37 Summer Day Trips from NYC to Take as a Family

Take a drive to the 42-acre Grounds For Sculpture in Hamilton, NJ. Photo by David Howarth
Take a drive to the 42-acre Grounds For Sculpture in Hamilton, NJ. Photo by David Howarth
6/26/22 - By Rose Gordon Sala

Summer road trip season is on the horizon, and that means it's time hit the road for one of these summer day trips from NYC. We're itching to get out and explore, from beaches and water parks to cool nature spots and pick-your-own fruit farms, we’ve rounded up three dozen of our favorite summer day trips from NYC. All of these day trip destinations are less than two hours away because, well, who wants to day trip for longer than that with kids in the backseat?

Find more ideas in our full Day Trips and Getaways Guide, or try checking something off our list of 100 things to do with kids in New York State.


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1. Hike Bear Mountain

Hike, swim, or see the animals at Bear Mountain State Park.

2. Go for a Freshwater Swim

Dive into a freshwater lake at one of these nearby swimming holes.

3. Conquer SplashDown Beach

Float down the lazy river at SplashDown Beach, a popular water park right in the Hudson Valley.

Summer day trip from NYC Point Pleasant Beach, NJ
Enjoy the palm trees at Point Pleasant, New Jersey. Photo courtesy of the boardwalk

4. Head for the Shore

Hit the beach and the boardwalk amusements at Jenkinson’s Boardwalk in Point Pleasant, New Jersey. It’s one of the closest Shore towns to the city where you can get the full, family-friendly Jersey Shore experience during a summer day trip from NYC.

5. Explore Long Beach

Spread your blanket at Long Beach, Long Island, one of the easiest NYC-area beaches to get to via public transportation—just hop on the LIRR from Penn Station or the Flatbush Terminal. It feels like a real beach and is often less crowded than, say, Rockaway. It’s a quick walk to the sand from the train.

6. Climb a Lighthouse

Long Island’s East End and North Fork offer some stunning options.

RELATED: 25 Best Things To Do in Montauk with Kids

Summer day trips from NYC Splish Splash's lazy river
Float along the lazy river at Splish Splash. Photo courtesy of the park

7. Float Splish Splash's Lazy River

Keep everyone cool at the 95-acre Splish Splash water park on Long Island's East End. A word of caution: Traffic out to the Hamptons in the summer can, of course, be excruciating. The only way to avoid it is to go very early in the morning, which makes this full-size water park the perfect day trip. Turn it into an overnight with these hotel recommendations.

8. Visit an Animal Farm

Cozy up to the animals at Brookhollow’s Barnyard in North Jersey or one of these petting zoos near NYC.

9. See Large-Scale Art

Pack a picnic and spend the day among the outdoor art at the 500-acre Storm King Art Center or one of these other outdoor art destinations nearby.

10. Go North to the Nutmeg State

Connecticut abounds with family-friendly summer fun in its state parks, nature centers, and charming waterfront towns.

Summer day trips from NYC Greenburgh Nature Center
The Greenburgh Nature Center offers nature trails and a petting zoo. Photo courtesy of the center

11. Go to a Nature Center

The Greenburgh Nature Center is one of our favorite nature centers in Westchester, and it has plenty of wild friends to meet, plus kids can romp on the natural playground made of wood and surrounded by boulders for climbing. There are plenty of gentle walking trails surrounding the grounds, too. So pack a picnic to make a day of it.

12. Spend a Day in Tarrytown

One of our favorite “river towns,” there's plenty of family-friendly fun here, from touring Lyndhurst Castle to strolling down Main Street, where you can find great restaurants and coffee shops. Treat the family to a few scoops of ice cream at Main Street Sweets.

13. Explore Another Hudson Valley Spot

Hop on the Metro-North to visit one of these other nearby cute towns, including Beacon, New York, home to the famous large-scale art museum Dia Beacon.

Lazy River at Mountain Creek Water Park
Chill out on the lazy river at Mountain Creek Water Park. Photo courtesy of the park

14. Hit the Slopes at Mountain Creek

Mountain Creek is a sure bet for winter activities and summer excursions, when its water park is open for splashing fun, along with a bike park, zip line, and even a mountain coaster.

RELATED: 7 Easy Family Day Trips on the Metro-North Train

Summer day trips from NYC Field Station Dinosaurs
Explore Field Station: Dinosaurs just over the GW Bridge.

15. Play Paleontologist

Walk the grounds of Field Station: Dinosaurs in Overpeck County Park, just over the George Washington Bridge. Watch out for T. Rex at the end.

16. Explore the East End

See the undersea creatures at the Long Island Aquarium, and spend the rest of the day exploring the town of Riverhead, with its vineyards, beaches, and mini-train rides.

17. Go for a Balloon Ride

Take a ride in, or stand on firm ground and view, more than 100 hot air balloons during the 39th Annual New Jersey Festival of Ballooning, from Friday, July 29 through Sunday, July 31.

18. Build STEM Skills at the Liberty Science Center

If you haven’t yet checked out the Liberty Science Center, go now! It offers hands-on fun for all ages in an enormous multi-floor building in Liberty State Park. There are climbing structures to conquer, plus hands-on exhibits, and so much more for ages 2 and up.

