Hiking, beaches, pinball and tacos: Awesome summer day trips that are just as fun in the winter

montauk winter
Looks pretty peaceful out in Montauk, huh? via Flickr user Jeff Weston

It’s that time of winter where the piles of dirty snow and slush make us think that maybe those sweltering, smelly dog-days of summer weren’t so bad after all. But just because it’s February doesn’t mean we have to wait until Memorial Day to take a day trip to our favorite summer spots. Obviously, making a date with your bed and Netflix is the easier, warmer option but you’re better than that. You’re young and wild, so do some cool stuff! Look at some art! Catch a show! Eat some tacos somewhere new or even get out into nature! We’re here to help with a few good, cheap day trips that are accessible by public transportation.


Typically, Montauk in the winter is dedicated to locals and dedicated second-home owners, but don’t let that stop you! The blue-collar charm is much more present during the winter months with very little trace of summer pretentiousness. A one-way trip will run you $26 for an off-peak ticket on the LIRR, and it’s about a three hour ride, so it’s best to leave early in the morning and bring your cup of coffee on the train to wake up.

If you’re heading to Montauk, check out Joni’s Kitchen for a causal, healthy lunch. With a menu featuring smoothies, juices, and quinoa salads it’s pretty much a home run. It’s right off of Montauk Highway, so grab your smoothies and take a walk around town. Bar and grille The Dock is also open during the winter and has an authentic fisherman’s village vibe. A lot of places will be closed for winter making the trip all the more Eternal Sunshine-esque. Whether you’ve been to Montauk in the summer or not, an empty Route 27, one that doesn’t look like a parking lot, is a sight to behold and definitely gives you the I’m-away-from-it-all vibe you’re looking for. The empty beaches are quiet and way relaxing, given that you are properly bundled, which is to say very, very bundled.

Amagansett is one stop before Montauk on the LIRR and can easily be combined into your Montauk plans (if you figure in cab fare – the two towns are not in walking distance of each other) or a one-stop shop. Hampton Chutney Co. has an Amagansett location with a ton of lunch options for under $10. Head over the Amagansett square for window shopping and a cup of Jack’s Stir Brew. For the beach vibes you’re longing for, stroll around the Pilgrim Surf + Supply outpost where it’s always summer. Mandala yoga is also in the square, but the drop-in class price is $25, which is steep.


silver ball museum
Let your friends laugh at you for saying you’re going all the way to Jersey to play pinball. You’ll be the one having fun. via Silver Ball Museum

Asbury Park

Even if you’re not a die-hard Bruce fan, Asbury Park is still a great place to visit any time of the year. Accessible by NJTransit for a $15 ticket each way, the Asbury Park station is on the North Jersey coastline. In the winter, you have to change trains in Long Branch, which requires walking about 20 feet across the platform, because unlike in the summer there, no are express trains running that way.

Downtown AP is walking distance from the Asbury Park train station. Head down Cookman Avenue, which is the main drag, and you have plenty of window shopping and dining options. MOGO Korean fusion tacos are a must-do and all their items are under $10. They have a storefront on Cookman and a stand on the boardwalk as well. For a beer, Bond St Bar has the perfect gritty, dive bar vibe and is super cheap. Beers are from $2-$4, shots from $4-$6, and cocktails from $4-$6. Hard to beat. If you’re traveling with a group, Johnny Mac’s may be a better bet. The space is bigger, prices are comparable, and with every drink you get a free pizza. Enough said.

The ShowRoom is also on Cookman, very close to the train and usually plays a lot of smaller, local films. It was voted Best Independent Movie House in New Jersey and is a cozy movie watching experience. Plus, admission is only $10. (Or, if your student ID doesn’t have an expiration date, it’s $8.)

If you walk further down towards the water, you’ll run into the Stone Pony as well as Asbury Lanes which are both legendary in their own right. As far as catching a show on the fly, the Lanes definitely has a younger crowd but the Stone Pony occasional breaks from it’s old-dudes-in-a-band vibe and hosts some cool headliners as well.

You may recognize the Asbury Park boardwalk from that episode of the Sopranos, but if you don’t it is also home to Paramount Theatre, Convention Hall, and First Ave Pavillion. These are all seriously Insta-worthy locations, but are still beautiful and interesting without a filter. Convention Hall has a bunch of art shops and restaurants inside, the Paramount Theatre is way historic and interesting and usually hosts fairly large headliners, and First Ave Pavilion is usually covered with cool graffiti (so urban).  You can also stop by the Silver Ball Museum, the pinball museum right on the boardwalk to play machines that date back all the way to the 1950s, or get your fortune told by Madam Marie. Well, not her, but her granddaughter or something.


walkway over the hudson
Just look at that. via Facebook


For those of you looking to take Metro-North, buy a $17 one-way ticket to Poughkeepsie. Home to CIA (the cooking school, not the intelligence agency), Vassar, and Marist, it has college-town feel which means it has lots of free things to do. The Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center at Vassar is free and open to the public. Not to mention the campus itself is beautiful. The current exhibit is “XL: Large-Scale Paintings from the Permanent Collection,” so every painting it at least six feet in one direction. Definite trippy potential.

The Walkway Over the Hudson is begging you to take an Instagram, plus there are tons of hiking trails if you’re trying to get real crunchy and earthy. Also, Hyde Park is also not far away if you feel like checking out FDR’s digs and presidential library (there are buses in Poughkeepsie that have routes to each of these points of interest,for $1.75 each way).

As far as cheap eats, hot dogs seem like a good option. Soul Dog is near the train station and their whole menu is $10 and below. They’re also vegan, so if you don’t want to go vegan/healthy/green, Noshi’s Coney Island should satisfy you. Rossi’s Deli is an admirable option and if you want some bad-ass jerk chicken for under $7, go to Janet’s Jerk Shop.

Follow Maggie for more travel tips at @magsmcglinchy

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