Every now and then, even the most diehard New Yorker craves an escape from the greatest city in the world–sometimes it’s still nice to go someplace where the pace of life is just a little more restful. Thankfully, Metro-North offers service to a diverse range of nearby locales from charming towns to underrated cities that (gasp!) also have food, culture, and experiences to rival NYC itself. In under two hours via train from Grand Central Terminal, you could be hiking, taking in large-scale art installations, or even enjoying a fresh farm-to-table meal. Here are a handful of stops to consider on your next venture out of town.
GET SOME OFF-THE-GRID TIME IN AT MALOUF'S MOUNTAIN CAMPGROUND IN BEACON
Like much of the Hudson Valley, Beacon splits the difference between rugged and refined leisure. For the outdoorsy among us, the town is an entry point to a hiking loop encompassing South Beacon Mountain and the popular Breakneck Ridge. Take it from someone who’s done it: The views at the top are breathtaking, but you earn them through steep rock scrambles and difficult terrain. While your glutes will hate you the next day, the one-on-one time immersed in nature is worth it.
For a fully unplugged experience, consider staying at Malouf’s Mountain Campground, which offers a variety of amenities for campers including food, bathrooms, and platforms to pitch your tent on. The campground also provides shuttles from the Beacon train station—since it’s otherwise inaccessible via car—as well as information about nearby hikes. And if you don’t think you’ll be able to totally unplug, fear not, there’s a wifi zone.
On your way back to the city, consider reentering civilization with a meal at the Roundhouse, an upscale hotel and restaurant featuring locally sourced wine, meats, and produce. Right by the train station, you’ll also find Dia Beacon, an art museum that’s home to long-term installations from heavy hitters like Richard Serra and Andy Warhol as well as a regular rotation of exhibitions from established luminaries in the art world.
How to get there: Take the Hudson line to the Beacon stop. You can arrange a free shuttle pickup with Malouf’s.
10 minute free shuttle
SETTLE IN AT THE ROCKING HORSE RANCH IN POUGHKEEPSIE
Rocking Horse Ranch, a rustic family-friendly resort offering all-inclusive entertainment, is just across the river from Poughkeepsie. The ranch’s on-site activities include summer classics like horseback riding, swimming, rock climbing, and boating as well as skiing and tubing in the winter. You definitely need to be on board with the resort’s old-timey saloon vibe to fully enjoy it (even the restaurants transport you back to the Old West), but why wouldn’t you be? Rocking Horse also makes it easy to schedule a free pickup from the Poughkeepsie train station via their website.
When you and your fellow cowpokes have had your fill of everything the ranch has to throw at you, consider popping into Poughkeepsie before your wagon train circles back. (See? The western thing is very fun.) Some local highlights include the free Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center at Vassar College and Locust Grove Estate, the 200-acre home of Samuel Morse that features hiking trails, and an Italianate villa.
How to get there: Take the Hudson line to Poughkeepsie. You can arrange a shuttle directly with the resort, or take a 12-minute rideshare.
12 minute rideshare or shuttle
EXPLORE THE CHARMING HAMLET OF KATONAH
An hour from Grand Central Terminal is Katonah, an unassuming hamlet (yes, it’s technically classified as a hamlet!) that offers some serious small town charm. Or, sorry – small-hamlet charm. The main drag, Katonah Avenue, features an eclectic spread of shopping options. The Katonah Museum of Art is also easily accessible without a car, and with an MTA Away package, you can save on both train fare and museum admission.
When Katonah’s finally tired you out, the gastronomically inclined will be pleased to know that The Whitlock, a local eatery, was recently added to the Michelin Guide’s list of notable restaurants.
Just outside Katonah, you’ll find the Caramoor Center for Music and the Arts, an old estate that today hosts concert series and special events. And if you go by Metro-North train to Katonah, you can score discounts on every part of the trip with our MTA Away deals, from train ticket to admission to Caramoor, and there’s even a free shuttle from the train station. This year, Caramoor is home to a diverse range of performers including a jazz festival, a roots festival, and solo concerts on the lawn.
