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9 Spring Break Road Trips Families Can Take from New York

9 Spring Break Road Trips Families Can Take from New York

Whether you have tots or teens, these Spring Break itineraries have something fun for everyone in the family and they're just a drive away.

How lucky we are to have so many options for spring break fun within comfortable driving distance of midtown Manhattan?! It wasn’t easy to pick our favorites—but pick we must, so pick we did. Read on for the best family-friendly road trips to be had in New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Pennsylvania this spring.

As of February 2021, asymptomatic New Yorkers are allowed to travel to contiguous states—Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Vermont, Connecticut—without having to quarantine or be tested upon returning to NY state. However, some of these states have specific rules, as noted below. Be sure to double-check guidance and guidelines before hopping on a train or into a car.

Confirming goes double when it comes to activities and restaurants. Traveling in COVID times means being super-flexible. Everything from opening hours to availability to the reservation process can change rapidly and with little warning, so call, email, or text before setting out.

Road Trip Itineraries:

The Adirondacks 
The Berkshires
Bucks County
The Catskills
Finger Lakes
Hudson Valley
The Jersey Shore


The Adirondacks

Image: Fort Ticonderoga. Credit: Garrett Ziegler

Here’s a fun fact: Adirondack Park is larger than Glacier, Yosemite, Grand Canyon, Great Smokey Mountains, and Yellowstone put together. At 6 million acres, the Adirondacks are truly awesome, in every sense of the word.

Approximate drive from Midtown: 5 hours

What to See and Do

Ooh and aah at Ausable Chasm, a deep Ice Age-era gorge often called “the Grand Canyon of the East.” The classic tour caters to families, with an easy walk and gentle river float. The adventure tour—appropriate for kids 8 and up—lives up to its name, with edge walks and cable bridges

Peer above the tree line at the Wild Center. The Wild Walk at this natural history center rises 30 feet into the air and culminates in a bouncy net known as the Spider’s Web (the walk is fully accessible). You can also pay a visit to the center’s outdoor animal ambassadors, among them a raven and a porcupine. 

Summit a high peak. With 46 mountains to choose from, the Adirondacks High Peaks have options for everyone, from the littlest hikers to individuals with physical disabilities.

Discover military history at Fort Ticonderoga. A key location during the French and Indian and Revolutionary Wars, Fort Ticonderoga offers historical interpreters, detailed exhibitions, weaponry demonstrations, and grand views of Lake Champlain

Pretend you’re an Olympian at the Olympic Center. As you soar through the air on a Skyride gondola, you can see how far ski jumpers have to fly, you can see how far ski jumpers have to fly, or you can strap on some skates to practice spins and Lutzes at the rink. The museum is full of memorabilia from the 1932 and 1980 Winter Olympics, hosted in Lake Placid

Where to Eat

Start with the BBQ nachos at Smoke Signals, then try a bacon-glazed meatloaf or half-chicken, smoked on site. This Lake Placid barbecue restaurant even has a kid-sized version of ribs for young carnivores.

Barkeater Chocolates sells bars and boxes of truffles made on-site in North Creek (take a peek at the factory in back), but its imaginatively flavored bark just might be best. Think flavors like Adirondack Adventure, which covers dark chocolate with apricots, cashews, flax seed, sunflower seeds, and cranberries. Although the bark comes in a resealable package, you won’t be needing it.

Lake Placid’s Big Mountain Deli & Crêperie boasts 46 sandwiches, one for every peak in the Adirondacks. Its crepes include savory options like maple ham and asparagus, as well as sweet versions like brie and brown sugar, raspberry mascarpone, and key lime pie

Where to Stay

Located on the shores of Mirror Lake, and just steps away from Lake Placid’s main thoroughfare, the Golden Arrow Lakeside Resort makes for a great base. Family suites are available, as are boats and other watercraft for fun on the lake.

Most of the rooms at High Peaks Resort offer views of Mirror Lake, and rustic furniture adds to the ski lodge, country-living vibe. It’s close to the shops and eateries of Lake Placid. The resort boasts not one, not two, but FOUR pools.

