Skip to main content

When the Mountains are Closer: Day Trips from Upstate Manhattan

Updated May 2018. Last year, Dream Vacation magazine published an article titled “27 Best Day Trips From NYC.” The list includes all good ideas, including The Cloisters in Fort Tryon Park, the Metropolitan Museum of Art branch that highlights their medieval collection.

But, wait. The Cloisters is in NYC. I live in NYC, and I live near there. I can even see the building’s tower from my bedroom. For me, a visit to the museum is not a day trip, just an after lunch stroll.

The gardens of The Cloisters in northern Manhattan

Many people think of NYC as somewhere to the south, like Midtown with its tall skyscrapers and crowded avenues. Frequent lists of “best things” in New York and much of media attention center on events and places below 110th Street, the northern boundary of Central Park.

“Upstate Manhattan,” a phrase generally referring to the area of Washington Heights and Inwood in northern Manhattan, may seem to some city residents as far away as the Adirondacks. Whenever I invite anyone up to my place, I usually bundle the offer with a visit to The Cloisters, like it’s a special package deal. I should also say that the reverse is true, too. I enjoy visiting Brooklyn, but it’s an effort. I sometimes look for a rest stop halfway there, like I’m taking a road trip.  

When I lived downtown in the Village, I longed for day trips to The Cloisters. It just seemed so far away them, requiring some willingness and effort to sit on the uptown A train all the way to 190th Street. For day trips, I went elsewhere, memorizing the quickest train schedules from Bleecker/Lafayette to the beach.

Platform of the Marble Hill station

Now as an uptown resident, my go-to train station for day trips is the Marble Hill station on the Metro-North Hudson Line. The station’s open-air platform sits on the north side of the Harlem River on West 225th Street with views of the river and Inwood Hill Park across the way. It’s peaceful there. While waiting for the train I’ve been able to spot an egret's nest near the Columbia University rowing center.

I go north. The Hudson Line travels up through the Hudson Highlands and ends in Poughkeepsie, hugging the east side of the Hudson River for most of the way. The river views make the journey as pleasant as the destination.

View of passing showers and sun on the Hudson River, from the Metro-North Hudson Line near Sleepy Hollow

From Upstate Manhattan, travel times to the Hudson River towns of Cold Spring and Beacon north of the city are just as fast as travel to many southern areas of the metropolis.

Croton Point Park in Croton-on-Hudson is the site of the Clearwater Festival. Photo from June 18, 2017.

After consulting the timetable for Metro-North and the MTA Trip Planner, what follows should provide an idea of typical weekday travel times from the Marble Hill Metro-North train station to popular destinations. It would be useful to compare travel times on Metro-North and MTA for Saturdays and Sundays, but weekend schedules and track changes are unpredictable, especially in the MTA subway system. While trains are less frequent on the weekend, the travel times are generally the same.*

Spring blossoms in Cold Spring, NY

From the Marble Hill Metro-North station going north, here are a few good destinations for day trips (approximate times):

Irvington (Washington Irving’s Sunnyside estate): 47 minutes

Croton-on-Hudson (Croton Point Park; the Croton-Harmon station is the transfer point to a different train if heading farther north): 58 minutes

Peekskill (Hudson Valley Center for Contemporary Art; Peekskill Brewery; good hiking): 1 hour 11 minutes

Cold Spring (Main Street galleries and restaurants; Stonecrop Gardens; Breakneck Ridge): 1 hour 26 minutes

Beacon (Dia:Beacon; see related post): 1 hour 34 minutes

Now, compare weekday travel times from the MTA A train (subway) station at 207th St. (the northern terminus of the A train) to subway stations downtown, Brooklyn, and Queens:

• Fulton Street (Financial District; Seaport): 41 minutes

• High Street/Cadman Plaza (Brooklyn Heights; DUMBO): 44 minutes

• Jay St.-MetroTech Station (Brooklyn; New York Transit Museum): 57 minutes

• Rockaway Park - Beach 116th St. (Queens): 1 hour 34 minutes


On the A train to Rockaway Beach

Many trips involve transfers:

• Brooklyn Bridge/City Hall (transfer to the 4 train at Fulton Street): 52 minutes

• Barclays Center (transfer at 59th St. - Columbus Circle on the D train): 54 minutes

• Coney Island (transfer to the D at 145th Street): 1 hour 28 minutes

In addition to the trains, the west side of the Hudson River is accessible via bus from the GWB Bus Station at 175th Street. For example, a trip to Nyack, NY (home of the Edward Hopper House, for example) from the GWB station takes about 45 minutes. (Rockland Coaches). Also, consider a Trailways bus to Woodstock (see related post) for an overnight trip.

