New York is very possibly the most dynamic, hyperactive, living city on the planet. All the buzz and action is intoxicating, though it goes without saying that New York can also be overwhelming. Sometimes, you gotta step off the island, and that's where these city break suggestions come in handy. We've got three of them: Statue of Liberty & Ellis Island, Brooklyn's Coney Island and the upstate Shawangunk Wine Trail.
New York Day Trips
American History: Statue of Liberty & Ellis Island
Highlights: Lady Liberty; historical site; great views
Duration: three to six hours
Exertion level: low
Accessible by: subway, ferry
You can expect large crowds and packed ferries on the way to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, but both are worth seeing at least once.
First things first! Get yourself to Battery Park, on the southern tip of Manhattan. It is free visit boh Liberty Island, where the Statue lives, and Ellis Island, so all you have to purchase is the $13 ferry ticket ($10 for seniors and $5 for children aged 4-12). Note: It is very important to purchase your tickets from Castle Clinton before you wait in line for the ferry. Better yet, purchase of tickets online grants you priority entry for security screening which saves time before departure.
The first stop is the Statue. The regular ticket includes entrance to the pedestal and museum. Those looking to get up into the crown should note that the ticket costs and additional $3. More importantly, they are highly coveted, so plan in advance and purchase your tickets early.
Next, it's off to Ellis Island, the gateway for more than 12 million Americans (mostly arriving from Europe) between 1892 and 1954. To get the most out of the museum, watch the 45-minute movie, Island of Hope, Island of Tears, before you tackle the museum. Introduced by a cheerful guide who will answer individual questions, the video will put you in the mood to explore. The rest of the museum is self-guided. Audio tours are available. There are also free guide tours that leave from the information desk every hour.
Yes, it's touristy, and yes, the lines are long. But the experience is worth the wait. Our advice: Arrive early! Ferries depart from Battery Park starting at 9:30 a.m. and every 40 minutes thereafter until 3:30 p.m. Note, however, that should you leave after 2 p.m., there will not be time to visit both islands before the final return ferry. For more information, check out the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island online.
Carnivalesque Fun: Coney Island
Highlights: the birthplace of the hot dog; wild rollercoaster rides; beach bumming
Duration: four to eight hours
Exertion level: low to medium, depending on your fear of roller coasters
Accessible by: subway
With a massive boardwalk, rides and attractions, the New York Aquarium and (arguably, we suppose) the best hot dogs in America, Coney Island is a bizarre overload to the senses. Really, where else can you see the youngest female sword swallower in the world right next to Bambi the mermaid?
Don't worry, weird comes cheap at Coney Island. A visit to the wacky Coney Island Museum is a mere 99 cents. And a stroll down the boardwalk is, well, free!
If you're feeling adventurous, take a spin on landmark coaster, the Cyclone ($8 for the first ride and $5 if you’re brave enough to ride a second time) after a few hot dogs at Nathan's Famous Hot Dogs, home to a hot-dog eating contest held every Fourth of July. Scratch that: Eat your hot dogs after you ride the Cyclone, or—an altogether safer bet for your stomach—check out the New York Aquarium (tickets run $13 for adults, $10 for seniors and $9 for the under 12 set).
The park has been cleaned up a lot in recent years, but those who crave its former grit can still find some of it at attractions like "shoot the freak." Luna Park, a snazzy new addition as of summer 2010, offers a variety of new rides and attractions to excite thrill seekers of all ages. A four hour unlimited ride wristband costs $26 on weekdays and $30 on weekends and holidays.
Vines & Mountains: Shawangunk Wine Trail
Highlights: 500 acres of vineyard; majestic mountains; cute villages
Duration: five to ten hours; overnight
Exertion level: low
Accessible by: private car
Some call it the "Napa of the East." We prefer to call the Shawangunk Wine Trail, an unpretentious stroll through the Hudson Valley, replete with breathtaking views and some darn good wine. Forget the chauffeured wine tours and celebrity chefs of the California Wine Country. This East Coast wine trail features more mom-and-pop wineries and a less stuffy attitude.
The Shawangunk Wine Trail, just two hours from Manhattan, includes 11 wineries. For true blue Cheapos, Brotherhood Winery offers the best wine tasting deal, priced at $5. Another favorite is Rivendell Winery, whose owners always stock their fridge with local cheese for picnics. (Fun fact: the Rivendell crew also runs the Vintage New York Wine Shop in SoHo, located not far from EuroCheapo world headquarters.)
The "Gunks" feature more than wineries. The surrounding mountains provide excellent rock climbing, and the area itself is home to quirky antique shops, county fairs, and cute towns.
To get to the Shawangunk Wine Trail, drive north from New York City on New York State Thruway and take exit 16, 17 or 18. From Route 17, take Exit 119. Another route is to approach the trail from Interstate 84. The southern end of the Trail can be accessed from Interstate 84 at Warwick and Washingtonville; the northern end of the Trail can be accessed from Interstate 84 at Pine Bush and New Paltz. Our guide to car rentals in New York will help you find the best deal on your wheels.
This may seem obvious, but make sure you appoint a designated driver! And don't drink and climb!
For listings of the wineries along the trail, visit the the Shawangunk Wine Trail site.
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