Yes, Long Island is a paradise of beaches, clam bars and ice cream shops in the summer. But it's not quite a vacation if you live here year-round. There's still time to really get away. Check out the following destinations, all distinctly different from Long Island but within driving distance, making them perfect last-minute choices for summer family fun.
If your kids enjoy buggy rides and egg noodles, a summertime visit to Lancaster County may be just the thing. Visit small towns like Lititz, where you can shop the Wilbur Chocolate factory or tour the Julius Sturgis Pretzel Bakery. Christiana was a central spot on the Underground Railroad. Ephrata has a cloister dating back to 1732. Stay on a farm: At Iron Stone Acres Farm B&B (ironstoneacres.com) your kids can help milk the cows. Get a look at Amish fields from the back of a buggy (amishbuggyrides.com), pictured. Eat at Good 'N Plenty (goodnplenty.com), where a family-style meal includes Pennsylvania Dutch favorites chow chow, fried chicken, browned butter noodles and shoofly pie. Explore scenic back roads and covered bridges by scooter (strasburgscooters.com). Buy an authentic Amish quilt at Smuckers Quilts (117 N. Groffdale Rd., New Holland), located down a country lane on an old family farm. Had enough of all things Amish? On a rainy day, thrill your children with a trip to an indoor trampoline park (skyzone.com/lancaster).
Long Beach Island, New Jersey
This barrier island on the Jersey Shore has 18 miles of sandy beaches, no boardwalk and a low-key vibe. Spend your days frolicking in the surf and your evenings playing miniature golf and eating ice cream. The northern half of the island is quiet and residential. Look for a last-minute house rental if you want to stay in the upscale communities of Loveladies or Harvey Cedars. The southern half of the island is more commercial and lively. If the Atlantic isn't exciting enough for you and your kids, there is Thundering Surf Water Park (thunderingsurfwaterpark.com) in Beach Haven. A meal at The Chicken or the Egg (492fowl.com), where breakfast dishes and world-famous chicken wings are served 24 hours a day, is a must. Beach Haven also boasts an amusement park called Fantasy Island (fantasyislandpark.com), pictured, for after-dinner fun. Windward at the Beach (windwardatthebeach.com) is a Victorian building with remodeled and colorfully decorated studios and one- and two-bedroom apartments great for families. The stylish Daddy O (daddyohotellbi.com) in nearby Brant Beach has a rooftop sushi bar.
Litchfield Hills, Connecticut
The rivers of northwest Connecticut offers plenty of adventure for summer visitors. Waterfalls abound: Kent Falls is the state's tallest, at 200 feet, and offers picnic grounds in a meadow at its base. On a hot day, travel down the Farmington River through three sets of rapids in specially designed inner tubes (farmingtonrivertubing.com). Learn fly fishing on the Housatonic from a certified casting instructor (housatonicanglers.com). There's plenty to do on dry land as well. Ride horses across the rolling fields of Litchfield (windfieldmorganfarm.com). Woodbury, the "Antiques Capital of Connecticut," has a trail of 35 shops and dealers. The Sharon Playhouse (sharonplayhouse.org) is staging "The Music Man" in August. The Landmark Community Theatre (landmarkcommunitytheatre.org) has "Sweeney Todd." Accommodations range from rustic campsites (whitememorialcc.org) to family resorts (interlakeninn.com) to world-class spas (gracehotels.com). For breakfast, lunch or dinner check out the American Pie Company (americanpiecompany.com) in Sherman, where everything, including a large selection of savory and sweet pies, is made from scratch. Pictured: Fly-fishing in Kent.
Newport, Rhode Island
Get your bearings and your thrills on the Cliff Walk, a 3.5-mile designated National Recreational Trail with views of the famous Newport "cottages" on one side and rocky cliffs on the other, pictured. Ten of these mansions offer tours daily (newportmansions.org), and some, including Cornelius Vanderbilt II's The Breakers, have special kid- and family-focused audio guides. Take a public sailing cruise or charter a private boat (sightsailing.com) to sail alongside America's Cup racers in Newport Harbor. The Norman Bird Sanctuary has seven miles of hiking trails and offers free guided bird walks. The International Tennis Hall of Fame (tennisfame.com) has a grass court stadium hosting world-class tournaments and a memorabilia-filled museum that also boasts a Roger Federer hologram. Winner Winner (winnerwinnernpt.com) specializes in fried and rotisserie chicken dinners. Its sister restaurant, Mission ( missionnpt.com), serves the best burgers and dogs in town. Stay at The Attwater (theattwater.com), a family-friendly boutique hotel in the historic district with contemporary nautical decor, free breakfast, and towels and chairs to take to the beach, a quick walk away.
