Are you looking to fill your summer with time behind the wheel & deciding where to go as you get there?
That's some of the spontaneity we love about road trips! We've compiled a few idea on some ways to hit the road and make some lifelong memories. Let's start here!
Head up North and explore Washington to Boston with American History sprinkled in! How you get there is up to you - fly and rent a car, or drive to Washington (or vice versa, depending where you're coming from) to start exploring. For us, we're heading south to north, so we'll start there.
First Stop: Washington, D.C
You're going to be soaking up so much history here. I mean, how can't you? It's our nation's capitol! There's so much to do and so much to cover - and best of all, most of it is free!
Tour the National Mall, home to the Washington Monument on one end and the Lincoln Memorial on the other. While you're doing a walking tour of monuments, you have the following in no particular order to visit as well! You'll find the World War II Memorial, Vietnam Veterans and Korean War Veterans Memorial on either side of the Mall, along with the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial. Adjacent to one side of the mall is the Tidal Basin where you'll find the Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial and the Thomas Jefferson Memorial. And that's just some of the few walk-up monuments with 24 hour access to see! All with the exception of entering the Washington Monument which operates seasonal and requires a ticket to enter for views from above).
If you're looking to see some of the most famous buildings in the US, the request can be made with your member of Congress (or Embassy in Washington if you are visiting from abroad) to guarantee a a spot. To access the White House, the Capitol and the Library of Congress, you'll need to reach out at least 3 months in advance but no later than 3 weeks prior to your requested dates. Once the request is in, they'll contact you back via email with the time allotted to you, along with information regarding how and when to meet for your tour. The White House will require extra information to process your request, but the experience is worth the wait!
If you're looking to visit museums, good news - most are free! We recommend devoting your time to the Smithsonian, which offers a barge of museums to explore, most open daily from 10a - 5p. If you're looking to change the pace a little, especially with younger kids, head to the National Zoo - open daily from 8a-5p (with extended summer hours) and a great visit in the city!
While you there, also explore the neighborhoods that make this city so charming - from Dupont Circle to Georgetown. Each has their on style and a variety of venues to cater to your needs, each worth the visit!
We recommend at 2 - 3 days to see DC, especially if you're looking to tour some buildings with detail. You can combine a day out and about with a reserved visit, but trying to do two in one day may not always work logistically - so try to space it out if you can!
Where to Stay? Washington Hilton
Stop 2: Baltimore, MD
After leaving your days in DC, drive northeast about an hour and you'll reach Baltimore, Maryland. Beyond amazing seafood, this city has much to offer by way of history!
Take a tour of the Baltimore Historical Sights - whether it be a guided on or on your own. If you plan to go about it on your own, play a visit to Baltimore Visit Center at the lnner Harbor to access a self-guide walking tour of the city. It will lead you to stops such as historic ships in the harbor, B&O Railroad Museum, the original Washington Monument (before DC and with view of Baltimore!), the Star-Spangled Banner which inspired the song of the same name, or the birthplace of our National Anthem - Fort McHenry.
We recommend at least 1-2 days to see Baltimore - add a day if you choose to move a little slower to sightsee or if you decide to venture out to visit Annapolis while you're there!
Stay: Hyatt Regency Inner Harbor
Must Eats? Obviously Maryland crabs! We enjoyed stops in Little Italy (Aldo's was wonderful for a romantic dinner for two) and Fells Point for the undeniable charm of each neighborhood.
Stop 3: Philadelphia, PA
As you continue to head northeast, you'll make it to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania - about an hour and 45 minutes outside of Baltimore. The City of Brotherly (& Sisterly) Love is special in its new world meets old world and the history that fills its streets.
You'll want to dive in to an Old City Walking Tour but if you decided to go about it on your own, there's plenty to see. Visit Independence Hall - free with a timed reservation entry; Liberty Bell, The President's House, various history museums, and squares (some of which host a variety of event depending on the time of year)! Or you can recreate the movie itself, and join the Rocky Run to visit some unknown sites if you're looking or something extra to do!
We recommend 1-2 days to see Philadelphia - add a day if you choose to drive the path a little slower and visit some wineries (Brandywine Valley is in proximity of your drive) or if you decide to venture out and visit Valley Forge.
Where to Stay? The Westin was situated in a perfect spot! Accessible for sightseeing, but also in the middle of many great options for eats - and near beautiful City Hall & LOVE Park!
Must Eats? Philly cheesesteak at Steve's Prince of Steak or stop by Reading Terminal Market, specifically Dutch Eating Place for one of the best breakfasts - it is a limited seating and first come, first serve!
