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Help Me with My East Coast family vacation?
Old 12-29-2012, 08:45 PM   #1
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Help Me with My East Coast family vacation?

Ok, so my 13 year old has decided we need to see Washington DC and Boston, and of course Maine (no idea why Maine). DW and I discussed a possible side trip to Niagara Falls on the way out. We can allocate up to about 12 days or so in mid August. Is that feasible to see Maine and Boston area and DC in that time frame?

Any suggestions would be helpful..........
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Old 12-29-2012, 09:00 PM   #2
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OK.... where you starting from, how you travelling... such things.
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Old 12-29-2012, 09:05 PM   #3
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Flying or driving?

Many years ago, we spent three days in Washington, D. C. en route to Boston and Maine (family in both of last two places). This was in the good old days when in-laws had a lake cottage in Maine. Our vacations would last 5-6 weeks total. Miss those days.

ANYway, from central Arkansas, we made that trip in probably 8 days up (including D.C.) and 4 days back, just counting the driving days.

Another year we incorporated a trip through a little part of Canada, as well as Niagara Falls.

Great trips, both of them. I hope you can make it happen.

btw, our eldest lives in Portland, ME. Quite often, he and his gf take the train to Boston, spend a couple days, and head back to ME. They think that is fun.
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Old 12-29-2012, 09:08 PM   #4
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Depends on how much time you want to spend in each place, I guess. For all that is in it, Boston proper is a fairly small place. You could walk it in an afternoon. "Maine" is pretty vague. Without a more focused idea of what you have in mind, it is hard to comment. DC is huge, painfully urban, IMO well described by JFK's famous line ("a city of northern charm and southern efficiency"), and has a truly enormous amount of stuff to see. You could easily spend half or more of your time there and not really see everything.
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Old 12-29-2012, 09:39 PM   #5
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I just did a quick look at the mileage. Wash DC > Boston > Bar Harbor > Niagra Falls is almost 1500 miles so you'll have about 30 hours of driving just getting from place to place. Here is a rough itinerary that might work. Not sure where you are coming from but here it goes.

1 day getting to DC
3 days total driving time between major stops
3 days in DC
1 day in Boston
2 days in Maine
1 day at Niagra Falls
1 day getting home from Niagra Falls

That's 12 days of pretty intense sight-seeing and traveling. It's doable and you'll have lots of highlights and memories but you'll still miss a lot. Look at it this way...you'll have lots to see on your next trip to these areas.
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Old 12-29-2012, 10:15 PM   #6
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That is a big span between places . I would suggest rethinking the vacation to Washington , D.C .It definetely takes a few days to see it and then either hit one of the beaches in Maryland or Delaware for a little beach time . I would choose Ocean City Maryland which is close to Assateague island where ponies run free and then if you have time hit Philadelphia & the liberty bell . Next time do Boston, Portland Maine & Niagara Falls .
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Old 12-29-2012, 10:17 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by FinanceDude View Post
Ok, so my 13 year old has decided we need to see Washington DC and Boston, and of course Maine (no idea why Maine). DW and I discussed a possible side trip to Niagara Falls on the way out. We can allocate up to about 12 days or so in mid August. Is that feasible to see Maine and Boston area and DC in that time frame?

Any suggestions would be helpful..........
No, don't do both (especially starting from the Milwaukee area). My suggestions are to first do the Capitol government (is there still an FBI tour? Your son might love that) and museums, Monticello, Mount Vernon, Williamsburg stuff for one trip, before high school.

Then the next summer or so, do the New England American Revolution sites (Boston, Concord) and American literature (Hawthorne, Thoreau, Dickinson, and Maine's Steven King) and seashores of the Cape and Maine beaches, and swing home through Niagara Falls. And see Fenway Park of course.

