So, you didn’t book a cruise or a week at Disney for spring break.
Don’t worry, that doesn’t mean you can’t go anywhere. In fact, everything you need for a fun family getaway is within driving distance, starting with the City of Brotherly Love.
Life, Liberty And The Pursuit Of Cheesesteak
Depending on the day and traffic, Philadelphia is roughly a five-hour road trip from Hartford.
If you prefer not to drive, Amtrak offers train service to Philadelphia from Hartford, New Haven, and New London, with prices starting at around $50 per person, one way.
While it’s often associated with the Liberty Bell and the Declaration of Independence, there’s a lot more to see and do in Philly (www.visitphilly.com) than just visiting historic sites, though you’ll probably do some of that too.
Film buffs are required to make a pilgrimage to the Philadelphia Museum of Art (www.philamuseum.org) in order to jog the steps immortalized in the 1976 movie, “Rocky.”
Jumping up and down in slow motion is customary upon reaching the top (“Gonna fly now, flyin’ high now”), along with taking a few selfies with the bronze Rocky statue at the base.
Beginning April 13, Marvel fans will want to pack their capes and visit The Franklin Institute (www.fi.edu) as it kicks off the “Marvel: Universe of Super Heroes” exhibit.
Debuting on the East Coast for the first time, the immersive exhibition features more than 300 artifacts, including costumes worn by Chadwick Boseman in “Black Panther,” Chris Evans in “Captain America,” and Chris Hemsworth in “Thor: The Dark World.”
In its heyday, the Eastern State Penitentiary (www.easternstate.org) was one of the most famous and expensive prisons in the world. Long since closed, it now serves as a fascinating tourist attraction.
Once home to notorious criminals like Al Capone and “Slick Willie” Sutton, the decaying site is worth the trip.
Thoroughly creepy, it’s considered to be one of the most haunted places in the world, making it a must-do for paranormal enthusiasts and a good one to skip if you have kids under 7.
You’ll likely have better luck with the little ones at Sesame Place (www.sesameplace.com/philadelphia).
Located about an hour out of Philly in the borough of Langhorne, the theme park doesn’t officially open until May, but hosts “Elmo’s Eggstravaganza,” an Easter-themed celebration on select dates beginning April 6.
The event offers photos with the Easter Bunny, egg hunts, park rides and appearances by beloved Sesame Street characters.
Finally, no visit to Philly is complete without, yep, a cheesesteak, and among locals, the best place to get one is a topic of great debate, to say the least.
A few of the notable favorites are Sonny’s Famous Steaks (sonnyscheesesteaks.com), Cosmi’s Deli (https://cosmisdeli.com), Campo’s Deli (www.camposdeli.com), Geno’s Steaks (www.genosteaks.com), Dalessandro’s (www.dalessandros.com), and John’s Roast Pork (www.johnsroastpork.com).
Only in New York
What’s there to do in New York that you haven’t already done? Maybe more than you think.
There’s something for everyone at Modern Pinball NYC (www.modernpinballnyc.com), a family-friendly arcade located in Kips Bay Manhattan that celebrates the game of pinball.
Among the 33 themed game tables are gems like The Beatles, Addams Family, Guardians of the Galaxy (Groot!), Star Wars, Kiss (complete with a Gene Simmons head inside) and Shrek.
Two multi-arcade games boast more than 250 video games to choose from, including classics like Pac-Man and Frogger.
Don’t bother bringing your coin purse. Instead guests purchase admission wristbands, allowing access to all games and the flexibility to leave and come back. Prices range from $14.20 for one hour of unlimited play to $23.96 for no time limit.
Fuggetabout the tropics… all you need to feel like you’re on vacation is a ticket to the New York Botanical Garden’s Orchid Show (www.nybg.org/event/the-orchid-show).
Running through April 28, the annual event features thousands of orchids, in all shapes and sizes, displayed in NYBG’s lovely Enid A. Haupt Conservatory.
