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9 Art-Filled Summer Day Trips from New York

Hyperallergic staffers pick their favorite destinations within three hours of the city.

OMI International Arts Center (photo by Panagiotis Gavriiloglou)

After a long, cold, painful winter (was that just me?), summer is finally here! The sun is out, temperatures are rising — time to get out of the city and take some day trips. Ones that involve seeing art, of course.

To help you gear up for July 4th weekend, Hyperallergic editors and staff writers have picked our favorite art-filled getaways, all within three hours of New York, almost all accessible without a car. Whether you’re looking to enjoy nature or take air-conditioned refuge from the heat, we’ve got a recommendation for you. We dare you to go somewhere you’ve never been.

Newark Museum

Jeffrey Gibson, “Come Alive! (I Feel Love)” (2016) at the Newark Museum (photo by Christopher Green/Hyperallergic)

When: Wednesday–Sunday, 12–5pm ($15)
Where: 49 Washington Street (Newark, New Jersey)

This fantastic little museum is rarely visited by New Yorkers — their loss — but it’s definitely worth the easy trip by car or train (it’s a leisurely 15-minute walk from Newark’s Penn Station). The museum has reinstalled its Native American galleries, with an impressive new commission by Jeffrey Gibson, and its historical American art collection is one of the best in the country, with a strong emphasis on African American artists. And make sure not to miss the large Tibetan collection, which includes a Buddhist altar consecrated in 1990 by His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama. —HV

Travel time from Midtown NYC: 30 min by train; 25 min by car

Zimmerli Art Museum

Alexander Kosolapov, “Malevich Sold Here” (1989) at the Zimmerli (photo by Jillian Steinhauer/Hyperallergic)

When: Tuesday–Friday, 10am–4:30pm; Saturday–Sunday, 12–5pm (free)
Where: 71 Hamilton Street (Rutgers University, New Brunswick, New Jersey)

Wandering the galleries of the Zimmerli won’t exactly deliver the blissful, sun-soaked summer experience you’d get from, say, visiting Storm King, but it will offer an art history lesson. This often overlooked museum is home to the world’s largest collection of Soviet nonconformist art: over 20,000 works by more than 1,000 artists spanning 1956–86. It’s a movement I’d wager most of us aren’t well-versed in, and the display at the Zimmerli gives a fascinating overview of the many ways in which artists rebelled against the Soviet system. While you’re there, you can also take inspiration from the only full set in the US of Honoré Daumier’s Celebrities of the Juste Milieu (1832–35), 36 comically expressive terracotta busts that lampoon politicians and personalities of his time. —JS

Travel time from Midtown NYC: 1 hr 5 min by train; 45 min by car

Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum

Installation view of William Powhida: After the Contemporary at the Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum (photo by Hrag Vartanian/Hyperallergic)

When: Monday, Wednesday–Saturday, 10am–5pm; Sunday, 12–5pm ($10)
Where: 258 Main Street (Ridgefield, Connecticut)

This underappreciated regional museum often organizes ambitious little shows, giving many emerging and mid-career talents fantastic opportunities to develop their art. This season is no different. William Powhida’s complex, text-heavy show imagines the natural extension of the current fascination with art as luxury commodity (hint: get rid of those pesky, rebellious artists so you can stabilize the asset). There’s also a Tony Matelli sculpture that pokes fun at Classical sculpture with the strategic placement of bronze watermelons, a large conceptual project by Kay Rosen, the first museum survey of the work of Suzanne McClelland, and the anxious futurism of Beth Campbell. —HV

Travel time from Midtown NYC: 1 hr 30 min by train and taxi; 1 hr 15 min by car

OMI International Arts Center

OMI International Arts Center (photo by Panagiotis Gavriiloglou)

When: Sculpture park open every day during daylight hours; visitor center open 11am–5pm (free)
Where: 1045 County Route 22 (Ghent, New York)

For one month, I was lucky to call the OMI International Arts Center my backyard. I took leisurely, daily strolls through its peaceful fields, which are punctuated by often enormous sculptures — each given plenty of space to itself — and fruit trees. The outdoor art rotates regularly, and this summer you can expect to see works by Alison Saar, Paula Hayes, and Tony Cragg, among others. Situated in the Hudson River Valley, OMI’s 300 acres of land are not all paved and tidy, so prepare to wander into windy, wooded areas. You can also rent a bike or golf cart, schedule a guided tour, or simply set up at one of the many picnicking stations. The visitor center and gallery likewise has rotating exhibitions and a charming café. If you like, you can even spend a night at the center, just be aware that artists-in-residence will be wandering the premises. On your way to or from OMI, hop over to Hudson, where you can see stunning views and the glimmering natural light that has influenced painters from the region. —EWA

Travel time from Midtown NYC: 2 hr 20 min by train and taxi; 2 hr 15 min by car

Parrish Art Museum

The interior of the Parrish Art Museum (photo by Benjamin Sutton/Hyperallergic)

When: Saturday–Monday, Wednesday–Thursday, 10am–5pm; Friday, 10am–8pm ($12)
Where: 279 Montauk Highway (Watermill, New York)

