Family weekend getaways
Travel time: 4hrs by car
Rhode Island's popular seaside town is a go-to for all vacationers on the east coast looking to hit the beach—or three, to be exact. Bring surf boards and boogie boards to the well-known Scarborough State Beach (note that these waves are probably more suitable for the older kids in your clan) and venture to the less intense Roger Wheeler State Beach with tiny tots who will gravitate toward the playground and the calmer waters. Salty Brine State Beach has gentler waters, too. Naturally, no beach town would be complete without a lighthouse. Although Point Judith doesn't welcome visitors inside, families are able to head to the grounds and take scenic photos off the coast. What kids can and will access is a ride on the Flying Horse Carousel, and understandably so. Rumor has it that this is the only surviving flying horse carousel left in the U.S. When hunger strikes, adults will opt for seafood dishes (including amazing lobster rolls) and seaside views at Coast Guard House but those craving comfort food will find something desirable at Eddie's BBQ. Regardless of what's on the menu, all suppers should conclude with a visit to the nearby ice cream shop, Brickley's.
STAY: The family-run Anchor Motel, located right across from Scarborough Beach
Travel time: 2 hrs by car
A mere two hours away from NYC, and you'll feel like you're in another world. Located in Bucks County, New Hope boasts a quaint, country atmosphere with shops, attractions, restaurants and annual community festivals. You'll want to take in a show at Bucks County Playhouse and bring the kids to Bucks County Childrens Museum, which features a digging station, a hot air balloon VR experience and a mini town square that transports little visitors to the turn of the century with a cute general store, ice cream shop and other amenities. For the little locomotive fans in your life, hop aboard the New Hope & Ivyland Railroad for a glimpse at the bucolic scenery. Don't forget to visit during the holidays, as both Easter Bunny Tours and the North Pole Express are available for families. Venture to the historic Peddler's Village for shopping and dining. Seven full-service restuarants allow families to pick and choose selections that work for them (American classics, cafe brunches and more options are available). One thing's for certain, no trip to the sweet destination is complete without an equally sweet scoop of ice cream from Nina's! If you're looking for an amusement park environment, Sesame Place is certainly the way to go. Make sure to give Elmo, Big Bird and the rest of the crew our regards.
STAY: Outdoorsy types can pitch a tent at the Colonial Woods Family Camping Resort.
Travel time: 3hrs and 45min by car
The secret's out: Long Island's go-to summer vacation spot has garnered quite a bit of attention as of late, and it's become increasingly popular for people to book a stay when out on the east end. Although millennials continue to flock to the Long Island destination, there are plenty of reasons for families to take notice, too. Parents and kids can keep busy with a variety of options: Climb to the top of the Montauk Lighthouse—a national landmark—stop by Puff 'N' Putt not only for a game of mini golf, but boating and kayaking, pick up a nautical-themed souvenir at Captain Kid Toys, hit the waves during fun surfing lessons and, of course, spend time getting sand between your toes at one of the town's great beaches. Seafood options abound, naturally, and you'd be remiss not to have at least one meal at Gosman's—it's essentially an unwritten requirement.
STAY: The cozy Ocean Resort Inn, situated right on the Atlantic, is just a short walk from downtown
Travel time: 3hrs by car
They say Hershey is the sweetest place on earth, and we're not one to argue with such terrific findings. Let kids pretend they're Willy Wonka for a few days with a visit to this Pennsylvania family hotspot. Everyone in your brood with a sweet tooth will have a stellar time visiting Hershey's Chocolate World, which features tastings, candy making, tours and other super-tasty fun. Make sure to stop by well before (or after) your visit to Hershey Park. There are so many options at the park (and water park) that you wouldn't want to hit any of the rides on a full belly of chocolate. (Mom and Dad: If you have some down time, you'll be pleased to know that there are shopping, golfing and spa appointments waiting for you!) There are plenty of dining options, but kids will most likely gravitate toward Houlihan's.
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. Sounds like a no-brainer!
Travel time: 4hrs and 20min by car
The country's capital has plenty to keep visitors entertained, whether they're curious about U.S. history, politics, exploration and so on. After catching a glimpse at all of the monuments, there are plenty of museums and attractions at visitors' disposal: the International Spy Museum, Newseum, the United States Botanic Garden and much more (so bring comfortable walking shoes). Of course, no visit to Washington, D.C. would be complete without checking in on the creatures at the National Zoo. After covering so much territory, the kids are bound to get hungry, so check out some of the city's best family-friendly restaurants, from locations at the National Mall to museum cafés, sit-down restaurants and everything in between. Options abound at Union Market and even the pickiest of eaters can find something to satisfy their taste buds.
STAY: The ideally-located JW Marriott Washington D.C. is outfitted with a pool—perfect for the kids after a day of sightseeing.
Travel time: 3hrs and 40min by car
Awaiting the maritime-obsessed is the tremendous Mystic Seaport, 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. 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. There's plenty of seafood options for older members of the brood, but the youngsters might prefer dinner at Mango's Wood-Fired Pizza Co.
STAY: The lovely Whaler’s Inn is situated near all the town’s attractions and offers a gratis Continental breakfast and discounted aquarium tickets.
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 where kids can make the most out of the warm weather. Plus, the boardwalk is perfect for a few family photos! Be warned: The beach does have a $15 fee per person for non-pass holders. Kids will want to refuel with lunch and a wonky-flavored shake at the Diner by the Sea.
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: 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 getaways you can't miss. Its 22-mile path, the Cape Cod Rail Trail 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—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, in Provincetown, offers great family excursions. Feast at Quicks Hole Tavern, where youngsters under 10 get to make selections from the kids' menu.
STAY: Situated right on the Rail Trail, Midway Motel has a secluded feel and cost-saving packages—including one with whale watching.
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, is on the national map. Thanks to the museum’s artifacts collection, Hall of Plaques and the interactive Sandlot 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, 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 for a tour and tasting (or lunch at its café), and afterward you’ll stop by Barnyard Swing Miniature Golf for a round of summery fun.
STAY: The outdoor heated pool and fire pit make the August Lodge Cooperstown an obvious choice for families.
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. When it’s nice and warm, families can enjoy sweet activities such as horseback riding, hiking on local trails, games of tennis and other great offers like free scenic tours (via a ski lift!) and mountainside ATV tours. Come winter, a free shuttle will take visitors 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 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 crown jewel, but families can also choose the Lodge at Bretton Woods.
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 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, 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-studio hybrid 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, 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. Grab a bite of some kid-friendly dishes (think mac n' cheese and chicken fingers) at Bullard Tavern Cafeteria.
STAY: Friendly owners and reasonable prices win
Maple Terrace Motel, in Williamstown
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
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, especially given the renaissance of its Inner Harbor downtown. Foremost there’s the top-notch National Aquarium. The ocean-obsessed will come closer than ever to majestic marine life as stingrays, a giant sea turtle and blacktip reef sharks. At the B&O Railroad Museum, about a mile due west, kids (and maybe 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, a swashbuckler-themed cruise in Baltimore Inner Harbor, where they can dress up like pirates, learn sea chanteys and spray water cannons. Lexington Market offers something for everyone when lunchtime strikes.
STAY: Located in the original B&O headquarters, the Monaco Baltimore has large rooms and an extremely pet-friendly policy.
Travel time: 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. 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.
STAY: Once the kids are tuckered out, head to your room at Cobble Mountain, where the range of cozy rooms and cabins host families of all sizes.
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.