This year’s theme is “Singapore.” Inspired by the Asian country’s incredible horticulture, the event will feature Supertrees, a Singapore signature attraction, along with countless varieties of orchids including dancing lady, rainbow, cane, and other exotic species.
The American Museum of Natural History is always a perennial favorite, and even more so this year with the spring opening of its new exhibition, “T. rex: The Ultimate Predator” (www.amnh.org).
The exhibit explores the evolution of the Tyrannosaurus rex and its varies species through life-sized recreations of the dinosaurs, fossils, video projections and interactive experiences.
Other super-cool things to do at the Museum of Natural History include taking an odyssey through deep space at the Hayden Planetarium’s space show, “Dark Universe,” and exploring the alien world that lies beneath the sea in the “Unseen Oceans” exhibit.
Arriving in SoHo last summer, the Color Factory (www.colorfactory.co) is a totally enjoyable installation featuring 20,000 square feet of playful, colorful experiences that range from a yummy macaroon conveyer belt (yes, everyone gets one) to a giant, blue ball pit.
Originating in San Fran, it’s an absolute must-do. Teens, tweens and older kids will undoubtedly love the endless photo ops for social media, but the immersive exhibits appeal to all ages and make for dazzling eye candy.
As one of the oldest cities in the U.S., Boston offers plenty of historical experiences and sites to visit. But since spring break is all about taking a breather from school, consider a trip to Beantown to enjoy its many other attractions, like the foodie scene.
Famous for its Italian cuisine and Old World feel, Boston’s North End is a fun collection of restaurants and bakeries, including Mike’s Pastry (www.mikespastry.com) which takes baked goods to a celestial level.
Serving up lobster tail pastries and its infamous cannoli’s, the 73-year-old bakery is a Boston institution.
Locals and tourists alike flock to Mike’s Hanover Street location to fill up one of their signature white boxes (tied with blue string) with mouthwatering treats.
Pizza is also plentiful in the North End. With so many places to choose from it’s probably best to just book a tour. Boston Pizza Tours (www.bostonpizzatours.com) takes guests on a two-and-a-half hour eating tour through Boston’s North End (and along the Freedom Trail, so, bam, history anyway), or you can cut to the chase and go directly to Regina Pizzeria (www.pizzeriaregina.com).
Nearly 100 years old, the original pizzeria (at 11 ½ Thacher Street) is everything pizza should be. The end.
Since everyone else already knows this, go early and expect to wait in line.
For a hipster, eclectic breakfast/brunch that’s fun for kids and adults (martinis with pop rocks, anyone?), The Friendly Toast (www.thefriendlytoast.com) is the place to go in town. The food measures up to the hype, and like anything else good, you’ll wait in line here, too.
Finally, because ice cream rules, visit Emack & Bolio’s (www.emackandbolios.com), an ice cream joint with rock-n-roll roots, for creations that go way beyond indulgent. Boasting flavors like Toasted S’Moreo, “Deep Purple” Chip and Chunk O’ Funk, it’s good ice cream along with being good fun.
Beyond its many culinary delights, Boston offers plenty of family-friendly options, including the Boston Children’s Museum (www.bostonchildrensmuseum.org).
Exhibits include a hands-on art studio, Arthur and Friends (based on the Marc Brown books), interactive bubble-making and a construction zone, along with a new exhibit exploring the world of comics (through May 4).
Boston’s Museum of Science (www.mos.org) is another fam favorite, and just in time for spring break the museum offers a hands-on exhibit focused on superheroes of a different sort.
“Nature’s Superheroes: Life at the Limits” uses larger-than-life models, videos and interactive exhibits to explore the extraordinary talents and abilities of earth’s creatures, including plants and animals.
Also new at the museum is “Wild Kratts: Ocean Adventure!” a new exhibit designed for young kids. Based on the popular PBS series, “Wild Kratts,” it explores ocean habitats and the creatures who live in them. There’s also a special “tot spot,” a space designated just for kids 3 and under.