The Mid-Atlantic, in our definition, stretches from New York to New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Washington DC, Virginia and to West Virginia. The region encompasses more than 328-miles of coastline (not counting tidal inlets), features soft sand beaches, Atlantic Ocean access, wooded mountains, glistening lakes and history. Explore Revolutionary and Civil War sites and learn about Native American, African American and other experiences at the free Smithsonian Museums.
In winter, ski New York’s Adirondacks and Catskills, Pennsylvania’s Poconos, and Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains. In autumn hike and drive past mountainsides billowing in red and yellow leaves and browse farmer’s markets for tasty apples and fat pumpkins. In summer, these ridgetop resorts offer hiking, biking, ziplining and nature walks. Beach lovers can put blankets down on the shores of New York City, Long Island, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia. New York City, America’s most populous urban center, stars as one of mid-Atlantic’s urban gems along with Pittsburgh, Baltimore, and Washington, D.C.
Beach towns, each with their own character, dot the Jersey Shore‘s 127-miles. Stroll the boardwalks in Ocean City and Wildwood, where amusement rides and eateries create kitschy comforts and good people-watching. Cape May gains fame for its Victorian houses turned into Bed and Breakfast Inns and for its restaurants. Elsewhere around New Jersey, at Camden’s Adventure Aquarium, see schools of colorful tropical fish. Take the best photos of the Statue of Liberty and the Manhattan skyline from Liberty State Park. For the arts, browse the galleries at the Princetown University Art Museum, and savor concerts, jazz shows and comedy performances at Newark’s New Jersey Performing Art Center.
Philadelphia‘s cosmopolitan cool comes from its art and foodie scenes. Trendy restaurants abound as does history. Learn about the colonies’ defining revolt at the recently opened Museum of the American Revolution. Continue the tale of democracy’s birth continues at Independence National Historic Park, home of the Liberty Bell. Elsewhere in Pennsylvania, drive through Valley Forge National Historic Park to see where George Washington and his troops endured a harsh winter. At Gettysburg National Military Park, learn about the bloody battle that proved to be a Civil War turning point. Pittsburgh features museums; Pennsylvania’s Dutch and Amish Country offer scenic back roads and the glimpse of a simple lifestyle, and the Poconos have woods, mountains, and lakes.
Delaware‘s beaches attract work weary urbanites from the surrounding states. In Rehoboth walk the bustling, mile-long boardwalk, and for less crowded sands, pitch your blanket at Cape Henlopen State Park, graced with six miles of shore line. Lewes, Delaware‘s first town, offers history and bay beaches. Board the Cape May-Lewes Ferry for a wind-in-your-hair excursion across the Delaware Bay to New Jersey. Winterthur, near Wilmington, is a gift to the eye. Surrounded by 60-acres of gardens, the mansion showcases 175 rooms of period furnishings made or used in America.
Maryland‘s Eastern Shore gains fame for its beaches as well as for its seafood, especially its Maryland Blue Crabs. Ocean City attracts a lively see-and- be-seen crowd to its boardwalk. For quieter shores, visit Assateague Island–the northern two-thirds are in Maryland. Assateague State Park has beaches and some of the island’s famous wild ponies can be seen in the marshes. Midshipman stroll Annapolis, home to the U.S. Naval Academy. In Baltimore, see 17,000 critters at the National Aquarium and watch and the Orioles play at Camden Yards. During the Civil War the farms and fields of Antietam National Battlefield, Sharpsburg, saw the bloodiest one day battle in American history.
The nation’s capital, Washington, DC, a.k.a the District of Columbia, is a graceful city of monuments, memorials and government buildings whose wide avenues and open spaces were designed to mirror the budding nation’s heroic aspirations. To tour the The White House, the United States Capitol, and the Pentagon, check their websites for advanced tickets. The Lincoln, Washington, and Jefferson memorials stand as city icons. The newest jewel in the crown of Smithsonian Museums, the National Museum of African American History and Culture is so popular that you must obtain free tickets months in advance. DC also rates as a foodie favorite, with Michelin-starred restaurants and up-and-coming trendy eateries.
