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Family weekend getaways from NYC

These family weekend getaways from NYC offer cool activities for every age

Photograph: Shutterstock

Take one of these spectacular family weekend getaways to explore, unwind and make awesome family memories! These cool trips offer visits to some of the prettiest beaches in the Northeast, plus the opportunity to explore sweet kids' museums, aquariums, mini golf parks and more. Some hotels may even have great swimming pools for kids and fun playgrounds nearby!

RECOMMENDED: The best family vacations from NYC

Family weekend getaways

Cape Cod, Massachusetts

Cape Cod, Massachusetts

Cape Cod is a treat in itself, for its gorgeous beaches, salty air and seafood shacks. But if your family loves bicycling or is obsessed with whales (or both!), there’s hardly a better place on earth to visit. Long before the High Line, the 22-mile bike path known as the Cape Cod Rail Trail (508-896-3491, www.mass.gov) came into being. Running along a former railroad track that used to extend all the way to Provincetown, it runs from Dennis to the town of Wellfleet. Parking areas dot the paved railbed, so you can go as far as you like in either direction—and hit the beach along the way if you do a little advance planning. North of the Rail Trail, between Wellfleet and Provincetown, beach options expand. Families with young children may prefer to stick to the bay side, where water is warmer and there’s no undertow, but oceanside strands like Head of the Meadow or Marconi—both part of the Cape Cod National Seashore (508-771-2144, nps.gov/caco)—are breathtaking. So are the whales just beyond them, who arrive from warmer climes to feed in the area’s teeming waters from April through the end of October. Whale Watch Dolphin Fleet (800-826-9300, whalewatch.com), in Provincetown, offers excursions during those months that more often than not encounter the revered cetaceans, who seem to love this corner of the world as much as we do.

EAT: Quintessential roadside seafood shack Arnold’s in Eastham, MA (508-255-2575, arnoldsrestaurant.com), is known for its lobster rolls and fried clams and scallops.

STAY: Situated right on the Rail Trail, Midway Motel in Eastham, MA (508-255-3117, midwaymotel.com) has a secluded feel and cost-saving packages—including one with whale watching. 

TRAVEL TIME: 5hrs and 30min by car

Narragansett, Rhode Island

Narragansett, Rhode Island

There’s little not to love about a place with a choice of three beaches, a lighthouse and an authentic fishing village. The expansive Narragansett Town Beach (narragansettri.gov) offers classic North Atlantic waves, perfect for surfing and boogie boarding. Families with younger kids may prefer Roger W. Wheeler State Beach (riparks.com) for its invitingly calm waters and newly redone playground and bathhouse. Don’t miss a visit to Galilee, at the western end of the beach; the small fishing village has an active marina, fish markets and lots of charm. The famed Point Judith Lighthouse (newenglandlighthouses.net/point-judith), which has saved many a ship, is worth a visit for its striking, octagonal beauty. Take a short excursion to Westerly for another historic landmark: the Flying Horse Carousel. The 1876 ride is one of the oldest of its kind still in operation; its horses, with real horsehair manes and tails and leather saddles, are suspended from the ceiling with chains, giving the rider the sensation of flying.

EAT: Burgers, fresh seafood and tropical drinks keep the village of Galilee’s Buster Krab’s (401-284-0218, busterkrabs.com) hopping in the summer. 

STAY: The family-run Anchor Motel (401-792-8550, theanchormotel.com), located right across from Scarborough Beach, is modest but cheerful.

TRAVEL TIME: 4hrs and 30min by car

Montauk, New York

Montauk, New York

Some vacations need to embody surfer culture’s ethos—waves, surfing, eating, sun and more waves. One that does is Montauk, the South Fork town at the tip of Long Island that’s considered one of the top surfing spots on the East Coast. Unlike in the neighboring Hamptons, the scene is better suited to explorers than scenesters, in part because of its actual beach access, six state parks and its authentic identity as a year-round fishing village. Book the kids a session of CoreysWave’s Kids Surfing Academy (516-639-4879, coreyswave.com) or if they prefer boating, head to Puff N Putt (631-668-4473, puffnputt.com) on Lake Fort, where you can rent everything from a kayak to a sailboat or play mini-golf. But don’t miss the chance to explore Montauk Point State Park (631-668-3781, nysparks.com/parks/61). Awaiting are the 1796, still-active Montauk Point Lighthouse (631-668-2544, montauklighthouse.com), with a museum inside; meandering wooded trails; and the chance to do some surf fishing, picnicking and, yes—more surfing.