Every night—regardless of weather—the kind staff at Whiteface Lodge lights a fire and passes around everything you need for s’mores. Other kid-friendly fun at this Lake Placid institution includes a 3D movie theater, a game room, and a bowling alley, as well as organized activities like arts and crafts and canoeing.

The Berkshires, MA

Image: Jack's Hot Dog Stand. Credit: Garrett Ziegler

Anyone who says the Berkshires are best during fall foliage hasn’t visited during the rest of the year. This rural swath of western Massachusetts couples adventure and art, an irresistible blend for young and old alike. Returning residents and nonresidents must fill in the Massachusetts Travel Form prior to arrival and either quarantine for 10 days or produce results for a negative Covid-19 test that was administered up to 72 hours before arriving in Massachusetts.

Approximate drive from Midtown: 3 hours

What to See and Do

Drive the Mohawk Trail, once used by members of the Five Nations to travel between the Connecticut and upper Hudson Valleys. Stop along the way for wonderful views of the Western Summit, Mount Greylock, Mount Prospect, and Mount Williams.

Delight in all forms of art, from sculpture to painting to video and audio installations, at MASS MoCA in North Adams. If your kid’s not up for walking the vast galleries of this former textile mill and electricity plant, mosey on over to Kidspace, a gallery designed with children in mind, or ArtBar, where kids can make their own works on weekends.

Receive a butterfly kiss at Magic Wings, an 8,000-square-foot sanctuary dedicated to Lepidoptera in South Deerfield. Around 4,000 native and tropical butterflies flit, flutter, and fly inside a flora-filled tropical environment. Although young children are welcome, their strollers are not.

Hike Mount Greylock, the highest peak in Massachusetts. All told the mountain has approximately 70 miles of trails for hiking, biking, skiing, snowmobiling, and snowshoeing. If you’ve got a book-loving, nature-ignoring sceptic in your party, you might want to mention that Mount Greylock is the site of the Ilvermorny School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, the North American version of Hogwarts.

Visit the Berkshire Museum in Pittsfield, dedicated to exploring the intersection of natural science, history, and art with an emphasis on the local area. For example, the Berkshire Backyard exhibitions spotlight the beetles, bears, birds, and bull frogs that live nearby.

Where to Eat

Quite possibly the area’s most famous restaurant, Jack’s Hot Dog Stand in North Adams has been serving up dogs since World War I. Get yours with ketchup, dripping with chili, or covered in sauerkraut.

PUBLIC eat+drink neatly divides its upscale pub-grub menu into “smalls” like tempura-covered chicken tenders, “mids” like falafel, and “bigs” like steak with a Cognac cream sauce. The North Adams restaurant also has two-course family meals with options like chorizo tacos and mac-and-cheese with pancetta.

Warning: Your family might flip for breakfast at Renee’s Diner that they’ll beg you to eat there again for lunch. This American restaurant in North Adams does a wicked French toast with raisin bread, as well as a mean set of butterscotch chip pancakes.

Where to Stay

At Rose and Goat Retreat, you and your family can stay in a secluded apartment, complete with its own all-weather hot tub and fire pit. And because the hotel is located atop Florida Mountain, you’ll enjoy boundless views just about anywhere you go on the property.

Located on the grounds of MASS MoCA, the Porches Inn is tailor-made for families with kids of all ages. The hotel has boardgames and DVDs, there’s a playground down the block, and there’s a heated outdoor pool.

The four-season Vacation Village in Hancock has multiple pools (including one just for the kiddos), a private movie theater, a game room with table and video games, and suites with fireplaces and full-service kitchens.

Bucks County, PA

Just 2 hours from Manhattan, Bucks County blends small-town charm with big-time fun. In addition to well-known attractions, like a Sesame Street theme park, you’ll find natural wonders and Americana galore. Note that anyone coming to Pennsylvania from another state or country must have proof of a negative Covid test within 72 hours or quarantine for 10 days upon arriving in Pennsylvania.

