25 weekend getaways every New Yorker should take
You want to shake off work without having to drive too far. We get it. That's why we found one-tank trips every New Yorker should take -- for all kinds of travelers.
Whether you're looking for a weekend at the beach, a ski getaway, a family visit to an amusement park or a host of other quick destinations that feature everything for children and adults alike, we found 25 great getaways in the Northeast that won't take more than a tank of gas.
Reported by Marshall S. Berdan, Lauren Chattman, Malerie Yolen-Cohen, Alison Gregor, Cate Latting, Erica Marcus, Mary Ann McGann, Jim Merritt and Beth Whitehouse.
Mystic, Connecticut(Credit: Mystic Seaport)
Mystic, Connecticut (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. Plan ahead and your kids can get even closer to African penguins through hands-on Penguin Encounter. If your timing is right, stop by Treworgy Planetarium to learn how mariners use the sun and stars to navigate.
PLAN A VISIT: mystic.org.
Hershey, Pennsylvania(Credit: HersheyPark)
Hershey, Pennsylvania (about 160 miles west of New York City)
Families love Hershey, Pennsylvania, for two good reasons: There's an abundance of kid-friendly activities, and they're all within a mile of one another. You won't waste valuable vacation time consulting the GPS and schlepping from place to place, and you can easily hit several points of interest in a day. Although there is certainly a focus on chocolate in this town, alternative forms of entertainment abound. The main draw here is Hershey Park, a theme park with roller coasters and water rides. Hershey Park opens only sporadically for weekends in April, but come Memorial Day weekend, it's open seven days a week.
Meanwhile, stop by Hershey Gardens, where the Children's Garden features meandering pathways, a picnic area and interactive exhibits. If you like your entertainment a bit more animated, there are bears, wolves, bald eagles and porcupines in residence at Zoo America. The Hershey Story, a museum dedicated to the legacy of the Hershey empire, features "Museum Experience," with interactive activities such as quizzes and puzzles, while "Sweet Innovations" gives an inside look at the evolution of the company -- from the creation of the various confections to the packaging of them. If anyone in your group is burned out on all things chocolate, switch gears and head to the impressive Antique Automobile Club of America (AACA) Museum, where you can check out vintage race cars, alternative energy vehicles and more.
In the winter months, the folks at Hershey focus on what they do best: chocolate. In fact, Hershey doubles down on that creamy confection with Chocolate-Covered February -- a monthlong, townwide celebration. Hershey's Chocolate World Attraction -- a free, fun-filled Disneyesque ride through the chocolate-making process -- offers homemade dessert samples, interactive story time, hot cocoa and Hershey product characters every weekend in February.
WHERE TO STAY: If simplicity is integral to your getaway strategy, plan to stay at The Hotel Hershey, an all-inclusive luxury resort with a spa, golf, pool, shops, restaurants and kids programs. There's also Hershey Lodge, where the accommodations are more than adequate for a family and include Wi-Fi, flat screen TVs, and refrigerators. A pool, a Wii Room, tennis courts and restaurants also are on-site.
PLAN A VISIT: hersheypa.com
Cape May, New Jersey(Credit: Getty Images / William Thomas Cain)
Cape May, New Jersey (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. At the southern tip of the New Jersey Shore, Cape May is a beach town with a boardwalk so yesteryear, you can bike it in a rented surrey with actual fringe on top. 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.
Don't miss out on hunting for Cape May "diamonds" (polished quartz). These frosted or clear pebbles can best be found on Sunset Beach. Hungry? Check out Hot Dog Tommy's, a great shore food shack; Mario's for modestly priced Italian; Mad Batter for decadent breakfasts, and The Washington Inn for classy cuisine and ambience.
WHERE TO STAY: Families can stay right on the beach at Montreal Beach Resort, where attendants set up your spot with umbrellas, beach chairs, food and nonalcoholic beverage service. Alternately, you can stay in one of the town's Victorian beauties -- among the most popular, The Queen Victoria, where your stay includes gourmet breakfast, an afternoon tea with sweets and savories, beach chairs, bikes and lots more.
