There's more to NY than the five boroughs. Mass transit makes escaping to the countryside easier than you think. It's not called Greater New York for nothing.
Times are approximate from midtown Manhattan.
Take a Subway
Where: A seaside getaway in Queens
What: The strip is a surf haven for city kids, who hang out with old Italian men and teenie bikini-clad girls. Best people-watching: 73rd-103rd Streets. The summer starts when Rockaway Taco reopens its surf shack Memorial Day weekend (here's a film about it). This year, a slew of Brooklyn food vendors took over the boardwalk snack stands at 86th, 96th, and 106th Streets.
How to Get There: Take the A train to Far Rockaway (1 hour) with the Ramones on your iPod. You can also bike, ride the Long Island Railroad (Far Rockaway branch), or take the ferry (check out BrooklynBased's guide to Rockaway Boardwalk).
See Our Guide to Rockaway Beach
Where: Fort Tryon Park, Manhattan
What: Imported medieval French monasteries in north Manhattan serve as the uptown branch of The Metropolitan Museum of Art. The vistas are peaceful and stunning, as are the surrounding gardens. Great place to make romantic overtures to a travel companion.
How to Get There: Take the A train to 190th Street (about 30 minutes) and another 10 minutes to walk through Fort Tryron Park.
What: Summertime fun: beach and boardwalk, the wooden Cyclone rollercoaster, corn dogs, and seedy circus sideshow acts. Take pictures with your vintage camera app. Have a slice at Totonno's Pizzeria Napolitano; catch a ballgame at Keystone Park.
How to Get There: F, Q, N, D subways to Stillwell Avenue (75 minutes).
Catch a Bus or a Train
Blue Hill at Stone Barns
Where: Pocantico Hills, NY
What: Working farm, educational center, and lauded four-seasons Slow Food restaurant on an old Rockefeller estate. Tasting menus reflect the day's harvest from the fields and slaughterhouse. Stroll the grounds, tour the barnyard, and take your time with lunch and dinner (and make reservations well in advance).
How to Get There: Metro-North train from Grand Central Station (Hudson line to Tarrytown, 35-50 minutes) and a quick cab ride to the farm.
Where to Stay: Kittle House or Monteverde at Oldstone Manor.
Where: Beacon, NY
What: The sprawling sunlit contemporary art museum (in a former Nabisco factory) exhibits larger-than-life installations (like Richard Serra's torqued metal sculptures).
How to Get There: Metro-North train from Grand Central Station (Hudson line to Beacon, 78-85 minutes).
Where to Stay: Botsford Briar Bed and Breakfast.
Where: Mountainville, NY
What: A vast, permanent outdoor collection of modern sculptures from the 1960s to the present. During warm weather, pack a picnic under the trees, and rent a bicycle to tour the grounds. It's closed in the winter.
How to Get There: Coach USA (Short Line Bus) from Port Authority, 42nd Street (1 hour).
Where: Central Valley, NY
What: Beware, as it's tourist-central. Fancy boutiques that don't have outlets anywhere else (Balenciaga, Dior, Yves Saint Laurent), have outlets here. Lifestyle brands (Le Creuset, Frette, Nike) are also in the mix.
How to Get There: Metro-North to Woodbury Commons, Hampton Luxury Liner, Gray Line (1 hour by car).
Take an Indie-Minded Tour
Saxelby a Day A-Whey Tours (day trips to dairy farms)
Scott's Pizza Tours (in all the boroughs)