Approximate drive from Midtown: 2 hours

What to See and Do

Say hello to Big Bird and Elmo at Sesame Place in Langhorne. The only theme park devoted to Sesame Street in the U.S. has rides, parades, shows, and beloved characters as happy to see your kids as your kids will be to see them

Listen to the rocks “sing” at the Ringing Rocks Park—no, seriously. The boulders at this 8-acre site in Upper Black Eddy make music when hit with hammers, hands, or other rocks. The park also has the county’s largest waterfall

Be in two states at once. The New Hope–Lambertville Bridge connects Pennsylvania and New Jersey. High above the Delaware River, a line indicates the states’ border. Straddle it, and you’ll officially be in two states at the same time.

Stop and smell the roses (and other flowers) at the Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve, , home to more than 700 native species of plants, in New Hope. Kids will love looking for turtles at the Founders’ Pond or leaving a gift for others to find in the center of the Green Labyrinth

Celebrate all things chocolate at Hersheypark. Nearly 2 hours west of Bucks County, this massive theme park features rides, a wildlife park, splash zones, and, of course, oodles of Hershey’s finest chocolate. It opens for the season on April 2.

Where to Eat

As fun to eat as it is to say, Owowcow Ice Cream is handcrafted with locally sourced ingredients. After getting a scoop (or seven!) of such flavors as blueberry lemon and and Cookie Monstah (sweet cream with chunks of chocolate chip cookies), wander through the Ottsville creamery’s farm next door

Every day the staff at Jesse’s Barbecue & Local Market in Souderton fires up its three smokers and gets to work making beef brisket, pulled pork, and St. Louis-style spareribs. Kids can order off the regular menu, or get a drumstick plus their choice of side.

Empanada Mama boasts a truly dazzling, rotating array of of empanadas like spinach and artichoke dip, chipotle chicken, pepperoni and mozzarella, and classic beef. Customize your order still further with such sauces as sriracha lime crema and kalamata olive aioli

Where to Stay

Every room at Springhill Suites Philadelphia Langhorne has a pullout sofa, so you and your brood will have space aplenty for stretching out following a fun day at Sesame Place, located immediately next door.

Homewood Suites by Hilton in Warrington offers regular rooms and suites, an indoor pool, and free breakfast. As an added bonus, the hotel is a short drive to Doylestown’s Kids’ Castle playground complex.

Ash Mill Farm has two types of lodging: private cottages, and rooms in a Holicong manor house dating to 1790. Whichever you select, you’ll have access to the 10-acre farm’s permanent four-legged residents: sheep.

The Catskills

Image: Kaaterskill Falls. Credit: Garrett Ziegler.

For years, “the Catskills” has been synonymous with recreation, relaxation, and resorts. Some things never change, as you’ll discover over a long weekend or spring break vacay. Parts of it feel charmingly retro and happily hipster, while other parts, such as Kaaterskill Falls, no doubt look as beautiful now as when the first people stumbled upon its rushing waters.

Approximate drive from Midtown: 2½ hours

What to See and Do

Scale Kaaterskill Falls, the most famous double waterfall in the state. The uber-popular 2.6-mile trail is doable with young children, but note the steep paths leading to and from the falls’ base.

Catch a flick at the Hi-Way Drive-In Theatre in Coxsackie, showing kid-friendly movies on four screens over select spring weekends. You supply the car, they supply everything else.

Ride down Plattekill Mountain. Come spring and summer, the ski slopes transform into a mountain biker’s paradise. Bikes and guides are available.

Picnic at Lake Superior State Park. Although the park doesn’t have marked trails, it does have around 1,000 acres, including a beach. Plenty of spots for fishing, too.

Wander the Dove Trail in Sullivan County. To commemorate the 50th anniversary of Woodstock, local artisans painted 50 doves, which are now on permanent display in the county’s villages and towns. Anyone who completes the trail (with photos #SullivanCatskillsDoveTrail) will receive a special gift from the local tourism bureau.  

Where to Eat

After filling your belly with omelets or pancakes at the Catskill Mountain Country Store in Windham, stock up on locally made baked goods, jams, and crafts. Then burn off some of your breakfast (served all day) by wandering the grounds or playing on the pirate-themed playground. Be sure to give Wilbur, a huge pot-bellied pig, a hearty hello.  