PLAN A VISIT: visitnj.org/city/cape-may
Boston, Massachusetts(Credit: AP)
Boston, Massachusetts (about 3 hours, 50 minutes from New York City)
American history is anything but boring in Boston. Costumed interpreters urge you to take part in the Boston Tea Party (at the multimedia Tea Party Museum) and debate the pros and cons of the Revolutionary War (Revolutionary Boston Experience at the Old State House). But Boston is more than past disputes and rebellion. The city is suffused with cutting-edge technology and low-tech delights. You can stand in an indoor lightning storm, test RoboBees and explore energy sources among thousands of other interactive exhibits at the venerable Museum of Science Boston. Kids with unlimited energy will be ecstatic at the Boston Children's Museum, no doubt spending countless hours negotiating the three-story maze.
In addition to The Boston Children's Museum, your future starchitect will adore the massive, indoor Legoland Discovery Center, which features two Lego rides, a 4-D cinema, a model builder academy and a cityscape of Boston's iconic buildings made entirely from Lego bricks.
WHERE TO STAY: Traveling with kids? Check out the Westin Copley Place, located in the Back Bay and close to the Public Garden, Boston Common and the Freedom Trail. The Omni Parker House sits in the city center and is near Faneuil Hall.
PLAN A VISIT: bostonusa.com
The Adirondacks(Credit: AP )
The Adirondacks (Saranac Lake is about 300 miles from New York City)
The Adirondack Mountains, which include the six-million-acre Adirondack Park, have long attracted climbers seeking to scale the region's 46 peaks over 4,000 feet at least once -- and for the real fanatics, once each season. Five hours north of the city, the unpretentious town of Saranac Lake sits at the heart of this vertiginous abundance, which also has its share of picture-perfect lakes and streams.
Not up for the 46 High Peaks? Visitors can become "Saranac Lake 6ers," starting with the 6.6-mile round-trip hike up 2,864-foot Haystack Mountain. For something different, the Robert Louis Stevenson Memorial Cottage and Museum is a slice of quirky history about the "Treasure Island" writer who lived here in 1887. The Eat 'N Meet Grill and Larder is a hole-in-the-wall eatery offering hearty takeout to hikers, as well as a small dining area.
WHERE TO STAY: Gauthier's Saranac Lake Inn in the Adirondacks is a vintage 32-room lakefront hotel remodeled in eco-friendly fashion and offering free use of boats and paddleboards.
PLAN A VISIT: visitadirondacks.com
Fire Island, New York(Credit: Jason Andrew)
Fire Island, New York (about 2 hours from New York City)
A getaway to Fire Island is about a 20-minute ferry ride that transports passengers to another world, a simpler world without the cars they must leave behind on the mainland. Fire Island is 32 miles long, but it's no more than a mile across, from ocean to bay. Unlike the Hamptons, most of Fire Island's 17 communities are down-to-earth places where adults pass the days playing Kadima on the sand or Scrabble under their beach umbrellas, and kids sell hand-painted seashells and lemonade from the red Radio Flyer wagons their families use to cart groceries from the general stores.
That charm comes at a hefty price, in part because of supply and demand; there simply isn't an abundance of rooms on the island. Most Fire Island rentals are summer homes owners sublet by the week or month. Only a handful of hotels will rent for shorter-term escapes.
WHERE TO STAY: On Ocean Beach, the biggest community on Fire Island, check out The Palms, with Manhattan-style decor, or Blue Waters Hotel. If you're staying on Kismet, the party spot, check out the Margarita Villas.
PLAN A VISIT: fireisland.com
West Point, New York(Credit: AP / Mike Groll)
West Point, New York (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.
Travel seven miles down the road to visitbearmountain.comBear Mountain State Park, where 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.
WHERE TO STAY: Stay overnight at the historic Thayer Hotel (circa 1926), located on the grounds of the Academy. Or, relax at the Bear Mountain Inn, Overlook Lodge or Stone Cottages near Bear Mountain State Park.
