Want to soak in historic cities, forested mountainscapes, and blissful coastlines? See it all on an epic Northeast USA road trip.
The Northeast nuzzles into the northeastern tip of the continental US, stretching along the east coast and to the Canadian border. The region comprises nine states: Maine, New York, New Jersey, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New Hampshire, and Pennsylvania.
On this Northeastern United States road trip itinerary, you’ll experience buzzing historical cities like Philadelphia and Boston. You’ll soak in the coastal treasures, forested hills, mountains, and rivers of New England and the Mid-Atlantic. And, of course, you’ll spend time exploring the granddaddy of all American cities, New York City.
With the Northeast’s breadth, it’s hard to tackle it all in one fell swoop. On this road trip, we’ve focused on the region’s top urban destinations and coastal hotspots. We’ve also included ideas to extend your route into the East Coast’s more idyllic destinations.
Looking for more ideas for your trip? Check out our other itineraries and our USA Travel Guide for more recommendations on when to visit, where to go & what to do!
Where to go in Northeast USA: A complete road trip itinerary
Although technically outside the region, Washington, DC, is the perfect place to launch your Northeast road trip. The U.S. capital city sits in the Mid-Atlantic sub-region, straddling the Northeast and Southeastern USA.
For history & politics buffs, Washington, DC, has no rival. The city teems with grand monuments, even grander buildings, and some of the nation’s best museums & art galleries.
Aside from its urban charms, Washington, DC, is a great base for digging into the East Coast’s finest moments. Within driving distance, plenty of green space awaits in Virginia, West Virginia, and Maryland. Not far away, you’ll also find quaint beach towns and important historic cities like Baltimore and Annapolis.
On this itinerary, spend at least two days in Washington, DC, It’ll give you a chance to explore some of the top tourist attractions in Washington, DC without feeling too rushed. Spend an extra day or two to tackle some of the best Washington, DC, day trips.
What to see & do in Washington, DC
Only got one day in Washington, DC? Start by checking out the Lincoln Memorial. Opened in 1922, the iconic memorial to the 16th U.S. president remains one of the city’s most impressive sights.
The Lincoln Memorial flanks the western edge of the National Mall. Wandering up to the memorial from the east to enjoy the mirror images in the site’s famous Reflecting Pool.
Dazzle at the memorial’s Grecian architecture, supported by 36 columns, before stepping in. Once inside, you’ll be shadowed by a 19-foot-tall statue of Abraham Lincoln. Stay for a moment of quiet contemplation. (Or to read his famous Gettysburg Address, imprinted next to the statue.)
Not far from the Lincoln Memorial, you’ll also catch a glimpse of the beautiful World War II Monument and the Washington Monument. Zip 500 feet up the Washington Monument to enjoy a spectacular bird’s-eye view over the cityscape.
PRO TIP: See Washington’s monuments at their finest under the veil of night on the unique Monuments by Moonlight Trolley Tour!
While advanced planning is required, visiting the White House will be an unforgettable experience on your DC visit. The iconic presidential residence & office lies on Pennsylvania Avenue.
The White House is backed by over two centuries of history. Its current reincarnation dates back to 1817. The home was rebuilt after British troops set it ablaze during the War of 1812.
Even if you miss out on a tour, pop into the nearby White House Visitor Center. The museum offers several interactive exhibits and artifacts detailing the building’s storied past.
PRO TIP: Discover all the city’s best moments on the Washington DC Full-Day Tour. The tour also includes a scenic 1-hour cruise along the Potomac River.
United States Capitol
You don’t have to be a card-carrying Democrat or Republican to enjoy a tour of the United States Capitol. Built in 1800, the building shows off a striking Neoclassical architectural style. It’s topped by an enormous dome, soaring 288 feet above the Rotunda.
Hit up the Capitol Visitor Center to arrange a free tour. On a United States Capitol tour, you’ll visit the Crypt, the Rotunda, and the National Statuary Hall. You can also extend your visit to the Senate and House Galleries with a separate pass.
PRO TIP: Discover the stories behind Washington’s top attractions on the 2-Hour National Mall Tour by Electric Vehicle!
Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum
Unlike many DC museums, you don’t have to be a history buff to love the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. Operating for over 75 years, the center is the world’s foremost aviation and spaceflight museum.
On a National Air and Space Museum visit, you’ll spot some of the industry’s most iconic artifacts. Highlights include the Apollo 11 Command Module Columbia, the Friendship 7 capsule, and the Wright Brothers’ Wright Flyer. If you look hard enough, you may even see a model of the USS Enterprise from Star Trek: The Original Series!
The museum is currently closed and will reopen on October 14th, 2022.
Hillwood Estate, Museum & Gardens
Top off your DC historical sightseeing adventure with a visit to the Hillwood Estate, Museum & Gardens. Located 20 minutes north of downtown, the estate is famed for its decorative arts collection and gardens.
Start at the estate’s Georgian-style mansion, now home to the Hillwood Museum. Bask in the museum’s large collection of 18th- and 19th-century French furniture, art & porcelain. Around the home, you’ll also spot priceless Imperial Russian artifacts. Some of the most impressive finds include Fabergé eggs and Orthodox icons.
When you’re done perusing the museum, save time to explore the estate’s gardens. The French parterre garden continues the interior’s Gallic-flavored design to the outdoor. It centers around a small pool and walking paths. Ivy hedges ring the edges for an outdoor living room feel.
The Japanese-style gardens are also worth a look. Although non-traditional, the garden features stone pagodas, lanterns, and statues. All echo Japanese landscape design sensibilities. The blend of Japanese and North American tree & plant species gives the garden a magical feel.
The estate is open Tuesday to Sunday from 10 am to 5 pm.
Where to stay in Washington, DC
For travelers, the best areas to stay in Washington, DC, fall in & around Downtown DC, including Dupont Circle, Logan Circle, and Foggy Bottom. The DC city center is home to the city’s best hotels and many of its top points of interest.
Hyatt Place Washington DC/Georgetown/West End
Want to stay close to downtown without breaking the bank? Book a room at this budget-friendly West End hotel. The Hyatt Place offers comfortable rooms and modern amenities, including an outdoor pool and fitness center.
Morrison Clark Inn
Occupying an 1800s Victorian mansion, Morrison Clark Inn is a fantastic choice for mid-range travelers. The hotel doles out boutique-style rooms. You’ll revel in luxurious extras like marble fireplaces and private balconies.
Willard InterContinental Washington
Located steps from the White House, this top-end luxury hotel is perfectly placed to squeeze the most out of your DC sightseeing adventure. Reservations include use of the hotel’s private limo service.
How to get to Washington, DC
Washington, DC, is served by two major airports. The closest to the city center is Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA). The airport sits 5 miles from downtown in Arlington, Virginia. DCA is a major hub & focus city for American Airlines, Southwest Airlines, and American Eagle.
Most international flights to Washington, DC, arrive at Dulles International Airport (IAD), 26 miles west of the city. IAD is a major hub for United Airlines and United Express.
Washington, DC, is well-connected by road to the neighboring states of Virginia and Maryland. Driving times to & from other major Northeast USA destinations include:
- Baltimore, MD (1h)
- Philadelphia, PA (2h45m)
- Richmond, VA (2h)
- New York, NY (4h)
From Washington, it’s less than three hours north to Philadelphia. The biggest city in Pennsylvania, Philadelphia is one of the most important places in U.S. history. In 1776, Philadelphia gave birth to the Republic as the Declaration of Independence was signed in its statehouse.
For history buffs, there’s plenty to see in Philadelphia. From Independence Hall to the Liberty Bell, the city walks travelers through the nation’s beginnings. Besides its historical sites, visitors will also enjoy a smattering of museums, art galleries, and parks. Philly is also home to one of the East Coast’s finest food & drink scenes.
On your itinerary, try to spend at least two days in Philadelphia. In that time, you’ll be able to take in many of the top Philadelphia attractions. You’ll also be able to get a quick taste of its culinary & craft beer scene.
