The best weekend getaways from NYC
What's not to love about a town with a choice of three beaches, a lighthouse and an authentic fishing village? Thanks to these features (and so much more), Narragansett ranks high on our list of the best family beach vacations. Narragansett Town Beach's North Atlantic waves are perfect for surfing and boogie boarding. However, families with younger kids might prefer Roger W. Wheeler State Beach for its invitingly calm waters, playground and bathhouse. Don’t miss a visit to Galilee; the small fishing village has an active marina, fish markets and tons of seaside charm. Take a short excursion to Westerly for another historic landmark, the Flying Horse Carousel—a guaranteed hit with the kids. When you get hungry, hit up Galilee’s Buster Krab’s Beach Bar and Grill for burgers and fresh seafood. After a long day, call it quits at a room in the family-run Anchor Motel across from Scarborough Beach. The Anchor Motel, 825 Ocean Rd, Narragansett, RI (401-792-8550, theanchormotel.com).
This seashore town—located between the Atlantic Ocean and the Isle of Wight Bay— boasts white sand beaches and plenty of places to romp and play. Stroll along the boardwalk a long list of food options when your stomach starts to rumble. Pop into Phillips Seafood for all-things crab. For other kinds of fun, take a break with a ride on one of the 45 hand-carved animals on the historic Trimper’s carousel or cater to your inner thrill-seeker with a trip to Jolly Roger’s Splash Mountain Water Park. Spend your nights in Carousel Oceanfront Hotel & Condos, which features a kiddie pool, bounce house, game room and a pirate ship jungle gym. 11700 Coastal Hwy, Ocean City, MD (800-641-0011, carouselhotel.com).
Travel time: 5 hrs by car
A trip to the Cape is a no-brainer for the summer months, but there’s a lot to learn before you make the trek. When you want to find some sand and surf, head to the Meadow Beach in Truro, which is great for kiddos. When it comes time to chow down, Arnold's Lobster and Clam Bar (3580 Route 6, Eastham, MA; 508-255-2575, arnoldsrestaurant.com), the fried clams, raw bar will keep seafood lovers plenty delighted. Tuck in at Ocean Edge Resort & Golf Club (2907 Main St, Brewster, MA; oceanedge.com, 888-509-4600) when you need some r&r after a long day.
Travel time: 2 hr 30 min by car
Get ready for an all-inclusive resort like no other. Rocking Horse Ranch (600 State Rte 44/55, Highland, NY; 800-647-2624, rockinghorseranch.com) pays homage to our summer camp days with horseback riding, water sports and other fun outdoor activities for the whole family. Looking for performances? You’ll have it made with magic acts, ventriloquists and other fun offerings. When activities become too overwhelming (for parents), make sure to take advantage of spa activities such as facials and massages.
Travel time: 1 hr 30 min by car
At Sesame Place (100 Sesame Rd; 215-702-3566, sesameplace.com) in Langhorne, Pennsylvania, each of the dozens of water slides, rides and attractions is aimed at kids ages two to tween—and anyone else nostalgic for a certain PBS show that infuses every inch of this 14-acre theme park. Once inside, don't miss Blast Off, which launches kids and parents to Planet Elmo, and Monster Mix-Up, which takes little ones on a spin across the dance floor. There are also exciting plays and a super fun water park with a castle, splash pad, wave pool and more. In 2018, Sesame Place became the first-ever certified autism center, offering experiences and activities for children with special needs. With this, the majority of park staff are required to participate in trainings around sensory awareness and environment communication, to name just a few points. We highly recommend this park for families and kids of all abilities. Crash at the Radisson in nearby Trevose, Pennsylvania (2400 Old Lincoln Hwy; 215-638-8300, radisson.com) after Elmo and co wipes the family out.
Travel time: 2 hrs 50 min by car or train
Start the day with a hearty breakfast at Kitchen Little (36 Quarry Rd; 860-536-2122, kitchenlittle.org). The Mystic Melt—fresh lump crabmeat and cream cheese scrambled with two eggs for $9.99—is a favorite, and great fuel for exploring this marina town. Don't forget to dine on the patio so kids can watch boats traveling up and down the river. 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.com), 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 of the same name. Save room for dessert: The best ice cream in town is just down the street at Mystic Drawbridge Ice Cream (2 W Main St; 860-572-7978, mysticdrawbridgeicecream.com). The local favorite serves up house-made flavors like chocolate truffle and Mystic Mud. Spend the night at the Inn at Mystic (3 Williams Ave; 860-536-9604, innatmystic.com). Before heading home, make a pit stop at Mystical Toys (4 E Main St, 860-536-7131)—the perfect place to pick up a memento of your weekend adventure.
Travel time: 3 hrs by car
This spot is a dream come true for adventure-seekers with a sweet tooth. Start the day off with a breakfast made for champions at the Hershey Pantry (801 E Chocolate Ave; 717-533-7505, hersheypantry.com). There, families can fuel up on house-made baked goods and omelets before tackling the day’s main dish: the Boardwalk at Hersheypark (100 W Hersheypark Dr; 800-437-7439, hersheypark.com). The waterpark features 15 aquatic rides, including a lazy river for those who’d rather keep cool than get their heart racing. Take tiny splashers into Sandcastle Cove where they’ll be entertained all day with climbable features, little water slides and gentle water jets. Cap off the day at Hershey Lodge (325 University Dr; 844-330-1802, hersheylodge.com) where the aquatic fun can continue at any of its indoor or outdoor pools or game room—and everyone gets a Hershey’s Kiss at turn down.
