So much of parenthood is about negotiation, and some things — like where you’re going to spend your precious free weekends — are worth standing your ground on. Thanks to Philly’s proximity to mountains, lakes, cities and surf, a quick family getaway can truly have a little something that works for everyone. (Rejoice! You don’t have to suffer through another weekend of waterparks and bad buffets.) Here, 11 vacations where you’ll get to slow down, the littlest members of your family will be entertained, and everyone will be happy to break out of the daily grind.
Edited by Ashley Primis
For Summer-Camp Lovers: Woodloch Resort
Woodloch will make you wonder why you forgot about the Poconos in the first place.
Car-Time Commitment: 3.5 hours
The Accommodations: In case you’ve been asking where all the lovely and helpful people in Pennsylvania have gone, it appears they’ve been hired by 57-year-old Woodloch. Opt for one of the surprisingly modern lakefront rooms (part of the Pines side of the resort) and an all-inclusive plan, and you won’t have to worry about a thing until it’s time to pack up the car. All-inclusive packages start at $400 per night for a family of four; 731 Welcome Lake Road, Hawley, Pennsylvania, 800-966-3562.
An Ideal Day: There’s really no reason to leave the grounds. Fill the morning with activities you can only do in a place like this (shooting range, zip-lining, archery), grab lunch, and then get some downtime in the afternoon with boating or sunning by the lake. (Don’t feel guilty sending the kids to fish or go on a scavenger hunt while you hit up an exercise class or wine tasting.) If the weekly Saturday smorgasbord isn’t your thing, opt for dinner at one of the nearby sister properties. Afterward, head to the arcade for some old-school screen time.
Best for Ages: Toddlers and tykes will pout because you can’t possibly fit in all the stuff they want to do. Don’t think the older kids will be bored: Many of the activities, like zip-lining, are for tweens and up. — Victor Fiorillo
For Free Spirits: Woodstock, N.Y.
You’ll find fresh food, peaceful woodlands and a cool Coachella vibe.
Car-time Commitment: Less than three and a half hours.
The Accommodations: Last year, four longtime friends who own vacation homes in this Catskills hamlet bought up a series of quaint little cabins, remade them with subway tile bathrooms, kitchenettes, wi-fi and stylish decor (kilim rugs meet Danish modern), and named the result Woodstock Way. The location couldn’t be better — steps from Woodstock’s main retail drag, but hidden by a waterfall, giant trees and a rocky road. The Waterfall cabin has two rooms, but the Lone Wolf has a tree with a swing and a creek for skipping stones. Rooms start at $200 per night; 10 Waterfall Way, Woodstock, New York, 845-684-5911.
An Ideal Day: You won’t have to search long for good food in Woodstock. Oriole 9 has a farm-fresh breakfast; for something quicker, Bread Alone Bakery has great coffee and breakfast choices that can be consumed on the shaded patio. (Both are a quick walk from the cabins and will take you past adorable toy, book and clothing stores, plus a juice bar.) Older kids will love the swimming holes and bike and hiking trails, while younger ones can get up-close-and-personal with animals at the Woodstock or Catskill animal sanctuaries. If you want to get out on the Hudson, rent a rowboat at the (totally bare-bones but totally accommodating) Saugerties Marina and paddle out to the historic lighthouse. Back in town, grab a drink and casual dinner at Shindig (order from the seasonal specials), or go slightly more upscale with homemade pastas and fancy pizzas at Cucina. Oh, and plan on stumbling onto live music wherever you go.
Best for Ages: Everything here is quiet, artsy and relaxed, so younger kids are welcome; teens who don’t love the outdoors might find it a little dull. — Ashley Primis
For Urban Pioneers: Pittsburgh
Thanks to a youth movement, Pennsylvania’s other major city has a chill early-Brooklyn vibe wrapped up in an old-school town.
Car-time Commitment: Five hours.
The Accommodations: There are trendier options, but the downtown Omni William Penn Hotel is a memorable grande dame of an institution, and so centrally located that you can leave the car parked. Upon check-in, little ones get a backpack with goodies, plus complimentary milk and cookies delivered to the room. (Most likely, this will be their favorite part of the trip. Sigh.) Rooms start around $200 per night; 530 William Penn Place, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, 412-281-7100.
