Start Planning your New England Road Trip with Kids
Taking a road trip with kids seems like one of those rites of passage that we all have to go through. You grow up doing them with your parents. As adults, we do them with our friends and then with our own kids. For some reason, the east coast has always been my favorite place to road trip. Maybe it’s because I can cross so many borders in one day? A New England road trip with kids covers a whole lot of them. A lot.
Let’s take a look at the West Coast. They only have three states out there! While planning our New England road trip, I was looking at traveling through at least nine states to get from Washington, D.C. to New Hampshire and back. I was going to stop in Boston and New York City. I would go around Providence and Philadelphia, through Baltimore and Wilmington, not to mention countless other cities and towns along the way.
When you decide to road trip New England and the Mid-Atlantic states you have a lot of options. There are so many parks, road-side attractions, museums, food carts, ice cream shops and coffee windows to test out! We were excited to see and do it all. Our road trip would include a lot of new adventures, but also some old haunts of mine, seeing a few friends along the way (our favorite part of road trips), and of course, eating a lot of local sweets.
Let the New England Road Trip begin!
Every year my family gathers at a little lake house near Wolfeboro, New Hampshire to do nothing but eat and swim for a week. We trek the 10 hours up. We make the long haul back. This year I wanted to do something a little different. My boys and I were going to make a few stops along the way.
I had friends who went to college in Boston. I hadn’t been back in years. Work brought me to New York City, but my boys had no idea that their mom used to live and work in the city full time way back when. They had been begging me to go to the home of the Statue of Liberty, Spider-Man and “Baby Hulk.” Our route home from New Hampshire was obvious.
Bring it on Boston
We had one day to explore Boston. Less actually. It would take us two hours to get to Boston from the lake. Seven hours meant we had to prioritize what we wanted to see. I had two Boston CityPASS booklets. That narrowed down our choices. The boys each got to pick a spot—the New England Aquarium and Museum of Science were our winners. I added in Boston Common. Mama needed a photo of her babies on those “Make Way for Ducklings.”
New England Aquarium
Jellyfish, one shy octopus, seals, sea lions, bathing penguins, clownfish, starfish, snappy sea dragons and some cranky mussels took over our lives and viewpoint for a few hours. The aquarium spirals up through the outer edge of the building, walking you from exhibit to exhibit until you reach the top of the shark tank. Then you begin your slow decent down the inner edge, hugging close to the shark tank, drifting towards the bottom of the sea. I never thought we could power through such an amazing aquarium, not with my fish-loving kids, but somehow we did. It was hard to leave, but we were on a mission to do as must as we could in Boston in one day.
Off to our hotel—the Wyndham Boston Beacon Hill. We got an early check in, dumped our bags, valet parked the car (a godsend for a mother traveling solo with two kids!), and started walking. Happily, the kids did not notice the sign saying there was a pool on the second floor. Phew! We would jump in to cool off if we had time, but we were headed towards the Museum of Science, and I had no idea what we were in for.
Boston Museum of Science
The Boston Museum of Science is quite possibly the most beautiful science museum I’ve ever been to. Almost all of the exhibits are hands on, making it perfect for kids of every age. Adults were having just as much fun. The live presentations by scientists kept everyone engaged. The top floor houses an indoor playground that brings science down to a practical level for kids through levers, pulleys and counter weights. But we had another, outdoor park we needed to get to. None of this inside stuff for us, although I imagine it is a dream spot for local moms on a cold, winter day.
Boston Common is the largest park in the city. This is where you come to people watch, take wedding photos, have a picnic with friends, and see the ducks. There is a duck pond with live ducks, as well as the “Make Way for Ducklings” sculpture that every kid wants to sit on and every parent wants a photo of their kids sitting on. I got my shot after a very polite line had formed to make sure every family got their turn.
Dinner was had, we waved goodnight to our friendly doorman at the hotel, the kids were tucked into bed, and our bags were repacked. I snuggled into my bed and started planning our trek south as my eldest began to snore. We had made our sprint through Boston. Now it was time to head south to NYC.
New York City or Bust
New York can be very overwhelming for parents. Most people are terrified to drive into the city, but you really shouldn’t be. Avoid rush hour and you will be fine. It’s like any other city.
Our four-hour drive from Boston to New York was uneventful and had us unloading the car at our next hotel, the Wyndham Hotel Henri near the Flatiron building, by lunch. I couldn’t have asked for a better location. We were close to a park, more food than we could eat in a week and every subway line I would need during our stay. Our friends downtown were an easy subway ride away, as were the museums uptown. The staff was phenomenal with my kids, a coffee bar was built into the lobby, which also offered complimentary pastries in the morning, and discounted parking was available just steps away.
Best of all, we were headed to Central Park, grabbing sweets at The Plaza Food Hall and exploring within 30 minutes of our arrival in Manhattan.
Central Park with Kids
I think we walked most of the park, saw every movie location ever shot there, and got lost on the winding paths at least six times. However, we did find the model boats. We loved sailing our own boats for 30 minutes on the man-made pond, and racing each other as the breeze permitted. We topped off the day with a climb on the Alice in Wonderland statue. I got a much-needed sit down to figure out where we would eat before heading to bed.
Friends with Dinosaurs in NYC
The next day, our one full day in New York, was filled with friends, museums and a little more of Central Park. We spent the morning catching up with friends downtown near the World Trade Center Memorial. It was a stormy, cold start to the day. We needed fresh, hot bagels and coffee to warm our soaked feet.
Next on the docket was the American Museum of Natural History, better known to my kids as the “Night at the Museum” movie location. While only the exterior resembles the movie, it was still fun to explore the collection. We got to say hello to the T-REX (he’s on the fourth floor, not as you enter the first), and rest our feet during a show in the planetarium. Never have you heard a five-year-old boy more engaged than when Neil deGrasse Tyson is explaining dark matter. I think my youngest son understood more than I did!
Going Greek at the Met
We wrapped up the day with a quick stop at the Metropolitan Museum of Art to see the Greek and Roman sculptures. My oldest son just finished the Percy Jackson book series, which is rooted in Greek history. I was thrilled to find that one of my favorite mid-Century photographers, Irving Penn, had a photo exhibit up as well. It was closing in just a few days, so we had gotten there just in time.
Wrapping up a road trip with kids
Our three-day road trip home from the lake was a whirlwind, but it was filled with history, art, food, movie sets, friends, nature and silly, unexpected moments. Instead of rushing home (if you can call a 10-hour drive a rush), we savored our way through New England. I got to visit a few old haunts, see friends I don’t get to see often, and visit two of my favorite East Coast cities.
As we started the four-hour drive home to Washington, D.C from New York, I began to wonder why I’d never made this trip before. It had been so easy. Yes, it felt rushed at times as we crammed so much into three days, but look at all we had seen. On our next trip, we could slow it down.
Now I’m looking towards our next trek up north. Where should we go? Where would you stop?
Plan your own Great American Road Trip
I know, I know. Road trips take planning. But you don’t have to plan an insanely complicated road trip. Nope. It can be one or two cities. It can be around your home state. You can go visit friends with a stop or two along the way. It doesn’t have to be expensive either.
We used our Wyndham Rewards points to stay three nights during our New England road trip with my kids. Not a rewards member yet? That’s OK. It’s free to join and you get plenty of perks just for being a member.
PIN IT FOR LATER
This post is part of a paid partnership with Wyndham Rewards. As always, my opinions are my own. When they aren’t, you will be the first to know.