You don’t have to be a Game of Thrones geek to know that winter is coming. Just stick your hand outside. And when it does, many New Yorkers will morph into urban bears, trudging indoors to hibernate in museums, restaurants, and, cruelly, too-small apartments. Before the strong winds whip down from the North (thanks for nothing, Canada!), it’s a good idea to get out of town for a day or two—to expand your lungs in the great outdoors, your mind in upstate galleries, and your waistline in foodie havens far from sad midtown Chipotles. Below, you’ll find six ways to do just that. Consider this list of weekend getaways from NYC an early holiday gift for your soul.
Hike & Howl in the Delaware Water Gap
It’s amazing how quickly one can get from Union Square to the set of a Kevin Costner movie. OK, that’s not entirely true—but in under two hours (on a good day), you can take a bus south and be in the lush, expansive Delaware Water Gap Recreation Area. There, the pros at Discover Outdoors will lead you on a five-mile, 800-foot hike that yields stunning views of the Delaware River. The climb culminates at a wolf preserve, where you’ll kick it with packs of Timber, Tundra, and Arctic wolves and watch them in their natural habitats. (Regarding that Costner bit: Dances With Wolves, anyone?) While the hike is not meant to be incredibly tough, you do have to be 18 or older to participate. Oh, and what’s a water gap, you’re wondering? It’s another way of noting when a river runs through a mountain. In this case, that’s the Delaware River slicing through a mighty ridge of the Appalachian Mountains.
When to Go: There are Hike & Howl events planned for December 2 and December 31, if you want to say goodbye to 2017 in rugged style.
How to Get There: A bus leaves from Paragon Sports at the corner of Broadway and West 18th Street at 9 a.m. and returns to the city at 7 p.m. This is good if you need to pick up any last-minute hiking gear or lunch (there are a bunch of fast but tasty restaurants near that part of town).
Play Downton Abbey at the Old Westbury Gardens
The sprawling, 23-room palace grounds sit on about 200 of the most beautiful acres in all of New York State. It’s the former home of John Shaffer Phipps, heir to a 19th-century steel empire, and his family. The verdant yards and gardens have been immaculately kept up since they opened for public tours in 1959. And the overall vibe here is much more Downton Abbey than Versailles—which makes sense, since the building was designed by Englishman George Crawley in the style favored by Charles II. While parents will love the break from the bustling city and a leisurely stroll across at least a few of those rolling acres (or dropping in on a gardening workshop), kids can participate in craft-making activities held most Saturdays and Sundays in December.
When to Go: Most weekends in December feature fun stuff for kids; check the website for other happenings.
How to Get There: Take the Long Island Rail Road to Westbury Station, then catch a taxi to the gardens.
Go Beyond the Yale in New Haven
Sure, there’s the beautiful campus to visit and the incredible collection at the Yale University Art Gallery…and the Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History…and the Yale Repertory Theatre, but really, New Haven, Connecticut, is not all about Yale. Stroll the main drag downtown and you’ll discover block after block of new restaurants, shops, bookstores, and more. Local boutiques and eateries such as Bottega Giuliana share space with chains like J.Crew and Urban Outfitters. Wander off that well-worn path and lose yourself in the 16 acres of rolling hills that is the New Haven Green. The vast outdoor space is home to many of the city’s best cultural events—like the Festival of Arts & Ideas and the New Haven Jazz Festival—so check online to find out what’s coming up.
All that roaming is going to make you more than ready for lunch; when that time comes, hit up one of the several excellent pizzerias in town. Some folks are partial to the iconic white clam pie at Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana, but if you only have time for one meal, you can’t go wrong at Sally’s Apizza, which opened in 1938 and has been cranking out the same amazing homemade pizza sauce ever since.
When to Go: Pretty much anytime. The shops, restaurants, and museums are always open, so if the weather makes a park outing unpleasant, there’s plenty of indoor action.
How to Get There: Metro-North trains leave Grand Central Station bound for New Haven every hour, 7 a.m.–midnight, during the week, and about every two hours on the weekend. The ride is under two hours.
