Have you and your family dreamed about taking an East Coast road trip, but it hasn’t been possible until now?
The journey from New York to Florida is filled with fascinating stops along the way, where people of all ages can find something to enjoy. In addition, cities like Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and Petersburg, Virginia, hold many cultural, natural, and historical wonders.
Florida also offers a delightful mix of entertainment, national and state parks, and pristine family beaches.
It’s time to pull out your calendar app or planner, as we’ll walk you through how to plan your road trip from New York to Orlando, complete with the best attractions and stopping points along your route for this epic US road trip route.
Distance from NYC to Orlando
The shortest distance from New York City to Orlando, Florida, is 1,138 miles, and you make the drive straight through in about 19 hours. So with stops, it’s possible to drive from New York to Orlando in two days (depending on your children, of course!).
You’ll spend most of your East Coast road trip on I-95 S if you avoid stopping along the way, but we encourage you to make plenty of stops to make the most of your journey to the southeast.
Stopping regularly along your route allows you and your fellow travelers to go sightseeing, stretch your legs, and avoid too many rounds of “Are we there yet?” We think it’s a winning scenario for everyone!
How Long Do I Need Driving from NYC to Orlando, Florida?
You can easily customize your road trip from NYC to Orlando to fit your schedule and allowable days. Take a few weeks to stop along all of the recommended places, or only stop once or twice along the route and spend the bulk of your time in Florida.
We suggest spending 2-3 weeks and splitting your time between NYC, the middle of the route, and key points in Florida to experience everything on offer.
Best Time of Year to Drive from NYC to Florida
The weather in Florida is warm year-round due to its subtropical climate. Summer highs range from 75 to 90 degrees. January is the coldest month, but it still averages 74 degrees!
Winters in New York are another story, so we recommend driving from New York to Florida in the winter, spring, or early summer. You can escape the frigid NYC temperatures, the bulk of the tourist season, and the worst of the summer heat.
If you do decide to travel during the summer, aim for June. The summer solstice occurs in the third week of June. This means the days will be longer, and you can fit activities – or lounging around – into each of them!
We will warn you that Florida’s hurricane season is from June to November and peaks from late August to October. You can still visit during this time, but you will likely experience a more humid climate and extra rain showers.
Our best recommendation for family road trippers traveling to Florida during hurricane season is to keep well-informed. Hurricanes generally don’t just pop up “out of the blue,” so you should be able to get advance warning of whether or not you’ll need to evacuate your location.
Best Stops on an NYC to Florida Road Trip
There are so many breathtaking places to see along your road trip from NYC to Florida. New York City itself is a treasure trove of museums, sightseeing opportunities, and must-try restaurants. In addition, the east coast offers countless beaches, million-dollar views, and numerous other roadside stops.
Then there’s Florida itself – a paradise for nature lovers and those who are just looking for some rest and relaxation in the sun. Of course, you could easily spend most of your days in Orlando, especially if Disney World is your end destination. But we’ll leave that up to you!
Our goal is for you to use this guide to recommend the best stops on the east coast from New York City to Orlando so that you and your family can make the most out of this fun and exciting adventure.
You could extend your trip further again driving Miami to Key West, the southernmost point of mainland USA!
New York City, New York (2-3 nights)
Before you begin your drive from New York to Florida, we recommend spending a few nights in New York City. You can spend as much or as little time in NYC as you’d like. This, of course, depends on your finances and the number/ages of your travelers.
If you’re planning on staying a few nights in the city, we have a few family-friendly hotel options to suggest. The Belvedere Hotel is one of the most affordable and is close to Times Square, Broadway, and many restaurants. The New Yorker by Wyndham is another option with friendly staff and bicycle rentals nearby.
You could easily spend a month exploring NYC, as it’s such a vast and fascinating city. However, we suggest choosing a few more popular sightseeing opportunities for your brief stay instead of cramming too much into each day.
Take a stroll through Central Park, marvel at the wonders of the Natural History Museum, or enjoy a Broadway show. Of course, visiting the Empire State Building in Midtown Manhattan is a must, and everyone needs a ferry boat ride from Battery Park to the Statue of Liberty.
Washington, DC (2 nights)
Distance from NYC to Washington, DC: 4 hours, 10 minutes/229 miles
Your first stop after New York City is Washington, DC, and there are so many exciting places for families to explore. Kids will love the Smithsonian National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute, and Beauvoir Outdoors Playground is an excellent area for young children to burn off some pent-up energy.
There are many museums to explore as well, such as the International Spy Museum. This museum is filled with special spy equipment, and your kids can learn all about the fascinating spies throughout history. There are also special programs for kids under 10, where they can complete their own secret mission!
Of course, we can’t leave out favorites like the National Museum of American History and the United States Botanic Garden. We recommend making a list with your kids and letting each person choose their favorite. This may help narrow down your options.
Hotel stays in DC are a little on the expensive side, but we’ve found that the Embassy Suites by Hilton, Hampton Inn, and Holiday Inn are more reasonably priced.
For restaurants, you must try 2 Amys if you’re craving a slice of authentic Neopolitan pizza. Are your kids up for catching grilled pieces of steak with their mouths? Then Sakura Japanese Steak Seafood House may be just the ticket.