Phoenicia Diner is known far and wide for serving upscale comfort food like grilled cheese and avocado toast. Grab your grub to go or sit at one of the picnic tables in the heated outdoor area.

Jingle writer-turned-baker Janice Hardgrove-Kollar runs Peace, Love, and Cupcakes in Woodstock. Give your kids a music lesson while letting them nosh on the “Jerry Garcia” (vegan banana cupcakes topped with vegan double fudge frosting) or the “Jefferson Airplane” (an ultra-chocolatey cupcake covered with kaleidoscopic vanilla frosting).

Where to Stay

For more than 70 years, the Catskill Game Farm drew visitors from all around to gape at its animal menagerie. After falling into disrepair, the grounds are being transformed into a multi-season resort. You can stay in what used to be the giraffe house (now a boutique hotel), or opt for a more-secluded glamping site. You’re free to wander and explore what’s left of the zoo too.

Hull-O Farms welcomes guests to its seventh-generation farm in Durham. Accommodations include a chalet and a cottage, and activities range from petting baby animals to hayrides to fishing to chasing butterflies through meadows.

Two words: all inclusive. Villa Roma puts kids first, offering a slew of fun stuff like bumper boats, hair-braiding, rock-climbing, and shuffleboard at its large Callicoon property. A kid-focused social director plans daily to-dos as well.


The Finger Lakes

According to Native American legend, the Finger Lakes are the result of the Creator blessing the land by touching it, leaving a handprint behind. Today, the region is known for its perfect grape-growing micro-climate, huge number of child-friendly activities, and opportunities for waterfalling, which is totally a thing.

Approximate drive from Midtown: 4 hours

What to See and Do

Go ahead and grab what you see at the Strong National Museum of Play in Rochester—its exhibitions are designed to be tweaked and touched. Among its ginormous collection of historical toys, dolls, and manipulables is the National Toy Hall of Fame, where you can introduce kids to the once-longed-for relics of your youth.

Appreciate 35 centuries of glass objects at the Corning Museum of Glass, dedicated to exploring and extolling the art and science of working with this material. Kids ages 4 and older will get a kick out of learning to flamework, sandblast, and blow glass, or playing “Glass Detective” as part of the museum’s scavenger hunt.

Watch for wobbles at the Jell-O Museum. America’s favorite dessert was invented in the Finger Lakes Region in 1897, and this cute museum in LeRoy tells you everything you’ve ever wanted to know about the treat.

Stroll along one of the coolest suspension bridges in the United States: the pedestrian Fall Creek Suspension Bridge at Cornell University hangs 140 feet above the waterfalls and gorges of Fall Creek. Don’t be frightened if it sways ever-so-slightly; that’s totally normal, and the flexibility of suspension bridges prevent them from breaking during severe weather. 

Meet the more than 700 animals at the Rosamond Gifford Zoo in Syracuse. New residents include a giant Pacific octopus named Tellaro and four Turkmenian markhor called the Golden Girls.

Where to Eat

What’s better than a waffle? A buckwheat-and-hemp waffle topped with lemon curd, Nutella, peanut butter, and cream cheese frosting. Your kids will probably come up with something even crazier from the make-your-own menu at Ithaca’s Waffle Frolic

Open to the public, the Cornell Dairy Bar marries ice cream and the Ivy League. Sandwiches, hot drinks, and breakfast foods too, but the real draw is the ice cream, with rotating flavors like triple caramel bliss, mango sorbet, and “Cornelia’s Dark Secret”—you’ll have to lick it to find out what it is. 

If you’re going to say you have the “best chicken tenders on Earth,” you’d best have the chops—er, chicken—to back it up. Thankfully, Tully’s Good Times in Rochester makes great takes on the classic, served with fries and various dipping sauces.

Where to Stay

Belhurst Castle in Geneva has a variety of rooms inside the main castle, or you can book a cottage for more privacy. Parents can relax with a glass of wine from a local vintner while kids look for knights and dragons.

