10 Best Weekend Getaways from New York City
Disclosure: This article contains affiliate links through which you can buy things if you like. If you decide to make a purchase, I receive a small commission at zero extra cost to you. This helps me to keep this site running.
New York City is one of the places that you can spend weeks in and still not see all of it. While there’s so much to do inside the city, leaving the city and exploring its surroundings, is a must-do when you travel to New York. The best way to enjoy the surrounding area is by taking weekend getaways from New York City.
The scenery of upstate New York and the other states around is not less than spectacular. As soon as you are out of the city borders, you leave the concrete jungle behind you, and the view turns into green fields, rivers, and lakes.
There are many destinations to visit – from small towns to nature wonders, from parks to museums. If you have more than a weekend for your getaway, you can combine two or more of the destinations and enjoy a longer trip. See my recommendations in the General Tips at the end of this post.
Here are the best weekend getaways from NYC.
Niagara Falls, New York
Niagara Falls is one of the most impressive places to visit in the US and maybe in the world. Thus make a wonderful destination and one of the best weekend getaways from NYC. Located 400 miles to the northwest, you can reach the falls by bus, train, flight, or organized tours from the city. However, the best way would be with a car.
Niagara Falls is part of the wonders of the world. While they are not the tallest falls, they are definitely the most powerful waterfall in the world, with over 168,000m3 of water flowing through the falls every minute.
Once you are there, you can see the falls from above, or climb down the stairs with your raincoat and feel the amazing power of the water falling on the giant boulders at its base. The most impressive way to see and feel the power of the falls is by taking a boat ride in the lake. The boats get really close the the base of the falls and it’s an experience to remember for life.
If you have the time, and Covid regulations allow it, cross the border to Canada and see Horseshoe fall on the other side. It is even more powerful than the US falls.
On the way
As the drive-up to Niagara Falls takes around 7 hours, it is recommended to split it into a few days and to enjoy the beautiful roads and lovely towns on the way (including the Finger Lakes – see below). You can stop at Ithaca, the home of Cornell University, on the south point of Cayuga Lake. Or make a stop in Corning, to visit the Corning Museum of Glass.
Buffalo is the biggest city in the area (30 minutes drive to the falls), where you can find a variety of options for accommodations, restaurants, and a beautiful lighthouse.
Finger Lakes, New York
Suggested by Mark and Kristen from Where Are Those Morgans
Famous for award-winning wine trails, excellent food, stunning gorges and long narrow lakes, New York’s popular Finger Lakes region is the perfect weekend getaway from the city for lovers of the great outdoors.
A 4-hour drive along I-80 and I-81 will transport you from NYC to Ithaca, home of Cornell University. Here you can hike gorge trails to picturesque waterfalls in both Robert H Treman and Buttermilk Falls state parks. Swiftly continue 9 miles along the Western edge of Cayuga Lake to gaze upon mighty Taughannock Falls. It is the largest single drop waterfall East of the Rockies.
Book a room in advance at the stunning Inn at Taughannock Falls for luxury, relaxation, and a perfect weekend base location.
Spend a day sampling the finest Finger Lakes wine as part of a tour. Or forget the grapes in favor of discovering more impressive natural landscapes. First, hike a beautiful gorge trail at Watkins Glen state park to scenic showstopper Rainbow Falls. Second, make it a real road trip by driving a little further onto a Finger Lakes hidden gem.
Letchworth State Park
Letchworth State Park is home to three awesome waterfalls, endless miles of hiking trails, and a truly spectacular canyon, giving it the nickname “Grand Canyon of the East”. Extra drive time means Letchworth is often overlooked on a Finger Lakes weekend break but it is worth the additional effort. Avid photographers should arrive at Great Bend Overlook for an unforgettable sunrise but all visitors will enjoy Letchworth’s Lower, Middle, and Upper Falls.
Boston is one of the most interesting cities in the United States. It has a rich history, that goes back to the first immigrants who came from Europe to New England, amazing architecture and also vibrant modern city life. Honestly, Boston is one of the prettiest cities I have traveled to in America.
The best way to explore all the historical sites of Boston is to follow the Freedom Trail. It’s a collection of museums, churches, a ship, historic markers and more, that tell the story of the American Revolution. They are all connected with a red trail on the pavements and roads, that you cannot miss.