PLAN A VISIT: westpointtours.com
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania(Credit: AP)
Philadelphia (about 1 hour, 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. For a tasty treat that takes you back in time, head over to The Franklin Fountain where milkshakes and sundaes are served by old-fashioned soda jerks. 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.
WHERE TO STAY: Visiting with the family? Check out the Radisson Blu Warwick Hotel. Book the Kids Kamping package for extra sleeping space with a twist. While the adults climb into traditional bedding, kids can snooze inside a full-size tent that welcomes them with cozy pillows, blankets and a teddy bear. The landmark hotel, located at Rittenhouse Square, also offers s'mores as a treat before bedtime.
PLAN A VISIT: visitphilly.com
The Catskills, New York(Credit: Newsday / Lorina Capitulo)
The Catskills (Andes is about 3 hours from New York City)
People hear "Catskills" and often think "Borscht Belt." But beyond the traditionally Jewish resorts is the 700,000-acre Catskill Park with 98 peaks over 3,000 feet. About three hours north of the city, Andes, a picturesque former logging town listed on the State and National Register of Historic Places, offers hiking, along with restaurants, art galleries and antiques shops.
You won't want to miss the 3.9-mile round-trip walk on the Andes Rail Trail, which takes hikers past beaver dams and bucolic views of the Tremperskill Valley. Another mountaintop hike past lichen-covered stone walls and attractive vistas is the 3.7-mile Palmer Hill Trail (catskillmountainclub.org).The owners of Two Old Tarts started baking for a farmers market, and popular demand spawned this bakery and cafe that incorporates locally grown ingredients.
WHERE TO STAY: When visiting the Catskills, check out the Andes Hotel, a 10-room inn, tavern and restaurant, which combines rustic charm with enough elegance (and live music on weekends) to keep any New York sophisticate happy.
PLAN A VISIT: visithecatskills.com.
The Poconos, Pennsylvania(Credit: Pocono Mountains)
The Poconos (Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania, is about 120 miles from New York City)
The Poconos' wooded hills historically attracted honeymooners to heart-shaped pools but now see a different breed of traveler. Less than three hours west of the city, Jim Thorpe, named for the Olympic athlete and often called the "Switzerland of America" for its steep hillsides, narrow streets and terraced gardens, has become a mecca for mountain bikers and outdoor recreationalists. The Lehigh Gorge is a steep-walled canyon with a dramatic 26-mile riverside trail accessed in town and passing several waterfalls. Visitors can also view the gorge's striking cliffs from a vintage rail coach on the Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway.
Traveling with kids? You may want to visit Great Wolf Lodge, which 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. Another place great for kids, located on a private lake, is Woodloch Pines, a highly rated, all-inclusive family resort. Several dozen rental properties are also available.
Heading to the Poconos in the winter months, visit Camelback in Tannersville, which features beginner-friendly skiing trails. There are 34 trails, 15 ski lifts, a terrain park, a mountain coaster, night skiing, tubing and more.
WHERE TO STAY The 45-room Inn at Jim Thorpe in the Poconos, offering the Broadway Grille & Pub, is situated in Jim Thorpe's fetching Victorian downtown, listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Camelback Mountain Resort recently unveiled a 533,000-square-foot Aquatopia Indoor Water Park with six pools, a surfing simulator, 13 water slides and an indoor water coaster.
PLAN A VISIT: Pocono Mountains
Watch Hill, Rhode Island(Credit: South Country RI / Myrna George)
Watch Hill, Rhode Island (about 150 miles from New York City)
Sunsets are dramatic from the edge of this Rhode Island peninsula. Climbing the bluff that overlooks Watch Hill harbor and the Atlantic Ocean, you can almost see Victorian-era travelers as they hauled their steamer trunks to the portico of the bright yellow Ocean House, a grand resort constructed in 1868, and renovated as a distinguished 43-room Relais and Chateaux hotel.