In Virginia’s largest city, Virginia Beach, the boardwalk stretches for 3-miles, bordering a wide sand beach. The world’s biggest naval base, Naval Station Norfolk, anchors in Norfolk, where Nauticus, a maritime museum, pays homage to the sea with hands-on exhibits. In Virginia’s Historic Triangle — Colonial Williamsburg ,Jametown and Yorktown–America took root. Thomas Jefferson’s plantation Monticello lies a few miles from Charlottseville, in the Blue Ridge foothills. In Shenandoah National Park , admire scenic views on hikes and drives of legendary Skyline Drive.
Mountainous West Virginia offers classic peak and valley vistas and some of the country’s best white water rafting. Olympians train on the Upper Gauley and families can paddle sections of the New River, spanned by the long, much-photographed New River Gorge Bridge. Find out about John Brown’s abolitionist-inspired raid at Harpers Ferry National Historical Park. Nearby paths lead to the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers. At Canaan Valley Resort State Park, situated in the highest valley east of the Mississippi River, hike, mountain bike, and golf as well as ski and snowboard in winter.
Pennsylvania Dutch and Amish Country
Williamsburg, Jamestown and Yorktown (The Historic Triangle)
January (1st): New Year’s Day
January (third Monday): Martin Luther King Jr. Day
February (third Monday): Presidents Day
May (last Monday): Memorial Day
July (4th): Independence Day
September (first Monday): Labor Day
October (second Monday): Columbus Day
(not the same as Native American Day, which is only celebrated officially in two states, on September 25th)
November (11th): Veterans Day
November (fourth Thursday): Thanksgiving Day
December (25th): Christmas
The Mid-Atlantic region is located in the Eastern time zone.
To check the local time where you are, click here.
Daylight Savings Time (DST) happens in the spring (on the second Sunday morning of March at 2 a.m.). It’s when clocks are advanced one hour so there is more daylight later into the evening. In the fall (on the first Sunday morning in November at 2 a.m.), clocks shift back one hour to standard time. The entire U.S. (except Hawaii and most of Arizona) participates in this ritual of ‘springing forward’ and ‘falling back.’
Prices often fluctuate dynamically depending on capacity, seasonality and deals. We don’t want to lead you astray by quoting exact prices that quickly become wrong. To give you a rough idea for budgetary planning purposes, though, we have indicated general price ranges for all points of interest.
Price ranges are quoted in $US.
See & Do
N/A => Not applicable
$ => Tickets less than $10 per person
$$ => Tickets $11-25 per person
$$$ => Tickets $26 per person
$ => Rooms less than $100 for a double
$$ => Rooms $200 for a double
$$$ => Rooms $300 for a double
$ => $1-15 per person for a meal (without alcohol, tax, tip)
$ => $16-40 per person for a meal (without alcohol, tax, tip)
$$$ => $41 per person for a meal (without alcohol, tax, tip)
N/A => Not applicable
$ => Tickets less than $10 per person
$$ => Tickets $11-25 per person
$$ => Tickets $26 per person
Fly the Friendly Skies
Airfares are a fickle thing. When you need it to be low, it’s high. And when prices dip, what happens? You can’t get off work to travel. Sigh.
But you can get notifications from companies like Kayak, which will email you when airfares drop. Type your destination and the dates you are watching and boom, when there’s a deal, you’ll hear about it immediately via your inbox.
Sites like Momondo also display prices for multiple airlines, so you can compare rates without visiting individual airline sites.
That said, there is an advantage to visiting an individual airline’s site. Why? Because some of their really great deals don’t show up on the aggregator airfare sites. Most airlines share limited-time, super-specials via their Facebook pages or email blasts. So it pays to be their ‘friend’ or subscribe to their e-mailings.
