Hobo dreams
April 30, 2008 4:39 PM   Subscribe

Please recommend me some day/weekend trip destinations from NYC, especially if they involve trains and don't require renting a car.

My husband grew up in relatively car-centric, train-free areas, and now that we live in the East he really wants to go on a long train ride and see the rolling countryside, etc. Being more experienced in the ways of train travel than he is, I pointed out that his original suggestion (just get on any random train and ride it all day) is boring and a bad idea. But it would be nice to have some Saturday or whole-weekend trip ideas in reserve, so we're looking for destinations.

We like: food, museums, movies, theater, interesting shopping, quiet beaches, interesting scenery, longish unstrenuous walks, going to states that we haven't been to yet (which includes most of them), activities and amusements that are usually intended for children, and not spending very much money.

We don't much like: when walking becomes hiking, froofy B&Bs, having to rent a car.

Where should we go? Where should we stay? What should we do?
posted by doift to Travel & Transportation around New York, NY (20 answers total) 25 users marked this as a favorite
You can get to Dia: Beacon via Metro: North and Storm King via Coach; they're both doable as day trips, or you can find a bed and breakfast near by and explore neighboring towns over a weekend.
posted by lia at 5:09 PM on April 30, 2008 [2 favorites]

Maybe this is too obvious, but Providence.
posted by Airhen at 5:19 PM on April 30, 2008

Amtrak to Boston....Used to be my favorite trip as a youngster ... and still is. When I head back home, I usually fly into either Boston or New York (I have friends/family both places) and then do the Amtrak to the opposite city.

The Amtrak station in Boston is at Back Bay. Plenty of hotels/sightseeing right in that area. No need for a car.
posted by notjustfoxybrown at 5:27 PM on April 30, 2008

Go to the Adirindacks on Amtrak i think. I've done this trip and it is quite awesome.
posted by schyler523 at 5:29 PM on April 30, 2008

Amtrak to Montreal
posted by JohnnyGunn at 5:38 PM on April 30, 2008

Philadelphia is a great place to visit and walk around in - I'll just mention Reading Terminal Market and the art museum, but there's plenty more. It's less than 90 minutes from NYC by Amtrak, or about 2.5 but MUCH cheaper if you take an NJT local train to Trenton and change there for a SEPTA local to Philadelphia.
posted by moonmilk at 5:40 PM on April 30, 2008

The Amtrak station in Boston is at Back Bay.

As well as another: South Station -- the Amtrak terminus.
posted by ericb at 5:43 PM on April 30, 2008

Seconding Dia:Beacon and Storm King. The ride up the Hudson is beautiful.
posted by one_bean at 5:46 PM on April 30, 2008

Go to the Adirindacks on Amtrak; Amtrak to Montreal...

The Adirondack: New York - Albany - Montreal:
"The Adirondack travels daily from New York City, through the lush wine country of the Hudson Valley, into Montreal. Heading north, you're scheduled to depart New York's Penn Station in the morning and arrive in Montreal in the evening."
Ethan Allen Express
"The Ethan Allen Express runs daily between New York City and Rutland, Vermont, by way of Albany.

The Express takes you to all the outdoor adventures of upstate New York and Vermont. Enjoy miles of New York and Vermont wilderness, the scenic Hudson River Valley, summer wildflowers and fabulous fall foliage. In the winter, take an easy motorcoach connection to Okemo."
posted by ericb at 5:51 PM on April 30, 2008

cold spring is supposed to be a neat little town.
posted by thinkingwoman at 5:55 PM on April 30, 2008

Just look at the Amtrak maps. Philly, Boston, Providence are cool destinations. However, Mystic is a really fun trip. The CT coast is surprisingly beautiful by train; I95 is inland, but the train track is right on the coast.

Mystic has both a sea port and an aquarium and other stuff, too.
posted by DarlingBri at 6:14 PM on April 30, 2008

Take a day trip to Princeton. You can take NJ Transit from Penn Station in NYC to Princeton, then walk into town or take a cab in. It's a great place to walk around on a nice summer day, and there is plenty of shopping, nature, fine dining, and arts and culture.
posted by amro at 6:27 PM on April 30, 2008

There ain't no rolling country side between NYC and Philly along the Amtrak line. You'll get a beautiful view on industrial north Jersey, the middle income residential areas of central Jersey, a nice glimpse of mostly blasted out Trenton followed by a steady diet of working class near-slums in lower Bucks county and Northeast Philadelphia followed a lovely crosstown panoramic of North Philly which should be just about enough to have your husband wanting to slit his wrists by the time he arrives. Pass on Philly if you're primarily interested in the train ride. Other than that, it's got just about everything you're looking for.
posted by The Straightener at 6:34 PM on April 30, 2008

Atlantic City! Take the NJ Transit to SEPTA at Trenton, switch back to NJ Transit at Philadelphia 30th St. and on to A.C.

Princeton is also really nice.
posted by mattbucher at 8:06 PM on April 30, 2008

Between Metro-North, Amtrak and the Dutchess County Loop Bus, you can enjoy a number of the upstate New York sights mentioned in regional-travel-with-car question.
posted by thejoshu at 9:10 PM on April 30, 2008

On the weekends, one may ride the train in the morning to hiking at two stations (wooden steps and a sign) on Metro-North: Breakneck Ridge on the Hudson Line and Appalachian Trail on the Harlem Line. The Hudson Line travels right next to the Hudson, of course, but I don't think I've ever been north of White Plains on the Harlem Line.

As a point of interest, there are also small stations intended for people to visit dead people at the cemetery and the Botanical Garden, though the former probably not your desired destination and the latter too close to be a real train ride.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 9:37 PM on April 30, 2008

What about a pizza trip to New Haven? Check out the NYT travel section.
posted by cestmoi15 at 1:59 PM on May 1, 2008

You can take Metro North to New Canaan. The train terminates steps away from downtown, and it's a cute little town. You can also take the Philip Johnson Glass House tour without a car (they run shuttles from town), although they have such high demand you are buying tickets now for 2009.
posted by smackfu at 1:46 PM on May 2, 2008 [1 favorite]

As other's have said, Amtrak, but I'd take it up to Albany, and perhaps stay in Albany over night.

Lot's of people will ridicule the suggestion, but as an utter downstate snob, I was surprised that Albany has some interesting quirks - definitely worth a peak. parts of it *are* walkable, but I'd really hesitate to walk around at night unless given the OK by a local. Empire State Plaza, the boondoggle by Rockefeller is a must-see, more for what it says about large government-supported public works than anything else, except the New York State museum is one of the better state museums around. Some good bars that seemed not to have changed since Ironweed.

But the ride, ah the ride up the Hudson is one of incredible beauty. Even today it is surprising how much of it seems unspoiled. And you'll know why there is an entire school of landscape painting called the "Hudson River school."
posted by xetere at 9:56 AM on May 3, 2008

Response by poster: Many, many awesome suggestions here, thanks all! I hesitate to mark best answers, because I can see us enjoying every single one of these trips. If we manage to make one of them (Dia:Beacon and Storm King are likely contenders for first attempt) before the thread closes, I will post a report.

I neglected to mention in the first post that there's a Long Island Railroad station a few blocks from us, so good destinations within that system would be particularly convenient. I think a few have been mentioned but if anyone knows of more. . .
posted by doift at 8:28 AM on May 4, 2008

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