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New York City, Boston, Philadelphia, Washington, DC

Good things to do & hidden gems in NYC, DC, Boston & Philadelphia?

We will be family (4 people) traveling in August.  Our budget won't be very large, but we can afford one or two expensive things. I need ideas which are not necessarily in travel books!  We will go to New York City, Boston, Philadelphia, and Washington DC.

25 Answers

top answer by
Kaitlyn from Cleveland

I love Boston! Even though it is a tourist spot, definitely check out Faneuil Hall Marketplace area. There are street performers, a lot of good stands to get something to eat and a great atmosphere at night. It's not kid friendly but the Frost Ice Bar is a neat experience in the Faneuil Marketplace area- it's an entire bar made of ice complete with one-time-use ice glasses! Very cool (literally!) and a little pricey, expect to spend $15 to get in and $10 a drink. There are only three in the U.S. I think but it will cool you down for sure in August! 

North Street Grille is a GREAT spot for breakfast; it's a small, neighborhood place in North End and fills up fast so get there early!

D.C. is a great city to experience too; lots of diversity! There are some WONDERFUL museums that will be in your guidebooks but are worth checking out. The National Air and Space Museum is very interactive and interesting for the whole family; it has some really amazing IMAX presentations as well as exhibits. The National Gallery of Art and any of the other Smithsonian museums (which the Air & Space Museum is a part of) are really a national treasure. The National Mall is a great place to take a picnic or just stroll through, there's always people out there meeting up, playing frisbee or just enjoying the sun. It's connected to the memorials and a great workout if you want to walk or run in that area. 

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Faneuil Hall Marketplace (attraction)
  2. Frost Ice Bar (attraction)
  3. North Street Grille (restaurant)
  4. North End (neighborhood)
  5. National Air and Space Museum (attraction)
  6. National Gallery of Art (restaurant)
  7. Smithsonian (attraction)
  8. National Mall (attraction)
11 thankscomments (2)

answered by
Matthew from Prescott

My suggestion is for Philadelphia, as it sounds like NYC is covered. The Number 1 hidden gem in Philly is Eastern State Penitentiary. This place is an excellent mix of amazing and creepy, and the best part is, it is right in the city, no hour drive into the boonies. Great photo ops and lots of interesting facts.

As for lots of good food options the Reading Terminal Market is a can't miss. They are full of the food your are looking for. I think your best bet is either breakfast or lunch, as I think they are closed for dinner.

The battle over the cheese steaks is pretty split. What is good news for newcomers is they are across the street from each other. So I suggest ordering one from Pat's King of Steaks and one from Geno's Steaks and then splitting them; that way you can try both.


Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Eastern State Penitentiary (attraction)
  2. Reading Terminal Market (restaurant)
  3. Pat's King of Steaks (restaurant)
  4. Geno's Steaks (restaurant)
7 thankscomments (2)

answered by
Judi from Solomons

Your visit in Washington, DC can, of course, be filled with all of the Smithsonian museums.  They are great AND FREE!  And lovely garden areas too. If you want a truly American experience try a National's baseball game.  The stadium is easy to get to via the Metro Green Line.  Also in the area by the baseball stadium is The Yards.  This is a newly developed area along the Anacostia River and they have free concerts on Friday evenings.  Check out their website for additional free events (  While you and your family are visiting the U.S. in August I'll be visiting your country - - Provence mostly this trip - - rented a house in Pelissane. 


Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Washington, DC (city)
  2. Anacostia River (attraction)
6 thanks

answered by
Thom from Philadelphia


I've been to each city that you mentioned and live and work in Philadelphia.  I love budget travel and all these cities are great to walk in and discover things.

Boston - Visit Boston Common and hang out for awhile.  I also recommend a trip to Harvard University in Cambridge.  Catch the T; it's easy. The neighborhood around Harvard is a great place to find a variety of foods on a budget.  I also love the Allston neighborhood.

New York - You should at least walk through Times Squareonce.  Check out Central Park and poke around Central Park - Conservatory Water.  Especially visit the boathouse where the remote control boats are kept that sail in the pond.  There is cheap food all over New York.  Try the quintessential NYC food--a bagel. Off-the-beaten path, see the The Frick Collection.  I love to walk in TriBeCa and SoHo.

