The Best Culture Day Trips From New York City

Jenny Kendler, "Birds Watching", 2018. Courtesy the artist and Storm King Art Center

The best day trips from New York City to help you commune with both nature and art.

Summer is the perfect time to hit the road. And for New Yorkers who’d like to escape the city without dealing with the TSA, lost luggage, or flight delays, we’ve assembled a list of the seven best cultural day trips from The Big Apple. 

So, skip the packing, grab your sunscreen and your camera, and let us help you pick the perfect day away.

Storm King Art Center — New Windsor, New York

Just an hour north of Manhattan, a playground of monumental sculptures unfold over 500 acres at Storm King. Start your visit at Museum Hill, which offers vistas of the property (as well as a map). Snap a selfie beneath Richard Serra’s iconic and dreamy Schunnemuck Fork, explore the rolling fields dotted with Mark di Suvero’s kinetic metal juggernauts, and examine David Smith’s steel sculptures, the works that inspired the founding of Storm King.


Mary Mattingly, Proposal for Storm King in Zone 10. Courtesy the artist and Storm King Art Center

Be sure to check out this summer’s two exhibitions. Indicators: Artists on Climate Change is a beautiful group show of artists’ takes on the environment, global climate trends, and human behavior through large-scale sculptural works. Ellen Cameron-Weir’s site-specific installation, A toothless grin. "A STAR EXPANSION! GLOBE OF DEATH A graveyard orbit," featuring a 20-ft.-high sphere, plays with concepts of functionality vs. abstraction in monumental sculpture. If your ambition to see all 500 acres outstrips your athletic prowess, free trams run continuously, with a circuit of ten easy hop-on/hop-off stops; bikes are also available for rent. Wednesday–Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., 8 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. Both exhibitions on view until November. 

DIA: Beacon — Beacon, New York

This former Nabisco box-printing facility has found a new life as a Minimalist palace, where large-scale installations by contemporary art masters extend though neatly defined rooms. Peer down (but don’t fall!) into Michael Heizer’s geometric steel pits. Step lightly as you trace the elegant lines of Fred Sandback’s red yarn constructions, and walk the red carpet between the lines of Walter De Maria’s 360 I Ching/64 Sculptures. Louise Bourgeois’ iconic spider crouches in wait upstairs, and Richard Serra’s weatherproof steel structures invite you to interact, tempting the viewer to wander in and out to experience them from every angle.  

Other artists on display include Robert Smithson, Bruce Nauman, Gerhard Richter, Sol LeWitt and Donald Judd, making this a veritable who's who of the modern art world. In addition to the permanent collection, this summer offers newly added installations by Mary Corse and Dorothea Rockburne. 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. through November.

Jack Shainman’s “The School” — Kinderhook, New York

Chelsea gallerist Jack Shainman converted an old schoolhouse in the Hudson Valley into a 30,000 square foot exhibition space in 2014. With shows and programs drawn from his impressive roster of artists, he fills The School with works, installations, and performances that make full use of the building’s ample space. This summer’s offering is "Travelogue," comprised of an impressive survey of the late Radcliffe Bailey’s career, replete with multimedia works, paintings, and large-scale sculptures. This central exhibition is the hub around which ten smaller presentations revolve, highlighting related works from Nina Chanel Abney, Leslie Wayne, Dan Flavin, and Brad Kahlhamer, among others. Kinderhook, the small town that plays host to The School, has a charming Americana feel you won't soon forget. Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. and by appointment. “Travelogue” is on view through October 6.


Hufton+Crow/Getty Images

The Dan Flavin Institute, the Parrish Art Museum, and the Watermill Center — The Hamptons

For those of you seeking culture between beach trips, these three Hamptons institutions offer a respite for sun-burned viewers. If you crave more after seeing Dan Flavin’s work at DIA: Beacon, Bridgehampton’s Flavin Institute, a converted early 20th-century firehouse, offers several permanent neon installations selected by the artist himself, along with a Keith Sonnier contemporary neon exhibition that will open on July 1. The Parrish Art Museum celebrates the fifth anniversary of its Herzog & de Meuron renovation with an exhibition from the permanent collection curated by star artist Rashid Johnson, who has selected works to highlight the legacy of the East End artists whose traditions and methods were inspired by their time in the Hamptons. And finally, the Watermill Center is best enjoyed at its spectacular summer benefit, when 15–20 performance artists float through the forest surprising and amazing partygoers in a surreal parade. The Flavin Institute is open Thursday-Sunday, 12 pm to 6 pm, through November; the Parrish Museum is open Wednesday–Monday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., with an 8 p.m. closing on Fridays, and The Watermill Center Summer Benefit takes place on July 28 at 6 p.m.: tickets starting at $450.


Sean Zanni/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images

Yale University Art Gallery — New Haven, Connecticut

Spread across three buildings, including a stunning iconic Louis Kahn masterpiece, the Yale University Art Collection is not your average college art space. Spanning several millennia and the entire globe, the collection boasts more than 250,000 works of art, offering a veritable walkthrough of art history. Start with the ancient works, much of which garnered from University-organized excavations, and move from the Ishtar Gate in ancient Babylon up through Duchamp’s early 20th-century “readymades,” Jackson Pollock’s “Drip Paintings,” and Roy Lichtenstein’s brilliantly reimagined comic strip-inspired works. Starting on June 29, don’t miss “Leonardo: Discoveries from Verrocchio’s Studio,” for a peek at da Vinci’s early work, as well as two spectacular paintings loaned from the Louvre and the Worcester Art Museum. 10 a.m.–5 p.m. Tuesday-Friday, and 11 a.m.–5 p.m. on weekends.

The Brant Foundation Art Study Center — Greenwich, Connecticut 

A quick hop up the Merritt brings you to The Brant Foundation Art Study Center, set between the green rolling hills and mega-mansions of Greenwich. The Brant is home to a series of well-curated temporary exhibitions, mostly drawn from the impressive vaults of its own collection, as well as a casual smattering of world-class monumental sculpture including Jeff Koons’ iconic Puppy and Urs Fischer’s imposing 34-ft-high Big Clay. This season’s show, fittingly titled “Joe Bradley, Oscar Tuazon, Michael Williams,” brings together diverse works from the artists, selected to highlight the interplay between their practices. Duck into L.A. artist Oscar Tuazon’s over-life-sized water pipes on your way in, then admire up-and-coming fellow Californian Michael Williams’ compellingly contemporary “still-life” paintings before taking in the thoughtful assemblage of rare early Joe Bradley paintings. Through October 1, Monday–Friday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m; visitors must book tours online in advance through the Foundation’s website.