East Coast itinerary suggestions?

If you were taking a spring trip to visit colleges in DC, NY, and Boston:

  1. Is 7 nights enough time to see maybe 2 schools per day plus some activities in between?**
  2. Given limited time, what would be your ‘top of list’ to do in those cities besides college tours/visits?
  3. Where would you eat?

Any thoughts appreciated!

*Editing here to clarify as I didn’t phrase that well - not 2 schools every single day of the trip. Maybe 6 total.

2 schools a day can difficult even if they are near each other. After about 4 schools, they all start running together. I would really limit you schools and spend some time doing other things. How many times do you want to hear that is if step somewhere you will not graduate or if you kiss someone in a specific place you will get married.


I guess the other question is what type of schools for what type of student? Ivy, LAC, large, small, English, Engineering, city, suburban for a valedictorian, top 5, 1500 SAT or 1200 SAT? There are literally hundreds of options.

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Should have given those details up front I guess. :slight_smile: Very strong student, looking for big school, urban or close-to. Undecided as to major but not STEM. Not interested in small LACs at all.

I guess a better way to have asked my question would have been - if you were only going to visit Georgetown, NYU, and BU for example - what else (non college releated) would you do in that trip? There’s so much!

Depends on the time of the year. In Boston, I think it’s fun to go whale watching on one of the trips out of the aquarium.


This is so dependent on where you are from, when you are going, what you have done already in those cities and what your interests are. I am from the NYC area there are many of us that can give you a ton of suggestions but we need a little more info

From west coast, kid has never been to any of those cities, Interests = museums, food of all kinds, sports, architecture, dessert. Going in April.

Assuming everything is open, you can spend a week in DC. You may want to limit your trip to just 2 cities (DC and NY). That way you don’t spend too much time traveling.

Edit to add: Don’t forget that you can take Amtrak between the cities. No need for a car in DC or NY.


So definitely a Red Sox game if you can.
I also enjoyed visiting the USS Constitution,
a tour of the Old North Church, Italian food in the North End, walking some of the Freedom Trail. I also enjoyed seeing a reproduction of the Mayflower out in Plymouth


How many schools do you want to see? We did two long trips to see either 6 or 7 colleges and were there from Saturday to the following Sunday.

My hints…

  1. Don’t do too many colleges in one trip. Your kid (and you) will get sick of it quickly.

  2. Plan to drive to colleges areas the afternoon or evening before your scheduled tours. Don’t drive in the the morning of a tour. You will feel less rushed if you are already there and can have a decent breakfast.

  3. Yes, Boston, NY and DC are all on the east coast. But…it’s not like DC is a hop skip and a jump from NY. Or Boston. I think you can easily do DC and NY, OR NY and Boston. But doing all three would be a challenge. And especially if you want to do anything else beside travel and visit colleges.

  4. I don’t know where you are coming from, but the drive up 95 from DC to NY to Boston is a rather congested drive…lots of traffic. So plan accordingly.

I would suggest that you visit no more than 5 colleges in a 7 day trip.


My D22 and I took a trip to DC on Memorial Day weekend and toured Georgetown and GWU. We stayed in Georgetown and that was really fun. School visits can be tiring, fyi. Not sure, but there may be cherry blossoms which would be amazing. A long walk or bike ride from the Capitol down the National Mall to Lincoln Memorial is a must. You will pass a lot of museums but you may instead want to book a tour of the White House etc if they have started that up again. Best way is to book through your Congressional representative’s office. I would really recommend GWU — it was a very pleasant surprise for my D and she applied to both schools RD.

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Ok…for those three only….get to DC. Visit GT. Do some sightseeing (no shortage of things to see in DC).

Take the train to NYU. Visit there. Walk the Highline. Go to Central Park. Walk around Rockefeller Center. There is no shortage of food in NYC…but I would suggest a place in Little Italy. If shows are happening, get tickets to a show.

Take the train to Boston. Visit BU. So much to do there too. Walk the Freedom Trail, go to Quincy Market, go to Beacon Hill and the public garden. Lots of great restaurants in Boston…the north end has fabulous Italian. And good bakeries!