What to see & do in Philadelphia
If you’re visiting Philadelphia in one day, start at Independence Hall. Even if you’re not a huge history buff, taking a tour of this UNESCO World Heritage Site is a must. After all, it was at Independence Hall in 1776 that the Declaration of Independence was signed. (And 11 years later, the Constitution.)
There’s plenty for visitors to explore at Independence Hall. On a guided tour, you’ll see the Assembly Room where George Washington’s “rising sun” chair still reigns. In the hall’s West Wing stands the original draft of the Constitution. You’ll also spot the inkstand used in the signing of the Declaration of Independence.
Visitors can tour Independence Hall between 9 am and 12:45 pm on a first-come-first-serve basis. For tours between 1 pm and 4:45 pm, you’ll need to book your tickets in advance here.
PRO TIP: Get the inside scoop on Philadelphia’s history on the Founding Fathers Historical Walking Tour.
The Liberty Bell Center
Located next to Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell Center hosts one of America’s most recognizable symbols. Weighing an astounding 2,080 pounds, the Liberty Bell started its journey in 1752, before the founding of the republic. It rang out on the streets of Philadelphia for almost a century before retirement.
At the Liberty Bell Center, you’ll spy interpretive displays covering the bell’s history and symbolism. Of course, you’ll also get to scope out the bell itself from every angle. (And get the ultimate tourist photo for your IG feed!)
PRO TIP: Retrace the steps of the Founding Fathers on the Old City Revolutionary Walking Tour.
Beyond Philly’s usual tourist attractions, carve out time to explore South Street. Surging east to west, South Street forms the southern boundary of Philadelphia’s Central City.
The easternmost stretch of South Street between Front Street and 7th Street is known for its edgy and bohemian vibe. In the neighborhood, you’ll stumble upon hip boutique shops, cafes, restaurants, and bars.
While in the area, delight your taste buds with a classic Philly cheesesteak at Jim’s South Street. Operating since 1939, the local restaurant chain is one of the city’s top joints to try the savory sandwich.
Burn your meal off with a walk to Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens, located between 10th and 11th. The famed art venue features a vibrant collection of mosaic artwork and a sculpture garden. It’s one of the most colorful spots in Philadelphia.
PRO TIP: Explore all the best of buzzing South Street on the Philadelphia Markets, Mosaics, and Magic Tour!
Want to escape the urban buzz? Head 15 minutes north of Central City to beautiful Fairmount Park. The massive city park has been a favorite getaway for Philadelphians for almost a century and a half.
Among its 2,000 acres, visitors will roam along walking paths through woodlands and along the Schuylkill River. Fairmount Park also offers plenty of open space. Stick around to enjoy a picnic, play frisbee golf, or throw around a baseball.
While wandering around, carve out time to admire Boathouse Row. The historic Victorian riverfront boathouses sit near the park’s southern fringes. Visit at sunrise or sundown to witness one of Philadelphia’s most alluring scenes.
PRO TIP: Enjoy admission to your choice of 3 to 7 popular attractions for one low price with the Go Philadelphia Explorer Pass!
Where to stay in Philadelphia
For most travelers, the best areas to stay in Philadelphia fall in & around Central City. The city center is home to most of the city’s top points of interest and offers the best selection of accommodations.
Penn’s View Hotel
This budget-friendly boutique hotel is located in the heart of the Old City. It’s the perfect choice for a historical Philly sightseeing adventure. Imbibe at the hotel’s on-site wine cellar and a-la-carte restaurant.
Kimpton Hotel Monaco
Steps from Independence Hall, this mid-range luxury hotel charms with its bright & snazzy designs. Relax with a craft cocktail at the hotel’s Stratus Rooftop Lounge to wonderful views over the city.
Canopy by Hilton Center City
Offering head-turning vintage designs, this hotel is one of the city’s most interesting choices. The location is perfect, almost dead-center in the Central City mix. You’ll love escaping the city buzz in the hotel’s atmospheric outdoor terrace.
How to get to Philadelphia
From Washington, DC, it’s about 2 hours and 40 minutes to Philadelphia via I-95.