Travel time: 3 hrs by train or car
Quaint homes and a 19th-century lighthouse await at this seaside community. Kiddies will be eager to hitch a ride on the Flying Horse Carousel, a National Historic Landmark built in 1876. Check in nearby at Misquamicut Beach Front In (145 Atlantic Ave; 401-212-9212) in nearby Westerly and make a picnic out of St. Clair Annex (141 Bay St; 401-348-8407, stclairannexrestaurant.com) fare—lobster rolls and hot fudge sundaes made with homemade ice cream. In the evening, catch a spectacular sunset from barrier beach Napatree Point.
Travel time: 2 hrs 30 min by car to the Essex Steam Train depot
A mansion tour isn't at the top of most children's must-do lists, but this isn't just another rich family's house: Among other novelties, you take both an antique train and a ferry to get here. Kids used to jam-packed subway cars will love settling into their comfortable seats on the Essex Steam Train (One Railroad Ave, Essex, CT; 860-767-0103, essexsteamtrain.com) for an hour-long trip through the Connecticut River Valley. Disembark and, after a brief walk, hop aboard the Chester/Hadlyme Ferry. As you approach landfall, keep an eye out for the medieval-style stone structure atop a hill—that's Gillette Castle (860-526-2336; ct.gov), and it's just a short (though not stroller-friendly) hike from the shore. Once you're there, tour guides will take your crew through two dozen wood-and-stone–clad rooms. Built in the early 20th century by the then-famous actor and Sherlock Holmes portrayer William Gillette, the mansion is like a mystery-movie tableau where ghosts and evildoers might lurk at any turn. Gillette was also a stage manager who invented many trick props, and a bit of a prankster: He devised a series of mirrors to allow him to spy on visitors, and a hidden staircase so that he could sneak up on guests—or escape from them. Before or after your ferry ride, fill up at the Trackside Cafe, a converted dining car at the steam train depot. Overnight visitors can relax at the outdoor pool at the former Sandpiper Inn in Old Saybrook, now an Econo Lodge Inn and Suites (1750 Boston Post Rd; 860-399-7973, econolodge.com), which retains much of the old inn's charm.
Travel time: 1 hr 30 min by car
Sure, you want the kids to have fun on vacation...but getting a little adult R&R would be pretty sweet, too. For a getaway that will sate the offspring yet also allow you a little self-indulgence, Minerals Hotel (2 Chamonix Dr; 973-827-5996, crystalgolfresort.com) should do the trick. The very kid-friendly place is 90 minutes from New York, so you'll be pulling up to the sprawling grounds in no time. Seven indoor and outdoor pools allow for splash time no matter the weather. You, meanwhile, can kick back on a lounge chair with a cocktail from the poolside bar, or take turns watching the kids while one of you sneaks away for a massage in the on-site Elements Spa or a round of golf on the adjacent course. In the evening, head to Smokey's Tavern (2 Vernon Crossing Rd; 973-764-2600, smokystavern.com) for burgers, wraps or pizza, then hit the Warwick Drive-In (5 Warwick Tpke; 845-986-4440, warwickdrivein.com) for a first-run double feature. After breakfast the next morning at Kites, the resort's restaurant, kids will no doubt want more pool time. That will leave them refreshed for a hike along the Canal Road section of the Appalachian Trail before you head back to the city.
Travel time: 2 hrs 30 min by car
Rejoice: This Jersey Shore town is more family-friendly than MTV cameras led us to believe. Stay at El Coronado Resort (8501 Atlantic Ave; 609-729-1000, elcoronado.com) and enjoy poolside barbecues, movies and live entertainment. Morey's Piers (3501 Boardwalk; 609-522-3900, moreyspiers.com). offers two parks for one price: Raging Waters and the Ocean Oasis Waterpark and Beach Club, a 10-minute walk or five-minute tram ride away. Those who want to remain on dry land can hit up carnival rides and other attractions at three amusement piers though combo tickets are available if your little ones can't decide. Happy hour at Sunset Bay (400 W Spruce Ave, 609-523-0411, sunsetbayrestaurant.wildwood.com) is a must: Kids can dig in the sand near a faux shipwreck while adults enjoy live music and, with luck, a picture-perfect sunset over the bay.
Travel time: 1 hr 40 min by car
If the family can’t choose between thrilling amusement rides and swimming pools to beat the heat, then an itinerary centered on Dorney Park & Wildwater Kingdom (3830 Dorney Park Rd, Allentown, PA; 610-395-3724, dorneypark.com. $45, children ages 3 and up shorter than 48 inches $34, under 3 free) will satisfy all. The older set will enjoy the twisting, turning dry and wet rollercoasters while little ones enjoy Peanuts-themed rides. Come nighttime, watch movies under the stars at Shankweiler's Drive-In Theatre (4540 Shankweiler Rd, Orefield, PA; 610-481-0800, shankweilers.com. $10, children 3–12 $6, 2 and under free) before tucking in at Allentown Comfort Suites (3712 Hamilton Blvd; 610-437-9100, comfortsuites.com. Rates start at $179).
Travel time: 3 hrs by train, 2 hrs 30 min by car
A picturesque former whaling village, Greenport boasts a walkable downtown of shops, galleries and restaurants featuring local seafood. At Preston's Dock, sign up for a cruise aboard the Glory (631-477-2515, greenportlaunch.com), a 30-foot solar-powered sailing vessel. Just 15 minutes away, kids can swim at Orient Beach State Park, which has a restored lighthouse at its tip, while keeping an eye out for wildlife like great blue herons and osprey. Back in Greenport, chow down at Claudio's (111 Main St; 631-477-0627, claudios.com), a favorite since 1870. Dine on the catch of the day while kids sample fish filet sandwiches. Bunk at the beachfront Silver Sands Motel and Beach Cottages (1400 Silvermere Rd; 631-477-0011, silversands-motel.com).