Make sure you visit some safety schools along the way. I am sure you know how competitive admissions is right now, so if NYU or Columbia is at the top of your student’s list, do a tour of somewhere like Fordham’s Lincoln Center campus. It will be easy for him/her to get excited about an admission to her dream school, but what’s even better is if s/he is excited about an admission to a likely school, too.


Are you planning to visit as many schools as possible? If you rent a car and drive:

Starting DC: Georgetown, and if you want, squeeze in GWU or Johns Hopkins. (1 day) [planning 2 hours drive between DC and Baltimore, DMV region traffic is often bad]

Along the way driving north: UPenn, then Princeton (1 day) [2 hours from Baltimore to Philly, 1-1.5 hour from Philly to Princeton] (Philly also has Temple and Drexel, Villanova is not far either.)

Go to NYC: Columbia, NYU (1 day) [1-3 hours from Princeton to NYC]

You can then go directly to Boston, pick the schools you want to visit. [about 3 hours drive from NYC to Boston]

Or you can continue to take an Ivy tour, from
NYC to New Haven for Yale, then go to Providence for Brown (1 day) [NYC to New Haven 1.5-2 hours, New Haven to Providence 1.5-2 hours I think]

Then go to Boston for Harvard and other schools. That can be another 1-3 days depending your interests. [providence to Boston is probably 1-1.5 hours]

Those driving hours are rough approximate, sometimes traffic can be bad though.

So that would be 5-7 days and a lot of schools…

If the kid is a very strong student, with a chance at the top schools, here is what I would do.

Research the schools in each city carefully, in depth, beforehand, including virtual tours, to help you to eliminate schools which would not be an option for kid. The ones that look possible, plan to take a student-led tour and make a visit to the admissions office (to demonstrate interest), but also, if the kid has any type of identity that would help them to connect at the school, plan for that during the visit. For example, if kid is LGBTQ, a particular minority religion/ethnic group, an aficionado of a particular campus activity, anything that could make the visit more than just a tour and walk around, plan ahead for a visit to that office/club, or ask for a match up with a student outreach person. If they know someone from their high school who’s already there, reach out to them to meet up at the school that day, to get an insider tour, maybe go to a class or two with them.

I’d start in DC, in the hopes of catching the last of the Cherry Blossoms in the Basin area (which, depending upon how cold the spring is, and how early in April you go, you’d still have a chance of seeing). Of course Georgetown, and if kid is interested in majoring in Poli Sci or Int’l Relations or anything national government/politics related; also GW and even American U as a backup, because its star is climbing, and it’s worth it, to be in DC to have easy access to all the political and international relations resources/opportunities. Aside from touring those two campuses, walk the Mall, see all the outdoor monuments, go into any of the museums there. Take a look at the list and plan ahead according to your interests. Our Museums, Galleries, and Zoo | Smithsonian Institution If you have a car, the Air and Space’s enormous annex out in Chantilly, Va is amazing, well worth the drive. But for a first visit to DC, there is just so much to do and see on the Mall. If they’re letting people into any of the government buildings, see those, too, but I don’t know if they’re allowing people in due to Covid. You can contact your House Rep ahead of time for tickets - but I bet all that is suspended now. College-wise, DC is only worth a day for you, but tourist wise, it’s worth as many days as you like. DC has a ton of great ethnic food because so many nationalities are there. My favorite food to eat in DC is Ethiopian food, since the city has a large Ethiopian population, the largest outside of the capitol of Ethiopia, so there are a lot of good Ethiopian restaurants there. Google maps restaurant finder is very useful. You’d have to get away from the Mall to find something good and reasonable to eat, but it’s worth the walk, metro, or cab/uber. With two of you, uber probably worthwhile, especially if you don’t want to spend your time figuring out the metro, which isn’t hard to deal with, but if you’re not used to urban transit, the metro might be intimidating for you.

I’m not sure that Baltimore would be a match for your kid, in terms of a city, but if so, then of course Hopkins.

