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When to Go to the Mid Atlantic States

What you need to know about cost, weather and activities for regional travel within the Mid Atlantic States.

Costs are slightly higher than the national average in many places, with seaside resorts soaking travelers during July and August.


This is pretty big area, but the weather patterns are much the same, the main difference being that it's colder in the north than in the south (no surprise?), by about 10°F to 20°F most of the time. Summertime is when all the really good activities take place, except for the low-level skiing you can enjoy in Pennsylvania, upstate New York and even in New Jersey.

Delaware, Maryland and Washington, D.C. have their best weather from early April through mid November.

New York (City and State) enjoys its best weather from mid April through mid November. It can get up to 104°F in the city in mid summer, however, so try to come to the Big Apple in the winter, or sometime between late September and mid May. In that latter period, activities of all kinds are at their peak, anyhow.

Pennsylvania enjoys good weather from mid April through early November.

Virginia is at its best from late March through late November.

West Virginia says its best weather (because of its mountains) is from late April through late October.

Mid Atlantic Activities

Delaware, "the first state" (because its representatives signed the Constitution first), is mostly a beach place in summer, there being little room for mountains or great plains in its tiny domain. In fact, the place is so small, many of what they call "Delaware attractions" are in nearby Pennsylvania. But get down to the southern part of the state and enjoy the beaches. If you're the indoors type, stick to Wilmington, where there are several good museums and the wonderful (admittedly outdoor) Riverfront Walk.

Maryland is mostly Baltimore, since much of the rest of the state seems to have been absorbed into the Beltway culture of Washington, D.C., but you can enjoy outdoor activities in this city just as much as indoor. Look for the waterfront, board a sailboat and enjoy cruising around the always-busy harbor area. Go out to the ball game in the quite new Oriole Park, probably the most beautiful baseball park in the world (and partly because they tried to make it look old fashioned). Indoor types will love the Museum of Art (one of the country's best) and the Edgar Allen Poe House. Everyone should go to Fort McHenry (whose flag inspired The Star Spangled Banner) and to the fantastic National Aquarium, perhaps the world's best. (Phone ahead for reserved tickets, as they often sell out, 410/576-3800.

New York City and State are crammed with things to do, places to go, people to see (celebrities and heroes, many of the latter everyday folk). Upstate, there is plenty of room for the traditional sports of hunting and fishing (Adirondack State Park is bigger than Yellowstone National Park, for starters), as well as bike trails to ride on and much more. Indoor activities range from Broadway theater in the city to museums everywhere, and galleries in big towns and small. Museums cater for such diverse interests as the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown and New York City's magnificent Metropolitan or Museum of Modern Art, just to mention three places worth a visit anytime.

Pennsylvania, like New York, is a big state, and activities between its Philadelphia (eastern) and Pittsburgh (western) ends are too many even to number. Everyone should see the Big Three of this state in sightseeing--Gettysburg National Military Park Battlefield, Valley Forge and the Amish Country, all primarily outdoors activities. Indoors, head for the great art museums in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh (the Museum of Art and Carnegie Museum of Art, respectively), as well as the poorly-organized Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh or the impressive Barnes Foundation near Philadelphia. (Phone ahead for the latter, as only 500 people are allowed in each week, 610/667-0257.)

In Virginia, history is ever present, but you can have outdoor fun there, too, especially in places like Virginia Beach or up in the Blue Ridge Valley. Be sure to visit several shrines here--Mount Vernon (home of George Washington), Monticello (Thomas Jefferson) and Montpelier (James Madison). Throw in Colonial Williamsburg for outdoor/indoor history lessons and nearby Busch Gardens for plain old fun in the theme park. History buffs may wish also to visit nearby Yorktown (scene of the British surrender to Washington) and Jamestown, site of the first permanent English settlement in North America.

Washington, D.C. is filled with attractions and activities, most of them centered on seeing things indoors. But just walking around the city to get a view of its splendid layout can prove to be a fairly energetic project. (Hiking or biking through Rock Creek Park is done mostly by locals, but you can join in, too. More of the same can be had on the 180-mile-long C&O Canal, starting in Georgetown in the middle of a bunch of galleries and trendy restaurants.) The indoor attractions include the White House (when it resumes daily tours someday), the Capitol (ditto), the Mint and, best of all, The Smithsonian Institution, with its National Air and Space Museum, just to mention one of its facilities. Don't miss (how could you, anyhow?) the Jefferson, Lincoln and Washington memorials, and be sure to check out the National Gallery of Art and the National Archives (the latter where the originals of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution are kept, though preservationists are fiddling around with them, so copies may be displayed, instead).

In West Virginia, outdoor activities take precedence, thanks to this state's beautiful mountain scenery. In addition to the usual hunting and fishing, look for bicycle and hiking trails, and try camping if you have the equipment (you can rent it locally, anyhow).