Stop 4: New York, NY
Leave Philly and drive for an hour & 40 minutes and you'll reach the Big Apple. And what isn't there to do in New York? If you're truly trying to stick to the theme of the trip, then visiting the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island are staples on your list. Make sure to book your ticket on the ferry over via Statue Cruises, which may even get you access to the Pedestal or Crown (if you're little one is tall enough - has to be 48" to climb to the top)! Your ticket also includes a ferry ride over to Ellis Island, where you can experience the arrival of our nation's population of immigrants and embark on the journey they did on arrival.
You can even add modern history like visiting the USS Intrepid Air, Sea & Space Museum to charm any kid that would like to view planes and ships up-close!
We recommend at minimum 2 days to see New York, since it will take you at least a day to visit Lady Liberty and Ellis Island. But if you're looking to add more time in the Big Apple, you could block the city into sections and do at least 5 days to get a good grasp of all it has to offer - and with enough time to explore at a leisurely pace.
Start with a New York City Bus Tour to get a lay of the land and decide where you want to spend more time. Then focus on Central Park and the Upper Sides; the Theater District and Midtown, and then head Downtown to visit other landmarks like the 9/11 Memorial. You can fill what you want to see in-between or use the last full day to visit one of the other boroughs - whether cross the Brooklyn Bridge over or head to the Bronx to see the zoo! Check out our recommendations on what to do in New York City with kids!
Where to Stay? Hyatt Place Midtown South was perfectly situated near Macy's, several subway stops, and best of all, breakfast was included! It made for an easy start to exploring and for navigating the city!
Final Stop: Boston, MA
Your last visit involves a little more of a drive - but its so worth it with all that you can see in-between. Four hours from NYC and you've reached Boston - home of lots history and really good seafood!
Start your visit there by making plans to walk the Freedom Trail - the walk itself will take you through some historical landmarks that paint the story of the American Revolution. The trail is about 2.5 miles long and can take as much time as you need to get through it - if you don't want a guided tour, you can do it on your own. It's easy to follow - just download a guide and follow the brick laid path! The trail starts at Boston Common and ends at the USS Constitution and Bunker Hill (or vice versa if you decide to take it the other way), and passes the landmarks of Faneuil Hall and Quincy Market - both not to be missed! You can also make sure to visit the spot of the Boston Tea Party, while indulging in these lessons and watching history come to life!
If you want to make the most of your time there, there's plenty of other ways to see the city. Take a Boston Duck Tour - to navigate you through the lay of the land and learn about the city itself - and then to float on water to get to see it from a new angle. Visit the Green Monster at Fenway Park - even if you're not able to catch a game there, you can tour the timeless stadium. Visit Boston Public Garden, ride a Swan Boat, or even stop to say hello the bronze ducklings. Visit a brewery or even the original Cheers! Maybe you're hoping to spot some sea lift outside the New England Aquarium - then try whale watching for a few hours!
If you're coming with little ones and still need to keep them entertained - whether from all the trekking around the city or on a rainy day, check out the Boston Children's Museum! We can attest to it being a hit with ours!
We recommend 3 days to see Boston ... 4-5 days if you're adding on any day trips outside the city to truly explore!
Where to Stay? The Westin Waterfront was by Boston Harborwalk - a little removed but also accessible with magnificent waterfront views and the leisurely walks to get into the city.
There was also a rental car facility right in the hotel, so it made it easy to get a car (especially for those that may be starting in Boston and working their way down on the road trip). You can enjoy the city without a need to rent a car until you're ready to venture out!
Must Eats? Legal Sea Foods! And Mike's Pastry in Little Italy.
Visit Edaville with kids - Thomasland located within the park was a hit! It's only an hour and a half from Boston, by way of Plymouth - and close enough for you to access Cape Cod afterwards (for some really amazing views and seafood)!
We went at an age when our eldest was about all things train - to see his favorite engine come to life was amazing. He was beside himself in excitement - and the attractions where delightful enough for that age.
A historical road trip is definitely one to add to your list of trips to take, especially in the thick of appreciating what they're learning about and getting to see first-hand. And it should go without being mentioned, that many of this places are part of the National Park Service's Junior Ranger program, so you can keep your kids (or yourself) engaged with activities as you tour - all to become a sworn in ranger for the trip!
If you plan to do something similar, we recommend a total of 13 days to at least get a highlight of each city & upon reaching your first destination - and of course giving you travel time on each end to get back!
Washington D.C. - 2.5 days
Baltimore - 1.5 day (with partial driving day)
Philadelphia - 2.5 days (with partial driving day)
New York - 3.5 days (with partial driving day)
Boston - 3 days (with time to go to the coast to explore)