New York City, New York
From Philly, it’s less than two hours’ driving distance to the USA’s largest city, New York City. However you slice it, NYC is one of the world’s best travel destinations. And even if big (or, rather, massive!) cities aren’t your thing, visiting New York City at least once is a must for any serious traveler.
We’ll admit: Jamming the top tourist attractions in New York City into a weekend road trip is impossible. Nonetheless, on your Northeast itinerary, try to squeeze in at least three days in New York City. It’ll give you a quick taste of the city. (And, hopefully, inspire a longer return visit.)
What to see & do in New York City
Even if you’ve only got 24 hours in New York City, save time for a stroll around Central Park. Covering 843 acres, it’s one of the world’s largest urban parks, and the most visited in the USA. No trip to NYC is complete without wandering through Central Park.
Sprawling Central Park is home to a handful of interesting attractions. Catch some of its finest views in the park at Cherry Hill. Named for its deluge of cherry trees, the famous sightseeing spot delivers spectacular views over The Lake and Bow Bridge. Visit during spring to see the landscape at its most beautiful.
If you’re visiting with children, pop in for a visit to the Central Park Zoo. Although small, the zoo swarms with beautiful nature scenes. Kids will also love seeing the zoo’s penguins and sea lions flopping about.
PRO TIP: Save your legs and experience the park at its best on a Central Park Horse and Carriage Ride.
Statue of Liberty National Monument
One of the country’s most recognizable symbols, the Statue of Liberty National Monument is a must-see while in New York. You’ll enjoy a fantastic view of Lady Liberty from Battery Park in Manhattan. Even better, though, is to take a ferry to Liberty Island to see the iconic statue up close.
Book your tickets well in advance to become one of the 240 daily visitors who can scale the interior of the 151-foot-high statue. If you’re lucky enough to secure a spot, you’ll climb 393 steps up to the crown. From the top, you’ll dazzle at dramatic views over the New York cityscape.
Most tours to Liberty Island also include a visit to nearby Ellis Island. The island was the main U.S. point of entry for immigrants arriving between 1892 to 1954. Ellis Island weaves a compelling narrative of America’s immigration history. Even if you’re not one of the 40% of Americans whose relatives arrived in the U.S. through Ellis Island, it’s one of the region’s most powerful attractions.
PRO TIP: Save time and hassle by booking your Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island & Pre-Ferry Tour online!
Empire State Building
To see the USA’s biggest city from (way) above, carve out a visit to the Empire State Building. Built in 1930, the 1,454-foot-tall skyscraper is NYC’s most iconic building. IIts striking Art Deco design is one of the world’s grandest examples of the popular 20th-century architectural style.
Zip up to the 86th-floor observation deck to enjoy unfettered 360-degree views over New York and beyond. On a clear day, you can spot as many as five states in the distance. The views stretch as far as Pennsylvania and Massachusetts.
After gawking at NYC above, venture back down to earth to explore Midtown Manhattan. The neighborhood is home to some of the city’s top tourist attractions including Times Square and the Museum of Modern Art.
PRO TIP: Avoid the line-ups and book your Empire State Building Skip-the-Line Ticket online before your trip!
The High Line
One of NYC’s coolest places to see, The High Line stretches 1.5 miles through the West Side between the Meatpacking District and Hudson Yards. The urban park occupies a former elevated rail line, suspected 30 feet above the streets.
Walking the trail, you’ll marvel at incredible views of Manhattan’s modern & historic architecture. Highlights along The High Line include Chelsea Market and the funky IAC Building, designed by Frank Gehry.
Where to stay in New York City
For travelers, the best areas to stay in New York City fall in & around Midtown Manhattan. From Midtown, you’ll be within reach of many of the city’s top attractions, whether by foot or via public transportation.
Courtyard New York Manhattan Mid Town West
Located in Hudson Yards, this modern hotel offers some of the best value in Midtown West. Aside from the comfortable rooms, you’ll enjoy extras like a 24-hour fitness center. Times Square is 20 minutes away by foot.
citizenM New York Times Square
In the center of all the action, this mid-range hotel is a Manhattan favorite. Rooms are modern and cozy, but the hit is the rooftop bar. Stop in for a sundowner and marvel at sweeping views over the New York cityscape.
