Best family vacations on the East Coast

Best family vacations on the East Coast for 2022

Last updated on December 5th, 2021

From beaches and mountains to busy cities and charming towns, the East Coast offers a plethora of destinations for a family trip. Whether you are planning a road trip, a weekend getaway, or a full vacation, discover some of the best kid-friendly places to visit along the East Coast.

With so many destinations and activities to choose from, this travel guide will take you through some of the best vacation ideas the whole family can enjoy!

Keep on reading to discover some of the best family vacations on the East Coast.

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Boston, Massachusetts

Boston Downtown

By Krystianna from Volumes & Voyages

Boston is easily one of the best family vacation spots on the East Coast! Located in Massachusetts, Boston is filled with tons of fun things to do and places to visit with kids, especially Boston Commons, Quincy Market, and the North End. Younger children will love the Boston Children’s Museum, while teens may enjoy attending a Red Sox game at Fenway Park. The Fenway area in particular is one of the best spots to take photos in Boston.

The greatest time to visit Boston is in the spring, even though most people visit in the summer. During the spring, the weather is great and the city is just starting to come alive again after the winter. It’s also when baseball season starts up, and true Bostonians LOVE their baseball!

Here’s a tip from someone who lived in Boston for 4 years: Be sure to buy a Charlie Card when you visit. They can be purchased at most grocery stores and visitor centers. With a Charlie Card, you can easily take the public bus and the T around the city.

There’s nowhere better to stay than downtown, so consider booking a stay at the Hilton Boston Downtown/Faneuil Hall. You’ll be near all the top places to see in the city.

Hudson Valley, New York

Mohonk Mountain House Hudson Valley

By Ian James from Hudson Valley Discovered

A great place to vacation with the family is the Hudson Valley in New York. The valley stretches from New York City in the south to the state capital Albany in the north. There is plenty for the whole family to do. 

The area is a major agricultural region and there are several fruit farms with tractor-driven hayrides, corn mazes, and u-pick fruit. A top choice is Hurds Family Farm, which also has a playground and obstacle course.

There are also lots of hikes in the woods suitable for kids of all ages. A highlight is Minnewaska State Park. There’s a beautiful lake with easy to moderate hikes and even a small family-friendly beautiful beach in summer. 

Other fun things for kids who love the water include taking a scenic cruise down the Hudson River and kayaking around Roundout Creek in Kingston.

The best time to visit Hudson Valley is summer and fall when the hikes are best, there is plenty of fruit to pick, and you can enjoy water activities. 

A cool place to stay is Mohonk Mountain House.The Victorian-era hotel looks like something out of a Harry Potter movie. Kids will have a ball exploring the hotel and grounds. Older kids (10 and up) will LOVE the hotel’s Labyrinth and Lemon Squeeze rock scramble!  It involves climbing over rocks, climbing steep ladders, and squeezing through narrow crevices. For those who’d prefer an easier hike, you can get to the same lookout (Sky Tower) along a much easier path.

Shenandoah National Park, Virginia

View from Bearfence Rock Scramble Shenandoah National Park

James Ian from Parks Collecting

Kids who love the great outdoors will love visiting Shenandoah National Park. The park is famous for the Skyline Drive, and even very young kids can enjoy the sensational views from any of the 75 overlooks along the 105-mile scenic drive.

For those who like to be active, there are also dozens of incredible hiking trails. A top pick is the Bearfence Rock Scramble. Suitable for kids 10 and up, there is a short but steep rock scramble and at the top, 360-degree views over the park. Another highlight is the most popular hike in the park, the trail to Dark Hollow Falls. It’s a lovely trail alongside a creek that ends in a beautiful waterfall. The hike back out does require some fitness but is suitable for all ages.

Park rangers hold presentations, give talks, and provide guided walks that will educate and entertain the whole family about the geology, history, and wildlife of the national park. They are held throughout the main spring – fall season.

Another place that kids will love is just outside the park. Luray Caverns is the largest cavern system on the east coast and the labyrinth of stalactites and stalagmites is truly amazing. Don’t miss the incredible reflections in the Dream Lake section.  

Shenandoah National Park is most popular in the fall, when the leaves turn golden, but is great throughout spring and summer too. There are two lodges inside the park, Big Meadows and Skyland Resort. However, it is also easy to access the park from the valley below and stay in a nearby town.

Outer Banks, North Carolina

Outer Banks

By Pamela from the Directionally Challenged Traveler

One of the best family-friendly vacation spots on the East Coast is the breathtaking Outer Banks in North Carolina. 

