8 Romantic Weekend Getaways in the Mid-Atlantic Region

We have had many opportunities to visit towns throughout the mid-Atlantic region with our whole family. But, there are times when we’d love to get out on our own and have a romantic weekend getaway! These are the top places we have visited with or without kids (but we would love to get away to all of them as a couple if we get the chance!)

Hudson Valley, NY

The Hudson Valley is a beautifully scenic area to visit at any time, with lots of beautiful outdoor views, and plenty of romantic indoor attractions to warm up in. The Walkway Over the Hudson is a fun way to view the Hudson River. Minnewaska State Park is full of natural wonders. $10 per vehicle gives you access to the park. Awosting Falls are a short hike from the lower lot, perfect for a brisk winter walk. If you go to the visitor’s center you will find the jewel blue Lake Minnewaska just behind it. Springwood and the museum and library of FDR – grounds, mansion, library, stable and museum are all worth visiting. Visit the nearby Vanderbilt Estate – the grounds are just as impressive as the mansion, with space and views that make it worth a visit. Tours of the mansion are $10 per person, and the grounds are free. The estate is just across the street from Springwood in Hyde Park, so both visits can be done easily in a day.

Cape May, NJ

The town of Cape May can get crowded in the summer, but in the winter it is still beautiful and never crowded. It is filled with neat rows of Victorian homes that look like lacy, colorful gingerbread houses. We have enjoyed staying at The Grand Hotel, right on the beach, which has a lovely Valentines weekend package. You can visit the Aviation Museum at the Cape May Airport, or the Cape May County Zoo.

Berkley Springs, WV

This is an eclectic little town nestled into the Appalachians, bright with murals and art galleries, and warmed by natural hot springs.  There is a tiny, urban state park here, where the hot springs are fed into stone channels, and also pumped into old Roman bathhouses that can be rented in half hour increments.  Also worth a visit is nearby Cacapon Resort State Park, where views of waterfalls, mountains and a cozy lodge and restaurant with a view offer a delightful experience. It’s an extremely pleasant experience, and a romantic setting for a weekend getaway.

Harper’s Ferry, WV

This historical town is right at the borders of West Virginia, Maryland and Virginia.  Take a 5 minute shuttle from the visitor’s center down to the town and walk up to “the Point” where the Shenandoah River, C&O Canal, and the Potomac Rivers intersect for a lovely view.  There are lots of historical buildings and sites including famous abolitionist John Brown’s fort, and Jefferson’s rock – another great place for a beautiful view.

Bear Creek Mountain Resort, PA

Bear Creek Mountain Resort is in Pennsylvania, and offers skiing, snow tubing, and a spa, as well as a super cozy and romantic lodge environment. It is in a gorgeous part of Berks county surrounded by scenic mountain views. It’s also one of the more affordable ski resorts in the beautiful Poconos area.

Lancaster, PA

Lancaster is a charming place, in a beautiful setting. Drive through the rolling hills of picturesque farmland, and you are likely to see Amish buggies or plows being pulled by horses. You can tour an Amish farm and house or take a buggy ride, or just enjoy their well-made wares and delicious foods at local markets. There are also some lovely parks nearby, such as Susquehannock State Park where you can view the river from the Pinnacle Overlook, or several other lovely overlooks.

Brandywine Valley, DE

The Brandywine Valley goes through Northern Delaware and into Pennsylvania, and is a beautifully scenic area with a lot of romantic attractions. Winterthur Museum, Garden and Library includes a former DuPont Home, thousands of acres of hilly meadows and woods, and beautiful gardens. This area is scenic, both in terms of the rolling forested hills, and the beautiful homes throughout the area. Close by are Longwood Gardens , the Delaware Art Museum, and the Delaware Museum of Nature and Science.

