There’s Still Time! Late Summer Escapes to Take with the Kids

Girl riding carousel at Sesame Place
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Summer may seem like it’s winding down, but if you—or your kids—are itching for an adventure, it’s not too late to get away! (Reminder: The public school year starts on Sep. 8, so you’ve got a little extra time, despite what your social media feeds are telling you with all those cute first-day photo opps. Hooray?) We’ve rounded up some of the best family weekend getaways from NYC, all within three hours of the city limits. Consider these options ideal for an overnight, or a few. What’s even better: most of them offer late-season savings! Whether you’re desperate to cool down with a water park or get a step-up on back-to-school season with a history lesson, there are weekend trip options fit for any family (LEGO fans and Elmo lovers included!). Pack the kids into a car and hit the road for some last-gasp summer fun.

Bear Mountain State Park

It’s never a bad time of year to visit Bear Mountain, but it’s a particularly lovely place to spend a weekend in the summer. One of its most popular features is its free Trailside Zoo, which houses local wild animals in the process of rehabilitation, including—you guessed it—some bears along a winding path punctuated by informative plaques. Hiking is a popular activity here, with many visitors choosing to climb to Perkins Memorial Tower for a hilltop view, but the peak is also accessible by car. 

Take a dip in the community pool (don’t forget a lock and a couple dollars for the admission fee), and then float a boat out on peaceful Hessian Lake—where you can also fish if you have a license. (Bring your own gear.) Picnicking lakeside is common here (there are even a few grills), and don’t leave without taking a spin on the carousel. 

For lodging, the slightly rustic Overlook Lodge is a good choice for small families, and the Stone Cottages are single-story houses good for larger groups. For a bit more polish, the Bear Mountain Inn is the deluxe choice.

Distance from NYC: 1 hour 15 minutes 

Route 9W N.
Bear Mountain, NY
Online: parks.ny.gov

Related: The 2022 NYC Summer Bucket List: What You Must Do with the Kids

Morey’s Piers and Beachfront Water Parks

Escape to the Jersey Shore for some solid summer vibes on the boardwalk. Morey’s Piers in Wildwood, NJ, has been welcoming vacationing families for more than 50 years and will keep the kids busy with more than 100 rides and attractions and two beachfront water parks. Plus: you’ll find a lovely, free beach here, which is not so easy elsewhere in the state of New Jersey. 

Dog families should keep their eyes peeled for two annual special events that traditionally close out the water park season: the Doggie Dash, a pair of dog-and-human runs with a beach party afterward, and Doggie Splash, when canines have free rein to paddle along the river adventure, splash in the fountain pool or fetch tennis balls in the activity pool of Raging Waters “Water Bark.” You don’t even have to have a dog to attend!  (A portion of the Doggie Splash proceeds will benefit local dog and cat rescue Beacon Animal Rescue.) 

To make things easy, The Blue Palms Resort, located close by, offers lodging packages, often with complimentary amusement pier wristbands.  

Read our full review of Morey’s Piers here.

Distance from NYC: 3 hours 

3501 Boardwalk
Wildwood, NJ
Online: moreyspiers.com

LEGOLAND New York Resort & Hotel

At 150 acres, LEGOLAND New York Resort and Hotel is the brand’s largest park, featuring seven LEGO-themed lands to explore. Attractions include theme park rides for both little and bigger kids, but Lego lovers also get the chance to create with master builders and attend a “ninja training camp,” tinker in the robotic LEGO center and visit Miniland, which is a massive LEGOscape featuring the landmarks of 10 cities nationwide. At Disney, they trade pins, but here it’s minifigures—bring some along, or buy them at the park! 

You can go for the day or rest your head at the on-site LEGOLAND Hotel for the ultimate brick vacation. You’ll find LEGO-themed suites with a separate room for the kids (notably themed with pirates, kingdoms, Ninjago, or LEGO Friends, for starters) as well as nightly all-ages entertainment, interactive LEGO features, a pool and more. 

Although it’s a less-than-two-hour drive, you can’t just show up: You must reserve your tickets in advance.

Distance from NYC: 90 minutes 

1 LEGOLAND Blvd. 
Goshen, NY 
Online: legoland.com

Lake Compounce Family Theme Park

For some good old Americana away from the mega parks, check out Lake Compounce, the country’s oldest amusement park. Celebrating more than 175 years, this park is home to a full water park (including the new “Venus Vortex”, thrill rides, kiddie rides, and Boulder Dash, considered by many to be the best wooden rollercoaster in the world. You can also take in the show Daniel Tiger’s Grr-ific Day! and meet Daniel and Katerina afterwards. 

Lodging options include camping on-site in a cabin, “Cub Hut”, tent or RV, with campfire, wifi and transportation to the park included. 