The barrier islands span over 175 miles and are home to some of the most incredible beaches. From the Hatteras Lighthouse at the southern tip to the Wright Brothers Memorial in the middle, to the wild horses at the northern tip – there are so many things to do. 

One hidden gem that is often overlooked is the town of Corolla. There are plenty of things to do in Corolla for families – including Historic Corolla Park – which features the beautiful Whalehead Club, Corolla Lighthouse, and the new Maritime Museum! If you prefer to get your heart racing and see the area, then take a jet-ski tour with Corolla Water Sports for a unique tour of the area.

While most people visit during the summer, most attractions are open in the spring and fall as well. 

The Surf Side Hotel, located in Nags Head right across the bridge, is a great place to explore the barrier islands from.

Virginia Beach

King Neptune, Virginia Beach

By Erin of Go Hike Virginia

Virginia Beach is an easy-going coastal escape that’s just right for a family vacation any time of year thanks to colorful murals, kid-friendly beaches, a three-mile long boardwalk and plenty for the kids to do outside, like hiking at state parks and paddling coastal waterways in search of river otters and bottlenose dolphins.

On the boardwalk (near 2nd Street), the 15,000-square-foot Grommet Island Beach Park is a must to let kids burn off energy on climbing structures and slides. Pedal to the 31st Street beach entrance for a photo with 34-foot-tall King Neptune.

A stop at Lolly’s Creamery for an ice cream cone is practically mandatory with kids. The scoop shop is three blocks off the beach and wows with flavors on rotation like Cookie Monster and Cotton Candy. You’ll find non-dairy options too, like Pina Colada Sorbet.

Off the beach, enjoy a shady hike at First Landing State Park, the most-visited state park in Virginia. The Bald Cypress Trail leads visitors across a freshwater swamp that awes with quizzical bald cypress trees with knobby “knees.” It’s one of the best hikes in Virginia Beach.

Make one last stop at Mount Trashmore, a popular city park that was once an abandoned landfill. It’s also a top spot to fly a kite. Settle in for the night at the Holiday Inn & Suites North Beach, which has three pools including a splash lagoon and an indoor lazy river pool. 

North Fork of Long Island, New York

Sound View, Greenport
Picture by Discover Long Island

By Vanessa from North Fork Food Magazine

The North Fork of Long Island, located just under two hours by car, bus or train from New York City, is a tranquil and fun destination for families with kids of all ages year round.

Long Island’s North Fork spans from Wading River / Baiting Hollow all the way out to Orient Point. From there, visitors may take the Orient Point Ferry to or from New London, Connecticut.

The best time to visit the North Fork is either in late September or early October during the peak fall bounty and when there are many different fall festivals and events taking place. Another great time to visit is in June during strawberry season and the annual Mattituck Strawberry Festival. If you do visit during the summer months, think about taking the train to avoid the traffic.

If you love to ride bikes, the North Fork is a beautiful place to ride and it is very easy to get around by bike. Towns like Greenport, Laurel, and Mattituck are particularly very walkable. 

Some of the best things to do across the North Fork focus on outdoor adventures and activities. One of my particularly favorite places to visit, especially for those who love animals, is Spirit’s Promise Equine Rescue, a rehabilitation center for horses, goats, cows, and other animals. When you visit, you must say hello to my most favorite Turkey in the whole world, Larry! He grew up on the rescue farm and is so friendly and loves the attention! They have farm tours on Saturdays and Sundays and events throughout the year.

Additional, notable activities include: the Long Island Railroad Museum, Long Island Science Center, the Maritime Festival in Greenport in late September, and visiting Hallockville Museum in Riverhead and Love Lane in Mattituck for a true local North Fork shopping experience.

Vegan-friendly restaurants that we love include: The Giving Room Market and Juice Bar, Ali Katz’s Kitchen, Magic Fountain for their rotating and dedicated vegan selection, and Noah’s restaurant. You must also try Pride Enjoy’s Rainbow Cookies. These vegan and allergy-friendly cookies are sold at local markets throughout the North Fork.  

When you stay overnight on the North Fork, we recommend The Preston House & Hotel, Coffey House Bed and Breakfast in East Marion, Sound View in Greenport, and The Menhaden in Greenport.

Cape Cod, Massachusetts

Shoreline in Cape Cod

By Melissa from New York Discovered

Sun, sand, and waves! That’s what awaits you on an East Coast family getaway to Cape Cod, Massachusetts. Cape Cod is a peninsula hanging off the Southeastern part of the state, surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean on 3 sides.

A visit to Cape Cod must include a beach day or two! Head to the Cape Cod National Seashore for some of the best beaches, like Coast Guard Beach, Macaroni Beach, and Nauset Light beach

A whale watch is a great half-day excursion for kids of all ages visiting Cape Cod. From Provincetown you can catch a cruise with the Dolphin Fleet Whale Watch to the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary, where you are almost guaranteed to spot a humpback or two!

