It’s not too late to enjoy the final weeks of fall at one of these day-trip destinations right outside of New York City
Fall snuck up on you? Us too. No worries. You can still get away from NYC for a day before the last leaves hit the ground. Whether you and your kids want to enjoy a scenic hike, snuggle farm animals, or get a dose of American history, there’s plenty of doable destinations to offer up what you’re looking for. Bonus: each of these amazing spots is just a short car or train ride away from the city, so no need to pack an overnight bag (unless, that is, you want to). Grab the family and get out of town with one of these easy fall day trips from NYC!
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Walkway Over the Hudson State Historic Park: Highland and Poughkeepsie
Enjoy the fall foliage from a bird's eye view by crossing the Walkway Over the Hudson, a remodeled railroad track (think The Highline, but over water!). The bridge connects Highland and Poughkeepsie and towers over the Hudson at 212 feet high and 1.28 miles long, which makes it the longest elevated pedestrian bridge in the world. For an even more spectacular view, take the glass elevator to the Poughkeepsie waterfront to check out Upper Landing Park and the Wayrias Park Promenade, which runs along the river's edge. Once you're done taking in the sights, make a day out of it by exploring the many family-friendly attractions located at either end of the walkway. The area offers a bustling but quaint environment, with trails and parks, historic districts, hamlets, shops, restaurants, cafes, and even a children's museum—all reachable by bike or on foot.
Getting there: Take MetroNorth to Poughkeepsie then walk .75 miles to the Walkway entrance. Or drive about an hour and a half up either side of the Hudson River; take Route 9 to the Poughkeepsie (eastern) side, or 9W to the Highland (western) side.
61 Parker Ave.
Storm King Art Center: Hudson Valley
The Hudson River valley is renowned for having inspired a generation of landscape artists known as the Hudson River School. Building on that tradition is the Storm King Art Center, which brings art down from the wall or shelf and places it right in front of you—in the form of large contemporary sculptures staged in the middle of a field, nestled in a copse of trees, situated atop a mountain, or perched near the water's edge. At more than 500 acres, this open-air museum features one of the largest collections of outdoor sculpture in the U.S. Walk or rent bikes (you can't bring your own) and meander along a network of trails to see sculptures up close and personal, and often towering over you. You can also hop a tram at designated points to reach further-afield areas of the park. Bring a picnic or pick up a box lunch at the Storm King Cafe. Note: Storm King Art Center is closed on Tuesdays.
For more fun: Visit the nearby namesake mountain—Storm King State Park—where Thomas Cole, a founder of the Hudson River School, found many breathtaking vistas to paint! The 2.5-mile loop that leads up to the 1,340-foot peak is well maintained but rocky and moderately difficult in stretches.
Getting there: Storm King Art Center is about an hour's drive north of New York City. Coach USA also runs buses from Port Authority.
1 Museum Rd.
New Windsor, NY
High Point State Park: Kittatinny Mountains
To see fall foliage from not one, or two, but three different states, visit High Point State Park, which boasts the highest elevation in New Jersey. The park offers more than 50 miles of relatively easy trails along with manicured lands designed by the sons of Frederick Law Olmstead of Central Park fame. In addition to the Kittatinny Mountains, the park's centerpiece is the 20-acre Marcia Lake, which is closed for swimming after Labor Day but still a lovely place to stroll along, and its pinnacle is the 220-foot High Point Monument, a stair-filled obelisk similar to the Washington Monument in Washington, DC. Opened in 1930 and dedicated to all war veterans, it offers panoramic views of the Poconos to the west, the Catskills to the north, and the Wallkill River Valley to the southeast.
For more fun: Take in a bit of Bavaria on your foray into northwest Jersey, and visit the quaint Lake Mohawk business district, about a 30-minute drive from High Point. The Tudor-style lakefront village is fringed with tall evergreens and features mountain views as a backdrop. Stroll the small boardwalk to a playground, then double back to Krogh's Restaurant and Brew Pub for hearty American fare and a good selection of fresh beers on tap.
Getting there: If you like winding country roads, then getting to High Point will be half the fun. Route 23 winds through wooded hills and farmland before arriving at the park's entrance, a trip that's less than 90 minutes from New York City.
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The Franklin D Roosevelt Library and Museum: Hyde Park
A good option for history buffs and families with older kids, Hyde Park is home to the estate of one of the country's great leaders, FDR. In addition to the Franklin D. Roosevelt Home and the FDR Presidential Library and Museum, you can explore other historic locations, like Eleanor Roosevelt's private house, and the Top Cottage, where FDR used to retreat for some peace away from "the mob." Take a break for lunch at Uncle Sam's Canteen, and explore the rest of the preserved history of Hyde Park before hopping back onto the free shuttle at 5 p.m., which will take you straight back to the train station. The train ride will take you a little more than two hours each way, but it's well worth the educational experience it provides.
