No time to plan a full-blown vacation this summer? Well, the beauty of living in Westchester is that we’re just a short drive from so many great destinations, all perfect for weekend trips, so you can get away from it all without all the fuss. Here are 10 locales we love (all within a four-hour drive) that we’ve covered in the past, and a taste of what to do in each.
1. Newport, Rhode Island (3 hours away)
Upscale yet still very kid-friendly, Newport offers a wide range of activities for families, from touring millionaires’ mansions like the Breakers to boogie boarding at the beach (complete itinerary here). At Easton’s beach, you’ll find a playground, carousel, boogie board rentals, and snack bar (get the twin lobster rolls!). Visit the Topiary Gardens, spend an evening taking a stroll along Cliff Walk, and make sure you get some scoops at Kilwin’s in town. Best. Ice Cream. Ever!
2. North Fork, Long Island (1.5 hours away)
The North Fork may be famous for its wineries (including our favorite kid-friendly one, Martha Clara Vineyard), but there’s plenty for the little ones to do as well. Set your kids free with baskets in hand to pick berries at Patty’s Berries and Bunches. Visit Harbes Family Farm’s Barnyard Adventure, a sort of farm amusement park where the kids can watch pig races, take a hay ride, race a rubber duck and feed the chickens. End the day with a waterfront carousel ride in Greenport. It’s a perfect, un-Hamptons getaway (complete itinerary here).
3. Mystic, Connecticut (2 hours away)
The biggest draw of charming, low-key Mystic is Mystic Seaport, an indoor-outdoor nautical museum where you can step aboard the last wooden whaleship in the world, learn to tie knots like a sailor, swab the deck in the children’s museum, and build your own toy ship. Also in the area is the Mystic Aquarium, with its many touch tanks and impressive beluga whales exhibit. On the way back to Westchester, detour to the Pez Visitor Center (where Pez dispensers are dispensed!) and the Dinosaur Place, populated by more than 40 life-size dinosaurs (complete itinerary here).
4. New Paltz, New York (1.5 hours away)
The vibe of New Paltz is decidedly laid-back, an interesting mix of outdoorsy and funky. Stroll down Main Street and browse the quaint bookstores and shops. An open-air market on Sundays offers live music, local crafts and the bounty of nearby farms. Drive about five minutes to Dressel Farms for some pick-your-own fruit. But the real reason to come to New Paltz is to go hiking or biking: Minnewaska State Park Preserve is just minutes away, and it’s got everything from waterfalls to gorgeous vistas, much of it accessible to small kids (complete itinerary here).
5. Cape Cod, Massachusetts (4 hours away)
We picked Chatham to stay in for its plentiful children’s activities and location smack in the middle of the Cape. See the fishing boats come in on Chatham Pier, and watch them unload their catch up close. For a relaxing afternoon at the beach, check out Harding’s or Cockle Cove, both offering calm, warm, shallow waters. And definitely go on a fishing tour with Cap’n Kids Fishing Adventures in Harwich Port. The tour guarantees that your kids will catch fish during the two-hour boat ride — and they were totally right (complete itinerary here).
6. Woodstock, New York (2 hours away)
Most people associate Woodstock with peace, love and happiness, but don’t write this town off as a hippy-only stomping ground. Today, it’s home to a variety of artists who sell their wares in the two dozen or so shops along the main drag in the bustling downtown. Eat an entirely vegan lunch — chickpea fries included — at the cute-as-a-button downtown Garden Cafe, walk along the creeks and waterfalls in town, and spend a day walking/biking along the paved trails lining the grand Ashokan Reservoir (more details here).
7. Lancaster, Pennsylvania (3.5 hours away)
The Amish know how to show kids a great time. The famous horse and buggy rides may be a completely touristy experience, but it’s something the kids will love to do. If they’re train lovers, you’ll have to buy tickets to the Strasburg Railroad steam train. You can even dine on board! At Julius Sturgis, the whole family can try their hand at pretzel twisting and sample a variety of pretzel flavors. And if you’ve got really young kids, they’ll love Dutch Wonderland, an amusement park for the under 5 set. Hershey Park is right there, too (more details here).
8. Brooklyn, New York (1.5 hours away)
Become city mice for a weekend — stay overnight in Brooklyn (complete itinerary here)! Start your morning at the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens where you’ll find the newly-expanded Discovery Garden. Then just walk directly across Flatbush Avenue, where you’ll find the Prospect Park Carousel and the entrance to the Prospect Park Zoo. If you’ve got train lovers in the family, make sure to visit the New York Transit Museum, which features old subway cars that you can sit in. After you return home from your weekend in your city, reflect on how Brooklyn may be fun to visit, but Westchester is the best place to call home!
9. Finger Lakes, New York (4 hours away)
People come from across the country to experience the almost otherworldly hike at Watkins Glen State Park. In just one mile of easy hiking, you’ll encounter more than a dozen waterfalls and simply spellbinding views. After you’ve had your fill of magical scenery, interact with the cows, sheep, pigs and turkey at the Farm Sanctuary. Also make sure to spend a day on the Seneca Wine Trail, where you’ll find Red Jacket Orchards, a sort of winery for kids, where they can sample juices, jams and fruits (more details here).
10. Rye Brooke, New York (right here!)
If all your family needs for the weekend is a nice hotel pool, you can get that at the Doral Arrowwood Luxury Resort right here in Rye Brook (more details here). There’s an on-premise tennis camp that runs on weekdays, and the resort offers s’mores by the outdoor camp fire and family movie nights on the lawn on weekends. In the morning, head down to breakfast — a large buffet is included in the cost of the room. Then spend the rest of the day at the pool, showering in the locker rooms before heading back home. Instant vacation!