Today I’ve got the 3rd week of our Northeast family road trip for you. This is our 3rd big road trip together in which we’ve now seen 42 of the 50 states together. Only 8 to go!
In this post, I’ll cover our 3rd week of this road trip. You can read about week 1 and week 2 to catch up or for other east coast road trip ideas. On our 3rd week, we visited Boston, Rhode Island, and Connecticut.
I want these posts to be an account of our trip and for them to be helpful to you in planning your own travel. I’ll keep the format of sharing about our trip with the pictures. At the bottom of the post, look for a tips section to help you with your road trip. It has tips, things we learned, things we’d do again or wouldn’t do again. I hope it’ll help you with planning your trip.
For more trip planning help, I’ve got a printable family road trip planner in my shop that I’ve used to plan each of our road trips. It comes with 8 pages of planning nuggets and notes to help you plan your own successful family road trip.
Northeast Family Road Trip – Week 3 – Boston, Rhode Island, and Connecticut
I actually managed to find free (because it was Sunday) parking right on the street next to the Public Garden! We then started day 14 of our road trip with a Brunch at Tatte. It was so yummy!
It was a short walk from there, back to Boston’s Public Garden.
Make Way for Ducklings Statue at the Public Garden
Having read the book Make Way for Ducklings(affiliate link) hundreds of times, we had to visit the Public Garden because we learned there was a fairly new statue for the book.
The statue is so stinkin’ cute!
It’s also busy with lots of people waiting to take pictures.
Everyone was very polite and patient and waited in line to take pictures.
It pretty much typified our experience with Boston. Everyone we met was so friendly and helpful. Everyone we talked with who was from Boston loves their city. It made it an enjoyable place to hang out for the day.
Plus with cuteness like this and a beautiful day, what’s not to love?
Swan Boats at the Public Garden
We wandered around the park a bit and decided to take a ride on the iconic swan boats….I mean you kinda have to, don’t you?
It looks straight out of the book.
Exactly as you’d expect it to look.
Because it was a Sunday, there were tons of people around the park enjoying the day.
All 3 of us enjoyed it and enjoyed wandering around the pond and the garden as well.
From there, we were going to walk to the Boston National Historic Park or the Freedom Trail. We thought we could walk and there would be some shopping along the way as we were in the mood from some strolling and shopping.
It turned out to be more walking and less shopping, so we decided to skip the historical stuff and walked over to where we could do some shopping near the Public Garden.
The buildings and architecture do not disappoint as you wander around Boston.
In our wandering and shopping, we found a cute little boutique, and I found a new purse.
The one purse I had brought on our month long road trip broke on day 2 of our trip. ?
I had been looking for something but hadn’t found anything I liked that also worked well for being a tourist. Thankfully, this was cute and crossbody, so it was perfect.
American Girl Store, Boston
On all our other road trips, we visited quite a few American Girl Stores on our routes.
Even though my girls are older and not as into dolls, they still wanted to visit the American Girl Store in Boston. While writing this post, I discovered that the Boston store is now closed.
It was a nice store with very friendly staff. We ended up having lunch in the Bistro before heading to Rhode Island for the day.
We hit Rhode Island and of course, got our state line picture.
Hasbro Offices, Rhode Island
I found in Roadtrippers that Hasbro had offices in Rhode Island. Don’t you love the reserved signs at their offices? So cute!
Hello, Mr. Potato Head!! I was dorkily happy to know that they had a giant Mr. Potato Head that we could stop by and see.
I’m not sure where Mrs. Potato Head was that day. Hope she didn’t mind that I took some pics with Mr. Potato Head. ?
My girls and I took some pics and enjoyed stretching our legs. This was a fun and quick stop.
Newport, Rhode Island
The following day we drove to Newport, Rhode Island from our VRBO in Narragansett, Rhode Island.
It’s a touristy place with fun little shops to wander through.
We wandered, and window shopped a little, but we were really after…
…Ben & Jerry’s ice cream. Yum!
It went perfectly with our chill day.
After 16 days on the road, we start to need some chill days where we don’t do a whole lot.
The bridges to and from Newport are beautiful.
Narragansett Beach, Narragansett, Rhode Island
The following day we headed to the Narragansett beach. The girls played in the water all day while I chilled and read a book. It was what we all needed.
The Narragansett beach is a paid beach. I’d never heard of such a thing, but I learned they are relatively common in this part of the East Coast. It felt wrong to pay to go to the beach, but we’d read reviews many places that this was the best beach in the area.
I don’t know what the other beaches are like, but I wasn’t overly impressed. It was clean and crowded. As someone who grew up on the west coast and spent summer after summer at the beaches in San Diego and LaJolla, CA, I’d prefer those free beaches to this one almost any day. That said, I can’t compare this beach to other east coast beaches, so it may be amazing in comparison. I still don’t get the concept of paying to go to the beach, but whatever.
Near the beach is a restaurant in this beautiful castle looking building.
Taylor Swift’s Rhode Island Home
Not something I would have gone out of my way for, but my girls wanted us to find Taylor Swift’s Rhode Island home. So we did. The first time we drove by we didn’t find her house (except for seeing a bodyguard at the end of a driveway with a chain across it). Then we drove by a second time and saw it.
Right at the Connecticut state line, there was construction going on.
I couldn’t believe that one of the construction workers saw us taking a picture and hopped over the center barrier. He offered to get a pic of the 3 of us. So incredibly nice of him! Thank you! Also a great introduction to Connecticut.
This day was a day of driving between Narragansett, Rhode Island and Branford, Connecticut.
We filled the day searching for the (at the time)new Starbucks Been There mugs(affiliate link) for both Rhode Island and Connecticut. As the mugs were new and featured one for every state, they were tough to find on this road trip.
