New York City in the summertime is no joke. It’s humid, hot, and aromatic. So whether you’re a tourist or you live here, your instinct will be to get outta Dodge for a few days. Sure, you could hop on your bicycle or the subway, or rent a car, but New Yorkers have a secret weapon for scooting out of the city: The Metro North train, which will lead you right out of this hot metropolis.
The train—whose routes crawl northwards along the gorgeous Hudson, towards the Catskills, and towards New Haven—is a smart way to avoid the hassle, expense, and traffic of renting a car. The scenery along the way is beautiful, and it’s cheap as chips. Check out this Metro North package site, which is often updated with new possible outings, and make sure the adventures you want can’t be found more cheaply as a package deal. As old-school Metro North travelers, we love these six fun train trips in summer and autumn. There’s a train ride for everyone: architecture nerds, beer-drinking cyclists, hikers, art lovers, and even amusement park fans.
As creepy and beautiful as a scene from Big, Rye Playland sprawls alongside a pretty lake and a winding boardwalk. There’s a (crucial) log flume, a rickety roller coaster, and a weird tiki bar where you can take the edge off. Travel to Rye and back on the New Haven line for $44.25, which includes park admission and a round-trip MetroCard. (There’s a short-hop bus at the station, or you can hop on a bike to go the rest of the way.) And it’s much cheaper—as little as $20—for kids.
Bannerman Castle and Pollepel Island
Anyone who has seen the gorgeous, haunted-looking castle in the middle of the Hudson while taking the Metro North by it probably doesn’t realize you can take a boat right on over to the island. Built in 1901 to resemble a Scottish castle, Bannerman was ravaged by fire in 1969. For $56.50, you can hop on a train at Grand Central Terminal, access the island via a small boat, and take a guided walking tour of the grounds and garden. (The castle itself isn’t safe to enter.)
With gorgeous light and sprawling architecture, this museum set in a onetime Nabisco box factory features hulking sculptures by Richard Serra, huge paintings by Sol LeWitt, and neat sound and light installations. Anticipate a short, uphill walk from the train station and bank on grabbing a bite in Beacon afterwards; the city’s food and drink scene has boomed in recent years, and Main Street makes a pleasant ramble for sandwiches, cocktails, and shopping.
Captain Lawrence Brewery
Bikes are required for this guided 35-mile ride along a former railway track, which includes a tasting of 10 beers at tasty Captain Lawrence Brewery. At $114, this is a bit spendy for a day trip, but the fee includes a picnic lunch, energy bars, snacks, water, and vehicle support in case your ride breaks down—which cyclists know to be pretty darn priceless.
Apple Picking and Barbecue
Autumn rolls around, and with it, for many of us, an inexplicable, insatiable urge to pick apples. Taking the scenic Harlem line up to Croton Falls is one way to get your fix. A cheap, quick cab or Uber ride from the station is Harvest Moon Farm and Orchard, which has all the pumpkins, apple cannons (!), and pick-your-own options your heart desires. Just be sure to call in advance to make sure the trees still have fruit, and don’t fill up on apple pie at the orchard’s country store, because another quick cab ride away is Northern Smoke, where the ribs and brisket rival any you’ll find in New York City.
There’s plenty of hiking available off the train, and yes, you could haul north to the bare-bones Appalachian Trail stop, but for those of us who like to hike a tad closer to civilization, consider Cold Spring. The little town is adorable, with inexpensive antique shops lining its main street, and an underground tunnel that leads to breathtaking views of the Hudson. And although you can hop off at the proper Cold Spring station, there’s a secret stop, too: Breakneck Ridge, with an (aptly named) more difficult climb, where the train only stops on occasional weekend mornings. For serious hikers, it’s a great place to know about, since it’s less popular than the main start point. Just bring a map, plenty of water, and a spare phone battery, and hike safely.