Petersburg, VA (1 night)
Distance from Washington, DC to Petersburg, VA: 2 hours 24 minutes/229 miles
The shorter drive from Washington, DC, to Petersburg, gives you a bit of a breather towards the middle of your New York to Florida drive. This also allows you to spend a bit more time in the area, as there are many fun family activities to experience!
Petersburg is just an hour’s drive from Colonial Williamsburg, one of the most fascinating historical attractions in the United States. However, deciding where to go in Williamsburg can be overwhelming, so we suggest choosing an interest-based itinerary on their website, such as “family fun” or “first-timers.”
Check out the Petersburg National Battlefield Park if you’d like to stay closer to Petersburg. This historical site marks where the Siege of Petersburg took place, and the area has many well-maintained trails to explore. If you’re traveling by car, there’s also a 33-mile driving tour where you can visit 13 different historical sites.
History lovers will also love Petersburg’s National Museum of the Civil War, a 25,000 square feet facility known as one of the best Civil War Museums in the United States. It’s filled with interactive exhibits where visitors can learn what life was like for a Civil War soldier.
Charleston, SC (3 nights)
Distance from Petersburg, VA to Charleston, SC: 6 hours, 14 minutes/402 miles
Charleston is up next on our New York to Florida road trip itinerary, and we couldn’t be more excited. It’s a beautiful city with a treasure trove of cultural, historical, and natural sites to get out and explore.
Children of all ages will love the South Carolina Aquarium, which allows visitors to get up close and personal with thousands of creatures. You could easily spend a whole day enjoying hundreds of species of birds, sharks, turtles, and alligators. There are also several educational programs, and children can feel different sea animals in the Touch Tank and even feed stingrays! Families with young children should also check out the Children’s Museum of the Lowcountry, which is essentially a giant interactive playground!
If you’re searching for outdoor activities, visiting the Angel Oak on John’s Island is a must. This magical-looking tree is over 400 years old and is the largest living organism east of the Mississippi River. It’s truly a sight to behold. History buffs will love Magnolia Plantation and Gardens, one of America’s oldest and most eye-catching public gardens. There’s even a petting zoo and Nature Train!
Jacksonville, FL (2 nights)
Distance from Charleston, SC to Jacksonville, FL: 4 hours, 1 minute/242 miles
Congratulate yourselves! You’ve made it from New York to Florida – not an easy thing to do with kids! Spend the first night in Jacksonville, a fun city with tons of water activities, shopping options, and outdoor entertainment.
Your children will definitely want to cool off in the water, and Jacksonville has 22 miles of beaches, rivers, and the Intracoastal Waterway. Spend a few hours fishing and swimming at Jacksonville Beach, or take the whole family to the Adventure Landing Waterpark. Most areas are pet-friendly and have fresh seafood restaurants and local boutiques nearby.
Jacksonville has several other fun family attractions besides its beaches and water parks. It also has several top museums, art, history, and cultural tours, and more. If you’re feeling adventurous, head to Autobahn Indoor Speedway & Events, where you can drive high-speed Go Karts and even try axe throwing!
Jacksonville also has many family-friendly restaurants, such as the Bearded Pig. This mouthwatering BBQ joint offers an extensive kid-friendly menu while the adults get to savor their own selection. There’s also Clark’s Fish Camp, which houses America’s largest private taxidermy collection and a tank full of live alligators!
Orlando, FL (3-4 nights)
Distance from Jacksonville, FL to Orlando, FL: 2 hours, 14 minutes/140 miles
If Orlando is your final destination, congrats! If not, keep right on exploring. It’s wise to spend at least three days in Orlando, as many family-friendly activities are available. This is also the final leg of your trip before returning home, so you want to make the most of it!
Without a doubt, the largest family attractions in Orlando are Walt Disney World and Universal Studios. You could easily spend your entire time at one or the other, especially with all the shows, events, and rides on offer. Of course, this entirely depends on your preferences, finances, and patience!
Sea Life Orlando Aquarium is also a popular family-friendly activity in Orlando. You could also spend a few hours with crocodiles and alligators at Gatorland, where the largest collection of white leucistic alligators live. There’s also a zipline, aviary, and petting zoo on the grounds, so it’s perfect for kids of all ages.
Another must-see attraction is Madame Tussauds Wax Museum, a tourist favorite. Take selfies next to your favorite wax personality, and you can enjoy the entire experience in about an hour. After a long day of sightseeing, cool off in the tranquil blue waters of Kelly Park. It’s a popular place to camp, swim, or go inner tubing.
More Tips For Road Tripping from New York to Florida
- Get tested for COVID-19 before you leave, and have a home test kit or two in your travel bag – just in case.
- If you’re concerned about COVID-19, purchase a box of disposable masks to use in restaurants and crowded places.
- Pack as much of your own food, snacks, and bottled water as possible for your drive. That way, you’re not spending much besides stopping for gas and coffee.
- Road-tripping with toddlers and young children can be rough! Pack games and activities to keep them as happy and occupied as possible.
- Decide on your budget beforehand and stick to it as closely as possible.
- Whether driving your regular vehicle, renting one, or taking an RV or camper, make sure you check everything mechanically before starting your NYC to Florida road trip.
- Bugs are a part of life in the southern states, especially the Carolinas, Georgia, and Florida. So take plenty of bug spray and bite treatment with you.
- Use a tool like Google Maps to plan out your itinerary and plan for tolls – many of them only accept cash.
- Never forget an important road trip item again! Use our Ultimate Family Road Trip checklist to prepare for your journey.
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