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If you’re looking for a vacation on the East Coast of the United States, you’ll have nearly an endless list of options to choose from. There are lots of opportunities for beach escapes, but you’ll find plenty of exciting cities too. From Maine to Florida, these are some of our top picks for east coast getaways.
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Martha’s Vineyard has been a famous summer playground for the wealthy for decades. Today this island accessed by ferry from Cape Cod offers something for visitors of all types with beautiful beaches, a picturesque lighthouse, brightly painted gingerbread cottages, and charming hotels. While it may be best-known for its natural attractions like South Beach State Park, Mytoi and Aquinnah Cliffs, you won’t want to miss taking a spin on the historic Flying Horses carousel. You can also enjoy fantastic farmers’ markets, sip cold pints at Bad Martha Farmer’s Brewery or The Black Dog Tavern and perhaps catch a glimpse of a celebrity or two.
Set along the Grand Stand in South Carolina, Myrtle Beach makes for an especially family-friendly vacation, offering something for just about everyone. Enjoy the beautiful beachfront along with a wealth of attractions, including multiple amusement parks and excursions on the water like Blackbeard’s Pirate Cruise. The oceanfront boardwalk offers live entertainment on summer nights, including a weekly firework display along with stilt walkers, bagpipers, jugglers and the like. There are plenty of recreational activities, on the Atlantic and on the Intercoastal Waterway, from diving and sailing to paddle boarding.
Bar Harbor is home to the majority of Acadia National Park, one of the country’s most beautiful parks and a quintessential Maine family vacation destination. This charming seaside town offers everything from soaring mountains to the sea, with the winding drive up Cadillac Mountain offering scenic hikes and awe-inspiring views. Visitors can take kayak or canoe tours along the Mount Desert shoreline, or take a puffin, seal and whale watching tour. On land, visit the Abbe Museum to learn about the native Wabanaki people and enjoy feasting on the area’s mouthwatering specialty, lobster. If you’re craving dessert, there are a wealth of ice cream shops to choose from here as well.
Portsmouth offers the ultimate in New England charms just an hour south of Portland and an hour north of Boston near the mouth of the Piscataqua River. One of the oldest cities in the U.S., it was settled in 1623 and hosts multiple historic sites along with beautiful waterfront views. There are great museums like the USS Albacore Museum housed in a 1953 US Navy submarine and the Strawbery Banke Museum, an outdoor museum that traces its early history through historic homes and exhibits. Visitors can also walk the Portsmouth Harbor Trail which showcases 70 historic and scenic sites. If you want to get out on the water, there are boat charters and whale watching excursions too.
Just over 10 miles off Rhode Island’s southern coast accessed by ferry, Block Island offers an unforgettable beach vacation with beautiful stretches of sand, magnificent ocean views, and lots of recreational opportunities. Enjoy hiking, biking, horseback riding, bird watching, sailing, kayaking, and even snorkeling. You can fuel your active pursuits with tasty clam chowder and lobster rolls and enjoy sights like historic lighthouses and beachfront mansions. There are plenty of shopping opportunities to satisfy your urge to splurge too.
While spring is a popular time to visit Washington, D.C. with the cherry blossoms in bloom, anytime is a good time to visit some of the best museums, including the Smithsonian Institute which includes 17 separate museums and galleries. While it’s hard to choose a favorite, start at the Smithsonian Institution Building where you’ll find the Smithsonian Visitor Center. It features highlights of collections from each of the museums that can help you decide which you want to explore. A few of the must-sees are Hope Diamond, the original Star-Spangled Banner, the ruby slippers from “The Wizard of Oz” and the Wright brothers’ 1903 Flyer.”
While Florida is more often associated with its white sandy beaches and sunny skies, St. Augustine is especially rich in history as the oldest continuously occupied European settlement in North America. It was founded by Spanish colonists in 1565, and many of its original buildings still stand. You can marvel at the historic city gate, the 1672 Castillo de San Marcos, and the Plaza de la Constitucion while experiencing its enticing Old World ambiance as you stroll the cobbled streets. Of course, just minutes away are pristine stretches of sand and brilliant blue waters, with the city home to more than 40 miles of beaches.
Summers in Cape Cod are famous for beach holidays, with endless stretches of beach and swimming opportunities along with all sorts of other activities. At the northern tip of the Cape, Provincetown boasts over 30 miles of beaches and hosts a lively downtown with unique shops, art galleries, museums, seafood shacks and more. It’s also popular for boating excursions, including whale watching with the area home to some of the highest numbers of humpback whales in the country.
Ocean City is a 10-mile barrier island offering both oceanfront and bayfront restaurants, sandy beaches, and a three-mile-long Boardwalk with a variety of rides and amusements. A spin on the giant Ferris wheel, which provides a bird’s-eye view of the landscape, is a must.
If it’s a city vacation you’re after on the east coast, New York City is probably a no-brainer. It’s a place everyone should visit at least once, with attractions like Central Park, Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty, Times Square, museums like the Met, Broadway shows and endless opportunities for shopping and dining.