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DC - Philadelphia - NYC - Boston itinerary advice

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DC - Philadelphia - NYC - Boston itinerary advice

We are going on a 16 day family vacation to the East Coast, flying to DC (IAD) on 04/18 and flying home from Boston on 05/03. We are a family of 5, with 2 boys ages 15 and 10 and a 6 yo. girl. We've done this type of long road trips before (last one was to California for 18 days in April 2010) and the kids cope very well with long days. We want to see important first-timer landmarks and museums in the big cities, but would also like to include some family fun time and countryside, if at all possible. We are on a tight budget, so we would rather spend our money sightseeing than at fancy hotels and restaurants. Other than our travel dates and flights, nothing is set on stone yet, so any advice will be very helpful. I will post this itinerary on the Road Trip, NYC, Boston and Washington forum too, because I need all the advice I can get.

This is what I have so far:

04/18 - Fly to Washington DC (Dulles), arriving around 9:00 pm

04/19 - Washington DC

04/20 - Washington DC

04/21 - Washington DC

04/22 - Pick up rental car and drive to Philadelphia / Afternoon in Philadelphia - something to see on the way or rather spend more time in Philadelphia???

04/23 - Philadelphia until late afternoon / Drive to Hershey, PA

04/24 - Hershey Park (it is open 10 am-6 pm for Springtime)

04/25 - Drive to NYC: Planning to stop in Nazareth to see the Martin Guitar Factory, but are also interested in Amish County so kind of lost here. Or something else to see on the way? / Return rental car

04/26 - NYC

04/27 - NYC

04/28 - NYC until late afternoon / Pick up rental car / Drive to New Haven

04/29 - Yale / Newport / Plymouth / arrive to Boston and return rental car

04/30 - Boston (MIT Open House, Harvard)

05/01 - Boston

05/02 - Boston

05/03 - Fly home from Boston

What are your thoughts??

Thanks in advance.

Bucks County...
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1. Re: DC - Philadelphia - NYC - Boston itinerary advice

I would take one of the days from either Boston (or NYC) and add it to Philadelphia. Philadelphia has much more to do than Boston. Most visitors wish they had spent more time here (2-4 days is the usual recommendation) Don't steal any time from DC. Also, do you realize that Hershey Park is out of the way? Nazareth is, too, but at least you are heading north. You would be better off at Dorney Park (Allentown), instead of Hershey, as it is near Nazareth. Skip the Amish Country unless you _really_ like to look at farms. Not checking out Penn, Princeton, or Drexel?

Also, we usually suggest NOT having a car in Philadelphia or NYC, as it is not needed during your visit, and parking can be quite expensive, especially in NYC. Given the size of your party, it could be less expensive than taking the train, but you should do the calculation just to be sure. Parking in Philadelphia can run from $15-$45/day. NYC will probably be about $45/day.

Philadelphia
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2. Re: DC - Philadelphia - NYC - Boston itinerary advice

I don't think you left enough time for Philadelphia in your itinerary.

Not knowing much about your interests, its hard to suggest activities for you. However, some things along your way that are worth checking out include:

In Baltimore, the aquarium and Ft. McHenry.

The scenic Brandywine Valley http://www.thebrandywine.com/

As to Philly, check out our FAQs including this one tripadvisor.com/GoListDetail-i21731-Philadel… Your older kids may enjoy a tour of Eastern State Penitentiary and a ride on the open top bus.

Edited: 29 December 2010, 13:19
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3. Re: DC - Philadelphia - NYC - Boston itinerary advice

We just went to Chocolate World in Hershey last night...it is lots of fun, and a landmark that kids and grown-ups will enjoy. The last week in April should be warm enough for the park to be enjoyable.

But it will mean some driving. What about going to Hershey from DC on Good Friday? You could drive up through Gettysburg and avoid the ugly I-95 corridor. (Lots of nice farms and countryside along the way, expect 2.5 hours.) If you were ambitious, you could continue on to Phila. that night (2 hours, pretty easy); if not, you could still squeeze out a whole day in Philadelphia the next day if you got started early.

You may also want to think about a rainy forecast contingency. Would you cut out Hershey Park? Skip Hershey all together? It could be beautiful weather, but it's worth thinking about so the kids aren't miserable in the rain.

Philadelphia
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4. Re: DC - Philadelphia - NYC - Boston itinerary advice

regarding the rest of your itinerary, not sure how fixed you are about that route from NYC to Boston, but if you want to take a scenic route I'd recommend traveling through the Berkshires, including a stop at the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge.

Cherry Hill, NJ
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5. Re: DC - Philadelphia - NYC - Boston itinerary advice

I agree that you are shorting yourself in Philly, especially for a first timer, with only a day and a half. 2-3 days minimum.