Dedicated to restoring the glory of mid-century architecture, the Miami Motel in Canandaigua will make you feel as if you’ve gone back in time, when ducktails and poodle skirts were all the rage. Teens will dig the decidedly period vibe.

Not only does La Tourelle Hotel in Ithaca have around 70 acres of grounds for roaming, its Buttermilk Trail intersects with the Buttermilk Falls State Park, making it easy to go for a forest bath or hike. There’s also a hot air balloon depot right on site

The Hudson Valley

Image: Walkway Over the Hudson. Credit: Garrett Ziegler.

What is there not to love about the Hudson Valley? With great art, creative food, incredible hiking, and close proximity to New York City, this area really has it all. You might never want to leave.

Approximate drive from Midtown: 1 ½ hours

What to See and Do

Run around Storm King Art Center, a 500-acre outdoor sculpture museum in Mountainville. How you see the art depends on when you see it—at noon, in the fog, as the sun sets—which is most certainly part of the appeal. Kids will love the freedom to roll, shout, and wrestle beneath ginormous monoliths in steel and stone.  

Check out the ruins of a once-grand estate. An easy 1.8-mile round-trip hike through Hudson Highlands State Park in Cold Spring takes you to a mansion that’s fallen on hard times since its early 1900s heyday. Nature has slowly but surely taken over.

Rev it up at Motorcyclepedia. This Newburgh museum displays around 600 different motorcycles, such as a 1916 Husqvarna and a Harley that was riding in the motorcade when President John F. Kennedy was shot.

Interpret the art at Dia:Beacon. In 2003, this former Nabisco factory reopened as a haven for cutting-edge, and sometimes huge, work by such contemporary artists as Richard Serra, On Kawara, and Louise Lawler.

Cross the world’s longest elevated pedestrian bridge. Once a railway bridge, the Walkway Over the Hudson connects the towns of Poughkeepsie and Highland, rises 212 feet above the Hudson, and forms part of the newly opened, 750-mile Empire State Trail.  

Where to Eat

The Pandorica purports to be the only Doctor Who-themed restaurant on the East Coast, serving comfort food in comfy Beacon digs. Try the faux fried fish fingers (French toast wedges) with a custard dipping sauce.

Among the vendors you’ll find at the Hudson Valley Food Hall in Beacon are Momo Valley (handmade Himalayan dumplings) and Miz Hattie’s Southern BBQ.

Stock up on some gooey goodness, including pumpkin spice marshmallows at the Hudson Valley Marshmallow Store in Beacon. Two-bite s’mores are made to order. 

Where to Stay

Located on Beacon’s Main Street, the Roundhouse overlooks a waterfall and a creek, and is easy walking distance, making it a good choice for folks traveling by train who might not wish to rent a car. Breakfast is included with your stay at this textile factory-turned-boutique hotel.

As if staying in a Victorian castle wasn’t cool enough, Mohonk Mountain in New Paltz lets kids be naturalists, cowboys, golfers, crafters, and detectives, thanks to a range of programming for every age. Plus, tea and cookies are served every day at 4pm.   

Consistently ranked among the best resorts in the US, Rocking Horse Ranch in Highland is the total package. From pony rides to bonfires, character lunches to concerts, your kid’s schedule will be jam-packed with entertainment, excitement, and memory-making.

Mystic, CT

Image: Mystic Aquarium. Credit: Garrett Ziegler

You can’t get much more charming than Mystic, CT. As you’d expect from this seaside town in Southern New England, aquatic activities rule. If you’re coming to Connecticut from New York, New Jersey, or Rhode Island, you don’t have to self-quarantine; anywhere else, however, and you have to stay isolated for 10 days.

Approximate drive from Midtown: 2½ hours

What to See and Do

Admire the marine animals, including beluga whales, sea lions, and sharks, at Mystic Aquarium. For an extra-special experience, consider a small-group, in-person encounter: For example, you and your little ones can feed and stroke a stingray—and watch as it ‘paints’ a picture for you to take home.

Applaud the engineering behind Mystic River Bascule Bridge. To accommodate large vessels, one end will rise up almost perpendicular to the water while the 230-ton counterweights come down. It’s rather breathtaking. 