Assateague, MD

It is so lovely to see wild horses walking along the beach at either the National Seashore or the state park, especially in the winter when there are no crowds. Ocean City is close by, as well as the Delaware Beaches, where you can find charming little open shops and galleries, as well as delicious restaurants featuring fresh seafood. You’ll also want to stay in one of these nearby towns since there are no hotels actually on Assateague. Lewes is a charming beach town nearby in Southern Delaware where you can find romantic accommodations.

Fox Point State Park

Fox Point is a relatively small park in an industrial area just off of I-495 along the Delaware River near New Castle and Wilmington.

Interestingly, it is built on the site of major pollution due to oil refineries and other industries built in the early 1900s upstream along the river, along with waste from the nearby railroad. In the 1970s, efforts were made to clean up the area and a liner was implemented to keep hazardous material from re-polluting the river or harming wildlife or people. It is now covered with vegetation and home to birds and other creatures.

The park offers a playground, restroom facilities and picnic tables. It is free in the winter and like other state parks, costs $4 for an in-state vehicle to enter or $8 for out of state.

For transportation enthusiasts, it is a nice place to watch ships from around the world along the river, and trains rush by on the tracks opposite. It is part of the Delaware Greenway and the trail is flat and paved.

A Peek at Delaware’s Legislative Hall

We have enjoyed visiting several state capitals in our region, so en route to Southern Delaware we decided to stop in Delaware’s capital city of Dover and check out Delaware’s Legislative Hall.

We parked at Delaware Public Archives (free and open on the weekend, though sometimes full on week days or during events), and crossed the street to the building. Across from it there is a large green square where Dover Day is held each May (the next one will be held May 6 -more info here), which includes a parade, maypole dancing, tethered hot air balloon rides, bounce houses, historical reenactments and dozes of craft and food vendors.

The building itself is undergoing restoration and expansion, so it was covered with scaffolding and will be for some time to come. But, the inside is very pretty, and it just so happened that they were doing tours, which take place on the first Saturday of the month, in the morning.

Our tour guide, Steve, was kind and extremely knowledgeable – he could tell us all about the legislative process as well as explain the significance of all of the paintings, portraits and photographs that adorn the building. But he also understood the attention span of a two year old, and he gave the children a chance to sit in the seats of the legislators, stand at the podium to practice giving testimony, and even sit in the Lt. Governor’s seat and strike the gavel to call for order. He very aptly mentioned, “You never know what they might remember.”

As a child, I never dreamed of being president or doing anything political, but in my current role as a nonprofit leader, I have been involved in the legislative process on a state level as an advocate, and it has been very fulfilling and even enjoyable. Perhaps one day one of our children will remember our little tour, and know that our government does give individuals a chance to make a true impact on the law (albeit slowly at times!), and perhaps some day one of them will be called upon to make such an impact. But, even if that never happens, at least we know they all enjoy striking a gavel!

Reflecting on the Past at Brandywine Springs

We visited Brandywine Springs Park this wintry weekend, and read some of the signage in the park, which recognizes what the site used to be – a Mineral Springs Resort and later an Amusement Park. It is interesting to see what used to be there when there are only the merest traces now – a flat area of stone where a step or foundation used to be; a smooth stone barrier on the edge of the pond where you can walk across.The woods in winter can be eerie – the bones of thick twisting vines that are slowly dragging the trees up by their roots are clearly visible with no foliage to hide their morbid activity. The glowing green of slick moss among the piles of dead leaves and skeletons of grass that cover the forest floor seems to radiate energy through winter’s sleepy stillness. At Brandywine Springs Park, nature has reclaimed the attractions that used to host throngs of locals and tourists in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, with glossy blurred photographs the only evidence of the vibrant businesses that used to thrive there. Winter’s stillness offers a moment to reflect on the impermanence of our buildings and activities, reminding us to enjoy our labors and our surroundings while they are here, before nature’s winter sleep reclaims them, laying the foundation for something new that will come when new life blooms in the spring. Brandywine Springs Park is a free county park with a parking lot (which used to be a hotel), playground, pavilions, picnic tables, and trails with historical photographs and information. Dirt trails are fairly short but do go down a bit steeply to the creek and pond (and back up, of course). There are no restrooms, but there are plenty of restaurants and stores close by. For more about the history, visit Delaware Public Media.

