Family weekend getaways
Travel time: 4hrs and 30min by car
Travelers have their pick of three beautiful beaches or a visit to the lighthouse when they venture to one of the best family weekend getaways Rhode Island has to offer. The expansive Narragansett Town Beach offers North Atlantic waves that are perfect for surfing and boogie boarding. Families with younger kids might prefer Roger W. Wheeler State Beach for its calmer waters, playground and bathhouse. While there, don’t miss a trip to Galilee, a small fishing village that has an active marina, fish markets and lots of charm. The famed Point Judith Lighthouse is certainly worth a visit, too. Take an excursion to Westerly for another historic landmark: the Flying Horse Carousel. The 1876 attraction is one of the oldest of its kind still in operation. What are you waiting for?
STAY: The family-run Anchor Motel (401-792-8550, theanchormotel.com), located right across from Scarborough Beach
Travel time: 5hrs and 30min by car
If spectacular beaches, salty air and delicious hole-in-the-wall seafood spots sound right up your alley, Cape Cod is one of those family weekend getaways you can't miss. Its 22-mile path, the Cape Cod Rail Trail (508-896-3491, mass.gov), is perfect for those who love to bike. Running along a former railroad track, it stretches from Dennis to the town of Wellfleet (sound familiar, New Yorkers?). Parking areas dot the paved railbed, so you can go as far as you'd 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 might prefer sticking by 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 great family excursions.
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: 3hrs and 40min by car
Awaiting the maritime-obsessed is the tremendous 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)! 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.
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 45min by car
A classic getaway for New Yorkers for as long as they can remember, Montauk offers everything from upscale dining and shopping to surfer-worthy waves and beaches. It’s also better-suited to explorers than scenesters, largely because of its six state parks and role as a year-round fishing village. Book the kids a session of CoreysWave’s Kids Surfing Academy (516-639-4879, coreyswave.com) or head to Puff 'N' Putt (631-668-4473, puffnputt.com) on Lake Fort, where visitors can rent a kayak or sailboat or play mini-golf. Don’t miss the chance to explore Montauk Point State Park (631-668-3781, nysparks.com/parks/61) and the Montauk Point Lighthouse (631-668-2544, montauklighthouse.com) from 1796, which features a museum, meandering wooded trails and the chance to do some surf fishing, picnicking and, yes—more surfing.
STAY: The cozy Ocean Resort Inn (631-668-2300, oceanresortinn.com) situated right on the Atlantic, is just a short walk from downtown.
Travel time: 4hrs by car
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.
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: 2hrs and 10min by car
Those that spend these family weekend getaways at this “City by the Sea” won’t regret it. There are a ton of fun parades and festivals throughout the summer, plus plenty of local parks and playgrounds for your kids to enjoy during the warm weather. There's also the opportunity for bike rentals on the local boardwalk (516-432-9632, longbeachbicycleny.com) 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.
STAY: To keep things cost effective, we recommend the Best Western Mill River Manor, which will run you about $122 per room. There's an outdoor pool!
Travel time: 4hrs and 45min by car
Few sports inspire the kind of devotion baseball does, which is why the bucolic village of Cooperstown, home to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum (607-547-7200, baseballhall.org), is on the national map. Thanks to the museum’s artifacts collection, Hall of Plaques and the interactive Sandlot Kids section, youngsters will no doubt leave knowing more about the sport and its players than when they arrived. 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. 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.
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 20min by car
Politics aside, the nation’s capital is stunningly beautiful, especially when you’re seeing it for the first time. The Mall is one of the most iconic of destinations and chock full of attractions—the Lincoln and Washington Memorials, the array of stellar Smithsonian museums. 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). Its gigantic, open-air installation of modern and contemporary sculptures makes a big impression. Don't forget to pay the National Zoo (202-633-2614, nationalzoo.si.edu) a visit while you're in town!
STAY: The ideally-located JW Marriott Washington D.C. (202-393-2000, marriott.com/washington) is outfitted with a pool— perfect for the kids after a day of sightseeing.
Travel time: 7 hours by car
Okay, okay—this is one of those family weekend getaways that's a bit of a haul from NYC (but so worth it). Few venues compare to Omni Mount Washington Resort’s spectacular scenery (603-278-1000, omnihotels.com/mountwashington). When it’s nice and warm, families can enjoy sweet activities like horseback riding, hiking on local trails, games of tennis, plus other great offers like free scenic tours (via a ski lift!) and mountainside ATV tours. 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. You’ll have an hour to enjoy the stunning views, visit a museum and have a bite to eat before heading back down.