Providence, Rhode Island
For a city break with plenty of culture, cuisine and history, give Providence a try. Leave the car at home and take Amtrak right into town. A quick cab ride will get you to the design-driven budget boutique hotel The Dean (thedeanhotel.com), which has a karaoke lounge, coffee bar and vintage-style bunk beds in some of the rooms. Or stay at the Providence Marriott Downtown (marriottprovidence.com), with connected indoor and outdoor pools. Benefit Street is a mile-long cobblestone stretch of historic buildings such as the Nightingale-Brown House, dating from 1792 and home to generations of the Brown family. The Brown University campus is itself a tourist attraction, especially if you have college-bound teenagers in tow, as is the Rhode Island School of Design, with its masterwork-packed museum. Younger children will enjoy the Roger Williams Park Zoo (rwpzoo.org). "WaterFire" events (waterfire.org) are held on Saturdays, with 80 bonfires illuminating the city's three rivers and street vendors and entertainers along the water, pictured. Kid-friendly dining options that will please adults include Tallulah's Taqueria (tallulahstaqueria.com) for upscale street tacos and PVDonuts (pvdonuts.com), offering flavors including tiramisu and banana split.
After a day or two of sightseeing in Boston, hop on the fastest passenger-only catamaran in the United States (bostonharborcruises.com) for a 90-minute ride to Provincetown, on the very tip of Cape Cod. Stay in town and you won't need a car. The classic Cape Colony Inn (capecolonyinn.com) has family suites that can accommodate up to six people. The Harbor Hotel (harborhotelptown.com) has midcentury modern decor, a pool, cabana bar and firepit. Free shuttle service in town connects you to Race Point and Herring Cove beaches. Whale-watching boats, pictured, leave right from the harbor (whalewatch.com). Kayak and stand-up paddleboard tours (capeboating.com) are a fun way to explore the bay. Sneak in a history lesson at the Pilgrim Monument and Museum (pilgrim-monument.org). Rent bikes (galeforcebikes.com) to ride the paved and marked trails through dunes and past beaches of the Cape Cod National Seashore. Buy sandwiches for the beach at Pop and Dutch (popanddutch.com). The Lobster Pot (ptownlobsterpot.com) features a raw bar and fried seafood platters as well as lobster prepared a dozen different ways.
This village on the southern Maine coast is a classic summer vacation spot, with quaint shops, a pedestrian drawbridge, pictured, and a cove dotted with sailboats. A white sand beach is supplemented by the Marginal Way, a 1.25-mile walking trail with lovely ocean views that can be enjoyed from 40 strategically placed benches. Or explore the water by kayak or stand-up paddleboard. The Ogunquit Playhouse (ogunquitplayhouse.org) has been staging musicals for 85 summers; "Ragtime" is on the schedule in August. Ogunquit has its very own small but impressive Museum of American Art (ogunquitmuseum.org). The owners of M.C. Perkins Cove restaurant (markandclarkrestaurants.com), , Mark Gaier and Clark Frasier, have each won James Beard Awards. Footbridge Lobster (108 Perkins Cove Rd.) is a classic little lobster roll shack. Dunes on the Waterfront (dunesonthewaterfront.com) has cute vintage cottages midway between the beach and town. The Beachmere Inn (beachmereinn.com) is a large resort with six different buildings including a beachfront Victorian mansion.
Asbury Park, New Jersey
With hipster lodging, dining, shopping and leisure activities-- and its lively boardwalk -- it’s no wonder that Asbury Park is now known as the Brooklyn of the Jersey Shore. The Berkeley Oceanfront Hotel (berkeleyhotelnj.com), a 1920s Beaux Arts landmark, has been restored to its former splendor. The Asbury (theasburyhotel.com) screens movies on its turf-covered roof at night. Music venues range from the venerable Stone Pony (stoneponyonline.com) to the refurbished Convention Hall and Paramount Theater.
Asbury Park, New Jersey
For families, the main draw is Asbury Park's beach, with its lively boardwalk. There’s a vintage bowling alley, mini golf and Madam Marie’s fortunetelling shack made famous by native son Bruce Springsteen. Among the hot dog stands are the upscale contemporary Cuban restaurant Cubacan (cubacanrestaurant.com) and the snazzy Asbury Oyster Bar (asburyoysterbar.com).
Catskills, New York
Check into an all-inclusive family hotel for a nostalgic break. The Rocking Horse Ranch (rockinghorseranch.com) in Highland offers horseback riding, ponies, wagon rides, barn tours and horseshoeing demonstrations. Rooms with two queen beds and a bunk bed can accommodate up to six. Places like the old-fashioned Winter Clove Inn (winterclove.com) in Round Top have plenty of on-site activities (hiking trails, pool, antique bowling alley). Family-run for decades, Villa Vosilla (villavosilla.com) in Tannersville bills itself as “the last authentic Italian resort in the Catskills,” with a menu to prove it. It still has social directors organizing activities like dance classes and “Villa’s Got Talent.”
Saratoga Springs, New York
The Saratoga Springs racing season runs from August through early September. A visit to the track is surprisingly affordable ($5-$8, children under 12 free). Before the races, take a walking tour ($3) to get an overview of the historic facility.