Even if you don't stay at the Ocean House (rates begin at more than $800 per night in season), treat yourself to a meal at its restaurant, Seasons, for exceptional food and views. Town beaches are clean and popular, especially Watch Hill, aka Carousel Beach. If you want to get away from the crowds, head out on the spit of sand called Napatree Point -- a Wildlife Preserve with no lifeguard, bathrooms or services. Grab for the brass ring on the historic Watch Hill Carousel. Since the late 1880s, this National Historic Landmark has been a Watch Hill summer memory for many.
PLAN A VISIT: visitwatchhill.com
The Berkshires, Massachussets(Credit: Dreamstime)
The Berkshires (Lenox, Massachusetts, is about 140 miles from New York City)
For travelers seeking a dose of culture with scenic beauty, the Berkshire hills deliver. There are concerts at the Tanglewood music festival, as well as top-notch dance performances, museums and summer theater. About three hours northeast of the city, the gracious historic town of Lenox is the cultural heart of the Berkshires.
Dating to 1934, the Tanglewood festival is world-renowned for its symphony, pops, chamber music, jazz and blues concerts from late June through early September. For exercise, stroll the formal gardens and tour The Mount, home of author Edith Wharton (pictured), who wrote about interior decoration when not penning novels such as "The Age of Innocence."
If you're looking for good eats, check out the dining room at the Wheatleigh hotel, an opulent restored Italianate palazzo-style estate built in 1893, which serves dishes such as rabbit with polenta and loup de mer with sunchoke and Swiss chard.
WHERE TO STAY To stay so close to Tanglewood in the Berkshires, you can almost hear its musical strains, the Apple Tree Inn has rooms in an 1885 mansion and a lodge, serves breakfast and has been around since 1937.
PLAN A VISIT: berkshires.org
Rehoboth Beach, Delaware(Credit: Newsday / Martin Hollander)
Rehoboth Beach, Delaware (about 200 miles from New York City)
Mile-long Rehoboth Beach, the largest beach resort in Delaware, has attracted sun-seekers from Philly and the D.C. area since Victorian times. But New Yorkers and New Englanders will find this newly cultivated foodie and LGBT-friendly destination a nice alternative to the wild Jersey Shore.
Take time off from the clean water and clean sand to get your fill of boardwalk food at Thrasher's Fries and Kohr's Frozen Custard. Or go for upscale innovative cuisine at Blue Moon, Turkish fare at Semra's Mediterranean Grill or farm-to-table at Back Porch. Affectionately named the "Willy Wonka of Rehoboth," Dolle's Candyland has been around since 1927. It makes hundreds of pounds of taffy in 24 flavors every day. Dolle's doesn't have a website and it doesn't ship, so you've got to come in person.
WHERE TO STAY Families can stay at Sands Hotel on the boardwalk, which went through a top-to-bottom renovation in 2013 -- adding the only oceanfront saltwater pool in town. Or try the Victorian Boardwalk Plaza, its charming lobby stuffed with plants, a real RCA Victrola and two extravagant birdcages with two engaging parrots.
PLAN A VISIT: visitsouthdelaware.com
Allentown, Pennsylvania (Dorney Park)(Credit: Dorney Park)
Allentown, Pennsylvania (about 97 miles from New York City)
For a classic family trip that includes plenty of thrill rides and water slides, pack your kids in the car and drive them to Allentown, Pennsylvania, where you will find everything they've been begging for at Dorney Park and Wildwater Kingdom. With eight roller coasters, from the old-fashioned wooden ThunderHawk to the floorless Hydra, there's a ride for all tastes. The Snake Pit features six consecutive water slides that are sure to keep you cool.
Smaller children will love the Crayola Experience in nearby Easton, where they can play and create with melted crayon wax, animate their crayon drawings on a big screen and shop the world's largest selection of crayons.
After a day of amusements, the whole family will enjoy Allentown Brew Works, where the brewery's signature beers are served with a menu of beer- and kid-friendly food. Or take a 10-minute drive to Bethlehem, to the Mint Gastropub, which pours beer from around the world to go with upscale comfort food. Wind down with a family-friendly first-run movie at Becky's Drive In.
WHERE TO STAY: The Wingate By Wyndham Allentown is near Dorney Park's entrance.
