Long weekends are made for quick getaways. Swap cabin fever for family fun with three nearby destinations that are perfect for kids.
Amish Country, Pennsylvania
Kick back with barnyard animals, meander through the countryside, and get up-close and personal with scores of trains in this beautiful farm region.
- Trains, trains, trains. Train lovers have plenty to see in Lancaster County. Take a 45-minute ride on the old-time Strasburg Rail Road (www.strasburgrailroad.com). Try the Day Out With Thomas, offered on select weekends. See more than 100 locomotives and railroad cars at the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania (www.rrmuseumpa.org). Visit adorable and fascinating The Choo Choo Barn for 1,700 square feet of model trains (www.choochoobarn.com).
- Observe the beauty. This is farm country; enjoy it! Take a leisurely drive on the country roads, see the Amish gathering for barn raisings or a Sunday meal (be respectful and refrain from taking pictures), and pull over for corn mazes and petting farms. Try Cherry Crest Adventure Farm (www. cherrycrestfarm.com).
- Shop locally. Bypass the outlet malls. Instead, weave around the countryside until you stumble upon local goods. Locals, some Amish and some not, often sell handcrafted goods and foods. When you see a sign that says, “Homemade Root Beer,” pull over, and give it a whirl.
Treats and good eats
- Bird-in-Hand Farmers Market, 2710 Old Philadelphia Pike, Bird-in-Hand, www.birdinhandfarmersmarket. com. What family doesn’t love a picnic? This indoor market gives out lots of samples to help you pick an assortment of cheeses, local sausages, freshly baked breads, and whoopie pies.
- Miller’s Smorgasbord, 2811 Lincoln Highway East, Ronks, www.millerssmorgasbord.com. Don’t expect gourmet food, just a homey, buffet-style restaurant that’s typical of the Amish Country. There are endless options for fussy eaters.
- The Red Caboose Motel, www.redcaboosemotel. com. Kids will treasure sleeping in one of 39 private, retrofitted historic train cars. (Don’t worry they have private bathrooms). They’ll also like the petting zoo and playground.
- Bed-and-breakfasts, www.padutchcountry.com. Area guesthouses and B & Bs offer a relaxed vibe and local flavor. If you choose one on a working farm, your kids might see cows being milked or take horses for a ride. Breakfast is often included.
Cape Cod, Massachusetts
It’s an American classic. Think cedar-shingled homes, clambakes on the beach, and dolphin watching.
- Rent a home. Cape Cod motels can be less than stellar. A rental home offers a full-size kitchen, separate bedrooms, and (sometimes) a washing machine. Try www.vrbo.com or www.capecodrentals.com.
- Chatham Bars Inn, www.chathambarsinn.com. This four-diamond resort has a main inn and cottage suites just footsteps from Chatham Harbor. You’ll appreciate the private beach, fully-equipped pool, and onsite restaurants.
- Whale watching. “Oooh” and “ahhh” over these beautiful sea creatures as they spring up for air then dive back down. Boat captains know where they hang out and take you directly to the sweet spots. Book an excursion at www.whalewatch.com.
- Fishing. Walk to a local inlet for laid-back fishing, or join a charter boat for deep-sea fishing. Stock up on worms and bobbers at a local bait-and-tackle shop. Try www.hylinecruises.com.
- Biking. No matter which part of the Cape you stay in, there’s a bike rental shop nearby. Most have everything from baby bike seats to tandem bikes. Try www.barbsbikeshop.com or www.ptownbikes.com.
- Crab hunting. At low tide, head straight to Provincetown Harbor (or practically any part of Cape Cod Bay), where millions of tiny sea creatures like hermit crabs and clams abound. Nature lovers will lose themselves for hours in this habitat sprinkled with tide pools.
Treats and good eats
- Land Ho!, 38 Main St., Orleans, www.land-ho.com. For something slightly more gourmet and healthier than the fried fare at seafood joints that pepper the Cape, head to this noisy but cheerful family restaurant. Order the clam pie. (Trust us.)
- The Mayflower, 300 Commercial St., Provincetown, www.mayflower-ptown.com. Stroll through Provincetown (a.k.a. P-Town) for its quirky shops and funky art. Then, cozy up at this cafe with comfort food like baked stuffed fillet of sole and Portuguese fish and chips.
Kids don’t have to be history buffs or even know the president to appreciate our capital’s open spaces and museums.
- National Mall, www.nps.gov. Forget the monuments; it’s the open spaces kids love most. (Of course, it’s also nice to point out the U.S. Capitol, Washington Monument, and Lincoln Memorial). Bring a soccer ball or Frisbee. Then, walk a few blocks toward the White House lawn for a primo photo opp.
- Smithsonian Museum, www.si.edu. The popular National Air and Space Museum has the 1903 Wright Flyer and moon rock. The National Museum of Natural History has animal replicas and a snazzy assortment of gems and stones, including the Hope Diamond. Bonus: Admission is free.
- Smaller museums. Pop over to The National Archives (www.archives.gov) to come face to face with the U.S. Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. Have an Alex P. Keaton in the making? Tour the U.S. Bureau of Engraving and Printing (www. moneyfactory.gov) to see dollar bills fresh off the press. Older kids and adults who are “Homeland” junkies will appreciate the International Spy Museum (www. spymuseum.org).
Treats and good eats
- Ben’s Chili Bowl, 1213 U St. NW, www.benschilibowl. com. This D.C. institution is treasured for its chili dogs, thick milkshakes, and famous guests like Bill Cosby and Chris Rock.
- Clyde’s of Georgetown, 3236 M St. NW, www. clydes.com/georgetown. This Georgetown saloon has all the family favorites, from juicy burgers to Sunday brunch, and it welcomes kids (even noisy ones).
- JW Marriott, www.marriott.com. About two blocks from the White House, this city-center hotel has an indoor pool and excellent restaurants, courtesy of master chef Mark Quitney, with a healthy kids’ menu to boot.
- Hyatt Regency Washington, www.hyatt.com. The beds here might just be the most comfortable on the planet. Plus, it’s super-close to the Capitol and Union Station (perfect for hopping on the Metro or a double-decker tour bus).