East Coast Vacation Ideas for Families in the US

by Indiana Lee
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The East Coast is known  for its rich history, sandy beaches, and national parks. It’s the perfect destination for road trips, camping vacations, outdoor adventures, and lazy days by the seaside.

The East Coast is great for kids, too making it a great option for a family vacation. From Maine to Florida, you’ll find a wealth of family-friendly activities and cultural experiences, theme parks, historic sites, and tours that will hold the whole family’s attention.

You can also expect to eat great food when vacationing on the East Coast. Everyone will love tucking into some lobster rolls at lunch and clam chowder for dinner. If you plan your trip correctly, you can spend the whole day enjoying iconic East Coast dishes like Philly cheese steaks, Chesapeake Bay oysters, or shrimp and grits.

Need some more ideas for your family adventures on the Atlantic Coast? Continue reading for more!

family enjoying vacation on the east coast | travnikovstudio via Canva.com
Photo credit: travnikovstudio via Canva.com

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If your family loves camping, the East Coast of the United States is the place to be during the summer months. You could spend an entire summer hopping from park to park and would still have plenty to see at the end of the season. The East Coast boasts some of the nation’s most iconic parks, like:

  • Acadia National Park in Maine
  • The Everglades in Florida
  • Shenandoah National Park in Virginia
  • The Great Smoky Mountains National Park between North Carolina and Tennessee
  • Biscayne National Park in Florida

Each of these parks has its own perks and unique attractions. The Everglades host some unique wildlife while the Great Smoky Mountains are a must-see for nature lovers. If you just have to pick one park, consider starting your journey with a trip to Shenandoah National Park. Shenandoah is just 75 miles from the nation’s capital and covers over 200,000 acres. You can find plenty of campgrounds and hiking trails that are appropriate for the entire family, too.

If you do decide to go camping, be sure to follow best practices at all times. You can stay safe while camping by:

  • Staying Together: Don’t let young children wander. The area may look empty, but national parks are home to plenty of large wildlife and hazards.
  • Avoid Dangerous Water: Cooling off in the lake may seem enticing, but some bodies of water are not child-safe. Research the location first and avoid any areas with debris or swift currents
  • Respect Wildlife: Most animals will flee at the sound of humans. However, you should not encroach on any wildlife that you happen upon. Show them respect and do your best not to disturb them.
  • Stay on Trails: Marked trails are there for a reason. They protect you and nature at large. Tramping through the brush will only result in chigger bites and destruction to nature.

Keep an eye on your kids while they enjoy the park’s open spaces and forests. It’s OK to encourage play but do your best to teach them about leave-no-trace principles at the park.

Road Trips

Taking your family on a road trip is a great way to see more of the East Coast when trying to save money on a vacation. You can skip the expensive flights and detour around any expensive tourist hotspots when looking for lunch or dinner. You can even avoid hotel fees if you decide to take a road trip with an RV.

If you do choose to take an RV, you’ll need to plan your vacation thoroughly. When planning an RV getaway, be sure to book campsites well in advance. This helps you avoid disappointment and choose the destinations that make the most sense for your family. Try to use a fuel planner to take stock of your gas use and map out all the gas stops along the way. This is key, as you may drop out of cell service when away in your RV.

You’ll need to make sure the route you take is RV-friendly, too. Some roads are simply too narrow or too steep to work with an RV. This is very important, as the East Coast is known for mountain ranges and winding roads.

Get the family ready for the trip by practicing a getaway first. Pack the kids up in the RV and head to a nearby attraction for the day. This will help your kids get used to the RV and will make sure you are aware of any issues before you hit the open road. When the big day comes for that scenic drive, head out early and pack plenty of snacks to keep morale high.

Beach Days

Few pleasures can top a beach day enjoying the beautiful Atlantic ocean under the summer sun. The kids will have a blast when playing on sandy beaches and you can top your tan while away from work. The East Coast is home to many beautiful public beaches, so you will certainly have options.  Beach trips are filled with engaging entertainment, as some beaches offer boat tours and fishing, too.

If you haven’t been to the East Coast before, consider starting with iconic beaches like:

  • Sand Beach, Maine
  • Vero Beach, Florida
  • Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
  • Easton’s Beach, Rhode Island

Before you head out, check the opening hours of local restaurants and cafes. Sand Beach in Maine is remote, meaning you won’t be able to pick up lunch while at the beach, while Easton’s Beach is in the heart of Rhode Island and is well-equipped with everything you need. Taking these factors into account ensures that everyone has a great time and can relax and eat well while on vacation.

Amusement Parks

RVing and beach-side holidays are great if you have older children who enjoy relaxing as much as you do. However, younger or more active children may require extra stimulation to hold their attention while on holiday. If this is the case, consider booking vacations near amusement parks.

If an amusement park is your idea of family fun, you’ll want to head south to Orlando. Universal Studios is unrivaled in its rides and is close to Walt Disney World. You can also check out the Animal Kingdom resort while in the area and make time to see the iconic Epcot and the Magic Kingdom.

However, you don’t necessarily have to head to Orlando to find great rides and rollercoasters. Six Flags in New Jersey is the perfect city break that might align with the rest of your vacation goals. There is plenty of live entertainment at the park, too, meaning your kids will never be bored while on vacation.

If you do decide to plan a trip around amusement parks, be aware that most places charge a premium for food and hotels. Offset these hefty costs by learning how to travel on a budget. Use public transport where possible and pack plenty of snacks before you enter the park. This will save you heaps of cash during your stay and will free up funds for big-ticket items like ferry rides.

Final Thoughts

The East Coast offers plenty of attractions for your family when on vacation. If you love spending time in nature enjoying the natural beauty of the land, consider renting an RV, planning some fun outdoor activities, and camping along the coast. If your family is more interested in cultural activities, make sure you check out some historical sites and interactive exhibits and visit some of the small towns along the east coast. If your kids need a little more stimulation, you should definitely consider water parks like Great Wolf Lodge or amusement parks like Six Flags, Disney, or Universal Studios. 

We also can’t forget to mention the wild horses you can see in places such as North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, and other east coast states! Literally, there are so many great things to try along that Atlantic Coast to help you pull off one of your best family vacations yet!

These ideas are great for your next summer vacation, a long weekend with the family, or for those who just want to try something new. And these ideas are just a small sample of the best things to do and best places to visit during your East Coast vacation. 

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