After the whale watch take a stroll along Commercial Street, where you will find an old-fashioned candy shop and toy store that the kids will be over the moon about!  Go to the top of the Pilgrim Monument in Provincetown for some stunning views and then head to Race Point Beach for a beautiful sunset!

To get the most out of a beach vacation to Cape Cod, you will want to visit late July to August, when water temperatures have warmed enough to enjoy!

Tip: When visiting Cape Cod, make your home base somewhere in the center, like Chatham. This will give you easy access to both the tip of Cape Cod and Western end, with only about an hour drive both ways. Chatham Tides is a waterfront hotel overlooking the Nantucket Sound with direct beach access that is perfect for families visiting Cape Cod! 

Bar Harbor, Maine

Jordan Pond, Bar Harbor

By Melissa from Navigation Junkie

The small Mount Desert Island town of Bar Harbor that sits as the entranceway to Acadia National Park is one of the best East Coast vacation spots for families. You will find unparalleled natural beauty and fun filled adventure!  

When visiting Bar Harbor, you will want to reserve at least a couple days to explore Acadia NP. Park Loop Drive is one of the best ways to explore the park with young children. The 27-mile-long drive will take you to many of the park’s most popular stops, including the summit of Cadillac Mountain, Jordan Pond, Thunder Hole, and Sand Beach.

If you have children who are older and up for a hike, you can find plenty of options, from the easier Bubble Rock Hike to the more challenging hike to the Cadillac Mountain Summit.

In Bar Harbor, stroll along the marina and Main St., where you will find plenty of local, quaint shops and tasty eateries. See Bar Harbor and Acadia NP from the water on a Bar Harbor Puffin and Lighthouse Cruise while also enjoying lighthouses and native animal life.

The best time to experience Acadia NP is late summer. Early September after Labor Day will give you some of the least crowds while still having pleasant temperatures. 

For accommodations, Acadia Inn in Bar Harbor is a picturesque waterfront hotel that gives you direct access to the trails of Acadia NP. Their ‘Kids Kampout Package’ will be a big hit with the kids, with a small tent and lantern delivered to the room for a “camp-out.” 

Orlando, Florida

Orlando

By Lisa from Planning Away 2 Magic

One of the best family-friendly vacation spots on the east coast is Orlando, Florida. Orlando is the home of Disney World, Universal Orlando, and SeaWorld amusement parks. Over 60 million visitors travel annually to Orlando not only for the amusement parks but for the wonderful weather and amazing resorts.  

Disney World is designed so that families can have the ultimate vacation experience. Families love all the rides, shows, kid-friendly attractions, and foods at the Disney World parks. Disney also has 25 different resorts located on-site.  

Disney World comprises of six parks:

  • Magic Kingdom
  • Epcot
  • Hollywood Studios
  • Animal Kingdom
  • Blizzard Beach (water park)
  • Typhoon Lagoon (water park)

Universal Orlando is home of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. The rides offered at Universal are themed with incredible detail. Universal also offers eight incredible on-sites hotels.  

Universal Orlando includes the following parks:

  • Universal Studios
  • Islands of Adventure
  • Volcano Bay (water park)

If you are looking for more options, you do not have to look far. Located near Orlando is the Legoland Resort, Kennedy Space Center, and some of the best beaches in Florida. All of these fantastic options are within an hour or less from Orlando.

If families are looking for an amazing unforgettable vacation spot Orlando is the place! Orlando is the perfect family vacation spot on the east coast! 

Everglades, Florida

Everglades National Park

By Victoria from Guide Your Travel

The Everglades are one of the most magical areas of the United States with incredible landscapes and scenery.

Located just over an hour outside of Miami the national park is easily accessible and perfect for families looking for an outdoor activity.

Most people choose to go on an airboat tour when they visit the Everglades but it’s actually not the most environmentally friendly activity. Airboats are fun but also very loud and disturb the delicate ecosystems in the park.

Instead, a kayak tour is much more peaceful and great for kids. You’ll get to learn all about the different plant and animal species and can spot rare birds and even alligators if you get lucky. Tours take one to three hours depending on your personal preference and are great for kids aged six and up.

Younger children will enjoy short excursions to the Everglades such as the Bobcat boardwalk which is a very easy and short hiking trail (0.5 miles).

The best time to visit this area of the US will be in winter when temperatures are comfortable and not too hot.

If you’re looking for a place to stay consider the Everglades Adventures Hotel Suites which are mid-priced and fantastic for families.

