Top 10 Best East Coast Family Vacation Destinations

I believe the East Coast of the United States unlike the West Coast, has a lot more to offer. From museums in Washington DC to the amusement parks in Florida, its rich history, culture, and traditions make it a perfect family vacation destination.

These 10 East Coast family vacation destinations can provide hidden gems, as well as affordable, and unique family vacations. You can take your time and enjoy each destination individually. Or tie them together for a big East Coast Road Trip. (Also see my recommendations for the 5 best road trips in the US. Once you have done that check out my 8 rules to pick a holiday destination.)

Table of Contents

Orlando, Florida

Let’s begin with the ultimate family vacation destination – Orlando! Located in central Florida, Orlando is the theme park capital of the world. Pick from the world-famous Walt Disney World to Universal Studios, from the Wizarding World of Harry Potter to the Islands of Adventure to spend your days having fun. There is something for everyone from toddlers to teens and yes, even grown-ups! You really are spoilt for choice here.

Outside of theme parks, there several water-sports centers where you can try waterskiing, jet skiing, and even sky diving

East Coast Destinations #1 - Theme Park Central - Orlando, Florida #travelclans #eastcoast

Hit one of the many parks or lakes to relax or exercise. Here you can rend a paddleboat or board, picnic under an old oak tree, or soar about the city in a hot air balloon.

For an incredible view of the city, visit ICON Orlando which is a 400-foot observation wheel on International Drive. There are several shops, restaurants, and bars nearby you can visit once you come down from your high viewpoint.

This is a city that has been inspired by dreams and wonder and puts no limit on the many adventures that await you in Orlando.

Amelia Island, Florida

Located on the northeastern coast and just a short drive away from Jacksonville, Amelia Island isn’t the same as the palm-lined beaches of South Florida. This island is easily accessible from most US cities.

Here you will find wide beaches with swaying beach grass and rolling sand dune. The gorgeous Fernandina Beach is great for families has numerous parks, fun water sports, and delicious food! It also offers historic trolley tours and boutique shopping.

Head inland and you find black water swamps where you can kayak and other outdoor activities. You can take a day trip to Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge for an eco-tour or head to Cumberland Island to see the wild horses.

Brunswick, Georgia

Brunswick is a hidden gem vacation spot on the East Coast. Named after the German city of Braunschweig in honor of Engish King George III ancestral birthplace but laid out in traditional British fashion. The streets are in a grid-like pattern interspersed with green parks and squares.

The city has its fair share of nature escapes such as hiking the local trails, kayaking through the Marshes of Glynn, fishing & sailing

East Coast Destinations #3 - Hidden Gem Brunswick, Georgia #travelclans #eastcoast

Historic Downtown Brunswick is equally appealing with the 1800s Hofwyl-Broadfield Plantation, the 1898 Historic Ritz Theater, and Fort Federica National Monument.

The city is warm & inviting, that beckons travelers to relax. Diving into the music, art, and theatre through the diverse mix of museums, antique stores, art galleries, and specialty shops.

Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

During the summer Myrtle Beach is your perfect East Coast destination weekend getaway as the picturesque beachfront meets family-friendly attractions. This beautiful destination offers something for everyone with its fascinating museums, several amusement parks, 50 mini-golf courses, oceanfront eateries, and the iconic SkyWheel that stands 200 feet tall.

East Coast Destinations #4 - Myrtle Beach, South Carolina #travelclans #eastcoast

Along the shores of Myrtle Beach State Park, explore the maritime forest in the dunes or enjoy a trip in the Myrtle Beach Safari. You can also explore Cherry Grove Marsh at the Heritage Shores Nature Preserve.

Additional highlights include The Barefoot Princess Riverboat, Blackbeard’s Pirate Cruise, and The Big M Casino.

Lake Lure, North Carolina

Nestled in the foothills of Blue Ridge Mountains, Lake Lure is a great destination for families and a hidden gem. One of the most beautiful man-made lakes in the US and is surrounded by lush mountain tops and sheer granite cliffs.

There is plenty of things to do on and off the water

  • The Beach: Open 7 days a week mid-June through mid-August. Admission is around USD 9/adults, USD 8/seniors, USD 7/age 4-12, and includes the water park.
  • Rumbling Bald Trail: Hike the 1.5-mile loop by the boulders & cliffs and is a popular spot for rock climbing & bouldering.
  • The Right Track Toy Train Museum is an interactive toy train museum that is fun for both children and adults. It is open Wednesday to Sunday during the summer. 100% of the proceeds going to the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network
  • Lake Lure Golf Club is a 9 hole public course that is open all year round. It offers a challenging game amidst the scenic beauty of Hickory Nut Gorge.
  • Lake Lure Adventure Company provides a safe & fun experience with wakeboard, waterskiing, kneeboard, fishing, and more on the lake.

Lake Lure Flowering Bridge (is one of two flowering bridges in the United States), Chimney Rock State Park, and Chimney Rock Village are must-visits as well.

Virginia Beach, Virginia

No East Coast family vacation list is complete without including Virginia Beach.

For starters, King Neptune (all 24 feet of him) welcomes you to the iconic 3-mile long boardwalk. This family vacation beach town offers diverse attractions from biking along the beach boardwalk to Ocean Breeze Water Park, from culinary delights to walking on water on the incredible Oyster Tours.

East Coast Destinations #6 - Virginia Beach, Virginia #travelclans #eastcoast

Make sure to check out the Virginia Beach Aquarium, ViBe Creative District, Marine Science Center and The Town Center.

