East Coast Travel Destinations for your Summer Bucket List

East Coast Travel Destinations for Your Summer Bucket List

While I don’t get to enjoy it anywhere near as often as I’d like, I love to travel. The number of travel opportunities was one of my favourite things about life in Bath and, to some degree, college in Gettysburg. Here in the middle of nowhere (my current home base), the chance to travel is pretty rare. Reaching public transit to get anywhere is a trip in and of itself!

Still, the east coast offers some fantastic destinations. I’ve been lucky enough to visit quite a few, and others are on my own bucket list. So, with summer on the horizon and vacation plans being made, I thought there was no better time to share some of my top east coast summer travel spots.

Before we get into my favourite destinations, a few disclaimers are in order. A majority of these spots are in the Mid-Atlantic region since that’s my area of expertise. I even included a touch of Pennsylvania, though it’s not technically on the coast (most resources consider it a part of the region, if not literally touch the coastline).

Interested in PA travel in particular? Read about my weekend in Harrisburg!

There are a few must-see travel destinations, though, that I haven’t had the chance to visit just yet. Through my insatiable wanderlust and travel (ghost) writing experience, I’ve had the opportunity to “see” some incredible cities and points of interest across the country and beyond! Naturally, a few have piqued my interest and made their way onto my travel bucket list. Have you been to one of these places? Share your best tips in the comments or @anideallifeblog!

The Best Summer Travel Destinations on the East Coast:

Of course, be sure to follow any applicable health & safety guidelines when travelling, particularly in the wake of COVID-19.

Frederick, Md

Carroll Creek Park, Image via Visit Frederick

Frederick is quite possibly one of my favourite places anywhere, not just on the east coast. This city has all the amenities you’d expectyet somehow achieves a friendly small-town feel. I love the artsy atmosphere and see a dog nearly any which way I turn! Plus, Voila! tea is basically a dream come true.

It may very well be different for the people that live there (I know Gettysburg was like that for me), but, until proven otherwise, Frederick will remain one of my favourite spots in Maryland and beyond.

Miami, FL

Image via Miamigov.com

Beaches aren’t necessarily my forte, but the city of Miami has most definitely caught my eye.

From my writing projects and pop culture, the diversity here astounds me. If nothing else, I won’t turn down a chance to practice my Spanish listening skills!

Gettysburg, PA

Gettysburg Pennsylvania | An Ideal Life
Devil’s Den

Going to school there dampened my love for Gettysburg a bit, but I still have a soft spot for the tourist-packed summer months. Any history fan—or civil war buff, in particular—should have the National Military Park on their bucket list!

In addition to the battlefield, Downtown Gettysburg has a lot to love. Visit the Blue and Gray Bar & Grill for a veggie burger or grab a drink at the Pointe Pub (within the Federal Pointe Inn). Learn about Jennie Wade, the only reported civilian killed during the battle, or “meet” some Gettysburg ghosts at one of the town’s many paranormal tours. More spiritual visitors should be sure to visit The Crystal Wand’s new location on Baltimore Street.

Myrtle Beach, SC

Image via Visit Myrtle Beach

Technically, I have been to Myrtle Beach, but it’s been well over a decade. So, while I don’t have much in terms of specific recommendations, I do have a ton of happy memories.

It’s all too possible that my view of Myrtle Beach is clouded by nostalgia—as my disdain for sand & sun grew through the years, I think I’d still enjoy this one. But, still, that rose tint maintains my love of this South Carolina hot spot, hence its inclusion on this list of east coast summer travel ideas.

Inner Harbor, MD

Baltimore Inner Harbor | An Ideal Life

Apparently, most of my favourite destinations are in Maryland—who knew? Aside: one of my current writing projects is inspired by the town of Berlin, too!

Between family vacations as I was growing up and then school and professional trips in later years, Baltimore’s Inner Harbor is near the top of my list of favourite places. In fact, I enjoy it so much that I’ve considered moving there!

But, so far as summer travel plans are concerned, Inner Harbor is the perfect weekend or day trip destination for anyone within a reasonable driving distance. From museums to adventures on the water, you’d be hard-pressed to not find something to love.

New York, NY

Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir, also known as Central Park Reservoir Manhattan | An Ideal Life
Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir, Manhattan

Given my limited interest in beaches, it’s only natural that I’d include some cities as potential east coast destinations to visit this summer. NYC has a special place in my heart, and it’s not only because of Tiffany’s.

From Times Square to Central Park, New York City is “centre of the universe” for a good reason. But there’s more to the Big Apple than tourist attractions alone. My number one stop? VLife, the source of some of the best vegan food I’ve ever eaten!

Amherst, MA

Amherst Town Hall
Amherst Town Hall, Image via Encyclopaedia Britannica

Amherst is the newest addition to my travel bucket list, primarily due to the Emily Dickinson Museum. But any destination described as being “known for its bookishness, its artsyness, its local food obsession, its openness and tolerance, and its beauty” is the sort of place I need to visit!

Save for Salem, I’ve never had much of an urge to travel through the more northern United States. The more I learn about Amherst, though, the more that changes.

Petersburg, VA

City Point, Petersburg | An Ideal Life
City Point

My experience in Petersburg was limited to a Civil War conference half a decade ago (in my “former life” as a historian).But, from what I did get to experience the battlefield and surrounding area, I really enjoyed my stay!

If you do visit Petersburg’s National Battlefield, try to catch a program with my friend Emmanuel—he’s an incredible ranger and so passionate about his work!

City Point is especially beautiful, and its stunning views have stuck with me through the years. And, returning to my Pennsylvania roots, the 48th’s efforts had a particular impact as well.

