East Coast family vacations, including locations like Cape Cod, Washington DC, Boston, Raleigh, and more.
I’ve spend 95% of my time living in on the East Coast of the United States, and for the most part, I’ve loved it. We are lucky because there are so many great places for East Coast family vacations – many of which we can easily drive to. Looking for some vacation inspiration for your next family vacation? Here are some of our favorite East Coast family vacations. Leave us a comment if we left your favorite off the list.
Note: This post contains affiliate links. We may receive a small commission when you purchase and/or click through this post. In addition, we visited a few of these locations as part of press trips (at no, or limited cost to us).
East Coast Family Vacations
New York City
I firmly believe that every family from the US should try to have at least one New York City family vacation. Living in the Boston area, we are just a few hours away and are able to visit every few years. In addition to iconic landmarks like the Empire State Building and Rockefeller Plaza, there are also countless museums, fun family restaurants, and of course, Broadway. I generally enjoy visiting in the fall or spring, when the temperatures are great for walking around, although Christmastime is always so beautiful.
Cape Cod, MA
If you are looking for the perfect New England beach vacation, you’ll definitely want to visit Cape Cod. This area of Massachusetts offers over 400 miles of shoreline, making it a popular vacation destination in the summer. Families can enjoy traditional summer activities like mini golf, golf courses, and drive-in movies, as well as fun water sports and relaxing time on the beach. There are a number of great towns and resorts to visit, so you’ll definitely find the perfect spot. If you prefer there are also many vacation rentals offered. On the way to the Cape, make sure that you stop at Plymouth, MA for a visit at Plimoth Plantation.
Cape Ann, MA
Less than an hour North of Boston is Cape Ann, MA, where you’ll find the waterfront towns of Rockport and Gloucester, MA. I love visiting Cape Ann, because it’s less crowded than Cape Cod, but still has some great restaurants, waterfront activities, and shops. You could definitely combine a trip to Cape Ann with a Boston family vacation, because it’s so close. It’s one of my favorite vacation spots.
I love my home city of Boston. Even after living right in the city and in the nearby suburbs for twenty years, I still find so many things to do in the area. From the numerous museums, shows, parks, shops, restaurants, and more, you could easily spend at least a week in Boston. While the snow is beautiful, I do recommend visiting in the spring, summer, or fall when the temperatures are best for exploring the city. See our recommendations for neighborhoods in Boston and hotels in Boston to stay in.
My son and I visited Raleigh, North Carolina on a press trip last spring, and we were so pleasantly surprised by all of the great things to do in Raleigh. From watersports and ziplining, to museums and restaurants, there’s so much to keep kids occupied. Not only are there lots of activities, but several of the museums offer free admission, making it an affordable spot for a family vacation. The weather is also generally nice, with fairly mild winters. Our hotel right in the center of town was the perfect spot to stay, because we were able to watch to several museums and restaurants.
National Harbor, MD
After visiting the other three Gaylord Hotels (in Dallas, Orlando, and Nashville), I knew that I wanted to take my family to the Gaylord National, located in National Harbor, MD. National Harbor is a whole destination in itself, but it’s also a great spot for anyone visiting the attractions in Washington DC and Alexandria, Virginia. The centerpiece is a gigantic ferris wheel, but there are also lots of restaurants and shops right in the area. Guests can drive to DC and Alexandria, or there’s also a boat that can take you there right from the Harbor. We enjoyed our stay there.
Washington DC is another destination that is perfect for families to visit. I’d generally recommend a visit when your kids are teens or tweens, because that’s when your children will truly understand what they are seeing. A few years ago, we went on our first trip with our kids. We drove from our home in Massachusetts, and visited several museums, including the International Spy Museum. Keep in mind that you’ll need to work through your US Rep or Senator for several visits, so it’s best to plan ahead and do your research well in advance. While the actual lodging in the area can be expensive, as it is a city, many of the museums offer complimentary admission. So it really can be an affordable vacation destination.
See hotel reviews here and check prices/book here.
I absolutely love Portland. After hearing so many great things about it for years, I only recently discovered it for myself. While it’s probably best visited in the summer when you can take advantage of the warm weather for water activities, it’s also a great place to visit in the winter. I enjoy just walking around town, checking out the various quaint shops and absolutely delicious restaurants. There are also museums and beautiful sites to explore.
Mystic is most famous for the movie and restaurant Mystic Pizza, although there’s so much there to explore. Located right over the Rhode Island border in Connecticut, Mystic offers a fabulous aquarium, seaport village, and shopping area. We generally stay two nights, and are able to see just about everything on our list. It’s best to visit when the weather is warm, because almost all of the seaport and village, and part of the aquarium are outdoors.
Amelia Island, FL
After visiting Amelia Island for the TMS family travel conference in 2016, it’s one of my favorite spots to recommend for a family vacation. Located just a short drive away from Jacksonville, Amelia Island is easy accessible from most US cities. There’s Fernandina Beach, a gorgeous beach that is great for families, numerous parks, delicious food, and fun water sports. During my trip for the conference, I enjoyed a complimentary stay at the Omni Amelia Island Plantation Resort, a family resort that offers a number of activities for kids. It’s a great spot for a relaxing stay, but you’ll also be able to enjoy more than just the beach.
Virginia Beach, VA
Several years ago, I had the opportunity to visit Virginia Beach during a press trip to Virginia. The area offers a quintessential family beach experience, from biking down the beach boardwalk, to enjoying a splash in the ocean. I especially love the Virginia Beach Aquarium and Marine Science Center, which is one of the best aquariums that I have been to. Of course, you’ll also get to enjoy some of the best seafood around, at the many delicious restaurants you’ll find around town.