With this handful of scenarios, you should get the overall idea. From Inwood, the travel time to Cold Spring, NY in the Hudson Highlands is about the same as a beach trip to Coney Island. A trip to Beacon, NY takes about the same amount of time as a trip from the area to Rockaway Beach.

The Cloisters at sunset

The Cloisters and Fort Tryon Park are still good ideas for a day trip. Visit in the morning, and then head north.

People who live elsewhere in the vast city can brag about their own locations. The point is to explore and to discover your own favorite day trips.


Images by Walking Off the Big Apple.

Resources:

MTA Trip Planner
Metro-North
GWB Bus Station









Popular posts from this blog

The Lonesome Metropolis: A Walk from Grand Central Terminal to Rockefeller Center

As New York City reopens, why do the attractions of the great metropolis still look mostly deserted on a summer morning? A morning walk from Grand Central Terminal to Rockefeller Center sought to address this question. As it turns out, there are several adequate explanations. But for what happens next, there are no right answers. Grand Central Terminal, 9:40 am. Wednesday, July 22, 2020. Many neighborhoods outside of tourist New York are still buzzing along. While some residents of wealthier neighborhoods have largely decamped to mountain cabins, beach houses, and other second homes, the less wealthy have nowhere to go and may still be working. Just visit Washington Heights or Corona or Flatbush, and you’ll see sidewalks full of shoppers and summer evening street partiers. Those who fled the city remain only a fraction of the total population.   Grand Central Terminal, 9:40 am. Wednesday, July 22, 2020. Other renowned parts of the city such as City Hall and Brooklyn Bridge have been fr

Early Voting in Washington Heights, and A Walk

Early voting for the 2020 federal election in New York began on Saturday, October 24 and continues through Sunday, November 1. The weekend was overcast and autumnal, with the bright yellows of fall on display. In New York City, thousands of New Yorkers turned out at the 88 early voting locations and waited in long lines, many stretching around the block.  A line to vote in Washington Heights. The line stretched around the block multiple times. Madison Square Garden in Manhattan and the Barclay’s Center in Brooklyn were two of the well-known sites, but most voting places were typical neighborhood places such as schools, churches, and hospitals.   The scene outside the entrance to the Russ Berrie Medical Science Pavilion, one of the early voting locations in Washington Heights. In Washington Heights in Upper Manhattan, two early voting locations were within a short walk of one another, causing some confusion for voters emerging from the 168th Street subway station. The Columbia Universit

NYC Re-openings and Travel Advice

What will open, and how will you get there? This list will be updated following official announcements. UPDATED October 10, 2020.  Many favorite local destinations have now reopened.  Hand sanitizer dispenser at the Marble Hill station of Metro-North's Hudson line Openings  - General Information and Popular Destinations    • Restaurants: Consult this NYC Department of Transportation map  (updated link) for restaurants currently open in NYC. Starting September 30, NYC allowed indoor dining at 25% capacity. • As of September 25, outdoor dining in NYC has been extended FOREVER. • The  9/11 Memorial  reopened on Saturday, July 4. Visitors must wear masks and keep social distancing practices. • (update) Libraries: NYPL. T he library will allow a grab-and-go service at 50 locations.   • Governors Island reopened July 15 with advance reserved tickets.  • The High Line  reopened on July 16, with several rules and limitations in place, including timed entry passes - available July 9. Entra

Museums in New York Open on Mondays

Please see this post for current announcements of reopenings . Please consult the museum websites for changes in days and hours. UPDATED September 23, 2020 Advance tickets required for many museum reopenings. Please check museum websites for details. • The  Museum of Modern Art (MoMA)  reopened to the public on  August 27 , with new hours for the first month, through September 27: from 10:30 a.m. until 5:30 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday to the public; and from 10:30 a.m. until 5:30 p.m.  on Mondays for MoMA members on ly. Admission will be free to all visitors Tuesday through Sunday, through September 27, made possible by UNIQLO. See this  new post on WOTBA for a sense of the experience attending the museum . •  New-York Historical Society  reopened on  August 14  with an outdoor exhibition, "Hope Wanted: New York City Under Quarantine,” in the rear courtyard. The exhibit by activist Kevin Powell and photographer Kay Hickman will highlight how New Yorkers weathered the quarantine

North Towards Autumn: A Day Trip on the Metro-North Hudson Line

The peak of autumn colors in New York City tends to fall sometime in the days following Halloween, but those anxiously waiting leaf change can simply travel north.  Near Beacon, a view of autumn colors from the Metro-North Hudson line One way to speed the fall season is to take the Hudson line of Metro-North north of the city and watch the greens fade to oranges and yellows and the occasional burst of red.  Autumn light in Hastings-on-Hudson Weekends during the month of October are ideal times to make the trip. The air tends to be crisp with bright blue skies, and the Hudson River glimmers like a mirror in the light of autumn. As the Hudson line hugs the river for much of the distance north, the train ride alone provides plenty of opportunities for sightseeing. Try to grab a window seat on the river side of the train car for views of the Palisades and the bends of the Hudson Highlands later in the trip.   Autumn leaves on the Old Croton Aqueduct Trail in Hastings Still, October is a gr

