The Hamptons are hell. Or at least, at the height of summer, the handful of beach towns that comprise this go-to New York getaway can be pretty hellish – with sardine-packed train rides, egregiously overpriced hotels, crowded (to the point of violating some sort of safety code) beach bars and restaurants with an average three-hour wait time.

While there is a right way to do The Hamptons, overpaying your way there during the peak months of July and August is not it. We’re pained to see so many make this mistake, when New York and its neighbouring states have a plethora of less-trodden places perfect for a summer weekend away.

We’ve got you covered with our list of NYC getaways that are #NotTheHamptons.

1. Hudson

Best for: A cultural infusion

A decidedly different experience from the beach parties and designer shopping of the Hamptons, Hudson has become a low-key darling of the New York art scene, transforming itself in recent years into a charming hipster town filled with galleries, concept shops and sculpture parks.

TO STAY: The Rivertown Lodge, an effortlessly cool 27-room hotel with a minimalist, mid-century aesthetic. Read a book with a glass of wine in the open-plan library/lobby, grab dinner in the hotel’s high-end Tavern restaurant or take one of the Papillionaire bicycles out for a spin around town. Don’t forget to hit the communal pantry for some snacks on your way up to bed.

TO EAT: Fish & Game, a destination in itself for New York foodies with dishes like roasted oysters and braised lamb perfectly suited to its rustic setting. Be sure to dedicate one evening to the full tasting menu here. Other notable spots include Hudson Food Studio (a Vietnamese inspired menu using local ingredients), Talbott & Arding (Hudson’s Ottolenghi equivalent) and Café Moto (a combination of a motorcycle and coffee shop).

TO DO: Art, art and more art. You can spend a day perusing Warren Street (the main thoroughfare), stopping at a number of charming independent galleries and antique shops including the Carrie Haddad Gallery and 3FortySeven. Just a quick drive from town, The Fields at Omi provides a smaller, more manageable alternative to Storm King, while the Basilica Hudson, a former steel foundry that now functions as an arts centre, hosts a year-round program of multimedia shows.

Distance from NYC: 3 hours by car | 2 hours by train from Grand Central to Hudson

2. Shelter Island

Best for: a Hamptons-adjacent experience

About as close to the Hamptons as you can get, both geographically and in spirit, Shelter Island offers similar beaches, parties and people watching, but with a slightly more laid-back vibe. As with all great things, the increasing popularity of Shelter Island means that its starting to become as oversubscribed as the Hamptons, so check it out sooner rather than later and avoid US bank holiday weekends.

TO STAY: The Chequit, if you want a more quiet, sophisticated alternative to the party atmosphere at Andre Balazs’s Sunset Beach. The old-school Americana hotel – dappled with pastel pinks and blues – feels straight out of The Notebook, with sunset drinks served nightly in the lobby and bicycles on hand to wheel down to the beach.

TO EAT: Vine Street Café for a simple yet superb dinner. Enjoy dishes like spring pea soup, moules frites and lobster-pot pie in the minimalist dining room (think white tablecloths, candles and wood-beamed ceilings). For breakfast, grab a table outside at Marie Eiffel Market, and enjoy their just-baked pastries, raw juice and coffee. For a casual lunch or dinner, head over to Salt for some wings, tacos and lobster rolls in the marina.

TO DO: The scene at Sunset Beach. Due to its west-facing views, the restaurant at this hotel is the place to be on summer weekends. Let a late lunch roll into evening cocktails and even early dinner and dancing. With visiting DJs from Ibiza and the south of France and a lively crowd to boot, this is the place to be.

Distance from NYC: 3 hours by car (route includes a short ferry ride) | 2.5 hours by train from Penn Station to Greenport, plus a 10-minute ferry ride.

3. Newport, Rhode Island

Best for: feeling like American royalty

A little further afield in Rhode Island, the beach town of Newport captures the old-school glamour of the US, playing host to yacht races, Vanderbilt mansions (plural) and Jackie O’s childhood home. Yes, that also means it attracts quite a lot of snap-happy tourists, so avoid any major weekends. Simply pack your cat-eye sunglasses, silk headscarf and get ready to feel transported back in time.

TO STAY: Castle Hill Inn if you’re willing to spend big for a Gilded Age experience. The 40-acre estate offers accommodation ranging from bay-view rooms in the onsite Agassiz Mansion to beach cottages complete with French windows and fireplaces. Make use of the complimentary Saturday morning yoga sessions, Sunday evening bonfires and daily afternoon tea with board games.

