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12 small towns near NYC to visit right now

Plan a day (or weekend) trip to one of these charming destinations, all of which are just a stone's throw from New York City

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Hunter Mountain.
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It is a truth universally acknowledged (by New Yorkers, anyway) that winter can be a particularly bleak time to be in the city, what with the cold, the subways packed with people in puffy coats, the lack of sunlight, and the general sense of gloominess.

But instead of holing up in your apartment under two blankets, why not get out of town for a day or two? Thanks to our fair city's location—close to New England, New Jersey, the Hamptons, and the Hudson Valley and Catskills—there's a bevy of charming towns you can visit the next time you need a break from NYC.

These spots throughout the northeast offer a little something for everyone—whether you’re a hiker, an eater, or a historic homes nerd—but the best part is that they're all just a few hours from NYC, so it won't be hard to drop everything, pack a bag, and get outta town.

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1. Greenport, NY

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If you want to check out Long Island’s North Fork, Greenport is an excellent home base—and has plenty of charms of its own. The town is known for having some of the North Fork’s best restaurants, including American Beech, a new American spot that does double-duty as a small, but lovely, hotel. Brix & Rye and Greenport Harbor are two excellent options for those seeking quality cocktails or craft beers, respectively. And, of course, there are beaches where you can kick back and relax. There’s also a ferry that takes folks to Shelter Island, should you want to check that out on your trip.

2. Cold Spring, NY

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Not to be confused with Long Island’s Cold Spring Harbor, this town on the Hudson Metro-North line has a main street that feels like something out of a postcard. The locals love the town so much they stick its name everywhere: Get the hat trick by picking up organic skincare products at Cold Spring Apothecary, home goods and jewelry at Cold Spring General Store, and lunch at Cold Spring Depot, which is along the train tracks—ask for an outdoor seat if you want to watch the trains go whizzing by. Bonus: On weekends, a regional trolley picks up downtown and drops you off in front of Boscobel, the restored 19th-century mansion in Garrison.

3. Kingston, NY

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Thanks to its location on the banks of the Hudson River, there's a lot of nautical history in Kingston. It's home to both the Hudson River Maritime Museum, which hosts exhibits and leads tours about the area, as well as the quaint and Instagrammable Rondout Lighthouse. But Kingston also has the sort of hip shops and restaurants that wouldn't feel out of place in, say, Brooklyn—spots like Clove & Creek, with its selection of home goods and accessories, or Brunette, a wine bar opened in 2015 by two Queens residents who fell in love with the town.

A body of water surrounded by trees. There is a bridge in the distance and a boat in the water. Johnny Fogg

4. Saugerties, NY

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If you’re looking for all the hallmarks of a small Hudson Valley town—sweet Main Street, access to bucolic parks, a lighthouse—Saugerties has you covered. It’s home to a circa-1869 lighthouse that’s since been converted to a B&B (but there are also tours if you simply want to visit), and the Esopus Bend Nature Preserve has hiking trails, kayaking, and other outdoor pursuits. And no trip is complete without a visit to Opus 40, a massive outdoor sculpture that was the lifelong obsession of its creator, artist Harvey Fite; it opens for the 2019 season in May.

A path with trees on both sides of the path. Amy Plitt

5. Hudson, NY

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This hip hamlet along the Hudson River has become one of the better-known spots for New York City daytrippers, and for good reason: It has an abundance of cute shops, good restaurants, and cultural attractions, all packed into a relatively walkable two square miles of land. Spend some time window-shopping on Warren Street, the town’s main drag, or catch a show at Basilica Hudson, a repurposed factory turned concert venue close to the river. The Rivertown Lodge, located further inland, is a stylish spot to spend a night.

6. Catskill, NY

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The town of Catskill, situated between the Hudson River and the mountain range that gives it its name, is home to Cedar Grove, the home of American painter Thomas Cole. Visit today and you’ll see the studio where he created some of his most enduring works, as well as the landscapes that inspired him. But that’s not the only reason that arts aficionados should plan a trip to Catskill; the town is a bustling creative hub, with a bevy of galleries and shops lining its charming Main Street. (Check out the Village Common for locally produced candles and home goods, or Open Studio, a gallery-cum-studio space owned by two local artists.)

The exterior of a theater. There is a theater marquee with the names of various films on it. The facade of the theater is red brick. Johnny Fogg

7. Hunter, NY

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For winter sports fiends, the town of Hunter—with its proximity to Hunter Mountain, one of the region’s best resorts—is an excellent place to spend a long weekend. There’s skiing and snowboarding for all skill levels, along with other cold-weather activities like snow tubing. To stay, there’s Scribner’s Catskill Lodge, a once-derelict inn that was renovated a few years back, keeping the midcentury bones while adding a dash of 21st-century cool.

8. Lambertville, NJ

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The so-called “antiques capital of New Jersey” is worth a visit if you’re in the market for vintage treasures: It’s home to the People’s Store, a well-known antiques market located in a 19th-century building in the center of town. (And that’s just the best-known spot—the town is brimming with smaller stores and dealers selling vintage wares.) Lambertville is also close to New Hope, Pennsylvania, which Curbed Philly calls "a hot spot for artists and creatives"—so it's worth hitting both towns in one trip.

