The East Coast of the United States offers an endless number of vacation options for families. From beautiful beaches to historic cities and towns, there’s no shortage of fun things to do. As you’re planning your next trip, we have you covered with some of the best places for a family vacation on the East Coast.
It’s hard to pick a favorite, so we listed these East Coast family vacation spots from north to south!
Table of Contents: East Coast Vacations for Families
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Cape Cod, MA
If you’re looking for an East Coast family beach vacation in the northeast, Cape Cod is perfect. It’s a hook-shaped peninsula off the coast of Massachusetts, and it’s a classic beach town rich in history. One of the best parts about a family vacation in Cape Cod is the unique towns that make up this 60-mile stretch of land. In addition to the beaches, one of the most popular things to do in Cape Cod is taking a whale watching or seal cruise. There are also several Cape Cod museums for families including the Cape Cod Natural History Museum. No trip to Cape Cod is complete without trying a lobster roll, fish and chips at Kream ‘N Kone, and ice cream at Sundae School Creamery.
If you’re looking for day trips from Cape Cod, you can also add on Boston or Plymouth, MA.
- Where to Stay: Sesuit Harbor House for a budget-friendly bed & breakfast in Dennis. The Soundings in Dennis Port is a great condo rental in Cape Cod.
- Getting There: A car is necessary to really explore Cape Cod. You can also fly into Boston, Providence, RI or Martha’s Vineyard depending on your flight options and budget.
- Best Time to Visit: Cape Cod is perfect during the summer (and one of the best east coast summer vacations!) The ocean water is usually warmest in August, and crowds are lower into September when kids are back in school.
New York City, NY
New York City is one of the best places to visit on the east coast. And it’s jam-packed with fun things to do for the whole family. While NYC isn’t the most relaxing family vacation, it’s a place you need to visit at least once. Whether you’re visiting NYC with a toddler or kids of any age, some of the best things to do with kids include visiting Central Park, taking the free ferry to Staten Island and seeing the city from one of several observation decks. There are also several interactive museums for kids in New York and unique places to shop like the CAMP store. Kids will love Black Tap for burgers and crazy milkshakes and nostalgic places like Serendipity 3.
While NYC makes a great weekend trip, you could easily spend a week exploring Manhattan and the other boroughs.
- Where to Stay: The Hilton Midtown is a great central location to explore the city. Short term home rentals in NYC (like AirBnB) are typically not allowed in New York City.
- Getting There: Fly into either LaGuardia or JFK Airports. Drive and park at Port Authority or take the bus or train.
- Best Time to Go: NYC is great to explore all year-round, but you can usually find the best weather between late spring and early fall. If you want to see Christmas decorations in NYC, visit between Thanksgiving and New Years.
If you’re looking for a fun and unique family vacation on the east coast, Hershey, Pennsylvania is a great place to start. As the home of one of the biggest and best chocolate companies in the world, there are so many fun things for chocolate lovers to see, do and eat in Hershey, PA. The focal point is Hersheypark. It’s a great family-friendly amusement park with tons of rides and attractions, and it includes the Boardwalk Waterpark and ZooAmerica.
If you have more time, Lancaster, PA is another great place to visit with family and only about 30 minutes from Hershey. Want to hit the state’s major cities while you’re there? There are so many fun things to do in Pittsburgh with kids, and Philadelphia is a great option as well.
- Where to Stay: Hershey Lodge is a great option for families with a small waterpark inside. For a budget-friendly hotel in Hershey, check out the Fairfield Inn & Suites on Chocolate Avenue.
- Getting There: Since Hershey, PA is located in central Pennsylvania, it’s usually best to drive. You can also fly into the nearby Harrisburg airport or drive a little further from Baltimore or Philadelphia.
- Best Time to Visit: Hershey is great for a summer vacation, with great weather from late spring to early fall. There’s also a lot to do in Hershey at Christmas if you want a fun way to celebrate the holiday.
A family vacation to Washington, DC is almost a right of passage for US families. As our nation’s capital, the city is packed with monuments and museums that tell our country’s history. Many of the popular Washington DC attractions are free, which is part of the reason it made this list of the best family vacations on the east coast. You can walk around the National Mall and see the Lincoln Memorial or Washington Monument. Smithsonian Museums like the Air & Space and Natural History Museum are free, and you can also visit the National Zoo for free! The Georgetown area is also great for shopping and good restaurants. Find more fun things to do in Washington, DC here.
The nearby Arlington Cemetery and Alexandria, VA are also worth visiting. Baltimore, MD is a great add on if you have more time while vacationing in DC.
