As a New Yorker, sometimes owning a car just isn’t worth the aggravation of getting stuck in traffic or having to pay exorbitant prices for parking (let alone paying the upcoming congestion charge). At the same time, it can be challenging to think of places to escape to if you’re minus a vehicle. Not to worry—we put our explorer hats on and found five very interesting places to venture to without ever having to get behind the wheel.
#1: For an Artsy Getaway: Beacon, New York
One of the coolest places to visit in the Hudson Valley? Beacon, New York, an easy 90-minute train ride via Metro North from Grand Central. In this eminently walkable former mill town, you can spend hours poking around the cute boutiques and vintage shops, have a picnic in Waterfront Park, nestled along the Hudson River, or just head straight to DIA: Beacon, a 300,000 square foot museum located in the former Nabisco box printing factory located just adjacent to the train station and immerse yourself in contemporary art. While not all of the installations are just right for little kids, there’s plenty for kids of all ages to enjoy here and best of all at Homespun Dia: Beacon, the on-site café, there are high chairs and a yummy kids’ menu with such choices as a simple turkey sandwich on brioche or a fruit and cheese plate for the unfussiest of eaters.
#2: For a Beach Day at an Oceanfront Park: Long Branch, New Jersey
Ever wonder why we grit our teeth in bumper to bumper traffic on a warm summer day when we can just hop on New Jersey Transit (which leaves from Penn Station) and, 90 minutes later, arrive at one of the best beach towns around? We wonder that, too. In Long Branch, head right to Seven Presidents Oceanfront Park, named for the U.S. presidents who vacationed here, with its 38 acres of ocean beach, fishing and more. You’ll find tasty eats at such places as Surf Taco and fun ice cream creations at Coney Waffle plus endless options at Pier Village, a beachfront shopping center filled with restaurants and shops.
#3: For a Beach Day without Traffic: Long Beach, Long Island
If taking the LIRR is more your speed, this town (AKA LBNY) located one hour from Manhattan, offers all the R&R you need on a gorgeous spring or summer day. Best of all, the train drops you off right in town so you don’t need to schlep anything from the city. Instead, stop at Diner by the Sea for a creative milkshake or pick up your picnic fixings at Brand’s Deli located right across from the LIRR station and take it all to the beach—located just three short blocks away.
#4: For a Weekend of Kid-Friendly Attractions: Providence, Rhode Island
While you have to commit to a three-hour Amtrak train trip from Penn Station, the capital city of Rhode Island (AKA Providence) and the home of Brown University and the Rhode Island School of Design, does not disappoint. You can venture over to the Roger Williams Park Zoo, which just unveiled a new $10 million rainforest section or spend the day at the Providence Children’s Museum, located in the city’s jewelry district. A third option for endless entertainment: Big Nazo, a performance group featuring circus family contortionists, a giant three-eyed robot percussionist and so much more. While you’re in town, pop into Sydney, an Australian inspired all-day café that’s just a two-minute walk from the Amtrak station.
#5: For a Weekend in a Charming Historic Town: Portsmouth, New Hampshire
An even further Amtrak ride away, clocking in at six hours from Penn Station, Portsmouth is a charming historic town settled in 1623 that serves as the hub of New Hampshire’s Seacoast region and is the perfect spot for a long weekend getaway. The nation’s third-oldest city offers a vibrant downtown full of cute shops and restaurants—we’re big fans of The Friendly Toast thanks to its exhaustive breakfast menu (don’t miss the Egg-in-a-Hole goodness) and cultural offerings such as Strawbery Banke, a 10-acre outdoor living history museum staffed by costumed interpreters and artisans that’s perfect for kids ages five and up, who showcase the skills of an era gone by and teach visitors all about the Granite State’s rich colonial history.
Now—aren’t you excited to head right to Penn Station or Grand Central and hop on the next train to adventure? I am!
Lambeth Hochwald is a writer in New York City who focuses on lifestyle stories for a wide variety of publications. After spending her early years in the suburbs, she’s a big fan of quick train rides out of town with her husband and teenage son.