PLAN A TRIP: Dorney Park
Lake George, New York(Credit: AP / Mike Groll)
Lake George, New York (Begins 210 miles north of New York City)
Beyond all the nonstop, big-time attractions and tourist craziness of Lake George Village at its southern tip, 32-mile-long Lake George is in fact a true Adirondack lake, replete with magnificent mountain scenery. It's often the best choice for active families who can then decide how close they want to be to "the action." The major tourism center is the Village of Lake George at the southern end of the lake, where you'll find waterfront restaurants with elevated decks, dozens of souvenir shops and arcades, plus Million Dollar Beach, a life-guarded strand with bathhouses and food concessions.
The sky's the limit for lovers of the outdoors. You can go parasailing over the lake, or hire a water taxi at one of the marinas on Lakeshore Drive, and picnic on a state-owned island. Get a fishing license and drop a line in the early morning at the Steel Pier or in Shepard Park; the latter also is a venue for free concerts on weeknights through Labor Day. History buffs can visit the Fort William Henry Museum, an outpost during the French and Indian War. Just outside the village: horseback-riding, rodeos and white-water rafting on the Hudson or Sacandaga rivers. When you're hungry, check out George's Restaurant, a popular steak joint, or, for a panoramic view, try the Shoreline Restaurant or The Boardwalk Restaurant.
WHERE TO STAY: There are scores of lakefront hotels, motels, resorts (including the elegant Sagamore at Bolton Landing and housekeeping cottages from which to choose, with the vast majority of them on the more accessible western side. The Fort William Henry Resort, on a hill overlooking the lake, is one of the better-known lodgings. Hundreds of properties, including hotels, cottages and cabins, line the extensive lakefront.
PLAN A VISIT: VisitLakeGeorge.com
Providence, Rhode Island(Credit: AP)
Providence, Rhode Island (about 180 miles northeast of New York City)
Providence is a serious alternative to Boston for an urban New England getaway. Touted by tourism officials as "the most impressive concentration of original Colonial homes in America," mile-long Benefit Street is the undisputed showcase of Providence's East Side. Where it begins is where Providence began -- the Roger Williams National Memorial, a 4-1/2-acre wooded site on the bank of the Moshassuck River. It was here that Anglican minister Williams, whose freethinking ways resulted in convictions for heresy and sedition in Puritan-ruled Salem, proclaimed a new settlement in 1636. The RISD Art Museum features more than 40 galleries that take visitors from ancient Egypt right up to the present day.
No exploration of Providence's East Side is complete without a stroll through Brown University's leafy campus atop College Hill. Many of the libraries and museums around the Quad are open to the public, so don't be shy. But don't even try the ornate, wrought-iron Van Wickle gates: They are opened only twice a year -- in September, to admit the incoming freshman class, and in June to send graduating seniors out into the world. While near campus, don't overlook commercial Thayer Street, which caters to the food and material needs of the Brown community. For those who have more time, there's Victorian-era Roger Williams Park, whose 435 landscaped acres three miles south of downtown are home to the zoo, the Museum of Natural History and Planetarium and a new 12,000-square-foot Botanical Center that's New England's largest indoor public garden.
Come nightfall, Downcity is where it sometimes seems all Rhode Island comes to be entertained. There are Broadway shows at the Providence Performing Arts Center, top-notch drama at the Trinity Repertory Company and plenty of restaurants, bars and music clubs.
WHERE TO STAY: If you're looking to stay in a historic bed and breakfast, check out Old Court B&B on Providence's East Side. Traditional hotels downtown include Renaissance Providence, Providence Biltmore.com or the Courtyard by Marriott.
PLAN A VISIT: goprovidence.com
Shelter Island, New York(Credit: Gordon M. Grant)
Shelter Island, New York (about 2 hours from Nassau County, 3 hours from New York City)
Cut off from the scenester bustle of the Hamptons and the agricultural overload of the North Fork, Shelter Island is a favorite destination for doing nothing. The island is accessible only by ferry: The North Ferry departs from Greenport, the South Ferry from North Haven. But if you can rouse yourself from that shaded Adirondack chair, adventures await.
