Rosheda Stephenson calls NYC and the Caribbean home. Her travel articles are meant to inspire passion, adventure, and curiosity.
Peace . . . in New York City?
Flashy billboards, sun-blocking skyscrapers, bright lights, horns, and voices blaring everywhere are just a few of New York City's calling cards. But living in "The City That Never Sleeps" can get overwhelming.
Those looking for day trips from NYC that will surround them with peaceful and calming nature will be delighted to find that within just 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.
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
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.
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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, bus (njtranist.com for schedules and fares) or 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 reserved, 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.
4. Grounds for Sculpture, New Jersey
If the proximity of New Jersey to NYC is right up your alley, but the beach won't do it for you, maybe this unexpected haven of art will ring your bells. Located one hour away from the city, in the town of Hamilton, New Jersey, the Grounds for Sculpture is acres of gorgeous gardens and lawns in which superb sculptures depicting the works of famous artists like Monet, Renoir, Van Gogh, Caillebotte and Matisse sit as if part of the landscape
True art lovers will find much to delight and calm their souls in both the art and the peaceful gardens. Especially peaceful is the serene lily pond area, over which an incarnation of the bridge from Monet's famous painting Bridge Over a Pond of Waterlilies sits. Other particularly calming areas include the Water Garden, where all the sculptural pieces are surrounded by water features;The Meadow, which is 7 acres of rolling hills and lawns with grand sculptures incorporated into the serene landscape and The Lake, which is the backdrop to many of the pieces inspired by Monet. To plan a trip, check out my article on the Grounds for Sculpture, for in-depth information on this most unique nature day trip from New York City.
5. Lake George, New York State
From its days as haunt for the rich and famous to its more modern reputation as the all american vacation spot, Lake George has been wowing those who want to escape busy city life and be one with nature. Visitors who want to visit the gorgeous lake on a day trip from New York City can be there in little over three hours. Lake George is the best of lakeside living. You can spend the day relaxing on the shore while taking in the calm ripples on the lake, swimming in the cool fresh water or on a boat: but there is much more to the Lake George area.
Due to its popularity as a summer vacation spot, the day visitor will find a variety of attractions to fill the day. Lake George drains down the Adirondacks so before relaxing in the cool water, many visitors take a hike up through the mountains on well marked trails that offer relaxing views of the surrounding woods. Gorgeous river filled caves also call theLake George area home so spelunking is another way to experience nature while visiting Lake George. Those who want more extreme ways of playing on the water will want to try white river rafting on Lake George's rivers before sitting by Lake George itself for relaxing views and some fresh air.
After a day of activity, try to visit any of the numerous first class restaurants that sit lakeside for a superb lunch or dinner. If visiting in summer, be sure to check if reservations are needed as Lake George gets crowded in the warmer months.
Although very different from the lake woodlands and forests carry a charm all their own for those seeking quiet. This next place is perfect for finding peace among the trees.
6. The Palisades, New Jersey
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 NYC.
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.
7. Bear Mountain, New York State
Although further away from the city than the Palisades, the Bear Mountain State Park offers superb hiking, but with the addition of recreational facilities that make a day trip to the mountain a great value. Bear Mountain itself is a collection of trails that lead through lush trees with a river and lake running through. In fall the area transforms into a kaleidoscope of oranges and reds that attract visitors to take in the beauty of the mountain. A hike to the summit unveils sweeping views of the mountain and lake. Here one can have a picnic, or hike back to any of the numerous picturesque spots along the mountain for a picnic.
After a hike the state park includes a pool for swimming, fishing on a river or the lake when fishing season opens and skiing in winter.
Bear Mountain State Park is a little more than an hour away from NYC by car and can also be reached by bus. There is an entry fee of $10(charged per car and not per person if one drives) that covers use of the park's facilities.
Enjoy Mother Nature
Nothing beats mother nature when one wants to relax and disengage from the stress of everyday life in a big city. The six day trips from NYC on this list are some of the best ways to rejuvenate and still be back in the city by nightfall.
© 2016 Rosheda Stephenson