Hey y’all! We just got back from an epic 10 day road trip from Pennsylvania to Delaware to New York City! I am still exhausted from all the fun, but had to share the details of this one!
As you probably already know, I really want to get my boys to all 50 states before they leave the nest. We’ve pretty much gone everywhere in driving distance from our home base in Texas, so Carrie and I decided to brave it and fly to the east for a road trip to knock out 4 states that we really didn’t want to drive to.
We found great airline prices so we booked a flight into Philadelphia, leaving out of New York. So listen, we first booked the cheapest flights we found on Spirit and Frontier Airlines and within 2-3 days of booking those, our flights started changing drastically. The flight into Philly was originally nonstop, but ended up changing with a layover and becoming a 15 hour travel day. We decided to cancel and got credits back for these flights and booked on American Airlines. The prices weren’t that different after the other airlines’ fees on seats and bags. Trust me, just stick with the major airlines when looking for flights!
Day 1: Scranton, PA
Our plan was to start off the trip in Wilmington, DE (30 min drive from Philadelphia). But when our flights started changing we made some adjustments and ended up adding an additional day. We got a super early flight into Philly and decided to head to Scranton for the day! I am a HUGE Office fan, so this was a no brainer for me when I realized that Scranton was only a 2 hour drive from the airport. So, we got our luggage, headed to the rental car place, and then to Scranton in the sweet minivan we rented for the week! If you are interested in how we spent the day, feel free to read my Scranton, PA blog!
Fun fact, we also got to see President Biden’s childhood home in Scranton along with all of the fun Office sites I had on the list.
Day 2: Gettysburg, PA
From Scranton, we decided to head another 2 hours to Gettysburg, PA for the night and spend the next day exploring all of the historical sites there. First off, I loved where we stayed outside of Gettysburg, called The Lodges at Gettysburg. We had the coziest cabin and the whole entire area of lodging was just perfect and serene. But, when I drove through the quaint downtown area of Gettysburg, I was really wishing that we could have stayed in the middle of town at the Inn at Lincoln Square or at one of the other hotel options in town. Either way you decide to go, there are perks for staying outside of town or smack dab in the middle! While many things were still closed because of Covid, we had a really amazing day in Gettysburg.
Here are some of our favorites from the day:
*Civil War Era Photo Shoot at the Victorian Photography Studio
*Lunch at the Dobbin House (it is supposed to be haunted)
*Touring the Jennie Wade House
*Seeing the Gettysburg Lincoln Railroad Station
*Hitting all the Abe Lincoln Sites in Town
*Driving through the battlefield
From here, we drove to Wilmington, DE (another 2 hour drive) to start our three day adventure in that state! One regret that I do have is that we didn’t stay in Gettysburg for longer than a day. If I had it to do it all over again, I would probably stay in Gettysburg for two nights and cut our visit in Delaware shorter by a day or so.
Day 3: Rehoboth, DE
Our third day started off rainy, so we slept in at our hotel in Wilmington. We stayed at the Hyatt Place Wilmington Riverfront and we really liked our accommodations. We had a nice view of the river and there were plenty of restaurant options along the river walk for dinner.
Once the rain slowed down, we decided to drive to Rehoboth Beach for the afternoon. We would have liked to have stayed in this town, but there were no accommodations available for the days that we would be there. The town is so cute and quaint and we just had a really good time grabbing lunch and exploring the board walk. Since it was rainy and cooler, we didn’t bring swimsuits for the beach, but there were great restrooms for changing right at the end of the boardwalk for anyone that just wants to spend the day there at the beach! The boardwalk has a great selection of restaurants and shops! We had lunch at Dogfish Head Brewing & Eats and we all enjoyed it. We also stopped in Lewes, DE for a quick photo op on the drive home. It is considered to be the first town in the first state once the U.S. was established.
Day 4: Historic New Castle
I absolutely loved this day exploring Historic New Castle. I have become a huge history buff, so I really enjoy visiting historic places. This is actually the landing place of William Penn where he first stepped foot on American soil in 1682. The town reminds me of Colonial Williamsburg, but New Castle really prides themselves on the difference that they did not re-create their colonial town like in Williamsburg, but they restored the actual buildings and homes that were originally there. The visitor’s center is open, so be sure to head there first to watch the 9 minute video that explains the town and points out key places to see on your visit.
