36 Summer Day Trips from NYC to Take as a Family

Olana has beautifully landscaped grounds to explore. Photo by Diana Kim
Olana has beautifully landscaped grounds to explore. Photo by Diana Kim

Summer road trip season is on the horizon, and we’re itching to get outdoors to explore beyond NYC’s limits. 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 spots 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.

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.

Point Pleasant Beach, NJ
Enjoy the palm trees at Point Pleasant, New Jersey. Photo courtesy 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.

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

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 White Post Farms on Long Island.

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.

The Greenburgh Nature Center offers nature trails and a petting zoo, as well as a fun nature playground. 

11. Go to a Nature Center

The Greenburgh Nature Center in Westchester 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 hanging on Main Street, where you can find great eats, coffee, and sweets, including 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 large-scale art museum Dia Beacon.

14. Hit the Slopes at Mountain Creek

Mountain Creek is a sure bet for winter fun and summer days when its water park is open for splashing fun, along with a bike park, trails, and a zip line.

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

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 stay the day to explore the town of Riverhead with its vineyards, beaches, and train rides.

17. Go for a Balloon Ride

Take a ride in or gawk at more than 100 hot air balloons during the 38th Annual New Jersey Festival of Ballooning from Friday, July 23-Sunday, July 25.

18. Build STEM Skills at the Liberty Science Center

If you haven’t yet checked out the Liberty Science Center, go now! It has 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.

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, which reopens for the season Saturday, June 26.

20. Build Some Fun With Legos

Sure, you could visit the Legoland Discovery Center at Westchester's Ridge Hill or the brand new iteration at American Dream, 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, N.Y.

21. Forget Fruit, Pick Flowers

Long Island's Lavender By The Bay comes alive with fragrant, beautiful blooms in late June and early July. You can also find tons of sunflower fields in New Jersey come August. Pack some good shears for cutting and a good camera for colorful photo-ops.

RELATED: C'mon Summer: 50 Things We Can't-Wait to Do During Summer 2021 in NYC

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

22. Adventure to Asbury Park

Enjoy the beach at Asbury Park, sure, but there are plenty of onshore 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 new rides to explore, including a brand new record-breaking coaster at Six Flags.

24. ... Or a Wild Ride

If you missed the Six Flags drive-thru safari last season, it's back—and in addition to wild animals, you can peep some prehistoric ones, too.

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 21-Sunday, August 3 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 24-Sunday, August 29, 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

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 new 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 retro roller rink at the TWA Hotel, splashing in the mega Fountain of the Fairs at Flushing Meadows Corona Park, peeping the polka-dotted artwork of Yayoi Kusama at the NYBG, exploring Manhattan's newest green space, Little Island, and hopping a ferry 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, visit the Popcorn Zoo, or attend the annual Whitesbog Blueberry Festival, running over several weekends in 2021.

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. 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.

Toy and Book Swap, and Rites of Spring Performance
Old Stone House (outside) - 10:00 AM Pick
Analog City: New York B.C. (Before Computers) Opening Weekend
Museum of the City of New York - 10:00 AM Pick
Mamapalooza Festival
Pier I, Riverside Park South - 12:00 PM Pick
Family Fun Fest at Atlantic Terminal Mall
Atlantic Terminal Mall - 12:00 PM Pick
Neighborhood Guides
Activity Guides