Mountain merry-go-rounds and helicopter cottages: Take a break from NYC with these weekend getaways
From apple orchards to luxury tree houses, these weekend getaways offer plenty of things to do without a single angry cabbie or Nuts4Nuts stand in sight.
There’s no place like New York City—from the classic Brownstones of Brooklyn to timeless Central Park, we all know the Big Apple’s got it going on. But when you need an escape from, say, ubiquitous street hot dog smell, long lines at MetroCard machines, or the mess that is Van Wyck Expressway on a Friday evening, clear your head (and nostrils) with one of these easy weekend escapes within two hours of the city.
1. Ride a wild turkey in Bear Mountain, NY
This high-altitude wonderland just 45 minutes from NYC has something for everyone. Chase your closest pals in an endless loop while riding a giant raccoon, otter, wild turkey or even a toad (yes, you heard us correctly) on the state park’s fantastic merry-go-round, which features intricately painted scenes of the park and whimsical, hand-carved native animals.
Hardcore backpackers flock to Bear Mountain to enter the revered Appalachian Trail—the East Coast’s longest hiking system stretching more than 2,000 miles from Maine through Georgia. For those not embarking on a multi-day alpine journey, discover historic trailside museums and even a zoo while joining Vertically Inclined on one of their hikes that ends with panoramic views of the Hudson Highlands. Flatter loops around Hessian Lake, where boaters paddle out in warmer months, are a solid alternative for those who want the views without the burning calves.
Presidential-quality slumber awaits at the historic Bear Mountain Inn, a 15-room hotel with a spa and onsite restaurant. This rustic 1915 Appalachian establishment has played host to esteemed company including Eleanor Roosevelt, Harry Truman, and Dwight Eisenhower during their trips to the Hudson Valley back in the day.
2. Eat all the pie in Warwick, NY
Who needs the Big Apple when you can have thousands of normal-sized ones? That’s the winning attitude for a trip to Warwick—just 55 miles from NYC in the Black Dirt Region.
Agritourism shines in this rural community, where the historic charm of a beautiful 19th century village speaks to local preservation efforts. Discover the u-pick utopia awaiting at pastoral locales like Masker Orchards, which sells apples by the bushel and decadent cider by the jug. If you’ve got an itch that only a homemade pie can scratch, visit the magical mainstay that is Noble Pies. From quiche to pulled pork, lemon chiffon to sweet potato pecan, no trip to Warwick is complete without a slice of this humble goodness.
After an afternoon of playing in the orchards, bring your sweet tooth and a picnic blanket for a movie at Warwick Drive-In, a three-screen theater with the best-stocked snack stand around. We’re talking all the classics: YooHoo. Sno-Caps. Nutty Buddies. Need we say more? Or, nerd out among the odds, ends, and treasures at The Eclectic Eye, an antique emporium showcasing 17 invitation-only vendors such as Tiffany and Faberge.
Honorable mention: Named one of the “Top 10 Events in the Country,” the Warwick Applefest attracts about 30,000 visitors annually each fall. Browse hundreds of craft and food vendors, a children’s carnival, pie eating contest, entertainment, and more.
3. A hiker’s haven in Harriman State Park, NY
A Thoreau-worthy escape is waiting just an hour from NYC. From July through October, a yellow school bus will shuttle you to Harriman State Park, a 52,000-acre hiking haven where outdoor enthusiasts can take their pick of some 200 trails winding past 31 lakes and reservoirs. Endless miles of streams, scenic roads, vistas and vantage points await, not to mention abundant wildlife sighting opportunities.
Thrill-seekers will delight in rock scrambling up the Suffern-Bear Mountain Trail, while the less intrepid can enjoy a respectable rowboat excursion on the pristine Lake Sebago. Meanwhile, those who prefer to rough it can check out the various group camps scattered throughout the park. Baker Camp stands out from the crowd, with modest cabins on prime lakefront real estate.
4. Escape the ordinary at Winvian Farm, CT
Live out your childhood dreams at Winvian Farm, a fantastical 133-acre resort only two hours from NYC. Beyond its white gates lie 18 spectacular, one-of-a-kind cottages designed by 15 different architects. From a secret society temple to a 35-foot tall treehouse to a fully-restored 1968 helicopter to an indoor woodland forest, spend an unforgettable night in accommodations that are anything but cookie cutter.
Once you arrive, there’s really no need to venture anywhere else. All 113 acres of this rolling estate are yours to play on—the hardest part is determining how: Mountain bike or river tube? Horseback ride or hot air balloon? Decisions, decisions.
In between outdoor adventures, pepper your free time with a lavish spa treatment, drinks and foosball in the game room, or farm-to-table cuisine made with produce from Winvian’s organic garden. Even if you’ve only got the weekend, this peaceful oasis in the Litchfield Hills is your one-stop-shop for an escape from the ordinary.
5. Visit the “Un-Hamptons” in North Fork, Long Island
Sean Combs and Gwyneth Paltrow can keep the Hamptons. For those of us who don’t have a diamond-encrusted yacht or a kid named after fruit, North Fork pares down the swankiness without sacrificing top-notch wine appeal and world-class dining. Less than two hours from NYC, consider the “Un-Hamptons” a worthy alternative to that snooty standard.
Head to happy hour at Billy’s by the Bay for fresh seafood, two-for-one drinks, and music at the tiki bar. Or get the full wine country experience at Shinn Estate Vineyards and Farmhouse, a 20-acre estate and top oenophile destination where acclaimed culinarians serve up award-winning fare. Take a vineyard and barrel cellar tour to get a glimpse of behind-the-scenes fermenting magic. Ready to taste some more? Take your pick from about 36 wineries in the immediate area.
When it’s time to work off those boozy calories, kayak at Orient Beach State Park past wetlands, forest, and rocky beaches. And there’s no need for fancy perfume when you can frolic at Lavender by the Bay, one of the nation’s largest lavender farms. Meander through a purple haze, exploring this dreamy destination where rolling fields of flowers create perfect photo opps. Indulge in artisan bath and skincare products or take a scenic picnic amid fragrant blooms.