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Great Road Trips from New York City in Four Hours or Less

Updated on February 4, 2021
Catherine Stolfi profile image

Catherine is an avid traveler and applies her experience in the environmental sciences to give a global view of travel domestic and abroad.


This is a list of great road trips from the New York City area for under four hours or less. Just a short travel away is the mountains of the Poconos, the history and cheesesteak heros of Philadelphia, the cultural significance of Washington DC, and the seafood and beaches of Montauk, L.I. In just a few hours you can be in the high mountains, a bustling city rich with culture, or on a sandy beach. For those wanting to ensure an affordable vacation, use the calculator at the end of this article to figure the gas cost for your entire trip.

Washington, DC

For a quick weekend getaway, you can visit Washington, DC, a political hub and beautiful city with plenty to see and visit in the capital city. The best thing about visiting this city on the budget is that there’s plenty to see for free or cheap. You can’t leave this city without visiting the National Mall. Here you can visit the Lincoln Memorial and its reflecting pool, the U.S. Capital, and the Washington Monument. The National Mall houses many of the city’s most popular museums: National Museum of American History, National Museum of Natural History, National Air and Space Museum, National Museum of the American Indian and the Smithsonian Castle. War memorials in the mall include the WWII memorial, a stone and fountain structure that pays homage to the veterans that served, as well as the Korean War Memorial, a moving placement of soldier statues walking through the brush.

If you write to your local legislature, you can also set-up a visit to the most popular house in the country, The White House. You need to request your tickets at the least a few weeks ahead of time, sometimes months if you want to visit around Christmas time, for a thorough background check to be completed before your visit. Christmas time is very popular because the White House decorates all the rooms with holiday themed decorations, wreaths, and a specially designed Christmas tree usually with a theme in almost every room. Don't forget the caroling in the halls on the weekends as well. I got my tickets for a tour of the White House at Christmas time in August of that year without issue but I'm still not sure if that was too early or just on time.

Outside the national mall stretch is the National Zoo as well as Rock Creek Park, the only planetarium operated by the National Park Service. Tours here are free of charge. This is a great trip for families with older kids as they are old enough to appreciate the history of this wonderful city.

Trip Time: 4 hours

The Poconos, Pennsylvania

Visiting the Poconos can be just as fun in the winter as it is in the summer. Pennsylvania has various water parks, both indoor and outdoor, theme parks, as well as ski resorts and snow covered mountains. The Poconos is located in the northeastern portion of Pennsylvania, a convenient location for those that reside in New York.

The top two ski resorts in the Poconos is Shawnee in East Stroudsburg and Camelback Mountain in Tannersville, both with hotels and resorts in and outside the mountain resort area. I’ve frequented Shawnee the most in my visits to the eastern state and have enjoyed skiing, snow tubing and even tried my hand at snowboarding at this resort. There are plenty of specials and discounts available through the website ranging from coupons to student discounts. Due to the close proximity to the city, this resort can easily be visited for a day trip.

Another fun activity in the warmer weather months is hiking the mountains of the Poconos. Bushkill Falls is one of the more popular hiking trails that features eight waterfalls and has the nickname, "The Niagara of Pennsylvania." This park also features American and wildlife exhibits and miles of nature trails. You can also cool down in the summer at Camelback Mountain Water Park, a park for all ages with various slides and a wave pool. There are also two indoor water parks in the Poconos, Great Wolf Lodge, where you can also stay, and waterpark combo, and H2OoooHH! Indoor Waterpark at Split Rock Resort & Golf Club.

For nighttime entertainment, you can visit Mount Airy Casino featuring slots and table games and doubles as a resort. At this huge casino you can eat, stay & play with the resort also including a pool, both indoor and outdoor, a spa on site and an 18-hole golf course.

No matter the time of year, at only an hour and 30 minute drive from NYC, you can visit the mountains of the Poconos for fun and frolic in the great outdoors or in.

Trip Time: 1 hour, 30 min


Philadelphia, PA

Philadelphia, "Philly," is a great city to visit in the summer since this is a big walking town. Try the city’s famous Philly cheesesteaks (or just cheesesteaks to them) at Pat's King of Steaks - Original Philly Cheese Steak and Geno’s Steaks in the downtown area. They are actually located across the street from each other and both claim to be the original and the best. Take one day trying one and another trying the other so you can make a decision for your self. Take a short walk on South Street to visit the shops, restaurants and bars that feel like the historical cities of New York or Boston.

Independence National Historic Park is located in Old City and features scheduled tours of Independence Hall and Liberty Bell Plaza, where you can see the famous "Liberty Bell." There are also other various museums and art galleries within this city that are walking distance. Valley Forge National Park is only a short drive from the city as well.

Trip Time: 2 Hours

Fork Vineyards on Long Island, NY
Fork Vineyards on Long Island, NY

Montauk, NY

Located two hours east of New York City on the tip of Long Island is Montauk, or “The End," which features beautiful pebble beaches, lighthouses, and cozy stores and shops. There are also some of Long Island’s best restaurants and wineries located along the fork. Montauk also has great bicycle and hiking trails, fishing, and hidden ponds for kayaking. There are also water sports on this island peak including surfing, snorkeling and scuba, waterskiing, kitesurfing and windsurfing, paddleboarding, canoeing, kayaking, sailing, boating and jetskiing... to name a few.

A must visit is the Montauk Point Lighthouse which also features a museum and an opportunity to climb the steps inside to the top for a spectacular view of eastern Long Island and the Atlantic Ocean.

Many Montauk establishments are closed for the winter months of January through March, so please plan your visit accordingly. Many hotels out east feature spas and are beautiful beachside resorts with private beaches. Another great option for a couple or larger party is to rent a home in Montauk, where many of the residents travel away from home during the summer season and allow for visitors to stay in the summer months. These can be rented per night, week, month, or the whole summer season, through websites such as or

Trip Time: 2 Hours, 30 Min

Calculate the gas cost for your entire trip at AAA’s Fuel Cost Calculator where you can type in your start and end destination, vehicle type and plan the cost of your entire vacation.

© 2013 Catherine Stolfi


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