Two-Week East Coast Road Trip

What do you get when you have 2 parents + 3 kids + 2 five hour plane rides + 1 mini-van + more luggage than we could count+ 11 states + 1500 miles? The trip of a lifetime? A whole lot of fun? Unforgettable moments? Hands-on learning? Laughter/tears/chaos? Tired & achy feet and a heart full of happiness?  YES to everything! (You also might end up with 4000 pictures that you have to sort through…)

From the time we were married, we knew we wanted to visit New England, where Jeff served his LDS Mission. It’s been on our list for a while. When the LDS Connecticut Temple was announced, we decided we would go back east for the Open House. Meanwhile, Jeff and I went to Washington, D.C., Emily’s first time, a few years ago and we decided we also really wanted to take our kids there. What a family-friendly city!  Slowly our East Coast trip began to form. We went through several itineraries–including driving across the country from Utah to D.C. and everywhere else in between. After consulting with extended family members who have made similar trips, we decided to fly at least part of it.

So, what did we do those 14 days? What states did we visit? Read below for our overall trip experience. We will also be posting about each section of our trip separately as well.

With any trip we take, it always starts with a folder.

Yep, this is our actual trip folder and itinerary. It’s not pretty after what it’s been through. But either were we after day 14 😉

I always have a stack of these folders laying around the house and they are so handy for traveling. They fit in any backpack, are lightweight, and a great place to store all travel documents + the itinerary. I always print hard copies of our hotel, car and air reservations. I also print any tickets we have purchased. You never know if technology will cooperate.  I like to create a separate folder in my email, too, to store all digital reservations. It makes finding everything so much easier.

As far as booking airfare, hotel and car- we always try to use points. Jeff has a job where he travels a bit, so we were able to use points to buy our airfare and the majority of our hotel stays.

This post talks more about which credit cards we use and how we get the most out of our points. With any trip, look at what you already have point wise, and plan accordingly. If you don’t have any points or any travel reward credit cards, that’s ok too. It’s never too late to start earning them! We also suggest earning points through the free loyalty reward programs that pretty much every airline and hotel chain offer. You’ll be surprised how they add up- a free night or two can really make a difference. If you would have told me five years, heck even 3 years ago, that we’d be taking our fam of five across the country like this I would have thought you were nuts. A lot of planning, saving and just some smart point-using got us to this point. If traveling is a goal of yours, don’t give up on it!


Hotel: Holiday Inn Washington DC- Central/White House   Pool: Outdoor      Breakfast Included: No, but kids eat free with Adult Entree.

Travel Day! We had a non-stop flight that landed about 5 p.m. (ET) at the Baltimore Washington International Airport. We gave ourselves a full hour to gather our luggage and pick up our rental van. At BWI, the rental car facility is off-site. It went very smoothly and we were so impressed with how helpful and kind everybody was. We weren’t ever worried about putting our luggage on and off the shuttle, the carts etc- there was always someone to help us and that extra pair of hands was much appreciated.

Our first stop was to the Washington D.C. LDS Temple.


As you’re driving down the freeway, you’ll see these majestic spires shooting over the trees. Whether you’re LDS or not, you’ll wonder exactly what it is you’re looking at! Take an hour and visit the beautiful grounds and visitor’s center.

Our next stop- The White House.

Even though it was only 7:30 p.m., it was definitely dark. It was beautiful and our kids were so excited to see it! See more on D.C.’s historic sites here.

We finished the night off with dinner at Emily’s very favorite restaurant- Founding Farmers. MMMMMM. It’s only a few blocks away from the White House, totally within walking distance.


Hotel: Holiday Inn Washington DC- Central/White House   Pool: Outdoor    Breakfast Included: No, but kids eat free with Adult Entree.

