A Quick Getaway: Great Day Trips With Kids Close to Philly
Get out and explore our region this summer, from Lititz to NYC!
Escape your routine and your normal haunts with a day long vacation to one of these far-enough-to-be-special but still close to home destinations.
We’re talking about one general destination with enough to do so that you could “make a day of it,” and stay for the morning, lunch and the afternoon. Many of these trips can be amended if you’d like to spend the morning and then head home or if you want to go later in the day and stay for dinner. Many can also be expanded into a quick overnight trip, if you wish.
Out of State
New York City
There are several ways to do New York in a day, but the key is not to plan to do New York in a day! Do only a few things in one area of the city so it’s manageable. Consult our Facebook pages for travel options to and from New York – there are members who swear by the train, car or even the bus, and the general agreement is that it is doable!
Once you arrive, consider these themes for your day:
Animals: Begin at the Museum of Natural History. Pack a lunch to eat in Central Park, across the street, and then spend the afternoon at the Central Park Zoo.
Art: Choose The Metropolitan Museum of Art or the Museum of Modern Art to begin your day. Eat a picnic lunch in Central Park, and pack sketch books to draw some landscapes there. Then pop in and out of galleries in the afternoon. (Here’s a guide to 10 good ones on the Upper East Side.)
Transit: Head to Brooklyn and explore the New York Transit Museum in the morning. Eat a brown bag lunch in Brooklyn Bridge Park. Then, ride Jane’s Carousel and take a walk across the Brooklyn Bridge. If you have time and energy left, take a ride on the South Brooklyn Ferry from DUMBO to Wall Street and back.
An easy drive away, Baltimore’s Inner Harbor is beautiful and host to some of the city’s best attractions. Start your day at the nationally-renowned National Aquarium. Head to Power Plant Live, a former power plant turned entertainment and dining hub, for lunch.
Then, choose the Maryland Science Center or Port Discovery Children’s Museum for your afternoon, or if your kids are museum-ed out, head to the Top of the World Observation Center for great views of the city.
Depending on your kids’ ages and interests, spend the morning at the Delaware Children’s Museum or the Delaware Museum of Natural History. Head to Riverfront Wilmington at lunchtime. You can picnic along the river, take a walk on the paved path, play mini-golf or ride a river ferry.
You can even catch a minor-league baseball game: the Wilmington Blue Rocks play in the Carolina League from April through Labor Day.
You can spend the morning at the American Helicopter Museum climbing in and around helicopters. Downtown West Chester is walkable and fun, so head there for lunch.
You can find familiar spots like Nudy’s and Iron Hill, or explore something new. In the afternoon, visit West Goshen Community Park for the playground and sports fields, catch a show at West Chester University Live, or if you have bookworms, hit Baldwin’s Book Barn to explore room upon room of used books.
Lancaster County offers many day trip options, all of which are a real getaway:
Small Town Life: Lititz is an adorable small town with an exceptional number of things to do. Begin in the Lititz Park, where you can feed the ducks in the canal, play on the playground and visit the old train station and a historic caboose. Head back into town for lunch.
Then, twist your own pretzel at the Sturgis Pretzel Bakery and visit Wilbur’s Chocolate Store in the afternoon. If you’ve got time and energy left, stop at the Wolf Sanctuary of Pennsylvania on your way home (be sure to check the tour schedule.)
Train Day: You and your little engineers can have a full day of train fun in Strasburg. Arrange your day around a ride on the Strasburg Rail Road. Depending on when your train ride is, visit the Choo-Choo Barn, a knock-your-socks-off model train exhibit, and the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania, where you can explore real locomotives as well as model trains, before and/or after your ride. Note that you can purchase tickets to all three attractions at Strasburg Railroad for discounted/bundle prices.
A Taste of Amish Country: Begin — or spend the whole day — at the Amish Farm and House, an impeccable replica of an Amish home and farm where kids can try scooters, explore a corn maze, visit a wood worker and a black smith and more. For a full day, eat a brown bag lunch there and then take the bus tour of the surrounding area in the afternoon.
Or, head to Cherry Crest Adventure Farm after lunch, for wholesome outdoor fun, like a petting zoo and a tractor pull.
For a total throwback, head to Mount Gretna, right off the Pennsylvania Turnpike, especially in the summer. Mount Gretna Lake and Beach is an 8-acre beach, lawn and picnic area along Lake Conewago. Dig in the sand, swim out to the docks and diving board, try the over-the-water swing, rent a tube, kayak or canoe and take a family photo in the big chair.
The lake and beach opens at 11:30 am, so plan your day to start late and include dinner and huge ice cream sundaes at The Jigger Shop across the street, or go to the Park at Governor Dick for a hike in the morning.
New Hope may be known for wine and antiques, but you can find kid-friendly fun here too. Begin your day at the Bucks County Children’s Museum. Walk across the New Hope-Lambertville Toll Bridge for lunch in Lambertville. In the afternoon, take a walk (or bike if you can bring them) along the Delaware Canal or book a ride on the New Hope & Ivyland Railroad.
Start your day at Ringing Rocks Park. Don’t forget your hammer to bang the rocks and hear them ring and sneakers for safe climbing! When you’re done climbing and ringing rocks, walk across the street to the Schuylkill River Trail. Find lunch in downtown Pottstown, or eat a bag lunch along the trail, and then try some throw-back roller skating at Ring Rocks Roller Skating Rink. Before you head home, ride the Carousel at Pottstown.
Shore towns and beaches are a great day trip! Check out our article for tips and tricks.
For days when you don’t want to drive so far or need a shorter day, try the quickest trips: into Philly if you live in the suburbs and out to the Main Line if you’re a city-dweller. Find lots more local ideas in our Shore and Summer Guide!
Lead photograph courtesy of Visit Philadelphia.