A row of houses and shops. There is a street with cars and people walk along the sidewalk in front of the houses and shops. Shutterstock

9. Princeton, NJ

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Despite its college-town reputation, there's plenty to do in Princeton even if you're not a student. Princeton University Art Museum on the Ivy League campus is a must-visit for its diverse collection of artwork, while colonial artifacts can be seen on a tour of the Morven Museum & Garden. Enjoy homemade ice cream from one of the two locations of Thomas Sweet before winding down with a leisurely walk on the Towpath trail along Lake Carnegie. If you're planning a visit on a weekend, Princeton Tour Company offers two-hour tours showing off highlights of both the university and the town itself.

A row of houses. Cars are parked on the street in front of the houses. Shutterstock

10. Ridgefield, CT

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Ridgefield is a thriving arts community with institutions like The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum, started from late fashion designer Larry Aldrich’s private collection. The Ridgefield Playhouse is a movie theater/performing arts center that’s played host to acts like comedian Marc Maron and musician Loretta Lynn, while the Ridgefield Theater Barn is a playhouse located in—you guessed it—a big, red converted dairy barn. For those who aren't artistically inclined, the Keeler Tavern Museum is dedicated to the area’s Revolutionary War history. Guests can even see a cannonball fired by the British still embedded in the tavern’s wall.

11. Mystic, CT

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Mystic
Stonington, CT

New England maritime history is center stage in Mystic, where the Charles W. Morgan, the country’s oldest surviving whaleship, is docked at the Mystic Seaport. The site of a recreated 19th-century seafaring village, the seaport shows off big ships and offers exhibitions on lighthouses, figureheads, and other maritime objects. But if you know the town, it may be for Mystic Pizza, the pizzeria made famous by the 1988 Julia Roberts flick. And no visit to the town is complete without enjoying scoops from Mystic Drawbridge Ice Cream while watching boats pass under the drawbridge.

A boat marina with various assorted boats sitting in a body of water. There is a sunset with pink clouds. Getty Images

12. North Adams, MA

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Visit this small city in western Massachusetts—about a four-hour drive from New York City—if you “If you adore contemporary art and repurposed buildings,” according to Curbed Boston. The town is home to MASS MoCA, one of the country’s best contemporary art museums; don’t miss its major Sol LeWitt exhibit, a retrospective of the artist’s large-scale wall drawings. Other attractions in North Adams include a collection of galleries and shops on Main Street, and the Porches Inn, a hotel created from 19th-century homes with a view of the museum.

An aerial view of a road surrounded by trees. In the distance are mountains. Tony Luong

1. Greenport, NY

Greenport, NY 11944

If you want to check out Long Island’s North Fork, Greenport is an excellent home base—and has plenty of charms of its own. The town is known for having some of the North Fork’s best restaurants, including American Beech, a new American spot that does double-duty as a small, but lovely, hotel. Brix & Rye and Greenport Harbor are two excellent options for those seeking quality cocktails or craft beers, respectively. And, of course, there are beaches where you can kick back and relax. There’s also a ferry that takes folks to Shelter Island, should you want to check that out on your trip.

2. Cold Spring, NY

Cold Spring, NY 10516

Not to be confused with Long Island’s Cold Spring Harbor, this town on the Hudson Metro-North line has a main street that feels like something out of a postcard. The locals love the town so much they stick its name everywhere: Get the hat trick by picking up organic skincare products at Cold Spring Apothecary, home goods and jewelry at Cold Spring General Store, and lunch at Cold Spring Depot, which is along the train tracks—ask for an outdoor seat if you want to watch the trains go whizzing by. Bonus: On weekends, a regional trolley picks up downtown and drops you off in front of Boscobel, the restored 19th-century mansion in Garrison.

3. Kingston, NY

Kingston, NY 12401
A body of water surrounded by trees. There is a bridge in the distance and a boat in the water. Johnny Fogg

Thanks to its location on the banks of the Hudson River, there's a lot of nautical history in Kingston. It's home to both the Hudson River Maritime Museum, which hosts exhibits and leads tours about the area, as well as the quaint and Instagrammable Rondout Lighthouse. But Kingston also has the sort of hip shops and restaurants that wouldn't feel out of place in, say, Brooklyn—spots like Clove & Creek, with its selection of home goods and accessories, or Brunette, a wine bar opened in 2015 by two Queens residents who fell in love with the town.

4. Saugerties, NY

Saugerties, NY 12477
A path with trees on both sides of the path. Amy Plitt

If you’re looking for all the hallmarks of a small Hudson Valley town—sweet Main Street, access to bucolic parks, a lighthouse—Saugerties has you covered. It’s home to a circa-1869 lighthouse that’s since been converted to a B&B (but there are also tours if you simply want to visit), and the Esopus Bend Nature Preserve has hiking trails, kayaking, and other outdoor pursuits. And no trip is complete without a visit to Opus 40, a massive outdoor sculpture that was the lifelong obsession of its creator, artist Harvey Fite; it opens for the 2019 season in May.

