From witnessing a Broadway musical performance to visiting amusement parks and museums to climbing the Great Smoky Mountains or lounging on the beach, you won’t ever get bored on the East Coast of the USA.
Visiting the east coast of the US in summer is very different when you visit in winter or even in spring and autumn. If you plan to do lots of hiking and walking around, it’s best if you plan your trip during the warmer months. But if you want to avoid the crowd of tourists, it’s better if you go during spring, autumn, or even winter.
Whether you’re a fan of dining, history, trekking, or kayaking, you’ll find a ton of great activities for you to check out during your 3 weeks on East Coast USA trip. If you are thinking to go to the west coast, check out our 3 weeks on the west coast USA.
THINGS TO KNOW BEFORE GOING TO EAST COAST OF THE US
The US is such a massive country and there are lots of things you can do and way to travel around. But now that you have decided to focus on exploring the east coast of the US first, it will help your planning and will also ensure that your trip will have less hassle.
Below is a compilation of things you should know before you pack your bags and book your flight towards the US. If you plan to visit other parts of the US, we also have 3 weeks in the USA itinerary that covers coasts, road trips, and the entire country.
When is the best time to go to East Coast USA
If you see yourself visiting the beach and taking a dip, you definitely want to go to the east coast during summer (June to August). But remember that during this time, this region is very busy with both locals and foreign visitors exploring the area.
The east coast have tons of national parks and botanical gardens that really come alive in spring. While in autumn the trees simply make the trip magical and the setting much different than the rest of the year. You can also visit in winter and walk on frozen lakes and look for ice skating parks.
The months you may want to avoid are from August to November when the possibility of typhoons and daily rains are frequent.
Are 3 weeks enough for the East Coast of the US
3 weeks on east coast USA allows you to do a road trip in this region. It’s enough if you can pick 2-3 states and 3-5 cities to explore. Of course, the more time you have the better, but 21 days will give you plenty of time to cover a great distance.
What to pack
Depending on when you plan to visit, you really should look up the weather in the states you plan to visit. The weather when you visit in spring along the coast can vary a lot. For example, spring in Massachusetts is chilly while it can be a perfect temperature in Florida.
One thing you really need to pack is the power adapter. If you are coming from Europe or Asia, remember that the US and many parts of Latin and North America use a lot lower voltage on their wall sockets. We have a list of what to pack for a 3-week trip, a packing list for a summer trip, and a winter packing list – all come with a free printable list.
You must also remember to bring medicines with you especially prescription ones because those are expensive and can be hard to find in the US. Don’t forget your prescription letter as you might be asked about the medicine you have when you pass through customs.
How to get around
The best way to travel around the east coast is by renting a car. It can be significantly cheaper than flying and you’ll get control of your time. But of course, that only works if you have a valid driver’s license that the US acknowledges.
You can also take the train, it offers a scenic trip and can even be cheaper than flying especially if you have more luggage with you. The only downside is the limited station stops. You will have to figure out how to travel from one city to another in case the train doesn’t operate there.
And finally, you can also use the bus. It’s slower but cheaper and often goes to smaller villages and cities. Ride-hailing apps such as Uber and Lyft are reliable on the east coast of the US but can be pricey just like using a traditional taxi.
Visa and COVID-19 protocol
If you posses a passport from Europe, Canada, some parts of Latin America, Japan, Singapore, New Zealand, Australia, and South Korea, you can enter and travel around the US without a visa for up to six months. The immigration officer will ask you about your trip and might ask for your flight out of the US before granting you the number of days you can enter. This will be based on your travel plans.
Travellers not mentioned n the list above must apply for a tourist visa at the nearest US embassy. It’s recommended to get this sorted at least a month or two before your trip as the processing can be long.
The US is open for visitors and doesn’t require to do any COVID-19 tests. However, non-residents and non-citizens must show their COVID-19 vaccination cards. Wearing a mask is no longer mandatory, but there might be private businesses that will require you to do so.
Other travel tips
MUST-SEE PLACES IN EAST COAST, USA (pinned map)
Click the enlarge button on the top right corner. Credit: map data: Google
2 WAYS TO TRAVEL THE EAST COAST
To help you visualise the travel plan, here’s a quick overview of how you can travel to this part of the US. As mentioned, you can choose between travelling with a car and combining it with flying or purely driving. Just make sure to plan the pickup point and the drop-off point. It’s important to check that the rental company has plenty of locations throughout the region.
