Escape the city with our ideas for cultural day trips from New York City. While the hustle and bustle of New York City is exciting, we all need a break at times. Luckily, there are lots of places that you can go to spend some time away from it all. A day trip is a perfect opportunity to get away while discovering some exciting destinations in the North East region.
You’ll be surprised at what you’ll find right outside of the city – from massive sculpture gardens to historic towns to scenic coastal destinations. You’ll surely feel enriched both mentally and physically by the time you get back to New York City.
Let’s take a look at some of the best day trips from New York City!
Storm King Art Center
Satisfy your art cravings with a trip to the Storm King Art Center. It’s located approximately a 1.5-hours drive upstate from NYC, where you’ll discover one of the largest outdoor sculpture parks in the US.
Storm King Arts Center exhibits over 100 works across its 500 acres. Walk around the grounds to see large-scale contemporary artworks from famous 20th-century artists including David Smith, Isamu Noguchi, Alexander Calder, and Mark di Suvero.
The natural landscape is designed to best exhibit the works while offering beautiful views of the scenery. Plan to spend several hours in the park exploring the different regions and find your favorite sculpture.
Get ready for one of the fun day trips from New York City when you visit the Dia: Beacon museum. Located just under two hours away via train from Manhattan, you’ll arrive at a vast museum space that was formerly used as an industrial factory.
The converted factory space is perfect for exhibiting stunning artworks from artists such as Andy Warhol, On Kawara, and Michael Heizer. It hosts permanent and temporary exhibitions, so there’s always something new to see. All of the artworks range from the 1960s to contemporary works. The venue’s many skylights allow lots of natural light into the building for a unique and sensory viewing experience.
Plan your trip around one of the insightful gallery talks, and you can grab lunch at the museum café.
Cold Spring, NY
Plan a day trip getaway to the quaint village of Cold Spring located in Upstate New York. In just an hour and a half, the city-views will transform into the natural scenery of the Hudson Highlands in a town full of history.
A large section of Cold Spring is designated as the Cold Spring Historic District, where you’ll find old factories, machine shops, and housing developed for local workers. It later attracted wealthy families from the city who built 19th-century mansions.
Take a walk down Main Street to check out the many boutique shops and restaurants. You can visit the Magazzino Italian Art Museum free to the public or go for a leisure stroll through the beautiful Stonecrop Gardens.
Philip Glass House
Manhattan isn’t the only place to see stunning architecture. Go on one of the popular day trips from New York City to New Canaan, CT, to see the famous Glass House. The Glass House is one of several structures on a site opened to the public to see unique architecture developed by famed architect Philip Johnson.
The Glass House was built in 1947 as the personal residence of Johnson, where he lived with David Whitney, a well-known name from the art world.
Guided tours are available from the main visitor center Downtown and take groups of visitors to the site to admire the architecture and learn more about Johnson’s legacy. The site is designated as a National Historic Landmark.
You’ll have a chance to see where wealthy New Yorkers retreat during the summer when you visit Shelter Island. It’s a charming island only accessible by ferry, so there is plenty of exclusivity for its high-net-worth residents.
You don’t have to be rich to visit the island, but you’ll see plenty of expensive vacation homes as you explore the island. There are lots of fun activities to enjoy a quiet retreat from the big city.
Spend the day on Sunset Beach to enjoy cocktails or a massage right on the beach. Or dine at one of the waterfront restaurants for incredible views. The Shelter Island Heights district is full of shops, restaurants, and cafes worth checking out before catching a ferry back to NYC.
Perhaps one of the most famous day trips from New York City is to the Hamptons. It’s known as a summer retreat for the rich and famous, but you don’t need millions of dollars to have a fun time.
The Hamptons is located on the eastern tip of Long Island, so it’s just a couple of hours’ drive from the city. Several different towns make up the Hamptons, and each has its own attractions.
You’ll find lots of fun things to do in the Hamptons year-round. It’s home to several wineries like the Wölffer Estate Vineyards and the Channing Daughters Winery. Also, lots of fine art galleries and museums like the Parrish Art Museum and Bridgehampton Museum.
Visit Sag Harbor for dining on the waterfront and shop your favorite designer brands in Southampton Village.
Grounds for Sculpture
What better way to view large art installations than in the outdoors? Take a trip to Hamilton Township, NJ, to see the Grounds for Sculpture (GFS) sculpture park. It’s an extensive garden founded by Seward Johnson to prominently display his artwork alongside other contemporary artists.
It’s the perfect day trip for enjoying art in the outdoors. You’ll walk around the manicured garden landscape to see over 270 sculptures. There are many enlarged human figures in various scenes and sculptures depicting famous artworks like The Scream and American Gothic. Free-roaming peacocks will accompany your visit.
GFS includes an onsite restaurant and frequently hosts art events.
Saratoga Springs, NY
Saratoga Springs is famous for many things, from the natural mineral springs to thoroughbred horse racing. Make the three-hour trip upstate in the morning so that you’ll have the entire day to enjoy all that the town has to offer.
The Saratoga Race Course is a popular social gathering place where you can grab a drink and cheer on your favorite racehorse. Visit the National Museum of Racing to explore the history and see stunning horse paintings.
Saratoga is home to natural mineral springs that offer a natural spa to relax and unwind from the bustling New York City life.
You can go wine tasting at one of the local wineries and end the day with a show at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center before returning to NYC.
There are several nearby major cities to visit that make great day trips from New York City. Philadelphia is one of the top choices where you’ll get to discover the city’s rich historical heritage.
Philadelphia was the former capital of the USA and where the Declaration of Independence was signed. The historic district has lots of notable sights like Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell, and the Benjamin Franklin National Memorial.
You can relive one of pop culture’s most iconic moments by climbing the top of the Rocky Steps that has one of the best viewpoints over the city. Or shop some of the local food and craft vendors in the historic Reading Terminal Market. There are tons of museums and guided tours of historic buildings to add to your itinerary.
Head north east along the coast to reach Newport, Rhode Island, one of the popular seaside towns in New England. The town is famous for being a summertime retreat for members of the wealthy Vanderbilt Family who built some of the most stunning mansions you’ve ever seen.
You’ve already seen one of the most famous architectural wonders funded by the Vanderbilts, Grand Central Station, so a day trip to Newport showcases their private life accomplishments. Take a tour of The Breakers and the Marble House to see the preserved lavish lifestyles from the gilded age.
After the mansion tours, go for drinks at one of the local wineries or grab a delicious meal at a scenic waterfront restaurant.
It hosts lots of festivals throughout the year, like the Newport Jazz Festival and Newport Folk Festival.
As exciting as New York City can be, don’t miss out on a chance to experience some of the incredible attractions and destinations nearby. And the best part is that you only need one day to visit them. Guaranteed, you’ll have a fantastic time and be looking forward to checking the next destination off of your bucket list.