Master maritime history at Mystic Seaport Museum. In addition to strolling around a recreated 19th-century seafaring village, you can climb aboard various ships and watch as others are rehabilitated in the fully functioning shipyard. 

Shop Olde Mistick Village, a recreated 18th-century village full of independently owned stores, footpaths, playhouses, gazebos, and even a duck pond.

Explore the Submarine Force Library and Museum in nearby Groton, the self-proclaimed submarine capital of the world. Your ticket enables you to explore the USS Nautilus, the Navy’s first nuclear-powered submarine.

Where to Eat

Olde Mistick Village has several restaurants, but only one small-batch, artisan donut shop. Deviant Craft Coffee & Donuts specializes in mind-blowing flavors like candied bacon and tiramisu.

You’ll be forgiven for expecting to see a young Julia Roberts swagger out of Mystic Pizza. The 1988 movie might have put the restaurant on the map, but the pizza keeps people coming back.

It’s a butcher shop, it’s a restaurant, it’s Grass and Bone. Everything’s locally sourced and responsibly raised. We recommend the rotisserie chicken taco.  

Where to Stay

With grand water views, the Inn at Mystic makes for a relaxing stay. Throw in the fire pits, walking trail, dock, and courts for tennis and basketball, and you’ve got an excellent property that will appeal to the entire family. 

In keeping with the town’s nautical theme, The Whaler’s Inn is decorated in whites and blues. Junior Suites come with a big bed for the grown-ups and bunk beds for the kids tucked in a separate alcove, complete with its own Roku-equipped TV.

About 20 minutes away from Mystic is Foxwoods, home to a casino, a performance hall, and a crazy cool number of things for kids, including an arcade with tons of video games and an indoor go-kart track.

Philadelphia, PA

Image: Ben Franklin statue. Credit: Garrett Ziegler. 

Philadelphia oozes history. From Betsy Ross to Ben Franklin, the Liberty Bell to the signing of the Constitution, this Pennsylvania city is a must-visit for anyone interested in early America. But its cool culture and walkable neighborhoods make it ideal for car-free trips with the fam. Note that anyone coming to Pennsylvania from another state or country must have proof of a negative COVID test within 72 hours or quarantine for 10 days upon arriving in Pennsylvania.

Approximate drive from Midtown: 2 hours

What to See and Do

Hear the echoes of history as you walk along Independence National Park, home to the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall, where the Declaration of Independence was signed in 1776 and the Constitution drafted in 1787.

Walk around what’s left of the Eastern State Penitentiary, once home to Al Capone and other Public Enemies #1. From its opening in 1829 through its closure in 1970, the notorious prison was meant to foster penance in its inmates through a combination of labor and solitary confinement, but today its crumbling cells are full of Instagram-worthy snaps.

Marvel at the mosaics at Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens (slated to reopen in April 2021). Pretty much every inch of the indoor-outdoor complex is covered in mirrors, colored glass, bits of pottery, repurposed tools, and other odds and ends, courtesy of Isaiah Zagar. He sought to beautify his South Street neighborhood using found objects in the 1960s, and his efforts are an homage to both outsider art and civic engagement.  

Raise your arms and celebrate the underdog at the so-called Rocky Steps, leading up to the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Nearby is “Rocky,” a bronze statue made for a scene in the 1982 movie Rocky III.

Roar at the dinosaurs at one of the oldest natural history museums in the United States. The Academy of Natural Sciences at Drexel University holds some 18 million specimens, among them an imposing 40-foot-long T. Rex.

Where to Eat

A “celebration of geek culture,” Amalgam Comics & Coffeehouse was the first black woman-owned comic shop on the East Coast. Enjoy a hot beverage while browsing the latest from DC, Marvel, and Disney.  

You can’t go wrong with any of the vendors at Reading Terminal Market, but we’ve got a soft spot for the Reuben at the iconic Dutch Eating Place.

In 1930, Pat Olivieri invented the cheesesteak—or so goes the story. Try one of the city’s most famous foods, in all its gooey glory, at Pat’s King of the Steaks, still owned and operated by the Olivieri family.