Road Trip and Flying
- Duration: 21 days
- Total driving hours: approx 14 hours
- Total Flying hours: 2 hours
- Start: Boston, Massachusettes
- End: Miami, Florida
- Day 1- 3: Massachusetts
- Day 4-7: New York
- Day 8-9: Washington D.C.
- Day 10-12: Atlanta, Georgia
- Day 13-15: Jacksonville, Florida
- Day 16-17: Orlando, Florida
- Day 18-21: Miami, Florida
Road Trip Only
- Duration: 21 days
- Distance to cover: 1,324 miles (2,130 km)
- Total driving hours: approx 24 hours
- Average daily driving time: approx 1.2/day
- Start: New York City, New York
- End: Chicago, Illinois
- Day 1-4: New York
- Day 5-7: Washington D.C.
- Day 8-9: George Washington and Jefferson National Forest
- Day 10-13: Great Smoky Mountain
- Day 14-15: Louisville, Kentucky
- Day 16-18: Indianapolis, Indiana
- day 19-21: Chicago, Illinois
3 WEEKS ON EAST COAST USA ITINERARY
Now that you have a visual idea of the two itineraries you can choose from, it’s now time to discuss why these places are worth a visit. We all have heard of Florida and New York being fantastic places to explore especially if it’s your first time. But have you heard of Great Smoky Mountain or the historical spots in Washington D.C.?
If you are a history buff and love nature at the same time, a breakdown of when to go, where to go, and how long to stay in each place will give you some more ideas on what to expect during this travel itinerary for 3 weeks on east coast USA.
Ultimate East Coast Itinerary (Driving and Flying)
If driving for 21 days is not very appealing, travelling around and combining taking flights and renting cars might be a better choice. You will still be free to move around anytime while having the choice to skip long hours on a car to get from one city to another.
Massachusetts for 3 days
In terms of culture, national monuments, shopping, picturesque beaches, and exquisite seafood, Massachusetts provides something for everyone. You can arrange a rental car online and use it for touring around the states at your own pace. Make sure to inform them that you’ll pick it up at the airport and drop it off in Washington, DC.
The legacy of the American Revolution’s birthplace, known as the “Cradle of Modern America,” is still felt on every street. A great way to view 16 historical places dispersed throughout the city is to stroll the Freedom Trail.
Boston is the ideal place to begin your 20 days on the east coast USA trip as it is home to numerous intriguing sights and points of interest, including world-class cuisine, sporting events, and musical venues.
Things to do in Massachusetts
- Fenway Park
- Freedom Trail
- Museum of Fine Arts
- Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum
- Crane Beach
- Boston Harbor Islands State Park
- Carson Beach
- John F. Kennedy Presidential Museum & Library
Accommodations in Boston
New York for 4 days
There is never enough time to see all of the significant sights in New York, which is constantly a whirlwind of activity. Many visitors simply come to see the sights, including the Empire State Building, the Statue of Liberty, Central Park, Madison Square Garden, and a number of prestigious museums.
Some people travel primarily to take in Broadway performances, while others come specifically to eat and shop. This city is a treat for touring since many of the top attractions are close to one another or only a short ride away.
Times Square is definitely a place to be at night. It’s lined with enormous, illuminated billboards and screens, though it’s fascinating any time of day. The iconic “ball drop” at midnight and New Year’s Eve celebrations also occur here.
The road journey from Massachusetts to New York is about 4 hr via I-84, covering 215 miles (346 km).
Things to do in New York City
- National 9/11 Memorial & Museum
- Metropolitan Museum of Art
- Central Park
- Empire State Building
- Top of the Rock
- Statue of Liberty
- Madison Square Garden
- Times Square
Accommodations in New York City
Washington D.C for 2 days
3 weeks on east coast USA is not complete without visiting the capital city. Washington, DC, one of the most popular spots in the USA, provides a range of engaging activities, from learning American history and politics to visiting several of the nation’s most famous landmarks.
The Smithsonian American Art Museum houses one of the largest and most comprehensive collections of American art featuring more than 7,000 artists. It also shares the same building as the National Portrait Gallery.
For book enthusiasts, you can swing by The Library of Congress, the largest library in the world which is accessible from the Capitol Building through an underground passage.