EAT: Among the standouts at the seaside Inlet Seafood Restaurant (631-668-4272, inletseafood.com) are the fish entrées, sushi, lobster rolls and clam chowder.

STAY: The cozy Ocean Resort Inn (631-668-2300, oceanresortinn.comsituated right on the Atlantic, is just a short walk from downtown.

TRAVEL TIME: 3hrs and 45min by car

Annapolis, MD

Annapolis, MD

There’s plenty for all ages here in Annapolis! Its historic downtown is gorgeous (cobblestone streets) and features a mix of historic bed and breakfasts, shopping and beautiful landmarks like the U.S. Naval Academy. Hit up the Naval Academy Museum and Jean-Paul Jones’ Crypt for a dose of history, then visit the Annapolis Maritime Museum to learn about aquatic life and Annapolis’ role in the oyster industry. There’s also a newly refurbished downtown dock that’s always filled with impressive boats.

EAT: For amazing chowder and lobster rolls, hit up Mason’s Famous Lobsters. Picky eaters? Head to Pip’s Dock Street Dogs for a loaded bun.

STAY: The Holiday Inn Express & Suites is close to downtown and sits at a little over $100 per night. There’s also complimentary breakfast!

TRAVEL TIME: 4hrs by car

Mystic, Connecticut

Mystic, Connecticut

Awaiting the maritime-obsessed in seaside Mystic, Connecticut, is the huge Mystic Seaport (860-572-0711, mysticseaport.org), a 19-acre living history attraction where families can explore a re-created 19th-century village filled with “working” shops (an oyster house, a ship carver); an authentic whaling ship; and such offerings as Australia Beach, where educators teach kids about the marine creatures at the water;s edge, and the Discovery Barn, where budding seafarers tie nautical knots and learn communication techniques like telegraphic semaphore flags. Luckily for kids, the town’s also home to the Mystic Aquarium (860-572-5955, mysticaquarium.org), featuring New England’s only beluga whales; two fur seals, Jack and Sam, who arrived from the New York Aquarium right after Hurricane Sandy (and will probably stay there); a Titanic exhibit; and a reptile encounter exhibit that launched in spring 2013. Don’t forget to check out the Mystic Bridge Historic district, where great architecture, shops, ice cream parlours and a bridge to West 
Main Street await.

EAT: Invoke the ’80s film of the same name by indulging in the pies of the real-life, notoriously family-friendly Mystic Pizza (860-536-3700, mysticpizza.com).

STAY: The lovely Whaler’s Inn (860-536-1506, whalersinnmystic.com) is situated near all the town’s attractions, and offers a gratis Continental breakfast and discounted aquarium tickets.

TRAVEL TIME: 3hrs and 40min by car

Long Beach, NY

Long Beach, NY

Those that spend a weekend at this “City by the Sea” won’t regret it. There are plenty of fun parades and festivals throughout the summer, plus plenty of local parks and playgrounds for free fun. There's also the opportunity for bike rentals on the local boardwalk (they offer cruisers, mountain bikes, baby seats, helmets, locks and more). Be warned: The beach does have a $15 fee per person for non pass holders. 

EAT: There are plenty of great options. Take your pick!

STAY: To keep things cost effective, we recommend the Best Western Mill River Manor, which will run you about $122 per room. There's also an outdoor pool!

TRAVEL TIME: 2hrs and 10min by car

Cooperstown, New York

Cooperstown, New York

Few sports inspire the kind of devotion baseball does, which is why the bucolic village of Cooperstown, New York, home to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum (888-425-5633, baseballhall.org), is on the national map. Thanks to the museum’s artifacts collection (gloves, uniforms, baseball cards), Hall of Plaques and the interactive Sandlot Kids section, kids will no doubt leave knowing more about the sport and its players than when they arrived. (If you’ve got younger kids in tow, prime them by reading Brothers at Bat by Audrey Vernick, the real-life story about a baseball team made up of 12 brothers.) For a change of pace, head to the nearby Farmers’ Museum (888-547-1450, farmersmuseum.org), a multifaceted paean to rural 19th-century America with a working farmstead and children’s barnyard (think baby animal petting), a mini historic village and the main barn, where this summer you can catch a show devoted to the pickup truck. At some point, strike a deal with the kids: First you’re going to the Ommegang brewery (607-544-1800, ommegang.com) for a tour and tasting (or lunch at its café), and afterward you’ll stop by Barnyard Swing Miniature Golf (607-547-8330, barnyardswing.com) for a round of summery fun.

