10 Things to Do Just Outside NYC!

Apr 16, 2020

10 Things to Do Just Outside NYC
By Rich Weidman

The New York City Family Vacation Guide: 10 Ideas to Try Just Outside New York City

“Blessed are the curious, for they shall have adventures.” – Lovelle Drachman

There comes a time when you need to escape the city for several hours or even a day. New York City can be quite hectic at times.

Yes, the Big Apple boasts the famous green space, Central Park with tons of outdoor activities and hiking trails with spectacular views plus Ellis Island, iconic landmarks and famous hotels near Grand Central Station - but overcrowded streets, honking cabs, and the usual hustle and bustle of a large city seem to be the order of the day. This is why a quick excursion just outside of New York City can be quite revitalizing to your personal well-being.

Things to do Outside NYC

From haunted places in New York, Brooklyn Botanical Garden and the Statue of Liberty to ice skating and live music in Central Park, NYC is in a class by itself with a distinctive excitement found nowhere else. But if you get the chance, take day trips from NYC to explore what lies beyond the city - there are even some NYC getaways without a car needed to get to them. You can go mountain biking, surfing on some of the best beaches near the city, or visit upstate art museums and wineries. Let your family enjoy gorgeous sceneries as you drive through the countryside to nice destinations just a few hours from the Big Apple. To get started, consider these 10 ideas to try just outside the city as well as excellent places where you can relax, commune with nature or engage in adventurous activities.

1 | Enjoy the Splish Splash Water Park on Long Island | Splish Splash is one of the most interesting family vacation spots just outside New York City on Long Island. It has even been voted by the Travel Channel as a top American Water Park. Splish Splash features 96 acres of thrilling water slides and other great attractions, including a tropical bird show, shops, food courts, picnic areas and just about everything your family would need. For the more adventurous folks, there are several wild rides and slides at the water park such as the Bombs Away dueling 300-foot slides and immensely popular Riptide Racer. If you like taking things at a slower pace, you can always glide down a Lazy River or relax in refreshing pools. Your kids will have a blast at the exciting kiddie zones such as Monsoon Lagoon and the Elephant Slides. You can even rent a canoe or kayak at the nearby Treasure Cove Resort Marina and enjoy an easy glide down the peaceful Peconic River.

WHERE: 2549 Splish Splash Drive, Calverton, NY 11933 | WHO: 631-727-3600


Never been to Long Island, NY? Catch a glimpse from this video!

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2 | Visit the Private Modern Art Museum at Dia in Beacon | A quaint city located in Dutchess County, Beacon is famous for its fine dining and lively art scene. Just a 5-minute stroll from the train station get you to Dia: Beacon, which is a modern art museum established in what was formerly a box factory. The museum has a permanent collection of Dia Foundation’s works from the 1960s to the present, including sculptures by Anne Truitt and fluorescent lights sculptures by Dan Flavin. You can also spend the day trying out different types of beer brewed at Denning’s Point Distillery, which also provides visitors with sampling tours of their finest bourbon whiskey, vodka and gin on Fridays and Saturdays. Don’t miss an opportunity to spend a tender moment watching the sun as it sets over the Hudson before you head back to the city.

WHERE: 3 Beekman Street, Beacon, NY 12508 | WHO: 845-440-0100


3 | Take Your Family to Playland Amusement Park in Rye | Playland is a perfect destination for a day trip. It is located in Rye in the Hudson Valley on the shores of Long Island Sound just a short train ride from New York City. The well-maintained Playland Amusement Park, which was established back in 1928, features a wide range of fun activities on a white sandy beach that include a pool, fishing pier, boardwalk and an ice rink. There are thrill rides for kids of all ages, a colorful carousel, the soaring Sky Flyer, splashy Log Flume and a huge wooden Dragon Coaster with a deep plunge of 128 feet. There is plenty of food available at the new waterside restaurant including everything for the kids such as burgers, cotton candy, and funnel cakes. You will also enjoy family entertainment events such as Friday night fireworks, magicians and live concerts. This fun-filled venue even rents out beach strollers, umbrellas, beach chairs and lockers to visitors.

WHERE: 1 Playland Parkway, Rye, NY 10580 | WHO: 914-813-7010


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4 | Enjoy a Day of Fun Activities at Long Beach | Long Beach is just an hour or less from Manhattan and offers a perfect place for a day's outing from the city. The Long Island retreat is famous for its white sandy beaches, swimming, a 2.2-mile boardwalk and many fun festivals taking place all year round such as the critically acclaimed Long Beach Arts & Crafts Festival in July. Long Beach is easily accessible by train and you don't even have to carry along your gear as you can easily rent beach chairs and umbrellas once you arrive. The Boardwalk Cafe serves delicious lunches for your entire family. You can also enjoy different games, including bocce ball, shuffleboard, table tennis and many more. Long Beach is a perfect seaside resort for a relaxing day or weekend trip.