An Ideal Day: Fuel up with the best breakfast in the ’Burgh at Bluebird Kitchen (local eggs and homemade breads), which is a five-minute walk from the Omni. When you’re full, stroll across one of Pittsburgh’s many bridges to the North Side neighborhood and visit the just-redone Andy Warhol Museum, which is almost as fabulous as the artist himself. For lunch, kick it back downtown at Peppi’s, where they serve subs, not “hoagies.” (Order the Roethlisburger if you must.) Then ride the Duquesne Incline, a somewhat harrowing contraption from the late 19th century that carries you up the side of Mount Washington and offers amazing views. (Major selfie op!) Grab dinner up the street from the Omni at the Commoner, a reinvented American tavern that has classic cocktails, an out-of-this-world smoked beef tartare … and solid options for fussy little ones.
Best for Ages: Seven and up, assuming they’re used to walking. Otherwise, UberX is available. — Victor Fiorillo
For Beach Bums: Lewes, Del.
The quiet seaside village gets a modern makeover.
Car-time Commitment: Two to two and a half hours.
The Accommodations: Three years ago, this motor inn was faded, sticky, and the last place you’d want to bring the kids. Then it was bought by Dogfish Head — the beloved brewer — and completely renovated. Now the Dogfish Inn is a stylish 16-room shore refuge for lovers of sophisticated beer, their children and the family dog. At night, guests gather round a communal campfire and swap bottles of Indian Brown Ale while kids gorge on s’mores. The rooms may appear too hip for families, but the motel’s staff has perfected the art of casual hospitality. (Note: Beer actually isn’t sold on-site, unless you count ale-themed hand soap, so be sure to BYO.) Rooms start at $249 per night in-season and $149 off-season; 105 Savannah Road, Lewes, Delaware, 302-644-8292.
An Ideal Day: Surf Bagel does a better job with a bacon, egg and cheese than most places in the city. After breakfast, make the quick trip to underrated Lewes Beach. Protected by the bay, it features small waves and an unusually shallow wading area, making it ideal for younger kids. Plus, it’s way less crowded than Rehoboth. Inn guests get priority bookings at both the Dogfish brewery tours in nearby Milton and the brewpub in Rehoboth (where there’s a smart kid’s menu with organic whole-grain chicken tenders and non-boozy “beach” beer, plus must-order fried pickles and, of course, grown-up beer).
Best for Ages: Toddlers on up. For families with older kids, there’s kayaking, biking and coastal hiking. And if you happen to have a sitter in tow, the nightlife of Rehoboth is a short drive away. — Patrick Kerkstra
For Seaside Ramblers: Cape Cod
Trade in hoagies for lobster rolls, and add biking, fishing and gorgeous terrain.
Car-time Commitment: Six and a half hours.
The Accommodations: With wood-beamed ceilings, generous suites, green lawns and Adirondack chairs overlooking the rocky coastline, it doesn’t get more quintessential New England than the Chatham Bars Inn. (The cabana beach service, scene-y pool and bonfire s’mores make it all modern.) Rates start at $250 per night; 297 Shore Road, Chatham, Massachusetts, 508- 945-0096.
An Ideal Day: Resort activities can be as ambitious as chartered whale watching tours or as easy as kayaking and lawn games. Make sure to rent bikes and pedal into the charming Main Street. Grab a killer breakfast sandwich at Chatham Cookware Café or an overstuffed lobster roll at Chatham Pier Fish Market, and hop on a CBI water taxi, which will ferry you out to the Cape Cod National Seashore, a pristine park that’s perfect for exploring, sunbathing and shell collecting. Back at the Inn, don’t miss the lobstering tour, where kids pull lobster traps out of the harbor; the staff will steam or stuff your catch at any of the Inn’s restaurants.
Best for Ages: Between the longer car trip and the active days, kids four and up will get the most out of this trip. — Jamie Leary
For City Explorers: Washington, D.C.
Bounce between world-class museums and neighborhood-y hangs.
Car-time Commitment: Two and a half hours.