- Where to Stay: North of the White House is usually best. (Avoid the capital area.) Hampton Inn Whitehouse or Capital Hilton are two good DC hotels for families.
- Getting There: Driving into DC isn’t too bad, or you can take the train or bus. DC has two airports: Dulles & Ronald Reagan International Airport.
- Best Time to Visit: DC can get pretty hot and humid in the summer. Spring is beautiful when the cherry blossoms are blooming, and fall in DC is great as well.
Ocean City, MD
Ocean City, Maryland has been one of the most popular east coast family beach vacations for years. With the popularity of the boardwalk and so many fun things to do in OCMD, it’s the perfect vacation to keep kids of all ages (and their parents) entertained. In addition to the miles of beaches, water sports like parasailing, jet skiing and boating/ fishing are plentiful. Ocean City is also home to some great little amusement parks like Jolly Rogers and Trimper’s on the boardwalk. There are also several great golf courses in OCMD, or kids will love the themed miniature golf found every few blocks. Fun, family friendly restaurants in Ocean City include Faeger’s Island, Lazy Lizard and Barn 34 for breakfast.
A downside of Ocean City, MD is that it draws the “senior week” crowds in June, and the boardwalk can get a little crazy at night. If you want to have less crowds but still have access to everything, West Ocean City is a great option. We also love visiting Berlin, MD for a day trip from OCMD!
- Where to Stay: Hilton Suites Ocean City Oceanfront is a good option for a hotel on the OCMD boardwalk or Cambria Suites for a bayside hotel in Ocean City, MD.
- Getting There: Ocean City is located on the eastern shore of Maryland, and most people drive there. You can also fly into Salisbury or drive a little further from Baltimore for a larger, international airport.
- Best Time to Visit: Memorial Day Weekend through Labor Day Weekend usually has the best weather. We love visiting in the off season though, and early May or late September still tend to have great weather.
Search here for more Ocean City, MD hotels and vacation rentals.
A family vacation Sandbridge, Virginia is perfect if you’re looking for a quiet beach vacation on the East Coast. (And it’s probably the most under-the-radar on this list of best east coast vacation spots!) It’s located in Virginia, just south of Virginia Beach and on the northern tip of the Outer Banks. The beaches are clean and beautiful, and it has a small town center with access to a market and a few restaurants. Sandbridge is known for dolphin sightings during the day and ghost crabs at night. While you’re there, you can also kayak on the canal side into the bay or explore
- Where to Stay: Sandbridge is primarily made up of house rentals with two condo buildings: Sandbridge Dunes and Sanctuary. For Sandbridge, VA beach house rentals, we recommend contacting a realtor like Sandbridge Realty.
- Getting There: It’s ideal to drive to Sandbridge Beach, but you can also fly into the Norfolk International Airport.
- Best Time to Visit: The weather in Sandbridge, VA is ideal between Memorial Day and Labor Day. (Many places also close in the off season.)
Outer Banks, NC
The Outer Banks (OBX) are a stretch of barrier islands off the coast of North Carolina. The area is one of the best east coast vacations for families, particularly given the different towns with unique things to do and a offer a variety of places to stay for all budgets. (Similar to Cape Cod!) While you can’t go wrong with any OBX towns, Duck in particular is one of the east coast beaches for families, particularly if you’re house sharing with a larger group. The Sand Dunes at Rocky Ridge State Park and NC Aquarium on Roanoke Island are some of the best things to do in OBX with kids. If you love seafood, be sure to get a seafood boil one night from the Outer Banks Boil Company. You also can’t miss the original Duck Donuts location, and there are several yummy restaurants in Duck, NC as well.
- Where to Stay: Duck, NC is the perfect place to stay in OBX if you want a centrally located, family friendly town. With so many great places to stay in the Outer Banks though, you really can’t go wrong with any! Search Duck, NC hotels and vacation rentals here.
- Getting There: Most people drive to the Outer Banks since a car is needed while you’re there. The closest major airports near OBX are Norfolk and Raleigh-Durham International airports.
- Best Time to Visit: June through September are usually the best months to visit OBX.
Myrtle Beach/ North Myrtle Beach, SC
Myrtle Beach, South Carolina is another one of the most popular east coast family beaches. There are several beaches around Myrtle Beach, including North Myrtle, Atlantic Beach and Surfside Beach/ Garden City, giving visitors a variety of options to choose from. The main part of Myrtle Beach typically draws the most crowds, and areas like North Myrtle Beach (while still busy) tend to be a little quieter. There are so many fun things to do in Myrtle Beach including Barefoot Landing, Broadway at the Beach and Alligator Adventure. There are also dozens of places to play mini golf, ride go karts and more. Breakfast at Blueberry’s Grill and seafood at Bimini’s Oyster Bar are both great, family-friendly places to eat in Myrtle Beach.