At one such Starbucks stop, we found the most delicious pre-lunch treat. A shop called Dough Love that sells Cookie dough by the scoop, just like ice cream. Oh so yummy!
And I found a Starbucks mug! One of the workers at the Starbucks by Dough Love called ahead to another Starbucks on our route and asked them to put one on hold for me. So nice! Thank you!
Thimble Islands, Connecticut
The following day, we took a tour of the Thimble Islands.
One of us had read about them or found them on Roadtrippers and wanted to see them.
Finding the boats that would take us on a tour was a little confusing.
If you want to take a tour of the Thimble Islands, you show up at the dock and wait.
If you read online, there are 2 or 3 boat companies that make the tours. They rotate through the dock every 20 minutes(in the summer), so unless you prefer one tour over another, just show up when it works for your family and a boat will be along shortly and take you on a tour.
The Thimble Islands are a series of islands that are primarily privately owned.
They have no power and tend to be for the very wealthy. Some of the homes are amazing with golf courses and their own solar panels, etc. It’s pretty impressive!
Some islands are University owned, and President William Taft had one that was his summer home. The islands were a favorite of Captain Kidd as well.
One of the islands is also a granite quarry, which is where the granite for the base of the Statue of Liberty, Grant’s tomb and the Lincoln Memorial came from.
If you get the chance to see the Thimble Islands, it is a pretty boat ride with interesting facts and narration. Not too history heavy for those that aren’t history buffs, like my family.
While in the area, we decided to drive to Yale and take a look.
My daughter, about to start her Junior year at the time, wanted to take a look.
My wallet cried at the thought, but we went and took a look anyway. We walked around a bit and stopped by the information center.
It’s a pretty campus.
In Narragansett, my oldest daughter bought this cute little lobster stuffed animal. I named it crabby. ?
This is what kids can do when bored in the car and they have duct tape….make the stuffed animal into a headband. Lol! ?
Essex Steam Train and Riverboat
The following day was another fun day. On our bucket list of things we wanted to do was the Essex Steam Train and Riverboat.
You need to buy tickets ahead of time as they can get sell out.
Thankfully the day we were there, there was plenty of room.
We had almost an entire car to ourselves.
The train part of the trip is relatively short, but it’s pretty and fun to take a train ride.
The staff both on the train and on the boat are all very friendly and helpful.
They all had great information as well and would point out things of interest, like this Osprey nest.
And other various wildlife along the way. The riverboat part takes you on a long tour of the Connecticut River.
There is also a scavenger hunt the kids can complete while on the tour. At the end, they can turn their scavenger hunt in for a prize.
We brought our lunch with us as we went on the 2.5 hour train and boat tour during the lunch hour. They don’t let you eat your own food on the train, but you can eat on the boat.
If you want to make a full day of the trip, you can add on an excursion to the Gillette Castle.
It’s a hike you can do from the train. They’ll let you off at the correct location, and you can hike up to the castle, then back to the train at the appointed time for your ride back to the station. Sounded like fun, but we chose not to do that part of the trip.
The train looks so classic and historic. You can pay extra for open car seating if you prefer and they also offer dinner train rides which would be fun.
I loved the sound of the whistle (which I have in the video that should be playing on the left or bottom of your screen).
Family Road Trip Tips:
- Go with what your family is in the mood for that day. While It’s great to expose our kids to our history and important places if they aren’t in the mood (or you aren’t) go with what everyone wants to do and let go of the original plan or idea. Everyone will have a much better time that way.
- Visits stores and places your kids want to go, even if you feel like you’ve been there done that. Who knows, it may start a family tradition.
- If possible, on long road trips plan some stops where you know you can rest and not have as much to see and do. If you can’t do that, plan the occasional chill day at a VRBO or a beach. Something to let everyone rest and get ready for the next round of fun stuff to come.
- Find an app you like and commit to it for finding food. Most have artificial intelligence that’ll ‘learn’ your likes and help you eat well in new cities. My app of choice is Foursquare. I tried Google maps suggestions some this year, but they’re not as good as Foursquare, yet.
- At this point in our road trips, we get sick of eating out all the time. It’s easy to grab a rotisserie chicken or some burritos with some guac and chips for dinner. We also love making a snacky dinner of some crackers, cheese, sliced turkey, and fruit along with a yummy dessert. Sure breaks up all the restaurant food and saves on the budget as well.
- We love the app Roadtrippers for finding fun things to do along our family road trip. It has fantastic options for searching specific genres along your route as well as the ability to decide how far off your route your willing to go. I highly recommend it.
Public Garden, Boston, Massachusetts:
- Recommend both the Make Way for Ducklings Statue and the Swan Boats
Newport, Rhode Island:
- Recommend, especially if you want a day wandering cute shops and eating yummy food.
Narragansett Beach, Narragansett, Rhode Island:
- Meh – I have no reference for other East Coast beaches, so it was OK, but I have a hard time recommending a beach that’s $10 per person. We did enjoy it.
Thimble Islands, Connecticut:
- Recommend. We would do this again and really enjoyed it.
- There are 2 or 3 boat companies that make the tours. They rotate through the dock every 20 minutes(in the summer). Unless you prefer one tour over another, show up when it works for your family, and a boat will be along shortly and take you on a tour.
Essex Steam Train and Riverboat, Connecticut:
- Recommend. We’d do this again and recommend the combo tour of both the train and riverboat if your crew can handle the 2.5 hour tour.
- You can bring outside food with you on the train, but not to eat on the train. You can eat outside food on the Riverboat. That way you can save money and bring what your family likes onto the longer tour and have an enjoyable rather than hangry tour. ?