If you’re considering looking at Penn, take Amtrak to get to Philly - quicker than the trouble of using the airports. Penn is a fantastic school with an urban feel, but a true campus (unlike some urban schools, like NYU, BU, and Northeastern, that are mostly a series of buildings strung out along a major city street), a short walk from center city, Philadelphia, and a possible walk to other areas of the city, which are of course also reachable by public transit. Penn definitely checks the box of top large urban school in a big city. Other than Penn, the major thing to see in Philly is Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell, iconic sites in the founding of our nation. Cool places to eat not too far away would be Chinatown or Reading Terminal Market. A less competitive but still very good school would be Drexel, right next to Penn, which was originally an engineering school, but has expanded greatly into other fields, too. One day for Penn, maybe Drexel too. I’d say that you can do both schools, and Independence Hall/Liberty Bell in two days. I would not recommend Temple, because it’s in a truly dangerous area of the city, not as selective, not necessarily a match for a very highly qualified student. Villanova is in a wealthy quiet suburb, not what your kid seems to want.

Reagan airport in DC is easy to get to, but the airports that serve NYC are far from the city. For this reason, you might consider flying straight from DC to Boston (there is a free quick bus from the airport to South Station, and from there it’s easy to get to Boston schools by public transit, maybe cab/uber. Beware - Boston traffic can be horrible, since, like many very old East Coast cities, the streets weren’t planned - some are literally paved over stock paths! In Boston area - Harvard, if kid has a shot or wants to see it. Northeastern, which has become a quite selective school, and BU. All big urban schools, all worth investigating. Ridiculous to try to see them all three in one day. Do Northeastern and BU one day, Harvard the other day. Aside from the schools, the thing to do/see in Boston is The Freedom Trail (American historical sites), as much of it as you have time for. https://www.thefreedomtrail.org/ , and the adjacent Public Gardens.

Princeton is not in a city at all, and Yale, while a wonderful school, is in a smaller city (New Haven) which cannot hold a candle to DC, Philly, NYC, or Boston, not even close to what Providence can offer. I don’t think New Haven has what your kid is looking for. New Haven’s main advantage is that one can get to Boston and NYC by train, about a 2 hr train ride to each. Same can be said for Princeton - a little over an hour to NYC by commuter rail.

You should look into Brown, in Providence. It’s a very strong school, in a decent city. It may be too small for your kid, and Providence may not be the exciting big city he wants, but Providence has undergone a lot of renewal, is a really great city to live in.

NYC schools. Columbia, which does have a campus, but is right smack in the urban upper west side. Barnard, if your kid is female, is a slightly less selective, somewhat more personal, woman-centric school but with access to all of Columbia’s resources. NYU, in Greenwich village, is in a very attractive area of the city. A less competitive alternative might be Fordham, in the Bronx. Things to do in NYC? You could tourist there for a month, and not run out of things to do and see. A ride on the Staten Island Ferry, to see the Statue of Liberty and the lower Manhattan skyline from the water. A walk through Central Park. A walk through the Village. SO many great museums. Broadway show, Times Square, list just goes on and on. Every cuisine in the world, at all hours of the day. Need I go on? Know that the subway has become an underground shelter for the homeless, and crime is rising - be careful. Honestly, this applies to all the cities I’ve mentioned.

One thing I’d keep in mind - your time is limited, and the primary purpose of this is evaluating schools, so do a TON of research ahead of time, and think of touristing as a palate cleanser in between schools. Take pictures in a way that allows you to add captions, to help you remember what you saw. For me, that would have meant Whatsapping them with a caption to the other parent who didn’t come on the trip, but it would have also helped me to remember which school had those horrible, tiny cinderblock-cell freshman dorms (are you listening, Northeastern?), or which school had the enormous enclosed area with the huge library steps, giving it a cloistered feel even though it was right in the middle of the city.

Remember that aquariums, zoos, and even non-specific-interest art museums are largely the same in many cities around the world. Unless your kid is planning on majoring in Art History, they are not the best way to get to know a city. Neither is a whale-watching trip, which, since the water stays cold much longer than the air, would probably be frigid misery in April - I’m not even sure if that’s when the whales are feeding off of Cape Cod - and would take a long time out of your day, and not help one bit to get a feel for a city. Same goes for sports, although if for some reason kid insists on taking in a ball game, the place to do it is Fenway, since it’s a fairly short walk from BU and Northeastern, is still part of getting a feel for a city. But again, I’d consider that not the best way to get familiar with a city on an East Coast swing college tour - the best way is walking, walking, walking.

