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Join us for a conversation between our host Kelly Regan and Alexis Lipsitz-Flippin, editor of Frommer's Great Escapes from New York City Without Wheels and hear about some great escapes city-dwellers can get to and enjoy without needing a car or a week of vacation. Two hours or less of travel time from NYC can take you to: a fun-for-foodies visit to the Culinary Institute of America in historic Hyde Park, a romantic retreat in a turreted castle on the Hudson, silent simplicity in a monastery as well as surfing, skydiving, and racecar driving (where you might spot Paul Newman!). Alexis and Kelly give you a sampling of the big fun right outside of the Big Apple.

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Top Tips from This Podcast

See transcript below for links to more information.

  • Transit Hubs: Penn Station, Grand Central, Port Authority, Long Island Rail Road
  • Hiking: Shawangunk Mountains, New Pauls at Lake Minnewaska State Park
  • Cooking Classes: The Culinary Institute of America
  • Historical Attractions: Franklin Roosevelt's Home and Eleanor Roosevelt's Home
  • Where to Stay: The Inn at National Hall
  • Spa Retreat: Gurney's Inn
  • Surfing Lessons: Long Beach, New York
  • Skydiving: Gardner, New York
  • Pet-friendly train: Metro North
  • When to Go: end of March through May; mid September through November

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

Announcer: Welcome to the frommers.com travel podcast. For more information on planning your trip to any one of thousands of destinations, please visit us at www.frommers.com.
Kelly Regan: Hi, and welcome to All Things Travel. I'm Kelly Regan, editorial director of the Frommer's Travel Guide. I'll be your host.

My guest today is Alexis Lipsitz-Flippin, a senior editor with Frommer's, and the editor of our new book, "Great Escapes from New York City -- Without Wheels!", which is in bookstores now. She's here to talk about getting out of town. Alexis, welcome.

Alexis Lipsitz-Flippin: Thank you!
Kelly: So, the title of this book is more or less self-explanatory, but can you give a brief explanation of the book's content, and how the author's tackling the subject?
Alexis: Well, because New York City is one of the world's great walking cities, it made perfect sense that people would not have cars, and would not need cars, and would want to get out of the city every now and then. And as the need arose, mass transit grew, and we have three of the largest mass -- transit hubs in the world right in the city, getting people in and out of the city who don't have cars.
Kelly: Meaning Penn Station.
Alexis: Penn Station.
Kelly: Grand Central.
Alexis: Grand Central.
Kelly: And Port Authority.
Alexis: And Port Authority, which handles busses only. So it's been a natural progression of -- you want to get out of the city, you want to get to a rural retreat, you want to get to a hotel in the country, you want to hike the Shawangunk Mountains, you want to surf -- any kind of outdoor you can reach from New York City within two hours.
Kelly: OK. So these trips are all essentially within a two-hour trip of New York City, either on the train or by bus.
Alexis: Yes.
Kelly: OK. Well, the chapters in the book are organized thematically, if I recall. There are titles like "Food and Wine Adventures," "Romantic Escapes," "Spas and Spiritual Retreats." Can you give us a few examples of what your favorite trips are that were in the book?
Alexis: Sure. I think, with "Food and Wine," we have a lot of foodies who live in the city. Right outside the city -- under an hour, in Hyde Park -- is The Culinary Institute of America, which has trained some of the city's best chefs, if not the country's best chefs. Anybody can make a reservation and dine in one of the five restaurants at the Culinary Institute.
Kelly: There are five?
Alexis: There are five restaurants. Three of them are rather more formal than the other two. There's a classic French, a Tuscan, a New American, and then a couple of casual restaurants, and these are open to the public. You can also take classes there, if you want to take hands-on classes on cooking, different techniques for cooking --
Kelly: That's a great idea.
Alexis: It's a great idea. And Hyde Park, too. One other thing we do in this book is we include other things to do while you're in the area. Other things to do that you can get to without a car. And Hyde Park has a lot of great attractions, especially if you're a history buff.
Kelly: Well, for Franklin Roosevelt's home.
Alexis: Franklin Roosevelt's home.
Kelly: Val-Kill.
Alexis: Val-Kill, which is Eleanor Roosevelt's home. You've got lots of big, historic mansions in the area. So it's a very rich trip to make, and it's just an hour away.
Kelly: Sure. Now, what are some of the romantic escapes? Because I'm curious about that.
Alexis: And you'd be curious because...? [laughter]
Kelly: Because I'm getting married.
Alexis: Congratulations!
Kelly: Thank you. So tell me some places I should go.
Alexis: There are some amazing, amazing hotels and inns, really one-stop destinations, if you want -- which is really the idea of the romantic escape, is going someplace and not really spending all your day going from one attraction to another. It's really about being there with your loved one. There are some beautiful places. The Inn at National Hall in Connecticut is a fabulous place. The Clintons have stayed there.
Kelly: Oh, wow.
Alexis: It has every amenity you could possibly want. You can stay in a castle.
Kelly: Where's that?
Alexis: Castle on the Hudson is right up the Hudson. It's even almost -- some of the turreted rooms at the top, you can almost look out and see New York City.
Kelly: Wow.
Alexis: It's one of the small luxury hotels of the world.
Kelly: OK. Is that in Rhinebeck?
Alexis: Yes, near there.
Kelly: And how about the spas and spiritual retreats? I actually am very interested in this as well. I like the idea of escaping the hustle and bustle of the city and going somewhere to completely decompress, so what are some of the places that are included there?
Alexis: There are some really amazing places. Again, you can go high-end if you like. You can go down to the most bare-bones types of retreats. If you want to go to a monastery, there's a monastery about an hour away where you're not supposed to talk.
Kelly: I'm not sure that would work for me.
Alexis: That might not work for you.