The travel time on the road from New York to Washington D.C takes around 4 hr 6 min via I-95 S with a distance of 226 miles (364 km). You can drop off the car here and ensure to book a flight in advance to Atlanta, Georgia.
Things to do in Washington D.C.
- Library of Congress
- Vietnam Veterans Memorial
- National Portrait Gallery
- National World War II Memorial
- National Mall
- Hillwood Estate, Museum & Gardens
- Smithsonian American Art Museum
- Jefferson Memorial
Accommodations in Washington D.C.
Atlanta, Georgia for 3 days
The latest addition to Atlanta’s must-see attractions is The National Center for Civil and Human Rights. Its numerous interactive exhibits provide perspectives on both the Civil Rights Movement and current global issues. Get a chance to see the hype about The World of Coca-Cola, where visitors can go wild sampling a bunch of different drinks.
Don’t miss out on two of Atlanta’s top tourist attractions namely Legoland Discovery Center and Georgia Aquarium, the largest in the Western Hemisphere.
The quickest way to arrive in Atlanta is to book a non-stop flight from Washington D.C. which often takes around 2 hours. Ensure to book a car rental ahead of time with a pick up at Atlanta airport to make the most out of your 3 weeks on east coast USA trip. Remember to arrange the drop off at Miami in Florida.
Things to do in Atlanta
- Atlanta Botanical Garden
- Georgia Aquarium
- Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site
- National Center for Civil and Human Rights
- Piedmont Park
- Legoland Discovery Center
- World of Coca-Cola
- Mercedes Benz Stadium
Accommodations in Atlanta
Jacksonville, Florida for 3 days
With 10 state and national parks, Jacksonville has the most extensive park system in the country. It is a special place to visit for its authentic cuisine, exciting nightlife, and thriving craft beer culture. It provides 1100 miles of shoreline in addition to the city’s 22 miles of beaches, thus there are plenty of opportunities to get in the water whether you choose to swim or surf.
Don’t forget to stop by The Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens for a tranquil escape from the hustle and bustle of the city.
The fastest and most common route from Atlanta to Jacksonville, the I-75 S, takes roughly 5 hours to arrive across a distance of 346 miles (557 km).
Things to do in Jacksonville
- Catty Shack Ranch Wildlife Sanctuary
- Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens
- Little Talbot Island State Park
- Big Talbot Island State Park
- Kathryn Abbey Hanna Park
- Atlantic Beach
- Museum of Science and History
Accommodations in Jacksonville
Orlando, Florida for 2 days
While nothing compares to seeing the magic through a child’s eyes, adults may experience being a kid all over again at Orlando’s various theme parks. In addition to the 4 distinctive parks at Walt Disney World, Harry Potter fans will be in awe of Universal Studios and Universal Islands of Adventure.
Orlando is the nation’s most popular family vacation spot, which has 7 of the top theme parks around the globe and offers world-class water parks, thrill rides, and outdoor activities. Visitors can choose from luxurious resorts to themed boutique hotels among the 450 hotels available.
With a total distance of 144 miles (232 km), it takes around 2 hr 11 min to travel directly from Jacksonville to Orlando.
Things to do in Orlando
Accommodations in Orlando
- The Wizarding World of Harry Potter
- Universal’s Islands of Adventure
- Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park
- Universal Studios Florida
- Discovery Cove
- Fly Above Disney Springs
- Musical Parades at Magic Kingdom Park
- Day Trip to Epcot
Miami, Florida for 4 days
You can’t finish your 3 weeks on east coast USA if you don’t visit the popular destination for the summer holiday – Miami. There are tons of beaches in Miami, and each one is renowned for something unique. To spice up your family beach day, you can rent paddleboards, kayaks, and snorkelling gear at Key Biscayne’s Crandon Park. For views of Miami Beach and the Atlantic Ocean, which are popular with TV crews and photographers, head to South Pointe Park Pier.
Pass by and take Instagram-worthy shots at Wynwood Walls to get a glimpse of Miami’s reputation as one of the world’s most lively hubs. In addition, there are Art Deco structures along Ocean Drive that stand out against the blue backdrop of the Atlantic Ocean in vibrant pink and yellow.
