Four laid-back road trips from NYC


By Elspeth Velten

Photography by Getty

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June 2017

Book a hire car and hit the roads around New York to discover everything from nostalgic beachside resorts, to artisan cuisine and culture. Resident travel writer, Elspeth Velten, gives us the lowdown.

Day trip: Asbury Park

Best for… nostalgia nerds

Best for… nostalgia nerds

Whether you’re a die-hard fan of Tony Soprano or Bruce Springsteen (or just trying to swap NYC’s concrete grid for sand), the Jersey Shore town of Asbury Park will suit for a day away. First developed as a seaside resort at the end of the 19th century by a local manufacturing magnate, the town spent years entertaining visitors and locals with amusement rides, soft sands, an arcade-like boardwalk and a history-making music scene. The next few decades saw the town’s boardwalk fall into a state of disrepair, as new malls and amusement parks elsewhere in the state took the attention of crowds. But today, revitalisation efforts have turned Asbury back into an exciting and somewhat nostalgic destination — one with a vibrant history in art, architecture, pop culture and the LGBT scene.

Revitalisation efforts have turned Asbury back into an exciting and somewhat nostalgic destination — one with a vibrant history in art, architecture, pop culture and the LGBT scene

Park your rental car on one of the town’s metered side streets before setting off towards the shore on foot. Inside the restored Asbury Park Convention Hall, the Asbury Oyster Bar will satiate the irresistible desire for seafood that the salt air will incite. Further south along the shore, play historic arcade games at the Silverball Museum. Finally, snap a selfie in front of the Stone Pony, the legendary rock bar where Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band held court for decades.

  • Asbury Park boardwalk makes for the perfect cycling trip © Getty Images

    Boardwalk empire

    The Asbury Boardwalk is packed to the brim with shops, restaurants and entertainment venues. Check out murals and street are that line the oceanfront. Book flights from London to New York, plus seven nights car hire from:£534 pp

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One night: Long Island’s East End

Best for… the beach-chic crowd

Set your GPS due east and drive out to Montauk, on the extremities of New York State. You’ll slow down as Long Island’s Route 27 – the aptly named Montauk Highway – winds through the Hamptons, a collection of towns known world-over for their windswept mansions and swish summer party scene. The modern barn-like Parrish Art Museum makes a good roadside stop – everyone from local Eastern Long Island artists to the likes of Roy Lichtenstein are represented in the gallery’s collection.

When you finally hit Montauk, spend the afternoon watching surfers from the sands at Ditch Plains (or take a lesson yourself, like Girls’ star Lena Dunham), or head to the trails at Montauk Point State Park.

  • Stop by Flowerkraut for custom flower designs, perfect for special occasions © Rachel Brennecke

    Did you know…?

    Central Park is not the largest park in NYC. Its 843 acres are dwarfed by the Bronx’s Pelham Bay Park (2,765 acres).

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  • Discover weird and wonderful art pieces like ‘Frog Legs’ at Storm King Art Center © Jerry L. Thompson

    Breath of the wild

    Located only one hour’s drive north of New York City, in the lower Hudson Valley, the Storm King Art Center houses a collection of over 100 unique sculptures.

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  • Head to Talbott and Arding for a taste of their exquisite cheese © Akemi Hiatt

    It’s dairy time

    Tallbott and Arding is open Tuesday 10.00-17.00, Friday to Saturday 10.00-18.00, and Sunday 11.00-18.00. Stock up on sugar house creamery poundcake and Dutch knuckle.

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In the evening, the young and hip head inland to sister properties Ruschmeyer’s and The Surf Lodge, plotted on opposite sides of Fort Pond. Both offer trendy design notes, conceived perhaps for the sole purpose of gracing NYC’s most popular Instagram feeds. If a drink or two there is enough party for you, a casual German meal at NYC transplant Zum Schneider might be just the ticket.