Philadelphia - You must visit The Piazza.  Walk the neighborhood to find artsy places, a great community garden and great places to eat.  Most of them are expensive but look for Honey's Sit-N-Eat for breakfast and lunch.  Go to the top of the Loews Hotel Philadelphia for a free view of the city in all directions.   I love to walk the neighborhoods between 8th-13th Streets and Locust-Lombard.  Get lost in the little alleyways to see the best of urban living.

Washington - At night, grab some quarts of your favorite ice cream from a convenience store (7-11) and head for the memorials.   I highly recommend Jefferson, Lincoln, Vietnam, MLK and Korean Memorials.  We sat and ate our ice cream at the reflecting pool overlooking the Capital Dome, Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial recently.  It was awesome!  Eastern Market is well worth the trip, though a bit out of the way from other Washington attractions.

We just stayed at an AirBnB (look on web) and had an exquisite stay on a budget!  I highly recommend for staying in any of these cities.

Enjoy your trip! 

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Boston Common (metro area)
  2. Harvard University (attraction)
  3. Allston (attraction)
  4. Times Square (metro area)
  5. Central Park - Conservatory Water (attraction)
  6. The Frick Collection (attraction)
  7. TriBeCa (neighborhood)
  8. SoHo (neighborhood)
  9. Honey's Sit-N-Eat (restaurant)
  10. Loews Hotel Philadelphia (hotel)
  11. Eastern Market (attraction)
  12. The Piazza (attraction)
6 thankscomments (1)

answered by
Jenn from Arlington (Virginia)

Some recommendations for Washington DC, besides the obvious Smithsonian museums:

Glen Echo Park is a great spot for families  You would need a rental car to get there. 

2 Amys- family friendly restaurant near the National Cathedral; great Neopolitan pizza

Just across the river in Virginia is the famous US Marine Corps War Memorial (aka Iwo Jima). Just past the memorial and before you hit Arlington National Cemetery, there is a huge hill with a gorgeous view of the city including the United States Capitol building and the Washington Monument. Its a great place for a picnic. There is some limited parking or its a short walk from the Rosslyn Metro Station on the orange and blue lines. 

Eastern Market- flea market, crafts/artists, farmer's market on weekends.  

Outdoor movies- there are several places to watch free outdoor movies in the summer. This website keeps an updated list:

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Glen Echo Park (attraction)
  2. 2 Amys (restaurant)
  3. US Marine Corps War Memorial (attraction)
  4. Arlington National Cemetery (attraction)
  5. United States Capitol (attraction)
  6. Washington Monument (attraction)
  7. Eastern Market (attraction)
  8. Rosslyn Metro Station (attraction)
6 thanks

answered first by
Courtney from Los Angeles

Hi, Emilie,

I'm not sure what you like to do and not sure if you'll be with kids, but here are some relatively off the beaten path suggestions:

Wave Hill - this is a botanical garden in the Bronx that a lot of New Yorkers don't even know exists. While there are a lot of great gardens in NYC, this one is probably one of the more off-the-map ones. Some very interesting exhibits here, too. 

Rubin Museum of Art - LOVE this place! It's all Asian art and they have a wonderful cafe if you need to sit down for a while. They always seem to have free exhibits along with the ones you pay for which is nice if you just want to get a taste of the museum. 

Stone Street Financial District - this is becoming more and more popular so see it now. It's basically a small street downtown with pubs and outdoor tables, etc. It's a lot of fun on a hot summer night. 

Bohemian Hall & Beer Garden - again, not sure if you're traveling with kids, but if you aren't, check this place out. It's one of my favorite haunts in the city (OK, it's actually in Queens) and a great place to people watch the locals on a hot summer night. 

Delacorte Theater - it's a favorite past time of New Yorkers to come here and watch "Shakespeare in the Park" at the Delacorte. It's an outdoor theater in the middle of Central Park that attracts some huge names. Be prepared, though--New York is HOT and HUMID in August and there's no air conditioning outside!!! 

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Wave Hill (attraction)
  2. Rubin Museum of Art (attraction)
  3. Stone Street Financial District (attraction)
  4. Bohemian Hall & Beer Garden (attraction)
  5. Delacorte Theater (attraction)
  6. Central Park (attraction)
6 thanks

answered by
Jennifer from New York City

I live in downtown NYC, so here is a list of more downtown (Tribeca, Soho, West Village, Chelsea) focused things to do/see/eat! These are more expensive options, for your splurges.

