New England offers the best of all worlds. Certainly one of the most beautiful regions of the United States, it combines big-city life (in Boston) with rural beauty (just about everywhere else) and lovely beaches. It stretches out into six states (Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Vermont and Maine), but you can enjoy a decent cross-section via a leisurely road trip that takes in just two. Children will love the history of Boston and Salem, as well as the active antics available further north.
New England’s key city and the Massachusetts capital, Boston can often seem stuck in the late 18th century – when it played a pivotal part in the American Revolution. The 2.5-mile Freedom Trail pinpoints 16 key sites in the USA’s bid for independence and there are also plenty of ice-cream stops en route for your junior historians.
Alternatively, if your offspring are unexcited by the past, they may be drawn to Boston Children’s Museum (bostonchildrensmuseum.org; general entry $13), which is aimed at visitors aged up to 15. An art studio offers chances to be messily creative, a Construction Zone encourages brick-by-brick endeavors, and Healthyville helps under-12s to understand their bodies. KidStage, meanwhile, gives would-be thespians their opportunity to shine. Elsewhere, the New England Aquarium (neaq.org; adults $22; children, three to 11, $17) keeps things varied with soft nature in its butterfly garden and the rough-and-tumble of Science in the Park, where kids learn about balance and momentum yanking levers and running up ramps.
Where to stay: The Lenox Hotel offers boutique calm with a family flavor, via options such as bikes for rent. Family-sized rooms from $510.
Take the 107 out of the city and shadow the coastline north to Salem. This little dot on the Massachusetts map became notorious in 1692 thanks to the infamous witch trials which tore its colonial community apart. Three centuries on, it has embraced its dark history – standing as a town where it is effectively Halloween for the entire year. There are spooky thrills to be had at a number of ghoulish attractions. Salem Wax Museum (salemwaxmuseum.com; adults $6.50; children, six to 13, $5) is a chaotic cluster of frightful waxworks, while Count Orlok’s Nightmare Gallery (nightmaregallery.com; adults $6.50; children, six to 12, $5) descends into the horror-movie realm of vampires and monsters. It is all a little tacky, but perfectly enjoyable, especially if you are yet to enter your teenage years.
Where to stay: Salem Waterfront Hotel is an oasis amid the shrieks with a large swimming pool and family-sized rooms from $86.
Distance in the day: 15 miles
Pick up Interstate 95 on the west edge of town, and follow it north across the state line into New Hampshire. Pause in Portsmouth, a historic seaport and one of the most fascinating cities on the long New England oceanfront. Here you can entertain junior minds by taking a tour of a decommissioned naval submarine, the USS Albacore, which prowled beneath the waves in the dark days of the Cold War. Or for a brighter day, head to Water Country (watercountry.com; general entry $33) a pleasing enclave of slides, chutes, pools and splash-happy afternoons.
Where to stay: A luxury waterside property with indoor and outdoor pools, Wentworth By The Sea offers family-sized rooms from $325 per night.
Distance in the day: 55 miles
Take the 4 and the 202 west to Concord. The pretty state capital of New Hampshire offers a chance to gaze upwards in the form of the McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center (starhop.com; adults $8.50, children, three to 12, $6) which should draw youthful eyes to the stars in its planetarium and observatory. Replica rockets also bring space travel to life.
Where to stay: The Residence Inn is a comfortable spot for the night, with a big pool and complimentary breakfast. Family-sized rooms start at $230.
Distance in the day: 47 miles
You could feasibly drive straight through Concord on day six and head right into the arms of White Mountain National Forest. This vast expanse (some 1,225 square miles) is the prime natural attraction in New Hampshire and is ideal for hiking, biking and lungfuls of fresh air. It also shelters the tallest mountain in the northeast of the US. Mount Washington pokes its head into the clouds at 6,288 ft. Somewhat quirkily, you can drive to the summit via a broad toll road (car and adult $24; additional adult $6.50; children, five to 12, $5) where you can peer across the roof of New England and, on clear days, see the Atlantic.
Where to stay: Deer Park Resort in Lincoln is an ideal base for a family staying in the forest. Set within 65 acres, it comes complete with an indoor pool and tennis courts and has two-bedroom studios starting at $176 per night.
Distance in the day: 58 miles
You can drive the I-93 all the way south to Boston. This should take two hours, depending on traffic. Or, if you did not stop on the way up, break the journey in Concord.
Distance in the day: 131 miles