Historic New Castle is right on the Delaware River, so we parked the van in a large, open lot right on the waterfront and chose to walk along the shore, through the park, and into the town. There was a hot dog vendor in the park and we ended up grabbing a quick lunch while walking through. The kids played and watched the large ship sail around before we headed into the downtown area. From here, we went to the visitor’s center and then made sure to see all the historic places from the video. I could not contain my excitement walking along the cobblestone streets and knowing that men like William Penn, George Washington, and Ben Franklin walked along the same street. I think you only need a full day here, the kids liked the feel of the old town, but really enjoyed the park and playground area!
Day 5: Philadelphia
Day Five consisted of us driving about 30 minutes from Delaware to Philly. We had to stay outside of the city, there were literally zero hotels available for 6 people when we booked this trip months ago. But, we actually liked where we stayed, at the Home2 Suites Ridley Park, and it was only about a 20 minute drive into Philly each day. The only bummer was that the pool was closed for construction, so the kids were sad. I was really nervous and not sure what to expect when it came to driving into the city and finding parking, but it was actually very easy! We always took exit 22 and turned left on Fourth Street and drove until we saw The Bourse Building. Right past that is a large parking garage, and we found ourselves parking there each day and eating at The Bourse food court, too. And to make it even better, the parking was right by Independence National Historic Park, which is where you want to be if you want to see Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell! Parking is about $25 per day, maybe there are cheaper options, but it was very convenient and easy for us moms without our husbands.
On our first day in Philadelphia we chose to do a double decker bus tour with Double Decker Bus Tours of Philadelphia. These buses left right outside of the Bourse Building, too! We wanted to check out the city and add sites to our list of places we wanted to explore more of later on. The bus tour was great and we had a front row seat on the top deck! I really enjoyed the bus tour, we found a fun fountain along the route and kids were swimming and playing in it, so we knew the kids would love it since the pool was closed at the hotel.
We also spotted Ben Franklin’s burial site, so we headed straight to see that once the bus tour was over. If you follow along on our travels, you probably know that we love all the creepy things, like historical ghost tours and visiting famous people’s graves. We are weird, I know! But, we got to see Ben’s grave and some others that helped write the Declaration of Independence! It was $9 for the kids and I to go in, but if you don’t want to pay, you can view the burial site from the fence. Everything is marked for you to easily find it.
And to end our night in Philly, we decided to go on a Ghost Tour of haunted historical places! We used Philadelphia Ghost Tours and had a wonderfully creepy experience and our guide was hands down the best I have ever had on a ghost tour. I even have a really cool photo of a ghost in a hat from a window – for real, check it out below!!!
Day 6: Philadelphia
This day was one of my all time favorite days on a vacation! We decided to go to the Betsy Ross House and then to one of the museums after we were done there. Sadly, this was on a Monday and the museums are only open on Thursdays-Sundays. So, please keep that in mind if you are planning a trip to Philadelphia in the near future. Anyway, we decided that we would make the very best of the day and we ended up having the most amazing time! We parked in the same parking garage and decided to pop on over to see the Liberty Bell before making our way to the Betsy Ross House. They only let about 17 people in at a time to see basically all the things in Philadelphia (due to Covid), so we did have to wait outside in a line for about 20 minutes or so BUT you do not need tickets to see the bell. While we were waiting in line, Independence Hall was having a Veteran’s ceremony, so we were able to watch a band play (it was similar to a colonial style band) and there were military vehicles everywhere blocking the road in front of Independence Hall. Once inside the Liberty Bell, we took turns admiring the bell and taking photos of the new friends we made in line!
When we left the Liberty Bell I happened to see several military men and told them, “Thank you for your service.” They were so gracious and allowed to kids to climb into their trucks! The kids absolutely loved this part of the day!