The Langham New York Fifth Avenue
Located in Midtown Manhattan, this deluxe 5-star is one of the city’s top luxury hotels. You’ll enjoy a menu of luxurious extras like iPod docking stations and espresso makers. Snag a table at the hotel’s Michelin-starred restaurant, Ai Fiori, for a taste of delectable Italian-French fusion.
How to get to New York City
From Philadelphia, it’s less than a two-hour drive to NYC via I-95 N.
Newport, Rhode Island
From New York City, head northward to Newport, Rhode Island. Perched on the southwest corner of Aquidneck Island, Newport is a wonderful first stop on a New England road trip. From its delicate sea breezes to its succulent seafood, Newport offers the quintessential US East Coast vibe.
The historic port city is famed for its Gilded Age mansions and sweeping Atlantic views. With its long maritime history, Newport also attracts yachting enthusiasts from around the world. In summer, you’ll see the city at its most vibrant as a deluge of festivals roll into town.
Give yourself at least two days in Newport. Although Newport is the largest city in Rhode Island outside of the Providence metro area, it’s compact and easy to navigate on foot. In two days, you should have no problem fitting many of the top tourist attractions in Newport, RI, into your itinerary.
What to see & do in Newport
If you can only check out one of Newport’s historic mansions, make it The Breakers. Built in 1895 as a summer home for the Vanderbilts, the mansion is one of the nation’s finest private residences. From its perch, The Breakers unleashes dramatic views of the Easton Bay seascape.
On a tour of The Breakers, dazzle at the mansion’s eye-popping Renaissance Revival style. Both its interiors and exteriors bear a striking resemblance to 16th-century Italian palaces. Slow down to browse its priceless collection of antique furnishing and artwork.
Other Newport mansions to check out include the Marble House and Rosecliff.
PRO TIP: Save time and money by upgrading your Newport Scenic Trolley Tour to include entry into The Breakers.
After you’ve dabbled in Newport’s opulent homes, gape at its seaside pleasures on the Cliff Walk. The popular walking path runs 3.5 miles along the beautiful Newport seafront. It’s one of the city’s best places to catch a sea breeze to incredible views over the Atlantic.
The entire length between 1st Beach and Bailey’s Beach should take most reasonably fit visitors about two to three hours. If you’re looking for a more relaxing walk, stick to the northern section between Memorial Boulevard and Ruggles Avenue. The southern stretch between Ruggles and Ledge Road is more challenging but offers more dramatic sea views.
Fort Adams State Park
Only got time to visit one Newport attraction outside of the city center? Head for Fort Adams State Park. The park is located on a peninsula at the mouth of Newport Harbor. Visit the 18th-century military fortress to lap up views of Newport Harbor and Narragansett Bay’s East Passage.
Fort Adams State Park is also the venue for the annual Newport Jazz Festival. The popular music festival takes place every summer at the end of July and the beginning of August.
Where to stay in Newport
For travelers, the best places to stay in Newport fall within its historic city center. Newport is compact and easy to navigate. Wherever you choose to stay, you’ll be within reach of Newport’s top points of interest.
America’s Cup Inn
Located on Thames Street, this lovely inn offers some of the best value accommodations in Newport. Rooms are charming, featuring colonial period furnishings. You’ll love chillin’ on the rooftop terrace to delightful harbor views.
Marshall Slocum Inn
Built in Federalist style, this 19th-century boutique hotel is one of the city’s finest. Fitted with antique furniture, its elegant rooms showcase traditional New England style. The inn is within a 5-minute walk of Bellevue Avenue.
Town & Tide Inn
A quick walk to the center of town, this B&B offers modern rooms with a dash of maritime style. Savor a meal in the lovely seasonal garden to make the most of your stay.
How to get to Newport
It’s less than a 4-hour drive from NYC to Newport via I-95 and RI-138. To break up the journey, you can stop over in New Haven or Mystic, Connecticut.