EAT: House-made pasta and wood oven–fired pizza await at cozy Bocca Osteria (607-282-4031, boccaosteria.com).

STAY: The outdoor heated pool and fire pit make the August Lodge Cooperstown (877-528-4878, augustlodge.com) an obvious choice for families.

TRAVEL TIME: 4hrs and 45min by car

Washington, D.C.

Washington, D.C.

Politics aside, the nation’s capital is stunningly beautiful, especially when you’re seeing it for the first time. The Mall is, of course, the most iconic of destinations, and so full of attractions—the Lincoln and Washington memorials and the array of stellar Smithsonian museums—that you’ll either want to spend the day, breaking up indoor and outdoor offerings, or make time for several shorter visits. Highlights of the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum (202-633-1000, airandspace.si.edu) include The Spirit of St. Louis, the 1903 original plane flown by the Wrights; the Apollo 11 command module; and How Things Fly, a hands-on gallery with science demos and interactive exhibits. For a change of pace, head to the Sculpture Garden at the National Gallery of Art (202-737-4215, nga.gov/feature/sculpturegarden/general). Its gigantic, open-air installation of modern and contemporary sculptures makes a big impression, and sports lots of open lawn and a big fountain to boot. Given that the giant pandas closest to New York City reside in D.C., you may want to pay the excellent National Zoo (202-633-2614, nationalzoo.si.edu) a visit. Mei Xiang and Tian Tian, the female and male, respectively, can be found in the newly expanded David M. Rubenstein Family Giant Panda Habitat, designed to mimic the animals’ natural habitat. If you’re planning a trip to charming Georgetown, with its narrow streets and 18th-century architectural gems, stop by the just completed Georgetown Waterfront Park. Its gorgeous views of the historic river, super kid-friendly sprinkler feature and waterside café are conducive to some serious decompressing.

EAT: Established in 1856, Old Ebbitt Grill (202-347-4800, ebbitt.com) is brimming with charm and delicious treats like crab cakes, oyster stew and classic sandwiches.

STAY: The ideally located JW Marriott Washington D.C. (202-393-2000, marriott.com/washingtonis outfitted with a pool: perfect for the kids after a day of sightseeing.

TRAVEL TIME: 4hrs and 20min by car

Bretton Woods, New Hampshire

Bretton Woods, New Hampshire

Few resorts situated amid spectacular scenery are equally desirable in summer and winter but the Omni Mount Washington Resort (603-278-1000, omnihotels.com/mountwashington) is one of them. In warmer months, families staying at any of the resort’s properties have access to hiking, horseback or pony riding, and tennis and golf clinics—plus mountainside ATV tours and free scenic tours via ski lift. Many of these activities are available as supervised kids’ programs too, if you’d rather just sit in an Adirondack chair and gaze at Mt. Washington. Come winter, a free shuttle will take you to the lauded Bretton Woods ski resort, just two minutes up the road (skiing is free with any stay). A boast-worthy bonus: Young visitors can experience the thrill of swimming outdoors amid a snow-covered landscape thanks to an outdoor pool that’s heated year-round. If the allure of Mt. Washington won’t let go, consider taking the cog railway (603-278-5404, thecog.com) up rather than driving. Launched in 1869, the steep mountainside ride can be made in a steam locomotive or the new biodiesel train Wajo Nanatasi. You’ll have an hour to enjoy the stunning views, visit a museum and have a bite to eat before heading back down.

EAT: Munroe’s Family Restaurant (603-846-5542), in Twin Mountains, NH, is a beloved local diner that serves hearty breakfast and lunch fare. 

STAY: The Omni Mount Washington Hotel is the resort’s crown jewel, but families can also choose the Lodge at Bretton Woods.

TRAVEL TIME: 7 hours by car

Amherst & Williamstown, Massachusetts

Amherst & Williamstown, Massachusetts

The verdant Berkshires and neighboring Pioneer Valley in western Massachusetts are appealingly sleepy, to be sure, but if you’ve got a gang of culture vultures, you’ll find it’s brimming with artistic gems too. The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art (418-658-1100, picturebookart.org) in Amherst, which opened in 2002, mounts regular shows spotlighting the art of picture books—including those by the iconic children’s book maestro and cofounder, Eric Carle, of course; the summer show not to miss, opening June 22, is “Seriously Silly: A Decade of Art and Whimsy by Mo Willems.” The contemporary art scene is alive and well too, in no small part because of the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (413-662-2111, massmoca.org), a world-class museum in North Adams inhabiting a cluster of converted, 18th-century brick factory buildings. The stunning museum mounts eclectic shows, one of which is designed especially for kids in a gallery-cum-studio called Kidspace; children can drop in and make art there free of charge on weekends, and every day of the summer. While you’re in the area, pay a visit to Old Sturbridge Village (508-347-3362, osv.org), New England’s answer to Virginia’s Williamsburg. The outdoor museum re-creates an early 19th-century town with authentic shops like blacksmiths and bakeries, complete with costumed thespians—er, interpreters—glowing fires and baking bread.