Shelter Island has 20 miles of coastline; water meets the island in countless harbors, coves, creeks, marshes and inlets. Public bathing beaches, however, number only three -- Shell, Crescent and Wades -- and you'll need a permit to park at any of them between Memorial and Labor days. If you walk or bike to the beach no permit is required. Wades is the big family beach; Crescent is more of a hipster scene; Shell is the most private. You can rent bikes or hike Mashomack Preserve, which occupies more than 2,000 acres and encompasses tidal creeks, salt marshes, grassy meadows and old-growth forests.
If you're a history buff, you may want to check out Sylvestor Manor, a 243-acre farm, now a public charity, offers a fascinating -- and sobering -- window into Long Island history. Sylvester Manor was a slave plantation and the house contains centuries' worth of family heirlooms; it's open a few Saturdays each month. Antsy kids? Whale's Tale is the closest thing Shelter Island has to Disney World. This mini golf course has a kitschy maritime theme, with 18 holes of whales, dolphins, turtles, lighthouses, mermaids and penguins. There's also an asphalt tennis court, an old-fashioned arcade and a snack bar that serves Hershey's ice cream, frozen yogurt, cannoli, coffee and soft drinks.
WHERE TO STAY: There are six small hotels on Shelter Island. To learn more about them visit Shelter Island: Where to stay and play.
PLAN A VISIT: shelter-island.org
Portsmouth, New Hampshire(Credit: Getty Images)
Portsmouth, New Hampshire (about 260 miles from New York City)
Wedged into New Hampshire's 18-mile oceanfront along the rushing Piscataqua River, Portsmouth is the Granite State's only working seaport. It's also a little gem of a vacation spot, with a small but busy, modernized downtown (just off I-95) chock-full of cozy restaurants, independent retailers and lively pubs. History buffs will note that Portsmouth is one of the nation's oldest cities. It was settled in 1623, was a hotbed of the American Revolution and includes historic sites dating to that era.
Park the car in the municipal lot on Hanover Street and walk your sandals off. Market Square's redbrick walkways invite visitors to pop into dozens of local shops. Prescott Park is the scene of free summer concerts. At the outdoor Strawbery Banke Museum in Portsmouth, you can see exhibits or watch artisans work in 42 historic buildings dating to 1695. Boat trips are available on the river and to the historic Isles of Shoals, where you'll find a monument to John Smith of Pocahontas fame, and stone buildings dating to the 18th century. There are no beaches because the river's rushing currents make swimming dangerous; instead, head to the beach in neighboring New Castle.
Shop for 17th-century candlesticks at Ed Weissman Antiques. Sail on the Piscataqua with the Gundalow Company, a reproduction of a traditional flat-bottom barge. For the athletically inclined, there are kayak and stand-up paddleboard tours of local waterways. Hungry? Portsmouth is a food town. Perfect burgers can be found at Lexie's Joint. For fancier fare, try Mombo.
WHERE TO STAY: A number of lodgings are on the Portsmouth Roundabout, a traffic circle off Exit 5 of Route 95. The Sheraton Portsmouth Harborside overlooks the port. Getting a last-minute room at a chain hotel isn't difficult, but with a little luck you may score a bed at the Hotel Portsmouth, a Queen Anne Victorian mansion with 32 rooms.
PLAN A VISIT: portsmouthchamber.org
Hudson Valley, New York - Rocking Horse Ranch(Credit: Jeremy Bales)
Hudson Valley -- Rocking Horse Ranch (about 90 miles from New York City)
Set on 500 acres of mountain views and a private lake, this year-round resort takes care of everything. Meals, baby-sitting, evening entertainment -- RHR handles it all, making your vacation feel like a vacation and not an obstacle course. A cheerful Catskills-in-the-summer vibe pervades. Younger kids will love the pony rides, the bounce house, scavenger hunts and the indoor water park. Older children can escape their embarrassing parents for the day with activities such as rock (wall) climbing, miniature golf, archery and, of course, horseback riding.