No epic road trip through the Northeast is complete without a stop in Boston. The largest city and capital of Massachusetts, Boston holds an important spot in American history. In 1775, events in & around Boston sparked the American Revolutionary War. The rest—shall we say?—is history.
On your trip, try to spend at least three days in Boston. From roaming the Freedom Trail to indulging in seafood & craft beers, there are a ton of things to see & do in Boston. Take it in stride. This beautiful city isn’t one you want to rush through.
What to see & do in Boston
Only visiting Boston in 24 hours? Start with a walk along the Freedom Trail. This walking drifts past Boston’s most important historical sites, covering 250 years of its history.
Highlights on the Freedom Trail include the USS Constitution, Old North Church, and Paul Revere House. Along the way, duck into Quincy Market at Fanueil Hall Marketplace. The famed market is a great place to grab Boston favorites like lobster rolls or clam chowder to fuel up for the day.
End your Freedom Trail stroll with a relaxing swan boat ride in Boston Public Garden in Boston Common.
PRO TIP: Sweep around Boston without fuss on the Boston Hop-on Hop-off Trolley Tour!
Located just north of Boston Common, Beacon Hill is one of Boston’s most picturesque neighborhoods. Beacon Hill dates back to the late 18th century. The area shines with its historical Federalist-style townhouses and cobblestone streets.
To enjoy Beacon Hill to its fullest, wander its streets in search of trendy restaurants and antique shops. Be sure to pop into the nearby Massachusetts State House. With its distinctive gilded dome, the 1790s-era building is one of Boston’s most beautiful.
PRO TIP: Walk and eat your way through Boston on the North End to Freedom Trail Food & History Tour. The tour includes stops in Beacon Hill and at various points along the historic walking route.
After a day of sightseeing in the coastal city, nothing beats roaming around the Seaport District. The redeveloped port area is perched on Boston’s waterfront. It teems with superb restaurants & bars offering stunning views over the harbor.
While there’s plenty to choose from in the Seaport District, grab some Bostonian favorites at Legal Sea Foods Harborside. The popular local chain offers some of the best seafood in Boston—with superb harborfront vistas to match.
PRO TIP: Want to taste Boston’s most iconic dishes? Book yourself onto a Classic Bites of Boston Tour. The culinary adventure also includes an optional craft beer tasting at two historic taverns.
Where to stay in Boston
For travelers, the best areas to stay in Boston are in & around Downtown and the North End. Basing yourself in the city center, you’ll be close to all of the city’s top places to see.
citizenM Boston North Station
Want to stay in central Boston without draining your travel budget? This new hotel is one of central the city’s most value-laden picks. With TD Garden and the historic North End both nearby, it’s the perfect choice for sports fans and history buffs.
Looking to enjoy the city’s best sightseeing and entertainment? This mid-range hotel in the Theater District is a perfect choice. The rooms are simple, modern, and relaxing.
For a New England urban luxury getaway, the W Boston checks all the boxes. Before retiring to the sleek rooms, sip a cocktail at the colorful W Lounge.
How to get to Boston
From Newport, it’s about an hour and a half to Boston via MA-24 N. To extend the journey, you can add in side trips to Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard, or Providence, RI.
Bar Harbor, Maine
Located on Mount Desert Island in Maine, Bar Harbor is the perfect bookend for an East Coast road trip. While best-known as the gateway to Acadia National Park, the coastal town has plenty of its own maritime charms.
Aim to spend at least two days in Bar Harbor. Although you can explore the adorable town quickly, you’ll want extra time to soak in the island’s forests, mountains, and coastlines.
What to see & do in Bar Harbor
Acadia National Park
Taking up much of Mount Desert Island, Acadia National Park is one of America’s finest slices of nature. The 47,000-acre national park is one of the USA’s most visited, attracting 3.5 million visitors annually. Its rugged Atlantic landscape span rock shorelines to woodlands to mountains.
Acadia National Park is famed for its 45 miles of shaded carriage roads. No matter which season you visit, you can experience the best of the park with a hike, bike, or ski along its wide paths. You’ll also find 120 miles of hiking trails venturing into its forests and peaks.
