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The endless buzz, 24-hour culture and chaotic energy of New York City is a major part of its appeal. But if you want a change of pace without venturing too far beyond the concrete jungle of the five boroughs, you’ve got options aplenty.
Whether you prefer charming villages, counterculture havens or beachfront getaways, adding an extra dimension to your NYC holiday is an easy train or rental car’s ride away.
Ready to book your journey? We’ve teamed up with New York State to highlight some of the best spots to visit that ensure your time outside the Big Apple is well spent.
WOODSTOCK, THE CATSKILLS
Woodstock has a permanent place in the annals of music history, having lent its name to the legendary counterculture music festival of 1960 (which actually went down about 60 miles away at a dairy farm in Bethel). Nevertheless, this small town in the Catskills is still overflowing with the same free-spirited creativity that people associate with the Woodstock name.
There’s the Woodstock Art Exchange which shows work by diverse artists living across the region; The Center for Photography which supports emerging and established photographers; and Levon Helm Studios, where local musicians perform a few nights a week, in the space founded by the bonafide rock legend from The Band.
The town’s culinary scene also has a legit claim to fame. Head to Garden Cafe for farm-fresh vegan cuisine or Silvia when you’re in the mood for Modern American food and cocktails.
Woodstock is also bursting with outdoor adventures, like Overlook Mountain’s summit hike, which plays host to unbeatable views of the Catskills.
How far? Woodstock is about two hours from Manhattan.
COLD SPRING, HUDSON VALLEY
Cruise alongside the Hudson River for a little over an hour to find yourself in Cold Spring, a wonderfully charming waterfront village with a strong hipster energy. Main Street is where you’ll find most of the action — a leafy avenue lined with quaint storefronts showcasing local clothing designers, homewares and antiquarians. Also along this thoroughfare is a cluster of restaurants, pubs and cafes including the Hudson House Inn, a top choice for steaks and seafood overlooking the river.
For a hit of nature and highland views, head to the bucolic Constitution Marsh Audubon Center and Sanctuary (about five minutes out of town by car), or hike the Breakneck Ridge Loop and explore the Stonecrop Gardens to find native plants and farm-fresh air.
How far? Cold Spring is about 70 minutes from Manhattan.
FIRE ISLAND, LONG ISLAND
Fire Island is the ideal day trip for those after a complete departure from the city. Getting there requires a ferry ride from mainland Long Island which feels like an adventure in itself.
Its major attraction is the landscape and surrounding coastline, which offers ample opportunity for hiking and swimming. Robert Moses State Park is especially impressive, with its five-mile-long beach and historic lighthouse.
Meanwhile, the captivating Sunken Forest is also a must-see destination, featuring a boardwalk that traverses through a rare ecological phenomenon.
How far? Fire Island is about 90 minutes from Manhattan.
NEW PALTZ, HUDSON VALLEY
Visiting New Paltz from NYC is simple, with a drive straight up the New York State Thruway delivering you right into this classic collegiate town. While the student population ensures plenty of bars and live music venues exist across town, the area is also renowned for its world-class hiking and mountaineering locations.
Mohonk Mountain House is a National Historic Landmark resort that provides guests with an award-winning spa, a range of dining options (from al fresco lakeside eating to an old fashioned soda fountain), and is the perfect stay to access some of the region’s best hiking — including the famous Labyrinth scramble and Lemon Squeeze crevice which demand a challenging climb through massive boulders for the reward of spectacular views of the Hudson valley.
This part of the Hudson Valley is also celebrated for its vineyards and breweries with highlights including Robibero Winery and Kettleborough Cider House.
How far? New Paltz is about 90 minutes from Manhattan.
If you’re still getting up to speed on your New York geography, Albany is the capital city of New York State. Head to the venerable Albany Institute of History and Art to deep dive into this historic city’s storied past. Once you’ve brushed up on your local history, you can experience the region’s scenic landscapes and native wildlife with a trip to the striking Albany Pine Bush Preserve.
For your many pit stops in Albany, the city has a handful of stellar breweries for beer lovers with options like Fort Orange Brewing and Druthers Brewing Company offering excellent local brews and hearty meals.
How far? Albany is about 2.5 hours from Manhattan.
To start planning your trip to New York State, visit iloveny.com.
Images: New York State
Published on April 21, 2022 by Hudson Brown