Across the Mid-Atlantic, you’ll find fun distractions for all ages: bucket-and-spade adventures at the beach, amusement parks, zoos, eye-popping aquariums and natural-history exhibits, hands-on science museums, camping adventures, battlefields, leisurely bike rides through the countryside and plenty of other activities likely to wow young ones.
Best Regions for Kids
- Washington, DC & the Capital Region
Washington, DC, has unrivaled allure for families, with free museums, a panda-loving zoo and boundless green spaces. Virginia’s Williamsburg is a slice of 18th-century America with costumed interpreters and fanciful activities.
Keep the kids busy with Baltimore's aquarium, science center and various historic parks. For the beach-and-boardwalk scene, head to Ocean City. Active families will enjoy the C&O Canal National Historic Park.
Spend a few days in the Historic Triangle for a history-themed trip then hit a regional amusement park. There's hiking and wildlife watching in Shenandoah National Park and along the Blue Ridge Parkway.
- West Virginia
Head to the coast for boardwalk adventures and easy paddle trips through salt marshes.
- Shenandoah National Park, VA Hike and look for wildlife.
- New River Gorge National River, WV Go white-water rafting.
- Cape Henlopen State Park, DE Cycle trails near the coast.
- Upper James River Water Trail, VA Hop in a tube and float in the shadows of mountains.
- Deep Creek Lake, MD It's all about the water sports in this big mountain lake.
Pondering the Past
- Williamsburg, VA Don 18th-century garb and mingle with costumed interpreters in the history-rich triangle where America began.
- Great Falls Tavern, MD Take a ride in an 18th-century canal boat on the Potomac River.
- Harpers Ferry National Historic Park, WV Wander through the historic buildings to learn the town's role in John Brown's raid.
- Mount Vernon, VA Tour the home of the America's first president and learn about his passions and accomplishments.
Rainy Day Activities
- National Air and Space Museum, Washington, DC Inspire budding aviators with rockets, spacecraft, old-fashioned biplanes and ride simulators.
- National Aquarium, MD Roam the seven stories to shudder at blacktip reef sharks and smile at the clownfish.
- Beckley Exhibition Coal Mine, WV Take a ride 1500ft into a former coal mine and learn about mining life.
- American Revolution Museum at Yorktown, VA The 4D Movie The Siege will jolt you to attention as you learn about the great battle ending the Revolutionary War.
To find family-oriented accommodations and restaurants among our reviews, just look for the child-friendly icon.
When to Go
- Peak travel season is June to August, when schools are out and the weather is warmest. Expect high prices and abundant crowds – meaning long lines at amusement and water parks, fully booked resorts and heavy traffic on the roads; book well in advance for popular destinations.
- High season for winter resorts (in Virginia and West Virginia) runs from late December through March.
Need to Know
- Many public toilets have a baby-changing table (sometimes in men’s toilets, too), and gender-neutral ‘family’ facilities appear in airports.
- Medical services and facilities in America are of a high standard.
- Items such as baby food, formula and disposable diapers (nappies) are widely available – including organic options – in supermarkets across the country.
- Single parents or guardians traveling with anyone under 18 should carry proof of legal custody or a notarized letter from the non-accompanying parent(s) authorizing the trip. This isn’t required, but it can help avoid potential problems entering the USA.
out For all-round information and advice, check out Lonely Planet’s Travel with Children. To get the kids excited, check out Not for Parents: USA (also by Lonely Planet), filled with cool stories about candy bars, astronauts, heroic animals and more.
Baby's Away (www.babysaway.com) Rents cribs, high chairs, car seats, strollers and even toys at locations across the country.
Family Travel Files (www.thefamilytravelfiles.com) Ready-made vacation ideas, destination profiles and travel tips.
Travel BaBees (www.travelbabees.com) Another reputable baby-gear rental outfit, with locations nationwide.