The Freedom Trail starts at the Boston Common – America’s oldest public park, dates to 1634, and today is located in downtown Boston. The last stop is USS Constitution Museum and the 1797 warship. Choose your favorite sites to enter, grab lunch at Quincy Market and enjoy the streets of Boston.
Another area to visit in Boston is around Newbury street. The picturesque houses here make you feel like a time traveler, but the modern restaurants and stores will keep your feet on the ground.
If you want to connect to a different part of the history of this area, make a short trip to Salem, just 30 minutes drive. Here you can learn about the infamous witch haunt in the Witch History Museum, visit the Witch House, and also The Witch Dungeon.
How to get here?
Boston is about a 4-5 hours drive from New York City and it’s easy to get there with a car. However, driving inside Boston, or finding a parking place is not an easy experience. Alternatively, you can take a bus or a short flight, and use public transportation while in the city.
Cape Cod, Massachusetts
Suggested by Tegan + Alex from Why Not Walk Travel Guides
Located about 5 hours drive to the northeast, Cape Cod is a great place for weekend getaways from New York City. It’s the serene ocean views, cute seaside towns, lighthouses, and wealth of attractions that make it so special.
Before entering the Cape proper, consider stopping to see the Plymouth Rock and Plimoth Plantations in nearby Plymouth. You can also stop at the renowned Heritage Museum in Sandwich.
Keep in mind that the Cape is a large peninsula comprised of many towns. Each with its own character and beloved local traditions and things to do, so it will be necessary to prioritize where you’d like to go in advance. As you plan, consider checking out the JFK Museum in Hyannis; biking along the beach on the 22 miles of Cape Cod Rail Trail; or seeing a drive-in movie at the iconic Wellfleet Drive-In.
The Cape Cod National Seashore stretches across 40 miles of pristine coastline, perfect for an afternoon stroll or a day spent sunbathing. No visit to Cape Cod is complete without visiting Provincetown, located at the very tip of the Cape, the hub for art galleries, brunch, and fun in the area. While the region is understandably best known for its seafood, with quaint shacks scattered all over, there is quality vegan food at Green Lotus Café in Hyannis. When you’re done exploring for the day, consider staying in Falmouth, which has an adorable Main Street and lots of lodging options. One in particular to consider is the elegant and historic Captain’s Manor Inn.
How To Get There?
While it’s definitely easiest to drive to the Cape from NYC, it’s also possible to take a train or bus to Boston, and then connect to the Cape via another bus from Boston’s South Station. However, this lengthens the trip considerably, from a 5-hour drive to a 9+ hour bus or train.
One last thing to keep in mind – “Cape traffic” is legendary during the summer. Be sure to plan accordingly, as the highway is often only one lane on each side, and the road congestion gets fierce.
Stowe and Burlington, Vermont
Suggested by Karen from Outdoor Adventure Sampler
A getaway to the vibrant towns of Stowe and Burlington in Vermont is a fantastic vacation trip.
Wander through the scenic beauty of the Green Mountain state until you reach the picturesque town of Stowe, a world-class ski resort with four-season fun.
For hiking lovers, stroll in to see the gorgeous emerald-green Bingham Falls. More adventurous hikers can climb Mt. Mansfield, the highest mountain in Vermont, or alternatively, drive the toll road to the top. Rent a bike to enjoy the Stowe Recreation Path that winds along the river into town. Then meander around the picture-perfect village. You won’t be disappointed with a stay at the “Sound of Music” famous Trapp Family lodge.
Burlington, known for its foodie and arts culture, is your next stop. Nestled along the coast of Lake Champlain, a walk along the waterfront park is a must. For more active fun, rent a bicycle on the Burlington Bike Path. You can pedal along the water and stop at several beautiful beaches along the way. There are expansive views of the Adirondack Mountains across Lake Champlain from the bike path.
The open air pedestrian mall of Church Street is perfect for its one of a kind stores, street performers, and restaurants with outdoor seating. Grab a table at Revolution Kitchen for upscale vegan, gluten free food.
Stay overnight so you can enjoy a marvelous sunset over Lake Champlain. The Hilton Garden Inn has rooms overlooking the lake so you can enjoy the show from your room.
