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Summer Holidays Near New York City

26th November 2015

Summer in New York. There’s lots to love. The city takes on an outdoorsy vibe, with parks and riverside spaces coming alive with picnickers, open-air film screenings, plays and concerts.

But when the heat gets too much, you’ll want to escape the city streets. And you don’t have to go far for some respite.

But rather than the expensive, overpopulated Hamptons on Long Island, head to the cool environments of The Berkshires, Hudson Valley and Catskills just a couple of hours’ drive north. Home to some of the country’s most beautiful rivers, mountain ranges, highlands and vistas, they have long been the getaway choice for the creative classes – Edith Wharton, Norman Rockwell, Herman Melville and Henry David Thoreau all gravitated here.

With music, theatre and dance festivals, farm-to-table restaurants, world-class museums and vintage design stores, as well as trails for hiking, rivers for tubing and lakes for boating, varied days mixing art and nature are guaranteed.

 A street scene in Great Barrington. Picture: Getty Images

The Berkshires

Culture and green spaces come together spectacularly in the Berkshires, a surprisingly sophisticated environment in the rolling hills of western Massachusetts. Dart from one small town to another, taking in everything from the summer theatre productions in Williamstown, Great Barrington and Pittsfield, to the Jacob’s Pillow dance festival in the town of Becket.

Traditional and contemporary museums dot the landscape, and creative restaurants whip up local delicacies. The Berkshire Regional Transit Authority runs buses between towns, but hiring a car is the best way to explore.

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Hudson Valley

Though the Hudson Valley region spreads over 10 counties, extending 240 kilometres north from the tip of Manhattan, a good place to start is in Dutchess County, a two-hour drive from New York City. Here, history is on the agenda – from pre-revolutionary war sites to legendary homes from the early 20th Century – allowing visitors to go back in time while taking in the timeless beauty of the weaving Hudson river.

 Artisan cheese in the making in Dutchess County. Picture: Getty Images

Foodies will appreciate the richness of this agricultural region’s culinary offerings. Every town has its share of quaint restaurants and speciality food shops filled with artisan cheeses and breads – making packing a picnic a tempting option.

Most unexpected, however, are the antique and furniture stores in the town of Hudson (check out Mark McDonald for mid-century design furniture and Sutter Antiques for Art Deco furniture) and Rhinebeck (try Sawkille Co for handmade 'farmhouse modern' – wooden tables and stools inspired by the Shaker movement).

In Hudson, a walk down Main Street feels more like strolling through Manhattan’s SoHo in the 1980s. New York design-driven business owners have migrated here to curate the types of stores one can no longer afford to open in the city.

The Catskills

Outdoor enthusiasts, aging hippies, and music enthusiasts won’t want to miss the Catskills, just a two-hour drive from New York. Famous for the Woodstock music festival (actually held in Bethel, 70 kilometres southwest), the small town of Woodstock still has many shops selling 'groovy' souvenirs.

 Lose yourself in the woods and streams of the Catskills. Picture: Getty Images

While Woodstock has retained a 'peace and love' hangover from the festival (there are spiritual bookshops and yoga centres, clothing stores selling tie-died dresses and record shops still selling vinyl), it also feels contemporary, with cool cafes, upscale restaurants and a decidedly hip, artist-colony vibe.

Yet it is the creeks, rivers, and mountain trails that make the Catskills a perfect getaway for urbanites. Most visitors arrive with bikes and kayaks strapped to their cars, though equipment can be easily rented.

Equally, at the end of an active day, they flood into bars with home-grown music, ready to loosen hiking boots and relax over a cold beer. Be warned: mobile phone and satellite service is sketchy, which can affect even the best GPS car system. Bring a map, or you might miss happy hour as you try to find your way out of the mountains.

For the latest deals on travel, browse our great range of offers online, visit your local Escape Travel or call 1300 556 855.

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This article was written by Jennifer Conlin from The Guardian and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.