A common question on Tripadvisor’s NYC forum is what location is best combined with a trip to New York. The answer, of course, depends on your interests. Based on a lifetime spent traveling around the NYC area, I’ve come up with some suggestions. This list just scratches the surface and reflects my interests, so don’t expect any entries on golf, sporty pursuits or hiking other than on city streets!
The Obvious Choices:
Washington, DC – A little over 3 hours from NYC by train, this is probably the #1 combo for overseas visitors. You can fly, but Amtrak is a lot more civilized, as long as it is on time. If you’re on a budget and your schedule is a little more flexible, consider Bolt or Mega Bus. The monuments, Smithsonian, Spy Museum (reserve in advance) are some of the major attractions. The Monaco, a Kimpton Hotel, and others often have great weekend deals.
Philadelphia – a good option for history and art lovers. Home to Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell and other major locations pertinent to American history. One of the best art museums in the country and that is before the Barnes Foundation’s Philadelphia branch opens in May. Reading Terminal Market for moderate food options; anything Jose Garces for special meals. The original Buddakan is here too. The well located Loews Hotel often has specials. Book Amtrak early for the best fares, or Bolt or Mega buses are fine for the relatively short trip, depending on traffic. The NJ Transit to Septa is less expensive than Amtrak but can take up to 3 hours for the 1.5 hour trip.
Boston – filled with history, great seafood and bars. Another destination best reached by Amtrak but there is good, cheap bus service on Mega or Bolt. The Ames Hotel is steps from the State House and other major attractions and restaurants. The rooms are fabulous although maybe compact for someone not used to city living. Neptune and Island Creek are 2 great oyster bars; I wish Sorellina was in NYC.
Niagara Falls – best done by flying to Buffalo on Jet Blue. Rental car or cab from airport to the Canadian side of the falls. Tour operators offer this as a day trip from NYC by bus, but it is a long day. Stay on the Canadian side but make sure to walk across the bridge to the American side, where you can get closer to the falls. Both sides have cheap transit system for tourists to get around – you really don’t need a car unless you want to explore the countryside. Several passes enable discounted entry to sites.
Fire Island – a 31 mile island that runs along the southern strip of Long Island with a line of beach communities, all with different personalities. At most points, the island is 3 blocks wide, so you hear the surf everywhere and ocean breezes cool the island throughout the summer. Mostly rental homes (which you can often find for rent online by the week), some towns have hotels.
Ocean Beach, Kismet and Ocean Bay Park are pretty straight in orientation; Cherry Grove and the Fire Island Pines are known as gay towns. Everyone is welcome everywhere, but for people who prefer one environment over the other, it’s good to know you have options. Reached by ferry, it is hard to believe how close you are to NYC. Once you narrow down your town of choice, information is easy to find online about how to best get there. Or ask me.
The Hamptons – you really need a car and traffic is hell. It is possible to take the Long Island Rail Road or Hampton Jitney to the center of towns where hotels may be located, but the towns are not on the beach. I haven’t been there in so long I know there are better sources of info out there.
The Jersey Shore – is not necessarily anything like what is portrayed on the TV show, but it can be. I suggest Long Branch because there is a wide variety of hotel levels, restaurants and nightlife in a beachfront development called Pier Village. Walking distance from the train, or move fast if you want to snag a cab. The Ocean Palace is the more upscale, beachfront hotel. I’ve stayed at the more moderate Ocean Court Hotel which had a smell that strangely reminded me of my grandparent’s kitchen – in a good way. Spring Lake is a lovely town. Asbury Park is known for its boardwalk with rides and there will be many hotel options there.
Montauk – the last town on the train line after the Hamptons but nothing like the Hamptons. Full range of motels and chic boutique hotels. Long Island Rail Road.
Food and Wine:
Savannah, GA – approximately 2 hour flying time down and a much shorter return flight, Savannah can be a faster trip than a drive to/from the Hamptons. If you’re there on a weekday, don’t miss lunch at Mrs. Wilkes but make sure to get there early! On my December trip, I took 2 interesting tours that rarely duplicated any information. The highly regarded Savannah Dan walking tour, and the Oglethorpe trolley tour. The Marshall House is centrally located on the main shopping street near all the major squares, restored homes and museums. The rooms are lovely and surprisingly affordable, with a substantial breakfast.
The North Fork of Long Island – 3 hours by Long Island Railroad or Hampton Jitney from NYC is one of America’s best, yet under-the-radar wine regions. All of the wineries there are in an area smaller than any mid-sized California producer, but the variety and quality of the wines is substantial. Possible as a day trip, better an overnight or two. The very well connected Jo-Ann Perry of Vintage Tours has excellent small group tours to some of the best area vineyards and winemakers. Small inns are a great option for travelers with a car. Otherwise, you might want to find a B&B in Greenport. I can’t recommend either of the very expensive hotels in town. Another option would be the new Hotel Indigo in Riverhead. There is a car rental in Riverhead close to the Hampton Jitney stop if you would rather cut down on the driving.
Hudson Valley – Home to Culinary Institute of America with their student run restaurants and many alumni run restaurants in the region. Some pretty decent wineries too. Antiquing, craft and farm fairs, hiking and a lot of other things to do. A car is essential, but you could spend a couple of days in Rhinebeck or Hudson without one if walking around quaint towns with antique shops interests you. In Rhinebeck, I’ve stayed at both the historic Beekman Arms and their nearby affiliated property the Delamater Inn.
A Short Flight to Another World:
Quebec City – like many places with a historic center and modern city an interesting juxtaposition between the preserved old and real life. One minute you’re walking amid restored stone buildings; next thing you’re in a patisserie full of fashionably dressed young French teenagers eating macarons. The Dominion 1912, which is now the Germain Dominion is one of my favorite hotels ever and I would probably book without looking elsewhere. Flight time from NYC is about an hour and United often has great weekend deals.
Lambertville, NJ – just across the Delaware River from touristy New Hope, PA. A major antiquing center. You can get there by bus from Port Authority in NYC on the Transbridge line but you might want a car. The surrounding area is beautiful; there is even an old covered bridge. Plus, if you buy anything, it will have to fit underneath the bus or be shipped.
Berkshires – another lovely mountainous area north of NYC with good antiquing and cultural activities. Stockbridge, Lenox and other towns are well known for antique fairs and markets and dance festivals like Jacob’s Pillow. Metro North goes to nearby Wassaic, but the Bonanza bus is probably more convenient for non-drivers. Driving is really your best option for exploring this area.
Also consider Rhinebeck and Hudson mentioned above for antiquing.
Aging Hippies or Buddhists:
Woodstock – maybe too much like a hippie Disney, but the surrounding area is gorgeous and there are a lot of great restaurants, bars and shops beyond those that sell tie dye. There is even a Buddhist monastery. A very active alternative community makes for some interesting arts, film and food festivals. Easily visited without a car. Trailways buses leave regularly from Port Authority in Manhattan. Although the rooms are slightly motel-esque, I really like the Inn on the Millstream.
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This article was originally posted April 19, 2012.