Instead of heading back to the city after your concert, you could even keep the good times going at the nearby Bedford Post Inn, an out-of-the-way establishment that’s been operating for over 100 years. You could quite honestly spend your entire stay here since, in addition to a Michelin-recommended restaurant (we’re sensing a theme) and expansive grounds, the inn also boasts an award-winning yoga studio.
How to get there: Harlem line to Katonah, plus a 10-minute rideshare
10 minute rideshare
A SMALL TOWN ADVENTURE IN PAWLING
With a population just south of 2,500, Pawling is perhaps best described as “itty bitty.” The town itself is sleepy and charming, with dining options that tend toward the cozy local’s joint variety: cafes, pizza places, and bakeries. For a nice sit-down meal, consider McKinney & Doyle Fine Foods Cafe, an offshoot of a bakery in town.
The main reason for a traveler to head to Pawling is its proximity to the famous Appalachian Trail. In fact, Metro-North offers service to a designated Appalachian Trail stop a few miles north of the town itself on the weekends for easier access. More specifically, the section of the trail north of Pawling constitutes the Great Swamp. Granted, the name itself doesn’t evoke the grandeur and beauty of Appalachia, but the swamp is actually a serene and expansive wetland navigable by boardwalk. In other words, it’s an accessible and manageable stretch perfect for a day hike when the weather cooperates. When you’re done, take a load off at Station Inn Pawling, a clapboard house in town with comfortable, cozy, reasonably priced rooms to retire to after a day on the trail.
How to get there: Harlem line to Pawling, plus a 3-minute walk
3 minute walk
SET YOUR SIGHTS ON TARRYTOWN & SLEEPY HOLLOW
Let’s get the obvious out of the way: Yes, horror fans, this is the Sleepy Hollow. A little over 200 years ago, Washington Irving published his lasting tale about the headless horseman. Today, the town of Sleepy Hollow gets really into it, especially around Halloween time, when you can look forward to things like costume parades and spooky walking tours in Rockefeller State Park Preserve.
Once you’ve got your thrills and chills, the Tarrytown area is really just a nice, scenic town. You can walk along the Hudson at the RiverWalk Park located just a few steps from the Metro-North station or visit the Sleepy Hollow Lighthouse if you’re nautically-inclined. Since Tarrytown itself was founded in the 1640s, it’s also full of history, and the local Historical Society conducts regular walking tours as well.
Tarrytown has its fair share of charming and tasty eateries, though the most notable local restaurant is definitely Blue Hill at Stone Barns, chef Dan Barber’s celebrated farm-to-table fine dining establishment just a few miles from the town center. Similarly tony (though reasonably priced) is the Tarrytown House Estate, a fittingly old house overlooking the Hudson that’s a suitable place to rest your head after a stroll through old Tarrytown.
How to get there: Hudson line to Tarrytown, plus a 9-minute rideshare
TAKE THE TRAIN TO PIZZATOWN, USA (AKA NEW HAVEN, CT)
Another college town? Yes, New Haven is home to Yale University, and you can certainly enjoy plenty of lovely strolls around the neo-Gothic architecture as well as the regular exhibitions at the Yale University Art Gallery. But the real reason to go to New Haven, as any aficionado will tell you, is for the pizza. The Elm City is famous for it, particularly the white pie with clams. The most famous place to grab a pie is either Frank Pepe’s or Sally’s Apizza, both of which are in the city’s historic Wooster Square neighborhood. But there’s plenty of excellent pizza to be had around town. One sleeper hit is at Bar Pizza downtown, which also brews its own beer.
And once you’ve stuffed your face with three square meals of nothing but pizza, retire to the brand new Blake Hotel, built in 2019 a few blocks away from Yale’s Old Campus. The Blake is modern without feeling cold and is a great starting point to explore downtown New Haven.
How to get there: New Haven line to New Haven Union Station, plus a 15-minute walk or a 5-minute rideshare
15 minute walk