- Where to Stay: Ocean Bay Club in North Myrtle Beach for Myrtle Beach condos with beachfront access plus indoor and outdoor pools. Search North Myrtle Beach rentals here.
- Getting There: A lot of families drive to Myrtle beach, or you can fly into the Myrtle Beach International airport.
- Best Time to Visit: Myrtle Beach is very popular with families in the summer. It’s great in the late spring or early fall as well, when the weather is a little milder and crowds are lower.
If you’re looking for a quieter family beach vacation in South Carolina, Hilton Head is another great option. Spending a weekend in Charleston, SC is also a great add-on if you want some culture and history on your trip! (Charleston is at the top of our list for best east coast weekend getaways!)
Walt Disney World in Florida
Disney World is one of the most popular vacations for families in the US, and for good reason! Whether you’re visiting Disney World with toddlers, teens or even without kids, there are so many rides, characters and shows for the whole family. Disney World is made up of four parks including Magic Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, Epcot and Animal Kingdom. You can also visit Disney Springs for great shopping and restaurants or choose from hundreds of other attractions in the Orlando area.
- Where to Stay: Disney World offers several resorts at varying price points. Art of Animation, Beach Club, Riviera and Port Orleans French Quarter are some we recommend.
- Getting There: Most people fly into the MCO airport when traveling to Disney World, or Sanford is a smaller nearby airport.
- Best Time to Visit: September, early December, end of January and early May are some of the best times to visit Disney World. (For both the weather and crowds.)
Our section on Disney World with kids tips includes several guides and resources for families visiting Disney World.
Siesta Key, FL
Siesta Key is located on Florida’s Gulf Coast, so it’s debatable whether or not it’s actually on the east coast. That said, it’s one of (if not the) best beaches in the US and had to be included on this list! The highlight of Siesta Key is the beautiful white sand beaches with bright blue, calm waters that are great for kids. Siesta Key Village offers shopping and several great restaurants in Siesta Key for the whole family. Popular things to do in Siesta Key (besides the beach) include fishing, water sports and the Siesta Key drum circle at sunset. There are also so many fun things to do in Sarasota County where Siesta Key is located.
- Where to Stay: For access to the free trolley, a Siesta Key condo between Siesta Village and Midnight Pass is ideal. (Search Siesta Key condos here!) If you’re looking for a hotel, Hyatt Residences Siesta Key is great for families. Search more Siesta Key rentals here.
- Getting There: For the best options and flight prices, you can fly into the Tampa airport, which is about an hour drive. The Sarasota-Bradenton Airport is also an option for easy access to Siesta Key.
- Best Time to Visit: Siesta Key weather is great all year round. If you want to avoid the excessive summer heat and humidity, September- May in Siesta Key is ideal.
Florida Keys (Islamorada + Key West)
Last on our list of east coast family vacations, but certainly not least! If you’re looking for warm weather winter vacations in the US, a family vacation in the Florida Keys is a great option. The Florida Keys are known for their unique beaches, water sports like kayaking and parasailing and sport fishing. There are so many fun things to do for the whole family, and some of our favorites are Marathon Turtle Hospital and Theater of the Sea. There are also a lot of fun things to do in Key West with kids if you want to add this vibrant city to your Florida Keys vacation.
- Where to Stay: Islamorada, FL is one of the best places to stay in the Florida Keys due to its central location. You can find Islamorada, FL hotels, resorts and house rentals here. The Reach Key West is also a great option for a beachfront resort in Key West.
- Getting There: If you’re flying to Key West, you can either fly directly into Key West International airport or fly into Fort Lauderdale or Miami International Airports. Unless your trip is limited to Key West, a car is necessary to really explore the Keys.
- Best Time to Visit: September- May is the best time to visit the Florida Keys for milder weather and lower humidity. Keep in mind that prices are highest around the holidays and spring break, however.
More Ideas for Family Vacations on the East Coast
Looking for additional east coast family vacation ideas? More of our family’s favorites include:
- New Jersey beaches like Cape May and Ocean City, NJ
- Lewes, DE for a small, family-friendly beach town
- Universal Studios as an alternative to Disney World
- Philadelphia, PA or drive across the state to Pittsburgh, PA with kids
- Vermont for some of the best skiing on the east coast
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