City kids are bound to believe that New York is the greatest place to be on the East Coast (and who can blame them?), but further east lies tons of fun for your family to enjoy. Take in the charm of historic towns, scope out some fantastic beaches for families and enjoy tons of outdoor activities for kids on these New England family vacations.
RECOMMENDED: Full guide to the best family vacations from NYC
Your youngsters will have a blast exploring these out-of-town spots, and you can bet these destinations have plenty of outdoor dining options, complete with super-fresh seafood. Yum!
New England family vacations
Travel time: 4 hours by car
Don’t forget to pack your boat shoes for a trip to this harbor town—after seeing all the beautiful yachts at the docks, the kids will want to get out on the high seas themselves! Sail Newport (60 Fort Adams Dr, Newport; 401-846-1983, sailnewport.org) offers youth dinghy classes for kids ages 7 and up of all experience levels, as well as rents boats for experienced families to helm themselves. If you’d rather stay on dry land, stroll along the Cliff Walk to take in the picturesque scenery (wear proper footwear, as it can get rocky or slippery in places). For parents who can’t resist checking out Newport’s historic mansions, there’s a kid-friendly audio tour at The Breakers (424 Bellevue Ave, Newport; 401-847-1000, newportmansions.org) that will ensure they’re not bored to tears—it guides them through the extravagant rooms through the eyes of fun characters.
Travel time: 5 hours 35 minutes by car
This charming waterfront city has the charm of an old fishing town, plus all the hip restaurants and shops any fun-loving family could hope for. Drop by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s childhood home to give the kids a dose of history, peruse antiques and art downtown or head for the outskirts for more environmental activities. Nature lovers will be on board for a southbound trip to the town of Cape Elizabeth to lounge at Crescent Beach or head out for kayaking, biking or boating adventures. Go see the Fort Williams’ Portland Head Light (1000 Shore Rd, Cape Elizabeth; 207-799-2661, capeelizabeth.com) where the kids can fly kits in the salty breeze along the rocky coast. Once they’ve worked up an appetite, The Lobster Shack at Two Lights (225 Two Lights Rd, Cape Elizabeth; 207-799-1677, lobstershacktwolights.com) is a must so your youngster can taste their first lobster roll—which happens to be one of the freshest and best money can buy.
Cape Cod, MA
Travel time: at least 5 hours by car
Lazy days at the beach are a must when vacationing on The Cape. Pack up the car and head to the Chatham area to Oyster Pond Beach for a relaxing environment and calm waters, or Hardings Beach where you’ll find public bathrooms, food trucks, a picnic area and nearby nature trail. Families with bigger kids may want to walk or ride bikes to avoid parking fees. If you’ve thought about making a trip to Cape Cod, consider skipping the outrageous traffic altogether and hop the ferry to gorgeous Martha’s Vineyard. Sure, getting there is still a hike, but the island is well worth the journey for its New England charm. Don’t forget to hit up the Woods Hole Science Aquarium (166 Water St, Falmouth; 508-495-2001, aquarium.nefsc.noaa.gov), where youngsters can get up-close with lobsters, horseshoe crabs, starfish and more inhabitants of Northeast waters.
Block Island, RI
Travel time: At least 5 hours 30 minutes by car and ferry
Youngsters can imagine they’re pirates who have landed on their very own island when they visit Block Island. The tiny destination rises from the Atlantic, about 14 miles east of Montauk Point in Long Island. Tykes who can’t get enough of the water will have their pick of fun activities, including sailing, kayaking and snorkeling, all of which are offered through the Block Island Maritime Institute (216 Ocean Ave; 401-284-8338, bimaritime.org). Little ones will dig treasure hunts and art projects that teach them about the ocean’s ecosystem, plus big kids can jump in on knot-tying and boat-making workshops. Free bike paths throughout the island make it easy to travel between landmarks like Ocean View Pavilion, historic lighthouses and Champlin’s Marina (80 W Side Rd, New Shoreham; 401-466-7777, champlinsresort.com), where the whole crew can keep busy with a video arcade, pool and bumper boats. Once the kids are tuckered out, Mom and Dad can enjoy a drink at the tiki bar and watch the sun set.
Travel time: 4 hours by car
NYC kids who groan at talk of going outside their urban habitat might just find a second city to love after visiting Boston. The bustling downtown area is modern and lively, but the tyke's jaws are sure to drop when you tell them how old some of the famed landmarks are along the Freedom Trail. See the metropolis from a new point of view on Boston Duck Tours (617-267-3825, bostonducktours.com), which take you around in an amphibious vehicle that rolls past the State House and Boston Common, then splashes right into the Charles River. For more far-reaching on-water adventures, look into whale watching, and make sure to round out a long day with a steaming bowl of classic New England clam chowder from Legal Sea Foods.
Travel time: 5 hours 40 minutes by car
On your way to a quiet escape in this eclectic college town, make sure to pass by a few authentic covered bridges. There are over 100 throughout the state, and the historic structures makes for a great family photo background. Once you’ve arrived, check out ECHO Leahy Center for Lake Champlain (1 College St, Burlington; 802-864-1848, echovermont.org), right on the waterfront. Get acquainted with various amphibians and reptiles in the aquarium, then treat the kids to a cone at the original Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream Shop (1281 Waterbury-Stowe Rd, Waterbury; 866-258-6877, benjerry.com)—you could even take a tour of the factory to see how the flavors get churned up. Other local highlights include the Burlington Earth Clock and North Beach, which is a fun place to splash around during the summer.
Bretton Woods, NH
Travel time: 6 hours 5 minutes by car
Outdoorsy broods will be in heaven, surrounded by the gorgeous mountains of the White Mountain National Forest in Bretton Woods. Mount Washington, the highest peak in the Northeast, is your focal point from the stunning Mount Washington Hotel (310 Mt. Washington Hotel Rd, Bretton Woods; 603-278-1000, brettonwoods.com), a resort, equipped with golf courses, a spa and the Bretton Woods Mountain Resort ski area. Kids who like to shred can ski and snowboard all winter long—plus, hit up the tubing hill to race each other down the slope. In warmer months, families keep busy swimming, playing tennis, meeting farm animals at the Bretton Woods Stables and gathering around a crackling fire pit in the evening. For brave older kids, there’s also a high-flying canopy tour and a challenging climbing wall.
Travel time: 2 hours 50 minutes by car or train
At the Mystic Aquarium (55 Coogan Blvd; 860-572-5955, mysticaquarium.org) you'll find African penguins, sea lions and beluga whales. Pirate-loving tykes get a real taste of 19th-century maritime life at the Mystic Seaport Museum (75 Greenmanville Ave; 888-973-2767, mysticseaport.org). Don't forget to check out the Charles W. Morgan, the last wooden whaling ship in the world. When tummies start growling for lunch, head to Sea Swirl (30 Williams Ave; 860-536-3452, seaswirlofmystic), a roadside burger and fries dive that also serves top-notch fried seafood, or Mystic Pizza (56 W Main St; 860-536-3700, mysticpizza.com), the eatery made famous by the 1988 Julia Roberts movie.
Find more amazing vacations near NYC
In addition to top-notch accomodations, many of these spots are equipped with swimming pools for kids, an extensive roster of outdoor activities and even onsite family restaurants where you can refuel after a long day of fun. These hotels let you and the kids go boating on lakes, embark a woodsy hikes or even tackle steep waterpark slides, all within four hours of NYC.