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As the most populous city in the United States, New York has plenty to offer in terms of first-class restaurants, world-famous museums and far-out fashions. But being in the city that never sleeps can be exhausting. For visitors and locals who want to enjoy a different pace of life, here are a few ways to get away from the Big Apple in three hours or less.

By bike
Slightly more than 20 miles southeast from midtown Manhattan is Rockaway Beach in the borough of Queens – a stretch of land once called the “Irish Riviera” thanks to its large Irish population. With 170 acres of sand, it is the largest urban beach in the country.

In October 2012, Hurricane Sandy hit the coastal neighbourhood hard, destroying much of the 5.5-mile wooden boardwalk, but the federal government has pledged $300 million to repair the damage and volunteer efforts have cleaned up much of the surrounding area.

As a testament to the neighbourhood’s strength, the concession stands that were located on the concrete part of the boardwalk will reopen this summer along with a new wine bar called Sarya’s. Known as the Rockaway Beach Club, the collection of stands serves up everything from Venezuelan street food to classic boardwalk fare like ice cream and lobster rolls.

Rent a cruiser from Ride Brooklyn in Park Slope off Bergen Avenue and take nearby Flatbush Avenue to Prospect Park West until hitting Ocean Parkway (one of the country’s very first bike roads). Take Emmons Road to Flatbush Avenue which becomes the Marine Parkway Bridge (which has a small lane for cyclists and pedestrians). Ride east to Rockaway Park and the beach. Burned out on biking for the day? The A line at the Rockaway subway station will shuttle you back to the city (though avoid rush hour if you want to board with the bike).  

By train
The college town of New Haven, Connecticut, often gets overshadowed by its larger New England neighbours Boston and Portland, but the town’s colonial charm and diverse restaurant scene is easily accessible via a two-hour train ride from New York.

Start with lunch at one of the many “apizza” joints around town, so called for New Haven’s thin-crust, brick-oven take on the classic pie. The unique fresh clam apizza can be found at Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana in the Wooster Square neighbourhood just east of the State Street train station.

After lunch, walk off the slices around the New Haven Green, built in 1638 as a central square for early puritan colonists and used today as a park and festival grounds. Take a peek inside the park’s Federalist-style First Church of Christ, constructed in 1814, and venture down into its crypt, the resting spot of 137 gravestones, including infamous traitor to the British Benedict Arnold’s first wife. Visitors can enjoy the church’s massive pipe organ during the 10 am Sunday service.

New Haven also has a number of art galleries and museums, thanks to the presence and influence of nearby Yale University, the third oldest university in the country. Visit the Yale University Art Gallery, which houses more than 185,000 pieces of international and American art, or the Peabody Museum of Natural History, which displays mounted apatosaurus and stegosaurus dinosaur bones in its great hall.

Take the New Haven Metro North line from Grand Central Station to New Haven State Street Station, about an hour and 45 minute trip. Once there, downtown New Haven can be traversed by foot, or a bike can be rented at Devil’s Gear Bike Shop.

By car
Just 150 miles west of Manhattan, the scenery changes from soaring skyscrapers to open farmland.

More than 31,000 Amish people call Pennsylvania’s Lancaster County home, the oldest community of its kind in the United States. The community chooses to avoid modern technologies such as gas-powered automobiles, electricity and telephones. Instead, they carry on in much the same way as when they immigrated from Europe more than 300 years ago, relying on passed-down farming techniques, horses and buggies, and large families to sustain their villages.

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