STAY: The Omni Mount Washington Hotel is the resort’s crown jewel, but families can also choose the Lodge at Bretton Woods (603-278-4000, brettownwoods.com).
Travel time: 4hrs and 15min by car
The verdant Berkshires and neighboring Pioneer Valley in western Massachusetts are appealingly sleepy, 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 (413-559-6300, picturebookart.org) in Amherst, which opened in 2002, mounts regular shows spotlighting the art of picture books. The contemporary art scene is alive and well too thanks to the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (413-662-2111, massmoca.org), a world-class museum in North Adams inhabiting a cluster of converted, 19th-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.
STAY: Friendly owners and reasonable prices win
Maple Terrace Motel, in Williamstown (413-458-9677, mapleterrace.com)
Travel time: 2hrs and 50min by car
When the urge to cultivate your inner farmer hits, visit Sprout Creek, a 200-acre dairy, goat and award-winning cheese farm in Duchess County. The not-for-profit educational venue invites families to relax while tromping around and a chance to stay overnight in its tidy, three-bedroom cottage with a full kitchen and verdant views. During the day, kids may encounter a miniature donkey and free-ranging sheep, 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; the on-site farmers’ market sells local ice cream, milk, cheese, sausage, eggs, cookies and bread.
STAY: The bucolic Sprout Creek Farm (845-485-8438, sproutcreekfarm.org)
Travel time: 3hrs and 40min by car
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). The “Blacktip Reef” exhibit is 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. 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.
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 by car
If any members in your crew have a sweet tooth, then a trip to Hershey Park is a must (717-534-3900, hersheypark.com). Chocolate Avenue Grill will delight all eaters, even the picky ones (717-835-0888, chocolateavenuegrill.com).
STAY: At the Hershey Lodge, kids get their own special check-in, sign a guest book, play a Hershey’s candy guessing game and receive their own personalized lanyard and chocolatey treat (844-330-1802, hersheylodge.com).
Travel time: 2 hrs by car
Whether your kids are into indoor fun, outdoor adventures or close encounters with their favorite TV characters, this spot has it all. As the home of Sesame Place, children will love meeting Elmo, Big Bird and the rest of the furry gang while experiencing thrilling rides tailored just for them (215-702-3566, sesameplace.org). The Bucks County Children’s Museum offers interactive educational exhibits where kids can dig for buried treasure, design and build their own race car, learn how to operate the Delaware Canal system (212-693-1290, buckskids.org). Little ones can take a ride on the hand-carved wooden figures on the restored 1922 Grand Carousel at Giggleberry Fair before enjoying arcade games in the Game Room or strolling through the shops at 18th-century Peddler’s Village. Giggles Discovers was made for the curious 6 and under set; with a fire station, make-your-own puppet show and the Waterway full of splashing activities, there’s no telling where their imagination will take them. Don't forget to make a pit stop at Giggleberry Mountain, an indoor obstacle course that’ll give you a run for your money (215-794-4047, peddlersvillage.com). When hunger strikes, choose from the variety of dining options in Peddler’s Village. If it’s a laid-back escape you’re looking for, hop on the New Hope & Ivyland Railroad for a 45-minute trip through the countryside on a 1925 steam locomotive (215-862-2332, newhoperailroad.com).
STAY: Outdoorsy types can pitch a tent at the Colonial Woods Family Camping Resort (610-847-5808 colonialwoods.com).
5 hours by car from NYC
Lake Placid is one of those family weekend getaways that provides an opportunity for visitors catch their breath with hiking trails, rock climbing, fishing and paddle boating. Kids will get a kick out of Bowlwinkles’ Bowling Alley, bounce house and arcade games (518-302-0654, bowlwinkles.net). While you’re in the area, be sure to make a stop at High Falls Gorge for an amazing walk around four waterfalls. Afterwards, share a thin and crispy pizza pie at Lisa G’s or have the kids select from their own menu (518-523-2093, lisags.com).
STAY: Once the kids are tuckered out, head to your room at Cobble Mountain where their range of cozy room and cabins can host families of all sizes (518-302-5690, cobblemountainlodgellc.com).
More fun activities for kids
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.