5 Day Trips from New York

by GoWithGuide travel specialist:Gowithguide travel specialist O.

Last updated : Apr 18, 202311 min read

The ‘big apple’ is famous not only as one of the largest cities in the world, but also one of the top travel destinations in the United States. When exploring the city itself there are a myriad of sights to see and enjoy, and we have gone over these in detail before. 

Today however, we aren’t looking at things to do in the city itself, but rather at the wider surrounding area as we prepare to embark on a Day Trip!

What is a Day Trip? 

A ‘Day Trip’ refers to an excursion wherein you spend roughly a full day exploring the area surrounding your original destination, returning back at the end of the day. So in the case of New York City (NYC), you may cross state lines into neighboring New Jersey, spend the day there and be back at your New York hotel by bedtime.  

Now in many smaller countries you can reach pretty far during a Day Trip. In Japan or France for example, you can utilize high speed rail to get almost anywhere within a couple of hours. The United States is a different beast though, being geographically much larger and indeed the 3rd or 4th (depending on who you ask) largest country in the world. 

This means that realistically we can only really explore parts of the US north-east during a day trip. Luckily though, this region has solid transportation infrastructure in place, with the most obvious being the gigantic road and highway system that interconnects all US states. If you prefer not to go by road, there are also passenger rail services that link the region together, or depending on your destination you could even test out your sea legs and use a ferry! 

The Surrounding Area

New York City lies within the similarly named US state of New York, that’s why you may have heard of funny sounding addresses like “New York, New York”. The state is part of the US north-east, a green and temperate region of the country bordered by the Atlantic Ocean to the East and the Great Lakes to the west. 

As the first stop for many millions of immigrants who braved the Atlantic over the centuries, the region is well developed and among the most populated areas in the United States. Due to being one of the earliest settled parts of the country, it is also filled with rich history and some of the oldest architecture in the US. Several states fall under its umbrella, including New York, New Jersey, Vermont, Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Delaware, and Maryland. It also borders Canada meaning there are some cross cultural influences as well. 

If you are familiar with New York City itself or simply want to try some new things on your tour, a day trip exploring the surrounding region won’t take too much time and will be enjoyable to boot! Let’s get down to it. 

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 

Distance from New York City: 94.3 miles / 151.7 km

Accessible by: Train, bus, car

Total tour time: 6+ hours

One of the most historically significant cities in the US, Philadelphia can be reached from NYC with a brief train ride or by road via bus, rental car, or even rideshare options. Ask your Philadelphia private guide for their recommendations on how to most easily reach the city. Referred to by most locals simply as ‘Philly’, the city is a must-see for history buffs. Here you can visit attractions such as Independence Hall, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and see the infamous Liberty Bell

For an informative and truly engrossing experience, go on the Founders walking tour alongside one of our local guides. Here you can travel through American history from the earliest colonial times, the Revolutionary War, and much more. For sports fans, the city is also famous as the home of the Philadelphia Eagles, one of the biggest teams in the NFL. If American football doesn’t tickle your fancy, the city also hosts the Philadelphia Phillies baseball team, so if you’re in town consider catching a game for a taste of local culture. 

In terms of food, a visit to Philadelphia won’t be complete without a taste of the famous Philly cheesesteak sandwich. These are sold all around the city and are exactly what it says in the name: thinly sliced beef steak with melted cheese in a long bun (called a hoagie). 

Princeton, New Jersey

Distance from New York: 58.7 miles / 94.4 km

Accessible by: Train, bus, car

Total tour time: 6+ hours

Another region wreathed in history, Princeton is home to the world renowned Princeton University as well as historic sights such as the Drumthwacket Estate and Princeton Battlefield State Park. Taking a relaxing walk through the university campus is a good idea, with landmarks such as Nassau Hall, the University Chapel, and the Princeton University Art Museum available to visit (note: at the time of writing the art museum is undergoing reconstruction, but are still hosting exhibitions around town). 

The downtown area of Princeton also sports a great collection of restaurants, local boutiques, and galleries. Palmer Square is a great destination for a relaxing shopping stroll and a great place to find souvenirs for those back home. Check out Ann Taylor, Labyrinth Books, and stop by the Bent Spoon for some excellent ice cream to top off your day. For a taste of culture, the McCarter Theater Center for the Performing Arts also hosts many events throughout the year. 

