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East Coast Vacations: Megacities, Breathtaking Nature, and New England Charm

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Road Trips on the US East Coast: Travel Planning

You can decide for yourself whether you want to plan out your east coast road trip with your own with a rental car or camper or join an organized bus tour. You don't have to worry about hotels and transport as everything is organized in advance. The other side of the coin is, of course, that you are tied to a fixed program. If you are planning your road trip with your own rental car or mobile home, you can design the route as you wish.

The Schedule for Your Road Trip on the East Coast

First of all: Don't underestimate the distances in the USA! Interstate Highway 95, which runs from the Canadian border in the north to Miami in southern Florida, is a near 2,000 miles. If you want to travel the entire east coast, you should bring at least two months with you. It is better if you focus on a specific region during your road trip. A single state alone offers only enough sights to stay there for at least two to three weeks.

Means of Transport for Your East Coast Road Trip

East Coast Road Trip By Train

In the north-east, in particular, there is a very well developed railway network with long-distance and regional trains. You can easily organize a stress-free trip by train and travel with Amtrak's Acela Express from Boston via New York City and Philadelphia to Washington D.C.. The USA Rail Pass from Amtrak is particularly practical and is valid for either 15 days (eight trips) or 30 days (twelve trips). Amtrak's offerings are complemented by regional railroads such as the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) and metropolitan subways. The Greyhound long-distance buses, which also connect smaller cities, are cheaper, but you have to be prepared for long journeys.

Rental car or mobile home?

However, as soon as you want to explore smaller towns, rural areas and the coasts, you are better off with your own rental car or motorhome. The highways are lined with cheap motels where you can always find a roof over your head for the night. Only at the most popular New England beach resorts should you book in advance in the summer. A trip across the east coast with your own mobile home is also easy to organize, because there are campsites with electricity and sanitary facilities everywhere.

If you prefer to leave the organizing to others, you can choose from a wide range of bus tours. From a short six-day trip through New England to a three-week trip from New York to Miami, everything is included.

No matter what you decide: the east coast with its varied landscapes and exciting metropolises will inspire you.

The Highlights of a Road Trip on the East Coast of the USA

Do you want to see historically important sites, immerse yourself in the hustle and bustle of the big metropolis, or rather enjoy the solitude of nature? Are you drawn to the cooler north or the hot south? Some recommended destinations for road trips:

  • The classic New England states of Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine

  • New York City and the state of the same name with the Hudson Valley up to the Canadian border at Lake Ontario and Niagara Falls

  • The historic metropolises of Boston, New York, Philadelphia, and Washington DC as a city trip

  • The "Historic Triangle" region of Virginia south of Washington DC

  • A touch of old southern romance with South Carolina with Savannah and Charleston

  • The east coast of Florida with its beaches and tourist attractions

If you can only travel at a certain time of year, you should also think about the weather conditions: In winter, New England is regularly hit by heavy snowstorms (blizzards), which make smaller roads impassable and cause power outages. From early summer to fall is hurricane season in the Caribbean, which can also affect Florida. Even without a hurricane, the weather is often very hot and humid and not comfortable for everyone.

Suggested Itineraries for a Road Trip in the Eastern United States

Here are some examples of a road trip on the east coast, which you should plan about three weeks for each:

New England with New York and Niagara Falls

This road trip begins in the big city of New York, for which you should allow at least three days. Enjoy the view from the Empire State Building, drive out to the Statue of Liberty, and be amazed by the collections of the Metropolitan Museum in Central Park. In the evening, treat yourself to a musical on legendary Broadway.

From the hustle and bustle of the metropolis, you head northwest through the state of New York to the world-famous Niagara Falls. Plan a full day for the trip. If you like, you can also visit Toronto in Canada from Niagara Falls. You then head east again towards Vermont. The small federal state is one of the most scenic states on the east coast and is reminiscent of Scandinavia with its forests and lakes. In fall, the Indian summer is at its most magnificent here, in summer the lakes invite you to swim, and in winter there are excellent ski areas. A detour to the Ben & Jerry's ice cream factory in Waterbury is truly worthwhile if you are traveling with children. Here you can try to your heart's content!

