Sure, summer in the city means free movies, concerts and a whole lot of outdoor eating and drinking, but it also means melting garbage, 100-degree subway stations and the searing stench of urine burning on the sidewalk. Sometimes you just want to get the hell out. Luckily, there are lots of places within easy travel distance for a weekend escape, giving you a chance to forget you near-fainted on the F train on Wednesday. Here are our favorites; we know you'll leave yours in the comments.
Dia:Beacon (Courtesy daniel.gene's flickr)
BEACON, NY: It may or may not be a turnoff that this funky little city just an hour or so north of Manhattan has been dubbed the Brooklyn of the North (or, for the infuriatingly affected, "NoBro") in recent years. But Dia:Beacon, which boasts a significant collection of pieces by fundamental 1960s and 1970s artists like Andy Warhol, Louise Bourgeois and Richard Serra, has drawn artists and creative types to the area since opening in 2003. Now, Beacon's got more contemporary art galleries, like Open Space, which showcases works by contemporary urban artists, in addition restaurants like Cafe Amarcord, and artsy performance collectives to balance out Dutchess County's endless supply of antique stores. Though, if that's your thing, there are plenty of those on Beacon's Main Street, in addition to the shops in its surrounding towns, hamlets and villages.
Bonus: Beacon resident Pete Seeger's even been known to play on the street some weekends, so if the art's not enough for you, there's always the promise of one an impromptu performance by a legend.
To get to Beacon, you can hop on Metro-North's Hudson Line at Grand Central Terminal; the ride is about an hour long, and passes through idyllic Hudson Valley spots like Cold Spring and Garrison, which are worth their own walk-through if you've got the time and the inclination. Once you're there, there are a number of charming inns and bed & breakfasts available for lodging; for an extravagant experience, try the Chrystie House, an elegant 19th century house-turned-B&B where rooms run $175-$225. You should definitely plan to spend half a day or more at Dia; the museum is open from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday-Monday, and admission is $12.
Other activities include a visit to the aforementioned Open Space, a hike up steep Mount Beacon for the outdoorsy, and a trip to Bannerman Castle, on an island that shares its name and was once used to store military supplies located on tiny Pollepel Island and accessible from Beacon by boat.
Bethel Center for the Arts (via Facebook)
Photo by Jen Carlson/Gothamist
: If you missed Woodstock by a few decades you might not be too familiar with this farm town in the Catskill Mountains, which hosted the legendary music festival in 1969. The dairy farm and fields on which Woodstock took place have since been preserved by the stunningly tranquil Bethel Woods Center for the Arts, a cultural institution on Woodstock's original site that's now known for its own summer concerts at its outdoor pavilion. There's also an interactive museum that explores the festival's history and its tumultuous surrounding decade.
Bethel's about a two-hour drive from New York City, much of which you'll do on the New York Thruway (Arlo Guthrie famously announced at Woodstock, "The New York Thruway is closed, man. Lotta freaks!"). If driving's not an option, in the summer, Coach USA's Short Line bus offers roundtrip rides from NYC to Bethel Tuesday through Saturday for $68. The area has
In terms of the town itself, the center and Woodstock site is obviously a main draw, especially when big bands come to town; this summer, performers include Dave Matthews Band, Bad Company and Joan Baez with the Indigo Girls, though the Center's hosted everyone from Phish to Elton John in the past. Other activities of note: Lake Superior State Park and a visit to the Catskill Distilling Company, where you can check out local spirits and learn how they're made. You can also hit the very nearby Kauneonga Lake area, and stop for a waterfront lunch at The Fat Lady Café.
Sag Harbor Whaling and Historical Museum (via Facebook)
SAG HARBOR, NY: According to the Internet, the Hamptons are a great place to hang out if you're looking to sip champagne served by a skydiver and rub shoulders with an ebullient Kate Upton. But the village of Sag Harbor, which straddles both East Hampton and Southampton, has retained a lot of its old world romanticism, boasting remnants of a past dating all the way back to the early 18th century. The village was once a hub for whalers, and to this day you can visit relics like the Old Whaler's Church and burial ground, a 150-year-old Masonic temple and the Umbrella House, which has a history stretching back since before the War of 1812.
Sag Harbor is a little over two hours from the city by car, and the Hampton Jitney's Montauk Line, which leaves from midtown Manhattan, has a stop in the village; rates run $53 round-trip, $30 one way. The newer Hampton Ambassador bus, which has a number of stops in Manhattan and costs $35-$45 each way, stops in Sag Harbor as well. For a cheaper option, you can opt to take the Long Island Railroad, but there's no train station in Sag Harbor, so you'll likely travel in and out of nearby Bridgehampton and take a bus from there. When it comes to places to stay, the village has historic lodging like the century-and-a-half-old American Hotel; rooms there run $395-per-night on weekends (with a three night minimum stay), but at the very least you should stop by their formal bar for a drink or two. You can opt for something less classic, like the funky, eco-friendly Forever Bungalows, where rooms range from $285 to $425 on summer weekends.
