Snow Way: Winter Day Trips from NYC to Take with the Kids
Sure, it’s cold outside, but that doesn’t mean you and the kids can’t hit the road (or the rails) for an adventure or two. Next time the family is feeling a little stir crazy, consider one of our favorite NYC winter day trips with kids, featuring fairy houses, wolves, maple sugaring and more! (For more outdoor fun, try these kid-friendly winter hikes!)
Bear Mountain — Rockland County, NY
This New York State park is known for its rugged mountains and offers great hiking options during the warmer months. However, it is open year-round and there are activities during the Winter months that shouldn’t be missed. Here is your chance to try ice-skating outdoors while enjoying the beautiful mountains. The rink is open on Friday and weekends. $5 admission and rentals available for toddlers size 8 up to adults size 13. Don’t end the day here though. Take a brisk walk around the beautiful lake which is fairly flat so it is a good option for all ages. Your body will thank you! Finish the trail and spend some time at the kids' outdoor playground. There is a Merry-Go-Round right next door. Choose one of the wooden carved animals. How about a bobcat or a black bear which can be found around the Hudson Valley. Explore the self-guided nature trail at the Trailside Museum and Zoo which is open and under construction so check their website before visiting. Accommodations are available on site for those wanting to extend their stay.
Drive time from NYC: 1 hour
Cost: $10 New York State car parking fees
Seven Lakes Drive
Bear Mountain, NY
Online: Bear Mountain
Stamford Museum and Nature Center — Stamford, CT
This is a gem hidden in the center of Stamford perfect for families with little nature explorers. Young architects and fashionistas alike will enjoy visiting the Bendel Mansion which was formerly home to Henri Willis Bendel. Say hello to the llamas, pigs and horses that can be found at the working farm or take one of the easy wheelchair accessible walking trails and observe the local wildlife. Look for the North American river otters who are active even in the Winter months at the Otter Pond. Adventurous kiddos will love to explore the nature-themed playground. Now is the perfect time to visit the Maple Sugar House at Heckscher's Farm because maple sugaring season starts in late Winter. It also happens to be the closest public sugaring house from NYC. There are over 300 maple trees on site that produces the sweet syrup. Please check their safety guidelines before visiting.
Drive time from NYC: 1 hour
By public transport: 2 hours from Grand Central Terminal via Metro North on the New Haven Line followed by local bus
Hours: Open daily (see website for specific hours)
(Free admission before 2 p.m. on Family Fest days on selected Sundays)
Cost: $14 adults, $8 children 4-17, free for children under 3
39 Scofieldtown Rd.
Stamford, CT (Main entrance)
Online: Stamford Museum and Nature Center
Greenburgh Nature Center — Scarsdale, NY
Head to this nature park made with little ones in mind. Visit the Manor House to learn about and even get the chance to touch live animals with the guidance of knowledgeable volunteers. The greenhouse hydroponic system is a great learning opportunity too. Visit the sheeps, goats and chickens at the barnyard. Bird lovers will appreciate the Birds of Prey and get a chance to see some beautiful majestic eagles, hawks and owls up close. Learn about the Eastern Woodland Indians in the Native American Indian Replica Village. The Nature Discovery’s playground is fun and inviting and not to be missed. For little plant lovers, look for Winter favorites including the Winterberry, American Holly or the Red Twig Dogwood with its bright red bark.
Drive time from NYC: 45 mins-1 hour drive
By public transport: 1 hr 15 mins by train from Grand Central Terminal via Metro North on the Harlem Line followed by bus transfer
Hours: Mon. Closed, Tues.-Sun: 10:00 a.m.-4:00p.m. (Manor House) The grounds of the Nature Center are open daily from dawn to dusk.