Adults looking to escape their brood for a few hours can indulge at the spa, go line-dancing or hit the happy hour. Or, tour a number of nearby Hudson River wineries along the Shawangunk Wine Trail. Evening brings the family back together with a communal dinner and entertainment options such as karaoke, magic shows and musical revues.
PLAN A TRIP: rockinghorseranch.com
Newport, Rhode Island(Credit: AP)
Newport, Rhode Island (about 180 miles east-northeast of New York City)
The Vanderbilts and Astors have been gone for decades, but the Gilded Age summer playground of the very, very rich is still very, very chic, thanks to Newport's dramatic seaside location, renovated Colonial core and its ongoing appeal to the yachting crowd. Come September, however, the hordes of domestic and overseas visitors practically fall off the Cliff Walk, thus freeing up Little Rhody's top destination, big-time.
Outdoor buffs will want to check out Newport's famous Cliff Walk, a 3.5-mile paved walk that takes you along the bluff overlooking Easton Bay and behind several of the mansions. Newport's three best beaches are cleverly named First, Second and Third and look out onto Rhode Island Sound, beginning just east of downtown. Parking is free after Labor Day.
PLAN A VISIT: discovernewport.org
Annapolis, Maryland(Credit: AP)
Annapolis, Maryland (220 miles southwest of New York City)
Annapolis is Maryland's vibrant 18th century capital known for its history, sailing and seafood. From its picturesque location on the western shore of Chesapeake Bay, it's a graciously small place that still embraces its maritime and agricultural origins. The city's historical ambience is a big draw, as well as its restaurants, shops and taverns. Some of the city's main attractions can be visited for free. The quaint downtown layout over a compact area is better suited for pedestrians than cars, making it ideal for a walking tour.
Visitors can walk the U.S. Naval Academy grounds and enter some buildings free of charge. Parts of Bancroft Hall, home to the entire Brigade of Midshipmen and known as the largest college dormitory in the nation, are open, including the main entrance and Memorial Hall. There is a museum, which has two floors of exhibits about the history of the Navy and the role the academy has in producing officers. There is also the U.S. Naval Academy Chapel and the crypt of John Paul Jones, the famed Revolutionary War naval leader. There also is a restaurant open to the public.
The Annapolis Maritime Museum, housed in the city's last oyster-packing plant, is a small free museum overlooking Chesapeake Bay. The museum highlights the oyster and its role in shaping the history and maritime culture of Annapolis. The waterside museum has a small beach and a place for people with kayaks and canoes to enter the water.
Main Street, between Market Space and Church Circle, is Annapolis' shopping central, where, in addition to the ubiquitous souvenir shops, you can spend hours browsing through everything from art to antiques. The best way to appreciate Annapolis is from the water. Sightseers can opt for either a 40-minute harbor cruise or a 90-minute excursion up the Severn River or out into the Chesapeake with Watermark.
PLAN A VISIT: visitannapolis.org
Lancaster County, Pennsylvania(Credit: www.discoverlancasterpa.com)
Lancaster County, Pennsylvania (about 150 miles from New York City)
Lancaster County is a three-hour drive from Manhattan. You can choose to explore the countryside on your own, stopping at the various Amish-owned businesses along the way. But the Amish, while friendly, are private people, so you might glean more from a guided tour. Allow at least several hours for any tour.
How about a ride in an authentic Amish buggy? There are a handful of buggy tours across Lancaster County, Ed's Buggy Ride among them. Join the Amish Farm and House tour and you'll stop at Lapp's toy and Furniture, an Amish-owned shop where the carefully crafted wooden playthings speak for themselves. The Amish Village consists of an 1840 Amish house and barn, one-room schoolhouse, smokehouse, working blacksmith shop and operating water wheel.
Nearby, check out Dutch Wonderland, a traditional amusement park in Lancaster with 30 rides, including 10 just for the young ones. Families can visit Plain & Fancy Farm, which offers an"Amish Farm Feast" with family-style platters of fried chicken, baked sausage, chicken potpie and shoofly pie.