5. Hudson, NY

Hudson, NY 12534

This hip hamlet along the Hudson River has become one of the better-known spots for New York City daytrippers, and for good reason: It has an abundance of cute shops, good restaurants, and cultural attractions, all packed into a relatively walkable two square miles of land. Spend some time window-shopping on Warren Street, the town’s main drag, or catch a show at Basilica Hudson, a repurposed factory turned concert venue close to the river. The Rivertown Lodge, located further inland, is a stylish spot to spend a night.

6. Catskill, NY

Catskill, NY 12414
The exterior of a theater. There is a theater marquee with the names of various films on it. The facade of the theater is red brick. Johnny Fogg

The town of Catskill, situated between the Hudson River and the mountain range that gives it its name, is home to Cedar Grove, the home of American painter Thomas Cole. Visit today and you’ll see the studio where he created some of his most enduring works, as well as the landscapes that inspired him. But that’s not the only reason that arts aficionados should plan a trip to Catskill; the town is a bustling creative hub, with a bevy of galleries and shops lining its charming Main Street. (Check out the Village Common for locally produced candles and home goods, or Open Studio, a gallery-cum-studio space owned by two local artists.)

7. Hunter, NY

Hunter, NY 12442

For winter sports fiends, the town of Hunter—with its proximity to Hunter Mountain, one of the region’s best resorts—is an excellent place to spend a long weekend. There’s skiing and snowboarding for all skill levels, along with other cold-weather activities like snow tubing. To stay, there’s Scribner’s Catskill Lodge, a once-derelict inn that was renovated a few years back, keeping the midcentury bones while adding a dash of 21st-century cool.

8. Lambertville, NJ

Lambertville, NJ 08530
A row of houses and shops. There is a street with cars and people walk along the sidewalk in front of the houses and shops. Shutterstock

The so-called “antiques capital of New Jersey” is worth a visit if you’re in the market for vintage treasures: It’s home to the People’s Store, a well-known antiques market located in a 19th-century building in the center of town. (And that’s just the best-known spot—the town is brimming with smaller stores and dealers selling vintage wares.) Lambertville is also close to New Hope, Pennsylvania, which Curbed Philly calls "a hot spot for artists and creatives"—so it's worth hitting both towns in one trip.

9. Princeton, NJ

Princeton, NJ
A row of houses. Cars are parked on the street in front of the houses. Shutterstock

Despite its college-town reputation, there's plenty to do in Princeton even if you're not a student. Princeton University Art Museum on the Ivy League campus is a must-visit for its diverse collection of artwork, while colonial artifacts can be seen on a tour of the Morven Museum & Garden. Enjoy homemade ice cream from one of the two locations of Thomas Sweet before winding down with a leisurely walk on the Towpath trail along Lake Carnegie. If you're planning a visit on a weekend, Princeton Tour Company offers two-hour tours showing off highlights of both the university and the town itself.

10. Ridgefield, CT

Ridgefield, CT 06877

Ridgefield is a thriving arts community with institutions like The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum, started from late fashion designer Larry Aldrich’s private collection. The Ridgefield Playhouse is a movie theater/performing arts center that’s played host to acts like comedian Marc Maron and musician Loretta Lynn, while the Ridgefield Theater Barn is a playhouse located in—you guessed it—a big, red converted dairy barn. For those who aren't artistically inclined, the Keeler Tavern Museum is dedicated to the area’s Revolutionary War history. Guests can even see a cannonball fired by the British still embedded in the tavern’s wall.

11. Mystic, CT

Mystic, Stonington, CT
A boat marina with various assorted boats sitting in a body of water. There is a sunset with pink clouds. Getty Images

New England maritime history is center stage in Mystic, where the Charles W. Morgan, the country’s oldest surviving whaleship, is docked at the Mystic Seaport. The site of a recreated 19th-century seafaring village, the seaport shows off big ships and offers exhibitions on lighthouses, figureheads, and other maritime objects. But if you know the town, it may be for Mystic Pizza, the pizzeria made famous by the 1988 Julia Roberts flick. And no visit to the town is complete without enjoying scoops from Mystic Drawbridge Ice Cream while watching boats pass under the drawbridge.

Mystic
Stonington, CT

12. North Adams, MA

North Adams, MA 01247
An aerial view of a road surrounded by trees. In the distance are mountains. Tony Luong

Visit this small city in western Massachusetts—about a four-hour drive from New York City—if you “If you adore contemporary art and repurposed buildings,” according to Curbed Boston. The town is home to MASS MoCA, one of the country’s best contemporary art museums; don’t miss its major Sol LeWitt exhibit, a retrospective of the artist’s large-scale wall drawings. Other attractions in North Adams include a collection of galleries and shops on Main Street, and the Porches Inn, a hotel created from 19th-century homes with a view of the museum.