Bursting with some of the best family vacation spots in the United States, the East Coast is a great choice for family trips built around kid-friendly activities, outdoor attractions and the natural splendor of the mountains and of the coast. Whether you’re coming from near or far, the East Coast has something for everyone in the family.
For history buffs, baseball fans and everyone else, here are the best East Coast vacation spots you can enjoy anytime of the year.
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The Adirondacks, New York
A region of towering mountains, old-growth forests and pristine lakes within five hours of New York or Boston, the Adirondacks are a four-season destination for families.
The summer months were great for fishing, swimming, biking, hiking and boating. In winter, snowshoeing, downhill skiing and ice skating on frozen lakes (or on Olympic ice in Lake Placid) are in the spotlight. Fall is a family favorite thanks to a spectacular display of purple, amber and orange leaves setting the landscape ablaze. Spring brings beautiful flowers to the wildflower meadows.
Small towns like Lake Placid, Saranac Lake and Bolton Landing dot the area. There’s a yesteryear quality to these resort areas, with lakeside restaurants and old-fashioned mom-and-pop shops on every corner. At Tupper Lake, the Wild Center connects visitors to the Adirondacks in a thoughtful way with multimedia displays and 31 acres of marked trails, plus a network of tree bridges called the Wild Walk that is a hit with kids and parents alike.
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For families, nothing better than the Saranac Waterfront Lodge in picturesque Saranac Lake. Located right on the water’s edge, this kid-friendly hotel is ideally located for activities such as hiking (easy to moderate trails abound), biking (rentals are available on site), and water sports, including hiking. fishing, kayaking and chartered boat rides (boats depart from the hotel’s private dock). Dine indoors or al fresco at the lodge’s restaurant, The Boathouse, then grab a bundle of s’mores outside to roast marshmallows in one of the many guest foyers.
With historic attractions, interactive museums, and expansive green spaces, Boston is catnip for any family looking for a vacation with an urban feel. Compact and within walking distance, the city is easy to explore without a car, yet close enough to every corner of the area to serve as the starting point for other New England getaways, seaside villages and fall foliage vacations. .
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There are hundreds of interactive exhibits at the Museum of Science and thousands of marine animals at the New England Aquarium. The Boston Children’s Museum is a great place for discovery and play. For fun in the great outdoors, ride a swan boat at the Boston Public Garden in warm weather or take a ride on the ice at Frog Pond on Boston Common in the winter .
Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia
Disconnect from the 21st century with a family vacation to Colonial Williamsburg, the largest living history museum in the United States. Cycle through cobbled streets filled with horse-drawn carriages while surrounded by well-preserved 18th-century buildings that capture the spirit of the era.
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Kids love meeting the pageant actors in authentic costumes as they go about their daily chores, demonstrating crafts such as bookbinding, blacksmithing, wig-making, open-hearth cooking and more. Questions are encouraged. For gourmet families, historic taverns serve menus inspired by recipes from the colonial era.
The Poconos, Pennsylvania
Located in the northeast corner of Pennsylvania, the Poconos looks like a remote vacation spot, but it’s only a two-hour drive from New York and Philadelphia. Natural beauty and a multitude of outdoor activities have made these mountains a proven panacea for the hectic pace of city life.
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In the summer, hiking, fishing, swimming and boating are popular pastimes. In the winter, there is downhill skiing in Camelback, Shawnee and Jack Frost, as well as opportunities to snowshoe and ice skate on frozen lakes. Spring brings high water to the Delaware River for canoeing or kayaking. At the end of the year, fall vacation ideas abound as apple picking, pumpkins and vibrant foliage weave a patchwork of color. And if the weather doesn’t cooperate, there are plenty of indoor water parks, such as Kalahari and Aquatopia.
Cooperstown, New York
While Cooperstown is best known as the home of the Baseball Hall of Fame, this all-American village on the shores of pretty Lake Otsego is much more than just a sanctuary for Americans’ favorite pastime.
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With costumed guides demonstrating venerable traditions, the Farmers’ Museum in Cooperstown offers a window into 19th-century rural life. The Fenimore Art Museum is another worthy stop. Built on the grounds of James Fenimore Cooper’s former estate, the approach here is fun and family-oriented.
The capital of our country is on the priority list of many families. Here you’ll find some of America’s most famous museums and landmarks, and many of them (like the Smithsonian Museums) don’t cost a dime to visit. Whether it’s watching pandas frolic at the National Zoo or listening to the beat of the drums at Sunday Drum Circle at Meridian Hill Park (also called Malcolm X Park in honor of the famous activist), the free options abound.
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Don’t miss the sparkling Hope Diamond at the National Museum of Natural History, Dorothy’s ruby ââslippers at the National Museum of American History, and the life-size teepee at the National Museum of American Indian. Another must-see is the captivating collection of the National Museum of African American History and Culture.
Shenandoah Valley, Virginia
The scenic Shenandoah Valley has many family attractions. It is home to Shenandoah National Park, a natural wonderland with miles of hiking trails, wildlife, and stunning views along the 105-mile dual-lane Skyline Drive which is widely regarded as one of best family road trip ideas around the country.
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For some serious underground fun, head to one of the valley’s many caverns filled with otherworldly stalagmites. Shenandoah Caverns is Virginia’s only cave with an elevator, allowing easy descent for families with travel strollers.
Clearwater Beach, Florida
At Clearwater Beach, the sand is as soft as a cloud and the waters of the Gulf are as deep blue as anywhere on the East Coast. The old-fashioned pier and palm-fringed Beach Walk also invite for a breezy stroll.
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After a great time at the beach, shake off the sand and explore other community attractions. Clearwater Marine Aquarium is a working marine hospital that rehabilitates animals rescued from illness or injury. Animals that cannot be released remain for the enjoyment of visitors.
Active families should head to the Fred Marquis Pinellas Trail, a multi-use paved urban trail connecting parks, coastal landscapes and residential areas. The 38-mile trail stretches from St. Petersburg to Tarpon Springs and passes through Clearwater.
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