8 Great Car-Free Getaway Ideas in the New York Metro Area

Every traveler should visit New York in their lifetime. Of course, you must visit New York City, and while you’re there, take some time to explore the greater New York Metro area outside the city limits.

Here’s the best news: You can take advantage of New York’s public transportation while you tour The Big Apple and beyond. Continue reading below to discover some of the best places in Metropolitan New York that are easily accessible without a car.

Editor’s Note: Time, routes, and fares are subject to change, so please confirm with ticketing services before you book your travel.

CONTENTS – In this article, you will learn all about public transport accessible places in NYC and the New York metro area, including:

Why You Should Explore NYC & Metropolitan New York By Public Transport

Have you been planning to tour and see the beauty of New York? But the catch is, you’re going to travel without your car. Sounds fun, right?

If you’re not from NYC, don’t worry. Locals from nearby states, such as Maryland, may travel by bus from Baltimore to New York easily. In fact, most states offer some kind of rail service to NYC, so check your local listings.

Once you arrive, you’ll be fine without your car in metropolitan New York.

You could enjoy one of the tourist-y spots on the East Coast, the mesmerizing Wave Hill, which is well-known for its music bars, spots, and venues. Also, you may want to enjoy New York’s iconic summer getaways, such as Coney Island, with just a subway ride. 

When you use public transport instead of using your own car or renting one, it could save you a lot of time and money for gas as well. 

Most travelers already know better than to drive in New York City. New York is busy, so you don’t want to be in the middle of a traffic jam or accident in ‘The Big Apple.’

But did you know you can go beyond NYC to greater New York using public transportation? In addition to saving money and the ease of getting there, you’ll enjoy the scenery, lovely attractions, and charming towns in the New York metro area. Many scenic towns are within reach by public transportation, such as the historic towns of Hudson Valley. 

Those are just some of the great places you can enjoy using a public ride in New York. To add to that, here are other great places the state has to offer that you can easily reach using public transportation. 

Best Places to Visit in New York City | Ultimate Metropolitan Vacation

With so many must-see attractions in New York City, you could fill a lengthy itinerary exploring this great metropolis. For sure, you’ll want to make time for as many tourist spots that are on your bucket list. But don’t miss these often overlooked gems below, all of which are easily reachable by NY public transportation.

1. Governor’s Island (Manhattan/Brooklyn)

This mesmerizing 172-acre island within the harbor of New York sits between the district of Manhattan and Brooklyn. For the past 200 years, Governors Island was closed down to the public and served as a base for US Army and US Coast Guard. 

Today, the whole area is transformed into a beautiful, family-friendly park for local and interstate tourists. 

If you want to see the best of Governor’s Island, the summer and early autumn seasons are the best time to visit. Pack a picnic lunch, walk or ride a bike along the paths, and enjoy this relaxing green space. 

Getting There: Governors Island is a quick 10-minute ferry ride from Lower Manhattan (departing at the Battery Maritime Building daily) or the Brooklyn waterfront at Red Hook’s Atlantic Basin on weekends. On weekends, you can also take the NY Ferry Service from Pier 11, Wall Street.

2. Rockaway Beach (Queens)

If you think that the largest urban beach is in California or Florida, you’re wrong. It’s Rockaway Beach, located in New York.  Rockaway Beach is 5.5 miles long along the Atlantic Ocean and Queens’ shoreline. This relaxing urban beachfront is the state’s number one destination for surfing.

If you don’t want to get wet on the beach, you can still have some beach fun here, whether that means having a picnic, sunbathing, beach volleyball, reading, or just enjoying the sunset.

If you’re a bird lover, you’ll want to visit the Sandpiper Playground to see different kinds of migratory birds. 

Getting There: It’s about 24 miles from downtown. For under $10 and about an hour’s ride, you can be sitting on the beach. Here’s how: On the MTA, four buses stop near Rockaway Beach, including Q22, Q35, Q52, and Q53 SBS. You can also take the Subway SR. Depending on what station you get off, from there you’ll have a 5-7 minute walk to the beach.

3. Wave Hill (Bronx)

photo courtesy of https://www.wavehill.org/

Wave Hill is a delightful 28-acre garden and estate that overlooks the banks of the great Hudson River. You’ll find it in the Bronx’s Riverdale. 

The estate was built as a vacation house for the world-famous, including Mark Twain. In 1960, the entire estate was donated to the city to serve as a cultural facility and horticultural garden center.

Today, Wave Hill hosts about 65,000 guests each year. Visitors explore its historical places and relaxing custom gardens. Some favorites include:

  • A flower garden
  • The 10-acre Abron’s woodland
  • An aquatic garden

Also, you can enjoy paid concerts at the estate every Sunday afternoon.

Getting There: Wave hill is just 12 miles outside midtown Manhattan. For public transportation options, it’s accessible by bus or train. You’ll want to take the Hudson Line from Metro-North to Riverdale Station, or the #1 Subway to Van Cortlandt Park-242 Street Station.

The BX7, BXM2, and other buses will also get you there. Since shuttles are temporarily suspended due to COVID, expect a 8 to 30 minute walk to Wave Hill from the station, depending on which one.

4. Coney Island (Brooklyn)

If you’re looking for a world-class entertainment destination, Coney Island should be your top pick in New York City. You’ll find it located on Brooklyn’s southern coastline. 

Coney Island is perfect for families with kids who love to enjoy fantastic rides. The entertainment boardwalk offers many amusement parks. One is Luna Park, which dates back to the late 19th century. 

