There is plenty to keep you busy in NYC, and it would take a lifetime to enjoy all there is to do here. Every now and then, though, you just need to get out of the city for a little change of scenery. Fortunately, there are tons of unique and unusual attractions all within a couple hours of the city that make for excellent day trips from NYC. Check out some of my favorite nearby attractions for the next time you feel the need to get out of town!
Perhaps one of my favorite places anywhere, Northlandz is a sight to behold! At three stories high, this model train display in Flemington, NJ is one of the biggest in the world. You can easily spend a few hours just trying to get through the whole place. Northlandz is fun for kids and adults alike, and it’s impossible to leave this place without a smile on your face.
Where: 495 U.S. Highway 202, Flemington, New Jersey, 08822
What to Do Nearby: Head over to beautiful Frenchtown, NJ to walk through this adorable little town, and have some lunch on the patio at the National Hotel.
Grounds for Sculpture
If you enjoy sculpture, pick a pretty day and head out to Grounds for Sculpture in Hamilton, NJ. With more than 300 sculptures on site, you can wander for a couple hours and enjoy both the artwork and the lovely grounds. The sprawling property has big sculptures and small, plenty of cafes and patios for lounging, and even a couple resident peacocks you just might get to say hello to!
Where: 80 Sculptors Way, Hamilton, NJ 08619
What to Do Nearby: Have lunch or brunch on the patio at Rat’s Restaurant, located right next to Grounds for Sculpture.
Sterling Hill Mining Museum
So…did you know that rocks could glow in the dark?? I sure didn’t! But when you take a tour in the abandoned iron and zinc mines at the Sterling Hill Mining Museum, you’ll get to see this natural effect, known as phosphorescence, with your own eyes. There’s an excellent museum and fun activities for the kids, too.
Where: 30 Plant Street, Ogdensburg, NJ 07439
What to Do Nearby: If you haven’t had enough of the glowing rocks at Sterling Hill, head over to the Franklin Mineral Museum to see even more!
Philadelphia Magic Gardens
The brainchild of artist Isaiah Zagar, the Philadelphia Magic Gardens display a fantastic collection of enormous mosaics. They are on the side of the building, on the walls, and on the ground – glass, bike wheels, bottles, and everything else you could imagine have all been brought together to create a unique and magical display. This place is unlike anything you’ve ever seen and well worth the trip down from NYC!
Where: 1020 South Street, Philadelphia, PA 19147
What to Do Nearby: Head over to Old Town to check out the Liberty Bell and Betsy Ross House and walk down Elfreth’s Alley, the oldest residential street in the United States!
Fonthill Castle and Mercer Museum
Straight out of a Harry Potter book, the Fonthill Castle and Mercer Museum in Doylestown, PA are the result of the creative genius of Henry Chapman Mercer, who was known to be an architect, scientist, archeologist, historian, artisan, and more. He was also the founder of the Moravian Pottery and Tile Works, and many of his tile designs can be found on display in the castle, which he designed himself. And when you walk into the museum, you’ll be blown away by the size and variety of his collection here on display.
Where: Fonthill Castle – East Court Street & Route 313, Doylestown, PA 18901 and Mercer Museum – 84 South Pine Street, Doylestown, PA 18901
What to Do Nearby: Have some brunch, hit up the farmer’s market, and visit the cute boutiques, cafes, and bars in Doylestown, PA.
Ringing Rocks Park
Science is pretty awesome, and Ringing Rocks Park in Upper Black Eddy is a great place to do a little experimenting. Bring along a hammer and test it out on the different rocks in the boulder field to find the ones that make a delightful high-pitched ringing sound. When you’ve had your fill, enjoy hiking throughout the rest of the beautiful seven acres that make up this unique and interesting park.
Where: Upper Black Eddy, Pennsylvania, 18972
What do Do Nearby: Drive over to nearby New Hope, PA and Lambertville, NJ, situated on the Delaware River. Walk or bike along the canal path, do a little antiquing, and enjoy some of the numerous bars and restaurants dotting the streets in both towns. You can even walk across the bridge between the towns and stand in two states at the same time!
Who hasn’t dreamed of owning their own private island?? Well, in the early 1900s, Francis Bannerman purchased his own island in the Hudson River and built Bannerman Castle. And he used it to store…explosives and ammunition and gunpowder galore! Today you can tour what remains of the castle, but stay on the designated trails – it’s been said that unexploded ordinance has been discovered on and around the island.
Where: Pollepel Island, NY (accessible via boat from Beacon, NY and Newburgh, NY)
What to Do Nearby: Head to Beacon, NY and enjoy a flight at Two Way Brewing, visit the waterfall at the Roundhouse, or enjoy some contemporary art at Dia:Beacon.
The Gold Coast estate, Welwyn, was once the home of oil industrialist Harold Pratt. Nowadays, the property is home to the Holocaust Memorial and Tolerance Center of Nassau County as well as a nature preserve where you can stroll along the private beach, hike through the woods on several trails, and peek into several of the abandoned buildings that are still standing.
Where: 100 Crescent Beach Rd, Glen Cove, NY 11542
What to Do Nearby: Take a moment to smell the roses at the Old Westbury Gardens, sample some beers at the Oyster Bay Brewing Company, or enjoy some lunch and shopping in super cute downtown Port Washington.
And if a day trip just isn’t going to cut it for you, try venturing a little further afield. Tack on an extra hour or two to get to some of these other fun Northeast destinations and enjoy a weekend away instead!