When it comes to travel, cities are really the perfect playground for family fun. With world-class restaurants, museums, shops and parks, urban centers offer something for everyone. If you live on the East Coast, it’s time to take advantage of having some of America’s most note-worthy cities practically in your backyard: Boston, New York, Philadelphia and Washington, DC are just a car ride (or train trip) away!
Bonus: we found the best hotels that work perfectly as a home-base while you’re away from, well, home. Scroll on for what to see and where to stay in Boston, New York, Philadelphia and Washington, DC.
Get Steeped in Boston's History
Known for its cobblestone streets, vibrant waterfront and rich history, Boston is a charming getaway filled with kid-friendly activities and family fun. Spend the day exploring the waterfront by bike or take a stroll through the bustling marketplace; this New England city is the ideal backdrop for future family memories.
Explore the Boston Waterfront by Bike
Boston Harborwalk is the easiest way to navigate 8 of the city's 23 distinct neighborhoods. From the Harborwalk you can reach Charlestown, Deer Island, Dorchester, Downtown, East Boston, Fort Point, North End and South Boston. Grab some bikes and get ready to cruise any number of paths and trails that cover over 40 miles along the shoreline.
Play All Day at the Boston Children's Museum
You don't have to be a kid to enjoy the Boston Children's Museum. Come face-to-face with life sized animatronics in the Explore-a-Saurus exhibit (3rd floor) where guests are invited to measure dinosaur footprints or create an oversized bubble in the aptly named Bubbles exhibit in the Science Playground (1st floor). With over 24 unique exhibit areas, you could easily spend a day (or two) exploring this museum located at Children's Wharf.
Savor Dinner with a Side of History
You'll find four distinct buildings––Faneuil Hall, Quincy Market, North Market and South Market––at this institutional marketplace. Dating back to the 1700s, visitors can take a historical journey while delving into Boston's best eats. Be sure to check out the Events Calendar before visiting; free festivals and performances are often featured here.
Enjoy City Views at the Copley Marriott
Centrally located in the Back Bay area, the Boston Marriott Copley Place is a stylish, modern hotel that is within walking distance of Fenway Park, Newbury Street, the art galleries of Copley Square and the historic Trinity Church. After a day taking in the sights, let the kids burn off extra energy in the hotel's indoor pool. With Marriott Bonvoy, families can enjoy special rates, free in-room Wifi, mobile check in and more! Save up to 20% on your trip to Boston with advance purchase rates under cluster code ADP.
Take a Bite Out of the Big Apple
Boasting eight of the ten tallest buildings in America, this city of skyscrapers will have little ones wide-eyed. Immerse yourself in the iconic honks and beeps of the city––and then slip underground for the easiest way to see all of the city's sights: the famed NYC subway system. Don't forget to learn more about New York's public transportation while you're in town!
Take a Tour of Times Square
Feel the pulse of the city in Times Square, where art, food, shopping and lights (lots and lots of lights) create one, rhythmic heartbeat. With the help of your GPS, you can take a self-guided walking tour. If time permits, trying scoring last minute, discounted tickets to a Broadway show!
Go for a Spin by NYC's Hudson River
Walking the Brooklyn Bridge tops most people's bucket lists and for good reason; it's the "eight wonder of the world!" From Lower Manhattan, enter the bridge on Centre Street near City Hall. While you're in Brooklyn, take a whirl on Jane's Carousel where adults ride free with a paid child's ticket ($2/ride).
Head Underground to Discover the Subway's Secrets
Can't get enough of New York's buses, trains and subway cars? Head to the New York Transit Museum where kids (and adults) can examine all forms of public wheels and rails in a decommissioned subway station (how cool is that?). This Brooklyn museum can be reached by over 20 different buses and trains.
Location is King at the Sheraton New York
Your kids don't want to miss a moment of the city's action, so stay at the heart of it all: Times Square. The Sheraton Times Square New York is a modern hotel within walking distance of all the must-see spots, like Radio City Music Hall, Central Park and the perpetual-kid-favorite, FAO Schwarz. With Marriott Bonvoy, families can enjoy special rates, free in-room Wifi, mobile check in and more! Save up to 20% on your trip to NYC with advance purchase rates under cluster code ADP.