Have Car, Will Travel
Like airlines, car rental rates are all over the map. Companies like Expedia and Hotwire offer comparison price shopping.
There are also name-your-own-price sites, like Priceline, where you tell ‘em what you want to pay and they hook you up with a car rental company who can fit the bill. There are some great deals here, if you are not too picky about the make and model of your rental.
Zipcar is another choice for rentals. Available in many major cities and college towns in the U.S., Zipcar is a great alternative for super-short term rentals. Picture this scenario: you are in a big city with terrific public transportation, so you don’t need a car. But then you hear about an amazing restaurant 20 miles away in the suburbs. You can’t go home without trying it. A taxi would cost a fortune. You’d have to wait a long time to get a return taxi. Open the Zipcar app; search for a nearby Zipcar locale. You need to apply for membership and download the app in advance. Memberships cost about $7 a month; rentals are about $8 to10 per hour; gas and insurance are included. Foreign drivers can apply and you don’t need to pay a monthly fee if you’re an occasional driver (from $25 per year for a membership).
Ride-sharing companies, Uber and Lyft, are also ubiquitous in major cities. Through a smart phone app, you can line up rides all over town. It’s convenient because no money changes hands (payment is made through the app) and it’s usually cheaper than a taxi. Another bonus? After requesting a ride, you can see where the driver is on a map, so you know that they are on their way and how long it will be. Try that with a cab.
Money Saving Tip:
Costco, because of its behemoth size and price negotiating power, offers great low prices for most major car rental companies. Yes, you need to purchase an annual Costco membership first, but it more than pays for itself with what you’ll save with a typical week’s car rental (i.e. searches turn up a mid-size car through Costco for $225 and a comparable car through another aggregator for $325.)
Did You Know:
Budget Car Rental offers drivers residing at the same address (i.e. unmarried partners or BFFs) complimentary extra driver coverage. Other car rental companies charge upwards of $10/day. By the way, when renting in California, there are no additional driver fees by law.
Hopefully, your trip to (or within) the U.S. goes without a glitch. But what if an unexpected situation arises? Will you lose the money you invested in the trip? Will you need quick cash to cover sudden costs?
Travel insurance policies are meant to cover these unexpected costs and assist you when problems arise. The fee is typically based on the cost of the trip and the age of the traveler.
Most travel insurance providers offer comprehensive coverage that usually includes protection for the following common events:
Trip Cancellation: About 40 percent of all claims fall in this category.
Medical: Health services in the U.S. are expensive for the uninsured. This is a major reason to consider purchasing insurance. Whether you break a leg or need a blood transfusion, you will likely incur costs far higher than you might pay in other nations. And what if you have an accident that requires transport to a major medical center? Air ambulances alone could set you back $15,000 to $30,000.
Trip Interruption: For example, if you become ill during your trip or if someone at home gets sick, and you have to get off the cruise ship or abandon a tour. The insurer will often pay up to 150% of the cost of your trip to get you home.
Travel Delay: Insurance usually covers incidentals like meals and overnight lodging while you wait to travel home.
Baggage: Insurance will typically cover lost and mishandled baggage.
Some insurance companies allow you to purchase a policy that allows you to cancel for any reason. This may cost more (often 10% or more), but it is worthwhile for certain travelers.
Do I need travel insurance?
If your trip costs $4,000 to $6,000 (or more), it’s probably a good idea. Your age and health are important factors. So is your destination. If you’re traveling to a hurricane-prone area during hurricane season, for example, you’ll probably want some coverage “just in case” … no matter what.
Your English language skills are also an important factor. Insurance policies often include concierge services with 24-hour hotlines that can connect you quickly with someone who speaks your language.
How do I choose an insurance provider?
Do your homework; check around.
The largest insurers in the U.S. include Travel Guard, Allianz and CSA Travel Protection. Smaller reputable companies include Berkley, Berkshire Hathaway Travel Protection, Travel Insured International and Travelex. You may also find deals through aggregator sites like Squaremouth and InsureMyTrip.