From the tranquility of Vermont, continue to Massachusetts. In Boston, you can walk the "Freedom Trail" in the footsteps of the rebels who started America's independence with the Boston Tea Party at the end of the 18th century.

In Plymouth, a replica settlement commemorates the first emigrants who landed here on the Mayflower in 1620. Finally, enjoy some beautiful days on the beaches of the Cape Cod peninsula and check out the celebrity island of Martha's Vineyard before heading back to New York.

Our pirate tip: avoid the heavy traffic on the highway between Boston and New York by taking the ferry to Long Island from New London. First, visit the famous Montauk lighthouse and then take a leisurely drive across the beautiful island to JFK Airport.

Philadelphia, Washington DC, and the Historic Triangle

This tour of the US East Coast begins in Philadelphia, the cradle of the US. The city on the Delaware River was the capital of the young country from 1790 to 1800 and was the second-largest English-speaking city in the world after London at the time. In Independence National Historical Park, the most important buildings of that time are summarized. The Declaration of Independence was signed in Independence Hall on July 4, 1776, before the Liberty Bell rang on July 8.

In 1800, the US government moved from Philadelphia to Washington, which was artificially created further south and named after the first US president. The city planned on the drawing board will inspire you today with its unique architecture with the Capitol, the White House, and the numerous monuments along the 3 miles-long National Mall. A detour to historic Alexandria, just south of downtown, is worth it!

Our pirate tip: The National Mall is lined with the famous museums of the Smithsonian Institute. These are definitely worth a visit, entry is free. Check out the National Air and Space Museum, the Museum of American History, or the Museum of Natural History.

If you are interested in the US Civil War in the 19th century, you can easily reach some of the era's most famous sites, such as the battlefields of Manassas and Fredricksburg & Spotsylvania or the town of Appomattox, where General Lee finally signed the surrender of the South.

The three towns of Jamestown, Williamsburg, and Yorktown in Virginia, where this tour ends, are called the Historic Triangle. One of the first European settlements was built in Jamestown in 1607, a replica of which can be viewed today. The last battle of the Revolutionary War took place in Yorktown, which is commemorated by a museum worth seeing, and Williamsburg was the capital of the young country for a short time. Entertainment is also provided: The Busch Gardens amusement park and the Water County water park in Williamsburg are just two of the many options for a relaxing vacation day.

Go on a Beach Vacation on the East Coast

The entire US East Coast is lined with famous seaside resorts. In the south, the bathing season is all year round, while in the north you have to limit yourself to summer. You have the choice between famous beach towns with perfect tourist infrastructure and secluded beaches where you will not meet a soul. Recommended bathing spots from north to south:

  • Cape Cod: Endless sandy beaches await you south of Boston, for example in Chatham, Brewster or Hyannis. If you bring the necessary change with you, you can stay next to political and Hollywood stars on the celebrity island of Martha's Vineyard.

  • Coney Island: New York's famous city beach is not for a longer beach vacation, but perfect if you simply want to end your round trip with a day or two of relaxation by the sea in the immediate vicinity of the subway. The beaches on the south side of Long Island, such as those at Robert Moses State Park, are quieter.

  • Atlantic City: Formerly the "Las Vegas of the East Coast," it still basks on long-gone glory, but is better suited for a day visit. More interesting for music lovers is Asbury Park, where many US stars like Bruce Springsteen once began their careers and founded the Jersey Shore Sound.

  • Virginia Beach: You can complete your trip to the historic triangle of Virginia with a few days in the well-kept seaside resort of Virginia Beach. Endless sandy beaches, shopping, amusement parks, and the tranquility of the Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge await here.

  • Myrtle Beach: In South Carolina, you will find an incredible 37 miles of uninterrupted sandy beach, "The Grand Strand". In the center, the seaside resort of Myrtle Beach offers everything a tourist's heart desires, including huge shopping malls, several amusement parks, and a wide range of water sports.

  • Located between Savannah and Charleston, Hilton Head Island is known for its pristine beaches and cultural events. A good choice if you are looking for tranquility rather than hustle and bustle.