Six Wonderful Winter Day Trips From NYC
There's pretty much never a day where we can't find something exciting / relaxing / enlightening / delicious to do right here at home in the greatest city on the planet BUT, that said, I suppose there are times when it's fun to go a road trip. Even (especially?), during the dark, suddenly-appropriately freezing days of winter. So if you're feeling ambitious enough to rouse yourself from whatever level of hibernation you had planned for the next two months, here are five suggestions that seem sure to make your effort worthwhile.
Maple Sugaring (Various Locations)
Maple syrup is awesome, no doubt about it, whether on challah French toast, blueberry pancakes (you did remember to freeze a couple of quarts when they were in season, right?), or drizzled–or gushed!–over a bowl of apples, granola, and fat-free yogurt. Also awesome: tromping out into a pretty wintertime forest to watch the entire process, from tree-tap to sugar house, first hand. The always-reliable Mommy Poppins has a nice round up of spots within day-trip distance that cater to families, from the "Sugaring Sundays" at Ossining's Teatown Lake Reservation (go on March 19 for the annual pancake brunch) to the program at Tenafly Nature Center in nearby New Jersey.
There are lots of options for going snow-tubing, snowboarding, downhill and cross-country skiing, ice skating, snowshoeing, big-air jumping (with guaranteed cushy landing, courtesy Big Air Bag!)… but as far as I know only Windham Mountain in the Catskills, about 2.5 hours from Manhattan by car or bus depending on your departure point, has it all. PLUS: rad-sounding twin 500-foot zip lines that soar up to 40 feet above the snow, and something called Kids Snowmobiling, where the under-120-pounds set can zoom around on specially-crafted vehicles. Obviously ideal for a big crew with divergent interests, but each sport or activity at Windham Mountain is supposedly pretty solid, so this isn't some overreaching, money-grab resort. They take their winter fun seriously.
Mohonk Mountain House
This spectacular 1800s-era castle in Upstate New York's Hudson Valley is always on everybody's "Best Fall Getaways" lists because the foliage is so amazing in photos, but Mohonk Mountain House might even be a better wintertime destination if you're looking for something more pampering and cozy than a snowboard pipe. Because although you can get plenty active up here–the skating rink is particularly cool, and cross country skiing will provide you with some lovely vistas–the spa's the thing in January, February, and March, particularly the large variety of much-lauded massage options. The outdoor heated mineral pool is pretty soothing, too.
Snowboarding Trips with Urban Sherpa
If you don't have a car, or a Zip membership, and don't feel springing for a rental and/or doing all the planning and driving, a group bus trip to any one our area's best close-by mountains is an excellent, no-worries options. Plus you can sleep (or, uh, drink) all the way home! There are several companies who run buses to the slopes several times a week all winter, but the best one might be Urban Sherpa. New Jersey's Mountain Creek; New York's Hunter, Windham, and Plattekill; and Vermont's massive Killington are all regular destinations for the Sherpa crew. The basic package include round-trip "luxury" bus transport from Manhattan and Brooklyn as well as a lift ticket (Hunter, on a weekday, will set you back $86), but you can also tack on equipment rentals and/or lessons via Urban Sherpa as well.
Cross Country Skiing at Fahnestock Winter Park
About an hour away from Manhattan in the heart of the Hudson Valley, the delightfully under-crowded Fahnestock Winter Park offers day-trippers access to some 18 kilometers of groomed, "tracked and mapped" forested trails for cross-country skiers of all abilities and degrees of motivation. And while the peace and isolation of the woods is welcome, Fahnestock also has a warming lodge with ski rentals, food (probably pretty rudimentary though; you might want to pack a picnic), and restrooms. There's even a great sledding hill right there, where you can get hot chocolate and relax by an outdoor fire pit.
Indoor Water Park at Great Wolf Lodge
Last but never least, there's Great Wolf Lodge, the chaotic-seeming but reportedly really fun family INDOOR wintertime resort in the Pocono Mountains. Featuring an enormous 84-degree (!) indoor water park packed with all sorts of rides and slides (new this year: Slideboarding, which adds a gaming element to your thrill-seeking) Great Wolf Lodge provides massive amounts of stimuli and incitement to excitement for all ages. With the right attitude (and low expectations, re: the food), it seems like you could really have a blast here, and the kids will think you're a hero.