The Accommodations: A recent renovation turned the once-stuffy Melrose Georgetown Hotel into a stylish space that delivers luxe amenities (roomy suites with sleeper sofas and the must-visit farm-to-table restaurant Jardenea) without any pretension. The littlest guests are treated to mini-bathrobes and stuffed animals to cuddle at night. Rooms start at $159 per night; 2430 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington, D.C., 202-955-6400.
An Ideal Day: The Melrose is only two blocks from Georgetown’s main retail drag; head there first for brunch at Booeymonger (get the cinnamon coffee), then cab it to the National Air and Space Museum. After, stroll across the Mall to see the monuments and memorials, walk by the White House (look on the South Lawn for Bo and Sunny), and grab lunch at Shake Shack. Then it’s a quick hop to the International Spy Museum. Hit the hay early after dinner at Jardenea; you’ll want to visit the FreshFarm Market in Dupont Circle on Sunday morning for live music and snacks for the road.
Best for Ages: Kids eight and up can handle all the city walking and get the most out of the museums. Younger kids will be happy kicking a ball around the Mall or checking out the pandas at the zoo. — Emily Goulet
For Culture Devotees: Boston
Memorable museums, picturesque walks and quality eats.
Car-time Commitment: Five and a half hours.
The Accommodations: The Hotel Commonwealth is upscale and immaculate but friendly and casual, given its location steps from Fenway Park. (Baseball lovers should ask for a room that overlooks the Green Monster.) The spacious Commonwealth rooms have genius section dividers — think large drapes that separate the sitting area from the sleeping area — for much-needed naptime privacy. You’ll be located close to the river, the Boston Common and Cambridge. Rates start at $350 per night (but be prepared to pay more if the Yankees are in town); 500 Commonwealth Avenue, Boston, Massachusetts, 617-933-5000.
An Ideal Day: Skip across the Charles River to Cambridge for breakfast at Henrietta’s Table, a country-meets-city spot, then walk off the grits and omelets in scenic Harvard Square and hit up the world’s only Curious George store. Hop on the Freedom Trail for some grade-school history, or take a tour of Fenway if the Sox aren’t in season. Adventurous eaters should try trendy Asian spot Mei Mei (which started as a food truck); others can grab a cab to the North End for pie from stalwart Regina Pizzeria. In Boston, nightlife isn’t just for those 21 and over: ImprovBoston has family nights, and the Museum of Science invites kids up to the rooftop observatory for programming and stargazing after dark on Fridays.
Best for Ages: It’s easy enough to tote tots around the city to good restaurants and gardens, but older kids will relish the history. — Jamie Leary
For Disney Fans: Hershey, Pa.
In Hershey, you’ll find wholesome amusements and a luxe hotel that’s basically in Philly’s backyard.
Car-time Commitment: Two hours.
The Accommodations: The historic Hotel Hershey resort would be an ideal quick getaway even if it weren’t just a mile and a half away from a fantastic theme park. The classy vibe and amenities are equally appealing to kids and grown-ups, with pools, playgrounds and a kids’ club for the former and a spa, golf games and a kids’ club for the latter. The rooms are well appointed, and the chocolate-themed touches (scented soaps and buckets of samples wherever you go) never get old. Rates start at $379 per night in-season and $259 off-season; 100 Hotel Road, Hershey, Pennsylvania, 717-533-2171.
An Ideal Day: Spend a day on the hotel grounds swimming, hiking, or trying your hand at falconry, or hit up nearby destinations like Hershey’s Chocolate World (make your own candy bar), the wildlife park and Hershey Gardens. Make reservations for dinner at on-site restaurants like Harvest early — they fill up quickly. Plan on spending one day at Hersheypark, where there’s everything from heart-pounding roller coasters to more laid-back family rides like the Ferris wheel and railroads.
Best for Ages: The resort has plenty of open space for babies and toddlers to roam while parents get some R&R, but older kids (five and up) will love the theme park, which is family-friendly and clean. — Joel Mathis
For Nature Enthusiasts: The Poconos
Skytop Lodge offers throwback family time.
Car-time Commitment: Just under three hours.