Better yet, separately take your DW alone to the Falls and then Montreal for some smoochie smoochie romance.
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Old 12-29-2012, 10:19 PM   #8
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That is a big span between places . I would suggest rethinking the vacation to Washington , D.C .It definetely takes a few days to see it and then either hit one of the beaches in Maryland or Delaware for a little beach time . I would choose Ocean City Maryland which is close to Assateague island where ponies run free and then if you have time hit Philadelphia & the liberty bell . Next time do Boston, Portland Maine & Niagara Falls .
Oh, yeah, Moe, Philadelphia also in terms.of background for high school American history.
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Old 12-29-2012, 10:29 PM   #9
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Washington has a spy museum that your kids would love.The great thing about Washington is most of the museums are free . Your kids will love the Space museum. Plus the public transportation is safe & reasonable .I have been to Niagara Falls and it is just okay not something I would drive hours for .
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Old 12-30-2012, 08:00 AM   #10
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I agree that New England, Washington DC, and Western NY (Niagra Falls) are three different vacations. By the same token, you can accomplish the equivalent of two vacations in 12 days. But not three vacations.

While you can walk around Boston in a day, that's all you'll be able to do in that day, i.e., walk around Boston. In essence, you can visit the Freedom Trail in a day, enjoying stops along the way such as Faneuil Hall, and perhaps do a duck tour... maybe. But you'll need a lot more time to "visit Boston". If you tried to do it all in a day, you won't be able to fit in a game at Fenway (which might be a very attractive part of a vacation in Boston for some), and you surely won't be able to visit Salem (3/4 day, between the maritime museum and all the Witch trial historical stuff, not to mention the Peabody-Essex Museum if your son is inclined toward historical art and culture in any way).

You can spend most of a full day in either Old Sturbridge Village or Plymouth Plantation (though I would recommending doing both in the same trip, since they "cover the same bases"). You may also want to consider fitting in a whale watching tour while you're here.

Then there's Minuteman National Historical Park, which actually meanders in sections from the Lexington Common ("the shot heard 'round the world"), through the Old Battle Road that winds through Lincoln MA ("The redcoats are Coming!"), complete with restored colonial homes with scheduled and self-guided tours, to Concord and the Old North Bridge. And despite living here for so many years, I only just realized that beyond the Old North Bridge is The Old Manse! (Ralph Waldo Emerson and Nathaniel Hawthorne both called the Manse home for a time.)

And then there's Maine. There are lots of options for spending a day in Maine, though I don't really associate Maine with someplace I'd take a 13 year old to, necessarily. I think there's more than enough to full a full week just within Eastern Massachusetts itself.

And if you think it is difficult to fit "Visiting Boston" into just one week (and after reading what I wrote above, if I did a good job, then you should think it would be difficult to do so), "Visiting Washington DC" in just one week would be even more difficult. The Capitol; the White House; the Washington Memorial; the Jefferson Memorial; the Viet Nam War Memorial; the Roosevelt Memorial; the King Memorial; Arlington National; the Smithsonian itself, and its associated museums - History and Technology (name has changed, but I don't remember what they're calling it now); Air and Space; Frick (art). Then: The National Archives; the Bureau of Engraving and Printing; the Holocaust Museum; Ford's Theater; Kennedy Center. And that's just right off the very top of my head. As I sit typing this sentence a dozen others just popped into my head. And I've never lived there ... that just from my own personal visits to the place, over the years. I'd type some more in, but I've got to get ready for church.
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Old 12-30-2012, 08:11 AM   #11
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Hard to say really. It depends upon how much time you want to spend (ie how many things you want to see/do) in each location. You could spend 12 days in DC alone I suppose, Boston half that anyway and Maine is a HUGE state but you could spend 12 days just in Maine. Mid August? I hope you LOVE heat and humidity! DC will be almost unbearable, Boston not quite as bad due to the ocean but still no picnic and Maine isn't as bad as points south in New England but the bugs in Maine can be unbearable... ask the bears and moose!
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Old 12-30-2012, 09:26 AM   #12
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It's doable:

Day 1: Leave no later than 6am. Probably get to Niagra Falls no earlier than 8pm eastern time.
Day 2: Niagra Falls
Day 3: Up early. Long drive to Portland,ME area.
Day 4: Maine
Day 5: Don't need to get up as early, short drive to Boston. All afternoon to spend in Boston.
Day 6: Boston
Day 7: Long drive to DC
Day 8: DC
Day 9: DC
Day 10: DC
Day 11:Leave DC and get back home very late or break it up into 2 days.

