It seems only appropriate that we end our day trip series in one incredible place: New York City.

It’s a global tourist magnet and an American icon, a place full of possibilities … and buildings, and noise, and people. So when you need to breathe in some fresh air and get a change of scene, check out these 5 day trips from NYC. They’re each 2 hours away (or less). All you need is a spirit of adventure and one day with nothing in particular to do.

1. You’re craving: The great outdoors
Try: Bear Mountain State Park

Nature beckons all year round at Bear Mountain. But now is a great time to hit the road: the tableau of changing leaves make autumn the perfect season to enjoy a hike or scenic drive. Weather permitting, you can even rent a boat and get a primo view of the fall foliage from the Hudson River. If you get there too late to hit the waters, try the ice skating rink, which opens again in November.

When you’ve seen enough flora, say hello to the fauna. Black bears, bullfrogs, and red-tailed hawks are ready to greet you at the Trailside Museum and Zoo, a safe habitat for injured and orphaned animals native to New York state. Or visit the mobile menagerie of the famous Merry-Go-Round, where you can ride any of the 42 hand-carved native animals ranging from bobcats to wild turkeys.

2. You’re craving: Art al fresco
Try: Storm King Art Center

Art meets nature in this Hudson Valley landmark, where you can spot a dizzying variety of pieces by dozens of sculptors whose ranks include Alexander Calder, Louise Bourgeois, and Dennis Oppenheim. Most are placed outdoors, so you can contemplate the nature of art and the universe while enjoying the crisp autumn weather (though you might want to check the forecast first!).

The particularly adventurous might enjoy some apiary fun: regular beekeeping demonstrations give the curious an insight into the way we get one of humanity’s oldest sweeteners. Participants even get to take home some local honey. Sculpture and beekeeping might be an unexpected combination, but the results can’t be argued with.

3. You’re craving: American history
Try: Hyde Park

Two scions of America’s most influential families built estates at Hyde Park, so if you’re a fan of beautiful grounds and patrician homes, you’re in luck. To take a step back in time, tour Franklin D. Roosevelt’s home and Presidential library. You can also visit FDR’s private Top Cottage, Eleanor Roosevelt’s Val-Kill property(designated a historical site in her honor), and the nearby Vanderbilt mansion. The surrounding grounds of the estates, which include trails and paths as well as formal gardens, offer multiple venues to take a break from education and simply enjoy the crisp autumn scenery.

If all that history has made you hungry, try switching gears. The nearby Culinary Institute of America offers tours when school is in session, plus workshops, food and wine classes, and a well-stocked culinary bookstore. And since there are 5 student-run restaurants on campus, mealtime should offer something for everyone (even the most jaded Manhattanite palates).

4. You’re craving: Marine adventure
Try: Long Island Aquarium

When you can’t book a trip to the Amazon, Antarctica, or the Great Barrier Reef, you can find the next best thing at the Long Island Aquarium (with much shorter travel times).

The aquarium is home to dozens of exhibits, so there’s truly something for everyone. Sea lions put on a show (and, for a small fee, will even give you a kiss for a photo op). Penguins are standing by for a cuddle. Macaques, marmosets, and otters form a furry contingent. Fish of all shapes, sizes, and colors swim through habitats that mimic spots from all over the world, including a 20,000-gallon coral reef and a showcase of local species. And, of course, don’t miss the octopus!

Should you get tired of watching the animals, you can always head to the arcade, hop on the submarine simulator ride, or help dig up the lost city of Atlantis in an interactive archaeology dig. No need to envy the kids most of the aquarium activities are open to all ages.

5. You’re craving: Farm-fresh food
Try: The farms of Westchester County

It’s hard to imagine a less rural setting than Manhattan, but you don’t have to go far to enjoy a taste of farm life: a cornucopia of delights awaits you in beautiful Westchester County, an hour outside the city.

Fall is apple-picking and pumpkin patch season, and you’ll find both (plus hayrides, of course) at several area farms. Pick dozens of apple varieties off the tree and several types of pumpkins right off the vine at Stuart’s Farm, a family operation since the early nineteenth century. Or try a taste of the early twentieth century at Muscoot Farm, a former gentleman’s estate turned state park, where you can visit historic buildings like a blacksmith’s shop and ice house, as well as enjoy an animal meet-and-greet with rare heritage breeds of livestock and poultry. Textile and animal enthusiasts may enjoy a visit to Faraway Farm, home to a number of alpacas and Icelandic horses and a purveyor of alpaca-wool goods.

Of course, no visit to farm country is complete without edible souvenirs. Check the calendar: no matter which farms you choose to visit (or which time of year), the bounty of farmers’ markets across the area will send you home with plenty of good things to eat.

Want more travel inspiration? Check out the rest of our day trips series. From San Francisco to Los Angeles to Chicago, we’ve got you covered.

Travel hacks | Destinations


about Lauren

A recovering English professor, repatriated expat and startup geek, Lauren speaks several languages, including Spanish, French, Academese, and Tech Lite. When she isn’t writing for Esurance, you might find her reading, marathoning Netflix, or gathering data to decide which San Francisco museums host the best nightlife events. She has a complicated relationship with the Oxford comma.