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Are you planning a New England road trip with kids and wondering what stops to make? The Northeast United States is one of the best family road trip destinations because the states are close together and you can cover a lot of ground in not a lot of time. Read on for the ultimate New England road trip itinerary with kids and plan your next trip to the Northeast. Here are the best places to visit in New England with kids.
Where should I start my New England road trip?
That’s totally up to you! We ended up flying into Manchester, NH and flew home from Providence, RI. There are many different possibilities and we chose based on cheapest airfare from our home airport as well as the cheapest car rental. Since one way car rentals are usually more expensive, we checked several cities to see which would be the best option.
We used hotel points and free night certificates for every single hotel we stayed in on this trip, making our accommodations completely free. If you aren’t playing the points and miles game, you are missing out on lots of free travel! This was peak travel time in this area, and many hotels were in the $300+ per night rate, which we would not be willing to pay. For hotels, we use the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless card from Chase, the World of Hyatt Chase card, and the IGH Rewards Club Premier from Chase. Our airfare was also free using points and companion pass on Southwest Airlines. We use the Southwest Airlines Chase card, which helps us earn lots of free flights. The only thing we paid for was the car rental. To rack up UR points, we use the Chase Freedom card.
How long does a New England road trip take?
Again, this is entirely up to you. You can spend a week or three weeks exploring the region. We had one full week and felt that was enough to see the places we wanted to see.
Best time to visit the New England region
While summer months are very popular since most kids are off from school and able to travel, the best time to visit New England is in the fall. The temperatures are cooler and fall foliage is in full swing, making it a great time for a New England road trip. It gets very cold in the New England states in the winter months and many places are open seasonally, so I personally wouldn’t recommend visiting in the winter.
We visited in July and the temperatures in Maine were in the low 70s. It was hotter in the other regions however nowhere near as hot as our Florida summer!
New England Road Trip Itinerary
- Day 1: We flew into Manchester, NH (MHT) and drove to Scarborough, ME (1.5 hours). After lunch, we drove to Augusta, ME (1 hour) where we spent our first night.
- Day 2-3: Drive from Augusta to Ellsworth, ME (1.5 hours). We had plans to visit Acadia National Park so our home base was Ellsworth for 2 nights.
- Day 4: Drive to Portsmouth, NH (30 minutes) for the next night.
- Day 5: Drive to Cape Cod for one night. (2 hours, 15 mins)
- Day 6: Drive to Rhode Island for one night. (1.5 hours)
- Day 7: Drive to CT, day trip to Mystic. (1 hour)
Our first stop on our New England road trip was Scarborough, ME for some lunch. We went to a little seafood shack called Scarborough Lobster and had a lobster roll, some lobsters and mussels. The lobster roll wasn’t good at all to be honest, so I would skip that. We did like the lobsters and mussels though.
After, we drove a bit down the road to an awesome ice cream place called The Dairy Corner. Don’t miss this place, it’s some of the best ice cream we have ever had!
After we ate, we drove to Augusta, to get closer to our desired destination in ME, Acadia National Park. We spend our first night here before heading up North. We stayed at the Fairfield Inn and Suites Augusta, which was conveniently located right off the highway. It’s a great family friendly hotel in Augusta.
Our second stop was Ellsworth, ME which is close to Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park. We based ourselves here for Acadia and Bar Harbor.
What to do in Ellsworth with kids: Ellsworth is a cute town, with a small town feel. They have a cute downtown, a playground and great family friendly restaurants.
Where to stay in Ellsworth with kids: There are several family friendly hotels in Ellsworth, we chose to stay at the Hampton Inn Ellsworth. It’s about 25 minutes from Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park, making it one of the best family friendly hotels near Acadia National Park.
Where to eat with kids in Ellsworth: We love seafood, so of course we headed to a lobster shack yet again! The Union River Lobster Pot is a cute little restaurants, where you can sit outdoors on picnic tables and your kids can play while waiting for the meal. We opted to sit inside since we were tired from being out all day, but lots of families took advantage of the outdoor seating. They have great seafood here and be sure to try the blueberry pie!
Of course, no dinner is complete without dessert so we headed down the street to Mortons Moo ice cream for some really good homemade ice cream. The downtown Ellsworth area is super cute to explore as well. It’s only 2 blocks, but there are some really cute shops including a 3 level antique store that our daughter was fascinated with!
