The Great (Easy!) Escape
Just over an hour outside of Manhattan, these New York State gems will make you feel far away.
Safely exploring local areas outside of New York City has been the highlight of the last year. If you are able to “escape” the city by driving a little over an hour, I highly suggest visiting some of the favorites I found during my adventures this summer and fall. Warwick and Sugar Loaf will make you feel like you traveled much further away from the city.
Appalachian Trail on Bellvale Mountain
This six-mile section of the Appalachian Trail on Route 17A is clearly marked, has options for all levels (especially the first two miles), has tons of easy parking and views of Greenwood Lake. Look for the white markers to enter: it’s immediately quiet and peaceful. Most parts of this trail are dog-friendly.
Bellvale Farms Creamery
Prepare for your life to change. You have never had ice cream like this before.
(I’m not the only one who thinks this – the list of awards this creamy has won is too long to fit here.) Homemade ice-cream and waffle cones with an incredible view just steps away from the Appalachian Trail. Over 50 flavors of ice cream available and you can’t go wrong. (Their specialty flavor “Great White Way” is a must-try.)
Open April 1st through October 30th
The Body Art Barn
A 200-year-old barn located in Blooming Grove, NY that hosts yoga classes and wellness workshops (as well as being available for rent for your own needs). The space is stunning, with multiple rooms and an outdoor deck. The barn regularly offers traditional yoga, aerial yoga and lyra, pole classes and more. *the vibes here*
A casual hangout known for their burgers, fries and beer selection, but I’m just going to leave you with these three words: devil dog cheesecake.
Open Thursday through Saturday, 12-10pm
Come hungry (and thirsty). This welcoming, local restaurant is ‘Contemporary American,’ with seasonal specials that highlight local farms and vendors (and an incredible craft beer selection). Barbecue, flatbreads, seafood, poutine: there’s something for anyone on this menu. Both indoor and outdoor seating is available. Say hi to owner Mark (he is probably behind the bar). Temporarily closed for renovation until the summer season.
Open Thursday through Sunday
Surprise Lake II (via Greenwood Lake overlook)
Want to try a trail a little more adventurous than the Appalachian Trail? Try Surprise Lake II: approximately a four miles loop of both trails and small rock scrabbles. Park at the Greenwood Lake Marina; the trail starts at a kiosk marked “State Line Trail” with blue markers. About 30 minutes into your hike, you’ll find the Yellow Trail (officially named the Ernest Walters Trail; keep your eyes open for the yellow markers). The uphill climb will be worth it once you see the vantage at the top of the ridge. (Please note: I would consider this an intermediate trail and would not bring a dog.)
The best trail guide I found is:
Tin Barn Brewing
Once you visit this brewery in Sugar Loaf, it will be your favorite place of all time. Tremendous space with an exposed brew deck to watch the magic happen, indoor seating (including couches around a fireplace and the back of a pick-up truck for large parties) and outdoor seating (including fire pits and games – and dogs are allowed outside). The female brewer is a “hophead,” creating deliciously deadly IPAs, fruity sours and drool-worthy stouts. Don’t know what to drink? The staff is super knowledgeable and friendly (and will help you select the right brew for you). Enjoy your beer with one of their oven-baked pizzas (they even offer vegan options). Check their website to find out when they offer live music, trivia and new can releases.
Open Thursday through Sunday, plus holidays
Valkyrie Coffee Roasters
This cozy little coffee shop is my go-to place for a break and a treat! Owners Dakota and Tiffany have created a super cute, welcoming space in historic Chester with an innovative and exciting coffee menu. The barista will chat through their specials (there’s always something new) to make sure you find the right delicious drink for you. I have too many favorites to find here, but: Homemade oat milk! Ube-cinno! Veitanmese KaPhe!
Warwick Valley Farmers Market
If this season is anything like last season, prepare to wait online to enter this farmer’s market (start at the corner of Bank Street & South Street). Go with cash and an open mind (who knows what you’ll need to buy!). Don’t miss the maple-baked trail mix from Lakeside Maple (you’ll understand once you taste it), Jersey Girl Cheese and Cactus Pete’s Homemade Jerky (stock up).
Open May 9th to November 21st, 9am to 2pm
Warwick Drive-In Theatre
This old-fashioned drive-in is a really fun experience. Right off Warwick Turnpike, the drive-in opens for the season on March 26th. Tickets are only $12 (another plus when you’re outside Manhattan). Book tickets in advance and make sure you are parked prior to 7:15pm!
Dana VanPamelen is the co-owner of Hit House, a Muay Thai Kickboxing studio in NYC. She has a Masters degree in Marketing from Hofstra University, loves kickboxing and has explored lots of New York State thanks to The Chica Travelista.