If your kids are crazy about marine life be sure to check out the Virginia Aquarium or head out on the water for a dolphin or whale watching cruise.

With tonnes of acres of parkland, wildlife trails, pristine shorelines, and bay waterways to explore, you can be sure you won’t run out of things to see or do.

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Washington, D.C.

You are on the east coast, you are on a family vacation and perhaps even a road trip, how can you not visit the nation’s capital? Another excellent destination on the East Coast is Washington, D.C.

Now visiting Washington, D.C. is generally recommended when your kids are tweens or teens as they will better understand what they are seeing.

Now finding affordable accommodation may be a challenge but with many of the museums free, you definitely gonna make it up.

Fun Fact: Many of the museums and monuments — including all 17 Smithsonian attractions — are free to enter!

East Coast Destinations #7 - Washington, D.C. #travelclans #eastcoast

Some key points when planning your trip.

  • Visiting the White House or the Capitol Building will require advance planning. You can request access from your state rep. and make sure you give plenty of time for the background check to clear.
  • Make sure you visit the Spy Museum
  • Most museums like the Library of Congress, the Holocaust Museum and the Africa American Museum offer timed-entry tickets that allow you to skip the line.
  • Finally, before entering all museums and most attractions you will have to go through security screening.
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New York City, New York

No matter how many times you visit New York City, each time is a unique vacation and that’s because if you look hard enough you can always find a hidden gem. Also, it’s a great weekend getaway.

Like…have you heard of the Museum of Ice cream? It’s the coolest museum in the city and you have an interactive experience at the museum. That’s right! You read the properly – INTERACTIVE EXPERIENCE – you get to try the ice cream.

I love the fact that every summer they pop up in a new location. Check out their website to see where it is this summer

East Coast Destinations #8 - The Iconic Central Park in New York City #travelclans #eastcoast #NYC

One of my favorite places to visit, while I’m in NYC, is the American Museum of Natural History. There is just so much to see and learn, you will easily spend a whole day there.

Additional highlights include The Bronx Zoo, a day at Central Park, The High Line, Coney Island Boardwalk and The New York Aquarium.

Make sure you try and visit each of the 5 boroughs – Manhattan, Queens, The Bronx, Brooklyn, and Staten Island as each bring their own style and flavor to the city.

Boston, Massachusetts

Another great weekend getaway that gives a unique vacation experience is Boston. Like Washington, D.C. Boston is the perfect East Coast family vacation destination. Like Washington, many of the attractions are free.

East Coast Destinations #9 - The Iconic Fenway Park in Boston #travelclans #eastcoast #Boston

Things to do in Boston

  • Stroll the Freedom Trail
  • Visit the Boston Tea Party Museum and Ships
  • Whale watching Cruise
  • Boston Harbor Islands Tour
  • Tour of Fenway Stadium
  • Enjoy the views from the Skywalk Observatory

This is such a fun city to spend your family vacation during the summer.

Portland, Maine

Last but not least on the East Coast getaway list is the City of Portland. With a mixture of artistic and outdoor adventures, the latest tech, fashion, and culinary scene, you can experience the present with a very special past.

The first thing you do in Portland is to check out the Portland Head Light. The city’s most iconic sight was built in 1791, which overlooks the Gulf of Maine. It’s a great place to enjoy the salty spray of the ocean and take a few iconic photos

East Coast Destinations #10 - The Iconic Head Light in Portland, Maine #travelclans #eastcoast #Maine

Since you are on a vacation, go to Peak Island. It is one of the best vacation spots in Maine. It offers all kinds of attractions for those wanting to escape the crowded city.

You can rent bikes and kayaks to explore the island. There are old military bunkers and lighthouses that dot the shore. And, you can rest your weary legs at their charming little cafes & bistros. Stay in the city center to really take in the city and what it has to offer!

Other popular spots in Maine include Ogunquit, Acadia National Park, and Bar Harbor. Ogunquit is a quintessential beach town, and it isn’t too far from Boston and Portland.

The Travel Essentials you need in 2020

Start Planning Your East Coast Family Vacation

These are just a few of the best East Coast destinations you can visit this summer. It isn’t a coincidence that they are of the most traveled and highly-regarded parts on the East Coast.

If you’re ready to experience the magic for yourself, let these suggestions be your guide for a great trip along the East Coast.

If you want some help planing your itinerary, I’m at your service.

On the next installments of East Coast Destinations, we are going to look at amazing staycation ideas that won’t blow your budget and the best beaches for families.

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14 thoughts on “Top 10 Best East Coast Family Vacation Destinations”

  1. This look great and it’s never been a better time to travel locally. Some of these are definitely on my bucket list when I’m in the States again.

    Reply
  2. So many great places on this list – New York is amazing for a city vacation. I have Myrtle Beach on my list someday since family used to live there and a lot of history for me.

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  3. Lots of great choices here! I’ve never been to Maine and it’s been on my bucket list for a while so that would be my choice. Plus I love lighthouses.

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  4. I’ve only been to the States once and that was to LA. There are so many places worth visiting on this list. I’d love to see New York. I’m always amazed when I see aerial pictures of Central Park! It’s so big! I hope travelling will get back to normal asap!

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    • To really see NYC you need to spend a month honestly and even that is not enough! There is so much to see and always something new happening! It is one of my favourite cities in the world!

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  5. I’m glad I came across this post because we just moved back to the East coast and there are so many things to do! Thanks for narrowing it down for us, we will definitely try some if not all of these places out!

    Reply

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