5 Fun Family Winter-Time Activities in the Mid-Atlantic Region

After the holidays, it’s easy to get into the winter-time slump of staying home and longing for the long warm days of spring and summer. If that sounds familiar, it might be time to book a weekend getaway, take a daytrip, or even just spend a few hours doing something fun and different. There are plenty of options for indoor activities if the cold weather just isn’t your thing, plus outdoor activities that are unique to the season. Here are a few ideas:

Go Skiing or Snow Tubing

We have had a lot of fun at Bear Creek Mountain in Pennsylvania, but there are numerous options in mid-Atlantic region if you want to try skiing. We are not skiers, but we had a great time snow tubing. It’s a bumpy ride at the end (lift up your butt!) and can be scary for small children (minimum age is 6), so do your research and check in with your kids before you go. Make sure your tubing has a magic carpet or lift to get you back up the hill. Bear Mountain had just the right amount of thrill for our 6 and 8 year old when we went, and there were other fun things in the area, plus staying at a super cozy lodge is always a treat. Other ski resorts in the area that we’ve heard good things about include Blue Mountain and Camelback.

Try an Indoor Water Park

An indoor water park works in any weather, and if you’ve been missing your summertime pool, heading to a resort like Great Wolf Lodge can be a wonderful respite. Great Wolf has a host of activities and it’s a really fun place to stay, but there are tons of options throughout the mid-Atlantic area that, like Great Wolf, have lazy rivers, wave pools, hot tubs, and giant water slides to allow the whole family to find something they enjoy. A few other options are Kalahari, Camelback, and DreamWorks.

Unique Opportunities for Wildlife Viewing

If you’re looking for something cheaper (or freer), and want to get outdoors, there are opportunities for seeing wildlife that are uniquely possible in winter. Seals begin to visit some New Jersey beaches starting in November – they can often be seen at Sandy Hook and Island Beach State Park. There are tons of birds that winter in the Chesapeake bay area and other parts of the mid-Atlantic region. Tundra swans and snow geese are abundant in places like Blackwater Refuge and Eastern Neck National Wildlife Refuge in Maryland. Winter is a great time to see Bald Eagles in places like Elk Neck State Park in Maryland or Bombay Hook in Smyrna, Delaware. Finally, with the lack of cover during winter it is often a good time to spot deer and elk – Benezette, PA is renowned for its elk herd. We saw them within 5 minutes of parking at the Elk Country Visitors Center!

Visit an Aquarium or Children’s Museum

The Adventure Aquarium in Camden, NJ, or the National Aquarium in Baltimore are both great choices if you want to see wildlife, but it’s just too icy outside. They are both pricey (worth it, though!) so if you want something smaller and less expensive, the Atlantic City Aquarium is a fun choice. All three have touch tanks and lots of beautiful sea life. In Camden you can find penguins and hippos; In Baltimore there is a rain forest and shark alley. All are wonderful learning experiences for your kiddos.

Speaking of learning, children’s museums are often a fun way to spend the day. The Delaware Children’s Museum in Wilmington or Port Discovery in Baltimore are great choices.

Try an Indoor Trampoline Park

If it’s just too cold or icy to play outside and you want to move your body, a trampoline park is so much fun. If you’re looking for a great trampoline park, you’re likely to find Sky Zone. With locations all over the mid-Atlantic region, there’s likely one near your home or hotel, or on your route if you’re taking a road trip. They are often found near major highways (well played, Sky Zone.) In addition to giant trampolines, they have foam pits, climbing walls, swings from which to jump into foam pits, and enormous foam arms that spin around and wipe out your children hilariously. Not surprisingly, they also have a waiver that you must sign before playing. Tickets are in the neighborhood of $25-$30. There is a designated area for toddlers, and food like pizza and slushies.