Have a Do-It-All Day on Bear Mountain
A hike in Bear Mountain State Park is not like your typical hike. For one thing, once you get up high enough on the mountain, you’ll have heart-pounding views of the west bank of the Hudson River that you can only see from that vantage. And once you’ve taken in as much sweeping beauty as you can, you’ll come back down the mountain to explore the great range of activities the park offers. At the Trailside Museums & Zoo, you can check out native turtles, snakes, frogs, toads, and salamanders, among many other underwater creatures. Over in the Geology Museum you’ll learn all about the stuff you were just traipsing upon. After all that learning, you’ll want to get back to something more physically challenging—and that’s when it’s time to breezily take to the ice of the park’s skating rink, open now through mid-March. For a final chill-out, the merry-go-round is a mellow denouement, and this one features seats carved to look like animals that have roamed the mountain: black bears, wild turkeys, deer, foxes, swans, and rabbits. Oh, and if you forget to pack lunch, the Bear Mountain Inn has you covered.
When to Go: Depending on how hearty you are, any time between now and mid-March, so you can get some skating in.
How to Get There: Two Coach USA buses leave Port Authority every day, one at 8:45 a.m., the other at 11:15 a.m., for the one-hour trip. They return to NYC from Bear Mountain at 3:19 p.m.
Enter a Time Capsule in Red Bank
You’ll feel like you’ve entered another era when you arrive in Red Bank, New Jersey. What era exactly? That depends on where you go and what you do. A busy shopping stretch along Broad Street evokes 1950s, small-town America, dotted with high-end consignment shops and other mom-and-pop stores. That fantasy is interrupted only by the occasional Starbucks and other modern chains. And you might get a twinge of ’90s nostalgia if you have lunch at JBJ Soul Kitchen—that’s because the JBJ in question is none other than Jon Bon Jovi. His farm-to-table soul joint provides not only tasty pulled pork sandwiches but also financial relief for the poor and hungry. Diners can pay cash for their meal, and thus help cover the cost for someone who can’t afford to eat there. Another option is to volunteer to help at the restaurant in exchange for a bite. If your thing is more the 1980s, by all means, get stoked at Yestercades video game arcade. That’s where classics like Frogger, Galaga, Donkey Kong, and Centipede will blink and squawk their way back into your heart. Finally, for some fun that transcends time, head to the Red Bank Armory, where on Friday and Saturday the ice rink is open to the public for skating a couple of hours each day.
When to Go: See that part about Friday and Saturday, above.
How to Get There: New Jersey Transit trains travel from NYC’s Penn Station to Red Bank regularly.
Out-Hipster the Other Hipsters in Beacon
There was a time when a meaningful percentage of too-cool, heavily bearded Brooklynites fled the city, pushing due north for the bigger yards and smaller mortgages of a town called Beacon. That time was roughly 2014, when The New York Times covered the phenomenon. Anecdotally, it seems as if this northward migration has slowed, but there remain many good reasons why people still want to be in Beacon. For starters: All those earlier pioneers have opened lovely boutiques, galleries, and restaurants with decent food and better beer along the city’s Main Street. But if you have only a day or two up there, definitely spend some time at the magnificently designed and captivating sculpture museum Dia:Beacon. The former Nabisco box printing factory has been converted into a perfectly lit palace for contemporary masters such as Gerhard Richter, Louise Bourgeois, and Richard Serra, whose room of enormous steel pieces must be seen and experienced. For lunch try either Dogwood for fresh, locally sourced pub food and some 16 taps of excellent beer or Tito Santana Taqueria for authentic Mexican grub and a rather special smoked brisket taco. Those two spots are on either end of Main Street, so it’s possible to have lunch at one and dinner at the other and explore all the quirky retailers and shops in between. On your journey, chances are you’ll meet someone who relocated to Beacon not long ago. One tip: Don’t ask how much their house cost—that would only depress you.
When to Go: Dia:Beacon is open Thursday–Monday through December, and then Friday–Monday from January to March.
How to Get There: Take Metro-North’s Hudson Line to Beacon Station. It’s a short walk from there to Dia, and you can taxi or Lyft to other parts of town.
Pack your bags (or not) for a day trip out of town! We’ll take care of the nitty-gritty.