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Outdoor buffs will want to check out Newport's famous Cliff Walk, a 3.5-mile paved walk that takes you along the bluff overlooking Easton Bay and behind several of the mansions. (about 225 miles from New York City) The nation's capital is one of the best family destinations on the East Coast. Unlike similar institutions in New York, the Smithsonian makes art, history and culture available to everyone at no cost.

Newport's three best beaches are cleverly named First, Second and Third and look out onto Rhode Island Sound, beginning just east of downtown. WHERE TO STAY: Check out the elegant downtown Hotel Viking or the beachfront Comfort Inn. Not only because of its renowned cultural institutions and historical significance, but because so much of what D. Other museums worth checking out: the National Air and Space Museum, the National Museum of Natural History and the National Zoo.

Newport, Rhode Island (about 180 miles east-northeast of New York City) The Vanderbilts and Astors have been gone for decades, but the Gilded Age summer playground of the very, very rich is still very, very chic, thanks to Newport's dramatic seaside location, renovated Colonial core and its ongoing appeal to the yachting crowd.

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The Omni Parker House sits in the city center and is near Faneuil Hall.

PLAN A VISIT: Cape May, New Jersey (about 2 hours, 30 minutes from New York City) As a National Historic Landmark and "the nation's oldest seashore resort," Cape May -- with its tidy neighborhoods, charming Victorian-era homes and pristine beaches -- beckons.

At the southern tip of the New Jersey Shore, Cape May is a beach town with a boardwalk so yesteryear, you can bike it in a rented surrey with actual fringe on top. Emlen Physick, board the Cape May Trolley for a spooky ghost tour, shop on the Washington Street (pedestrian) Mall or take a self-guided walk through the historic district.

There's good local theater, and the Mid-Atlantic Center for the Arts and Humanities (MAC) offers an array of events, including festivals and concerts.

Founded in 1786 by Judge William Cooper, the father of frontier novelist James Fenimore Cooper, present-day Cooperstown exudes in abundance all the equally cherished, time-honored virtues of rural, small-town America.

Now modernized and greatly expanded, the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum continues to be Cooperstown's biggest hit, drawing about 250,000 fans annually, many of whom proudly sport their favorite team's logo as they pose on the hall's front steps.The city is suffused with cutting-edge technology and low-tech delights.You can stand in an indoor lightning storm, test Robo Bees and explore energy sources among thousands of other interactive exhibits at the venerable Museum of Science Boston.Town beaches are clean and popular, especially Watch Hill, aka Carousel Beach.If you want to get away from the crowds, head out on the spit of sand called Napatree Point -- a Wildlife Preserve with no lifeguard, bathrooms or services.Alternately, you can stay in one of the town's Victorian beauties -- among the most popular, The Queen Victoria, where your stay includes gourmet breakfast, an afternoon tea with sweets and savories, beach chairs, bikes and lots more.

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