There are attractions between Washington and Philly, mostly in the Baltimore area. Also, if you are interested in Amish country you could route that into your plans coming up from the south.

Hershey as noted is a great park, but is a little remote in terms of your plans. You might consider it as part of the swing to Lancaster on the way up from Washington.

Here's my revised suggestion

Day 1 - Arrival

Day 2 - Wash DC (Side note, if not booked look for deals at the Holiday Inn Smithsonian (Washington Capital) - Great location, 5 min walk to the national mall.

Day 3 - Wash

Day 4 - Wash until mid evening, pick up car and drive to Hershey - stay in Hershey area (See if Spinners Inn has any deals or there is a decent Staybridge Suites).

Day 5 - Hershey

Day 6 - Start Early, drive to Philly by way of Lancaster, arrive late afternoon, return rental.

Day 7 - Philly

Day 8 - Philly

Day 9 - Philly half day then train to NYC unless the Guitar Factory is really important (its WAY out of the way) - Times Square at Night

Day 10 - NYC

Day 11 - NYC Half Day then Train or Drive to New Haven (very expensive to rent cars out of NYC)

Day 12 - Yale, etc (I'll assume you are looking at schools for the 15 yr old?)

Day 13 - Boston (I'd actually have suggested a day later but you have specific plans for this day for the open house? If not, consider Salem, MA - it's tacky, but fun)

Day 14 - Boston

Day 15 - Boston

Day 16 - Fly

Mexico
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6. Re: DC - Philadelphia - NYC - Boston itinerary advice

First of all, thanks for all your advice. I've been reading on things to do in Philadelphia that would be appealing for kids, and thought we had enough time for what we wanted to see. Maybe I'm so wrong!! Since we are going to museums in Washington and NYC, I was thinking for Philadelphia:

Independence Hall

Liberty Bell

Christ Church Burial Ground

Rittenhouse Square

Reading Terminal

Penn's Landing

Unsure:

Franklin Institute - looks interesting, but is it more geared towards younger kids? In DC we plan to go to the Air & Space, Natural History and American History Museums. In NYC to the MET and maybe the Natural History, only if kids want to go because of the Night in the Museum movies, as they will go to the one in DC from the second movie.

Independence Seaport Museum - we went to San Diego in April and went to the USS Midway and the Maritime Museum, and we are going to the USS Constitution in Boston.

Penn Museum of Archaelogy & Anthropology - 10 yo loves this things. He says he wants to be an Architect and a Paleonthologist ;) But this place has just very few reviews plus we are going to the MET in NYC.

I know there are other great museums in Philadelphia, but it's just impossbile to go to all of them considering we're visiting 4 major cities. We went to Alcatraz in April too, so the Penitentiary is not in our plans, neither aquariums or zoos, as we went to Monterey Aquarium and San Diego Zoo already, plus we've been to others like Shedd in Chicago. Any thoughts? Should I add/change something?

The Hershey thing it's because I thought it would be fun to include an amusement park since this trip is full of history, landmarks and museums. Why Hershey? Because I thought it woud be kind of different, as we've been to other Six Flags parks, because it is half price that weekend and because I thought it would give us the opportunity to see some of the Amish country. I did in fact see on the map that Princeton was on our way to NYC, but would have to skip Hershey and Amish County all together. But you get me thinking. If we decide to keep Hershey Park, we would arrive the night before (Sat) in order to hit the park right at opening the next day. The park closes at 6 pm on Sunday and I thought we could go see Chocolate World or the Museum. If we hit the road the next morning, and we take Hwy 78 towards NYC, will we be able to see some of the Amish County sights? Are there some good spots or places to see along the way?

But I will look into the Gettysburg option. I hadn't thought of that one before. If it works better time and money-wise, it would be ok to go Washington-Gettysburg-Amish countryside on 04/22, Hershey Park 04/23 (and drive to Philadelphia late afternoon or early morning next day??); then we would return the car and see Philadelphia on 04/24 & 04/25 and maybe take the train to NYC in the late afternoon of 04/25? The guitar factory is really not a must. It's because it was on our way if we went from Hershey to NYC on Hwy 78, and DS15 plays the guitar.

As far as having a car in Philadelphia. I thought maybe we could pay for overnight parking one night (if we decide to stay only one night) or maybe stay outside Philadelphia at a free parking hotel, but near a train station. Is this time- wise and money-wise? I'm not looking for a fancy place. A 3-star hotel would suit us fine. We're definitely returning the car in NYC!! :o

After reading all the advice from the NYC forum, I think I'm going to change plans so we can have a full day in NYC on the 28th too. On the 29th we can drive to Boston, as in cost it is the same as taking Amtrak ($172 train vs $177 for a minivan, taxes, fees and liability insurance included), but has more flexibility. If we start early and we see we have time, we may stop in Yale just to take a look around and maybe have lunch there. Then we could go to Plymouth and return the car in Boston the same day to avoid overnight parking. Between Plymouth and your suggestion of Sturbridge, which one is better? Sounds like both are similar attractions?

