K.C. was a featured writer for Yahoo! Travel before joining trips to discover in 2013. She is the author of Best Travel Guide for First Time Visitors to Ireland, an Amazon bestseller every year between 2013 and 2016. She has been a featured expert on Newsweek, Travel + Leisure, Travelocity, among others.
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Whether you’re looking to travel somewhere closer to home or make a long-distance journey, the Northeast offers many opportunities for a memorable family vacation. Spend time in the mountains, enjoy a seaside holiday filled with sun and the sand or take advantage of city attractions. No matter what your idea of fun, there’s sure to be an option on this list that motivates you to pack your bags.
Acadia National Park is one of the country’s most beautiful national parks, bringing opportunities for mountain and beach scenery along with a host of outdoor adventures. Over half of its 47,000 acres is stretched across Mount Desert Island, named the top ‘Island in America’ by Travel + Leisure. The rest lies on the Isle au Haut and the Schoodic Peninsula. Hike or take the scenic drive that winds up to the 1,530-foot summit of Cadillac Mountain. Your reward will be jaw-dropping views of coastal Maine, Frenchman Bay, Bar Harbor and the Porcupine Islands. There are opportunities for paddling as well as indulging in all sorts of gastronomic delights, including mouthwatering lobster. When you need to recharge, family-friendly hotels nearby offer a tranquil respite.
The village of Lake Placid, tucked within the Adirondack Mountains, may best be known for hosting the 1932 and 1980 Winter Olympic Games, but it makes for a fabulous family vacation destination for anyone who wants to enjoy the great outdoors. Look forward to swimming, paddling, and hiking during the warmer months, and in the winter, activities like skiing and snowboarding. Autumn brings a breathtaking scene to enjoy this popular New York weekend getaway, with the oak, maple, birch, and beech trees bursting into fiery red, vivid orange, and yellow hues.
The westernmost region of Cape Cod includes Falmouth, along with villages like Woods Hole, Mashpee, and Sandwich. This area is more laid-back than what you’ll find on the Outer Cape with quieter beaches and often lower prices too, making it easier to enjoy a family vacation. Enjoy strolling the dunes, visiting lighthouses, summer swimming, and more in this charming town in Massachusetts. You might want to rent bikes and pedal along the Shining Sea Bikeway which starts here, traveling 10 miles along the canals and coast.
Boothbay Harbor looks like a coastal dream and is one of New England’s most charming towns. It boasts a rich history and lots of quaint local shops, numerous dining opportunities that include lots of fresh lobster, and all sorts of activities. There are over two dozen boat excursions leaving daily, offering encounters with whales, puffins, seals, and other wildlife. The area has several outstanding beaches for swimming, picnicking and more, like Barrett Park, a beautiful hidden gem with a scenic slice of shoreline and grassy lawn.
Mystic is a small town located between New York City and Boston, with a long ship-building history and a recreated 19th-century village. It lies along Mystic River which flows into Long Island Sound, providing easy access to the Atlantic, and it offers many other attractions of its own. Mystic Seaport is one of the country’s largest maritime museums while the Mystic Aquarium hosts penguins and beluga whales, touch tanks, a 4D theater, and a sea lion show. Bite into a heavenly slice at Mystic Pizza, the setting for the Julia Roberts’ film that put Mystic on the map, then go sailing or visit one of the nearby historic sites.
There are many fabulous coastal towns along the Jersey Shore, from Sandy Hook in the north down to Cape May in the south. Enjoy beaches, boardwalks with rides, games, and food, as well as a wide range of other attractions that have brought families here for generations. Spend your days soaking up the sun, swimming, boogie boarding, tossing a Frisbee around, and more. There are whale-watching excursions available, an aquarium to explore, and lighthouses to visit.
Boston is a great place for kids and adults to see history come to life and many attractions in this city are free. Take a stroll along the 2.5-mile Freedom Trail from Boston Commons and you can visit many landmarks and attractions like Paul Revere’s House. If you’re here during baseball season and the Red Sox are playing at home, be sure to catch a game at historic Fenway Park. You can do some stargazing at the Observatory at Boston University on public open nights and tour the USS Constitution, the oldest commissioned warship afloat in the world.
Ocean City is a barrier island, packed with attractions from the ocean at its east to the bay at its west, with boardwalk amusements, mini-golf, go-kart courses, wide sandy beaches and restaurants galore, including lots of menus serving the region’s famous blue crabs. The three-mile-long boardwalk at its southern tip has been open for nearly 120 years and is a popular focus for most family vacations with games, rides, eateries and shops, including its original 1902 Herschel-Spellman carousel. The Life-Saving Station Museum offers an interesting glimpse of the shipwrecks and rescue teams that came to their aid.
The Mount Washington region of New Hampshire is ideal for a family vacation, including adventures with the kids. There are zip lines, train rides, natural wonders, and theme parks. Two of the most popular attractions are the cable car that traverses Cannon Mountain and the Cog Railway, which will take you by rail to Mount Washington’s summit to gaze out at the vistas from New England’s highest peak. There are scenic routes for biking, including the Great Glen Trails in Pinkham Notch with their smooth carriage roads along with water parks and pools for summer splashing fun.
While Hershey was once called Derry Church, it was renamed in 1906 due to the popularity of its chocolate. Today, many refer to it as the “Sweetest Place on Earth,” something that’s sure to thrill the kids and anyone with a sweet tooth. It’s home to the Hershey Company and the H.B. Reese Candy Company. A chocolate heaven, visitors can taste chocolate at Hershey’s Chocolate World, visit the Hershey Story Museum and stay at Hotel Hershey, the official resort of Hersheypark, featuring a chocolate spa where guests can enjoy an indulgent whipped cocoa bath, get chocolate bean nail polish and enjoy chocolate fondue wraps.