Fall in Love with Philadelphia
Go head-over-heels for this city filled with historic gems and.... rainbows! Your tiny travelers will marvel at the colorful fountain show, the ever changing light display at Boathouse Row and the vivid LEDs of Spruce Street Harbor Park. Be sure to make time for a tale (or two) of Philadelphia's yesteryears.
Get Hands-On at the Please Touch Museum
You don't need to take a vacation from learning at the Please Touch Museum. Kids age 3-12 are invited to engage and interact with sensory-driven exhibits for a day filled with educational play. Host a tea party in Alice's Wonderland, construct a giant blue foam wall at the Imagination Playground or take a spin on the 100-year old carousel. There is plenty to see and do at this Philadelphia institution. And the best part? Parents can get in on the fun, too.
Make Story Time Historical
Looking to learn a little bit more about the City of Brotherly Love? Once Upon a Nation Storytelling Benches provides visitors with a short 3-5 minute narrative on important moments in American history. There are 13 benches located around Philadelphia's historic district--visit all thirteen and get a free ride on the Parx Liberty Carousel in Franklin Square.
Light Up the Night at Spruce Street Harbor Park
During warmer months (think May through end of Sept.), the Spruce Street Harbor Park is the place to relax and unwind. Rainbow colored hammocks swing from trees dripping with LED lights. Spend an evening playing summertime favorites (like bocce ball, ping pong and shuffle board) on the Boardwalk.
Relax at the Philadelphia Marriott Downtown
Philadelphia was made to be walked, so pack your sneakers and stay at this centrally located hotel in Center City. The Philadelphia Marriott Downtown is just a quick hop, skip and jump from cultural attractions like Reading Terminal Market and Independence Hall. Don't forget to pack a swimsuit: this hotel has an indoor pool with city views. With Marriott Bonvoy, families can enjoy special rates, free in-room Wifi, mobile check in and more! Save up to 20% on your trip to Philadelphia with advance purchase rates under cluster code ADP.
Explore the Nation's Capital
With so many landmarks and museums offering free admission, Washington, DC makes for a budget-friendly family trip. There are endless things to see and do in the DMV; if you have extra time, be sure to visit the Maryland and NOVA 'burbs within the beltway; Arlington, Alexandria and Bethesda offer small-town charm with a big city feel.
Snag a Free Ride in Old Town
Hop aboard the King Street Trolley for a free ride down Old Town Alexandria's main street. You can board the trolley at Metro's King Street Station and get off at the Waterfront. Be sure to stroll through the Torpedo Factory Art Center while you're waterside. The walk back to the metro is just over a mile; be sure to check out the quaint shops and sweet treats along the way.
Go on a Top Secret Mission
Take history lessons to new heights at the International Spy Museum where everyone in your family can play Bond for the day. Test your spy-skills on an interactive adventure or spend the day looking and reading about historic spy gear and real-life missions. Kids 6 & under are free, but this museum is best enjoyed by kids 7 & up. Don't forget to stop in the gift shop where you can purchase surveillance gear for at-home fun.
Innovate and Create at the KIDS Museum
If your kiddos are getting cranky with all of the hands-off exhibits at the Smithsonian Museums, head to this Bethesda-based museum for interactive, engaging, hands-on STEM-focused fun. Maker workshops let your kids create using woodworking tools and 3-D printers. Activities and workshops are included with admission ($12/two adults and one child).
Stay Steps Away from the National Mall
Located on Pennsylvania Avenue, the JW Marriott Washington, DC is a short walk away from the White House and the Washington Monument. You won't find a better location if you want to explore the Smithsonian Museums or take a tour of the U.S. Capitol (all are within walking distance of this downtown hotel). And, bonus: the newly-opened National Children's Museum is just steps away. With Marriott Bonvoy, families can enjoy special rates, free in-room Wifi, mobile check in and more! Save up to 20% on your trip to Washington, DC with advance purchase rates under cluster code ADP.
With Marriott Bonvoy, families can enjoy special rates, free in-room Wifi, mobile check in and more! Save up to 20% on your trip to Boston, NYC, Philadelphia and Washington, DC with advance purchase rates under cluster code ADP.
—Meghan Yudes Meyers