Once you're there, it's worth heading over to the Sag Harbor Whaling and Historical Museum, which was built in 1845 and is currently shared with a 150-year-old Masonic Temple. The Bay Street Theatre, located at Sag Harbor's Long Wharf, is also a fun destination, featuring nightly theater and comedy performances and workshops. There are also a number of sailing trips available for charter, or you can hang out at one of the many beaches in the area and stroll down Main Street for beachy boutique shopping, ice cream and art galleries.
COOPERSTOWN, NY: This Upstate New York village is a bit of a hike from the city, but the home of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum is worth a visit, even if there's only one plaque with a New York Met hat in the whole damn place. The Hall is open daily from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. in the summer, with admission running $19.50; a ticket gets you in to see the famed Plaque Gallery, featuring bronze odes to all 297 Hall of Famers, as well as the extensive museum documenting Major League Baseball's 137 years in this country. Exhibits cover everything from the 1919 Black Sox Scandal to women's roles in baseball to the first African American players, and they've also got a collection of over 135,000 baseball cards, a number of which are on display.
Cooperstown is about a four-hour drive from the city, but there are buses that will take you there, like Adirondack Trailways, which offers tickets for about $107 round-trip. Lodging options of note include the Inn at Cooperstown, where rates run $110 to $230 for standard-to-classic rooms, and the seven-acre Gateway Inn & Suites of Cooperstown, with rooms running $120 to $550 a night on summer weekends.
And while the Baseball Hall of Fame might be Cooperstown's biggest draw, the village is also a prime spot for history and literature buffs. The village was founded in 1786 by classic American author James Fenimore Cooper's father; the family lived there for generations, and their old home is now the Fenimore Art Museum, which you can visit for $12. There's also a Farmer's Museum, which features a collection of artifacts and a sprawling Colonial Williamsburg-esque historical village with real buildings dating back to the 18th century; admission to the Farmer's Museum is also $12 in the summer.
But if you'd rather get sauced than hang with historical stuff, the Ommegang Brewery is located in Cooperstown, as well. Tours run daily on the hour, and they're followed by $3 tastings, which we highly recommend.
The view from Room 777 at the Trump Plaza Hotel in Atlantic City. (John Del Signore/Gothamist)
ATLANTIC CITY, NJ: Poor Atlantic City. For several years now the city and Governor Christie have been desperately trying to reverse a relentless decline in tourism and gambling revenue caused, in part, by casino competition from Pennsylvania and the new Queens Racino. The state gave $261 million in tax incentives to help investors finish the shiny new Revel hotel, only to see it declare bankruptcy a year after opening. Hurricane Sandy was another blow (though the Boardwalk remains) and travel to A.C. has plummeted by double digits so far this year. And yet, it endures. Atlantic City is still a uniquely bizarre blast, and it's pretty affordable, as far as weekend beach getaways go.
For one thing, no car rental required: for less than $40 roundtrip, you can buy a bus ticket down to A.C. (the ride takes about two hours and change), and most casinos on the Greyhound "Lucky Streak" destination list give you a gift card to use on the slot machines. Last summer The Trump Plaza gave me and a buddy $25 each to gamble away, which he promptly turned into $160 that he blew on an epic raw bar dinner at old Dock's Oyster House (est. 1897), which I wholeheartedly recommend. You can also eat very well at the Wolfgang Puck American Grille at the elegant Borgata, a hotel that's set away from the Boardwalk but worth a visit. For breakfast, the vast and unlimited Sunday brunch at Nero's Tuscan Steakhouse at Caesers is quite literally insane—yes, it is $60 per person, but that includes Mimosas and Bloody Marys, and I promise you won't have to eat again until Monday morning.
(The Revel Hotel)
I've been to Atlantic City six times and, aside from blowing the gift card I get for taking the bus, I never gamble. The people-watching is hallucinatory (especially when paired with hallucinogens) and there plenty of other activities there, like concerts at the spectacular old Boardwalk Hall, dolphin watching cruises, or just surreptitiously marveling at the Faces of Despair illuminated by the ghastly slot machines. But my favorite thing to do is just rent a chair and hang out on the beach. I don't know why more people don't think of A.C. as a beach destination; it may be true the beaches are "nicer" further south on the shore, but you only have to spend $40 to get to A.C. and back, and your hotel, which is conveniently located right on the beach, doesn't have to cost you a fortune. I think the beach is perfectly clean and decent, with good surf and few crowds.
