New York City: early summer weekend break guide

By John Walton, May 13 2011
New York City: early summer weekend break guide

New York is one of the greatest cities in the world -- we should know, one of us was born there! -- but when the weather gets hot and humid it's not exactly a wonderful place to spend a weekend outdoors.

There's any number of city guides for things to see and do in Manhattan, but there are dozens of hidden treasures within a couple of hours on the train, all of which are well worth a visit. So here are a few options for getting away from NYC for a weekend.

Head over to Grand Central Station at 42nd and Lexington and take the Metro-North commuter train up the beautiful Hudson River. The Main Concourse at Grand Central is a work of art all on its own, so take the time to admire it, especially if you're there outside rush hour.

(If you are there in rush hour, take care, because stopping suddenly can get you bowled over by a herd of bankers in sneakers.)

Grand Central's Main Concourse is well worth a few minutes
Grand Central's Main Concourse is well worth a few minutes

Grab a bite to eat (or to take with you on the train) in one of the 35 places to eat in Grand Central. We love Two Boots Pizza downstairs and Junior's Cheesecake upstairs, or if you've some time to wait, the famous Oyster Bar.

Make sure you grab a window seat on the left hand side of the train as it leaves Grand Central -- that's where the view is once the train leaves the Bronx. The view is especially gorgeous when the leaves are turning red, orange and yellow in autumn, but the vibrant green of summer is equally pretty. 

The Hudson Valley is incredibly beautiful in autumn
The Hudson Valley is incredibly beautiful in autumn

Just half an hour north of Grand Central Station, Tarrytown is a small village with interesting restaurants and two notable historic houses: Lyndhurst and Sunnyside. Lyndhurst has occasional summer evening music events. Sunnyside, the home Washington Irving (of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow fame) has some particularly beautiful gardens and interesting literary events.

Jazz or chamber music with Lyndhurst as a backdrop makes a lovely summer's evening
Jazz or chamber music with Lyndhurst as a backdrop makes a lovely summer's evening

About ten minutes north of Tarrytown is the notorious Sing-Sing Prison, and the train actually passes through the facility itself. The barbed wire is a dead giveaway when you're riding through. The prison gave us the term "up the river" to mean being sent to jail, since Sing Sing is just up the Hudson from New York City. You'll have to commit a serious crime if you want to visit, though.

Forty-five minutes north of Manhattan is Croton-on-Hudson, served by the rather industrial Croton-Harmon station. Hop in a cab to Van Cortlandt Manor, which has costumed guides if that's your thing, and historical information about the drafting of the US Constitution if it's not.

Head up to beautiful, walkable Cold Spring (eighty minutes north of NYC) for brunch or lunch at the excellent Cold Spring Depot, followed by a browse of the steep streets of the town, full of little antique stores on and around Main Street. The Kittleman House bed & breakfast is an old favourite for staying the night, and the riverside park with views up to West Point is lovely.

Cold Spring village is picturesque verging on quaint
Cold Spring village is picturesque verging on quaint

Military historians will love West Point, the US Military Academy. (So will organists -- the West Point Chapel's organ is among the biggest in the world.) The view from the cliffs over the river to Cold Spring is stunning too. Call in advance to check tour timings, to check that foreign nationals are still permitted (they were as of May 2011) and remember to bring photo ID, probably your passport. 

To get to West Point by train, head to Peekskill station (sixty-seven minutes north of NYC) and take a 20-minute taxi ride. (The Short Line bus also runs direct from the Port Authority Bus Terminal in Manhattan, but it's not as scenic as the train.) 

Within the West Point grounds, the historic Thayer Hotel is a classy choice, renowned for its Sunday Brunch and a great place to stay. For drinks o'clock, there's a rooftop bar overlooking the Hudson River.

The West Point grounds are stunningly beautiful in themselves
The West Point grounds are stunningly beautiful in themselves

The end of the Metro-North Hudson Line is Poughkeepsie, an hour and forty-five minutes north of New York City. Poughkeepsie itself isn't much to look at, but Springwood in Hyde Park (the former home and now burial place of President Franklin D. Roosevelt and his wife Eleanor) is worth an afternoon. 

US President Franklin Roosevelt's house is a fascinating historical site
US President Franklin Roosevelt's house is a fascinating historical site

Eat at the Culinary Institute of America (also in Hyde Park, three miles north of Poughkeepsie) for an incredible (and incredibly reasonably priced) meal prepared some of the world's top trainee chefs, before rolling yourself back into Manhattan. (If you have dinner, the last train south leaves Poughkeepsie at 10.59pm, arriving back into the city at 1am. Double check the Metro-North schedule.)

Do you have a favourite New York City weekend break place? Let us know in the comments or join in the conversation on Twitter: @AusBT

John Walton

Aviation journalist and travel columnist John took his first long-haul flight when he was eight weeks old and hasn't looked back since. Well, except when facing rearwards in business class.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

24 Nov 2010

Total posts 60

Even if you can't get out of the city there is so much to do in New York anyway that it's easy to kill time, very touristy but the bus tours of the city are a great way to have a look around, hop off anywhere you like and get on the next bus, the guides work for tips and are genuinely enthused about telling everyone all about New York city and probably know it better than most, there's a lot of great architecture and heaps of photo opportunities

Taking in a Broadway show is an experience, you can buy tickets straight from your hotel room but expect to pay full retail, plus a commission, plus a tip, gets expensive, if you don't mind standing in a queue for anything up to an hour head over to the TKTS booth in Times Square at 47th and Broadway, tickets for that nights shows are sold off cheap to fill any seats, 50% off is pretty common for anything but the top one or two shows in town, even those will still often have cheaper seats available anyway so some good money to be saved if you have an hour to spare

While you're in the area check out some of the small deli's, there some great food in this area

03 Jan 2011

Total posts 673

Oh, absolutely! I grew up in NYC and then in the suburbs, and the city is so fantastic at the weekend when there are no commuters. 

I'm a big fan of those dorky bus tours myself, especially the evening ones, when you can see into people's apartments from dusk onwards. People live in some amazing places.

For me, the real trick with Broadway shows is figuring out if there is a rush ticket sale (at 9 or 10 am the morning of the show) and then heading down there...or sending someone else on your behalf if you can. TKTS is good for older shows, but the brand new stuff often has rush tickets for super-cheap. Ask your concierge for details.

My personal top tip for eating around Times Square is "don't"...there's so much overpriced tourist nonsense there, and even the hot dog vendors and delis are crazily priced. Head east to Bryant Park or west to 9th or 10th Avenues to find some remarkable local stuff.

Oh, New York. I kind of miss it...

Hi Guest, join in the discussion on New York City: early summer weekend break guide

Notice (8): Undefined variable: infiniteScroll [APP/views/news/view.ctp, line 216]
Notice (8): Undefined variable: infiniteScroll [APP/views/news/view.ctp, line 222]
Warning (2): Invalid argument supplied for foreach() [APP/views/news/view.ctp, line 222]