If your kids need to burn some energy in Ellsworth, one of the best playgrounds in Ellsworth is Knowlton Park, not too far from the downtown area. They have a splash pad as well, so if you are coming in the summer months, you might want to bring a change of clothes.
Our main reason for staying in Ellsworth was to visit Acadia National Park. I have an entire post on what to do in Acadia National Park with kids, so be sure to check it out! This was National Park number 27 for our 10 year old and definitely in the top 5!
On the same day as Acadia, we explored downtown Bar Harbor, which is one of the cutest little cities we visited on this trip. Bar Harbor is one of the best cities to visit with kids in Maine. There are lots of cute shops, restaurants and parks in the area. Be sure to try some Popovers at one of the bakeries!
After visiting the Bar Harbor area, we drove south to Portsmouth, NH. It’s a super cute little town and definitely worth a stop!
What to do with kids in Portsmouth: If the weather is rainy or cold, head to the Children’s Museum of NH. There is also an outdoor local history museum called the Strawbery Banke Museum. Your kids can see and learn all about what life was like hundreds of years ago. And the Seacoast Science Center is a short drive from downtown.
Our favorite thing to do in Portsmouth with kids was to walk around the downtown. There are so many cute, locally owned shops and restaurants. We love supporting small business and certainly did on this trip! We found an amazing board game store called Diversions Puzzles & Games (we have over 100 board games at home!) and you can even play the games downstairs in their game room. An independent book store, where Milana picked her next book and lots of other cute shops.
Where to stay in Portsmouth with kids: There are many family friendly hotels in Portsmouth. We chose to stay at the Sheraton Portsmouth Harborside Hotel, which was steps to the downtown area so you don’t even need to use your car once you are here. We had a club level room due to my status, with unlimited snacks and drinks in the lounge throughout the day. It was a great clean, hotel in a great location and one of the best hotels for families in Portsmouth.
Where to eat in Portsmouth with kids: There are lots of restaurants in downtown Portsmouth, so the possibilities are endless! We’ve had enough seafood at this point of our trip, so we went to a place called The Goat for some burgers and poutine. They were great and we would eat here again!
Our next stop on our New England road trip itinerary was Cape Cod. We wanted to stop in MA but not in a busy city like Boston so we decided to come to the Cape instead.
What to do with kids in Cape Cod: There is so much to do in this area! There are many cute towns with charming downtowns. Since we only had one night here, we visited downtown Chatham and Hyannis as well as the Chatham lighthouse and beach area.
Don’t forget to go to Kandy Korner where you can get a bag of penny candy. This is candy that most adults will remember buying when they were kids and your kids can now enjoy them! Spoiler alert: They are nowhere near a penny now! The bags will cost you $7.99, $12.99 or $17.99, depending on size.
Where to stay in Cape Cod with kids: Since we used points for our stay, we chose the Courtyard Marriott Hyannis. It was just 5 minutes to downtown and centrally located to both sides of the cape.
Where to eat in Cape Cod with kids: There are so many restaurants, it’s hard to recommend a place! It all depends on what you want to eat. We really didn’t want more seafood, so we went to Dragon Lite for Chinese food in downtown. We loved our dishes and it was a nice change from seafood.
For breakfast, head to The Daily Paper in downtown Hyannis. The food is great and it’s a very family friendly restaurant.
Don’t forget about dessert! There are several ice cream places in Hyannis but our favorite was Katie’s. They had many homemade flavors that they make on site, including quite a bit of soft serve flavors. It’s the best ice cream shop in Cape Cod!
Our New England road trip itinerary continues with a stop in Rhode Island. We first stopped in Providence for a few hours followed by Newport, which was a very last minute addition to our trip.
What to do in Providence with kids: One of the best things to do in Providence with kids is visit the children’s museum. It’s located in downtown, with a free parking lot. If you have reciprocal membership, this museum will be free.
In downtown Providence, there is also a playground inside Burnside Park, called Brandon’s Beach. This is a great playground for older kids, since a lot of the equipment involves climbing. I will have to be honest though, this is a super sketchy area and I would have never in a million years walked into this park had it been one of our mom-daughter trips. It’s such a shame that such an awesome playground exists in such a bad area. There’s a reason we were the only family here!