From here we walked over to The Betsy Ross House. We used the GPS on our phones and there are also several signs pointing you to the famous historic sites in the city, so again, maneuvering around town by car and by foot was surprisingly easy! I had no clue that we would enjoy the Betsy Ross House so much! Maybe it was because we accidentally decided to go on Flag Day of all days, but regardless, it was a wonderful, interactive experience for all of us. We started with a self-guided tour of the house. The sewing room reminded all of us of our Granny who is almost 89 and still sews to this day! Once we exited the house, employees were there passing out bags of M&Ms to the kids, which they loved. Then, we happened to see a man dressed in time-period clothing, so we chatted with him and learned that he was playing the part of Henry Box Brown, a slave that mailed himself to freedom from Virginia to Pennsylvania. Jett and Sadie were so excited because they had both read a book about him in school! There was also a lady playing the part of Betsy Ross, so we headed her way and sat down to enjoy her show. Well, this was the best part! It was completely interactive for the kids and they helped her on stage, all while learning about how she became the person to make our first flag and all of the other designs that were brainstormed before the first American flag came to be! It was so much fun and the lady that played the part was the sweetest and so good with kids! George Washington also made a brief visit haha!
Once we left the Betsy Ross House, we walked over to Elfreth’s Alley, which is the oldest residential street in Philadelphia. It was gorgeous, but nothing was open on Monday. Still, just walking along and taking it all in was fun. Be sure to check it out if you are in the area.
Finally, we were all hot and tired from exploring, so we went back to the car and drove over to the fountain that we had seen on the bus tour. We didn’t bring swimsuits, but because we are such cool moms, we let the kids play in the fountain as long as their little hearts desired! Once they were completely worn out, we went back to the hotel, I did some laundry because, 10 day road trip hello lol, and I think we ran over to the Cracker Barrel next door for dinner! It was a really great day of learning and exploring.
Day 7: Last Day in Philadelphia
Today was an exciting day, especially for me and my history loving heart! Y’all, we got to see the birthplace of America and where the Declaration of Independence was signed! You can visit these sites at Independence Hall. We did not pre-purchase timed entry tickets (there were none available), so we woke up early and headed to Philly. We got to Independence Hall around 8:15 a.m. and park rangers begin handing out FREE tickets around 8:30 a.m. You can purchase the timed entry tickets here. We were able to begin our self-guided tour of Independence Hall around 10 a.m., so we grabbed a quick breakfast first and then came back and began our tour. You are able to enter into two rooms on the bottom level and here you listen to park rangers explain the importance of the two rooms. The second room you enter is where the Declaration was signed! It was truly amazing. Once you leave Independence Hall, you go next door to Congress Hall to see where the first two presidential inaugurations occurred! Remember, at the time Washington DC was not finished being built. It all just smelled like the 1700s and I am not going to lie, I got a little emotional here. It’s still crazy to believe that I got to stand in buildings where our Founding Fathers worked and created our government.
Once we left there, we grabbed a quick lunch and then headed down the street to the Portrait Gallery in the Second Bank of the United States. This is a place filled with historical paintings, but it turned out to be so much more for us! We ran into our favorite park ranger, Jane, and she remembered us from our morning tour of Independence Hall. She ended up taking us on a behind the scene tour of the gallery and enthralled us all with her historical knowledge and amazing tales of things she’s seen that are not available to the public! I learned so, so much and consider our time with her so valuable. Be sure to check out the gallery if you are in the area and talk to the park rangers! They are there to answer questions and you might just make a new friend. I didn’t take any photos inside the gallery, I was too engaged, but I wish I would’ve gotten a picture with Jane. She was so special and I will never forget our time spent with her.
After the portrait gallery we decided to head over to the Ben Franklin Bridge! We drove across it into New Jersey, found a great parking spot, and then walked back to Pennsylvania on the walking trail on the bridge. It’s not a long walk and it makes for a fun story and a great place for photos! This is how we ended our time in Philadelphia, up next was our drive to New York City!