Ocean City, MD

Ocean City, MD | An Ideal LifeAnother notable exception to my not-so-positive feelings about beaches, Ocean City, Maryland (not to be confused with its New Jersey equivalent) is anotherwonderful destination for a summer vacation. The boardwalk, in particular, has such fond memories!

As a bonus, the shore is just a few minutes away from one of my all-time favourite places, Assateague Island. They’ve basically mastered the formula for getting a place to catch my attention—they have cute animals and some literary references.

There’s much more to the east coast than these particular destinations. But these are a few of my favourites—and hopefully future favourites, too!

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Mini - An Ideal Life
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A Weekend in Harrisburg

A Weekend in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania

Despite living in Pennsylvania for a huge portion of my life, I haven’t spent much time in the capital in a long time. When I was young, my mom worked for the State, so she spent plenty of time in the Harrisburg area. I got to accompany her fairly often but it’s been years since I visited the city. Or, that was the case until this time last year. That changed after a (pre-COVID, of course!) weekend in Harrisburg!

Friday

We first arrived in Harrisburg late Friday afternoon, with time to catch up and unpack. We’d gone with a particularly budget-friendly accommodation option, so there’s not much to say about the hotel room itself. Though it’s always a pleasure to sprawl out in a hotel bed—it’s a quality I’m forever trying to emulate at home!

Naturally, we were in need of sustenance not long after. For that, we headed to O’Reilly’s Tap Room & Kitchen, an Irish pub attached to The Central Hotel & Conference Center of Harrisburg. This 2020 Friday evening was coincidentally Valentine’s Day, so we were worried we’d struggle to find somewhere to eat without a reservation. But, fortunately, O’Reilly’s had seats available and attentive service to match.

After months in the middle of nowhere, Pennsylvania, I was thrilled to see vegan offerings. O’Reilly’s was the first of several veggie burgers I indulged in over the weekend. And, as a bonus, the burger itself was beautiful!

A Weekend in Harrisburg, PA - O'Reilly's Beyond Burger

Once we’d finished eating and enjoying our drinks, it was about time to head “home” to our hotel room. A few YouTube videos later and it was time to rest up for tomorrow’s adventures!

Saturday

Day 2 of our weekend in Harrisburg began with a visit to the AACA Museum. When your travel companion’s a car enthusiast and you’re minutes from one of the top automotive museums in the world, the itinerary is pretty clear.

While I don’t have the technical knowledge to back it up, I’ve always loved cars, too. I have fond memories of going to an annual car show with my grandparents and appreciating the classics as they’d drive by! So the museum was a special treat for me as well.

In particular, these two exhibits stood out to me, for arguably silly reasons. The bus from Speed (1994) was a highlight for a rather silly reason—its reference in an early episode of Bob’s Burgers.

A Weekend in Harrisburg - AACA Museum - bus from Speed

But the DeLoreans made for something even more special. For my sixteenth birthday, my grandparents surprised me with a car reminiscent of our old car show days—a little toy DeLorean. So it was a particular treat to see the real thing displayed!

A Weekend in Harrisburg - AACA Museum - DeLoreans

After the museum, it was once again time for food. For that, we turned to The Mill, a must-visit spot in Hershey. With “a unique collection of dining spaces,” The Mill really is a restored historic mill. And, just as importantly, it’s got to delicious food and drink! I didn’t snag any photos while we were there, but I enjoyed another plant-based burger. And it’s worth noting that my (non-vegan) lunchtime partner enjoyed The Mill’s crabcakes, even as a native Marylander!

Post-lunch, it was time for a stop I was especially looking forward to—Midtown Scholar Bookstore. It’s been much too long since I got to enjoy the beauty of a bookstore and I’d been staring longingly at their shelves through my phone screen. And, not only did we pick up (more than) our fair share of books, I was excited to pick up a few books by my fellow poets. While I can’t quite call them “friends,” per se, I finally had the chance to read the work of some of my Twitter connections! As a bonus, I stopped by the children’s section for a few sentimental favourites—Guess How Much I Love You for myself and Goodnight Moon as a gift for my mom.

A Weekend in Harrisburg - Midtown Scholar
How gorgeous are these Shakespeares?

Looking for some used or indie books of your own? Head to Bookshop, IndieBound, AbeBooks, or Thriftbooks!

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As undeniable bookworms, that called for an end to our adventuring—we needed to head back to enjoy our new reads!

Sunday

Our weekend was coming to a close around mid-day, so there wasn’t time for a ton of activities. Even still, the day had to start with the all-important cup of coffee on my part. That’s where the City Line Diner came into play. Not only did I get that coffee, but I enjoyed a tasty veggie panini. Plus, our waiter offered some of the best service I’ve ever encountered!

A Weekend in Harrisburg - City Line Diner - Coffee

As a final event, we headed to Fort Hunter Mansion and Park. The Archibald McAllister House was unfortunately closed for the season, but the grounds alone are stunning. You can genuinely feel the history of the land around you!

A Weekend in Harrisburg: Fort Hunter Mansion

But the gorgeous view of the Susquehanna just might have been my favourite point of it all. Even on a cloudy day, it was absolutely stunning!

A Weekend in Harrisburg - Susquehanna River

Even with these must-see spots throughout Harrisburg, I know we hardly saw all that Harrisburg has to offer. While COVID’s halted our travel plans for the time being, it’s definitely a city we’ll have to return to, not to mention the larger Hershey-Harrisburg area!

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How would you spend a weekend in Harrisburg?