If this gives you enough time to do what you want in Maine and Boston then it looks good to me.
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Old 12-30-2012, 09:37 AM   #13
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I'd skip Niagra Falls and spend that time in Maine. Bar Harbor is wonderful.
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Old 12-30-2012, 10:10 AM   #14
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I've been to all four and thoroughly enjoyed them all, but 12 days wouldn't be enough for us for all four.
  • You could spend a couple of days in DC, there's a lot of American history to see there. Wouldn't want to live there, but it's an amazing city, very expensive.
  • I love Boston, but traffic is a nightmare there. Drivers are more aggressive there than any other city I've driven in. Really cool city though, lots of history there too. Always go to Faniel Hall/Quincy Market and Legal Seafoods even if they are for tourists.
  • Loved Bar Harbor (Acadia Natl Park too), Kennebunkport and all the coastal towns except Boothbay Harbor, way too touristy IMO. Beautiful harbor, horrible town.
  • Niagara Falls is a one day trip IMO. Everyone should see it in person once, pictures can't do it justice. The Canadian side is much nicer than the US side.
I'd start with a list of what you want to do & see in each location. Some people are happy just seeing landmarks and a guided tour can do that in one day. OTOH, some people like to immerse themselves and explore every nook an cranny, avoiding the tourist traps, that can take weeks. Most of us are probably somewhere in between. Once you think through what you want to do & see, and figure travel times, you may have your answer...
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Old 12-30-2012, 10:44 AM   #15
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Many years ago we flew into Washington DC and did these as I recall:
Supreme Court tour
White House tour
Smithsonian - history, natural history, air & space, etc.
National Portrait Gallery
FBI building tour
monuments and memorials we could walk to

Then we got transportation to a car rental place and rented a car. Went to Williamsburg which I think we might have spent 2 days at. Then we went into the Blue Ridge Mountains and stayed at some park lodge (cannot recall the name). We made a loop up to the Gettysburg and did the battlefield tour. There were some other places too on that loop.

Anyway, doing it this way was pretty efficient and fun. Plenty of variety.
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Old 12-30-2012, 11:45 AM   #16
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12 days would not be enough for us. We spent a week in dc, and didn't get to everything we had planned. It depends on how much you want to dig into landmarks, etc. Maybe have your DW and 13 yr old research and give you a list of what they want to see and then have a family mtg to see if you can come up with a plan to get it all in in 12 days.
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Old 12-30-2012, 12:17 PM   #17
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One bad memory of Washington DC was that when we were walking the city there were some tough looking teenagers that gave us a little worry. We had to cross the street, and there was no problem after that. The area around the FBI building had several porn shops with window displays. But that was decades ago and things may have changed a lot. And of course, it is a big city.

So for those who are up to date on Washington DC, are there places to avoid that a tourist might wonder into while seeing the main sites? Are there transportation modes to favor and avoid?
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Old 12-30-2012, 12:31 PM   #18
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Washington DC and New England are just two different parts of the country. Don't do them both in 12 days. When we went to Washington DC we also stayed in Fredricksburg, VA. This gets you closer to Mt. Vernon, Monticello, and you can also explore Civil War battlefields. Boston is a 3 day kind of place. New York to Boston to Maine would be a practical itinerary. If you like to do a lot of driving consider driving through New England during the fall colors.
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Old 12-30-2012, 03:20 PM   #19
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I think you're talking about four different vacations, not one- especially starting out from Milwaukee. I'd spend a week in and around each of DC, NYC, Boston and Maine, not counting the drive to and from. In 12 days, you could possibly combine Boston and Maine, or NYC and DC, but you would be shortchanging yourself a little. And I see no possible way to enjoy any trip that combines all four in that time.
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Old 12-30-2012, 03:53 PM   #20
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A few impressions from someone who has lived there:

DC in August is very unpleasant in terms of both the weather and the crowds. Being one of the most delightful cities in the world in terms of its attractions, those two things cancel each other out, but only just. If you can arrange your visit in the spring or fall, you'll enjoy it immensely.

Maine is difficult to characterize. Most people don't really realize just how big it is. The coastal area between New Hampshire and Portland is what most people think of, and you can enjoy a taste of most of that area in a week.

Boston is my least favorite city to drive in, and I've lived in cities all over the world. I would gladly spend three days in the center, but that's about it.

Niagara Falls is a good place to spend the night when you're traveling, with either an afternoon or a morning devoted to sightseeing. That's about it.
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