No doubt New York City is pretty wondrous, but so are the surrounding areas. Trains departing regularly from Grand Central take you to tiny towns, great art, manicured gardens with stunning views, and even an abandoned castle in the middle of the Hudson River. Plan one of these trips from Grand Central this weekend. By Jessica Allen.
Dia:Beacon showcases contemporary art, much of it extremely large and site-specific, on 30 acres alongside the Hudson River. Built in 1929, the main building was once a box-making factory for Nabisco; today its 240,000 square feet houses works by Donald Judd, Richard Serra, On Kawara, and Louise Bourgeois, among other significant artists of the past 50 or so years. Beacon itself is worth a stroll too, with art galleries, antique stores, and restaurants along its Main Street. Metro-North gets you there in about 90 minutes.
The 3,500-acre estate known as Kykuit was completed in 1913 for John D. Rockefeller, then the richest man in America. A guided tour takes you through the house where four generations of Rockefellers once lived, from the bowling alley in the basement to art by Alexander Calder, Pablo Picasso, and Henry Moore in the hallways to horse-drawn carriages and classic cars in the garages. For the best experience, consider taking the 50-or-so-minute train trip in the fall, when the Hudson Valley has turned ocher, amber, magenta, and pumpkin.
Feeling lucky? This Connecticut entertainment emporium, about two hours from Grand Central, offers all kinds of games of chance spread over three different casinos, including several daily poker tournaments. If you’re not into gambling, you can go to a concert, head to a comedy show, hang out at the world’s largest indoor planetarium dome, get a spa treatment, shop, or eat at one of the more than 25 on-site restaurant.
Unlike most gardens, Wave Hill lets visitors go off the gravel paths, wandering onto the lawns and into the woods of this 28-acre estate in the Bronx that overlooks the Hudson River and the cliffs of the New Jersey Palisades. The grounds include a cultural center and art gallery, along with several well-manicured gardens, including elliptical, conifer, shade border, and wild. A free shuttle runs to the nearby Metro-North Riverdale Station (about 30 minutes from Grand Central).
In addition to being an all-around beautiful campus about two hours from Grand Central, Yale offers world-class museums. Among its holdings are the largest intact Apatosaurus (Brontosaurus) in the world, second-largest repository of dinosaur artifacts in the U.S., and largest collection of British art and illustrated books anywhere outside the UK. The typical New England town of New Haven also has its charms, especially its unique take on Neapolitan pizza (called “apizza” by locals). Try it at the iconic Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana.
In the middle of the Hudson River is Bannerman Castle, a mock-Scottish armory and home dating to the early decades of the twentieth century. (An explosion in the armory + abandonment + time = the ruins you see today.) Take the 90-minute train to Beacon, then a boat to Pollepel Island for one of the weekend tours. You’ll hear tales about the history of the buildings and the island itself, which served as a cooling tank for unruly Dutch passengers, a meeting ground for 19th Century prostitutes and their clients, the scene of a fairy tale romance, and a massive munitions depot.