Saratoga Springs, New York
Families enjoy a fountain at Congress Park, pcitured, designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, at Saratoga Springs. There are plenty of other kid-friendly attractions in the area. Pick up a map of the mineral springs and some empty water bottles and take a tasting tour of Saratoga’s naturally carbonated water. Saratoga Spa State Park is home to the grand Victoria Pool, built under the supervision of then New York Gov. Franklin D. Roosevelt. The quaint downtown is filled with ice cream shops, candy stores and toy emporiums. Grab dinner at Hattie’s (hattiesrestaurant.com), famous for fried chicken since 1938. Spend the evening at the Malta Drive-In Theatre (maltadrivein.com). Accommodations range from the elegant Gideon Putnam hotel (gideonputnam.com), within the Saratoga Spa State Park, to the Best Western Plus (book.bestwestern.com), a short ride from downtown.
Cape Ann, Massachusetts
Devotees of Cape Ann claim it has the prettiest stretch of coastline in the state, with fewer crowds and less traffic than that other, more popular, Cape. The kids might like the Shipbuilding Museum in Essex. This village bills itself as “home of the fried clam,” and Woodman’s of Essex (woodmans.com) has been serving them since 1916. Wide, sandy, flat beaches in Gloucester are popular. But take time to visit Singing Beach in Manchester, so named because of how the sound resonates as you walk on it. Make a reservation with Captain Bill & Sons (captbillandsons.com) for a whale watching excursion or take a lighthouse cruise (capeannharbortours.com). The relatively low prices of many oceanfront motels, like the Atlantis Oceanfront Inn (atlantisoceanfrontinn.com) in Gloucester will shock those used to Hamptons or North Fork rates.
Cape Ann, Massachusetts
Four picturesque towns provide plenty of charm. The Bradley Wharf in Rockport is home to a former fishing shack known as Motif #1, said to be the most painted building in America.
Watch how the Union side took the field during a Battle of Gettysburg reenactment. Show your children some of the places they’ve read about in history class. Or see the battlefield the way Robert E. Lee saw it, by taking a guided horseback tour (confederatetrails.com). Visit sites in Adams County along the Underground Railroad with a local historian (gettysburghistories.com). Determine if Gettysburg is indeed haunted by taking a spooky ghost tour (farnsworthhouseinn.com).
After you've watched a Civil War reenactment at the Gettysburg Battlefield, pictured, capture your family vacation the old-fashioned way by dressing up in Victorian garb and having your photo taken at the Victorian Photography Studio (victorianphotostudio.com). The Lodges at Gettysburg (gettysburgaccommodations.com) offer luxury cabins built on a picturesque ridge that can accommodate families. The Gettysburg Hotel (hotelgettysburg.com) has a rooftop pool for cooling off after a long day on the battlefield.
Lake Champlain, Vermont
Enjoy swimming, boating, fishing and paddle boarding on “the sixth Great Lake.” When you are waterlogged, the Green Mountains are there for the hiking. Enjoy swimming, boating, fishing and paddle boarding on “the sixth Great Lake.” When you are waterlogged, the Green Mountains are there for the hiking.
Lake Champlain, Vermont
Go to the eccentric Shelburne Museum (shelburnemuseum.org), where collections of art and Americana include vast displays of dolls and toys, circus artifacts and the 220-foot Ticonderoga steamboat, seen here. Or spend a day in the charming small city of Burlington. There are some intriguing factory tours for rainy days: The Vermont Teddy Bear Company (vermontteddybear.com), Lake Champlain Chocolates (lakechamplainchocolates.com) and Ben & Jerry’s (benjerry.com). For a fishing camp feel, try the Holiday Harbor Lodge (holidayharborlodge.com) on Grand Isle, which offers rustic lakeside rooms. If money is no object, check into the Inn at Shelburne Farms (shelburnefarms.org), on the former agricultural estate of the Vanderbilt family.
Ithaca, New York
At Robert H. Treman State Park, walk along a gorge past 12 waterfalls, including the 115-foot Lucifer Falls. Then enjoy a swim in a stream-fed pool beneath one of the falls.
The Herbert F Johnson Museum of Art, designed by I.M. Pei, pictured, is on the campus of Cornell University. The Hyde Park Mastodon is on view at the Museum of the Earth (priweb.org). The Purity Ice Cream Company (purityicecream.com) serves burgers, salads, and sandwiches for lunch as well as ice cream fountain treats and homemade pies. There are plenty of chain hotels in town, or you could try luxury camping at Firelight Camps (firelightcamps.com), where locally sourced breakfast is complimentary and at sundown there is a communal campfire in an outdoor lounge.
Introduce your kids to Vermont — maple candy, covered bridges, cows — with a visit to this quintessential village. Shop at Gillingham’s General Store (gillinghams.com) for penny candy, maple syrup, and Cheddar cheese. Walk across the Ottauquechee River on the covered Middle Bridge. Fuel up for these activities with breakfast or lunch at Mountain Creamery (mountaincreameryvt.com), where the milk, eggs, meat and produce are locally sourced.
Visit the Billings Farm & Museum (billingsfarm.org), an operating dairy farm and museum of Vermont’s rural past. Stay at a country inn: 506 on the River (ontheriverwoodstock.com) has two-bedroom suites with kitchenettes and a farmers market next door. The Woodstock Inn & Resort (woodstockinn.com) has a heated saltwater pool and an Orvis-approved fly-fishing program. Hike Mt. Tom or a part of the Long Trail to the Long Trail Brewery and Restaurant (longtrail.com).