The Labor Day long weekend signifies the end of the summer, in a way. Kids are heading back to school, the nights are turning cooler the next vacation days likely aren't until Thanksgiving. Somehow, this time of year always feels like our last chance to cut loose.
So do it.
Here are five day trips that are different enough from the everyday to feel like getaways but close enough to have you rested for the workweek.
Part of the Bronx, this tiny island (about one-and-a-half miles by a half mile) packs it in. Notables include Stepping Stones Lighthouse, the City Island Nautical Museum (cityislandmuseum.org), the Bartow-Pell Mansion Museum and, along the island's eponymous avenue, antique shops. You can't be far from the water on this sliver of a spot, so grab some lobster or soft shell crabs from one of the many eateries (Johnny's Reef is a favorite) and inhale the sea air between bites. For a restaurant list and more info: cityislandchamber.org.
FIELD STATION: DINOSAURS
Here's a theme park with no rides, just ... dinosaurs! It's a dream for all dino-loving kids and their knowledge-loving parents, as there's plenty to learn via activities (fossil digs, the “Family Feud"-style Raptor Feud game) and the main attraction, 30-plus animatronic dinosaurs with accompanying facts. The creatures are scattered among trees along a three-quarter-mile trail, so you can get plenty of outdoor time as you stroll and learn. At the Meadowlands, it's a quick trip back in time too. You'll save a few bucks if you get tickets ($21 adults, $18.50 ages 3 to 12) in advance at fieldstationdinosaurs.com.
About an hour's drive from Manhattan, this charming, historic town on the Hudson River helps city folk decompress with an array of take-your-time activities. Cold Spring has a downtown area with storefronts dating to the 1800s that house antique and other specialty shops. Or, meander one of the gardens, such as the 63-acre Stonecrop (stonecrop.org), a public space with woodlands, display gardens and a conservatory. And there's Fahnestock State Park (nysparks.com), more than 14,000 acres with a large beach (thanks to Canopus Lake) and plenty of hiking trails. Head back to town for dinner options (coldspringonhudson.com).
STORM KING ART CENTER
More than 100 sculptures are situated about the Storm King Art Center (stormking.org), 500 acres of fields and woodlands where you can see works by artists Roy Lichtenstein, Isamu Noguchi and many more. Just about an hour's drive north of NYC, once there you can wander (adult admission is $12) on foot or rent a bike. Normally closed Mondays, SKAC is open Labor Day. And if you forget to pack a lunch, the Storm King Cafe has you covered.
The only way to really wrap one's mind around the existence of a six-story private residence is to visit it. And the place that John D. Rockefeller (and three subsequent generations) called home just happens to be open to the public, a hilltop goliath complete with a sculpture garden (Pablo Picasso? check!), underground art galleries and a collection of classic cars and horse-drawn carriages. Various tours are available, and you will want to make a reservation in advance (hudsonvalley.org/historic-sites/kykuit). Also in Sleepy Hollow is the 1,600-acre Rockefeller State Park Preserve; walking around the 24-acre lake is a great way to stretch your legs before the ride back home.
Pictured: Kykuit, the former residence of John D. Rockefeller.