School’s out and summer Fridays are in effect. Time to cut loose from city life and make your weekends count. In celebration, we’ve rounded up a few of our favorite destinations that are an easy drive from your city. Find out where to stay, favorite kid-friendly eats and what to see and do.
New York City escapes the sweaty summer streets by decamping en masse to the Hamptons.
Stay: East Hampton’s c/o The Maidstone, where celebrity appearances are the norm, is supremely family-friendly, from a library stocked with children’s books to a kids’ menu in their hip Living Room restaurant plus rooms and cottages spacious enough for extra cots or cribs. The Swedish-owned hotel, walking distance to East Hampton’s shops and restaurants, also has vintage Kronan bikes outfitted with child seats for cruising the area.
Eat: Ruschmeyer’s may have a party scene reputation, but its excellent restaurant, run by the team behind NYC’s The Smile, is great, and there’s ample outdoor seating beside a big lawn where kids can run. Come on the early side and make a reservation - things get crowded as Montauk’s young and cool file in during the later hours.
Do: Bring the sunscreen - the Hamptons are all about watersports. East Hampton’s wide Main Beach might be one of the country’s best, but there are also calm bayside waters and ponds perfect for paddle boarding or kayaking. Surfers head to Montauk. For those who would rather sail, charter a boat for the day and stop for lunch at Shelter Island’s chic but family-friendly Sunset Beach.
Martha’s Vineyard may have the presidential stamp of approval, but its easy-going ways aren’t limited to rulers of the free world.
Stay: Edgartown’s Harbor View Hotel has all the amenities of a resort - beach access, a pool, a summer kids’ program - but sits five minutes walking from the town’s cute eateries and boutiques. For those who want to minimize driving, the location is ideal, while the cute cottages provide plenty of space for tikes.
Eat: Although Vineyard Haven’s Grace Church is widely considered to have the best lobster rolls on island (they sell them Friday evenings in the summer), we love Larsen’s in Chilmark. This tiny market buys from fisherman that dock at the back door and sell to residents who queue up front for the freshest catch as well as chowder, sandwiches and boiled lobster. BYOB and eat alfresco on the picnic tables outside the store. Tip: the adjacent beach is calm and safe for young children.
Do: Martha’s vineyard is crisscrossed by well-maintained bike tracks. The best ride for families is between Edgartown and Vineyard Haven, a mostly flat and paved path that cruises along the coast by the historic jewel box homes of Oak Bluffs and pretty beaches. (Serious bikers should spend a more challenging day up-island sans kids.) Most bike rental business have children’s seats or trailers as well as pint-sized helmets. Martha’s Bike Rental in Vineyard Haven and Edgartown Bicycles do a great job.
Maryland’s Eastern Shore has all the trappings of a classic American summer retreat: crab cakes, farmer’s markets, historic towns and sail boats drifting across the Chesapeake Bay.
Stay: The Inn at Perry Cabin by Belmond served as backdrop for The Wedding Crashers’ hijinks, but the real-life clientele look less like Vince Vaughn and more like preppy Beltway families. A bike’s ride away from downtown St. Michael’s, the resort’s rooms feature traditional decor - think antique four-poster beds, floral wall prints and overstuffed arm chairs - and a variety of layouts that work well for families. We love the duplex suites as well as the garden rooms, which give direct access to the grounds (good for early risers).
Eat: The Inn’s upscale restaurant is ideal for a grown-up night, but with the kids, head into town and book a table at Ava’s Pizzeria. This gourmet pizzeria and wine bar has more interesting dishes (and bottles) to please the parents as well as plain-jane pies for less evolved palettes. The garden patio is perfect on a warm evening.
Do: The Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum occupies eighteen waterfront acres, enough space to house nine buildings, a fleet of eighty historic boats and the 1879 Hooper Straight Lighthouse. Kids will love the hands-on approach to learning about the area’s seafaring history.
Wisconsin’s land of lakes offers Chicagoans a respite from summer heat.
Stay: Built in 1918 to house Kohler employees, the American Club is now one of the state’s most posh resorts, with a five-star rating, two championship golf courses and a destination spa. Kids activities range from junior golf and tennis programs to nature hikes, swimming, riding and boating.
Eat: The Horse & Plow, also part of Kohler, served as an employees’ taproom and now dishes up kid-friendly pub grub and American microbrews for the parents.
Do: Don’t leave the clubs at home. Dedicated golfers travel from around the country to hit the links on the lakefront Whistling Straits course, and kids perfecting their swing can accompany mom and dad.
Ninety miles north of LA, Santa Barbara boasts some of the nation’s wealthiest residents but is still a cool SoCal surf town at heart.
Stay: While it’s hard to pick a favorite among SB’s hotel collection, when we’re with our kids, we’re staying at the Four Seasons Biltmore. This oceanfront estate, built in the 1920s, blends historic Spanish Colonial architecture with fully modern rooms and family-friendly amenities like a kids’ club, kids’ menus and even Friday night “Dive In” movie nights, where kid-appropriate movies are screened by the pool. The sprawling grounds with plenty of space for serious games of tag plus the adjacent Coral Casino Beach Club aren’t so shabby either.
Eat: The late Julia Childs spawned a near riot when she named Santa Barbara’s casual La Super-Rica Taqueria as one of her favorite local haunts. Since then, the lines remain but what keeps regulars returning isn’t the reputation but rather the homemade corn tortillas, roasted chiles and rich tamales. Aim for an early meal to avoid a long wait.
Do: Don’t miss an afternoon at the Ty Warner Sea Center, the eponymous interactive museum on Stearns Wharf funded by Beanie Babies founder (and Biltmore owner) Ty Warner. Coolest exhibit award goes to the 1,500-gallon tank with a crawl-through tunnel for kids and the shark-petting touch pool.
The rest of the country flees cities to escape the heat. San Franciscans run to the warmth of Napa when a frustrating summer chill and fog sets in.
Stay: Formerly a romantic couples’ enclave, Calistoga Ranch has cozied up to families with fun kid-focused activities. The new family pool opened last fall giving children a place to canonball (but still with vineyard views for parents), and the kitchen even packs on-the-go meals in vintage metal superhero lunch boxes. Also new is the egg collecting, where families tour the chicken coop and bring fresh eggs to the kitchen, then made for breakfast. Most farms aren’t this glam, but then again, this is Napa.
Eat: It’s not very often that a Michelin-starred restaurant offers a kids’ menu, but Solbar does, and it’s great. Reserve on the leafy outdoor terrace next to the bocce ball courts - perfect for distracting younger diners while parents linger over a good wine.
Do: Wine tasting and kids don’t seem like an ideal combination, but Calistoga’s Sterling Vineyards keeps it fun for all ages. Accessed via an aerial tram, this hilltop winery gives children coloring books and grape juice “tastings,” plus self-guided tour includes loads of interactive exhibits to keep kids entertained.