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4 Relaxing Day Trips From NYC and Into the Great Outdoors

Updated on September 11, 2017

Flashy billboards, sun-blocking skyscrapers, bright lights, horns, and voices blaring everywhere: these are the calling cards of New York City. But this exciting city with the reputation of a city that never sleeps can get overwhelming.

Those looking for a little escape into the quiet and calm of nature will be delighted to find that just within three hours of New York City, there are places that are so different from the city, they almost seem foreign. From green cattle-dotted farmlands to hiking in the woodlands, here is a list of ideas for day trips from New York City that will rejuvenate and quiet the soul.

Cattle resting on a farm in Lancaster, Pennsylvania- just three hours away from NYC
Cattle resting on a farm in Lancaster, Pennsylvania- just three hours away from NYC | Source

1.The Farms in Lancaster, Pennsylvania

On the physical level, farmlands represent the food that sustains our bodies. But somehow, just seeing miles and miles of unending lush, green farmlands also has a calming effect on the soul. For those looking for a day trip from noisy New York City to more serene environs, a day trip to the farmlands of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania is just what the doctor ordered.

Unlike New York City, this is a place where nature takes center place. There are no buildings blocking the views of the land, no billboards anywhere, and once one leaves the highway traffic is almost non existent on most days.

Instead, expect to see quiet farms dotted with horses and cattle, horse drawn buggies slowly passing by and clear, slow moving streams flowing merrily along. While there are lots of other activities, those so inclined can take advantage of the verdant surroundings on long walks either by the streams, or beside one of the endless green farms.

Those looking for more interaction can head to one of Lancaster's famous markets where fresh from the farm produce and jarred concoctions take center place. Probably due to the dairy farms in the area, the dairy products are particularly good and are a consistent hit with visitors. Also try to sample the local honey and baked goods which the area is known for.

If you want to do more than just choosing your foods from a market, arrange for a tour of one of the many local farms. Different farms offer different experiences. Some teach about dairy production like how to milk cows and how the animals are bred. In others one may collect eggs and pick produce straight from the trees. Check discoverlancaster.com for more information on availability.

Try to plan an early day trip so that there is enough time to visit an actual farm, a farmer's market and have lunch or dinner at one of the many smorgasbord buffets in the county before heading back to the city. Also, don't miss the chance to have homemade ice cream or milkshake from one of the excellent dairy farms.

If you visit Lancaster County, you may also want to learn about the fascinating Amish People.

2. Amish Country in Pennsylvania

An Amish man giving a buggy tour of Amish country. Another great day trip from New York City.
An Amish man giving a buggy tour of Amish country. Another great day trip from New York City. | Source

Nothing could be further away from the brashness of New Yorkers than the humility of the Amish people. Living among the farmlands in Lancaster, a visit to the Amish people of Amish country is a lesson on what the slow life feels like. The Amish people are a religious group from Germany and Switzerland that arrived in America in the early 18th century. The Amish view separation from worldly views and goods and non- resistance as the acceptable Christian way.

The interesting result is a people who live in seclusion in the farmlands of Lancaster County fulfilling their religious views by banning the use of higher education and all modern niceties and technology. So, instead of cars, expect to see horse drawn buggies and lots of people walking. Don't be surprised to see the Amish looking fascinatedly at your Ipad or iPhone as you snap pictures (speaking of pictures, do not attempt to take a picture of an Amish person's face as this goes against their beliefs). In addition to early marriage, Amish beliefs include little or no access to technological distractions like cameras, televisions and telephones. All this makes for a day trip from NYC that will be simultaneously illuminating and relaxing because of its simplicity and cultural lessons.

By far, the most unique way to see the Amish is by horse-drawn buggy. Depending on which ride you choose, you may glimpse Amish children playing in their yard, have an intimate experience with an Amish family in their home or stop for a tour of an Amish schoolhouse. Regardless of what experience you book, your buggy ride will take you pass people simply dressed in attire from a bygone era; simple two story homes powered by solar energy and surrounded by lush green farms; and communities so quiet that even in the middle of the day the chirps of birds and crickets ring loud and clear.

If Amish Country seems too far away, ocean lovers will find lots of serenity in the easily accessible beaches on the Jersey Shore.

3. The Beaches on the Jersey Shore

Water is claimed to be amongst the most soothing properties on earth. Combine the soothing waters of the ocean with soft sand, great restaurants, energetic boardwalks and quaintly historic homes and one gets the picturesque towns on the New Jersey Shore.

The state of New Jersey lays next to New York City, and is easily accessible by train or bus (njtranist.com for schedules and fares) or by car. For beach lovers looking to unwind on a beach, this makes a day trip to one of the shore towns a no brainer. The trip to the beach can take from an hour to three hours depending on which town is chosen.

Quieter towns like Ocean Grove and Spring Lake are best for those who just want to be on a good beach without the thrills and noise that the more party and kid oriented towns are known for. Instead of noisy, loud boardwalks, these towns are known for their well- preserved, historic homes which can be toured in the warmer months and excellent antique shopping. Those who want to walk along a boardwalk and take in all the sights common to a boardwalk—funnel cake, amusement parks, fudge shops, mini golf will prefer Ocean City or Point Pleasant Beach. Both Ocean City and Point Pleasant Beach have excellent, clean beaches with beach chairs and umbrellas and exciting attractions running parallel to the beach on the boardwalk.

Regardless of which beach you choose, expect big crowds in summer. For some quiet its best to visit on a warm day in early June or early September when the kids are still in school and the vacationers have not yet swarmed the shore.

Although very different from the beach, woodlands and forests carry a charm all their own for those seeking quiet. This next place is perfect for finding peace among the trees.

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4. Hike the Palisades in Fort Lee

I spotted a deer hiding while hiking on what was probably the most relaxing day trip from NYC I had ever taken.
I spotted a deer hiding while hiking on what was probably the most relaxing day trip from NYC I had ever taken. | Source
A brook meandering through the Palisadeos trail.
A brook meandering through the Palisadeos trail.

Hiking is ubiquitious on any list of great nature activities. Those who turn to never-ending trails going through forests and trees for relaxation will be happy to find that less than ten minutes out of New York City lies a hilly region replete with hiking trails and green forest land known as the Palisades. Who would have thought that so close to the city sat one of the best places for taking day trips from New York City.

The Palisades is a hilly range in New Jersey with numerous hiking trails that range from easy to moderate. Because of its location by the Hudson river, many trails run parallel to the river making for a beautiful, calm hike. Most trails lead through serene green forestry filled with streams and wildlife. Don't be startled if you suddenly walk into a family of deer (I spotted three young ones on my hike) or snakes. For a perfect view of the Hudson River and the surrounding hills, take the trail to the top (this is less than two hours hiking slowly). Alternatively, some trails lead down to a picnic area by the river, where one can get drinks and snacks or have a pre-packed picnic.

To get there, take the NYC subway system's A train to 175th street stop , and walk across the George Washington Bridge towards the town of Fort Lee, to enter the Palisades. New Jersey. For information on visiting, njpalisades.org.

© 2016 Rosheda Stephenson

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    • nomadspirit profile image
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      Rosheda Stephenson 18 months ago

      Thank you savvydating. I second your sentiments: watching these cows just resting was strangely relaxing. Something about nature and animals!

    • savvydating profile image

      Yves 18 months ago

      This is great. A person can "have their cake and eat it too." My son lived on New York City for a number of years, but I'm pretty sure he relied on Central Park for his "getaways." Who knew that all of these other "treasures of calm" were do nearby?

      By the way, I loved your pictures, especially the one's of the cows resting peacefully. Sigh....so very relaxing.