There’s a reason why road trips are such a popular American pastime. With the right itinerary, you can find so many things this country has to offer and fit the tastes of every member of your brood. The Northeast is chock-full of terrific, family-friendly attractions, with everything from adrenaline-pumping amusement parks to taking in natural beauty on quiet beaches. Click through the gallery to get planning.
Down The Cape—Old King’s Highway, Cape Cod, Ma—66 miles
What to See
Route 6A, the Old King’s Highway, started as a Native American trail, and will give you more water views and authentic Cape flavor than the main Route 6. Start at the Heritage Museum & Gardens, with American art, a standout antique car collection, a carousel, and outdoor family activities. On to Barnstable, where naturalists at Long Pasture Wildlife Sanctuary can give your family eco-tours on water or land (say hi to the goat herd that keeps the vegetation trim). On the north side, you can visit the Coast Guard Museum, then the Edward Gorey House in scenic Yarmouth Port is a must for fans of the genteelly macabre author/artist.
Cross the cape to get to the JFK Museum in Hyannis and the Whydah Museum in West Yarmouth, which will delight little mariners with artifacts from a real pirate ship. Mayflower Beach is a great stop at low tide, when little ones can wade far out in shallow water, and you’ll want to stay for spectacular sunsets. Stop to stretch at Scargo Tower, which looks like a small kid’s castle, and climb it for the view.
Next, the Cape Cod Museum of Natural History is especially good for young children. 6a meets Route 6 at art-gallery-filled Orleans, where your family can enjoy the Nauset Model Railroad Club or get your geek on learning about early transatlantic communication at French Cable Station Museum. Just above the elbow of the cape at Eastham the Salt Pond Visitor Center Museum and 1869 Schoolhouse Museum are good educational stops for children. After that, beaches, boat trips and lighthouses abound all the way up to lively Provincetown, which is a great launch for a fishing or whale watching trip.
Good to Know: Many small attractions and historical sites open sporadically, so check ahead. Though it’s fun to visit, Wellfleet, Truro and North Truro tend to have more space and lodgings for families than crowded Provincetown. Take 6 for a faster trip back and stop at sites on the tip of the elbow and southwestern cape.
Where to Eat
In East Sandwich, Café Riverview is both a delicious lunch spot and an open classroom for young students in a transitional employment program. Stop in Smitty’s Homemade Ice Cream for a treat in Barnstable. The Knack in Orleans gets rave reviews for burgers and lobster rolls, while Moby Dick’s is a seafood fave in Wellfleet.
Where to Stay
Atlantic Oaks in Eastham and Sweetwater Forest in Brewster are much-loved campsites. For affordable lodgings, Viking Shores Motor Inn in Eastham and Hyannis Inn Motel are both great values, while the Cape Cod Family Resort in West Yarmouth has an attached inflatable amusement park. The cape has a huge range of campgrounds, hotels and rental properties, but if you’re booking for peak summer season, try to plan way ahead.
photo: Massachusetts Office of Travel & Tourism on Flickr
What’s your favorite family road trip? Share with us in the comments!