St to Cold Spring, with the journey direct and taking just over an hour.

Storm King Art Center, New Windsor

57 miles north of Manhattan

The open air museum, art gallery, sculpture garden and exhibition space known as Storm King Art Center (owing to its proximity to the mountain Storm King) boasts the largest collection of outdoor installations in the entire United States. 

Open since 1960 and home to more than 100 sculptures at any one time, it’s a gorgeous, relaxing place to spend time, sprawling over 500 acres and looking out and over the Hudson Valley.

In fact, it takes around three hours to explore the whole grounds, and that’s not taking into account the time you’ll need to stop, stroke your chin, stare into the middle distance and ponder the meaning of each piece within the gardens.

Right now, there are works by Wangechi Mutu, Brandon Ndife, Sarah Sze and Louise Bourgeois, amongst others, with the sculpture all the more captivating for its verdant backdrop.

The drive from Manhattan to Storm King shouldn’t take much over an hour. If you’re looking to use public transport, head to the Port Authority Bus Terminal just off Times Square. Find Platform 410, and take the ShortLine Hudson 709 towards Mountainville. You’ll reach the Storm King Centre in an hour and twenty minutes.

Booking in advance is well recommended; general admission starts at $23 a person.

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