5 easy road trips from Long Island

An interactive tour of sites within Philadelphia's Independence

An interactive tour of sites within Philadelphia's Independence National Historical Park ends in front of Independence Hall. (Credit: M. Kennedy for GPTMC)

If you've yet to plan a spring getaway, it's not too late. Whether you're a seafarer or landlubber, history buff or nature lover, here are five popular destinations all within easy driving distance of Long Island. Make sure to call ahead and/or check the websites for ideas of what to do and where to stay, as well as for special events that may be taking place.

1. MYSTIC SEAPORT, CONN. (about 2 hours, 15 minutes from NYC)

Welcome aboard ... as you explore the Charles W. Morgan, billed by the folks at Mystic Seaport as "the last wooden whale ship in the world." The area's shipbuilding prowess dates back to the 1600s, when majestic ships sailed the Mystic River and shipyards populated its banks. Here, you can stroll through a re-created 19th century village, swab the deck in the Children's Museum, marvel at the maritime skills of historical interpreters and listen as chanteymen perform the music of the sea. Don't miss the beluga whales and other aquatic creatures at nearby Mystic Aquarium. If your timing is right, stop by Treworgy Planetarium to learn how mariners use the sun and stars to navigate.

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GUIDES: Family vacation spots | Around the U.S. | Weekend trips

PLAN A VISIT

Mystic Seaport

75 Greenmanville Ave., Mystic, Conn. 860-572-0711, mysticseaport.org

Mystic Aquarium

55 Coogan Blvd., Mystic, Conn., 860-572-5955, mysticaquarium.org

2. CAPE MAY, N.J. (about 2 hours, 30 minutes from New York City)

As a National Historic Landmark and "the nation's oldest seashore resort," Cape May -- with its tidy neighborhoods, charming Victorian-era homes and pristine beaches -- beckons. Visit the 19th century estate of Dr. Emlen Physick, board the Cape May Trolley for a spooky ghost tour, shop on the Washington Street (pedestrian) Mall, or take a self-guided walk through the historic district. There's good local theater, and the Mid-Atlantic Center for the Arts and Humanities (MAC) offers an array of events, including festivals and concerts. Remember to include the nearby Cape May Lighthouse, Cape May Bird Observatory, Historic Cold Spring Village and the Cape May County Zoo.

PLAN A VISIT

Cape May Welcome Center

609 Lafayette St., Cape May, N.J., 609-884-5508, capemay.com, capemaymac.org, capemaycity.org

3. GREAT WOLF LODGE, PA. (about 1 hour, 30 minutes from NYC)

At this point, it might prove difficult to book an entire week during spring break at this popular family resort in the Poconos. But if you're looking to spend a night or two, you may be able to find an available Wolf Den, Kid Cabin, Grizzly Bear Suite or one of the other uniquely themed rooms. Great Wolf Lodge is best known for its 79,000-plus-square-foot indoor water park (a toasty 84 degrees) with rides like Double Barrel Drop, Hydro Plunge and Coyote Cannon. Water park passes are included in the room rate. If eventually waterlogged, your family can also battle a dragon in MagiQuest or try to save the sky's light before it vanishes in ShadowQuest. You can enjoy both a manicure and a scoop of ice cream at Scooops Kid Spa (yes, there's an extra "o") or try your skill at Howl at the Moon, an indoor, glow-in-the-dark miniature golf course.

PLAN A VISIT

Great Wolf Lodge

1 Great Wolf Lodge Dr., Scotrun, Pa., 800-768-9653, greatwolf.com/poconos

4. WEST POINT, N.Y. (about 1 hour, 30 minutes from New York City)

According to its website, West Point is "the oldest continuously occupied military post in America ... its role in our nation's history dating back to the Revolutionary War when both sides realized the strategic importance of the commanding plateau on the west bank of the Hudson River." Today, that view commands the attention of U.S. Military Academy cadets and visitors alike. Enjoy a guided bus tour, visit the West Point Museum and, if scheduled, catch a performance of the West Point Band. Stay overnight at the historic Thayer Hotel (circa 1926), located on the grounds of the academy. Or travel seven miles down the road to Bear Mountain State Park, where you can relax at the Bear Mountain Inn, Overlook Lodge or Stone Cottages.

In the park, you can hike, bike, swim, fish and ride a merry-go-round with hand-painted scenes of the park and hand-carved seats depicting black bears, raccoons, skunks and other native animals.

PLAN A VISIT

West Point Visitors Center

606 Thayer Rd., West Point, N.Y., 845-938-2638, usma.edu, westpointtours.com

Bear Mountain State Park

3006 Seven Lakes Dr., Bear Mountain, N.Y., 845-786-2701, visitbearmountain.com, nysparks.com/parks/13

The Thayer Hotel at West Point

674 Thayer Rd., West Point, N.Y., 845-446-4731, thethayerhotel.com

5. PHILADELPHIA (about 1hour, 45 minutes from New York City)

It may be hard to see it all during a visit to the City of Brotherly Love. Among the many entertaining and educational options: the Franklin Institute, Philadelphia Museum of Art, Please Touch Museum, the Philadelphia Zoo (America's oldest zoo) and the nearby Adventure Aquarium (across the Delaware River in Camden).

You might venture out on a quest for the best Philly cheesesteak. Or plan a side trip to Valley Forge National Historical Park. Oh, yeah, don't forget Independence National Historical Park, where you can watch the birth of a nation unfold, examine the life and legacy of Benjamin Franklin, take a closer look at the world's most famous damaged chime and much more.

PLAN A VISIT

Independence National Historical Park Visitor Center

525 Market St. (at Sixth Street), Philadelphia, Pa., 215-965-2305, nps.gov/inde, visitphilly.com, philadelphiazoo.org

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