Distance from NYC: 2 hours 15 minutes

185 Enterprise Dr.
Bristol, CT 
Online: lakecompounce.com

Related: Things To Do With Kids in the Hamptons, Summer 2022 Edition

Hyde Park

For history buffs or families with older kids, head to Dutchess County’s Hyde Park, where you can tour the homes of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, the FDR Presidential Library (the nation’s first collection of its kind) and more than a thousand acres of gardens and trails. (For a guide to the trails on the grounds, click here.) 

In addition to the home, where FDR lived as both a child and as an adult with Eleanor, the museum features special interactive experiences, immersive audio‐visual theaters and rarely seen artifacts that convey the dramatic story of the Roosevelt era. 

Eleanor Roosevelt’s home Val-Kill—the only National Historic Site dedicated to a first lady—is nearby and worth a visit to view the exhibit detailing how she was a fierce champion champion of women’s rights, civil rights and diplomacy. For more history, visit the Vanderbilt Mansion, an example of Beaux-Arts architecture from renowned firm McKim, Mead & White, where you can take a self-led tour with a phone or tablet. (You must register for the tour prior to your visit.)  

Other spots to check out in the area include the Hyde Park Drive-in, or Four Brother’s Drive-in (a bit of a drive but worth it), the Dutchess County Fair (Aug. 23-28 this year) and roller rink Roller Magic. 

Distance from NYC: 2 hours 15 minutes 

Online: nps.gov

Sesame Place

A theme park tailor made for the tiniest of vacationers, Sesame Place offers fun rides, a waterpark and, of course, Cookie Monster and Big Bird walking around, ready for hugs and pictures. 

When you visit, be sure to look out for a Neighborhood Street Party Parade and take advantage of the opportunity to dine with Elmo & Friends (for an extra fee). Plus: fireworks every Saturday and Sunday through Sep. 4. Good to know: Sesame Place is the first theme park to be designated a Certified Autism Center, where staff receives autism-awareness training and guests can access sensory-friendly services and resources throughout the park. 

Sesame Place is having a “Last Splash Sale” promotion with tickets as low as $40—a savings of 60 percent. The park also often has partnerships with several hotels in the area, where you can book a package that includes tickets to the park along with lodging. Bonus: you don’t need a car to get there. Take NJ Transit to Trenton and then hop on a bus or grab a cab. 

Read our full review of Sesame Place here.

Distance from NYC: 1 hour 45 minutes

100 Sesame Rd.
Langhorne, PA
Online: sesameplace.com/langhorne

The Kartrite Resort and Indoor Waterpark

Located in The Catskills’ Monticello, Kartrite Resort and Indoor Waterpark is now the state’s largest, measuring 80,000 square feet. In addition to 11 water attractions, from mild (lazy river) to thrill-inducing, it’s topped by a transparent roof, includes a living plant wall and is kept a pleasant 84 degrees year-round.

The resort runs activities for kids and families throughout the week, with activities including scavenger hunts, trivia game nights and movies under the stars. For food, you’ll find eight dining options, from grab-and-go to sit-down, with many serving food made with ingredients from local suppliers. For grown-ups, Resorts World Casino is next door, and there’s a spa on-site, which also offers kid’s treatments. 

Just 10 minutes away is Holiday Mountain, which has skiing and tubing in the winter and go-karts and mini-golf in the summer. Also nearby is Bethel Woods, home to Woodstock Music Fest in 1969 and concert series and events today. FYI: the LEGOLAND New York Resort is about a 30-minute drive from here. 

Distance from NYC: 2 hours 

555 Resort World Dr.
Monticello, NY
Online: thekartrite.com

Related: Cool Kids: Where to Chill on NYC’s Hottest Days

Bonus: Finger Lakes Region

The Finger Lakes are a bit of a longer drive, but well worth it for the kid-friendly attractions coupled with natural beauty. For a trip to the 19th century, visit the Genessee Country Village and Museum in Mumford, New York State’s largest living history museum. We also recommend a tour of Lazy Acre Alpacas in Bloomfield, where you can learn about and feed the friendly animals. 

Rochester is home to one of the best children’s museums in the country, the Strong National Museum of Play, where you’ll also find the Toy Hall of Fame and the World Video Game Hall of Fame. Amusement Park Seabreeze outside of Rochester is good for lakeside summer fun, with a water park, big and little kid rides, and the Jack Rabbit, the oldest continuously operating rollercoaster in the country.

The area is known for its hiking and biking trails and a thriving craft beer, wine and spirits industry, but the beautiful lakes—namely Canandaigua and Keuka—are the real crowd pleasers. And don’t forget the “Grand Canyon of the East,” Letchworth State Park, which is in the western part of the Finger Lakes. 

Distance from NYC: 5 hours 

Auburn, NY
Online: fingerlakes.org

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