Summer day trips from NYC Playland Park
There's tons of fun to be had at Playland in Rye. Photo by Anna Fader

19. Enjoy Old-School Amusements at Playland Park

Another Metro-North option? All aboard to Westchester's old-fashioned, but super fun, Playland Park.

Legoland NY
Your kids will be all smiles at Legoland New York. Photo by Jody Mercier

20. Build Some Fun With Legos

Sure, you could visit the Legoland Discovery Center at Westchester's Ridge Hill or the one at American Dream in the Meadowlands, NJ, but for completely over-the-top, everything-is-awesome-fun, why not head to Legoland New York, the larger-than-life theme park in Goshen, NY.

21. Forget Fruit, Pick Flowers

Long Island's Lavender By The Bay comes alive with fragrant, beautiful blooms in mid-June. You can also find tons of flower farms in New Jersey, Connecticut, and New York. Pack some good shears for cutting and a good camera for colorful photo-ops.

RELATED: Summer Bucket List: 50 Things To Do in NYC for an Epic Summer with Kids

The beach, the boardwalk, and more fun await in Asbury Park, NJ.

22. Adventure to Asbury Park

Enjoy the beach at Asbury Park, sure, but there are plenty of on-shore entertainment options here, too, from boardwalk murals to great eats, music, and even a skate park.

23. Go for a Thrill Ride...

There are plenty of picks for amusement park thrills nearby and a slew of rides that just opened last year, including a record-breaking roller coaster at Six Flags.

24. ... Or a Wild Ride

If you missed the Six Flags drive-thru safari last year, it's open again for the 2022 season. See a whopping 1,200 animals from six continents, including elephants, rhinos, tigers, giraffes, and lions.

Summer day trips from NYC Rockefeller State Park Preserve
Rockefeller State Park has miles of trails to wander. Photo by Sara Marentette

25. Go for a Hike

We've got tons of family-friendly hiking picks, from the lovely state parks of the Hudson Valley to beach walks on Long Island and waterfall hikes in Northern Jersey.

26. Step Back in Time

Don your best princess or knight gear to take in the New York Renaissance Faire, which runs from Saturday, August 27-Sunday, October 9 with jousting, crafts, and more performances in New York’s Sterling Forest.

27. Go Country

Speaking of fairs, try the Dutchess County Fair in Rhinebeck, from Tuesday, August 23-Sunday, August 28, with rides, games, food, and animals. It’s reportedly the second largest county fair in the state.

28. Explore a Historic Estate

We were blown away by the stunning panoramas and sweeping views at the Olana State Historic Site when we visited. It's easy to see why these vistas inspired Frederic Church's professional artistry.

RELATED: 7 Things To Do at Minnewaska State Park Preserve with Kids

Summer day trips from NYC peach picking at Alstede Farms
Pick summer peaches at Alstede.

29. Hit the Farm

Pick your own blueberries and blackberries or even peaches. Plan to pick at a farm with a little agri-entertainment like these 10 New Jersey farms.

30. Test Your Fear of Heights

We love a good zip line, adventure course, or ropes course to get the blood flowing. Conquer dozens of climbing challenges at the Palisades Climb Adventure inside the Palisades Center mall. A separate Sky Tykes course is geared toward kids under 48 inches. Or take the big kids for Hudson River views while climbing the outdoor aerial course Spins Hudson in Peekskill.

31. Enjoy a Daycation

A day trip doesn't have to take you outside city limits. When is the last time you explored another borough? On our summer bucket list: twirling on the funky roller rink at the newly opened DiscOasis in Central Park, splashing in the mega Fountain of the Fairs at Flushing Meadows Corona Park, taking the ferry out to Governor's Island, exploring Manhattan's coolest green space, Little Island, and trekking out to Sunset Park to explore Brooklyn's Industry City.

32. Hunt the Jersey Devil

Visit the mythical Pine Barrens region in New Jersey, where you can learn local folklore, go for a hike, catch a fresh fish dinner, and visit the Popcorn Zoo.

Search for fairies or a waterfall at the South Mountain Reservation.

33. Search for Fairies

Walk the fairy trail in New Jersey’s South Mountain Reservation, or explore this green space’s more commercial spots like the Turtle Back Zoo with lions, a train ride, a ropes course, mini golf, and even a destination-worthy playground.

34. Head for the Hills

The Pocono Mountains are close enough for a day trip and action-packed with family-friendly fun.

35. Ferry Yourself Away

Catch a ferry to Fire Island to enjoy access to the car-free fun, clean beaches, and an old-time feeling. Of course, the ferry ride is part of the allure.

36. Ride a Bike

Tackle New York's spectacular 750-mile-long Empire State Trail, the nation’s longest multi-use trail. It runs from Manhattan up to the Canadian border and from Buffalo to Albany, with lots of family-friendly stops along the way.

37. No Car? No Problem

Don't let your reliance on the MTA limit your day trip options. We've found 12 family-friendly destinations you can reach by train, boat, or bus. You've got no excuses now!

Photos by the author except where noted. A version of this post was published in 2018; it is updated annually.