WHERE: Long Beach, New York, USA | WHO: N/A


Secret Tips Only Locals Will Tell You!

Q. What can you do for free in NYC?

A. American Folk Art Museum, Brooklyn Brewery Tours, Bronx Museum of the Arts, Central Park, City Hall, Chelsea Galleries, Grand Central Partnership Walking Tours, Green-Wood Cemetery, National Museum of the American Indian, New York Public Library, New York Earth Room, Socrates Sculptor Park, Staten Island Ferry, and more.

Q. How far is Niagra Fall from New York?

A. Niagra Falls is 7 hours and 7 minutes or 408.4 miles from New York City

Q. Where can I go for a day trip near NYC?

A. Beacon, NY ( 1 hr. 20 mins.) Washington DC (3 hrs. by train), Fire Island, L.I. (1 hr. 30 mins. by ferry), Mohonk Preserve, NY (2 hrs. by car), Bethlehem, PA (1 hr. 44 mins. by car), Phoenicia, N (2 hrs. 50 mins. by car), Cape May, NJ (2hr.s 30 mins. by bus) and more.

Q. What are the fun activities in NYC for adults?

A. Check out fun things to do in NYC!

5 | Enjoy the Sun at Fire Island | Less than two hours from New York City lies a sunbather's haven known as Fire Island. It used to be a nude sunbathing enclave until 2013 when clothes were made mandatory. The 31-mile barrier island provides plenty of fun, including lifeguard supervised swimming at Watch Hill, Sailors Haven and Atlantique. If you love communing with nature, take a walk on the elevated boardwalk at Sunken Forest Preserve. There is a huge diversity of plant life to elevate your mood and spirits such as holly trees, black cherry, sassafras and many more. The bar scene is also great if you plan to spend the night at Fire Island.

WHERE: Fire Island, New York, USA | WHO: N/A


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6 | Visit Storm King Art Center Where Art Meets Nature in Windsor | Conveniently located in a natural environment, Storm King Art Center is a perfect blend of art and nature with massive sculpture installations at every corner of the rolling green hills. The Center is a veritable paradise for ardent photographers and nature lovers. You will have a great time exploring the 500-acre park with works from more than 100 artists, including Maya Lin and Alexander Calder. You can even take a guided tour to get the most out of your trip or explore the park on a rented bike. Visitors are allowed to climb on some of the huge sculptures. Food shouldn’t be a problem as there’s a cozy restaurant called Painter’s, which features an artistic theme at the nearby village of Cornwall-on-Hudson.

WHERE: 1 Museum Road, New Windsor, NY 12553 | WHO: 845-534-3115


7 | Catch Endless Views at the Legendary Lighthouse in Montauk | A National Historic Landmark, Montauk Lighthouse is located at the eastern tip of Long Island in Montauk Village, which offers plenty to do such as a relaxed less-crowded beach, shops and restaurants serving typical New York dishes. Once you have toured the Village, explore the lighthouse and its keeper’s house museum. If you are up for it, you can climb the lighthouse’s spiral staircase of 137 steps to the top and enjoy sweeping views of the Atlantic Ocean from above. The rocky beach also provides a great exploration adventure although it is not designed for swimming. Fortunately, there are other swimming spots and beaches close by. A popular local eatery called Gosman’s Dock is located just a short walking distance away and is known for its fresh seafood.

WHERE: 2000 Montauk Highway, Montauk, NY 11954 | WHO: 631-668-2544


Check out this video of Montauk Lighthouse!

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8 | The Magical World of LEGOLAND Discovery Center | The LEGOLAND Discovery Center Westchester feels like a real adventure inside a magical box of LEGOS. It features amazing building creations made of LEGO pieces in 10 play areas. Parents and kids can enjoy a wide range of LEGO-themed activities, including flying in enchanted carts on the Merlin’s Apprentice ride and exploring a city made of over 1.5 million blocks. Your kids will have a blast building and racing LEGO cars or watching 4-D movies at the LEGO 4D Cinema. Put your child’s ninja skills to test in wall climbing and other fun activities at the Ninjago City Adventure.

WHERE: 39 Fitzgerald Street, Yonkers, NY 10710 | WHO: 844-740-9223


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9 | Visit the Long Island Aquarium and Exhibition Center in Riverhead | Just an hour and a half from New York City in Riverhead is the famous Long Island Aquarium and Exhibition Center. The aquarium and exhibition center is designed with a Lost City of Atlantis theme and features a wide range of river and marine creatures. The Aquarium houses one of the largest living coral reef displays in the Western Hemisphere in a 120,000-gallon tank filled with sharks and other marine creatures. It’s an educational center with the focus on the importance of marine life and preserving the environment. There are more than 100 exhibits at the Long Island Aquarium and Exhibition Center.

