Summer is officially here! You know what that means? It’s time for you and the family to get out there and explore! Trips to Disneyland and Six Flags are always good options, but why not try something different this year like creating your own city story by mapping out an epic East Coast road trip!
If you’re short on time but still want to make the most of your family vacation, here’s a list of things to do in four popular East Coast cities – Rochester, Newark, Washington D.C. and Virginia Beach.
By the way, I recently drove from Connecticut to Quebec City, Canada and although driving through Vermont isn’t on this list, I highly recommend this scenic New England drive.
Also in other news, my family and I are going on our first (ever) cross-country road trip this summer. We will cover about 1,330 miles from Connecticut all the way down to Boca Raton, Florida!
Plan My Road Trip
An East Coast Road Trip Route
Rochester, New York
Resting cozily on the southern shore of Lake Ontario is Rochester, New York. This city is home to the George Eastman Museum, the beautiful and vibrant Highland Park, the Rochester City Ballet, and many more historic landmarks.
Morning: Every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday, the city of Rochester hosts a public market with a variety of vendors that offer all sorts of goodies like fresh produce, household items, and baked goods. Since the market is generally busy, I recommend that you bike or walk to the market.
Afternoon: After purchasing some fresh produce from the City of Rochester Public Market, take the family to Highland Park to enjoy a nice picnic. This park features a renowned arboretum, native wildflowers, and exotic trees. Highland Park also offers phenomenal hiking paths. Also, don’t miss Warner Castle which sits in the middle of the park. It is home to the sunken gardens and plenty of beautiful flowers. Last but not least, the John Dunbar Memorial Pavilion, or Highland Bowl, has an outdoor amphitheater for summertime concerts and films.
Evening: After a lovely picnic and a nap at your family friendly Rochester hotel, head over to the Rochester City Ballet. This award-winning contemporary ballet company offers performances including sensory-friendly performances for children with autism.
Newark, New Jersey
The next stop on our East Coast road trip is just under an hour’s drive from New York City.
Did you know that Newark, New Jersey, is one of the oldest European settlements in the United States?
Newark is home to a rich history that traces the origins of the Hackensack Tribe and the intense industrial 19th and 20th-century boom. With so much to do in Newark, here’s a sample itinerary for you and the family.
Morning: Start your day with breakfast at Vonda’s Kitchen. Vonda’s Kitchen pays homage to soul food and conscious eating. This spot collaborates with local growers to offer fresh seasonal produce from the Tri-state area. Be sure to wake up early to avoid the morning rush.
Afternoon: After enjoying breakfast at Vonda’s Kitchen, check into your Newark hotel before taking the family to Riverfront Park. This Newark staple is one of the most popular destinations for residents and visitors. Resting on the south side of the Passaic River, Riverfront Park offers pleasant riverside views, as well as tons of activities.
Evening: Before heading out treat everyone to pizza from the Mercato Tomato Pie. Or try freshly made Italian desserts from the famous Nasto’s Ice Cream.
As the capital of the United States, there’s no shortage of things to do in Washington, D.C. Rather than giving you an itinerary for your visit, I recommend exploring the city via bike. As a bike-friendly city, Washington D.C., has clearly marked bike lanes which make cycling not only a great way to exercise but also safe for the entire family.
Along the way, you’ll find tons of museums like the Smithsonian Institution, the National Museum of Natural History, the National Museum of African-American History and Culture, and others that are sure to spark your family’s interest.
And when your stomachs begin to rumble, take the family to any of Washington, D.C.’s well-known restaurants. Founding Farmers, which sources ingredients locally, is always a popular choice. Another is Carmine’s, a classic Italian restaurant which has an extensive menu of bread, pasta, dessert, seafood and meat.
Looking for an affordable hotel recommendation? Book a family friendly hotel in Washington D.C.
Virginia Beach, Virginia
Last but not least, Virginia Beach, Virginia is the most southern destination on our East Coast road trip. You can’t go wrong with keeping it simple here. Take the family to the beach and hit the boardwalk. Enjoy live concerts on the beach or simply bask in the sun.
Whether you’re building sand castles with the kids, windsurfing, exploring the performing arts facilities, or completing obstacle courses at Adventure Park, Virginia Beach is the perfect place to spend a summer day. When you get hungry, try local favorites like Blue Seafood and Spirits, Waterman’s Surfside Grille, Tautogs Restaurant and Mahi Mahi’s Seafood Restaurant.
Lastly, while driving through Virginia stop by the Monticello Wine Trail which is a short distance from Richmond, Virginia.
What destinations would you add to your East Coast road trip?
Travel Planning Resources
Download a pdf of the free tools and resources that you can use to plan your next trip!
Danielle is a travel finance strategist, writer, speaker and podcaster. She paid off $63,000 of student loan debt in 4 years, bought a house at 27 and has traveled to 25 countries. She refuses to let her financial responsibilities hold her back from living life on her own terms.