The Best Day Trips From NYC to New England

A Cliff Walk vista
A Cliff Walk vista | © Adrian Scottow / Flickr
Everyone needs to get out of the city sometimes during the summer months. It’s hot and humid, and the concrete jungle occasionally grows overwhelming. Let us inspire you to leave New York City for a day trip to New England.

East Lyme, Connecticut

This coastal town lies half-way between New York and Boston, on the Long Island Sound. Take a drive just over two hours to enjoy beautiful beaches and quaint villages, including those of Niantic and Flanders. A must-visit before the beach is the nearby Book Barn, which houses over 500,000 books in four locations. The rooms are divided entirely by genre, making it easy for you to find the kind of novel you’re looking for before heading over to the beach.

Newport, Rhode Island

Just over three hours away from NYC is the stunning Newport, Rhode Island. Wake up early and drive out of NYC so that you can enjoy this coastal city. The yacht-filled harbor is a perfect stop for photos, and you can’t come to Newport without enjoying the well-known Cliff Walk—a 3.5-mile (5.6-kilometer) public access walkway that hovers the shoreline, stops at beaches and climbs cliffs.

After taking a walk, spending time at the beach, or eating lunch out at one of the many delicious seafood restaurants, take a tour of one of the mansions. It’s a great way to take a break from the sun and get a feel for what Newport was like in the past, with its ornate, opulent mansions that were actually “summer cottages”—most were built in the 1800s. While there are plenty to choose from, many enjoy the Breakers from the Vanderbilt family.

A Cliff Walk vista © Adrian Scottow / Flickr

Norwich, Connecticut

Just 2.5 hours from NYC is the historic Norwich, Connecticut, which is home to Yantic Falls. Drive out here during the summer, and then come back in the autumn for peak foliage around the falls. The waterfall is just a short hike into the woods and is truly a gem—not to mention that there’s some fascinating history surrounding the falls and the Mohegan and Narragansett Indians. Called “The Indian Leap,” it’s where a battle once took place between the two tribes. After spending time at the falls, stop by the Slater Memorial Museum. Located within Norwich Free Academy, this museum has a grand collection of fine and decorative art from a range of cultures.

Waterfall Wednesday! Someone lost a boogie board 😟🏄🏼‍♀️

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Providence, Rhode Island

Three hours from NYC, Providence, Rhode Island, is an ideal day trip for travelers looking to enjoy a much smaller, calmer city. Ride out in the afternoon, and enjoy lunch in the historic Federal Hill district. Known for its incredible Italian food, it’s a smaller version of NYC’s Little Italy, with eateries that are up to par. Step back in time around DePasquale Square, and try out Caffe Dolce Vita for pasta or pizza. Enjoy shopping around town at Providence Place, and be sure to stick around until evening to enjoy the WaterFire spectacular along the waterfront. (The schedule is here.)

Northampton, Massachusetts

At just a three-hour drive from NYC is the artistic, countercultural, and academic city of Northampton. Located in Western Mass, this city is filled with beautiful stone churches and a quaint downtown. Stroll around the shops and boutiques and walk along the Smith College campus, which is home to a lovely Botanic Garden. Nearby, you’ll find Mount Tom, a state reservation with scenic vistas and over 22 miles (35.4 kilometers) of hiking trails. End the day by renting bikes and riding along the Norwottuck Rail Trail. The bike path is flat and smooth and crosses over the Connecticut River and bridges at certain points.

Plymouth, Massachusetts

While the infamous Plymouth Rock leaves something to be desired, the town of Plymouth is much more than expected. As it’s a four-hour drive from NYC, it’s best to head out bright and early to allow enough time to enjoy everything the town has to offer. Start out the day with brunch at Water Street Cafe, and then walk off your meal with a stroll along the water. Follow the coastline out to where you can walk along the jetty. This road will also take you past Plymouth Rock so that you can get your pictures in and see the small, engraved rock where the Pilgrims first landed.

Afterward, take a drive to Plimoth Plantation, a living history museum where you can see exactly what life was like in Plymouth Colony back in the 17th century. End the day at East Bay Grille, with a drink outside on their back patio. With all the palm trees, you’ll feel like you’re elsewhere—in the Caribbean!

Plimoth Plantation in Plymouth, Massachusetts © ReflectedSerendipity / Flickr

Boston, Massachusetts

Of course, why not take a trip over to Boston? The two cities may be rivals in just about all things—sports and pizza, to name a couple—but that doesn’t mean you can’t appreciate the smaller hub that is Boston. Depending on traffic, it’s about a four-hour drive from NYC to Beantown.

The summer is definitely the best time to visit Boston—walk along the 2.5-mile (four-kilometer) Freedom Trail for a self-guided tour and enjoy an afternoon spent in the Boston Public Garden. Watch the ducks, and hop on a swan boat. Or simply stroll around the park to admire the flowers. Afterward, you can grab a bite to eat and do some shopping along Newbury Street.