Oh adjusting to the time change was harder than we thought it would be! We had Ford’s Theatre planned for 9 a.m. and meant to eat breakfast before. But we slept in, quickly got dressed and drove a few blocks to the Theatre just in time for our ticket time. Packing granola bars and snacks was a good idea, as we all munched on them as quickly as Jeff drove us there 🙂

This was amazing and although we were expecting our 10 year old to love it, our 7 and 5 year old girls did just as much, too! They were enthralled! Tickets are free, but you can also reserve them ahead of time for a small fee. Read more about our experience at Ford’s Theatre here. 

We grabbed breakfast after from a Pret a Manger down the street- mmmm. It was fresh, quick, and relatively inexpensive.

Our next stop was the National Zoo. Admission is free and we spent all afternoon there.

It was a rainy day, which we knew ahead of time and planned accordingly. The rain didn’t stop our fun at all, and if anything the animals were more active and the crowds were non-existent. Such a gorgeous Zoo!

After the Zoo, we checked out Georgetown. The stroll along the waterfront plus yummy cupcakes from Georgetown Cupcake was a great way to end the day.

Seriously, that salted caramel cupcake. No words. So good.  And the views were gorgeous! There are several upscale eateries and river cruises offered along the waterfront as well.

We finished with dinner…at 8 p.m…at our hotel, where kids eat free. The kids didn’t seem to mind eating cupcakes for dinner earlier. Either did we. And I was really impressed with our hotel’s food options too. We climbed into bed with the achiest feet ever, tired, but so happy!


Hotel: Holiday Inn Washington DC- Central/White House    Pool: Outdoor    Breakfast Included: No, but kids eat free with Adult Entree.

Mount Vernon! We grabbed breakfast from McDonald’s as we made the most beautiful drive ever. The fall leaves were gorgeous and in abundance, plus we found the best blue grass radio station- it was heaven!

This ended up being our 10-year-old’s favorite stop the entire trip. It was hard not to be captivated by the beauty and spirit spread across the 400 acres that General George Washington once owned. Read more about our experience at Mount Vernon here. 

After Mount Vernon, we visited Arlington National Cemetery. 

Oh this was a beautiful and sacred place. Our kids loved walking these grounds, seeing the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, the John F. Kennedy Eternal Flame, .

We finished the day off with a stop at the National Museum of Natural History. It was another rainy day and the museum was jam packed. The kids liked all the animals and Hope Diamond.

We ate dinner a couple blocks away  at Shake Shack. Our kids love a good cheeseburger and fries and the ice cream combinations are crazy good.

We finished the day off walking around the National Mall including:  Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial, Jefferson Memorial & the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial. Read more about our time at the National Mall here. 



Hotel: Holiday Inn Express Princeton Southeast   Pool: Indoor   Breakfast Included: Yes.

Our final day in D.C. We started off with a trip to the Supreme Court, where we ate a great breakfast in the basement cafeteria. We walked around the Capitol Building and toured the Library of Congress.


Our next stop in D.C. was a visit to the National Gallery of Art followed by the National Museum of Air and Space (which ended up being one of kids’ favorite museums- they could have stayed all day).


After packing up the car, off we went to Philadelphia!

First stop in Philly: Liberty Bell and Independence Hall.


Next a yummy Philly Cheesesteak sandwich from Sonny’s, a short distance from Independence Hall & Liberty Bell.

We finished our brief time in Philadelphia with a stop at the LDS Philadelphia Temple, only a couple miles from Independence Hall.

It was beautiful! There is also a Visitor’s Center across the street.  We swung by Trader Joe’s after and stocked up on a few essentials, checked into our hotel and had a relaxing night swimming in the pool. Read more about our time in Philadelphia here. 


Hotel: Candlewood Suites Jersey City   Pool: No  Breakfast Included: No   Laundry: Free self-serve washers & dryer

Onto New York City! We opted to stay outside of New York, in Jersey City, NJ. We checked into our hotel and caught the subway into the city. We went straight to our favorite spot for lunch- Patzeria Perfect Pizza.