I know it seems that 3 full days in Boston may sound like too much, but there's a reason behind this. Up until yesterday morning, we were flying home from Boston on 05/02. Turns out that my husband is an engineer and a technology & science fan, and also my 10 yo, and MIT was a must for him this trip. Checking out the MIT website to decide between the Harvard Museum of Science or the MIT Museum, he found out that there is this Cambridge Science Festival from 04/30-05/08, and on 04/30 there is an MIT Open House, which was in fact our first day of sightseeing in Boston. I have no idea if this is something good, interesting, etc., and would love some advice if some of you have attended this events, but when he said we had to go, I knew we would have only 1 day left for Boston. So I called the airlines and luckily I was able to extend our trip for one more day, with no extra cost. If I have some time left, it's not a problem since I also wanted to do some shopping before flying home.

Thanks again for your advice. I really appreciate you take the time to do this.

Bucks County...
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7. Re: DC - Philadelphia - NYC - Boston itinerary advice

Skip the Franklin Institute. You can skip the Penn Museum, too if you are going to the Natural History Museum in NY. You'll likely hit some similar stuff in DC as well. You can probably skip the Independence Seaport Museum. You may want to substitute Eastern State Penitentiary (tell them your girl is 7), and the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The boys will like the great armour collection, and of course, the run up the Rocky Steps.

Definitely take the train instead of driving if at all possible. Driving up I-95 is not fun, especially near NYC and north.

Cherry Hill, NJ
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8. Re: DC - Philadelphia - NYC - Boston itinerary advice

I'd put the Constitution Center into the mix, also Ben Franklin's house at Franklin Court (and the museum, its old, but quick)

If the 10 year old is into archaeology I'd keep Penn in there. The MET has artifacts, but not much on the science of Archaelogy (with the disclaimer I have been there in ages) .

I do recommend the arms and armor are of the Art Museum, but with Washington and NYC in the mix you may be Museumed out, so just a quick hop up and down the steps.

As far as routing, goes I think that would work. In Amish Country you can get a basic feel just by hitting the Amish Farmhouse Museum tour and move on, or look around (personally I have to eat at the Good and Plenty, family style dining on the rare occasions I am up that way)

Philadelphia...
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9. Re: DC - Philadelphia - NYC - Boston itinerary advice

I'd keep the Penn Museum and Independence Seaport Museum.

Skip Christ Church Burial Ground in favor of Christ Church (or do both), and consider some of the other old houses of worship. (see www.holyexperiment.org for more info)

I really like Franklin Court, especially the old print shop, and you might consider touring Congress Hall either before or after Ind. Hall. (They're on the same block, as is Old City Hall, which housed the Supreme Court) What you need to understand about Philly is that the history is everywhere, and one of the joys of visiting here is strolling along the old streets and stumbling upon sites you hadn't considered. You really don't have to go looking for things to do because there is so much within such a small area.

Lynn

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10. Re: DC - Philadelphia - NYC - Boston itinerary advice

Based on the great advice I received from all the forums, I'm rewriting our itinerary and would like to know what are your thoughts now. Is it any better?

04/18 - Fly to Washington DC (Dulles), arriving around 9:00 pm

04/19 - Washington DC

04/20 - Washington DC

04/21 - Washington DC

04/22 - Pick up rental car / Udvar-Hazy Center / Gettysburg / Hershey / Outlet shopping if we have time

04/23 - Hershey Park

Still undecided - stay in Hershey or drive to Philadelphia late afternoon and return car at the airport location or stay outside Philadelphia with free parking and return car next morning at downtown location.

04/24 - Philadelphia

04/25 - Philadelphia until late afternoon / train to NYC

04/26 - NYC

04/27 - NYC

04/28 - NYC

04/29 - Pick up rental car / Stop in Yale for lunch and brief sightseeing / Plymouth / arrive to Boston and return rental car at airport location

04/30 - Boston (MIT Open House, Cambridge Science Festival & Harvard) - this day is kind of fixed because husband and 10 yo, both die hard science and technology fans, really want to attend this events that are starting this day, that's the reason why I have the next 2 full days for Boston sightseeing and maybe do some sopping before flying home if we still have some time left.

05/01 - Boston

05/02 - Boston

05/03 - Fly home from Boston

Any thoughts?

Thanks in advance.