We found lots of drive-worthy places to go on a family road trip from NYC this winter
Lots of people try to get away at this time of year (sometimes jetting off to someplace warm), but hitting the road is an increasingly popular option for families. No airplane or airports involved, and more flexibility and control, and sometimes even more affordable. Read on for our top winter road trip destinations from NYC for families! (If you’re looking for a cozy cabin to “chill” in, check out these Airbnbs near NYC perfect for a winter family getaway.)
Lake Placid, NY
Drive from NYC: 5 hours
Lean into the winter weather and head north—way north—to the Adirondacks and Lake Placid.
What to Do:
- Skiing families should head right to one of New York's premier ski resorts, Whiteface Mountain.
- Visit the Lake Placid Olympic Museum, tour the site of North America's first winter Olympics, see the Olympic torch and even visit the Olympic Jumping Complex.
- For more thrills, go for a dog sled ride on Mirror Lake, head to nearby North Elba to slide down its toboggan chute, or take a ride on the longest mountain coaster in the country, the Cliffside Coaster.
- Other winter fun includes hiking (for all levels), snowshoeing, skating, and hockey on Mirror Lake.
- For even more winter fun, head to the Saranac Lake Winter Carnival, a 15-minute drive away. A tradition since 1897, this celebration of the season includes sports, performances, two parades, and three sets of spectacular fireworks. The 2023 festival is Feb. 3-12.
Where to stay: For a budget choice right on Mirror Lake, check out Golden Arrow Lakeside Resort. For luxury, head to The Whiteface Lodge. You can also find nice Airbnb rentals in the area like this one.
Drive time from NYC: 2 hours
What to do: Philadelphia has something for everyone this winter, including big museum exhibits, multiple winter fests, and of course, celebrating history.
- Go and see Disney 100: The Exhibition, making its premiere at the Franklin Institute on February 18.
- An evergreen and must-see for families is the Please Touch Museum, an interactive museum for kids of all ages, which recently unveiled its expanded Market experience (an awesome mini supermarket.) It's open Wednesday through Sunday.
- Check out this schedule of fun art events in partnership with local cultural organizations to see what's going on when you visit.
- There are winter fests galore here, with light displays, ice carving, ice-skating rinks, and more. Check out Blue Cross RiverRink Winterfest, Winter in Franklin Square, Winter at Dilworth Park, and Chestnut Hill on Ice.
Where to Stay: Recently renovated, the Independence Park Hotel is centrally located steps away from Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell, and dozens of popular Philadelphia restaurants and shops.
The Finger Lakes
Drive from NYC: 6 hours
What to do:
- Rochester is home to one of the finest children's museums in the country, the Strong National Museum of Play, centrally located downtown. Exhibits are dedicated to superheroes, video games (the Video Game Hall of Fame is here), Sesame Street, and much, much more.
- You can also take to the slopes here at nearby Bristol Mountain, or do some snow tubing at Greystone Tubing.
- Like nature walks? At the Cumming Nature Center, they have groomed trails for affordable cross-country skiing and snow-shoeing. Also, check out the Birdsong Fairy Trail in Mendon Ponds Park. This easy walk is home to adorable fairy houses of all kinds, and at its end, visitors are often able to have birds eat seed right out of their hands.
- Need more nature? Make your way to the Lazy Acre Alpaca Farm in Bloomfield, to meet the fuzzy residents, take a tour, and then stock up on cozy alpaca merch!
- For food, good kid-friendly choices include Jine's Restaurant and The Gatehouse, and this is, of course, the home of Wegman's where you can get all kinds of pre-prepared, affordable food to go.
Where to Stay: For a funky and fun option, consider School 31 Lofts, located close to downtown in a former public school—the blackboards and coat cubbies are still there! (It's also across the street from the art museum, the Memorial Art Gallery.)
More traditional lodging that's also family-friendly can be found at the Woodcliff Hotel & Spa, which is in nearby Fairport.
Drive from NYC: 3 hours
What to do: Known as the heart of Pennsylvania Dutch Country, Lancaster hosts indoor and outdoor fun in the winter months.
- Families with train-crazy kids should catch a ride on the Strasburg Rail Road—America’s oldest continuously operating railroad. Take in views of Amish Country on an authentic steam train, and choose from closed, or open-air cars, as well as fun theme rides like a bingo train.
- Shop with the locals at the Green Dragon Farmers Market & Auction in Ephrata. It's a flea market, a farmer's market, and live auctions for hay, feed, and more. For a more curated shopping experience, try The Old Country Store, for quilting supplies, Amish crafts, toys, and collectibles. The Lancaster Central Market, established in 1730, is an institution where local fresh food and produce are sold.
- Go on a self-guided driving tour of the region's iconic covered bridges.
- Head to Shady Maple Smorgasbord, the largest all-inclusive buffet in the country serving PA Dutch country favorites and lots more.
