Yes, we know it’s still August, but those early school holidays (and the foliage) are coming. Get ahead of the game and start planning your day trip out of town with the family this autumn. Each of these amazing spots are just a short car or train ride away from the city. Enjoy the leaves, some autumn activities, and some new experiences at these excellent daycation spots, all under two hours away from the heart of NYC.
Walkway Over the Hudson State Historic Park -- Highland and Poughkeepsie, NY
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 -- making 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.
Fees and costs: MetroNorth tickets are $24 one way per adult, and $20 for children. Parking is available both free and for a small fee ($5 for 4 hours). Otherwise the walkway is free to explore, and you only need to pay for anything you decide to buy or any special paid locations (like museums and restaurants) you decide to visit on your trip.
Photo: Shinya Suzuki via Flickr
Storm King Art Center, Hudson Valley, NY
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 that are placed in the middle of a field, nestled in a copse of trees, situated atop a mountain, or perched near the water's edge. At over 500 acres, this open-air museum features the 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. Entrance fee is $15 for adults, $8 for children between 5 and 18, and free for those four and under. Note: Storm King Art Center is closed Mondays and 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 a breathtaking vista 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
photo: Storm King Art Center Facebook page
High Point State Park, Kittatinny Mountains, NJ
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 over 50 miles of relatively easy trails along with manicured lands designed by the sons of Frederick Law Olmstead of Central Park fame. 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: To take in a bit of Bavaria on your foray into northwest Jersey, 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 wends through wooded hills and farmland before arriving at the park's entrance, a trip that's less than 90 minutes from New York City.
photo: Tiffany M. via Yelp
The Roosevelt Ride -- Hyde Park, NY
No car? No problem. From May 1 through October 31, the historic Hyde Park hosts the Roosevelt Ride, a free shuttle that operates between the Poughkeepsie Metro-North train station and various historic Roosevelt-themed sites. The shuttle picks passengers up 7 days a week, and makes rounds to the Franklin D. Roosevelt Home and the FDR Presidential Library and Museum. From there, more shuttles are available for exploring 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 trip will take you a little over 2 hours, but it's well worth the trip for history buffs and older kids.
Getting there: Take the Metro-North train to Poughkeepsie. Check the schedule to ensure you'll be there by 10:36 a.m. on weekdays or 10:44 a.m. on weekends. From there simply take the elevator up to the ticket hall and introduce yourself to a National Park Service Ranger or volunteer and ask to be directed to the shuttle. The shuttle to return leaves at 5 p.m. from the Wallace Center.
Fees and costs: Off-peak tickets to Poughkeepsie will set you back $24.75 one way, $20 for kids. The FDR museum and library have a joint $18 entry fee, while other museums you decide to visit may have their own admission fees.
Photo: The Franklin D Roosevelt Library and Museum via Yelp
Bethpage Bikeway -- Massapequa and Woodbury, NY
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. The trail is leads 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, and stopping by the Bethpage State Park's Taste 99 bistro for ice cream and a cocktail (head east (away from the traffic circle) at Plainview Road for three-quarters of a mile keeping the golf course on your left).
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.
Fees and costs: Parking is free by the LIRR station, but there is a fee to park by the bikeway. LIRR tickets are $13.50 peak, $9.75 off-peak, one way. To bring your bike on board the LIRR, a one time $5 fee is required, although this nets you a permit that will last a lifetime and also works on MetroNorth trains.
Catskill Animal Sanctuary — Saugerties, NY
Located about two hours out from the city is the Catskill Animal Sanctuary. This sanctuary provides a compassionate and loving home for animals taken from bad situations and environments, such as from hoarders, abusive or neglectful owners, and other poor places for an animal to be. 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 sacntuary you must take an organized tour, but throughout the tour the family gets to wander around the grounds and interact
freely with all the farm animals who make the space their home. The sanctuary does have a mission to educate visitors about living a vegan lifestyle by introducing people to the animals they eat and providing some free vegan snacks after each tour, so keep that in mind before you commit to a visit.
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 min cab. The website has detailed instructions on getting there by car. Keep an eye out for special tour dates as well, some of which include a bus ride straight from the city to the sanctuary.
Fees and costs: Sanctuary tours are held on weekends April-October and are $12 per person, $8 for children 12 and under (kids under 2 are free). If taking the bus, the round trip fare costs $52.50, $38.50 for kids 2-11. Amtrak prices vary, but tickets in one direction for adults are around $19 and
around $14.50 for kids under 12.
Palisades' State Line Lookout -- Alpine, NJ
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, also bring 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, located about 2 miles north of Exit 2. 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.
Fees and costs: There is no fee for parking or using any of the park grounds, so you only pay for the bus or car gas.
Kaaterskill Falls, Catskill Mountains, NY
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 legends, 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 has recently gotten upgraded with some 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.
Fees and costs: None, unless you stop by the Mower's Flea Market, in which case you will likely not go home empty handed!
Where do you go for some fun in the fall? Tell us in the comments!
— Cheryl deJong-Lambert & Yuliya Geikhman