Only got time to squeeze in one Acadia National Park attraction? Head up to the summit of Cadillac Mountain. Accessible by car, the 1,530-foot peak is the highest point on the North Atlantic and one of the top Bar Harbor tourist attractions.
Follow the 3.5-mile Cadillac Summit Road. On the way to the peak, you can stop at several incredible viewpoints. When you reach the summit, you’ll swoon over the dramatic 360-degree views over islands, forests, and granite peaks.
(In high season, you’ll need to make vehicle reservations here to drive the road.)
Park Loop Road
To enjoy the park’s finest scenery in one fell swoop, drive along Park Loop Road. Starting and ending near Bar Harbor, the ring road showcases Acadia National Park’s natural beauty at its finest.
On your Park Loop Road drive, keep on the lookout for Sand Beach. Wedged between the mountains and rocky coastline, it’s one of the most beautiful beaches near Bar Harbor.
While at Sand Beach, venture along its beautiful Ocean Path. The 1.5-mile coastal walking path drifts south towards Otter Cliff and Otter Point. On the way, you’ll spot the park’s famous Thunder Hole. When the conditions are just right, the waves crashing into the rock formation sound like thunder on the horizon.
Where to stay in Bar Harbor
For most travelers, the best place to stay in Bar Harbor is Downtown. Staying in the city center, you’ll be close to the town’s top restaurants, shops, and historic attractions. If you’re planning to spend most of your time outdoors, there are great options outside town, too.
Best Western Acadia Park Inn
Getting ready to explore Acadia? Start fresh by laying down your head at this budget-friendly hotel. After a day of hiking, cool off in the seasonal outdoor pool. The national park’s Hulls Cove Entrance is a 5-minute drive away.
The Inn on Mount Desert
Located in the heart of Bar Harbor, this mid-range inn is the perfect choice to dig into all the town’s best moments. The lovely harborfront, shops, and restaurants are 5 minutes away by foot.
Craving the ultimate Maine luxury escape? Splurge on this pet-friendly 4-star hotel. The accommodations are endearing and spacious. Pick a room with sea and mountain views for the ultimate end to your road trip.
How to get to Bar Harbor
Bar Harbor is 4.5 hours from Boston via I-95 N. To break up the journey, you can spend a night in Portland, Maine. Or detour north towards North Conway, New Hampshire, to check out the White Mountain National Forest.
More Northeast USA itinerary ideas
Shenandoah National Park, VA
Starting your trip from Tennessee or North Carolina? Sneak in a visit to Shenandoah National Park. Falling along the Blue Ridge Mountains, the national park is one of the most stunning in the United States. Best of all, it’s easily accessible, just 75 miles west of Washington, DC.
Shenandoah National Park offers visitors more than 500 miles of hiking trails. The network even includes a 101-mile stretch of the epic Appalachian Trail.
In spring, Shenandoah National Park bursts with wildflowers. During autumn, its trees unleash one of the nation’s most beautiful fall foliage.
For the perfect route into the park, approach from the Blue Ridge Parkway. The famed highway is one of the most scenic drives in the US.
Atlantic City, NJ
Need a dash of excitement between Philly and NYC? Detour to Atlantic City. Located on the Atlantic shores of New Jersey, the city is famed for its casinos and seafront boardwalk.
Once billed at the “Vegas of the East Coast,” Atlantic City is, unfortunately, not the draw it once was. Still, if you’re looking to ditch the usual tourist attractions for a night of gaming and live entertainment, it could be worth a second look.
Hudson Valley, NY
If you can squeeze in a few more days in New York State, venture northward to Hudson Valley. The region hugs the banks of the Hudson River between Westchester County and Albany. It’s a great place to escape the buzz of NYC for the state’s more idyllic moments.
On your Hudson Valley visit, you’ll roll past vineyards, orchards, and stunning historical mansions. Spend a couple days partaking in wine tastings and enjoy its delicious farm-to-table cuisine.
Lake Placid, NY
Visiting in winter? Venture into Upstate New York to hit the slopes at Lake Placid. Located in the Adirondack Mountains, Lake Placid is famed for its winter sports. The quaint town has even hosted the Winter Olympics twice in the 20th century!