The Accommodations: The grandiose family resort is a dying breed, but sprawling Skytop Lodge, nestled since 1928 on a wooded peak of the Poconos, recalls a time when family vacation meant lawn games and Saturday-night dances (very Dirty Dancing). While much has changed over the course of nine decades — like a recent $3.7 million face-lift for the rooms — the place has a lived-in feel that balances its grandiosity and puts parents at ease. (The giant game room, dual playgrounds and acres of run-around space help, too.) Guests bunk down in the main lodge, the more intimate inn or private cottages. Rooms start at $249 per night in-season and $159 off-season (optional meal plans start at $75 per person); 1 Skytop Lodge Road, Skytop, Pennsylvania, 570-595-7401.
An Ideal Day: After a breakfast buffet in the upscale Windsor Dining Room, grab some cruising bikes to explore the grounds, finishing off with a dip in the lake (or the warmed indoor pool). For lunch, the lodge’s Tap Room is a casual spot for burgers, beers and the like; thus energized, you can head back out to kick some offspring butt at paintball, or test your family’s mettle on the zip-line adventure course. (Kids too young for all that? Take it easier hiking one of Skytop’s many nature trails.) After dinner, visit the Tea Room, the lodge’s ’50s-style soda fountain, for an egg creme.
Best for Ages: Babies on up. (Cribs are available.) There’s fun for all ages (including a drop-off “camp”), but children old enough to really get into the nature-adventure opportunities will fall in love with this place. — Christine Speer Lejeune
For Laid-Back Urbanites: Baltimore
The Inner Harbor makes for a surprisingly serene, easy-to-navigate, activity-rich weekend.
Car-time Commitment: Two hours.
The Accommodations: Yes, there’s a Four Seasons in Baltimore (right on the water, in fact), and the polished staff makes a huge fuss over kids: They’ll get to choose a stuffed animal and have their own special bath toys, plus the hotel will provide complimentary cribs, high chairs and play yards. (Note: They also have a spa.) In season, the fourth-floor deck pool with its panoramic views is a good place to kill a few hours. Rooms start at $500 per night; 200 International Drive, Baltimore, Maryland, 410-576-5800.
An Ideal Day: The National Aquarium, which is one of the best in the country, is a 10-minute walk from the hotel. In the same direction is the distinctive American Visionary Art Museum, which features the sometimes bizarre works of self-taught American artists. (Kids of a certain age won’t be able to resist the “fart art” installation in the basement.) For meals, steer clear of the Harbor, which is totally touristy; instead, walk 20 minutes to the Lexington Market and get those legendary Maryland crabcakes at Faidley’s. Sports fans can catch an Orioles or Ravens game, but what your kids might love most here are the water taxis. Buy a day pass and cruise all over the harbor; it’s a great way to see the town.
Best for Ages: Thanks to an easy vibe, this is a fine trip for those with young kids, while older ones will get a lot out of the experience. — Victor Fiorillo
For Adventure Seekers: Nemacolin Resort
The beautiful grounds and outdoorsy activities feel otherworldly.
Car-time Commitment: Four hours.
The Accommodations: The huge Nemacolin mountain resort is as grand as the hotel in The Shining, but without the deranged dad and with a ton of things for kids to do. Book a room on the club level in Chateau Lafayette and you’ll have access to free breakfast, all-day snacks and complimentary DIY cocktails at night. Rooms start at $250 per night; 1001 Lafayette Drive, Farmington, Pennsylvania, 724-329-8555.
An Ideal Day: There’s so much to do at the resort, it’s hard to know where to begin. Our suggestion: Mix mega family adventures (target shooting, zip-lining, rock climbing) with slower-paced activities (disc golf, croquet), add in some adult stuff (golf, spa), and don’t miss the putt-putt course, which puts most others to shame. Of course, you’d be crazy to come all this way and not make the 30-minute drive to Fallingwater, a Frank Lloyd Wright masterpiece. (Note: The family-
friendly resort dining options are just okay. Try the nearby Stone House for dinner — it’s run by a former Nemacolin chef — and the impossibly cute Bittersweet Cafe for lunch and breakfast.)
Best for Ages: It’s fun for all age groups here, although older kids will really dig the camp-like activities. And Fallingwater is definitely for the seven-and-up set. — Victor Fiorillo
Originally published as “The Discerning Parent’s Guide to Easy Weekend Trips” in the September 2015 issue of Philadelphia magazine.