The distance from Jacksonville, Florida to Miami is 348 miles (560 km) and takes around 5 hr 12 min to travel under normal traffic via Florida’s Turnpike and I-95 S.
Miami is a fantastic place to end your 3 weeks on East Coast USA trip. Spend the final days laying on the beach, enjoying the scenery, tasting globally-diverse dishes, and the fact that you are done spending hours inside a vehicle.
Things to do in Miami
- Lummus Park Beach
- South Pointe Park Pier
- Wynwood Walls
- Viscaya Museum and Gardens
- Dolphin Mall
- Crandon Park Beach
- American Airlines Arena
- Yacht Ride at the Bayside Marketplace
Accommodations in Miami
East Coast Road Trip (Driving Only)
The US is one of the best places to do a road trip because many locals often drive than take flights. This means that the roads are road trip-friendly and renting a car can be more affordable than flying.
If there are more than 2 of you visiting, you can definitely save more money renting a car than taking flights all the time. If you’re from Europe, you’ll be surprised how expensive the domestic flights in the US are.
Travelling this way also means you’ll find some hidden gems along the way that are not popular amongst most visitors. You can stop anywhere and take a break. You don’t have to worry about the flight delay and worse, cancellations.
New York for 4 days
Like the High Line and One World Observatory, several of the more recent attractions that have emerged in New York provide spectacular views of the city. Another famous tourist destination in New York is the Rockefeller Center which is typically on everyone’s itinerary.
NBC-TV and other media outlets are situated in this massive entertainment and retail complex in the heart of Manhattan, but the 70-story Rockefeller Plaza is the building’s centrepiece. Visiting New York means you can visit filming studios-turned museums such as Friends filming location.
New York is a great place to start your 3 weeks on east coast USA vacation as there is an endless range of activities to do here. For art enthusiasts, you may go to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, also known as the Met, which has a collection of over 2 million works of art that span 5,000 years.
Things to do in New York
- Brooklyn Bridge
- Manhattan Skyline
- The High Line
- New York City Skyline at One World Observatory
- Grand Central Terminal
- Met Cloisters
- Rockefeller Center
- Staten Island Ferry
Accommodations in New York City
Washington D.C for 3 days
The National Gallery of Art, one of the top art museums in the world, is located in two independent structures that are linked by a tunnel. Its extensive and varied collection includes classics of European and American paintings and sculptures.
The National Zoo, which is a part of the Smithsonian Institution, is open to the public without any fee. With more than 2,000 distinct animals representing 400 species, it has also established a reputation as one of the top zoos in the entire world. The National Zoo is also AZA accredited meaning the area, management, and treatments of the animals passed the standards to ensure that the animal residents are well-taken care of, provided veterinary services, conservation in mind, educational to visitors, and offer safety to everyone.
With a total distance of 364 km (226 miles), it takes roughly 4 hr 6 min to travel directly from New York to Washington D.C on route I-95 S.
Things to do in Washington D.C.
- Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History
- National Museum of African American History and Culture
- U.S. Capitol
- Lincoln Memorial
- National Gallery of Art
- Ford’s Theatre
Accommodations in Washington D.C.
George Washington and Jefferson National Forest for 2 days
The George Washington and Jefferson National Forests provide comfort to outdoor adventurers. These natural wonderlands are the ideal place to unwind, refuel, and disconnect from the pressures of daily life. There are 17 wilderness areas that have been declared as part of these parks, and they include miles of hiking trails and. streams
Staying in Roanoke, Virginia, a town close to the National Forest, will help you recharge further. Tru by Hilton Roanoke Hollins, which is located less than five miles away, is one of the well-known hotels. Breakfast is included in the fair rates, and the rooms are large which is the perfect place to chill with your family or group of friends.
The journey on the road from Washington D.C to George Washington and Jefferson National Forest is around 3 hr 23 min via I-66 W and I-81 S, covering a distance of 327 km (203 miles).
Things to do in George Washington and Jefferson National Forest for 2 days
- Hike the Apple Orchard Falls
- Hike the Craig Creek Loop Trail
- Hike the Hanging Rock Potts Mountain
- Trek the Cascade Falls
- Barbours Creek
Accommodations near George Washington and Jefferson National Forest
Great Smoky Mountain for 3 days
The US is well-known for its magnificent national parks. In your 3 weeks on east coast USA, you can visit not one, not two, but three national parks. Most visitors to the Great Smoky Mountain arrive with the intention of exploring the 900 miles of trails by foot, on a bicycle, or even by motorized wheels.
