Ten short summer road trips from Philly

Cape May, NJ.

There are always good reasons for driving to a vacation spot rather than flying. It’s cheaper; it allows you to stop and eat or see things along the way; and you can play your favorite music in the background rather than listen to a jet engine for hours. In addition, with the COVID pandemic still a major health concern for all Americans (not just those vaccinated), the CDC has recommended short car trips over longer trips, flights, or travel by train or bus.

But beyond all those reasons to hop in the car, traveling to places closer to home allow you to support local economies, which in turn drive support for Philadelphia and the region as a whole. The more robust our neighbors are, the more robust we are. So, with that in mind, here are ten places that you can drive to on a tank of gas or less.

Wilmington (30 miles away): If you’re a fan of architecture, landscaping, or American history, the Dupont family built some incredible things out in the Wilmington area. The Nemours Estate is like a mini Versailles (fittingly, since it was modeled after it) with its French gardens, and the Winterthur Museum is a decorator’s eden with its 85,000 objects and 175 rooms. 

Trenton/Princeton (40 miles away): Take a trip to Grounds for Sculpture, which features 300 sculptures across 42 acres of space (easy to social distance!), then continue on to Princeton for a stroll and a bite to eat. Chez Alice near the campus grounds has some good cakes and baked goods, and there are plenty of trees for shade.

New Hope (40 miles away): One of the most LGBTQ-friendly places in the region, New Hope has ample shops, restaurants and scenery for a full day trip or an overnight visit. Nearby Peddler’s Village is hosting Murder Mystery Outdoor Walking Tours, so you can enjoy a meal before you solve the case.

Atlantic City (40 miles away): Did you know the shore is 10 degrees cooler than Philadelphia in the summer? You might think the difference between 80 and 90 degrees isn’t a big deal, but when you’re walking the boardwalk instead of a concrete sidewalk, it will be. As AC tries to bounce back from COVID, you can get some great deals on casino hotels.

Bucks County (40 miles away): Mercer Museum and Fonthill Castle in Doylestown are a historical gem of the region. The museum’s 40,000 objects show the lives of Americans before 1850. The castle features over 40 rooms, 200 windows, 18 fireplaces, and it serves as a showcase for Henry Mercer’s famous handmade ceramic tiles. 

Asbury Park (75 miles away): New Jersey has a lot of shoreline, and while Philadephians might be partial to the southern part, the northern part has some worthwhile destinations too. The LGBTQ community in Asbury Park has been growing in recent years, and the city features some hip breweries, specialty dessert shops, and cool street art in addition to the boardwalk.

Cape May (93 miles away): The southernmost point of New Jersey was designated as a National Historic Landmark City, and it has one of the largest assortments of 19th-century buildings around. There are also numerous LGBTQ-owned businesses, bed and breakfasts, and a car-free shopping street.

Baltimore (100 miles away): As jealous as Philadelphia city planners might be of Baltimore’s waterfront, It’s not just the inner harbor that makes John Waters’ favorite city fun. The city is a fun place to walk and stumble upon a bookstore restaurant (Red Emma’s), a seriously good art museum (the BMA), or old school stores that sell actual records and CDs.

Rehoboth Beach (123 miles away): Rehoboth has remained a mainstay in vacation destinations for a reason. The sand is beautiful, the restaurants are good, it’s super, super LGBTQ, and it’s far enough away that you’ll encounter people from all up and down the east coast. It’s not an exaggeration to say Rehoboth is the new Provincetown.

Washington, DC (140 miles away): Before you grumble about politics, D.C. has enough to do that you won’t need to think about partisan gridlock. The museums are world class and free, the neighborhoods are unique and walkable (much like Philly), and hotels like the Bethesda North Marriott make it easy to bring your pets along so you can save money on a sitter.