Cost: $7 adults and children over 2 years old (Manor House fees only) Grounds are free
99 Dromore Road, Scarsdale, NY 10583
Online: Greenburgh Nature Center
South Mountain Fairy Trail — Millburn, NJ
For the young and the young at heart, this Fairy trail is aptly named because of all these fairy homes all made with natural materials that can be found along this easy half-mile trail. Thanks to Therese Objibway, Founder and local artist, this magical place brings joy and wonder to many that walk through. It is wise to bring boots in case of snow and mud particularly this time of the year. Be mindful that the parking lot is very small, so come early. Also, remember to leave no trace and leave what you see in place. Fairy homes are visible from the main path along the Rahway Trail (white-blazed.) Follow their Facebook page to get the most updated weather conditions.
Drive time from NYC: 50 mins
197 Glen Ave.
Millburn, NJ (Google "Locust Grove Parking"
Online: South Mountain Fairy Trail
Governors Island Winter Village — NYC
This 172-acre island found right in the New York Harbor couldn't be more ideal for a quick day trip. Winter-themed activities are happening now located in Colonels Row at Governors Island. While Governors Island is open year-round, the Winter Village is in operation on Fridays and weekends through February. Some activities include lawn games, fire pits, sled (they suggest that you bring your own) and bike rentals. Interested in ice-skating? They have that too. Pro-tip: Free admission on Fridays for walk up only. Otherwise, $11 admission and $8 for skate rentals. Visit here to make advanced reservations.
Ferry from NYC: Governor’s Island is accessible by a short ferry ride from Battery Maritime Building or from Wall Street/Pier 11 to Yankee Pier and cost $3 round trip but may be waived. Advanced reservations are strongly encouraged.
Online: Governor’s Island
Bayard Cutting Arboretum — Long Island, NY
This “museum” of trees offers plenty of wide-open space that's perfect for little ones to run wild. You'll also find paved and pebbled trails in the woods to explore. Formerly owned by the Cutting family, this park served as a place for those seeking peace and solitude. For those interested, Manor House tours and free grounds tours are available. See their most recent newsletter for more information. Prepared foods are available on-site at the Hidden Oaks Cafe.
Drive from NYC: 1.5 hours
Hours: Tues.-Sun. 9 a.m.-4 p.m. (closed Mons and winter holidays)
Cost: Parking is free through March
440 Montauk Hgwy.
Great River, NY
Online: Bayard Cutting Arboretum
Van Saun County Park — Paramus, NJ
Van Saun County Park in Bergen County offers a wide range of activities even in the Winter season. Check out the playground with different climbing and sliding equipment suitable for younger and older children. How about visiting some cold weather-loving animals at the nationally accredited Bergen County Zoo - free admission until April 30th. It isn’t big but at that price point, it’s just the right size for little ones. Ice-skating is available for $10 per skater (includes rentals) through February. There are also multi-pathway trails for biking and walking. Oh, if there happens to be any snow, be sure to bring your sleds!
Drive time from NYC: 30 mins
By public transport: 1 hour 20 mins via Port Authority Express Bus followed by a short 8-minute walk to the park
216 Forest Ave.
Online: Van Saun County Park
Lakota Wolf Preserve — Columbia, NJ (near the Delaware Water Gap)
This very unique experience provides your family with the opportunity to watch and observe four different packs of wolves in a natural habitat. An educational tour is provided by the owners who take great care of their wolves. A tour must be scheduled in advanced. When you visit, you can choose to take a half mile scenic walk or hop on a shuttle to the observation area. Please arrive at least 30 minutes prior to tour. Each tour lasts about 75 minutes. You will learn everything you want to know about how wolves live, play and interact with each other. Listen closely and hear them howl. Bonus: Learn about bobcat, foxes and lynx too! There are two tours per day and it is all outdoors so please dress accordingly. Lakota Wolf Preserve is near the Delaware Water Gap and the Poconos, so it can be part of an extended weekend as well.
Drive time from NYC: 1.5 hours
Hours: 10:30 a.m. and 3:00 p.m tours only (PM tour will change to 4:00 p.m. starting March 14th)
Cost: $15 adults and $7 children up to 11 years old, plus tax
89 Mount Pleasant Rd.
Online: Lakota Wolf
—Wai Sze Zara