Several routes that lead to waterfalls are accessible, while many more cross meandering creeks, tranquil meadows, or rocky canyons. Here, activities like wildlife viewing, photography, and birdwatching are quite prevalent.
Within this place, you can find the campsites where you can embrace solitude and provides a picnic table, fire pit, drinking water, and restroom amenities. There are many family-friendly RV campgrounds close to park entrances with facilities that will meet or surpass your expectations.
The road trip journey from George Washington and Jefferson National Forest to Great Smoky Mountain takes around 2 hr 37m via I-81 S, covering a distance of 148 miles (238 km).
Things to do in Great Smoky Mountain
- Hike the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail
- Clingmans Dome
- Hike the Cades Cove
- Trek the Laurel Falls
- Hike the Gatlinburg Trail
Accommodations near Great Smoky Mountain
Louisville for 2 days
Even though Louisville is renowned as Bourbon City, it is booming with new breweries and has recently been voted among the Top 10 Beer Destinations worldwide. Downtown distilleries like Angel’s Envy, Old Forester, Evan Williams Bourbon Experience, and Peerless Distilling Co. are all within a few short blocks of one another on Main Street. Kentucky is the place to go to sample some of the world’s most well-known whiskies and unwind, especially if you hiked extensively in the previous two locations.
The annual Kentucky Derby horse race, which takes place at Churchill Downs every first Saturday in May that draws tens of thousands of spectators, is the city’s greatest source of pride.
The distance from the Great Smoky Mountain to Louisville is 293 miles (472 km) and takes around 4 hr 56 min to travel during normal traffic via route I-75 N.
Things to do in Louisville
- Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory
- Kentucky Derby Museum
- Angel’s Envy Distillery
- The Big Four Bridge
- Evan Williams Bourbon Experience
- Muhammad Ali Center
- Kentucky Kingdom
Accommodations in Louisville
Indianapolis for 3 days
Michigan. The “Indianapolis 500,” an annual automobile race held at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is what gives the city its global recognition. With thousands of motorsport enthusiasts in attendance, this is the largest one-day professional event in the history of motorcycling sports.
The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis is a fantastic destination for families since it enables visitors to interact with authentic Tyrannosaurus Rex bones and experience the sights and sounds of the past 65 million years. The Central Canal, which was formerly an industrial waterway, is increasingly surrounded by paddleboats and kayaks, giving tourists a fresh viewpoint of the city centre.
The direct drive from Louisville to Indianapolis often takes approximately 1 hr 54 min via route I-65 N with a total distance of 113 miles (182 km).
Things to do in Indianapolis
- Children’s Museum of Indianapolis
- Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum
- Central Canal
- Lilly House and Gardens
- Tappers Arcade Bar
- Lucas Oil Stadium
Accommodations in Indianapolis
Chicago for 4 days
Chicago, commonly known as the “Windy City,” is located on the shores of Lake Michigan. It’s a great destination to conclude in your three weeks on the east coast USA trip due to its thriving arts scene, lots of cultural activities, great shopping, and unique architecture.
Don’t forget to visit The Art Institute of Chicago, a prestigious museum that displays countless artworks. You may also stroll around Millennium Park, which features the 110-ton Cloud Gate sculpture that reflects the area’s surroundings, including the sky, buildings, and people who pass through its main arch.
With a total distance of 183 miles (294 km), it takes around 3 hr 7 min to drive from Indianapolis to Chicago via route I-65 N.
Things to do in Chicago
- Art Institute of Chicago
- Museum of Science and Industry
- 360 Chicago Observation Deck
- Millenium Park
- The Magnificent Mile
- Chicago Riverwalk
- Field Museum
Accommodations in Chicago
SUMMARY OF 3 WEEKS ON EAST COAST USA ITINERARY
From historical towns to wilderness retreats, 3 weeks on East Coast of the USA is packed with must-see locations. If nature is your cup of tea, there are numerous hiking trails to choose from. In addition, it’s a family-friendly destination since there are countless theme parks and museums to choose from.
It is also filled with beaches, and each provides a completely unique experience depending on which state you’re in. With numerous options to select from, there are endless adventures waiting for you on the East Coast of the USA.