We visited Times Square and Rockefeller Plaza next.


The kids really liked the Disney and Lego store. We cruised up 70 floors to the Top of the Rock and had a bird’s eye view of the city during the day and again at night.


Our girls were especially excited to eat dinner that evening at the American Girl Doll Cafe. 


Hotel: Candlewood Suites Jersey City   Pool: No  Breakfast Included: No   Laundry: Free self-serve washers & dryer

We started with a visit to the LDS Manhattan Temple.

The rest of the day was spent exploring Central park. We walked as far we could, checking out some of the iconic bridges, rode the carousel and took a pedicab ride when our feet couldn’t walk any more. Such a gorgeous park in the heart of a busy city.


We made our way to Connecticut. We took a pit stop at historic Yale University (as close as Emily will ever get to Rory, Logan and Paris).

Next we visited the brand new and completely gorgeous LDS Temple in Farmington, CT.

We ended the day with a lovely visit with local friends.


Hotel: Holiday Inn Express & Suites Middleboro Raynham  Pool: Yes  Breakfast Included: Yes.

We headed to Rhode Island to catch up with more friends in beautiful Narraganset.  It was GORGEOUS. We lost track of how many bridges we crossed, but each one was unique and seriously awe-inspiring for this desert-born family!

After Narraganset, we drove to Newport, RI. WOW! We drove around and checked out all the amazing mansions (an understatement) as well as the many charming shops and Bed & Breakfasts. See more photos of our afternoon there here.

We *barely* made it to our next stop- Woods Hole, MA to catch the ferry to Martha’s Vineyard. In fact- we missed our original ferry and our back up ferry! We ended up taking a Cargo Ship! But it was worth it!

We grabbed ice cream, checked out some of the lighthouses, saw the darling ‘Gingerbread’ houses, drove through the charming town, ate popcorn and tried to ride the carousel (it was closed).

Definitely another place we’d like to go back and explore more…maybe when it’s warmer, though!  Read more about our time in Martha’s Vineyard here.


Hotel: Holiday Inn Boston Bunker Hill  Pool: Indoor (as well as indoor activity center with table tennis, basketball court etc.)                                                                                                                                 Breakfast Included: No  Shuttle: Yes (complimentary- right to the heart of Boston, exactly where you’d need to go!)

Today took us to two amazing places: the coast town of Plymouth, MA and the very beautiful an historical city of Concord, MA.

Plymouth Mayflower

We took time to tour the Mayflower II as well as Plymouth Rock.  We could only imagine what the pilgrims thought when they finally reached land after more than 10 weeks at sea.

The Old North Bridge, part of the Minute Man National Park,  was at the top of our list.

After we finished exploring the Minute Man National Park, we checked out some of the amazing and famous literary homes including: Ralph Waldo Emerson, Louisa May Alcott, The Wayside (home to Louisa May Alcott, Margaret Sidney, and Nathaniel Hawthorne at different times) and Henry David Thoreau. Read about our time in Concord here

We made a quick stop at Harvard University and then the LDS Boston Temple.


We checked into our hotel in Downtown Boston after and grabbed a delicious Lobster dinner from Durgin Park, part of historic Faneuil Hall.

We explored Quincy Market and the Boston Harbor and enjoyed a relaxing evening at our hotel’s indoor pool.

DAY 10

Hotel: Holiday Inn Boston Bunker Hill  Pool: Indoor (as well as indoor activity center with table tennis, basketball court etc.)                                                                                                                                 Breakfast Included: No  Shuttle: Yes (complimentary- right to the heart of Boston, exactly where you’d need to go!)

We started our day bright and early with breakfast at the historic Quincy Market. There really is something for everyone here.

After,  we started following the Freedom Trail- which our kids LOVED! They thought it was so fun.


We toured Paul Revere’s home and the Old North Church before heading to the harbor to catch our boat for our Whale Watching Cruise.