Eat: Minetta Tavern or The Spotted Pig for a great cozy steak dinner. You can also just go to the Spotted Pig for drinks, as the building is very charming. Another great drink spot is Smith & Mills, a tiny jewelbox of a place in Tribeca. In Soho, there's Navy for great seafood, The Dutch for cozy comfort food, and Raoul's for a classic french dinner. If you want the best crab/pork soup dumplings in Chinatown, go to Shanghai Cafe Deluxe (cheap)!

See: Postmasters Gallery is my favorite gallery in Tribeca in a beautiful loft space. New Museum is a contemporary art museum with a great shop and cafe. The Broken Kilometer is a hidden gallery showcasing Walter De Maria, as well as The New York Earth Room.

Do: Shopping along Bleecker Street in the West Village is a bit more charming than in Soho. If you have time, take a class at the Trapeze School New York, right on the Hudson River. And don't miss the High Line Park! Also, a stroll through the Chelsea Market is fun.

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Minetta Tavern (restaurant)
  2. The Spotted Pig (restaurant)
  3. Smith & Mills (attraction)
  4. Navy (restaurant)
  5. The Dutch (restaurant)
  6. Raoul's (restaurant)
  7. Shanghai Cafe Deluxe (restaurant)
  8. Postmasters Gallery (attraction)
  9. New Museum (attraction)
  10. The Broken Kilometer (attraction)
  11. The New York Earth Room (attraction)
  12. Trapeze School New York (attraction)
  13. High Line Park (attraction)
  14. Chelsea Market (attraction)
5 thanks

answered by
Julian from Tampa

Hi, it seems that Ellis Island is reopen since few weeks, you should do that because it's been close for two years, also the 9/11 Memorial Museum will be open.

Those ideas are on travel books but they will be open or reopen since few months so I think it's a good plan.

Have a good stay there.

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Ellis Island (attraction)
  2. 9/11 Memorial Museum (attraction)
5 thanks

answered by
George from Ocean Grove

Chinatown is my favorite part of NYC and you can find some fantastic cheap food in that area:

Prosperity Dumpling (website) on 46 Eldridge St. you get 5 dumplings for $1

Vanessa's Dumpling House (website) just down the street has Peking Duck Sesame Pancakes for around $2 

A little more pricey but worth it if you'd like to try some ice cream flavors like "Zen Butter" or more traditional like "Red Bean" is the The Original Chinatown Ice Cream Factory (website) on 65 Bayard St.

Right near there is Columbus Park (website) which usually has musicians playing Huqins and other traditional Chinese instruments. It's also home to many games of Chess, Checkers, and Cards. Bustling but quaint.

If Chinatown ain't you're thing or if you need a change from the scene the classic Katz's Delicatessen is right next door as well as Doughnut Plant (website) on 379 Grand St. best donuts I've had on the East Coast.

Somebody already mentioned it but The Frick Collection would probably be a sweet left of center museum to check out if you wanted to see something that isn't as touristy as The Met (nothing against the Met it's awesome as well).

Have a great time!

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Prosperity Dumpling (restaurant)
  2. Vanessa's Dumpling House (restaurant)
  3. The Original Chinatown Ice Cream Factory (restaurant)
  4. Columbus Park (attraction)
  5. Katz's Delicatessen (restaurant)
  6. Doughnut Plant (restaurant)
  7. The Frick Collection (attraction)
4 thanks

answered by
Saul from Berkeley, California

Not sure how "hidden" these are but worth going to in NYC no matter what.

1. The High Line Park

2. Prospect Park in Brooklyn

3. Check out/walk around DUMBO then take the ferry to Williamsburg.

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. High Line Park (attraction)
  2. Prospect Park (attraction)
  3. DUMBO (attraction)
  4. Williamsburg (neighborhood)
4 thanks

answered by
Chelsea from Rustburg

In Boston, make sure to check out Al Dente in Little Italy. It's one of the best meals of my life! The Pumpkin Ravioli is unbelieveable. Additionally, make sure to grab a canoli at Mike's Pastry afterwards and take it the the outdoor seating area near the bridge. 

