Before you break out the sweaters or buy back-to-school supplies, here’s your chance to enjoy one last summer getaway with the fam. Even if you haven’t booked a vacation yet, you can still avoid the crowds this Labor Day weekend and check out these under-the-radar yet super fun family destinations not too far from the city. Pick your choice of the mountains, a lake, or the beach and go for it before summer is gone for good!
Photo courtesy of Church Street Marketplace via Yelp
Are we there yet: 1-hour direct flight or 5.5 hours by car
Keep ‘em busy: This charming small town is settled along picturesque Lake Champlain. Explore the Burlington Waterfront Park with a boardwalk, picnic areas and amazing views. Rent bikes and pedal along a 7.5 mile long waterfront Bike Path.
Take a swim and enjoy the beach at North Beach featuring kayaking and a snack bar. Oakledge Park features a rocky shore, playground, and actual treehouse for kiddos to go wild. Learn about the ecology and conservation of Lake Champlain at the ECHO Lake Aquarium and Science Center featuring live animal feedings, nature movies, and a children’s exploration room.
Spend a day on the beautiful Shelburne Farms learning about food, animals and nature. Family programs include meeting raptors and farm story time. Indulge your inner child at Ben & Jerry’s Factory. It’s only 30 minutes away and you’ll get a free ice cream after the factory tour. Then cheer for the local Vermont Lake Monsters minor league baseball team or check out a men and women’s soccer match at the University of Vermont.
Photo courtesy of Erica F. via Yelp.com
Work up an appetite: Open daily, Church Street Marketplace features 26 outdoor cafes and 20 food carts in addition to shopping and street entertainment. Every Saturday, shop through Burlington Farmer’s Market in City Hall Park where you’ll find local vendors selling produce, flowers, crafts, food and desserts. You can even do a little wine tasting!
Family-friendly lodging: The Courtyard by Marriott Burlington Harbor is located in the town center with views of Lake Champlain and steps to Church Street farmer’s market. Book a 1-bedroom suite with a separate king bedroom, a pull-out sofa in the living room and a crib, so everyone has their own sleeping space.
Or check out The Tyler Place Family Resort, located 45 minutes north, for the ultimate kid and adult all-inclusive resort experience. We’re talking water sports, kids’ camps for all ages, and even parents’ night out to nearby vineyards in Quebec.
Photo courtesy of Mystic Seaport via Facebook
Are we there yet: 2 hours and 30 minutes by car or 3 hours by Amtrak
Keep ‘em busy: Spend your weekend exploring nautical history in Mystic, Connecticut and enjoy a quintessential New England beach destination. Stroll through the Mystic Seaport – Museum of America and the Sea along the waterfront. Kiddos can swab the deck on a kid size ship or build model boats in the Children’s Museum. Plus, Summer Music Sundays offer live music performed by local musicians from 5:30 p.m.-7:30 p.m. Relax with the family while dining outdoors at Schaefer’s Spouter Tavern.
Spend a day strolling through shops and restaurants in Olde Mistick Village. Visit the Mystic Kite Shop for kites and windchimes, Toy Soldier for unique toys, books and puzzles, and Munson’s Chocolates for the largest chocolate retailer in Connecticut. Then relax in Mystic River Park and watch the ships go by under the historic drawbridge that crosses the Mystic River. Bring a picnic and play at the playground (public restrooms on site).
Photo courtesy of Samantha S. via Yelp
Learn about marine life such as African penguins, beluga whales and northern fur seals plus touch sharks, rays, and crabs in the touch tank at the Mystic Aquarium. It’s not too big, so it’s perfect for smaller tots. There’s even a 4-D theatre showing the movie Rio. Nearby Ocean Beach Park offers a beautiful sandy beach plus boardwalk, pool, amusement park, splash park and playground, arcade, and miniature golf course.
Photo courtesy of Shanda W. via Yelp.com
Work up an appetite: Fill hungry bellies at Mango’s Wood Fired Pizza in Olde Mistik Village. Try the Sea Dog Pizza with meatballs, onions, roasted red peppers on a mozzarella pie. Kiddos will also love the locally made glass-bottled soda and mom and dad will love the selection of beers and wines.
Family-friendly lodging: Stay in the center of Mystic at Hyatt Place Mystic within walking distance to the aquarium, seaport, and Olde Mystick Village. Reserve a suite with pull out sofa for kiddos. Enjoy a complimentary breakfast, plus all-day snacks like fruit, cookies or popcorn. Kiddos can splash around in the outdoor pool. You’ll even find board games in the conference room.
Photo courtesy of Bushkill Falls
Pocono Mountains, Pa
Are we there yet: 2 hours by car
Keep ‘em busy: Spend the weekend exploring the great outdoors in the Pocono Mountains. Hike around Bushkill Falls exploring eight waterfalls with hiking trails ranging from 15 minutes to 2 hours, accommodating the smallest hikers (for an entrance fee). Kids will love following an adventure map for a scavenger hunt of the property. Then, check out live butterflies and exotic frogs at Bear Mountain Butterfly Sanctuary. Kiddos can get up close and personal in the butterfly flight room and learn about nature in the kids’ art space.
Go wild at Camelback Mountain Adventures conquering a mountain coaster, 4,000 foot zip line, and treetops aerial ropes course. The Kids Explorer Course is perfect for ages 6 to 10, while kids as young as 3 can ride the coaster with an adult. Then cool off at the adjoining Camelbeach Mountain Waterpark – the largest waterpark in Pennsylvania with 37 rides. Little tots will enjoy the fountains and sprinklers in the kids lagoon.
Photo courtesy of Chun M. via Yelp
Visit Mountain Creek Stables for a family trail ride (age 7 and up) or horse drawn wagon ride. They even offer pony rides for youngsters ages 10 and under. Continue your mountain adventure at Pocono Whitewater rafting company, which offers family style rafting for ages 4 and up – including a riverside barbecue. Float 8 miles on class I and II waters of the Lehigh River. The trip is about 3 to 4 hours.
Work up an appetite: Callie’s Candy Kitchen and Pretzel Factory have been in the tasty treat business for over 20 years. You’ll find chocolate covered candies, cooking demonstrations and tasty samples. Try the chocolate covered gummy bears or cookie dough fudge. The Pretzel Factory allows you to watch them make pretzels from start to finish from a large viewing window overlooking the bakery area.
Family-friendly lodging: Great Wolf Lodge is the Disney of the Poconos – offering family suites and daily activities on top of their 79,000 square foot indoor water park. With themed hotel rooms, nightly story hour, and on-site dining, this place was made for kids only!
Tell us where your family is going this Labor Day!
– Ashly Grzyb