Suggested by Alice from Adventures of Alice
As the cultural capital of the USA, Washington DC is a place that people all over the world have collected their own image of. However, the pearly white monuments and magnificent American history is only one side of the city. If you’re spending 3-4 days in DC, you’ll have a chance to dig a little deeper, see past the touristy exterior and walk the city the way the locals do.
The journey from New York to Washington DC will take around 4 hours if you go by road depending on traffic. Once you arrive, check into your hotel (Sheraton Pentagon Hotel Arlington is a good option – it’s affordable and close to some great restaurants) and start crossing the typical “touristy things” of your DC bucket list.
What to see?
Possibly the most impressive sight is the US Capitol Building. But other famous attractions include the White House, the Library of Congress, the Martin Luther King Memorial, and the Lincoln Memorial, which is glorious at sunset.
You could easily spend your second day in the city touring just the museums as DC is home to America’s biggest and best. A few top choices are the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum, The National Museum of African American History and Culture, and the rather quirky Hirshhorn Museum. For lunch, head to Union Market for a diverse selection of local and international cuisines.
For your third day in DC, spend some time away from attractions and get stuck in the neighborhoods. Explore the beauty of Georgetown, see the vibrant nightlife in Adams Morgan, wander through Meridian Hill Park or take a stroll down 14th Street. If you have an extra day, take a trip to Mount Vernon, the birthplace of George Washington.
Hudson Valley, New York
Suggested by Ian from Travel Collecting
The mid and northern part of Hudson Valley makes a delightful weekend getaway from New York City. It is a bit too far to make a comfortable day trip and there are so many things to see and do that you need at least a weekend to explore the area.
A great place to base yourself is the delightful small town of Hudson, on the east bank of the Hudson River. The town is most well-known for the antique stores along the main street, but there are also several delightful cafes and restaurants, and places to stay.
If you are interested in history, art, or architecture, then you have to visit Olana, the over-the-top historic home of the famous painter Frederic Church. Across the river is the former home of another famous Hudson River School painter, Thomas Cole. If you prefer something more active, there are plenty of great Hudson Valley hikes in the area, including Poets’ Walk, which inspired Irving Washington to write Rip van Winkle.
The state capital, Albany, is also nearby. Visit the Empire State Plaza to see the state capitol (which does not have a dome) and The Egg (an oval-shaped conference center). Don’t miss the fascinating New York State Museum to learn more about the state’s history.
Hudson Valley is also a major center for agritourism, and there are plenty of farms with U-pick fruit, as well as cider houses and local vineyards where you can sample their products next to the orchards or vines. Hudson Chatham Winery and Stone Bridge Farm & Cider House are recommended.
A great place to stay in Hudson is the Inn at 34, a delightful inn with a great central location. You can drive to Hudson (about 2.5 hours) or take an Amtrak train from Penn Station. However, you will need a car to fully explore the area.
Atlantic City, New Jersey
Suggested by Dymphe from Dymabroad
For one of the best weekend getaways from New York City, look no further than Atlantic City! This city is located in the state of New Jersey and you can easily get there from New York City. The journey by car takes about 2 hours or you can get there by train in 3 hours.
There is a lot to do and see in Atlantic City. The city is home to many casinos, and many visitors go to the city for that specifically. The resort city is also well-known for its beaches. Atlantic City Beach is a very wide beach with beautiful sand. You can do water activities (like Ocean Cruise, Parasailing or Dolphin watching) or you can sit down in a relaxing beach chair. Next to the beach, you find the Atlantic City Boardwalk, which is the perfect place for a relaxing walk along the coast.
Another fun place to go to in Atlantic City is the Steel Pier. This is an amusement park located on a pier with lots of attractions.
A great place to stay in Atlantic City is Club Wyndham Skyline Tower. This is an incredible hotel near the beach and many sights in the city.
Cherry Springs, Pennsylvania
Suggested by Pamela from The Directionally Challenged Traveler
One of the best weekend getaways from New York City is located in Pennsylvania. Cherry Springs Dark Sky Park is the darkest park in America on the East Coast of the Mississippi. Located in north-central Pennsylvania, you can see the Milky Way with your naked eye throughout most of the year.