[laughter]

Then you can go to Gurney's, which has been there for a good century. They have really upgraded their rooms and their services, so it's really going toward a real luxury spa experience.
Kelly: OK. Now, you also mentioned the outdoor adventures that you can do, and I'm extremely interested to hear more about surfing. Where nearby New York City will you be surfing?
Alexis: Really, you can get there in an hour, an hour and a half. It's in Long Beach.
Kelly: In New Jersey?
Alexis: No, Long Beach, New York.
Kelly: Long Beach, New York. OK.
Alexis: Long Beach, New York, which is a very nice beach.
Kelly: I'm thinking of Long Beach Island on the Jersey shore.
Alexis: No, this is Long Beach. It's called Surf to Live, and you can take lessons there in the morning, in the afternoon. It's a wonderful way to learn how to do just the basics of surfing, if you've ever wanted to do that. You can also, within two hours from New York City, learn how to skydive.
Kelly: Skydiving! Is that in the Catskills?
Alexis: In Gardner, New York.
Kelly: OK.
Alexis: You basically -- it's about two hours from New York, but then you get one full minute of a freefall.
Kelly: [laughter] And that may be one minute too many.
Alexis: For some people. And then if you've blanked out the whole experience, you get a video.
Kelly: Oh, to relive the terror.
Alexis: The terrifying minute of free fall. You could, this is something I had no idea was this close, is the Skip Barber Racing School.
Kelly: Wow.
Alexis: There are a number of branches in the country, but this one is in Lakeville, CT.
Kelly: Oh, I know Lakeville. That's the racetrack that Paul Newman is often seen at.
Alexis: Yes, it is, but Paul Newman probably doesn't have to pay for the class that you do.
Kelly: [laughter] I imagine that he could get a free pass.
Alexis: He might get a free pass.
Kelly: I think he might get a free pass.
Alexis: He's elderly.
Kelly: [laughter] He shouldn't be driving that fast.
Alexis: No, but he does. You can take, he probably takes the racing classes, but you can take a racing class, or you can take, basically, a very good defensive driving class.
Kelly: Oh, I would imagine it would be a very good defensive driving class.
Alexis: Very good. [laughter] A very poor defensive driving class.
Kelly: Well you know the book also features several escapes for families and I'm wondering what the advantages and disadvantages are to families traveling without a car. For example, being on a train might be wonderful because the kids can get up and walk around.