We were able to see over 20 humpback whales less than 15 feet from us. Incredible. We finished the day off with the spectacular Boston views atop the Skywalk in the Prudential Center and a stop at Bunker Hill.


DAY 11

Hotel: Holiday Inn Express & Suites: Rochester-Victor  Pool: Indoor  Breakfast Included: Yes

Driving Day! Onto Vermont. This ended being one of Emily’s favorite spots the entire trip. What a gorgeous state.


Our first stop in Vermont was the birthplace of the LDS Prophet Joseph Smith. Read more about that here.


Next we drove over to Woodstock, VT. This is a place we would love to come back and spend a few days exploring all the little antique shops, general stores, walking trails, and especially the covered wood bridges. See more pictures of our time there here.

The rest of the looooooong day we spent driving! We pulled into Palmyra, New York around 11 pm.

DAY 12

Hotel: Holiday Inn Express & Suites: Rochester-Victor  Pool: Indoor  Breakfast Included: Yes

Was spent exploring the many LDS Church History Sites in Palmyra. The Smith Family Farm, which includes the Sacred Grove, as well as the Book of Mormon Publication Site at the Grandin Building was pretty amazing! Read more about our time in Palmyra here.

DAY 13

Hotel: SpringHill Suites BWI   Pool: Indoor  Breakfast Included: Yes   Airport Shuttle: Yes

Our trip is winding down. Sad day!  We spent this day driving through the gorgeous New York countryside, with stops at Hershey World (chocolate is a must on long driving days) as well as Gettysburg.



We grabbed takeout from a local restaurant the night before, Bob Evans, and spent the night doing laundry and swimming in the indoor pool. Read more about our time in Pennsylvania here.

DAY 14

Hotel: SpringHill Suites BWI    Pool: Indoor    Breakfast Included: Yes    Airport Shuttle: Yes

We stayed at a hotel a few miles from BWI, which was very nice since our nonstop flight left at 9am! With such an early morning, we wanted to be as close as possible.

Goodbye East Coast! It has been the most amazing two weeks.

Hill Cumorah Statue

Palmyra LDS Church History Sites

There are so many amazing and beautiful sites to see in Palmyra. Much of the information can be found directly on LDS.org, but if you’re wondering if this should be part of your stop when visiting the East Coast–our answer is 100% yes! We are still in awe. Our young kids– ages 10, 7, and 5 at the time of our trip–were little sponges (and not just because of the rain!), they absorbed so many little details about the humble circumstances surrounding Joseph Smith and his family. We pulled into our hotel late at night and began our day of touring bright and early the following morning.

We had four stops in Palmyra:

  1. The Smith Family Farm (including The Sacred Grove and homes surrounding it)
  2. The Grandin Print Shop (Publication Site of the Book of Mormon)
  3. The Palmyra LDS Temple
  4. The Hill Cumorah

We also toured the Peter Whitmer Farm just outside of Palmyra. All sites are free to tour, all are family-friendly. Hours vary, so be sure to plan accordingly. We LOVED going in early October, as you can see the leaves were gorgeous!

Our first stop was the Smith Farm Welcome Center, where some darling missionaries (members of our church who volunteer their time to serve others) took us on a tour of the two homes and property nearby. We walked through the Log Home first. Find hours here.


Log Cabin Smith Home Palmyra New York Log Cabin LDS History Site Log Home LDS History Site

LDS History Site Log Cabin Kitchen Sacred Grove behind Log Cabin

Pictured above left, the dining room/living room/kitchen in the log home. Pictured above right, our children looking out through the Smith family log home’s back door at the Sacred Grove.

Sacred Grove Trail in Palmyra, New York

Sacred Grove  Sacred Grove  Walking through the Sacred Grove

Walking through the Sacred Grove

The Sacred Grove was beautiful and peaceful. After touring their humble–perhaps crowded–log home, it was easy to see why Joseph chose the Sacred Grove as a place to ponder and pray vocally for the first time. For more information about the Sacred Grove, visit the official site here.

