Favorite Summer Weekend Getaways for NYC Families
There's still plenty of time this summer to sneak away from the sticky city heat for a little weekend trip. A relaxing family jaunt to coastal Maine, a mountain town in Vermont, the sun and sand at the Jersey shore are all great getaways when you're looking to skip town. We've rounded up five of our favorite family weekend destinations for summertime fun.
(Image of Portland Head Light by Jeff Gunn via Flickr)
Maine's largest city, Portland, makes a perfect getaway with its affordable hotels along the waterfront, cobblestone streets and easy access to the rest of the state's mountains, lakes and beaches. It's roughly a five-hour drive (longer with little kids!), so my family and I opt for a road trip to its sandy shores, but you might prefer hopping on the quick one-hour flight from New York area airports. This historic port city boats a quaint downtown area where families can enjoy fun on the water, cultural activities and delicious New England cuisine (lobster rolls and oh so much more!) and beer.
Portland is also home to Portland Head Light, the oldest lighthouse in the state and famously depicted in Edward Hopper's painting of the same name. My son loves taking a trip around Casco Bay on Lucky Catch Cruises. Themed trips include searching the waters for sea lions and helping the crew pull up lobster traps. Or check out the climbing treehouse, clay studio and other activities at the local Children's Museum.
Popular nearby attractions include the lively beaches, an oceanfront pier and boardwalk amusements in nearby Old Orchard Beach, the relaxing waterfront town of Ogunguit with its famed seaside footpath and famous Clam Shack, or a ferry ride to tiny Peaks Island where biking and other activities await.
Vermont has long been on our radar for winter weekend getaways, but we've recently discovered the charms of visiting the Green Mountain State during the summer months as well. Make Brattleboro your home base as you explore the southern portion of Vermont that's about a four-hour drive from New York City. The funky and artistic city offers opportunities for hiking, lake swimming, cool shopping and dining, plus lots of fun country activities we just can't find in NYC—like a barnyard full of animals you can pet!
Although an hour further north, another highlight is Mountain Adventure Park at Bromley. Here families can challenge themselves on a treetop ropes course, zip down a massive alpine slide and dash down a water slide. When in town, my son and I always go for a dip in Spofford Lake, just minutes away over the border in New Hampshire. This beautiful lake is so clear that you can see your feet on the ground when you are in the shallow sections! The north shore of the lake is for residents only but the south shore offers a public beach with a snack bar and playground.
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(Image of Morey's Piers in Wildwood, N.J., by Jim the Photographer via Flickr)
The Wildwoods, New Jersey
The four neighborhoods that comprise the Wildwood area offer the quintessential beach experience with something for everyone—and then some! The main attraction for families (aside from the obvious sun and surf) is the famous, always-buzzing, 38-block boardwalk with three amusement parks and hundreds of rides. It's said that there are more rides on the Wildwood Boardwalk than at Disneyland. And it's less than three hours away!
For those looking for mellower fun, consider visiting the Seaport Aquarium or climbing the Hereford Inlet Lighthouse. The Doo-Wop Hotels are my favorite part of this seaside town. These circa 1950s and '60s architecturally distinct beach hotels lend a cool retro vibe to the area you just can't get elsewhere.
If you tire of the hubbub at Wildwood, Cape May, N.J. is a short drive away with whale watching, the county zoo, mini-golf courses and gorgeous views to enjoy.
(Image of wetlands preserve in Stony Brook by Gail Frederick via Flickr)
Stony Brook, Long Island
This North Shore hamlet on the Long Island Sound is popular with tourists and one of my family's favorite getaways. Stony Brook is easy to get to (a 90-minute drive from NYC and accessible via the Long Island Rail Road) and is packed with small-town charm. The white clapboard village center, created to look like an old New England town, has a village green, a walkable shopping area and an exquisite post office (yes, I said post office) with an eagle that flaps its wings on the hour. Families flock to feed the ducks at the picturesque pond, tour the historic gristmill and grab a bite in one of the eateries.
We are partial to the area's low-key, outdoor adventures and enjoy exploring local wetlands on a Discovery Cruise, romping in the Long Island Sound's gentle waters at West Meadow Beach or hiking in the beautiful Avalon Park & Preserve.
While there is certainly enough to keep a family busy in Stony Brook for a weekend, the village is also convenient to the East End for an excursion to Splish Splash, the Long Island Aquarium, a Hamptons beach or a pick-your-own farm. Stony Brook is also adjacent to Port Jefferson, a tourist spot in its own right, with a vibrant waterfront downtown and a maritime-themed children's museum.
(Image of Awosting Falls in Minnewaska Park by bobistraveling via Flickr)
New Paltz, New York
This Hudson Valley town is known for its rock climbing, but also boasts cycling, lake swimming and hiking in two large preserves, making it the perfect weekend adventure for visitors who enjoy being outdoors. My brood frequents Minnewaska State Park Preserve for incredible cycling and hiking in the 'Gunks, along with two lakes for swimming. Intrepid families can make the three-mile trek to Lake Awosting. If you have tots in tow, try Lake Minnewaska, a quick and easy walk from the parking lot.
Once you've had enough of the great outdoors, head downtown to the village of New Paltz for shopping and dining, or stroll down Huguenot Street, the oldest continually inhabited street in the country. Just a short drive away is the Walkway over the Hudson. This bridge across the Hudson River offers incredible views of the valley from 212 feet up—a must do! Ninety minutes by car, New Paltz is easily accessible from NYC. Buses from Port Authority are also an option.
(Top image of North Wildwood beach in New Jersey by Jim the Photographer via Flickr)