Getting there: To leave the driving to someone else, take the Metro-North train to Poughkeepsie, and get a car service to the museum. (Budget about two hours for the trip.) Here's how to get there using mass transit once you arrive in Poughkeepsie.
4097 Albany Post Rd.
Hyde Park, NY
Bethpage Bikeway: Massapequa and Woodbury
The Bethpage Bikeway is one Long Island's most popular trails, and it's easy to see why. The trail leads bikers and hikers 12.5 miles between Massapequa and Woodbury, taking visitors through some scenic routes on a smooth ride. The trail takes you from a shady wetland area in the Massapequa Park Preserve, to the Bethpage State Park, which has some trails of its own to navigate. They lead through a nice range of scenery, from the wooded and marshy, to the delightfully suburban. Most of the path is paved with a few busy but safe intersections, making this an easy bike ride for the family. We recommend bringing along a picnic to enjoy.
Getting there: Take the Babylon-bound LIRR to Massapequa Station, or drive down Route 135 to the Bethpage State Park exit and enter where you see signs for the picnic grounds.
Manetto Hill Rd. and Woodbury Rd
Merrick Rd. and Ocean Ave.
Catskill Animal Sanctuary: Saugerties
Located two hours from the city is the Catskill Animal Sanctuary, which provides a compassionate and loving home for animals taken from bad environments, such as from hoarders or abusive or neglectful owners. Between 250 and 350 animals can be found at the sanctuary at any given time, making it a joy to explore. To visit the 148-acre sanctuary, you must take an organized tour (held on weekends from April through November), but throughout the tour, visitors can wander the grounds and interact freely with all the farm animals who make the space their home. It's worth noting that the sanctuary also has a mission to educate visitors about living a vegan lifestyle by introducing people to the animals they eat and providing free vegan snacks after each tour.
Getting there: Take the NY Trailways bus from Port Authority to the Kingston, NY stop—from here, it's a 10-minute cab ride. Alternatively, take the Amtrak train to Rhinecliff, NY, and grab a 20-minute car service. The website has detailed instructions on getting there by car. Keep an eye out for special tour dates, in which some include a bus ride straight from the city to the sanctuary.
316 Old State Rd.
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Kaaterskill Falls: Catskill Mountains
A visit to the Kaaterskill Falls leaves the family with some amazing memories—and even more amazing photos. This 1.7-mile hike is steep but easy and short enough for the kids to manage, making it an extremely popular attraction for families and hikers. Kaaterskill is the highest waterfall in New York State, and consists of a two-tiered cascade. The first tier of the falls forms an impressive basin called the Amphitheater, which, according to legend, is where Rip Van Winkle took his fateful nap. Although the hike is relatively easy, the rocks do get slippery, so be watchful of the kids and keep away from the trail's edges. Luckily, the trail received upgrades a few years ago with better safety features, so as long as you stay on the trail and don't go beyond the yellow trail end marker, you're sure to have an enjoyable hike. (There have been several injuries and even deaths when people have deviated from the trail and ignored safety regulations.)
For an easier trek, you can view the equally beautiful Bastion Falls, located right at the foot of the Kaaterskill Falls. If you complete the trip quicker than you expected, you can make a side trip to the town of Woodstock, a nearby quaint little locale with little shops, restaurants, and cafes to explore. Visit on a Saturday or Sunday for the Mower's Flea Market, an eclectic collection of items and sellers that's well worth the detour.
Getting there: Take Interstate 87 to the very winding Route 23A West. Drop off passengers when you see the well-marked trailhead behind a guardrail; the parking lot is about 50 yards up the road.
Palisades' State Line Lookout: Alpine
There are many reasons to visit the Palisades in NJ, from the amazing views to the awesome picnic areas set up throughout the parks that line the rocky outcrops. But nature and bird lovers will want to visit in the fall for an incredible experience: hawk watching at the State Line Lookout. From September through November, the spot draws volunteer birdwatchers for the Hawk Watch, a census of the hawks and other raptors who pass through the area on their fall migration. Visitors are welcome to join in—for the chance to see the most birds, visit in the day or two following a cold front. Make sure to bring binoculars, and to really make a day of it, pack food for a picnic and some comfortable walking shoes: the State Line Lookout has a number of hiking trails for any level of experience, including a few walks that the kids will be able to take part in.
Getting there: By car, take the first exit off the upper level of the George Washington Bridge, onto the Palisades Interstate Parkway northbound. From there, continue until you see the exit for State Line Lookout. You can also take the 9W bus up, but be warned that busses don't stop directly in front of the location and will leave you to make a 45-minute walk uphill towards the State Line Lookout, so we don't recommend it with young children.
State Line Lookout and Palisades Interstate Pkwy.