By the time April rolls around, my family has reached its limits of winter-induced stir-craziness and despite all that our fair city has to offer in spring, we collectively feel desperate to get away, even for the day. Sure, we love joining in on one of the many super-fun Easter egg hunts or spending the day at a nearby spring festival, but nothing signifies the end of winter more than a day trip to greener pastures.
Having this list of 25 spring-inspired day trips at our fingertips gives us something to look forward to, especially with spring break for public school kids on the horizon. From hiking to smelling the blooms to strolling amid sculpture gardens, there is something on this list for everyone.
Note: We have a low tolerance for road trips, so for us, a day trip has to be within two hours of New York City. Find more ideas in our Day Trips Guide or our Family Travel Guide.
1. Hop a bus from Penn Station to Bear Mountain State Park. A go-to destination for my family every spring, this treasure trove offers beautiful hiking, the charming Trailside Museum, and even a sweet zoo.
The view from the top of this Coney Island wheel is one of a kind. Photo via Bigstock.
2. Experience Coney Island’s thrills at Luna Park and Deno's Wonder Wheel, stroll the boardwalk and feast on a hot dog at Nathan’s. Been there, done that? Have you tried the similarly retro-feeling Playland in Westchester? It opens in May!
3. Ride bikes along the Old Croton Aqueduct Trail from Van Cortlandt Park To Untermeyer Gardens in Yonkers.
4. Head to the Rockefeller State Park Preserve for a hike when the striking peonies are in bloom in late April or early May. Or try one of these other destination hikes in Westchester.
5. If you are able to swing it, parlay a visit to Westchester with a stop at eco-favorite Stone Barns for the Warm Weather Weekends. Note: the sheep-shearing event sold out early this year! Plan your visit to this popular spot well in advance.
6. Make the one-and-a-half hour drive to the super charming New Hope community in Pennsylvania. Check out Nakashima Woodworkers, Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve, or perhaps enjoy a stroll along the Delaware River. Note: save time for a stop at Nina’s Waffle and Ice Cream.
7. Hop on a ferry to Governors Island starting Monday, May 1—almost a whole month earlier than years past—and enjoy the new restaurant, Island Oyster, featuring locally sourced seafood served alfresco!
8. Join any number of terrific family programs at Riverdale’s blooming Wave Hill during Arbor Week. We are most excited about Barking Up a Wave Hill Tree.
9. One of our favorite spring activities is to ride the Bronx Trolley: First Wednesday Arts & Culture Tour, which opens this season on Wednesday, April 5.
10. Head to Beacon, New York and visit one of the several new exhibits opening at Dia:Beacon in early May before hitting the super charming town and one of its many spring traditions like the excellent Beacon Flea Market and Hudson Valley Mac and Cheese Festival on Saturday, April 22.
11. This is a special spring at Storm King Art Center, a stunning outdoor sculpture garden in the Hudson Valley, as it celebrates 50 years of exhibiting works by David Smith. Exhibit open Wednesday, May 17 through Sunday, November 12.
12. Explore the Chinese Scholar’s Garden at Staten Island’s Snug Harbor Cultural Center. Afterward, hit the next-door children's museum.
13. Enjoy the fragrant Old Westbury Gardens on Long Island when it reopens in mid-April with cherry blossoms.
14. Pack a picnic lunch and head to Caumsett State Park on a peninsula that juts out into the Long Island Sound. Your family will enjoy miles of beautiful nature paths and terrific fishing (if you have a permit).
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Tots can enjoy the oversize Duplo building pit, or check out the new Ninjago play area debuting this spring. Photo by Rose Gordon Sala.
15. Calling all Lego fans! Westchester's Legoland Discovery Center will debut a new 2,300-square-foot interactive play area, Ninjago, on April 6. (P.S. There's also a brand-new Legoland Discovery Center coming to the Philadelphia area this same week!)
16. Walk, bike, scooter or blade across the really neat Walkway Over the Hudson in Poughkeepsie, connecting Dutchess and Ulster counties. Then check out the cool children's activities in town, including the fun Mid-Hudson Children’s Museum afterward.
17. Just on the other side of the George Washington Bridge, Palisades Interstate Park is where we will head for a gorgeous guided Mother’s Day hike. You’ll find ample parking, stunning Hudson River views, and a snack bar.
18. Ride the tram and explore Roosevelt Island—our favorite spot is the Southpoint Park and nearby lighthouse. Also check out the terrific Great Spring Time Tour: 9th Annual Cherry Blossom Walk on Sunday, April 30.
19. Visit Central New Jersey’s whimsical 42-acre Grounds For Sculpture. Our best experiences have been on their walk-in tours—call to confirm on the morning of your intended visit.
20. Pelham Bay Park is the largest park in NYC at three times the size of Central Park. To say it has something for everyone in your family is an understatement. Take a stroll along the Orchard Beach Promenade to behold the beauty of spring.
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View the glowing lantern creations at the Chinese Lantern Festival. Photo by Sichuan Tianyu/courtesy of the festival.
21. Take a day trip to Philly for the show-stopping Chinese Lantern Festival in Franklin Square taking place nightly this year from Tuesday, May 9-Sunday, June 11, from 6-10pm. The Chinese dragon has recently been rebuilt and is not to be missed.
22. Reaching Flushing Meadows Corona Park is a day trip for many in NYC, but well worth it: There's the the New York Hall of Science with its new sci-fi exhibit, mini golf, and more, but also the Queens Botanical Garden, which is hosting its annual Arbor Fest on Sunday, April 30; Fantasy Forest Park, a great mini amusement park, and of course the zoo and Queens Museum.
23. It's not every day we get a new museum, but on April 19, the Museum of the American Revolution will debut in Philadelphia.
24. Try one of the three living history museums in the NYC area.
25. Feed farm animals at these nearby petting zoos. By late May, you'll find strawberries for the picking at many of the farms.
Top photo: Stone Barns. Photo by Ben Hider/courtesy of the farm.