EAT: Locals adore Coyote Flaco (413-458 4240, mycoyoteflaco.com/williamstownma) for its step-above Mexican fare and emphasis on fresh ingredients.

STAY: Friendly owners and reasonable prices win 
Maple Terrace Motel, in Williamstown (413-458-9677, mapleterrace.com)

TRAVEL TIME: 4hrs and 15min by car

Poughkeepsie, New York

Poughkeepsie, New York

When the urge to cultivate your inner farmer hits, visit Sprout Creek, a 200-acre dairy, goat and award-winning cheese farm north of the city, in Duchess County. The not-for-profit educational farm not only invites families to relax while tromping around and learning about the hay-scented land but also the chance to stay overnight in its tidy, three-bedroom cottage with a full kitchen and verdant views; a cheese sampler garnishes weekend or longer stays. During the day, kids may encounter Fernando, a miniature donkey, and free-ranging sheep, who often wander in the pasture together when not in the barn, plus petulant cats, scattered chickens and buoyant goats, among other animals. (Careful: A lamb might head-butt you!) One-off Saturday programs and class series are offered throughout the year except during the summer months, when day camp is in session. If you want to go rustic all weekend and cook at the cottage, don’t pack too much food, because the on-site farmers’ market sells local ice cream, milk, cheese (try Sprout Creek’s Ouray or Toussaint), sausage, eggs, cookies and bread. Return home refreshed and smelling of something you rarely find in the city: the farm.

EAT: The Daily Planet (845-452-0110, dailyplanetdiner.com), a 1950s-themed diner, offers the likes of the Fonz Burger, mac and cheese, pasta, soups and wraps.

STAY: The bucolic Sprout Creek Farm (845-485-8438, sproutcreekfarm.org)

TRAVEL TIME: 2hrs and 50min by car

Baltimore, Maryland

Baltimore, Maryland

Though often bypassed by travelers on the way to D.C., the city of Baltimore has come into its own as a worthy destination, especially given the renaissance of its Inner Harbor downtown. Foremost there’s the top-notch National Aquarium (410-576-3800,aqua.org), whose new “Blacktip Reef” exhibit opens on July 10. The 260,000-gallon re-creation of an Indo-Pacific coral reef brings the ocean-obsessed closer than ever to such majestic marine life as stingrays, a giant sea turtle and, of course, blacktip reef sharks. It joins permanent exhibits “Jellies Invasion” and “Shark Alley,” plus a dolphin show. At the B&O Railroad Museum (410-752-2490, borail.org), about a mile due west, kids (and probably their parents) will learn that Baltimore is where the first commercial mile of railroad track in the U.S. was laid; they’ll also get to explore it via a 20-minute ride on an actual train, the Mile One Express. Three small, on-site amusement rides make the museum seem like a two-for-one deal. Maritime lore lovers won’t want to miss the hour-long Urban Pirates Family Adventure (410-327-8378, urbanpirates.com), a swashbuckler-themed cruise in Baltimore Inner Harbor, where they can dress up like pirates, learn sea chanteys and spray water cannons.

EAT: Known for its excellent raw bar and crab cakes, the casual Faidley Seafood (410-727-4898, faidleyscrabcakes.comdowntown is a favorite among locals and in-the-know visitors alike.

STAY: Located in the original B&O headquarters, the Monaco Baltimore (443-692-6170, monaco-baltimore.com) has large rooms and an extremely 
pet-friendly policy. 

TRAVEL TIME: 3hrs and 40min by car

More fun activities for kids

Outdoor activities for kids in New York City

There are plenty of outdoor activities for kids in New York City—many you'll even love doing as a family! When you're not busy cuddled up with our favorite family movies on Netflix and our list of the best kids movies (come on—it's time to head outside!), you'll love exploring the coolest family attractions and the other amazing outdoor activities this amazing city has to offer. 

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By: Allie Early