WHERE TO STAY: Kids in particular will enjoy staying on a working farm where they can explore, interact with animals and lend a hand with the chores. For options, visit the Lancaster County Farm Stay Association. Other places to check out: Amish View Inn & Suites (at Plain & Fancy Farm); Fulton Steamboat Inn or the Red Caboose Motel.
PLAN A VISIT: padutchcountry.com
Atlantic City, New Jersey(Credit: AP / Wayne Parry)
Atlantic City, New Jersey (about 125 miles from New York City)
Once upon a time, Atlantic City was the place to be on the East Coast, with its famous four-mile boardwalk and casinos. Its claim to fame was that it was like Las Vegas -- but with a beach. This summer, despite the closing of three casinos (Revel, Showboat, Trump), A.C. remains a nostalgic spot, again hosting the Miss America pageant and scoring major celebrity headliners (Styx, Hall & Oates, Lady Gaga with Tony Bennett).
The adventurous will want to test their mettle on more than a dozen rides on Steel Pier, and people-watchers will be happy riding the rolling chairs that have been transporting tourists along the boardwalk almost since it was built in 1870 to keep sand out of new hotel lobbies. Restaurant options run the gamut from hot dogs on the boardwalk to Bobby Flay's steakhouse at the Borgata.
DON'T MISS At night, gather with the crowds on the boardwalk to see the 8-1/2-minute 3-D Lightshow on the Boardwalk -- with special effects projected onto the facade of Boardwalk Hall.
WHERE TO STAY Families will want to stay a couple of blocks from the ocean at Courtyard Atlantic City. Others can take the jitney from the boardwalk to the top-rated and stylish nearby theborgata.com.
Washington, D.C.(Credit: Washington, D.C.)
Washington, D.C. (about 225 miles from New York City)
The nation's capital is one of the best family destinations on the East Coast. Not only because of its renowned cultural institutions and historical significance, but because so much of what D.C. has to offer is free. Unlike similar institutions in New York, the Smithsonian makes art, history and culture available to everyone at no cost. Other museums worth checking out: the National Air and Space Museum, the National Museum of Natural History and the National Zoo.
WHERE TO STAY: There's a lot of ground to cover in D.C., so choose your hotel wisely. A good downtown choice, within 10 minutes of the National Mall is the L'Enfant Plaza. Great views, kids' programs and an outdoor pool add to its appeal. Also downtown, close to Dupont Circle and Georgetown is Embassy Suites. In Dupont Circle, the hip boutique Hotel Helix has family rooms with bunk beds.
PLAN A VISIT: washington.org
Cooperstown, New York(Credit: AP)
Cooperstown, New York (about 200 miles from New York City)
Even if baseball wasn't invented here, few places are more evocative of the national pastime than bucolic Cooperstown, at the southern tip of forest-girded Lake Otsego. Founded in 1786 by Judge William Cooper, the father of frontier novelist James Fenimore Cooper, present-day Cooperstown exudes in abundance all the equally cherished, time-honored virtues of rural, small-town America.
Now modernized and greatly expanded, the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum continues to be Cooperstown's biggest hit, drawing about 250,000 fans annually, many of whom proudly sport their favorite team's logo as they pose on the hall's front steps. (Cooperstown's location naturally favors Yankee fans.) While you're there, visit Doubleday Field, purportedly built on the site of that mythical first game. Whatever its pedigree, the covered brick grandstand, gray wooden benches and board outfield fence whisk fans nostalgically back to the early days of professional baseball.
Not surprisingly, "downtown" Cooperstown is dominated by baseball-themed stores and entertainment options. Memorabilia stores give die-hard fans the opportunity to take home their own bit of baseball history. There are two customized bat stores, while those wishing to test their pitching speed and batting prowess can do so at the Doubleday Batting Cage. Back on Main Street, a pasty likeness of late Yankee owner George Steinbrenner "welcomes" prospective visitors to the Heroes of Baseball Wax Museum. And, of course, the Cooperstown roster includes dozens of baseball-themed eateries.
PLAN A VISIT: thisiscooperstown.com