- The town of Lilitz holds an annual Fire & Ice Festival. Now running from February 17-26, the fest features wow-worthy ice sculptures, eats from local restaurants and food trucks, shopping, and a day just for kids, Winterfuderland. (February 20)
Where to stay:
For Adventure Time, Gumball and Powerpuff Girls fans, the only choice is the Cartoon Network Hotel in Lancaster. (If you come in the warmer months, it's right next to the amusement park Dutch Wonderland.) Slated for early February are special Amazing Weekends of Gumball.
For a local, quirky experience stop off at the Red Caboose Motel & Restaurant, where you can sleep in one of 38 genuine, train cars retro-fitted for staying the night!
Drive from NYC: 4 hours
What to do:
- Calling all baseball fans! Head to the temple to America's favorite pastime, the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, NY to get primed for spring training! (This is one of those places where you do need to book tickets in advance.)
- Don't miss the museum's "Starting Nine," a scavenger hunt built for hard-core fans that challenges visitors to find their favorite team’s Starting Nine, a lineup of must-sees from the museum's vast collection.
- Unfortunately, Cooperstown's popular Farmer's Museum, one of the oldest rural life museums in the country, is closed until April, as is the area art museum, the Fenimore Art Museum.
- Part of Coopertown's charm is its picturesque Main Street, which you'll definitely want to stroll down, and where you'll find shops specializing in baseball souvenirs and collectibles.
Where to stay: The Otesaga is the stately luxury hotel if you're looking for a grand experience, and several bed and breakfasts are located right in the center of town (the Inn at Cooperstown and the Landmark Inn are popular.) If you need something a bit more kid-friendly, you can find chain hotels like Holiday Inn Express just outside of town.)
Drive from NYC: 2 1/2 hours
What to do: Step back in time at the Mystic Seaport Museum, which covers 19 acres along the Connecticut shore. This leading maritime museum features play areas just for kids, historical reenactors that bring history to life, and four National Historic Landmark vessels, including the 1841 whaleship Charles W. Morgan, America’s oldest commercial ship still in existence!
You can also explore what's under the water in Mystic at the Mystic Aquarium. The celebrated aquarium offers exhibits both indoors and out and is home to penguins, seals, sharks, beluga whales, rays, and many more sea-dwellers. For an extra special visit, book an animal encounter.
Where to stay: Located in the heart of town on the water, The Whaler's Inn is a classic choice. The main inn offers rooms with a junior bunk area for kids, while the Noank House has family-friendly rooms with two queens beds conveniently located on the first floor. For a chain, the Mystic Hilton is a good choice (located across the street from the aquarium), or you can settle into your own cottage suite at The Carriage House.
The Berkshires/Western MA
Drive time from NYC: 4 hours
What to do:
- There's something for every kind of family in western Massachusetts. If you're looking for a family-friendly ski getaway, Butternut in Great Barrington is a great, affordable, spot for little ones learning to ski, and it also offers snow tubing.
- The Norman Rockwell Museum is located in nearby Stockbridge. In addition to showcasing much of the artist's iconic work, the museum mounts exhibitions dedicated to illustration and new perspectives on Rockwell's work. Additionally, you can visit the small workshop where he did much of his painting.
- If you like your art with more edge, head to Mass MOCA in North Adams, the largest contemporary art center in the country. (It is huge, with lots of wide open spaces, making it a place where it's easy to social distance.) Kids can really roam free here, too. The center houses several works by light artist James Turrell, and its three floors of Sol Lewitt galleries are impressive. Mass MoCA also has a Kidspace with rotating exhibits and programming, allowing kids to get in on the art-making action.
Where to Stay: The Briarcliff Motel is fun and casual, a 1960s motel that's been upgraded for today. In Stockbridge, its sister property, the Red Lion Inn (est. 1773) can offer you a bed in the historic main inn. With kids, it's probably best to stay in the roomier and more modern accommodations of Maple Glen, also on the grounds.
In North Adams, The Porches is a boutique inn with retro-industrial architecture (revamped mill workers' homes) and modern comforts located right across the street from the Mass MoCA. The Williams Inn in nearby Williamstown, MA is a good choice for a relaxed yet refined stay, with the added bonus of elevated comfort food on site at the property's restaurant and bar, The Barn.
The Kartrite Resort & Indoor Waterpark
Drive from NYC: 2 hours
Mix fantasy and reality (and a place to sleep) at The Kartrite Resort & Indoor Waterpark in the Catskills. Enjoy the resort's indoor waterpark, heated to 84 degrees year-round, with more than 10 slides and water adventures, a lazy river, and indoor/outdoor pools. Take advantage of seven restaurants and bars on-site, as well as hiking trails, free daily activities, and an indoor entertainment center to keep the kids busy—ropes course, rock climbing, arcade, mini bowling, laser tag, and virtual reality.