The Parrish’s Herzog & de Meuron–designed building, which opened in 2012, is a real show-stealer. A kind of stretched-out minimalist barn that seems to go on and on and on, it’s an aesthetic experience unto itself. The work inside can be a mixed bag, as the institution’s focus on artists with a connection to the Hamptons and the east end of Long Island sometimes feels like a handicap, but it has outstanding holdings of paintings by William Merritt Chase and Fairfield Porter, as well as works by Willem and Elaine de Kooning, Lee Krasner, Eric Fischl, Dorothea Rockburne, Alex Katz, and more. —BS

Travel time from Midtown NYC: 2 hr 30 min by train and taxi; 1 hr 50 min by car

Wassaic Project

The Wassaic Project (photo by Allison Meier/Hyperallergic)

When: Friday, 5–7pm; Saturday, 12–7pm; Sunday, 12–5pm (free)
Where: 37 Furnace Bank Road (Wassaic, New York)

The Wassaic Project is now open year-round, but summer is when its programming really shines. Its towering grain elevator, which rewards the long climb to the top with an incredible view of the railroad tracks below and surrounding valley landscape, is currently filled with work by 53 emerging artists as part of the exhibition Vagabond Time Killers; artist studios are lodged in a nearby former livestock barn (with film screenings in the auction ring). Started in 2008 in the hamlet of Wassaic, the nonprofit transformed the disused manufacturing site into an arts center meant to support creators and involve the local community. You can easily make it a day trip on Metro-North, or you can take advantage of weekend camping at the upcoming Heather Metal Parking Lot event (July 15–16), which will celebrate the cultural influence of heavy metal music and offer a bonfire and artists’ projects for overnight guests. The August Festival (August 11–12) features two days of dance performances on the porch, and at the tail end of summer, the annual Sandwich Club Summit (September 23) invites sandwich enthusiasts to eat, mingle, and partake in a grilled cheese bar. —AM

Travel time from Midtown NYC: 2 hr 35 min by train; 1 hr 50 min by car

Dan Flavin Art Institute

Dan Flavin Art Institute (photo by Jillian Steinhauer/Hyperallergic)

When: Thursday–Sunday, 12–6pm (free)
Where: 23 Corwith Avenue (Bridgehampton, New York)

The Dan Flavin Art Institute looks like a farmhouse surrounded by a white picket fence; you wouldn’t expect to see contemporary art inside. But Flavin himself designed the flow of the space, moving visitors through a series of fluorescent works made by the artist between 1963 and 1981. Their colors bounce off the simple white architecture, creating a mesmerizing fun house of light. Downstairs, in the rotating gallery, paintings and ceramics by Mary Heilmann — some of them never before shown outside her studio — add another layer of playfulness to the place this summer. And don’t miss the small room of artifacts from the building’s previous life as a church, including an apposite neon cross. —JS

Travel time from Midtown NYC: 2 hr 40 min by train; 2 hr 10 min by car

Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art

Interior courtyard at the Wadsworth Atheneum (photo by Benjamin Sutton/Hyperallergic)

When: Wednesday–Friday, 11am–5pm; Saturday–Sunday, 10am–5pm ($15)
Where: 600 Main Street (Hartford, Connecticut)

Hartford, Connecticut, is probably not the first place you’d think of taking a summer day trip, but the Wadsworth Atheneum is an absolute gem of a museum that’s well worth the trek. From its exceptional collection of Ancient Egyptian artifacts and European paintings — including Artemisia Gentileschi’s “Self-Portrait as a Lute Player” (c. 1615–18) — to its gallery devoted to Enlightenment-era Wunderkammers, collection of US decorative art, and robust contemporary art program, there’s more than enough here to regale you during a daylong visit. My personal favorites include the gallery filled with objects and artworks made in response to the French Revolution and the impressive holdings of American modern art — Georgia O’Keeffe’s “The Lawrence Tree” (1929) captures the quintessence of a starry summer night. —BS

Travel time from Midtown NYC: 3 hr by bus; 2 hr by car

The Big Duck

The Big Duck (photo by Allison Meier/Hyperallergic)

When: Sunday–Friday, 10am–5pm; Saturday, 10am–3pm (free)
Where: 1012 Flanders Road/Route 24 (Flanders, New York)

If you’re on your way to Montauk, Sag Harbor, or the Hamptons — or simply want to drive through Long Island — definitely stop in Flanders, where a giant White Pekin duck has roosted on land since 1937. The simply named Big Duck is an impressive sculptural feat, with a framework consisting of plastered-over wood and chicken wire that’s been glued and stapled together, no nails involved. Its innards take the form of a gift shop filled with all things waterfowl-related. You’ll find the bird on Big Duck Ranch, home to a museum dedicated to the history of Long Island duck farming. It’ll be particularly festive this weekend, decorated for the first time ever to celebrate the Fourth of July. —CV

Travel time from Midtown NYC: 1 hr 30 min by car

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With contributions by Allison Meier, Ben Sutton, Hrag Vartanian, Claire Voon, Elisa Wouk Almino

Correction: This article previously misstated that Dan Flavin’s works are neon, not fluorescent light. We regret the error. It has been fixed.

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