WHERE: 431 E. Main Street, Riverhead, NY 11901 | WHO: 631-208-9200


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10 | Visit the Famous Sleepy Hollow | The beautiful Sleepy Hollow is a perfect place to visit on a day tour outside New York City, especially during the autumn months. There are many unique festivals and events at the Historic Hudson Valley homes in Sleepy Hollow such as the CORNUcopia corn festival held on Labor Day at the historic Philipsburg Manor. The festival has plenty of fun activities for the family such as farm tours, music, corn mazes and games, and treats such as corn ice cream and root beer. Washington Irving’s famous tale “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” began in this same neighborhood. You can even tour some of the key places mentioned in the famous story and even attend the Headless Horseman art activities in Sleepy Hollow.

WHERE: Sleepy Hollow, New York 10591 | WHO: 914-366-5100


Check out this video of Sleepy Hollow!

Use Our Handy Map to Find Your Way Around While You're Out of Town!

Bonus Places to Near New York City!

Staten Island | Distance: 17.1 miles | Things to do: Staten Island Museum, Seaside Wildlife Nature Park, Fort Wadsworth, Historic Richmond Town, and New York City Farm Colony

Coney Island | Distance: 14.5 miles | Things to do: Friday Night Fireworks, Wonder Wheel, Coney Island Beach and Boardwalk, and Williams Candy.

Prospect Park | Distance: up to 6 miles |Things to do: Prospect Park Zoo, Brooklyn Botanic Garden, The Brooklyn Museum, Prospect Park Boathouse, and Lefferts Historical House.

Brooklyn Bridge Park | Distance: 1.9 miles |Things to do: Ferry ride to Governors Island, WatrLab sprinkler playground, Sandbox Village, and kayak on the East River.

Bear Mountain State Park | Distance: up to 62.9 miles | Things to do: Trailside Museum and Zoo, Bear Mountain Pool, boat rentals, and hiking.

Bryant Park | Distance: up to 5.3 miles | Things to do near Bryant Park

Gantry Plaza State Park | Distance: up to 9 miles | Things to do: Fifth Hammer Brewing, Rockaway Brewing Company, Roosevelt Island, The Creek and the Cave, and Gabby Cabby.

Flushing Meadows Corona Park | Distance: up to 12.8 miles | Things to do: New York Hall of Science, Queens Zoo, World Ice Arena and Pool, Meadows Lake, and Citi Field.

Luna Park | Distance: up to 13.7 miles | Things to do: Enjoy your favorite roller coaster!

Socrates Sculpture Park | Distance: up to 12.7 miles | Things to do: Exhibitions, art, ecology and mindfulness workshops

Hudson River Park | Distance: up to 3.9 miles | Boat building at Pier 40, Circle Line Sightseeing Cruises, Downtown Boathouse, kayaking at Pier 26, and Frying Pan.

Roosevelt Island | Distance: up to 10.7 miles | Thing to do: Smallpox Hospital, Four Freedoms Park, Roosevelt Island Tram, enjoy views of the Manhattan skyline, and Blackwell House.

Last Tips

A trip outside New York City isn’t only invigorating, but also shows you what else the countryside has to offer. There are many more interesting places and ideas to explore just outside New York City.

In summer, Coney Island becomes a hive of fun activities with roller coaster rides and fairground foods. The Hudson Valley is quite inspiring too. Enjoy breathtaking views of the spectacular beauty of Hudson Valley from the famous Walkway Over the Hudson, which is actually the longest elevated pedestrian bridge in the world at a length of 6,768 feet.

If you want to get closer to nature, visit the Bear Mountain State Park, which features among other things a fishing lake, shaded picnic groves and long hiking trails. As you can see, there are a lot of fun things you can do just a short distance from the hustle and bustle of NYC. And when you return to the Big Apple after a fun-filled day of exploration, make sure to check out the best kids activities to try in Midtown East, the most awesome Central Park attractions and the most unique things to do in Grand Central Station.


10 Things To Do In Grand Central Station | New York City Family Vacation Guide

At Westgate Resorts, when you Check-In, there’s a LOT to Check-Out! Your New York City vacation awaits! Explore our New York City hotel today or talk with a vacation planner at 888-852-2959 or 407-355-2690.

* Westgate Resorts is in no way affiliated with the attractions featured in this article. Items or places listed are current as of the publishing date of this article. Please call or visit the respective website for the most up-to-date offerings and details.

Other tagged pages of interest: hotel near Grand Central Station in NYC, things to do near Grand Central Station, NYC nightlife, best drinks in NYC, karaoke in NYC, the best wine bars near midtown NYC, rooftop bars Manhattan, hotels, staycation

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