Summer Road Trips from Toronto to USA
We are a summer road trip family. With the warm weather and good driving conditions, it’s an inexpensive way to visit big cities relatively close to home. But my husband and I quickly discovered that 10 hours is our max driving limit, so I’ve spent hours researching places that our car can take us under the 10 hour mark. Some we’ve visited, others are on the map for future vacations. One bit of advice that has worked well for us in difference cities: even though you have a car, the best way to get around in the city is with the hop on/hop off bus or trolley tours. The stops are situated around popular tourist destinations and it takes the headaches out of navigation and finding parking.
What could be better than having both a city and beach vacation all in one trip? Boston is that place where you can do both. Walk the 2.5-mile Freedom Trail and visit the 16 historic sites that reshaped American history. Live the adventures at the Boston Tea Party Ships and Museum, catch a ball game at Fenway Park or visit the Children’s Museum, Science Museum and the New England Aquarium. By car, Cape Cod is about an hour away and the 40-mile stretch of the Cape Cod National Seashore is your best bet for sun, sand and surf. Popular tourist stops include Chatham, Provincetown, Hyannis, Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard (last 2 only accessible by ferry). Enjoy whale watching, windsurfing, sailing, ice cream shops, cafes, quaint shops and more in the Cape. Approximately 8.5 hour drive.
Having both a boy and a girl, I’m always mindful that there are things that both my kids will enjoy doing while on vacation. Chicago is that kind of place. There’s the 13 blocks of Magnificent Mile, a street full of the best shopping (American Girl, Apple Store, LEGO Store) and restaurants Chicago has to offer. Don’t be surprised to see girls walking around with their American Girl dolls. The store is huge and a sightseeing attraction in itself. Be sure to catch a game at Wrigley Field and pay Sue, the largest and most complete T-Rex dinosaur ever discovered a visit at the Field Museum. Next to the Field Museum are the Shedd Aquarium and Adler Planetarium, so a stop at all 3 attractions by Chicago’s Waterfront is a must. Take a ride on the 150-foot ferris wheel and carousel, take in the children’s museum and tall ships at Navy Pier, overlooking beautiful Lake Michigan. Millennium Park is home to the famous Cloud Gate aka the “Bean” and the Crowd Fountain, a favourite summer pastime for locals and tourists alike. Chicago also has 26 miles of beautiful public beaches along the lake, close to the city – who knew? Approximately 8.5 hour drive.
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If the fast paced city life has got the best of you, then a few days on Mackinac Island may be exactly what your family needs. The car-free island makes for a perfect escape back to simpler times and the only ways to get around are by bike, foot or horse carriage. The island, on the Strait of Mackinac, is only accessible by ferry. The Grand Hotel is one of the popular attractions as the film “Somewhere in Time” starring Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour was filmed there. The hotel keeps to its rich grandeur history, including strict dinner mealtime dress attire. The grounds and pool are simply magnificent. Mackinac State Park is America’s second national park, behind Yellowstone. Take to the trails for hiking, biking and horseback riding. British forces in the War of 1812 captured Fort Mackinac and the Americans regained the Fort at the end of the War of 1812. There are 14 original buildings, cannon salutes, daily reenactments and interactive displays for visitors. The best way to see the island is by bike and there are plenty of rentals available. Last but not least is the fudge. The island is well known for its fudge, but no worries, with all the walking and biking, you’ll burn it off in no time. Approximately 8.5 hour drive.
New York City
When I think of New York City, I think of Broadway shows, shopping, dining and Sex and the City. With tweens in tow, I think they are at the perfect age to truly enjoy and appreciate all that NYC has to offer (but not Sex and the City). Known for the shopping, there are plenty of attractions just as worthy of your time. The American Museum of Natural History is tops on my kids list (there’s a Night at the Museum tour), the famous Rockefeller Center (Radio City Music Hall, Top of the Rock, LEGO store, NBC behind the scenes tour), Statue of Liberty, Time Square (Toys R Us), Empire State Building, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Guggenheim, Central Park (carousel, zoo, Belvedere Castle) and Coney Island for some amusement park fun. The Sony Wonder Tech Lab is a free state-of-the art hands-on facility that tweens will love. Take a stroll through SoHo, TriBeCa and Greenwich Village for something a little different than central Manhattan. The Bronx Zoo is the world’s largest urban zoo. Manhattan’s got the 24-hour Apple Store, American Girl Place and the infamous FAO Schwartz Flagship store (think Tom Hanks Big piano). Tweens will also love going to see a Broadway show. If your kids are old enough, the 9/11 Memorial is a national tribute to the men, women and children killed in the terrorist attacks of 2001 and 1993. There is just no shortage of things for kids to do in the Big Apple. Approximately 8.5 hour drive.
I hate admitting that 2 Hollywood films, National Treasure and Night at the Smithsonian got my kids interested in visiting Washington, D.C., but with so many free attractions, vacationing in D.C. was pretty much a no brainer for us. The White House is the most sought after attraction, but a reservation and advance planning is required, as is touring the U.S. Capitol. The Smithsonian, which actually consists of 19 museums, is a must see. My kids favourites were the Air and Space Museum (Apollo 11 command module), American History Museum (Dorothy’s ruby slippers), Natural History Museum (Hope diamond) and the National Zoo. The National Mall is home to many important presidential monuments and memorials, including the Lincoln Memorial (Martin Luther King, Jr “I Have a Dream” speech), the Washington Monument and the Thomas Jefferson and Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorials. The National Gallery of Art is home to an astounding collection of artistic masterpieces. Be ready for lots of walking in Washington, D.C. as the Metro will be your best friend. Approximately 9 hour drive.
There really is something for everyone in the family in Ohio. From the beaches along the shores of Lake Erie to amusement parks, museums and the 74 free Ohio State Parks, Ohio has it all. Maumee Bay State Park is a natural beauty with a large beachfront right on Lake Erie. Maumee Bay is about half an hour by car from Toledo, which makes it a great nature and city escape. When you’re ready to hit the city, Toledo has the famed Toledo Zoo, Fifth Third Field, Toledo Museum of Art and the Imagination Station. Salt Fork State Park is where you may find Big Foot but a stay at Salt Fork State Park Lodge reminded me of the fictitious Kellerman’s from the film Dirty Dancing (love!). If you love wildlife, Ohio won’t disappoint. Visit a safari at the Wilds, walk, jog or bike along the many trails of the state parks, stop by the park’s nature centres or just look up to see the many birds in flight. Bird watching is huge in the state, with numerous places to observe the birds in their natural habitat. When you’re ready to take it easy, Mohican State Park Lodge is the perfect hideaway from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Canoe down the Mohican River at Mohican State Park to take in the breathtaking scenery of this region. Approximately 7 hour drive.
What are some of your family’s favourite road trips? Feel free to share in the comments below.
About Wendy Morelli
Wendy loves her 2 kids and her iPhone, not necessarily always in that order. She is an app obsessed mom who loves everything tech and is (unfortunately) old enough to remember the brick Motorola cell phone and the Commodore computer. Her love for technology stems back to the 10+ years of working for technology based companies. Wendy's alter ego, "AppHipMom" has been featured in Canadian Family, iVillage, Women in Biz, EverythingMom, BlogHer and Savvy Mom.