Some miles on the clock, a dash of history, a pinch of the outdoors, time for fun and more than a handful of snacks and you’ve cooked up a recipe for the perfect spring break road trip. While bundling everyone in the car for forced family fun can feel like a schlep, GPS makes the deal a lot sweeter and the benefits include memories in the bank, family photo ops and even a shot at youthful spontaneity. Read on for inspiration to fuel your itinerary.
Washington D. C.
You’ll get more than a dash of history in D. C.. With so much to see, you’ll have to edit your options rather find things to fill your time. (Don’t carry snacks for the crew if you plan on visiting the Capitol Building or Smithsonian Museums or you risk having to throw them all away. No food is allowed inside the buildings.)Tours of the monuments and views of the White House will keep little feet busy and when they’re tired, hop on the dollar-ride circulator buses to take in the landmarks you missed.
Photo credit: QAGOMA Photography © Yayoi Kusama
For more than a pop of color, plan ahead and get passes to Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden. The show runs until the middle of May and celebrates the 65 year career of the Japanese artist. In D. C. it’s easy to find family-friendly eats, downtown favorites include Commissary D. C. and Matchbox. Break up the return journey and stretch your legs at one of the six areas of Gunpowder State Park just outside Baltimore, Maryland. The park is full of multi-use trails and historic sites along the Gunpowder River.
Drive time to Washington from NYC: 4 hours
Photo credit: James Ewing Photography courtesy of Association for Public Art
With so much public art in Philly, there will be no shortage of photo ops. A stroll up Benjamin Franklin Parkway (named after the city’s most famous founding father) from City Hall to the Philadelphia Museum of Art features nearly 30 sculptures. There’s also the historic sites to visit like Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell.
Photo credit: Museum of the American Revolution
Plan your trip mid-April and you can be one of the first visitors to the new Museum of The American Revolution just steps from Independence Hall. If the troops need a culture break, try the Please Touch Museum, which entertains little ones with interactive exhibits, the Adventure Aquarium in nearby Camden, with the largest collection of sharks on the East Coast or the Philadelphia Zoo. No trip would be complete without a Philly Cheese Steak and there are plenty of options. For a pit-stop on your journey, check out the Monmouth Battlefield State Park in New Jersey. Trails and hikes set the scene for the Revolutionary Wars – and perhaps keep sibling civil wars from breaking out in the back seat.
Drive time to Philadelphia from NYC: 2 hours
Photo credit: Milo Stewart Jr./National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum
For baseball fans, the pilgrimage to Cooperstown is a no-brainer. Home to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, fans can feast on jerseys, bats, balls and gloves as well as the room full of plaques celebrating the game’s most skilled players. Go one better and book a night at the museum, treating kids 7-12 yrs old to after-hours access, a movie and snacks.
From Where the Wild Things Are © Maurice Sendak: All Rights Reserved.
It’s not all baseball in Cooperstown — there’s The Farmers’ Museum, and, opening April 1, a Maurice Sendak special at the Fenimore Art Museum. The 50-year retrospective includes artwork from Where The Wild Things Are and In The Night Kitchen, sketches and animation reels, as well as work from artists inspired by Sendak’s writing and illustrations.
Get good grub at Fly Creek Cider Mill and drink at the local Belgian-style Brewery Ommegang or the Cooperstown Distillery. No road trip is complete without a detour and the route to Cooperstown from New York takes you right through the Catskills. If a hike feels like too much, stop in Mount Tremper to step inside the world’s largest kaleidoscope, housed in a converted farm silo.
Drive time to Cooperstown from NYC: 4 hours
Photo credit: Lourdes M via Yelp
If you’re ready to be stroller-free and want a trip that’s all about the outdoors, Upstate New York’s Watkins Glen State Park has a reputation for leaving visitors spellbound. The park is open year-round with a trail trolley running on the weekends. The South Rim and Indian Trails are up and running and you can check the website to see when the Gorge Trail reopens for the spring. It’s a good five hour drive from the city with plenty of budget accommodation nearby.
Photo credit: Dulce Pinzon, digital photographs, 2015: Spiderman: Bernabe Mendez
The perfect place to stop en route is Scranton, PA, where the Everhart Museum has an exhibition exploring all things superhero — a boon for your little Spidey. The show includes art and photography as well as pictures by Scranton residents inspired by their own animal-based superhero or villain. For something more than a picnic, head to nearby Ithaca. The town’s farm-to-table Mexican spot Agava is located in a former train station and the kids can eat for free on Tuesdays.
Drive time to Watkins Glen State Park from NYC: 5 hours
The setting for beloved stories like Here Come The Ducklings and The Trumpet of the Swan, Boston is a magical place for kids. Don’t miss the ducking statues and the swan boats in the Public Garden.
Maritime history peppers the city from the site of the Boston Tea Party to the ships in the Charlestown Navy Yard. For some-full throttle fun, the Boston Children’s Museum is a leader when it comes to hands-on interactive play. For food, Little Italy offers lots of child-friendly dining options; a good place to start is Magliano’s which has all the kids’ menus favorites including, pizza, meatballs and mac ‘n’ cheese.
Photo credit: Dinosaur State Park
For the perfect mid-way pit-stop on your journey there or back, head to Dinosaur State Park in Connecticut, where you can walk the trails and check out the dino tracks at the exhibit center. (Dilophosaurus and Eubrontes footprints were discovered there 50 years ago.)
Drive time to Boston from NYC: 4 hours
Photo credit: Kalahari Waterparks, Resort and Convention Center
Head for the Hills of PA and NY
If you want to get behind the wheel but don’t want to be solely in charge of the fun-packed itinerary, head out to the Poconos. Resorts there include Kalahari, the African-themed home to a giant indoor water park and a hearty kids entertainment zone, which opens its “Phase II” this season, making it the largest water park in North America. Neighboring Great Wolf Lodge offers more of the same with water slides, chutes, rope courses and game centers. Last but not least, is Camelback, which offers inside water fun and outdoor snow play including tubing and skiing. (You can read our writeup of both Kalahari and Camelback here.)
Photo credit: Pine Grove Family Dude Ranch
If all that splashing feels like just too much summer, there’s springtime fun to be had on horseback within a few hours from the city. Both Rocking Horse Ranch and Pine Grove Family Dude Ranch in the Catskills offer family entertainment with day camps, trail riding and all the fun you can have in a barn.
Driving time to Poconos from NYC: 3 hours
Driving time to Catskills from NYC: 1.5 hours
Do you have a winning itinerary you are willing to share? Let us know in the comments below.
– Emily Myers
Photos are the author’s unless otherwise credited.