Washington DC

US supreme court building

By Lisa from Planning Away

Washington DC is an amazing vacation spot on the east coast!  It is the perfect place if you love museums and want to learn American history. One of the best things about visiting Washington DC is that almost all of the museums are free.  

Some of the Smithsonian museums include:

  • National Air and Space Museum 
  • National Museum of American History
  • Smithsonian American Art Museum
  • National Museum African American History and Culture
  • National Museum of African Art
  • National Museum of the American Indian
  • Art and Industry Building
  • Hirshhorn Museum of Sculpture Garden
  • Free Gallery of Art
  • National Zoo
  • National Museum of Natural History
  • National Portrait Gallery 
  • National Postal Museum

You can also check out all the National Monuments. This includes the famous Lincoln Memorial, Jefferson Memorial, and Washington Memorial. There are many more located near the White House and the Capitol Building.  Viewing the monuments at night is a great option as well! 

Be sure to take a tour of the Capitol Building and White House. You will need to speak with your congress representative to make this happen. It is so worth it! 

There are also many amazing day trips from Washington DC. Some favorites include Fort McHenry (Star Spangled Banner), Fredericksburg (Civil War), Gettysburg (Gettysburg Address), or even head down to Williamsburg and Jamestown (Early Pilgrims).  

Washington DC is one of the best vacation spots on the East Coast for families.

Asheville, North Carolina

North Carolina, Asheville

By Kate from Our Escape Clause

Nestled in the mountains of Western North Carolina, the charming city of Asheville is one of the best family vacation destinations on the East Coast!

Some of the most popular things to do in Asheville include touring the famous Biltmore Estate, driving the iconic Blue Ridge Parkway, exploring Great Smoky Mountains National Park, chasing waterfalls in Pisgah National Forest, and enjoying the Art Deco architecture of downtown Asheville.

Kids and teens will especially appreciate easy-to-access outdoor activities like the naturally-formed water slide at Slide Rock and gorgeous Looking Glass Falls and Craggy Pinnacle.

The beautiful North Carolina Arboretum and quirky Asheville Pinball Museum are also excellent additions to an Asheville itinerary!

While you can visit Asheville year-round, the outdoor attractions that the area is known for are best enjoyed during the summer or fall–the Blue Ridge Mountains near Asheville is home to some of the best fall foliage in the country each year!

And, while it is a bit of a splurge, the historic Omni Grove Park Inn is unarguably one of the best places to stay in Asheville–so much so that it’s practically a tourism destination in its own right.

New York City, New York

New York City Skyline

By Kelly from Travel New York Now

NYC is the playground of adults and kids alike and one trip is not enough time to experience all that the City has to offer.

Little Island is the newest addition to the Hudson River Parkway. The man-made park on the Hudson is composed of concrete piles of varying heights and on top of it is are green spaces, event spaces, and lots of seats to take a load off and people watch. Kids will have plenty of space to run around and play.

A couple of blocks away in Chelsea is the Museum of Illusions that usually has a long line out front. Kids and adults alike are enamored by the interactive exhibits that are science-based and meant to teach visitors about the human brain and how it can be tricked at times.

NYC has plenty of historic sites and a must-see is the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. Visitors will learn about how immigrants entered the US starting in the late 1800s. For those that want to see Lady Liberty up close, there are tours of Liberty Island and access to the Pedestal which has great views of the City.

Right in the heart of Times Square is the family-friendly Millennium Times Square with amazing views of Times square. The hotel offers Ask Alfred perks with jelly beans, a teddy bear and kid-friendly toiletries and menu. They also have plenty of perks to help parents plan an amazing trip to NYC.

Mystic, Connecticut

Mystic

By Bernadette rom Live a Relaxed Life

Mystic is a cute New England town that is right on the water. Because of its proximity to the Atlantic Ocean, it was once a shipbuilding center and it is home to the largest maritime museum in the US.

One of the best places to visit with kids is the Maritime Museum where visitors will learn about the town’s history as well as explore the Charles W. Morgan, a wooden whaleship. Visitors can even learn how to ride a rowboat or sailboat too.

At the Olde Mistick Village, grown-ups can buy souvenirs and other treats. The open-air shopping area looks like an 18th-century New England village and kids can also have fun feeding ducks at the village pond.

Nearby is the Whaler’s Inn with cute rooms and kid-sized beds! Plus, kids stay free and can get afternoon treats. 

For a different way to see the countryside, there is the Essex Steam Train and Riverboat where visitors can experience a ride on a steam engine that leads to a riverboat tour. It is better to do this two-hour trip during the Fall to see the changing of the leaves

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