In the morning, head to Sag Harbor (consider a quick Latin lunch at Estia’s Little Kitchen), across Shelter Island via the South and North ferries and into the town of Greenport for a shuck-your-own snack at the Little Creek Oyster Farm and Market. Browse the town’s vintage furniture and antique shops before heading back west across Long Island’s North Fork wine region towards the city. Croteaux offers rosé for sipping and a stylish taste of the French countryside. Kontokosta offers striking views north of the Long Island Sound, and the Shinn Estate is just far enough from the beaten track to avoid the busloads that ply the region through the season.

  • Don’t miss a trip to the unforgettable Fallingwater in Pittsburgh © Western Pennsylvania Conservancy

    Raise a smile

    The city of Pittsburgh is home to various inventions, including the first polio vaccine and the creation of the smiley face emoticon.

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  • Live the laid-back life at The Surf Lodge in Long Island’s East End © Emily Winiker

    Water and sand

    The Surf Lodge has been a staple in surfing history since 1967, with local families to daredevil travellers, with its steps leading onto the unspoiled white sands of the Montauk coastline.

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Two days: The Hudson Valley

Best for… lovers of the slow life

Day one… The country-cool town of Hudson, New York serves as your northernmost turning point on this riverside drive, taking in everything from fashionable art galleries to lacto-fermented local produce. On the way up, make a pit-stop in the town of Beacon, where the 2003 opening of the DIA:Beacon modern art museum in a former factory has ushered in a movement of revitalisation. Browse the collection before grabbing a local microbrew at either of Homespun Foods’s museum café or town centre locations.

In Hudson, walk the length of Warren Street, while making plenty of stops in the town’s funky and farm-fresh shops and boutiques (and admiring the town’s impressive architecture). At Flowerkraut, local couple Mairead Rhona and Seth Benjamin Travins offer inspired floral arrangements and homemade sauerkraut (made from locally sourced organic vegetables, of course). Further down Warren Street, Talbot & Arding Cheese and Provisions is your destination for carefully sourced artisan cheeses, along with sandwiches, salads, local eggs, preserves, pastries and pantry items.

Grab dinner at hip Asian-fusion joint the Hudson Food Studio, which boasts a long list of partnering local farms.

Day two… For brunch, drive an hour southwest to the locally-famous Phoenicia Diner. It inhabits a classic 1960s building and serves typical fare like corned beef alongside more inventive dishes such as a fried chicken and waffle sandwich and “’Shrooms on a Shingle”.

On the drive back to NYC, burn off breakfast with a steep scramble up Breakneck Ridge, or directly across the river, stroll the sculpture garden at the Storm King Art Center.

Four days: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Best for… urbanites

Of the neighbouring metropolises to visit from New York City, Pittsburgh is probably not the first town that comes to mind. But these days, the Steel City is living in the same line-up as Philly and Boston, and it’s easy to see why.

Today, the city is known more for its Google offices, winning NFL team and hundreds of picturesque bridges than for its status as part of the country’s Rust Belt. On the way into town, detour south from Route 76 and take a guided tour of the grounds at Fallingwater, a pristinely preserved Frank Lloyd Wright house nestled amongst waterfalls in a tract of Appalachian oak forest – reservations are essential.

Once in Pittsburgh, make the South Side neighbourhood – full of shops, restaurants, historic architecture and lively nightlife – your base and explore the rest of the city’s diverse districts from there. The city’s most up-and-coming area, East Liberty, is quickly developing since Google chose it as its home, while the trendy streets of Shadyside – once home to hippies – are lined with Victorian mansions. Don’t miss lunch at Noodlehead.

During the day, peruse the open-air produce markets of the Strip District, grab a sandwich at the famous Primanti Bros, and taste local craft whiskey at the Wigle Whiskey distillery. Come evening, head to Bloomfield for a taste of the city’s best Italian markets.

The city’s most traditional attractions include the Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, with both outdoor parkland and indoor glasshouse displays, and the impressive Andy Warhol museum – he may have defected to NYC, but Pittsburgh was the artist’s hometown. And you can’t visit Pittsburgh without getting the view from above – the Monongahela Incline at Station Square transports passengers up to Mount Washington, where the skyline dominates the horizon. Don’t worry about finding a parking space while you explore— the ParkPGH app provides real-time information about spot availability in the city’s vast array of garages.