Have you ever looked at a picture of someone blissfully striding down a mountainous path as a glimmering river beckons in the distance and thought, “that must be nice, but I’m in New York City and don’t have a car – how the heck am I supposed to get to wherever that is?”
You’ve come to the right place! This guide will tell you everything you need to know about the best and easiest NYC day trips without a car. Yes, you read that correctly. There is an entire world beyond New York’s five boroughs, and much of the surrounding Hudson Valley attractions and countryside are extremely accessible thanks to the city’s Metro-North train lines.
What is Metro-North Railroad?
The Metro-North Railroad is the suburban commuter train service for the greater New York City region. It reaches west into New Jersey, north into New York’s Hudson Valley, and northeast along the southern border of Connecticut, making the Metro-North one of the easiest ways to take an NYC day trip without a car. There are five different lines that reach a total of 124 stations – the Port Jervis and Passaic Valley lines begin at Penn Station, and the Hudson, Harlem, and New Haven lines start at Grand Central Station.
Prices for a ride on a Metro-North train depend on three things – when and where you’re going, and where you buy your tickets. Rides are priced according to length of trip and peak vs. off-peak times, and it’s helpful to remember that Metro-North peak hours are between 6am and 10am for trains arriving in NYC and between 4pm and 8pm for trains departing NYC. Tickets are also more expensive if you buy them onboard, so to avoid overpaying, either purchase your ticket from a kiosk in the train station or through the eTix app.
Keep in mind that this pricing structure is different from the city’s subway system, despite both entities existing under the MTA. And no, your subway card won’t work on a Metro-North train.
Best NYC Day Trips on Metro-North
With so many destinations accessible via a Metro-North Railroad train, it can be hard to figure out the best place for NYC day trips or weekend getaway without a car. Read on for our suggestions!
Rockefeller State Park Preserve
Metro-North stop: Tarrytown
Trip length: 45 minutes from Grand Central Station on the Hudson Line
Only 30 miles north of the city, Rockefeller State Park Preserve is home to forested hills, sunlit valleys, and quiet countryside walks, and is one of the best quick NYC day trips by train. It’s also a major birdwatching destination – 202 species of birds have been spotted amongst the preserve’s wooded trails, designating the park an Important Bird Area by the National Audubon Society. From migrating buffleheads to 34 different species of warblers and even the occasional bald eagle, anyone from beginner birdwatchers to seasoned ornithologists will find something to point their binoculars towards. Looking to get into birding? Check out our beginner’s guide to birdwatching!
The Preserve also has a partnership with Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture, a collective of conservation planners, organic farmers, educators, and chefs who are creating a sustainable food ecosystem that connects the local community to delicious and innovative cuisine. The Center is open to the public for behind-the-scenes tours of their Innovation Labs, grounds, and growing spaces, and is one of the top Hudson Valley getaways. Or, hop on this tour from Go Love NY, which combines a private tour of Stone Barns with a tasting at nearby Captain Lawrence Brewery, the Hudson Valley’s largest craft brewery.
Harriman State Park
Metro-North stop: Tuxedo
Trip length: 1 hour from Penn Station, transfer at Secaucus Junction to the Port Jervis Line
Harriman State Park, located west of the Hudson River, is BIG. With 44,000 acres and over 200 miles of hiking trails, it’s the second-largest state park in New York. And at just one hour from the city, Metro North makes it a super easy day trip from NYC without a car. One of the Park’s best hikes is the Ramapo-Dunderberg Trail, a Moderate-rated 3.5 mile hike over several creek crossings and some fun rock scrambles. Thinking about a new pair of hiking boots? Get inspired with our guide to sustainable shoes!
Old Croton Aqueduct Trail
Metro-North stop: Philipse Manor (in the town of Sleepy Hollow)
Trip length: 1 hour from Grand Central Station on the Hudson Line
Created in 1842 as the city’s first water supply system, the Croton Aqueduct was renamed the Old Croton Aqueduct when a newer and much bigger conduit was built nearly 50 years later. The aqueduct was later purchased by the Parks Department and eventually turned into what we now know as the Old Croton Aqueduct Trail, which meanders 26 miles from Van Cortlandt Park in Yonkers to the Croton Dam in Cortlandt, NY. It’s entirely possible to walk or run the entire trail, but if you only have the time in your NYC day trip to tackle a smaller section, try the 7-mile stretch between Sleepy Hollow and Hastings-on-Hudson. You’ll pass through charming communities, get a great view of the newly constructed Gov. Mario M. Cuomo Bridge, and stroll through the grounds of Lyndhurst, a gorgeous Gothic Revival mansion.
You might also choose to bike your way along the aqueduct, but you’ll find a variety of surfaces throughout the trip, including gravel, dirt, and grass, which will make for an uneven ride. Additionally, the path often uses public roads, so be prepared to navigate around pedestrian sidewalks and vehicle traffic. A mountain or dirt bike is strongly recommended over a road bike if you’re planning to tackle the trail on two wheels. And as long as those wheels are 27” or less in diameter, you can bring your bike on any Metro-North train without a permit.
Sing Sing Kill Brewery
Metro-North stop: Ossining
Trip length: 1 hour, 5 minutes from Grand Central Station on the Hudson Line
The Sing Sing Kill Brewery was designed to be an all-inclusive gathering space in an underserved downtown Ossining, and a catalyst for its local economy. Their sustainably produced beer uses locally sourced energy, equipment, and ingredients, with most beer styles sourcing 100% of their malt and hops from within New York State. Take a tour of the brewery or pull up a seat in their taproom, which offers tastings of their full line as well as guest taps from NY Farm craft brewers and a selection of NY State Spirits from the surrounding Hudson Valley.