There are two observation areas within the park. The public viewing park is free to use and on one side of the road. Most of the white light from cars is blocked by a dirt dune, but there is still some white light in the park due to phones, backs of cameras, and some people using flashlights. Please be respectful of others. There are no fires allowed in the park, which is reserved for the campground nearby. You are also not allowed to spend overnight in this viewing area.
Not only does Cherry Springs have incredible night viewing, but there are also plenty of things to see during the day as well. You can get incredible views at the Pennsylvania Grand Canyon, located under an hour away from the park. Hikers can enjoy a variety of trails in the Susquehannock State Forest or at the numerous scenic stops along Route 44.
Enjoying snow-capped mountain ranges by day and Milky Way sightings by night makes Cherry Springs a great weekend getaway from NYC.
Lake Placid, New York
Suggested by Jenny from Limitless Hiker
Lake Placid in upstate New York is a cute getaway location, perfect for a weekend trip or a longer getaway. Whether you’re looking for a winter, spring, summer, or fall adventure, Lake Placid has activities for every season and every type of adventurer.
There are a variety of hiking trails nearby, including the hike to Indian Head is especially beautiful. It’s 10.5 miles round trip, but it’s worth it. The trail opens up to a beautiful overlook over Lower Ausable Lake. The best time to see it is right before sunset and during sunset.
In the winter, you can spend time skiing in the area. in the spring, summer, and fall months you can rent a kayak or a boat and spend the day hanging out on the lake.
You could also spend the day wakeboarding, water skiing, wake surfing, and tubing around the lake. If you haven’t gone before, there are several outfitters that provide lessons. The Adirondack Rafting Company runs 16 miles, 4-5 hour rafting trips along the scenic Hudson River Gorge.
Since Lake Placid is a ski town, there are a variety of restaurants and lodging options so you can enjoy the luxuries of this town while still being close to nature to head out and explore every day. Lake Placid Inn is recommended. It’s a cute hotel, with adorable rooms, there is also a fire pit where you can spend the evening watching the lake and the stars above
The best way to travel outside of the big city is with a car and make a road trip as a part of the vacation. Driving to your weekend getaways from New York City allows you flexibility in times and to enjoy more destinations off the beaten path. Sometimes the most memorable moments are from those spontaneous stops, and places you didn’t plan to visit. Road trips require planning and preparation – check out my 10 Tips For Planning For The Best Road Trip
Planning in advance is very important. While Covid is still here, it’s not easy to book everything in advance, however most hotel and car rental companies allow booking and cancellation at no cost, sometimes really close to the actual booked date.
Whether you are flying or driving to your weekend getaway, make sure you pack well. When it’s only a weekend, you want to spend your time on experiences and sightseeing, rather than shopping for essential things you could easily prepare at home. In my Top 10 Must-Have Travel Items For Better Traveling, I listed all the items I carry with me when I travel.
If you have more than a weekend
If you have more time for traveling outside of New York City, some of the weekend getaways can be combined into longer trips. Here are a few examples:
- Visit Lake Placid in upstate New York with Burlington, Vermont.
- Stop at Hudson Valley on the way up to Lake Placid.
- On your way to Niagara Falls, stop for 1-2 nights around the Finger Lakes.
- Cherry Springs in PA is a great stop on the way to Niagara Falls.
- Cape Cod and Boston can be combined into a week-long trip.
- Visit Atlantic City and continue to Washington DC.
Staying In New York City
For those who don’t want travel for and plan weekend getaways in NYC, check out my other posts about New York:
- 10 Best Things To Do In New York City
- 10 Best Things To Do In Brooklyn, New York
- Top 10 Tips For New York City From A Local
- The 10 Best Museums In New York City
- The 10 Best Vegan Restaurants In New York City
If you are planning to visit many of the sites and attractions of New York, you should consider getting the New York Pass. It allows cash-free entry to 100+ iconic attractions, including most of the museums on this list, for up to 10 days. In some places, it gives skip-the-line privileges, and it’s easy to use from your mobile device.
If you want to get updates about new posts from The Top Ten Traveler, subscribe to my newsletter below, and also get the ultimate packing list for free.