The East Coast offers plenty of family vacation opportunities.

The Best Trips with Kids on the East Coast

by Charles Hooper

Planning a vacation with kids is fun, but it's hard narrowing down where to go and what to do. Like adults, kids' interests are diverse, and much depends on their age, the time available and your budget. Fortunately, the East Coast of the United States offers a little something for everybody.

1. Fun Places

Amusement parks top the list for fun places to go with kids of any age, and some of the best in the country are in the East. Home to Walt Disney World, Universal Studios, Sea World and a bevy of huge water parks, Orlando, Florida, tops the list in the Southeast. Busch Gardens, near Williamsburg, Virginia, is famous for its roller coasters that include the Alpengeist and Apollo's Chariot. Also in Virginia, just above Richmond, is King's Dominion, a fantastic amusement and water park combined. One of the most visited amusement parks in the Northeast is Six Flags Great Adventure in Jackson, New Jersey. For the sweeter side of fun, Hersheypark in Hershey, Pennsylvania, features 11 roller coasters and - to your dentist's horror - every form of chocolate imaginable.

2. For Learning

Having fun sometimes goes beyond roller coasters and water slides. Washington, D.C., is the go-to place for learning about history and national heritage. The nation's capital includes stunning monuments that honor presidents, famous Americans, veterans and even events; the fascinating museums of the Smithsonian Institution; heritage sites from the National Archives to the Capitol building and hallowed places like Arlington National Cemetery and Ford's Theater. Although the public transportation system and bike share program are excellent, plan to do a lot of walking. A number of Civil War battlefields are nearby, including Gettysburg, only 85 miles to the north.

3. Back to Nature

From the rocky coasts of Maine to the Florida Keys, some of the nation's most splendid and enchanting national and state parks and forests are in the East. Travel inland to see the nation's most-visited national park in the Great Smoky Mountains, ancestral home of the Cherokee Indians. Stunningly beautiful, the park provides glimpses into what Eastern forests once looked like. Containing one of the world's most diverse biospheres, the park is home to a variety of tree species, from tundra spruce and fir at the higher elevations to huge rain forest canopies in hidden coves. Magnificent lakes and streams abound. Activities range from camping, boating and fishing to hiking, kayaking and simply taking in the scenery. While you're in the area, take a break from nature and check out Asheville, North Carolina, or Gatlinburg, Tennessee.

4. Beaches: Something for All

One of the best ideas for the family is a trip that offers a bit of all of the above. Lining the East Coast are fantastic beaches, many of them near amusement parks, historic sites and parks. Besides the more frequented tourist locations like Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, and Daytona Beach, Florida, check out Coquina Beach on North Carolina's Outer Banks, New Jersey's Sunset Beach or Clearwater Beach in Florida.

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