Many airlines and travel companies also offer travel insurance when you book your flight (often contracted with the above major players).
If you have pre-existing health conditions: Many policies have exclusion policies if you have a pre-existing medical condition. But companies also offer waivers that overwrite the exclusion if you purchase the policy within a certain time frame of paying for your trip (e.g., within 24 hours of buying your cruise package). Again, it’s best to check the fine print.
Credit card insurance: If you buy your airfare or trip with a credit card, you may be partially covered by the credit card’s issuing bank. Check directly with the company to find out exactly what’s covered, as many have “stripped down” coverage and restrictions.
The travel insurance business is expanding and evolving rapidly. As “shared space” lodging options like VRBO, Airbnb and Homeaway become more popular in the travel and leisure market, so does the need for insurance for both property owners and travelers.
For more information, visit the US Travel Insurance Association.
U.S. dollars come in $1, $5, $10, $20, $50 and $100 bills. They are all the same size and color, so non-Americans have an understandably tricky time telling them apart. The $2 bill is in circulation but rarely seen.
Coins in wide circulation include the penny (one cent), nickel (five cents), dime (ten cents) and quarter (25 cents). The 50-cent and one-dollar coins are seen occasionally.
Smaller businesses may not accept $50 or $100 bills, so have twenties or smaller bills in hand. ATMs usually dispense $20 bills.
Tipping is a cost you must build into the budget for any U.S. travel experience, whether urban or rural. Tipping is most relevant to dining out and hotel stays, but other costs should also be taken in to consideration. General guidelines include:
For excellent service, plan to tip 20% on the total bill, before taxes. For less-than-stellar service, 10-15% is customary, as an imperfect experience is often not solely the responsibility of the server. In many states, servers work for below minimum wage and live mostly on tips, so consider the ramifications of your tipping decisions.
To complicate matters, many restaurants in the major metropolitan areas — New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco — are moving to a no-tipping model in which service is included. The verdict isn’t yet in on whether this new model will stick, so be sure you understand the tipping policy at each restaurant you visit.
Oh, and one more complication: Sometimes a tip is automatically included, usually for groups of six or more people. But at least it will be itemized in plain sight on the bill, if you look closely for it.
Most bell staff receive $1 to $2 per bag they assist with; if someone carts all of your bags up to your room, expect to tip $5 to $10.
Tips for housekeeping are also good form. The rule of thumb is $2 to $3 per day and about $5 per day in higher-end properties.
At properties with concierge services, consider tipping concierge staff who assist you in planning activities, making reservations or acquiring tickets around $10 to $20 per day. Concierge staff do not normally expect a tip for simply orienting you with driving directions or public transportation info. Car valet staff expect $2 when returning your car. Spa employees (massage therapists, aestheticians, etc.) usually see 20% tips on their services, whether performed at the spa or in your room.
Invariably, there are incidental costs associated with being on the road. Make sure to budget between $10 and $40 per day for batteries, lost phone chargers, bug repellent, headache medicine, sunburn relief and other personal items you might have forgotten. If you’re traveling with kids, consider the snack budget. Local grocery and drug stores will be cheaper than tourist shops for all of the above.
Sales Taxes, Lodging Taxes & Resort Fees
In general, the combined total for state and local taxes on all retail goods and services varies, depending on where you are. In general, cities have higher taxes than rural areas do. Taxes are not usually included in display prices, unless otherwise stated.
Lodging tax also varies by location . This tax applies whether you are staying at a private vacation rental, a bed-and-breakfast, or a full-fledged hotel. Taxes are not usually stated up front in the advertised room rate. Neither are the mandatory nightly “resort fees” being charged by an increasing number of hotels. Sometimes this fee covers internet access, parking, and a few incidentals, while at other times it’s merely a surcharge for amenities that should be free. Beware that third-party booking agents, especially online, often don’t include resort fees in their reservation charges, so you may be unhappily surprised by the final bill when you check out.