Manitoga – The Russel Wright Design Center
Metro-North stop: Garrison
Trip length: 1 hour, 20 minutes from Grand Central Station on the Hudson Line
American product and furniture designer Russel Wright believed that good design lived in creative harmony with nature and the surrounding environment. These principles thrive at Manitoga, his former home, and workspace. Here you can get a firsthand look at the artist’s studio, mid-century modern home, and the 75 acres of woodland gardens that inspired his work. The property’s trails are open to the public for easy solo hiking, or you could join a guided landscape hike to learn about the rich biodiversity in Hudson Valley, NY.
Hudson Highlands State Park Preserve
Metro-North stop: Cold Spring
Trip length: 1 hour, 25 minutes from Grand Central Station on the Hudson Line
On the east side of the Hudson River is the delightful town of Cold Spring. The Metro-North Railroad definitely makes this one of the best day trips from NYC without a car. Cold Spring is the gateway to Hudson Highlands State Park. With 8,000 acres of mostly undeveloped woodland preserve, it’s one of the best hiking and wildlife destinations in the Hudson Valley. There are three trails to put on your radar. For those looking for a less strenuous experience, the Little Stony Point Short Loop is an Easy-rated .09-mile walk through a lovely part of the forest. If you’d like a long trail, the Bull Hill Full Loop is rated Moderate and will take you 5.4 miles past an abandoned rock quarry, early 20th-century farm ruins, a waterfall, and more than one excellent view of the Hudson Valley. Up for a challenge? Consider Breakneck Ridge, an 11.4-mile, Hard-rated hike full of rock scrambles, elevation gains, and stunning scenery.
A note of caution: this area can get pretty buggy, especially in the spring and fall (we speak from unfortunate experience). Douse yourself in some eco-friendly insect repellent before heading out and keep those ticks away.
A Sustainable Weekend Escape in Beacon, NY
Metro-North Railroad Stop: Beacon
Trip length: 1 hour, 30 minutes from Grand Central Station on the Hudson Line
There are a ton of exciting things to do in Beacon, NY, but one of our personal favorites, and one of the best Hudson Valley attractions, is Dia: Beacon, a contemporary art museum housed in a former Nabisco printing factory. It features works by late-20th century heavy hitters like Dan Flavin, Richard Serra, and Andy Warhol. After you’re done marveling at a larger-than-life art installation, it’ll be time for lunch at Vegetalien, a locally sourced, 100% plant-based cafe and juice bar in downtown Beacon. Then, cap off your day with a tasting at Hudson Valley Brewery, where they use renewable energy to brew their entire line of craft beers, or Denning’s Point Distillery, who sources locally grown grains for their seven different spirits. Pro tip: grab a drink to go for your ride back to the city – it’s legal to consume alcohol on Metro-North trains. Just remember to drink responsibly!
But wait, there’s more!
Have some extra time in your schedule? There are so many great things to do in Beacon, NY, you might consider turning your Hudson Valley day trip into a long weekend in Beacon with a stay at the Roundhouse, a 200-year old property whose owners saved the buildings from demolition and restored as much of the original structures as possible.
On your second day in Beacon, NY, take a guided kayak and walking tour of Bannerman Castle, an abandoned 100-year old castle on an uninhabited island in the middle of the Hudson River and one of the top Hudson Valley attractions. Or, you might opt for a 2-hour sail on the Hudson River Sloop Clearwater, a 106-foot long tall ship that conducts on-board environmental education sessions and works to protect the ecology of the Hudson River. When you’re back on dry land, use your reusable shopping bag to pick up some fresh fruits and veggies at the Sunday Beacon Farmers’ Market, which helps support local farms and businesses.
Watersports on the Long Island Sound
Metro-North Railroad Stop: Westport
Trip length: 1 hour, 40 minutes from Grand Central Station on the New Haven Line
Thanks to its relatively calm waters, The Long Island Sound is a great place to get your feet wet (literally), and makes for one of the best day trips from NYC to Connecticut. Don’t know your bow from your stern? Sea Kayak Connecticut has you covered. In addition to renting individual kayaks, stand-up paddleboards, and peddle kayaks by the hour, they also offer half-day introductory kayaking classes and guided tours of nearby coastal islands like Cockenoe Island and Sprite Island. Alternatively, heed your need for speed on a Fliteboard eFoil, an emission-free, battery-powered surfboard that allows you to glide above the surface of the water at 20 miles an hour. Fliteschool Fairfield will teach you all you need to know and will have you flying in no time.
Need a new swimsuit for your day on the water? Check out our guide to the best sustainable swimwear brands!
Walkway Over the Hudson
Metro-North stop: Poughkeepsie
Trip length: 2 hours from Grand Central Station on the Hudson Line
Soaring 212 feet over the Hudson River, the pedestrian walkway on the steel cantilever Poughkeepsie Bridge provides some of the best views in Hudson Valley, NY. The wheelchair-accessible and bike-friendly Walkway Over the Hudson spans 1.28 miles from Poughkeepsie, NY on the east side of the river to Highland, NY on the west, and is perfect for a leisurely stroll, a quick run, or anything in between. Walking back over the bridge to Poughkeepsie makes the trip almost 2.5 miles long, so make sure to refuel at Laughing Gut Kombucha, the area’s only kombucha taproom, before catching your train back to the city.
We hope this guide to the best day trips from NYC without a car will help you leave those crowded city streets behind and immerse yourself in more than a few wide-open spaces. See you on the Metro-North!
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