5 fun day trips from New York City

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Fire Island

Fire Island

When you live in or near New York City, there’s no shortage of things to do. At times it can seem like there’s really no reason to leave the city, unless you just want to get away from the crowds for a day or two. But while New York packs enough attractions and activities for a lifetime, it’s also close to a lot of other interesting places and things to do. And for busy residents of the city, or even visitors who are hanging around, these getaways can be perfect.

Here are five ideas for fun day trips you can take from the city.

Fire Island, Long Island

This might just be the best getaway for people who are tired of the hustle and crowds of the city. New York is brilliant in so many ways, but it can also become overwhelming even to those who live there. It can also be easy to forget that you’re right on the Atlantic coast, and beautiful beaches are nearby.

Fire Island is just such a beach, located off the coast of Long Island and having served as a legendary escape for New Yorkers for many years. You’ll want to skip it during peak holiday travel times because it can feel almost as crowded as the city on such occasions. In general it’s a peaceful and quiet place to visit. There are plenty of specific attractions to enjoy like national parks and forests, seafood restaurants, and lighthouses. But above all else, Fire Island is a perfect place to go if you just want to spend some time on a beach and decompress.

Beacon, New York

When you think of the United States and fine wineries, your attention probably drifts westward. This is perfectly fair and natural. Napa Valley is famous for some of the country’s best wineries, and some of the best anywhere in the world, and Oregon in particular has come on strong in recent years. These Pacific states are unrivaled in the U.S. for beautiful vineyards and world-class wines, and if you happen to be an enthusiast, you should try to visit one day.

But the idea that the East Coast has nothing to offer for wine lovers is merely a common misconception. The Hudson Valley in New York has a surprising wine culture, and much of it is accessible through the small town of Beacon. Located just an hour and-a-half’s drive north of Manhattan, Beacon is close to Palaia Winery, a charming spot where local beers and ciders are emphasized nearly as much as the wine. It’s also home to Benmarl Winery, which is actually the oldest such establishment in the country.

Boldt Castle

Boldt Castle

Castle Tour, Upstate NY

This is a simple but surprising option. It may surprise many to learn that there are a lot of spectacular castles dotted around Upstate New York. Naturally they’re not as old as the castles you might find in England or elsewhere in Europe. Even so, they have their own type of mystique that is undeniably authentic despite seeming somewhat out of place in the country in New York.

It’s hard to find a ready-made castle tour, so your best bet is renting a car and mapping out a route on your own. But if you like road trips it can be an excellent day. Some of the highlights include Boldt Castle in Alexandria Bay (literally sitting in the bay, in fact), Singer Castle in Hammond, and Castle Gould in Sands Point. If you live in the city, you might also consider starting or ending the day with a visit to Belvedere Castle, the beautiful 1869 structure that many residents don’t even realize is tucked away in Central Park!

Atlantic City, New Jersey

Casino culture has largely left the United States in favor of venues abroad, as well as online sites. Online poker has been popular for decades, but casino offerings across the internet have also expanded. Once they went mainstream, slots became the backbone of the modern site, and additional table games from blackjack to roulette are offered as well. This leads a lot of players to web platforms, whether for real money gaming or just for fun. But as popular as these activities have become, an ordinary casino can still be a huge draw, and Atlantic City is one of the few places in the U.S. where you can still enjoy one.

Roughly a two and-a-half hour drive from New York City, Atlantic City makes for an ideal day trip. On a nice day it’s pleasant just to walk along the famous boardwalk that runs alongside the main entertainment area in town, and you’ll naturally want to duck into a few casinos as you go. Tropicana Atlantic City (which is built around a Havana theme) and the waterfront Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa are two of the most popular destinations. But truthfully you can wander around the town and try out different venues of your choosing. Plus, if you feel the need to extend your stay, you can often grab an affordable, luxury room at one of the resorts.

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Finally, if you’re looking for a different place to spend a day or weekend, it’s worth remembering that New York is very close to one of the other most famous cities on the East Coast. Philadelphia is only a little over a two-hour drive away, and can also be a very quick train ride. It’s perfectly accessible for a day trip, and there are plenty of commuters who live in one city but work in the other.

It’s hard to truly experience a great American city in a single day, but Philadelphia happens to be an excellent destination for simple sightseeing. You can view the Liberty Bell in person, tour the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and stroll by Independence Hall just to name a few things. Additionally, as touristy as it sounds, you might want to make time to try an authentic Philly cheesesteak. John’s Roast Pork is the top-rated spot for the traditional sandwich.

Liberty Bell

Liberty Bell

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