If you’d prefer to spend your time outdoors, consider going for a visit to Carnegie Lake. During the summer months it is open for picnics, fishing, canoeing, and even swimming, and is probably most famous as the base of the US Olympic rowing team. For other options, check out Mercer Meadows Park or Mountain Lakes Nature Preserve for some great hiking, picnic, and biking opportunities. 

Beacon, NY

Distance from New York: 60 miles / 95.5 km

Accessible by: Train, bus, car

Total tour time: 10+ hours

A perfect break from bustling New York City is to visit the picturesque town of Beacon located just over an hour to the north. This historic town has a reputation for attracting artists and other creatives, the hub of which can be found in the modern art museum, Dia Beacon. Built inside an old Nabisco box factory, here you can marvel at various modern art pieces from the 1960s onwards. 

The small city is also home to various cozy restaurants, bars, and cafes. This includes the Denning’s Point Distillery where you can enjoy tasting tours of various different spirits including gin, bourbon, whiskey, and vodka. If you’d like to also get some fresh air, why not go for a hike of Mount Beacon? Starting at the beautiful Mount Beacon Park, you have the option of several hiking trails of varying lengths. 

Bear Mountain State Park

Distance from New York: 52 miles / 83.6 km

Accessible by: Bus, car

Total tour time: 8+ hours

If you’re in the mood for a true taste of US north-east natural beauty, you can’t go wrong with a visit to Bear Mountain State Park. The park spans over 5,000 acres and activities include hiking to the top of Bear Mountain for gorgeous views of the Hudson River and surrounding region. There are also numerous picnic spots, waterfalls, the Bear Mountain Zoo, and the historic Bear Mountain Inn - a refurbished hotel dating back to 1915. The inn is perfect for a relaxing lunch in its restaurant, and of course if you feel like extending your day trip into spending the night.

You can also enjoy fishing, boating, and swimming in Hessian Lake - especially during the sweltering summer months. At the end of the day, the park is a hiker’s dream though, with the legendary Appalachian Trail running through it, and many miles of other hiking trails criss-crossing the area. The most popular of these is to the summit of Bear Mountain, but be sure to pack your hiking shoes, some snacks, and plenty of water before embarking on a long hike. 

Fire Island, NY

Distance from New York: 61.6 miles / 99 km

Accessible by: Train, bus, car, boat

Total tour time: 6+ hours

When one thinks of famous US beaches, your imagination may conjure up scenes of Florida or Hawaii, but what if we told you that there are pristine beaches to be found right outside New York City? Meet Fire Island, a narrow barrier island situated to the south of Long Island. Fire Island is famous for its scenic sandy beaches as well as its collection of nude beaches (don’t worry, there are signs to let you know which beaches are clothing optional and which aren't). 

You can also visit the historic Fire Island Lighthouse, wonder at the vibrant greenery of the Sunken Forest sanctuary, or enjoy the local shops and excellent seafood restaurants around the waterfront. If a trip to Fire Island sounds like something you would be interested in, we would highly recommend that you visit during the summer months (for obvious reasons). The island can be accessed by car or train, but to truly enjoy the ocean you can also take a ferry from Long Island. Ask your New York private guide for transport recommendations that will best fit your itinerary. 

Can I get to Niagara Falls? 

Another common question when it comes to Day Trips from New York City is whether you can get to Niagara Falls during a day trip. While we were tempted to include it in our list, the reality of the situation is that these scenic waterfalls are about 400 miles (643 km) from the city. This means you are looking at a 7 hour drive (if traffic is good), or a 9 hour train journey one-way. While technically possible, we wouldn’t want you to spend most of your day trip in transit, so definitely at least spend the night! 

Tipping Culture

An important part of touring in the United States that may not be obvious to international visitors is the country’s tipping culture. While not technically required by law, tipping is expected in most venues and for service staff. When in a restaurant, it’s common to tip between 15% and 20% of the bill total. It is also expected that you tip cleaning staff, porters, and drivers a few dollars ($2 - $5) above the charge of the service provided. You do not have to tip when shopping in retail stores, and be aware that some places (especially restaurants) may include a service charge in the bill anyway, so be sure to ask. 


New York State and the US north-east in general is a huge area that is home to thousands of amazing tour experiences, and we only scratched the surface in this article. From marveling at historic American cities, strolling through scenic parks, enjoying the local art scene, or simply stretching out on the beach - there is something for everyone to do here! So take a break from the hustle and bustle of NYC and enjoy a bit of quiet with a day trip. The easiest way to arrange one is to talk to one of our private guides

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