Where to Stay

Upon checking into the Kimpton Monaco Philadelphia, kids receive a welcome gift. There’s also an on-site Chief Virtual Officer, in case your little one needs help with remote learning during your stay.

Through its Ritz Kids program, the Ritz Carlton makes younger travelers feel like a million bucks. At the Philadelphia location, kids can participate in interactive activities designed to help them learn about the ‘City of Brotherly and Sisterly Love.

Literally steps away from Philadelphia’s main attractions, Windsor Suites is a perfect choice for families who don’t want to have to schlep too much too far. All of its residential-style accommodations have full-kitchens, but some have balconies and separate living rooms (with sleeper sofas)


The Jersey Shore

All told, the Jersey Shore stretches for approximately 140 miles along the Atlantic Ocean, from Perth Amboy to Cape May. Along the way you’ll find soft-sanded beaches, millions of games, and tons of opportunities for fun in the springtime sun. Travelers coming from outside of contiguous states—New York, Delaware, Connecticut, and Pennsylvania—are asked to voluntarily complete a health form before entering the state to enable tracking and tracing as appropriate and to self-quarantine.

Approx. drive from Midtown: about 1 ½ hours

What to see and do

Tilt, flip, and biff at the Silverball Retro Arcade. This Asbury Park museum is dedicated to pinball, with a rotating number of games selected from nearly 600 acquired over the years. And, for the record, biffing is actually a good thing.

Do a double-take at Ripley’s Believe It or Not!, a museum of the world’s most curious curiosities and oddest oddities located on Atlantic City’s famous boardwalk. Optical illusions and weird stuff—such as crickets painted to look like celebrities—abound. 

Ascend 228 steps to the top of Absecon Lighthouse, New Jersey’s tallest lighthouse, and you’ll be rewarded with panoramic views of Atlantic City. For a truly unforgettable experience, see about signing your kid up for the Keeper Sleeper Overnight, a chance to spend the night on-site.  

Hop aboard the Cape May Whale Watcher, a 110-foot-schooner that’s been spotting whales since 1993. Keep your eyes peeled for dolphins at play in Delaware Bay as well. Kids 6 and younger cost 1 cent with an adult ticket.  

Try your luck at the Steel Pier, Atlantic City’s famed amusement park. Go for a ride, test your hand-eye coordination, gorge yourself on cotton candy, and see what’s kept folks coming back since the 1890s.

Where to eat

Tell someone you’re going down the shore, and they’ll ask which location of Coney Waffle you’ll be hitting up first. The ice cream’s the thing here, especially when it’s served in cake form and covered with salty caramel pretzels, Oreo’s, Kit Kats, or sprinkles

Since 1946, White House Sub Shop has been satisfying hungry hoards looking for that magic combination of meat, cheese, and bread. Half-subs are available for smaller appetites or little bellies.

Build your own burger at Exit Zero Filling Station, a Cape May restaurant inside a former gas station, or opt for a “Very Christmas Curry” with Brussels sprouts, chicken, and butternut squash. If your kids have been extra good, order them a Unicorn milkshake, made with pink metallic whipped cream and cake batter ice cream, and topped with a white-chocolate unicorn horn.    

Where to stay

 The ICONA Avalon has suites that lead directly onto the beach. Not a beach day? Not a problem—you can stay in, make some popcorn in your kitchenette, and watch movies on your suite’s two flatscreen TVs.

If you don’t choose your B&B carefully, you could wind up surrounded by priceless or cherished antiques ripe for the breaking by a rambunctious toddler or teen. Just a block away from the beach, Carroll Villa Hotel is a happy, homey B&B that loves families. The on-site restaurant, The Mad Batter, is generally considered to have put Cape May dining on the map. 

While Mom and Dad are off to find Lady Luck, the kids can hang out at the Family Fun Center at Harrah’s Resort, featuring air hockey, Skee-Ball, and other arcade games. Then they can cool off at the indoor pool. 


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Jessica Allen


Jessica Allen writes about food, culture, travel, and New York City, where she lives.

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