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Al Dente (restaurant)
  2. Mike's Pastry (restaurant)
4 thankscomments (1)

answered by
marisa from Minnesota

In NYC go see the American Museum of Natural History. The whole top floor is dinosaur bones, it is really cool. Go to Coney Island in Brooklyn and govto the beach and take the kids to Luna Park which was recently renovated, it is right on the boardwalk. And go to the Bronx Zoo, that zoo is huge and has really cool animals. You can also ride on camels, that was fun. Take the South Ferry in Manhattan (it is free). It passes right by the Statue of Liberty on its way to Staten Island. If you don't want to payto go to Liberty Island to see it, that is a nice alternative. It runs every half hour. Enjoy.

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. American Museum of Natural History (attraction)
  2. Coney Island (attraction)
  3. Brooklyn (neighborhood)
  4. Luna Park (attraction)
  5. Bronx Zoo (attraction)
  6. South Ferry (attraction)
  7. Manhattan (attraction)
  8. Statue of Liberty (attraction)
  9. Staten Island (island)
  10. Liberty Island (attraction)
4 thanks

answered by
Kay from Vermont

When in Boston walk the The Freedom Trail and get cannolis at Mike's Pastry in the north end. It's the best!

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Boston (city)
  2. The Freedom Trail (attraction)
  3. Mike's Pastry (restaurant)
3 thankscomments (1)

answered by
Jared from Angelika Film Center & Cafe

NYC - Jazz night in the American Legion Post 398 in Harlem on Sunday nights - top 3 things you can do in the entire city. Super cheap too (free entry, cheap drinks and soul food served)

Philly - Italian Market Spice Co Inc - roast pork sandwich at any of the places will be fantastic.

DC - Museum of Natural History (or Newseum, which costs money).  Anything related to the Smithsonian is THAT good.

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Italian Market Spice Co Inc (attraction)
  2. Museum of Natural History (attraction)
  3. Newseum (attraction)
  4. Smithsonian (attraction)
  5. American Legion Post 398 (attraction)
3 thankscomments (1)

answered by
Sharon from Princeton (New Jersey)

Philadelphia has great places for children. First there are over 2000 murals on buildings. They're huge and fascinating.  Don't miss Isaiah Zagar's mosaics throughout Philadelphia.. The Franklin Institute has great exhibits for children. There are opportunities for the children to participate.  And as the city where the Declaration of Independence was signed, you have to take then to Independence Mall to see The Liberty Bell and the National Constitution Center. The Ride The Ducks tour are a fun river trip. Google all and Checkout the passes you can bug. Be sure to show them Ben Franklin atop Philadelphia City Hall.

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. The Franklin Institute (attraction)
  2. Independence Mall (attraction)
  3. The Liberty Bell (attraction)
  4. National Constitution Center (attraction)
  5. Ride The Ducks (attraction)
  6. Philadelphia City Hall (attraction)
2 thanks

answered by
Alisa from Charleston (West Virginia)

New York--the High Line Park, a rail line that has been refurbished as an urban walkway near Chelsea Piers is a fantastic way to see the city from a different  Near NYU is a little known museum, the Forbes Galleries with visiting exhibits but permanent collection of miniature soldiers (and I mean a lot), fabrege eggs, presidential memorabilia.  It used to be free so check it out.

In DC, there are bike touring companies that offer tour of the monuments at night! Go see new Anchorman exhibit at the Newseum and the National Portrait Gallery is awesome.

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. High Line Park (attraction)
  2. Chelsea Piers (attraction)
  3. Forbes Galleries (attraction)
  4. Newseum (attraction)
  5. National Portrait Gallery (attraction)
2 thanks

answered by
Gina from Long Island (New York)

I think that the Steve Cohen Chamber Magic show that takes place in a suite at the The Waldorf Astoria is a really fun evening out in New York City.  If you love magic, it's an intimate show and feels very exclusive and very family friendly - however, note that there is a dress code, but that makes it all the more special. 

