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East Coast Family Vacations and Destinations

The Best East Coast vacation spots for families, including locations like Cape Cod, Washington DC, Boston, Raleigh, and more.

I’ve spent 95% of my time living 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). All opinions are my own.

East coast vacations for families, including beach destinations, city destinations, and quaint towns. Includes activities, attractions, and more for families to do.

East Coast Family Vacations

Empire State Building

New York City

I firmly believe that every family from the US should try to have at least one New York City family vacation. It’s definitely one of the best East coast vacations. Living in the Boston area, we are just a few hours away and are able to visit every few years, especially because there are so many easy transportation options from Boston to NYC

In addition to iconic landmarks like the Empire State Building, the Statue of Liberty, and Rockefeller Plaza, there are also countless museums, fun NYC 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. Keep in mind that it’s especially busy in New York City between Thanksgiving and Christmas, so be prepared for crowds and higher hotel prices. It can also be tougher to get restaurant reservations.

See hotel reviews in NYC here.

Cape Cod

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 (the Cape Cod National Seashore National Park), making it a popular East Coast vacation destination in the summer. The Cape definitely has some of the best East Coast beaches for families.

Families can enjoy traditional summer activities like mini-golf, traditional 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 to the historic Plimoth Plantation.

There are lots of great family resorts on Cape Cod, including Ocean Edge Resort and the Sea Crest Beach Hotel.

See hotel reviews here. 

Rockport Massachusetts

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 and day trip spots.

Our favorite beaches in Gloucester are Good Harbor Beach and Wingaersheek Beach. Both get very busy on hot summer days, so I recommend arriving early to make sure that you get parking. There are several hotels in the area, or some people prefer to book a vacation home.

See hotels here.

The Boston waterfront

Boston, MA

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 late spring, summer, or early fall when the temperatures are best for exploring the city. See our recommendations for neighborhoods in Boston and hotels in Boston to stay in.

See hotel reviews here.

Martha’s Vineyard, MA

One of the most popular presidential vacation destinations over the last few decades, Martha’s Vineyard is definitely one of the best East Coast family vacation destinations. There are a few different towns, all offering quaint shops, delicious restaurants, and beautiful beaches.

You can easily catch a ferry over to the island, and can even choose to bring your car with you if you’d like. When we’ve visited, we did bring our car because we drove all over the island. Many families decide to rent a beach house for their vacation, or there are hotels and resorts on the island (see reviews here).

Raleigh, NC

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 walk to several museums and restaurants.

See hotel reviews here.

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 right on the waterfront, 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, and would recommend it for anyone who is visiting DC but would like to stay a little outside the city.

See hotel reviews here.

The Jefferson Memorial

Washington DC

Washington DC is another destination that is perfect for families to visit – it’s definitely one of the must-see places on the East Coast. 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 (which has since relocated to a larger building).

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 if you plan accordingly. During our visit, we stayed in National Harbor, which was a more affordable option than staying right in the city.

See hotel reviews here.

Portland Head Lighthouse

Portland, Maine

I absolutely love Portland Maine. 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 (especially the Old Port section), checking out the various quaint shops and absolutely delicious restaurants. There are also museums and beautiful sites to explore. Be sure to check out the iconic Portland Head Lighthouse.

Other popular spots in Maine include Ogunquit, Acadia National Park, and Bar Harbor. Ogunquit is a quintessential beach town, and it isn’t too far from Boston and Portland.

See hotel reviews here.

Mystic CT

Mystic, CT

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. You’ll do a lot of walking on your trip.

See hotel reviews here.

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 easily 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.

See hotel reviews here.

Virginia Beach Sunset
Virginia Beach Sunset

Virginia Beach, VA

Several years ago, I had the opportunity to visit Virginia Beach during a press trip to Virginia. This beach town 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.

See hotel reviews here.

A street in Savannah, Georgia

Savannah, Georgia

The coastal, historic town of Savannah, Georgia is located right on the South Carolina border. It’s a beautiful place to visit for a vacation and offers historic sites such as the Juliette Gordon Low Birthplace and the Owens-Thomas House.

Savannah is such a quintessential southern town. There are great restaurants and shops throughout the town.

There’s also Tybee Island, a barrier island located off the coast of Savannah in the Atlantic Ocean. It’s a great spot for a family beach vacation.

See more things to do in Savannah here.

Kiawah Island, South Carolina

This Atlantic barrier island in South Carolina is a popular beach destination. Located southwest of Charleston, Kiawah is known as a beach and golfing destination. Families will enjoy visiting Night Heron Park, which includes a nature center and pool area.

Kiawah boasts many vacation homes, as well as resorts. You can see reviews here.

Hilton Head, South Carolina

Hilton Head is known as a golf destination, but there are still plenty of things to do with kids. If you and your family love Disney, consider staying at the Disney Hilton Head Island Resort. This family-friendly resort includes all of the services and amenities that you’ve come to expect from Disney, including a large pool with waterslide and beach access.

While you are on Hilton Head, there are family-oriented activities to enjoy, including miniature golf, the Dolphin and Nature Tour, Pirate’s Island Adventure Golf, and the Sandbox Interactive Children’s Museum.

See hotel reviews in Hilton Head here.

Orlando, FL

There are so many things to do in Orlando, including Walt Disney World, Universal Florida, Legoland, the Orlando ICON, Seaworld, and Discovery Cove. It’s almost impossible to do everything during one trip, so I’d recommend choosing your top options and just doing those.

Be sure to plan in some relaxation time, because you won’t want to spend every day going, going, going.

Check out BestofOrlando for some great deals on the most popular attractions in Orlando, and see hotels in Orlando here. If you want to be sure to have access to a great hotel pool, see the best Orlando resort pools here.

Asheville, NC

Asheville North Carolina offers delicious restaurants, a bustling arts scene, beautiful nature trails, and of course, the Biltmore Estate. It’s a great destination as a girlfriend getaway or family vacation, and you are sure to find plenty of things to enjoy on your vacation. It’s also an affordable destination and draws many of its visitors from the surrounding area.

While you are there, you can enjoy hiking to Catawba in the Pisgah National Forest. Don’t miss a tour of the Biltmore Estate, the largest privately-owned home in America. Kids will especially love seeing the bowling lanes and indoor swimming pool that are in the home.

If you do decide to fly in, the small airport in Asheville is very convenient to downtown. Flights generally go through Charlotte or Atlanta, depending on the airline.

Newport, RI

Newport is one of my favorite places in New England, thanks to its beautiful landscapes, fun restaurants, and vibrant waterfront. Summer is the best time to visit so you can enjoy Fort Adams State Park as well as the gorgeous beaches in Newport and the nearby towns.

Also located in Rhode Island is Block Island, an island accessible via passenger ferry.

See more things to do in Newport RI with kids here.

There are other beautiful East Coast vacation spots, including the Outer Banks of North Carolina, Myrtle Beach in South Carolina, and Rehoboth Beach in Delaware. What is your favorite East Coast vacation destination?

Clearwater Florida Beach at Sunset
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