You know, there's the scenery kind of whooshing by, they can play games, and they're just a little more mobile. But if kids aren't feeling well, or if they're a little cranky it might limit the options you have, traveling without a car, to change your schedule or your itinerary.
Alexis: All that is true, but again, we're talking about an hour or two outside the city and all of these things you can just turn around and get right back on a bus or the train and get to the city if you need to. But with most kids, trains and buses are a wonderful way to travel and they get to get up and move around and they're not stuck.
Kelly: Right.
Alexis: The parents, I think have more control over what their children are doing, because they're not worried about the traffic and driving and making sure the kids are sitting down.
Kelly: Right.
Alexis: They also -- I mean, they can do, if they don't want to be monitoring the kids all of the time -- they can be reading and thinking about the trip as well.
Kelly: Right, right.
Alexis: Worrying about getting in and out of the city, particularly on a weekend, the afternoon.
Kelly: Where everyone else is thinking the exact same thing.
Alexis: Is a very stressful thing and it can be stressful for the whole family.
Kelly: And actually, in the case of taking the train, your schedule is much more reliable taking the train, in terms of the timing, then it would be not knowing if you'd end up in the car for one hour or four hours, depending on the traffic.
Alexis: Exactly. I mean, the trains generally run on time. So you can pretty much know when you're going to leave and when you're going to arrive.
Kelly: So, you know, you're someone who's been a long time New Yorker. You've lived in the city for a very long time. What's your favorite great escape from New York without wheels?
Alexis: I have several. I love the beach. I love getting out to, taking the Long Island Railroad directly out to a place like East Hampton or Penset and getting right off the train and you're just mere blocks from the beach.
Kelly: Really.
Alexis: Yes. I also, a particular place we have mentioned in the book is the Mohawk Mountain.
Kelly: The Mohawk Mountain House up in New Pauls.
Alexis: Which is a fabulous place. It's really is like going back in time. You feel like you're in another era. There's no televisions in the room. If you're a television junkie, they do have one down in the lobby.
Kelly: [laughter] If you can't get away from it.
Alexis: If you can't stand it, but it really has everything you want. You can sit on the porch and drink lemonade. It has every sport available. You can ski in the winter, ice skate in the beautiful pavilion which is out in the woods. You can hike and play tennis and golf in the summertime.
Kelly: And one of my favorite places to hike actually is in New Pauls at Lake Minnewaska State Park.
Alexis: Beautiful area.
Kelly: Beautiful, beautiful carriage trails, carriage paths that you can hike and it's also a great mountain biking spot as well. I've gone mountain biking there before.
Alexis: Sounds wonderful.
Kelly: Which is great.
Alexis: And all of this, again, Mohawk will pick you up at the bus station and take you to your room and drop you off when you leave at the end of your trip.
Kelly: So you don't have to deal with the hassle of getting from the station to the hotel and worrying about things like that?
Alexis: No.
Kelly: That's great.
Alexis: It's a wonderful place. I really highly recommend it.
Kelly: That's great. So do you have a place that you're going next?
Alexis: Where I'm going next? Well, with a baby in tow, we'll see. I think I would love to try the train with the baby and get out to the beach. I think it would be a perfect trip.
Kelly: Sounds great.
Alexis: And I think we'll do that this summer.
Kelly: That's great, and your dog is going to love the beach too.
Alexis: The dog loves it. Actually, we do mention in a couple of instances dog-friendly places and the fact that Metro North is dog-friendly.
Kelly: Really.
Alexis: Metro North, you can take your pets on. Generally, they like a pet in a carrier or on a very controlled leash. You can have it as long as it doesn't sit on a seat or bother anybody else or bark or whatever. But it's a pet-friendly, a dog-friendly train.
Kelly: That's great. Well that's probably all the time we have for today. I've been talking with Alexis Lipsitz-Flippin, senior editor here at Frommer's and editor of the book, "Great Escapes from New York City without Wheels," which is on sale now. Join us next week for another episode of All Things Travel.

[background music]

Alexis, thanks for being here.
Alexis: Thank you.
Kelly: Good as always to talk to you. I'm Kelly Regan, and we'll talk again soon.
Announcer: This podcast is a production of Fromers.com. For more information on planning your trip or to hear about the latest travel news and deals visit us on the web at www.Frommers.com and be sure to email us at editor@frommermedia.com with any comments or suggestions.


Transcription by CastingWords