A Morning Walk from Penn Station to Times Square

Penn Station to Times Square New York City entered a new phase of the reopening on Monday, but you would never know it from a morning walk in Midtown on the day after.  At 34th Street and 8th Avenue, an outsize reminder of the public health crisis from Montefiore Medical Center After running an errand near Penn Station, I decided to take a walk up to Times Square and Broadway before heading home from 59th Street and Columbus Circle.  34th Street looking east toward the Empire State Building I wasn’t altogether prepared for the sights and sounds of this time and this place. Like many other New Yorkers, I have rarely left my neighborhood for the past four months.  8th Avenue at W. 38th Street After exiting a quiet Penn Station near 8th Avenue and W. 33rd Street at what would normally be the end of rush hour, I found myself suddenly dropped into a city (mostly) bereft of crowds.  A few commuters near Port Authority and The New York Times building, 8th Avenue and W. 40th Street Yet, I had

Circling the Met: A Springtime Visit to Central Park and the Metropolitan Museum of Art

For a double feature of art and nature, the Metropolitan Museum of Art happens to be conveniently situated in Central Park. The front of the museum faces Fifth Avenue, its monumental wings stretching the blocks between E. 80th and E. 84th. The sides and the back of the museum are within easy walking distance of several prominent landmarks within the park.  Cedar Hill in Central Park Before a visit to the Met, consider taking a walk around the museum beginning on the southern side. A walk in the park can serve as a good preparation for a museum visit, because looking at or noticing the shapes and colors of the built and natural environment can enhance the art experience. Cedar Hill in Central Park The path south of the 79 Street Transverse leads to a scene at Cedar Hill very much like a panorama, with a vast wide-angle expanse of green grass and hill. Take the first path that leads back over 79th Street to the southern side of the museum. This path brilliantly disguises the motor traffi

MoMA in Masks

Update. Beginning September 28, MoMA will require all members to reserve tickets in advance.* Walking into the gallery devoted to Claude Monet’s Water Lilies (c 1920) at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) on Saturday afternoon, I saw a woman seated on a bench. She was looking at the artist’s dreamy depiction of his garden at Giverny, and I thought for a moment she might be dreaming as well. As she was the only person occupying what is usually a packed room for fans of Impressionism, I was hesitant to invade her private garden reveries. At MoMA I would enjoy my own such private moments with my favorite MoMA works that afternoon, including Marc Chagall’s I and the Village (1911). The painting depicts a colorful and geometric fairy tale of peasants and animals, memories of the artist’s childhood home outside Vitebsk. And I had a long time to feel the scorching sun of photographer Dorothea Lange’s Woman of the High Plains, Texas Panhandle (1938), a setting closer to my hometown. Later I wou

Walking It Off: Coping with Holiday Stress During the Pandemic

When I began this series, “Pandemic Posts from the Pause: New York City in the Age of Coronavirus” in March of 2020, I could see the first young greens of spring from my window. New Yorkers were told to stay home then and away from others. As someone who enjoys walking in the city, I knew that I would need to sacrifice many things this year. I was not going to give up walking. I quickly figured out that I could safely go to Inwood Hill Park near my house and wander the trails in the old forest. In March, I could breathe in the spring air away from others. There was little else to do during those early days of the “pause.” New Yorkers suffered greatly at the beginning. In a few months we were able to get the numbers down and to manage some semblance of human interaction, at a distance and masked.  Now, with the beginning of the holidays, the city and nation faces the existential threat of the virus’s return, the political assault on democratic norms, and the ongoing threat of the clima

The Most Beautiful Bridge in the World

Swiss-born architect Le Corbusier (1887 - 1965), the leading proponent of the International Style of modern architecture, visited NYC on several occasions in the 1930s and 1940s, and he made much to say about the skyscraper city. He didn’t think much of the faux tops of the tall buildings nor did he care about the haphazard city planning, but he did fall madly in love with one particular bridge:  "The George Washington Bridge over the Hudson is the most beautiful bridge in the world. Made of cables and steel beams, it gleams in the sky like a reversed arch. It is blessed. It is the only seat of grace in the disordered city. It is painted an aluminum color and, between water and sky, you see nothing but the bent cord supported by two steel towers. When your car moves up the ramp the two towers rise so high that it brings you happiness; their structure is so pure, so resolute, so regular that here, finally, steel architecture seems to laugh. The car reaches an unexpectedly wide apr