TO EAT: Clarke Cooke House, which fills up nightly in the summer and even has its own Boom Boom Room in the basement for post-dinner dancing (perfect after a few martinis). Their large traditional menu expands with a sushi offering in the summer, making this spot an all-around people pleaser. For brunch, head to White Horse Tavern, where Jackie O loved to come and read as a teenager, and stop by Mission for killer burgers.

TO DO: A mansion crawl (yes, really) touring the palatial homes scattered across Newport that are open to the public. Must visits include The Breakers (built by the Vanderbilts), The Elms (created for a wealthy coal baron as a summer “cottage”), Rosecliff (modelled on Versailles), Chepstow (an Italian-style villa), Beechwood (Renaissance revival) and Rough Point (another Vanderbilt mansion thrown in for good measure). Cap off your day with the Cliff Walk, an ocean path that’s perfect for sunset views.

Distance from NYC: 3.5 hours by car | 3 hours by train from Penn Station to Providence, plus a 30-minute taxi.

4. Hunter

Best for: no-frills fun

At the base of Hunter Mountain, the second highest peak in the Catskills, the town of Hunter is the perfect destination for nature lovers and adrenaline junkies. Predominantly known for its excellent winter skiing, Hunter flies under the radar in the summer, despite offering glorious opportunities to hike, mountain bike and zip-line to your heart’s content. With its proximity to nearby towns like Woodstock and Phoenicia, you could also make a week’s trip exploring the entire Catskills region.

TO STAY: Scribner’s Lodge, a self-described “eclectic mountain lodge” that’s taken a modern spin on the old-school log cabin experience. With a distinctly hippie vibe, the hotel’s offbeat rooms are adorned with vintage rugs, dark maple floors and working fireplaces, while guests can also enjoy organised activities including yoga, fly-fishing and guided meditation.

TO EAT: The Prospect, Scribner’s onsite restaurant which has received rave reviews for its playful interpretation of mountain cuisine and impressive bar menu (think burnt maple old fashioneds). If you’re willing to go for a drive, hits in neighbouring towns include the Phoenicia Diner and Cucina for comfort food, while Brushland Eating House and Deer Mountain Inn offer more sophisticated menus.

TO DO: A range of activities in Hunter Mountain, including zip-lining, hiking and chairlift “sky rides”. If you’re into chasing waterfalls, the Kaaterskills Falls hike is particularly popular due to its famous, two-part fall. Over in Phoenicia, you can also rent a tube and ride down the Esopus River.

5. Bedford

Best for: detoxing and retoxing

The closest in proximity to New York City on this list, Bedford is ideal for those with just 36 hours or so to spare. But don’t expect to feel short-changed; this peaceful little town has as much to offer as the others in our selection, including luxury boutique hotels, high-end dining and nature walks. A weekend in Bedford can either be spent eating organic food, hiking and practicing yoga, or indulging in five-course meals and lazy afternoons drinking red wine. Why not do both?

TO STAY: The Bedford Post Inn, Richard Gere’s eight-bedroom luxury inn that feels more like an American tycoon’s country house than a hotel. The cosy yet elegant rooms range from a petite queen to a deluxe California king complete with fireplace, Carrara marble bathroom and an antique claw-foot tub. Guests can also enjoy two restaurants serving up organic seasonal produce, as well as the hotel’s sun-drenched yoga loft, offering complimentary classes and wellness talks throughout the week.

TO EAT: The Inn at Pound Ridge brings the famed cuisine of chef Jean Georges to a rustic former residence. Enjoy high-end comfort food (hits include burrata with rhubarb compote, black-truffle pizza and spring mushroom tagliatelle) beneath the exposed wood-beamed ceilings and warm lighting. For a more lively, low-key experience, head to Truck for mean margaritas and tacos. Don’t forget to stop in at Plum Plums Cheese, a quaint cheese shop in Pound Ridge that’s developed a cult following for its grilled cheese sandwich.

TO DO: Detoxing activities such as a hike across the Pound Ridge Reservation or a class at Katonah Yoga, founded by Egyption-born yoga guru Nevine Michaan. For a more cerebral weekend, check out the Katonah Museum of Art and pick up some reading material at the charming little book store Booksy Galore. Finish your day with an indie film or documentary at the Jacob Burns Film Centre, an arthouse cinema in nearby Pleasantville.

Distance from NYC: 1.5 hours by car | 1 hour by train from Grand Central to Bedford Hills

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