Day 8: The Drive to New York City
After leaving Philadelphia, we were on the last leg of our trip. I was really excited to get to New York, but nervous about the drive into the city at the same time! We had to get the minivan to the rental car place at La Guardia Airport, then our plan was to uber back to the our hotel and use public transportation for the remaining days. We didn’t have to get the rental back until that evening, so we were in no rush to get there. With that in mind, we decided to stop and see Washington Crossing Historic Park in Pennsylvania, right before crossing over into New Jersey. This is where George Washington crossed the Delaware River. I am so glad that we made the stop! It was a great break for the kids to get out and stretch their legs and run around. Plus, the area is really cute, with outdoor sites and a small indoor museum. Be sure to add this to your list if you are making the drive from Philly to NYC!
Once we left WCNHP, we headed into New Jersey. I follow a few travel groups on Facebook, so I was happy to see someone post about stopping in New Jersey at the Empty Sky 9/11 Memorial. It was a beautiful place and I would give anything to have traveled to NYC before that tragic day. I never got to see the Twin Towers in person. I can only imagine how “empty” the skyline is to every resident in both New York and New Jersey.
From here, we began our drive into the city and I am proud to say that I made it, without wrecking the van and I only flipped off one person! That’s terrible, I know but some random man was screaming and yelling at me for NO reason. I was never so glad to NOT have a car as I was in that city ha.
We had no issues getting back to our hotel, Hyatt Place New York Midtown/South. It was in a great location for us – The Empire State Building was outside of our window and it was only a few blocks to Times Square and Penn Station!
On our first night in New York, we decided to walk down to Times Square and show the kids this area. It was crazy because it felt like we had the city to ourselves! The kids loved the lights and sounds and I was happy that it wasn’t so crowded. After this, we called it a night to get some rest. Have I mentioned that I am exhausted yet?
Day 9: Statue of Liberty and 9/11 Memorial
Today was the day to visit The Statue of Liberty and the 9/11 Memorial. We started off the day at the Statue of Liberty. We took the ferry, it was a very quick and easy check in process, but you do have to go through airport style screening before you are allowed to get on the ferry. Click here to pre-purchase tickets. We rode on the top deck to get the best view of the statue! While we were really sad that the museum was closed and that you can’t climb the stairs into the crown, we were thrilled to get to see Lady Liberty up close! And we were able to grab lunch at the Crown Café right on site while we were there. The kids thought that it would be bigger, so they were surprised with the size. This was a fun excursion and a must see if you’re visiting NYC!
Since the ferry left from Battery Park, we decided to walk on over to the 9/11 Memorial while we were in the area. I think this was an emotional visit for all of us, the kids had a lot of questions and we answered them honestly. It was hard to think about that day and not get emotional. The kids really wanted to see the museum, but we felt like they were still a little too young for this one. Carrie and I both visited the museum together a few years ago, so we knew what was inside. I will definitely be taking them back when they are older, we must never forget that day or the victims. The memorial is very beautiful.
We rode the subway back to the hotel and just spent the rest of the day being typical tourists. We ventured by Radio City Music Hall, ate dinner in Times Square, danced with a street performer and had a really good night!
Day 10: Museum of Natural History, Central Park, & Top of the Rock
This was our last full day on the trip! We knew we wanted to visit a museum, so we picked the American Museum of Natural History because I really wanted to see the dinosaur fossils! We had a great time exploring the museum, there are several really cool exhibits, besides just dinosaurs. However, our time was cut shorter than I would like because our kids were starving and the food court in the museum has not yet re-opened. So, we left the museum after a few hours and grabbed a quick lunch at one of the food trucks parked right outside of the museum entrance.
We took our lunch to Central Park and had a quick picnic and then walked all around the park. There are some areas that really feel secluded and like you aren’t even in the city at all. The kids loved this part of the day, they are always up for running, climbing, and exploring. We grabbed ice cream once we left the park, walked by the Plaza Hotel, and then headed to the subway for some rest back at the hotel.
After we rested, we decided to go to Top of the Rock. This was a little more expensive than I like to pay, but I really wanted to see the views! The kids liked it and I got some good photos of us. It was so windy, I am not sure if it’s always like that or not. Even though it’s pricy, I think this is one place you should visit if you have the time. The views are stunning!
That wraps up the big activities on our 10 day road trip! Day 11 was our travel day back to Texas and all went well. Where should we go next?!