Although located in New York, Lake Placid is a better addition to the itinerary after your stay in Boston. After soaking in Lake Placid’s sites, continue over Lake Champlain into nearby Vermont and New Hampshire. In the two western New England states, you can explore more of the Northeast’s fine wilderness.
Finger Lakes, NY
Want to trade in the city buzz for nature on your Northeast road trip? Skip NYC and find your bliss at Finger Lakes. The series of eleven north-south lakes stretches across much of the state’s western half. The relaxing region is a favorite escape for city dwellers from New York, Pennsylvania, and beyond.
The highlight of Finger Lakes is experiencing its sparkling waters. In summer, it’s a fantastic place to cool off and get active with water sports like kayaking, waterskiing, or swimming. Wine lovers will also love exploring the Finger Lakes’ top-notch wineries & vineyards.
Need a stretch between NYC and Newport? Spend an hour or two exploring Mystic, Connecticut. The small seaside town is a wonderful stop to soak in New England’s historic charms.
Maritime history buffs should focus their attention on the Mystic Seaport Museum. Established in 1932, it’s the largest maritime museum in the United States. The museum spans over 60 historic buildings and over a dozen vessels, dating a far back as the mid-19th century.
Visiting with kids in tow? The Mystic Aquarium is also worth a gander. The aquarium houses New England’s only beluga whales along with African penguins and a ray & shark touch pool.
Cape Cod, MA
Want to take your New England road trip to the sea? Squeeze in a scenic drive to Cape Cod. Jutting out of southeast Massachusetts like a fish hook, the peninsula is one of the state’s most famous getaways.
Cape Cod has a little of something for everyone. Look past the obvious tourist traps, and you’ll find quaint fishing villages, lovely beaches, and charming beach towns sitting among the best places to visit in Cape Cod.
If you’ve got time, extend your holiday to the beautiful islands of Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket. The two popular island getaways are accessible by ferry from Cape Cod.
White Mountains, NH
Got more than two weeks in the Northeast USA? Extend your road trip route in New Hampshire with a foray into the White Mountains. Covering a quarter of the state, it’s New England’s favorite outdoor year-round.
The White Mountains are crisscrossed by over 1,200 miles of hiking trails, careening through forests and towering peaks. Much of the region has been protected by the 786,000-acre White Mountain National Forest for over a century.
For a romantic getaway, book a room at the Omni Mount Washington Resort in Bretton Woods. The resort is close to Mount Washington, the tallest mountain along the East Coast. You’ll also have easy access to Franconian Notch State Park and Crawford Notch State Park. The two parks are the top hiking destinations in the White Mountain National Forest.
Green Mountain National Forest, VT
Craving more outdoor adventure? Swoop east to Vermont’s Green Mountain National Forest. The protected area covers about 6.5% of Vermont. The national forest is home to many of the state’s best hiking trails, drifting past forested peaks, waterfalls, and cliffs.
On your Vermont visit, drive up Scenic Route 100 Byway. Running along the Green Mountains, the 146-mile Scenic Route 100 is often considered one of the most beautiful drives in New England.
To see the Scenic Route 100 Byway at its best, visit in autumn. You’ll love snapping photos of its fall foliage bursting into a cavalcade of colors.
When to visit the Northeastern United States
The best time to visit the Northeastern United States for road tripping is between June and August. The summer months bring the Northeast’s best weather conditions. You’ll enjoy plenty of sunny, blue skies and warm temperatures.
The summer, however, is also the busiest time of the year in the region. You’ll need to jostle for elbow room at top tourist attractions. Accommodation prices are also at their highest in the summer.
An alternative is to visit in the fall. During the autumn months, much of the Northeast bursts into an array of brilliant fall colors. To see the colors at their brightest, visit the northern states of Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine in the fall.
If you don’t mind the cold, the winter is a fine time to visit the region—even if not ideal for road tripping. New York, New Hampshire, and Vermont are all home to excellent ski resorts. They attract skiers and snowboarders from across the United States, Canada, and around the world.