You may also enjoy roller coaster rides in the iconic 1927 Cyclone wooden coaster or an eccentric Ferris wheel in Deno’s Wonder Wheel. 

If you’re not into rides, check out the great arcades and beautiful attractions within the 2.5-mile amusement line. 

And don’t forget to get one of Coney Island’s famous hot dogs!

Getting There: Take the Q, F or D line to the “Coney Island- Stillwell Avenue” station. The most famous Coney Island sites is a 5-minute walk from the station.

New York Metro Area Places to Visit by Public Transportation

Metropolitan New York includes New York City, Long Island, and the Mid and Lower Hudson Valley. You can extend your trip to NYC by seeing more of the states rural countryside and charming towns without going too far upstate. You’ll especially want to visit those reachable by public transportation that are a short trip from the city.

Here are some excellent options, below.

5. Beacon (Dutchess County)

The destination is named for the signal fires on Mount Beacon during the American Revolutionary War. Beacon an art district in New York, just a subway train from Manhattan. 

You may not see it now, but it was once actually an industrial town. Then, it was transformed into a beautiful downtown lined with delightful shops, restaurants, and art galleries.

You’ll also enjoy art exhibitions, live band performances, and street vendors every second Saturday as a part of Beacon Sounds events. 

If you’re adventurous, Beacon also offers outdoor activities, such as:

  • Kayaking on the lovely Hudson River
  • Hiking the path of Mount Beacon
  • Enjoying the view of Bannerman Island

Getting There: The trip from NYC to Beacon will take you under 2 hours by train, and set you back about $24, round trip. You’ll find trains leaving from Grand Central Station Terminal as well as Pennsylvania Station. You’ll arrive at Beacon station, a commuter rail stop on the Metro-North Railroad’s Hudson Line. The shortest route is a direct train that departs Harlem-125th St. leaving on the hour which takes just over an hour and 18 minutes.

The longer route is to go by bus, which will take almost 3 hours and really won’t save you any money.

6. Cold Spring (Putnam County)

Cold Spring is located within the mesmerizing Hudson Highlands, known to many people as one of the great weekend destinations.

There, you’ll find excellent restaurants and antiquities. It is also the home of fascinating historical buildings from the 19th century, such as the West Point Foundry.

Because of its historical heritage, Cold Spring has been a home for many vintage goods shops, such as Old Souls, Poor George, and Cold Spring Apothecary.

You may also enjoy the adventurous trails of Breakneck Ridge, which is one of the Hudson Valley’s best hikes. 

After that, you may enjoy excellent French cuisine at the Brasserie Le Bouchon or at the best beer pub in Hudson Valley, which is the Whistling Willies. 

Getting There: A 70-minute train ride from Grand Central Station or any Hudson Line Station will get you to Cold Spring in about 44 minutes. Trains depart daily on the hour, and will take you directly to Cold Spring Station.

7. Cornwall (Orange County)

Cornwall is a nostalgic historic town just an hour from the outskirts of New York City. Like Cold Spring, it is also within the gorgeous Hudson Highland. 

The town of Cornwall was originally established in 1685 as a part of New England’s colonial territory. Today, it is a well-known tourist destination attracting 200,000 people every year. One attraction is the showcase of grandiose art exhibits in the Storm King Art Center. 

Beneath the shadows of Storm King Mountain lies a family state park. It offers delightful scenery of the Hudson River along the coasts of Bannerman Island and Newburgh Bay. 

Getting There: Take the bus from NY to Newburgh, NY – Broadway & Lake or Vales Gate, NY and you’re within walking distance of Cornwall. Or, head over to Hoboken for the train to Salisbury Mills-Cornwall. The train will take you about an hour-and-a-half, and the bus closer to two hours.

8. Warwick (Orange County)

Orange County NY consists of three villages and eight hamlets. 

Warwick is one of the beautiful Orange County towns, about 50 miles from New York City. It’s is known for its annual festival, the Applefest, which is arguably one of the best festivals in North America. Every year at the festivall, around 40,000 people enjoy:

  • Street fair shops
  • Live music performances
  • games every year

Isn’t it great and relaxing to visit tourist destinations not far away from the busy sights of the metro without thinking about where to park your car? New York has some great and charming sights to offer if you want a peaceful, relaxing, and stress-relieving feeling. If you wish to make every second count, use every public transportation

Getting There: Take the Port Jarvis Line from Hoboken to Tuxedo for less than $15. You’re still about 16 miles from your destination, so you’d need to Uber or Taxi there (which will be a budget hit).

Instead, take the New Jersey Transit Buses #196 and #197 to Oakland Ave At Orchard St. It may take a little longer (total trip, 2 hours), but you’ll save a bundle. Once you’re in Warwick, the Warwick Transit Dial-A-Bus operates within the Town borders on weekdays.

Final Thoughts on Exploring the New York Metro Area By Public Transportation

From a city vibe, to historic places, excellent high-quality meals, and culture, you’ll sure to enjoy every place you visit in New York. So, check the latest public transportation options before you go, reserve the tickets, and plan that beautiful vacation to New York now. It will be a travel experience you’ll never forget.

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Jackie Gately

Jackie Gately is a seasoned travel writer, photographer, and marketing consultant who is passionate about travel. She loves casual-luxury experiences, coastal getaways, cultural attractions, and local, wholesome food and wine pairings. A perfect day ends with her toes in the sand or by chasing the sunset with her camera--ideally both.