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. The Waldorf Astoria (hotel)
  2. Steve Cohen Chamber Magic (attraction)
2 thankscomments (1)

answered by
Rick from Boston

Take the tour at Fenway Park You won't be disappointed!  There is also a great BBQ restaurant, Sweet Cheeks Q within walking distance from the ballpark.  Awesome food

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Fenway Park (attraction)
  2. Sweet Cheeks Q (restaurant)
1 thanks

answered by
Hannah from Washington, DC

Hi there! For DC, I would actually highly recommend taking the Metro out to some of the nearby towns in Virginia and Maryland, especially Old Town Alexandria. It's filled with Revolution-era history as well as some of the area's best restaurants (Restaurant Eve is a must-go!!). There's also the Torpedo Factory Art Center, which is actually a large art center filled with local artists' studios. It's right on the Potomac River as well, which is absolutely beautiful.

For NYC, don't be afraid to head uptown! For amazing bagels, check out Absolute Bagels in Morningside Heights. Ayurveda Cafe on the Upper West Side is a tiny Indian spot that serves you unlimited vegetarian dishes (plus naan and dessert!) for only about $10 for lunch and $14 for dinner. The servers are incredibly nice as well. If you go up to Harlem, check out the The Studio Museum In Harlem or the gorgeous The Hispanic Society of America. If you want a good cup of coffee anywhere in the city, Joe Coffee is a newer spot that has about 8 locations around the city already--it's not as much of a "hidden gem," but both the coffee and the pastries are incredible.

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Old Town Alexandria (attraction)
  2. Restaurant Eve (restaurant)
  3. Torpedo Factory Art Center (attraction)
  4. Absolute Bagels (restaurant)
  5. Ayurveda Cafe (restaurant)
  6. The Studio Museum In Harlem (attraction)
  7. The Hispanic Society of America (attraction)
  8. Joe Coffee (restaurant)
1 thanks

answered by
Noelle from Tampa, Florida
1 thanks

answered by
Jeremy from San Francisco

Big fan of the Free Tours by Foot in NYC -

Great local guides who are passionate and knowledgeable.  Not completely 'free' as a small tip is requested, but still a steal. 

1 thanks

answered by
Valerie from Queens

Washington DC has tons of museums all over and most of them are free, it's a fairly cheap city if you want to take a family to see the monuments and be more of an educational/historical trip. Some federal buildings have parking underground to the public, it's very easy to get ticketed. 

1 thanks

answered by
Spencer from New York City

Check out my answer to a similar question for NYC here:

answered by
Theresa from Hollywood

Obviously, there are oodles of things to do in these places. I used to live in NYC and visit my sister monthly in Philly, so here are a few less touristy and amazing things I've done!


Veselka is my favorite place to eat. They are a Ukrainian diner with delicious pierogis!
* The International Center of Photography, The Museum of Sex, and The Museum of the Moving Image are unique places to check out. I'm not a museum-y person, but I loved all of these.
* New Pizza Town II is a little hole-in-the-wall pizza place. Great prices! I always get the white pizza.
* The Smith Restaurant has an amazing film photobooth. Only $3 for a strip and they accept cards.
* Frying Pan is a bar on a boat. 'Nuff said.
* Columbus Circle is certainly a tourist destination, but it's beautiful and shouldn't be missed. Plus, it's right at a corner of Central Park which is kind of amazing. :)

For Philadelphia, here are a few of my top picks:

* Brunch at Honey's On South. Their food is to die for. There will likely be a wait, but I guarantee it's worth it. Oh! Many Philly restaurants are BYOB because there is a limit to the liquor licenses the city gives out. So, bring a bottle of champers and order the fresh-squeezed OJ for morning mimosas!
* The Mütter Museum is ... interesting. Again, I'm not a museum person but you should see this. It's a museum filled with medical oddities. There is some super strange stuff in here, and it's not recommended for the queasy.
* Golosa Chocolate Bar is an amazing place for some sweets! You can order anything and it will be amazing, and you can also have them add liquor to your purchase -- so BYO mini bottle of tequila or rum and enjoy!

Have an amazing time!!

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Veselka (restaurant)
  2. International Center of Photography (attraction)
  3. Museum of Sex (attraction)
  4. Museum of the Moving Image (attraction)
  5. New Pizza Town II (restaurant)
  6. The Smith Restaurant (restaurant)
  7. Frying Pan (attraction)
  8. Columbus Circle (attraction)
  9. Central Park (attraction)
  10. Honey's On South (restaurant)
  11. Mütter Museum (attraction)
  12. Golosa Chocolate Bar (restaurant)

answered by
Julia from Kyiv, Ukraine

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