Another fun thing to do in Providence with kids is to visit the Roger Williams Park Zoo. It’s a fairly small zoo, so you won’t need too much time and can easily fit it on your trip.
Where to eat in Providence with kids: We were here during lunch, so we stopped into the Ocean State Sandwich Company in downtown to have lunch. Milana loves sandwiches and chose the BLTTA which had bacon, lettuce, tomatoes, turkey and avocado. The owner was shocked that a child ordered this and said most kids order plain bread and just meat or cheese. We were shocked to hear that, since Milana has been eating what we eat since she was a toddler and never stopped!
After an afternoon in Providence, we headed to Newport for the night. This is one of the cutest downtowns and cities on our New England road trip itinerary and a must visit! I wouldn’t come here for the beaches but the town was super cute and we enjoyed just wandering around.
What to do in Newport with kids: One of the best things to do in Newport with kids is to explore the downtown area. There are lots of shops and restaurants and the entire area is just super cute.
We went to Easton’s Beach in the evening but honestly I wouldn’t recommend it. The water wasn’t clean and there was this weird foam all over the sand, probably the reason it was deserted on a hot July evening! They have something called red algae and the water was bright red. While it’s technically safe to swim in, we would never get into that water. But like I mentioned, this was a super last minute addition for us so we weren’t expecting to hang out on the beach anyway (or even be in Newport) and we live in FL so beaches aren’t a draw for us when we travel.
I know locals will say there are better beaches, so if you want to hang out on the beach, maybe research which are best though personally I would head to a different destination if beaches are a must on your itinerary!
I will also note that many people recommended touring the different mansions in Newport, however that did not interest us in the least bit so we skipped this activity. But if you are into guided tours and walking around mansions, then for sure do it!
Where to stay in Newport with kids: The Wyndham Inn on the Harbor is one of the best hotels for families in Newport. It’s in a great location with large suites that are perfect for families.
Where to eat in Newport with kids: One of the best places to eat with kids in Newport is the Brick Alley Pub & Restaurant. It’s a very family friendly restaurant in Newport, with a ton of food options. They are known for their nachos, so of course we had to try them, and the beef brisket ones were really good!
After dinner, we headed across the street for some dessert at Sandcastles Sundaes & Shakes. If you like crazy shakes and sundaes, this is the place for you! Kids can also order their ice cream in a tiny beach bucket. We shared the strawberry twinkie sundae and it was really good!
Our final stop on our New England road trip itinerary with kids was Connecticut. We wanted to visit Mystic for the day so we found a hotel not too far from the city.
What to do in Mystic with kids: One of the best things to do in Mystic with kids is to walk around the downtown area. It’s only a couple of blocks but super cute!
Another fun place to visit with kids is the Olde Mistick Village. This is a cute outdoor village that looks like something from the past, with lots of shops and restaurants. It’s located near the Mystic Aquarium, so if you are doing that, it’s great to combine the two.
If you’re familiar with Mystic, you know they are famous for their 100 year old drawbridge. The Mystic River Bascule Bridge goes up every hour, at 40 minutes after, so be sure to time it right so your kids can watch it! Walk across to the park across the street, you will have a much better view from there.
Where to stay near Mystic with kids: Because we were using Hyatt points for a free night, we stayed at the Hyatt Place Mohegan Sun. It was 25 minutes from Mystic in a quite area near the Mohegan Sun casino.
Where to eat in Mystic with kids: One of the most popular places to eat in Mystic is Mystic Pizza, however we were not in the pizza mood. Our entire family loves salads, so we went to Mystic Salad Company to pick up some salads to go to eat at the park next door. Milana and I shared this awesome kale/romaine salad with lots of yummy toppings. Their salads are all create your own, so everyone can get what they want.
If you like ice cream, there are 3 ice cream shops within a block of each other. We chose the Mystic Drawbridge ice cream shop and it was amazing! I had the wild Maine blueberry ice cream and it was my favorite of the entire trip. Milana ordered an Italian soda (they have so many flavor combinations!) and it was great as well.
Have you done a New England road trip with kids? We would love to hear what your favorite stops were in the comments below! Want to save this to read later? Pin one of the images below.