For lodging, the Trump Plaza is often pretty cheap—I stayed there for three nights one weekend last June for $550 total, and the double room had an ocean view—but it's a little worn around the edges. If you've got room in the budget, check out the old school over-the-top Caesers or the massive Revel, an ambitious nightlife destination at the far end of the Boardwalk. I haven't stayed there, but I took a tour of the premises last year—the word "baller" gets tossed around a lot these days, but it's merited here. (I also appreciate the property's militant smoking ban.) Off the Boardwalk, there's a more refined scene at The Water Club, where I stayed gratis on a press trip last year. It has an amazing spa and fine restaurants in the neighboring Borgata, but the pool party scene can get a little rowdy and "Jersey Shore." What's cool is that The Water Club and Borgata will shuttle you to the locals-only beach a few minutes away—guests of the hotels are the only shoobies allowed to use it, and it's a much more family-oriented scene than the Boardwalk beaches, if you're into that. (John Del Signore)
MILFORD, PA: If you're looking for a relaxing escape into the forest without having to pitch a tent, this charming town situated in the northeastern section of the Poconos provides the comforts of home with access to acres of unadulterated wilderness just a few miles away. The historic town of Milford perches on the banks of the Delaware River, which separates the state of Pennsylvania from New Jersey. The Conservation Movement finds its roots here, thus exploring the nearby Pinchot Greenway—named for former Pennsylvania governor and father of American Conservation Gifford Pinchot—Bushkill Falls, George W. Child's Park and the multitude of hiking trails should be tops on your list.
Back in town, don't miss Books & Prints at Pear Alley, where you can browse through thousands of books, both contemporary and antique. There are also plenty of antique stores, offering everything from estate jewelry to decorative accessories and furniture. Don't miss the Hotel Fauchere's impressive collection of Hudson River School paintings as well as photographs by the Christopher Makos and Paul Solberg.
When you're not blazing a trail through the forest or putting a dent in your Amex, relax at one of Mildford's well-appointed bed and breakfasts like the Harrington House, where nightly rates are $160 and include breakfast and free WiFi throughout the hotel. For a more low-key stay, try the Dimmick Inn, which offers rooms for $99 a night and easy stumbling home from the B&B's excellent downstairs bar.
Conveniently located just 70 miles northwest of New York City, getting to Milford couldn't be easier, with daily buses whisking you from the Port Authority to West Hartford Street in just over two hours. However, if you plan to explore the many beautiful hiking trails, greenways and the Delaware Water Gap, renting a car makes everything even easier. (Nell Casey)
New Hope (Harvey Barrison on Flickr)
NEW HOPE, PA & LAMBERTVILLE, NJ Growing up in central NJ, the highlight of non-mall weekends was either going to Chinatown for dim sum or to New Hope, Pennsylvania-and-Lambertville, NJ for brunch and exploring. I've got Chinatown at my doorstep now, so New Hope and Lambertville are my pick for a tranquil weekend away. Just 90 minutes from NYC by car, you get two adorable towns, full of antiques, restaurants and nice places to wander around.
The two towns are separated by the Delaware River, which you can walk over. Over on the Pennsylvania side, New Hope offers canal rides along the river as well as streets with galleries, antiques and treats (stop by Gerenser's for homemade ice cream!) in Colonial-style buildings. Plus, wineries are also in the vicinity. There are a number of places to stay—the Logan Inn is in the heart of the town and just outside New Hope is the Ash Mill Farm, a working farm and inn.
One highlight is the George Nakashima House, Studio and Workshop. Nakashima moved to the area after being released from a World War II internment camp and started his woodworking studio, eventually designing for Knoll and Nelson Rockefeller. His notable designs used one piece of wood, with some rough edges for a harmonious view of nature. His studio is open to visitors on Saturdays and people can book appointments with craftsmen for pieces. For more culture, The Bucks County Playhouse in New Hope—the summer season includes Hunter Foster's adaptation of The Summer of '42 and Charles Busch's The Tale of the Allergist's Wife.
Over the river, besides more shops and galleries, Lambertville has a towpath along the canal that's great for biking—you can rent bikes at Pure Energy Cycling, which also has a Java House for some caffeine. For treasure hunters, the Golden Nugget Antique & Flea Market, a huge indoor-and-outdoor flea market, is open during the weekends. If you want a place to stay, the Lambertville Station is a hotel converted from a train station (there are also restaurants, with views of the river). For a more luxurious stay, the Woolverton Inn in Stockton, NJ is surrounded by 300 acres of parkland. (Jen Chung)