Pack your walking shoes, and your raincoats and umbrellas, and layers. April in the Northeast can be anything from snowstorm to warm, late-spring beauty with tons of daffodils.


Thank you so much for all this. I truly appreciate everyone’s time and thoughts!

Love the website Daytripper University - good itineraries around colleges including restaurants, coffee shops, activities. Not sure if they have been able to keep it current with Covid - but worth a search and we found it very helpful.


Oh, you can hit a lot of schools between DC and Boston driving in 7 days. We didn’t do DC, but we hit Hopkins, UPenn, (Haverford & Villanova briefly, Swarthmore was too far out of the way), Princeton, NYU, Columbia, Barnard, Fordham LC, Yale, BU, NU, Harvard, MIT - think I am forgetting 2 or 3 and that’s not even counting the ones before Baltimore or after Boston - but that was 7 days. With 2 nights in NYC and 2 nights in Boston. Because of Covid, we only had official tours at 3 of those schools (plus two before that and one after).

As for BU vs NYU and everybody always saying BU doesn’t have a campus because it doesnt have walls - but you cannot compare BU’s city campus to NYU at all. And while I admit UPenn has a beautiful campus to be envied, NYU is in the middle of a bustling part of NYC and you can’t figure out which buildings belong to NYU unless they have a purple flag and it is very disjointed. BU does have a major street through the middle of campus (and T tracks), and campus is long and narrow in places, but every building on both sides of the street is part of BUs campus, whether a dormitory, classroom building, offices, or whatever. In the middle of campus is Marsh Plaza, and on the other side of Marsh Plaza is the BU Beach. The closest NYU has to that is of course Washington Square Park, which is a public park. Additionally, Bay State Road is a nice quiet street of beautiful brownstones that runs for blocks and ends at the BU castle, that is all BU property. Then there is South Campus which is more streets of brownstones which are all residence dormitories owned by BU. Even West Campus which used to be slightly dislocated is now only separated by the bridge, because BU owns everything on the other side of the bridge leading up to west campus and west campus has tripled in size. So it is true that neither BU nor NYU have walled campuses, but BU has much more of an actual footprint that is their campus than NYU does, and it is quite large. To me BU feels like a campus in the city, whereas NYU just feels like the city. I also always felt like BU central campus had unique walls: to the north is Storrow Drive and the Charles River, to the South is the Mass Pike, to the west there is the BU bridge and to the East is Kenmore Square as kind of the gate. :slight_smile: NU is a little different. It has grown a lot, but it is still somewhere in between and feels very disjointed to me. But the facilities they have now are so much nicer than what they used to have. Don’t get me wrong, btw I really like NYU, and NYC I just think BU and NYU have very different campuses and very different experiences.

For spending time in Boston, I agree - spend a lot of time walking to see BUs campus, NUs campus - Take the T and go see the Boston Common and Public Gardens. Head to Faneuil Hall Marketplace and the watefront/Boston Harbor. You could spend days touring Boston, so it may be better to focus on the schools. Maybe eat dinner in the North End.


I would take note whether your visit overlaps Easter break at Georgetown, 4/13-19, or the Boston Marathon, Monday,4/18.


If you ask 10,000 people, you’ll get 10,000 answers. A comment above mentioned not going to Swarthmore because it was out of the way, yet going to Haverford and Villanova. I’d bet money they drove within 3 miles of the Swat campus going from Hopkins to Philly. There are just too many options and never enough time.

I would suggest you use the mapping function on other sites to “see” the schools on your route, and get a sense of how you can flow from one to the other. You can set size and quality, and get a feel for school locations. This is a map set on highly and extremely selective mid-sized (5k-15k) schools. It’s so hard to visualize without a tool like this.

As for sightseeing…the history in the region provides a ton of free or relatively inexpensive options. You could spend a week in each place and not get to everything. The DC monuments at night are something I do every time I get the chance.