Sacred Grove Palmyra Temple View

Pictured above, view of the Palmyra Temple, peaking through the trees (look closely!) near the Sacred Grove.

Smith Home Palmyra New York

We also toured the Smith Frame Home, a short walk from the Log Home.  This was a slightly larger, and more modern home (pictured above)–but still humble. Our kids loved seeing the many different places where Joseph and his family hid the Golden Plates from the angry mob (pictured bottom left).

Joseph Smith hid Gold Plates here  Dining Room inside Log Cabin

Alan Smith Farmhouse Alan Smith Farmhouse Bedroom LDS Church History Palmyra New York

Palmyra New York LDS Church History Site

We spent about three hours touring the Smith Family Farm, although you could spend more or less time depending on your schedule. There are restrooms throughout, we would suggest to make sure to use them before walking through The Sacred Grove–especially with young kids 🙂

Palmyra LDS Temple

Not far from the Smith Family Farm is the Palmyra Temple. We enjoyed walking around the beautiful Temple grounds. (To see a list of all six Temples we visited on our trip, visit here.)

EB Grandin Print Shop

We had so much fun touring the Grandin Print Shop as well. Another pair of darling missionaries gave us and another family a tour of the building where the Book of Mormon was first published. Find hours here.

Grandin Print Shop  EB Grandin   Egbert GrandinGrandin Print Shop

This cheery space is where the free tour starts. We also learned about E.B. Grandin and the process to print a book back then–what a miracle it all was. It was a very engaging (and hands-on at times) tour! For more information on why the Book of Mormon is so special to us, visit here.

Grandin Print Shop  Grandin Print Shop  Grandin Print Shop

Book of Mormon Come Forth Grandin Print Shop Grandin Print Shop

History of Uppercase, lowercase Grandin Print Shop

Book of Mormon Manuscript  First Edition Book of Mormon

We spent a little under two hours on this tour, but again–you could spend more or less depending on your schedule. The charming antique shops nearby were also fun to visit (think Milk Glass!).

Peter Whitmer Farm New York

While this isn’t technically in Palmyra, we were SO glad we drove the 40 minutes to tour the Peter Whitmer Farm, where The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints was officially organized on April 6, 1830.

Peter Whitmer Farm Dining Room Peter Whitmer Bedroom

Peter Whitmer LDS Church Visitor Center Peter Whitmer Farm, New York

While there we had the chance to view a short film (about 5 minutes) in the visitor’s center called The Grove. Take time to watch it! This is the only place you can see it, as it’s not available online. What an inspiring visit! We spent just under an hour here.

Hill Cumorah

The Hill Cumorah took our breath away with its beauty! When we arrived it was pouring rain, so we watched a new segment from ‘Meet the Mormons‘ in the Visitor’s Center, talked with the missionaries and learned more about what took place in this sacred spot.  Find more on the hours and location here.   During the summer there is also a free pageant here (oh how we want to come back in the summer for this!). Find more information on that here. We spent about two hours here, but again you can spend more or less depending on your time frame. It is also a short, steep walk to the top. However, you can also drive up a bit closer if needed.

Hill Cumorah Statue Hill Cumorah Freedom and Faith

Our visit to Palmyra was near the very end of our our two week East Coast trip- more on that here. We were walking up to the statue at the top of the hill and the wind was blowing. We looked up and saw this- the American Flag and the statue of  Angel Moroni- and just thought how fitting this picture was- FREEDOM and FAITH- everything we hold near and dear culminating right here. It was a perfect way to wrap up our trip.


Yellow Mills Diner Palmyra, New York

Oh- one last thing: Lunch! Some of the locals suggested we try Yellow Mills Diner for lunch and it was so yummy. The service was great and we love eating local in a family-friendly environment.


We also visited the Prophet Joseph Smith’s birthplace in Sharon, Vermont. Read more about our time there here.