Pennsylvania

Polar Express and Santa Trains Near NYC This Holiday Season

The magic of Chris Van Allsburg’s popular Christmas picture book The Polar Express comes to life again this winter with festive holiday trains within a whistle's blow of the New York City metro area. A huge hit with kids and parents alike, these trains spark the imagination and holiday spirit with seasonal snacks, stories, even gifts—not to mention a visit from Santa himself.

These old-school cabooses (some harking back to the 1920s) offer a classic holiday ambience. There's a Polar Express just an hour south into New Jersey, as well as the one-day-only Tri-State Santa Train about 50 minutes away. You could also consider a day trip to the Catskills, or a weekend getaway to Pennsylvania Dutch Country for the Santa's Paradise Express. No matter which Santa Train experience you choose, your family can combine the annual Santa Claus photo op with lasting memories of a sweet adventure.

Remember: these train rides sell out quickly, often months in advance, so book now if you want to go.

Hersheypark's Brand-New Chocolatetown Looks Mighty Sweet

Just when you thought a visit to Hersheypark couldn't get any more tempting, the Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, amusement park announced a sweet surprise for fans of its chocolate emporium. It's adding a Chocolatetown, an all-new section of the theme park that will connect Hersheypark and Hershey's Chocolate World, opening in the summer of 2020. Expect a major new roller coaster, and yes, plenty of chocolate, including new dessert spots.

The expansion will further the vision of Milton S. Hershey, a real-life Willy Wonka, who brought his sweet dream to life in 1907 when he built the 121-acre amusement park as a perk for his chocolate factory workers and their families.

11 Perfect Fall Weekend Getaways Near NYC for Families

Fall in the Northeast is a lovely time of year as the trees explode in a kaleidoscope of red, orange, and gold. The crisp air and outdoor activities are hard to resist for most kids (and grown-ups). New Yorkers can experience that magic right in the city's gorgeous parks, some of which feel almost like a countryside retreat during a foliage walk. But for a weekend away, perhaps over those fall school holidays, consider a weekend trip to fully immerse the family in fall fun.

We’ve rounded up 11 options, from a luxury retreat in Connecticut to glamping in New Hampshire to an Adirondack wilderness retreat where you can really unplug. 

Best Water Theme Parks Near NYC for Families

While there are no full-fledged outdoor water theme parks in NYC (yet), you don't have to go too far to find some awesome ones. We've rounded up 13 of our favorites for families in the tristate area, mostly in New Jersey, including beachside spots, and Pennsylvania, and all are less than a two-hour drive from Midtown Manhattan. There's also a great pick in the Hudson Valley and on Long Island. No two are alike: Each one offers different experiences and thrills.

Find more rides in our Theme and Water Parks Guide, including indoor water parks for those rainy or cold days.

Best Amusement Parks for Preschoolers in and Near NYC

For young children, a ride on a carousel’s painted pony, a spin with dad around the bumper car track, and a dripping swirl of frozen custard are the stuff summer memories are made of. No need to seek out the latest scary high-tech roller coasters (which means you can cross Luna Park's most scary rides off your list).

Rides that look mild (or frankly, downright boring) to big people usually provide just the right amount of thrills for toddlers and preschoolers. Happily, there are a number of amusement and water parks in or near the New York City metro area that offer these kinds of tame attractions. Here's our roundup of theme parks perfect for the pint-sized.

Find more seasonal rides in our Theme and Water Parks Guide for families.

Night at the Museum: Sleeping Over in the Nation's Best Known Museums

Taking a road trip just to go on a sleepover probably isn’t something you’d think to do, but that’s about to change with the Smithsonian’s Sleepover Series. This summer, kids can experience an overnight adventure at one of three Smithsonian museums, each with its own adventure. Just a two hour drive from Philadelphia to Washington, D.C. means you and your elementary- and middle school-aged children could solve a mystery, explore outer space, or sleep beneath a 50-foot whale.

27 Reasons for Families To Visit Wilmington, Delaware

There is so much to see and do in Wilmington, Delaware. And with its proximity to Philadelphia, families can consider making a day trip or a weekend stay. A straight shot down I-95 (and even accessible by Amtrak), this family-friendly city is a delight for parents and kids alike. From sites along the Riverwalk to museums and outdoor adventures, Wilmington will have you coming back for more. Here is our roundup of the top 27 things to do as a family in Wilmington.

Still not sure where to take your next day trip? Check out our city guides for more ideas!

12 Family Camping Spots Near NYC in State Parks and More

Camping trips are great for kids, especially NYC kids. They get to spend time outside in green spaces that may seem, to city kids, to go on forever. Plus they can learn esteem-building skills, including how to canoe, fish, chop wood, cook over a fire, pitch a tent, and more. Although there are a number of campgrounds offering fancy perks these days, from wi-fi to heated swimming pools, many camping trips are low-tech, so they allow families time to unplug and reconnect with one another. Plus, pitching a tent is generally an affordable alternative to a hotel.

Camping can be dirty and difficult, though, and require plenty of equipment, including a car. That alone can make an overnight trip to the great outdoors a challenge for many NYC families. But it doesn't have to be that way. There are several campgrounds in the tristate area that are perfect for first-timers and families. For example, we recently tried Tentrr, an online site that rents campsites in the New York area, such as the popular Hudson Valley, that are fully equipped with tents, cots, and other equipment. Just reserve your favorite site and show up!

Read on for more top campgrounds within a few hours of the city that are packed with things to keep kids busy, and two of which are within city limits. A number of these prime destinations are accessible via mass transit, and one campground even provides nearly everything you need. Remember, some of these favorites book up early!

There's no excuse not to hit the woods for a family vacation this year.  

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