A family day trip provides the perfect chance to discover a new area, enjoy a good meal and sightsee in unexplored territory. A getaway might be even more important during the hectic holiday season; but, who has the time? You, that’s who! Combine seasonal shopping and good, old-fashioned fun at these nearby locales.
Location: Lancaster County, South Central PA
Known for: A big presence in Pennsylvania Dutch culture, the city has an Amish population that continues to grow.
Shop: Rockvale Outlets offers 80-plus big-name and local brands, including several restaurants. Take advantage of the shuttle service, and let the kids loose on the playground. After a little retail therapy, catch a show at the nearby American Music Theater or Rainbow Dinner Theater.
Learn: The Turkey Hill Experience in nearby Columbia serves up a firsthand look at how ice cream is made. The tour lets families create a new flavor, milk mechanical cows and pose for pics in a vintage dairy truck.
Play: Manheim’s Hands-On House Children’s Museum caters to ages 2-10 via indoor and outdoor play areas laden with activities and games. Nurture kids’ imaginations while you dig in the garden, belt out a tune in the performance space, “shop” at the supermarket, helm the farm and get your face painted.
Location: Monroe County, Northeastern PA
Known for: This village is a popular outdoor sport destination.
Shop: Visit The Crossings Premium Outlets to peruse designer and brand name wares dispersed throughout 100 outdoor outlet stores.
Explore: Walk or drive up the ADA-accessible, 1.4-mile path at Big Pocono State Park for spectacular views of eastern Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York.
Play: Aquatopia Indoor Waterpark provides splashy fun in the form of 13 water slides, seven pools, surfing simulator and interactive water games. And if all that jumping and playing works up your appetite, there’s food and drink service on-site.
Location: Hunterdon County, Northwestern NJ
Known for: More than half of the borough is included on the state’s register of historic places.
Shop: Bargain hunters flock to the Liberty Village Outdoor Marketplace. The spot boasts 30 stores that range from designer brands to kids’ apparel.
Explore: Stretch your legs at Mine Brook Park. Local families love the space for its toddler climbing structures, play area, trails and streams teeming with minnows.
Play: With 16 acres of toy trains and a complete doll museum, Northlandz is a kid wonderland and home to the world’s largest model railroad. Bring binoculars — there are tons of tiny details to spy in the intricate displays set around miniature canyons, roller coasters and tunnels.
Location: Atlantic County, Southeastern NJ
Known for: Properties on the Monopoly game board are named after streets and landmarks here.
Shop: The Tanger Outlets comprise more than 3,000 outlet stores featuring everything from jewelry to food to housewares.
Learn: Just two miles south of the city, Lucy the Elephant is a six-story novelty structure that’s designated as a historic landmark. During the tour, visitors learn all about Lucy’s architecture and history while ascending a spiral staircase. Once at the top, take in panoramic views of the waterfront.
Marvel: Ripley’s Believe It or Not, a self-described “odditorium,” has no shortage of wacky exhibits. Ever seen a table made of 14,000 jellybeans? You will here, plus hundreds of other head-scratching spectacles. Before you leave, try out the laser maze challenge.
Location: Sussex County, Southern DE
Known for: Reader’s Digest once dubbed its boardwalk “the best in the country.”
Shop: Need a souvenir to bring home? The alley of quaint, cozy shops that make up Penny Lane Mall is just the place to find it. After shopping, relax in the garden-like space with a cup of cocoa from the cafe.
Explore: Immerse the family in nature at Cape Henlopen State Park. There are ample hiking and biking trails along the coastline, as well as the opportunity to climb a WWII observation tower, check out a military bunker and spot marine life.
Learn: The Rehoboth Beach Museum is all about — what else? — shore history. From vintage bathing suits, postcards and surfboards to archaeological artifacts and old-school sand pails, the rotating collection showcases what a day at the beach was like for past generations.
Play: Speedsters of all ages are welcome to get behind the wheel at Midway Speedway Park. Put the pedal to the metal during 10 types of races, including kiddie tracks and a family track with two-seat go-karts.