Hike the Hudson Valley
Cold Spring, New York
Urban hikers in search of a satisfying climb can take the Metro-North line to the Cold Spring station. Once off the rails, hit the funky Foundry Café for breakfast (55 Main St.) and then the Hudson Valley Outfitters (63 Main St.) for the latest trail advice. On the 4.5-mile Washburn trail to Bull Hill, you’ll tramp through an old dairy farm and see Lake Surprise from the summit.
Prop Up an Easel and Paint
Old Lyme, Connecticut
The view from the grounds of the Florence Griswold Museum (860-434-5542) was a favorite of the American Impressionists a century ago. It’s still a perfect place to paint, so bring your watercolors or go on a Sunday afternoon when the museum hands out art supplies to all comers: It’ll lend you paints and brushes and give you a canvas-covered board so you can do what the Impressionists did.
Paddle Through the Poconos
The Delaware Water Gap
Adventure Sports in Marshalls Creek, Pennsylvania (Route 209, Marshalls Creek; 800-487-2628), offers unguided trips down the Delaware River that last for one, two, or three days and vary from 14 to 40 miles. For less than $40 per person, per day, the outfitters will provide boats, paddles, life jackets, river maps, orientation, trip planning, and transportation; bring your own food, camping equipment, and a friend.
The Jersey Shore
Contrary to popular belief, there are parts of the Jersey Shore where raucous big-hair, bigmouthed Joiseyness is nowhere to be found. Just off the coast of South Jersey lies a barrier isle called Seven Mile Beach. The town of Avalon has some of the highest dunes on the mid-Atlantic, and Stone Harbor has a bird sanctuary that is home to thousands of nesting herons. Splurge with a stay at the 100-year-old Risley House (from $115; 8421 First Ave.; 609- 368-1133) or lodge at one of the just-fine area motels.
Be Here Now
If you’re looking for wisdom from the Buddha, consider this koanlike paradox: Generally speaking, the more you pay for a retreat, the less spiritual it is. But then again, enlightenment isn’t everything. The Menla Mountain retreat in Phoenicia, founded by celebrity dad Robert Thurman, has yoga, tennis, and a pool (212-807-0563, ext. 110). The venerable Omega Institute in Rhinebeck offers New Agey workshops like “Tango With the Buddha: Tango Zen” (800-944-1001). In Mount Tremper, the Zen Mountain Monastery’s retreats ($200, inclusive; 845-688-2228) feature an introduction to zazen, work participation, and light vegetarian meals.
Camp Out in Luxury
The dozen lakeside cabins at White Pine Camp in Franklin County, New York, have more amenities than most apartments: full kitchens, bedroom fireplaces, and claw-foot tubs. But alas, no air-conditioning. No matter: You’ll be spending most of your time in Osgood Lake, in a kayak or canoe. There’s also a new gourmet restaurant, the Whiteface Lodge on nearby Lake Placid, for those who like their nature with a side of civilization (518-327-3030; whitepinecamp.com).
Sip and Spin
The North Fork
Twenty-eight of the 50 vineyards located in the North Fork of Long Island have tasting rooms open to the public, and all are best enjoyed on two wheels. After arriving at the Greenport LIRR station on the early side, walk to Bike Stop, in the center of town, rent something with a basket ($45 for the weekend), and head out. The two must-stop wineries are the rustic vine-covered Lenz for its Gewürztraminers and the sleek, modern Bedell Cellars.
The southern Connecticut towns of Branford, Guilford, and Madison add up to a poor man’s Nantucket, and that’s meant as a compliment. Just off the New Haven line, quintessential New England charm (ocean views, salt and tidal marshes, public beaches, clapboard houses) awaits. You can kayak around the Thimble Islands, some of which have Victorian-style homes (and inhabitants!), or stroll along the water on the Shoreline Greenway Trail. At the end of day, check into a B&B—nobody does them cozier than New England— like the Tidewater (203-245-8457) or the Dolly Madison (203-245-7377).
Sandy Hook, New Jersey
Gunnison Beach is unabashedly the largest nude beach in the tri-state area. Plan to leave the city early: The beach is extremely popular and draws more than 5,000 visitors on a sunny day. Take the SeaStreak Ferry from Pier 11 in Manhattan. Official signs will guide you to the appropriate part of the beach, so wait before disrobing.
Climb a Lighthouse
Saugerties, New York
Weekends at the B&B are sold out for the summer (note to self), but it’s still a charming place to spend an afternoon. Locals favor the lighthouse’s peninsula as an unofficial beach; tourists climb the tower and take in the Hudson River view.