New York may be the finest city in the world, but the crowds, sirens, and traffic can be too much for even the most ardent New Yorker. So why not escape the hubbub for a day? It’s a snap to go, and you’ll be back in time for a couple of beers at a dive bar if NYC hunger strikes.
Take the Acela Express out of Penn Station‘s horrific netherworld and into one of America’s most historic cities. To visit the Liberty Bell and the rooms where the Declaration of Independence was written and sealed, take a cab from the city’s towering classical station to Independence National Historical Park. Before visiting the wonderful Philadelphia Museum of Art, get a slice (or a gigantic Philly cheesesteak) at the South 9th Street Italian Market. Along with wonderful local work, there’s an insanely remarkable collection of ‘best hits’ by Picasso and Klee, not to mention a Rocky statue at the bottom of the gallery’s steps.
Hamilton, New Jersey’s Grounds for Sculpture
This spectacular sculpture park in Hamilton, New Jersey, located just over an hour from New York City, features works by established and upcoming artists. The domestic arts building features both classic and current American sculptures, while the expansive 42-acre outdoor landscape houses an ever-growing collection of spectacular pieces. The park also conducts photography and dancing courses, making it a fantastic spot to try something new while taking a break from Manhattan’s never-ending hustle.
New Windsor, New York, Storm King
If sculpture in beautiful surroundings is your thing, drive north to the Storm King Art Center. It’s a popular weekend getaway for New Yorkers, who like strolling over its undulating hills, which are peppered with intriguing modern sculptures by Alexander Calder, Maya Lin, Donald Judd, Richard Serra, and others. The art center, which was initially intended to be a museum devoted to Hudson River School painting, takes its name from neighboring Storm King Mountain and provides ideal vantage spots for picnics (there’s also a cafe on-site).
Long Island’s Sands Point Preserve
Sands Point, a wealthy village on Long Island’s north shore, is said to be the basis for East Egg, the house of Tom and Daisy Buchanan in The Great Gatsby. The beautiful Hempstead House, erected in the early twentieth century and originally planned to replicate Castle Kilkenny in Ireland, is located in Sands Point Preserve, which was once owned by the Guggenheims (you can tour the grand halls and imposing rooms for a small fee). Six wonderful nature trails run through Sands Point. The approved forest walk winds through ancient oak woodland, beginning at the main visitor entrance (maps available at the visitor center). The preserve is especially lovely in the spring and autumn, but it is open all year.
New Jersey’s Asbury Park Boardwalk
The boardwalk of Asbury Park is a New Jersey landmark, immortalized by Bruce Springsteen and damaged by the wrath of Superstorm Sandy in 2012. Aside from the normal seaside attractions, the true lure here is the Stone Pony, the music venue where The Boss was born. Stay late to see a band and have a beer. Or come early, hang out on the beach, and pretend you’re a character from Born to Run.
New York’s Beacon
Take the Metro-North train from Grand Central to Beacon, which is located on the Hudson River’s eastern bank. Though the main street is filled with lovely cafes, vintage shops, and lifestyle boutiques, Dia: Beacon is the main attraction for many. The spacious gallery, housed in what was originally a Nabisco box printing factory and outfitted with spectacular skylights throughout, is as physically appealing as the works on display. When you’ve had your fill of culture, head to the historic Roundhouse Beacon for a supper overlooking a waterfall.
Garrison, New York, from Arden Point to Glenclyffe
Upstate New York is filled with breathtaking scenery. This short, four-mile walk takes in stunning views of the Hudson Valley as it winds through woodland and along the banks of the river, which eventually flows down Manhattan’s west side, past Lady Liberty, and into the Atlantic. The roads are clearly defined, and you’re never far from civilization. Garrison may be reached in an hour and a quarter by taking the Hudson line from Grand Central.
New York’s Hudson
Hudson, a lovely village north of Garrison, offers a glimpse of a slower, simpler time in this hectic area of the United States. The wonderfully designed railroad station, which dates back to 1874, is the state’s oldest continually operational Amtrak stop. Check out the magnificent Olana mansion, designed by US landscape painter Frederic Church. Church’s estate, located just outside of town, was inspired by Persian designs he saw while traveling in the Middle East, and it now houses works by the Hudson River School of painters, of which Church was a significant member. The mansion is open from Tuesday to Sunday and admission is via tour only; reservations must be made in advance online.
New York’s Tannersville and Phoenicia
Tannersville and Phoenicia, at the Catskill Forest Preserve‘s entrance, are located across the river from Hudson. This wide natural environment served as the scene for the classic American folktale Rip Van Winkle, and there are numerous references to it throughout the story, including a bridge named after it. Tannersville is renowned as “the painted village in the sky” because of the colorful buildings on its main road. After a deliciously caloric breakfast at the legendary Phoenicia Diner, work it off with a stroll to Kaaterskill Falls or, in the winter, skiing at Hunter Mountain.
The Island of Fire
Set away from Long Island’s Atlantic shore, Fire Island can feel truly secluded and tranquil if you visit at the appropriate time (that is, don’t come on Labor Day or July 4th, when throngs flock here). Its sandy dunes and expansive beaches are ideal for unwinding after a day of walking the streets and seeing sights. It’s the place you go when NYC has finally become too much. It’s simple and relaxing.
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