Soarin' Eagle and Steeplechase, Coney Island's first new roller coasters in 84 years, are joining the legendary Cyclone and a revamped boardwalk.

Cape May was just named one of the Top 10 beach destinations in the world by members of TripAdvisor (see "checkin," N4).

And Washington will unveil a memorial to the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on the National Mall.

Whether it's a new ride or a perennial favorite, a site visited long ago or long overlooked, there are plenty of staycation spots that can be reached from Center City on one tank of gas.

How many miles is that?

Roughly 400, based on AAA's figures that the average car gets 20 miles to the gallon and has a 22.4-gallon tank.

That means you can make it easily to the Jersey Shore or the Poconos. Or you can venture as far as New York's Finger Lakes or Virginia's Shenandoah National Park, Boston and its suburbs, or Maryland's Eastern Shore.

Here are some popular spots within that one-tank range for a vacation at the beach, or an amusement park, in the outdoors, in small towns and big cities. There are many others, but this list can give you some ideas and help you get started.


Cape May

Location: Southern tip of New Jersey.

Driving distance from Philadelphia: 92.8 miles.

Reason to visit: The nation's oldest seashore resort is known for its Victorian architecture and laid-back atmosphere. In addition to smooth sand, boardwalk, and lighthouse, there's whale watching, carriage tours, parasailing, and tastings at the Cape May Winery.

Phone, Web: 609-884-5508, Ext. 102;

Rehoboth and Bethany Beaches

Location: Coast of Delaware.

Driving distance from Philadelphia: 121 miles (Rehoboth), 132 miles (Bethany).

Reason to visit: Just 11 miles apart, these two Atlantic beaches can easily be combined into a weekend shore getaway. Both are classic beach towns rich with history, founded as Christian retreats. Browse the shops and museums or venture to nearby Cape Henlopen State Park for a tour of Delaware's "walking" sand dunes. Look for annual summer events, such as Bethany's Ocean to Bay Bike Tour.

Phone, Web: 302-245-0304,; 302-539-2100;

Block Island

Location: Off the coast of Rhode Island.

Driving distance from Philadelphia: Block Island is accessible by plane or ferry. Flights leave from Westerly, R.I. (231 miles); the ferry docks at Point Judith, R.I. (257 miles).

Reason to visit: With its 17 miles of free beaches, historic lighthouses, and rolling hills, Block Island is a hidden New England gem. The island also offers fishing charters, hiking on more than 28 miles of trails, and horseback riding. Dine on freshly caught seafood in the island's many restaurants or get pampered at a luxury spa.

Phone, Web: 1-800-383-2474;

Also consider: Ocean City, Md.; Virginia Beach, Va.; Nags Head, N.C.

Outdoor recreation

Delaware Water Gap

National Recreation Area

Location: Bushkill, Pa.

Driving distance from Philadelphia: 115 miles.

Reason to visit: There's something for every outdoorsman here. Straddling the boundary between Pennsylvania and New Jersey, this recreation area offers hiking, camping, biking, rock climbing, and birding. There are also canoeing, kayaking, snorkeling, fishing, and rafting in the Delaware River.

Phone, Web: 570-426-2452;

Shenandoah National Park

Location: Luray, Va.

Driving distance from Philadelphia: 257 miles.

Reason to visit: The park is celebrating its 75th anniversary with festivals, talks, music, food, and a rededication. Its 196,466 acres of wilderness include 500 miles of hiking trails and a variety of terrain, such as waterfalls, rocky peaks, and stream hollows. The 105-mile Skyline Drive cuts through the Blue Ridge Mountains and gives motorists views of area wildlife.

Phone, Web: 540-999-3500;,

Finger Lakes region

Location: Central New York.

Driving distance from Philadelphia: 260 miles to Penn Yan, N.Y. (approximate center of region).

Reason to visit: With 11 oddly shaped lakes, this region specializes in outdoor fun on and off the water. Water covers close to 134,000 acres, good for swimming, boating, waterskiing, and fishing for salmon, carp and trout. Hunters can go after wild turkey in the forests or flush out waterfowl in wetlands near Lake Ontario. Choose from hundreds of wineries and distilleries for tastings or place your bets at the racetrack.

Phone, Web: 315-536-7488;

Also consider: Pennsylvania Grand Canyon, Wellsboro; Appalachian National Scenic Trail; Blue Hills Reservation, Milton, Mass.

Amusement parks

Coney Island

Location: Brooklyn, N.Y.

Driving distance from Philadelphia: 93.2 miles.

Reason to visit: Coney Island has been a staple of American amusement parks since the 1860s. Last summer, Luna Park opened with 19 new rides, six games, shops, and food. This summer, there's the $12 million Scream Zone, with the two new coasters and Zenobio and Sling Shot thrill rides. Coney Island is also the home of the Brooklyn Cyclones minor-league baseball team, the New York Aquarium, and world-famous Nathan's Hot Dogs.

Cost per person: Admission is free, but tickets are needed for rides and attractions.

Phone, Web: 718-372-5159;


Location: Hershey, Pa.

Driving distance from Philadelphia: 95.4 miles.

Reason to visit: In addition to 11 roller coasters, nine water rides, and 42 other attractions, the "Sweetest Place on Earth" has a "Boardwalk" area that brings the Jersey Shore experience to central Pennsylvania. There's also much to see and do in the town of Hershey, including tours at Hershey's Chocolate World, a zoo, and concerts.

Cost per person: $53.95 for adults, $32.95 for children/seniors, $21.95 for senior plus (70 and older). Multiple visit discounts available.

Phone, Web: 1-800-437-7439;

Kings Dominion

Location: Doswell, Va.

Driving distance from Philadelphia: 222 miles.

Reason to visit: There's something for everyone at Kings Dominion: Thrill-seekers can get their hearts pumping on the Intimidator 305 and Volcano roller coasters; kids can hang out with Charlie Brown and the Peanuts gang at Planet Snoopy; and the entire family can beat the heat on the water slides and quarter-mile lazy river. The park also offers live entertainment ranging from fireworks displays to jazz festivals.

Cost per person: $47.99, adults; $34.99, children and seniors. Multiple-visit discounts available.

Phone, Web: 804-876-5000;

Also consider: Dorney Park & Wildwater Kingdom, Allentown; Dutch Wonderland, Lancaster; Knoebels, Elysburg, Pa.; Six Flags Great Adventure, Jackson, N.J.

Small-town charm

St. Michaels

Location: Eastern Shore of Maryland.

Driving distance from Philadelphia: 121 miles.

Reason to visit: This small bay town offers restaurants, specialty shops, boating, golfing, and tennis, all in a Victorian setting. During a week's vacation, spend a couple of nights in St. Michaels and in Easton and Cambridge, 20 to 30 minutes away, to get the full Eastern Shore experience. Cyclists will love the area - most of it is flat and makes for some great rides.

Phone, Web: 1-800-808-7622;

Old Town Alexandria

Location: Northeastern Virginia, just south of Washington.

Driving distance from Philadelphia: 144 miles.

Reason to visit: Similar to Philly's Old City, Old Town is a section of Alexandria that celebrates and preserves the city's history. With cobblestone streets and Colonial architecture, the neighborhood lets visitors step back to the days of the founding fathers. Old Town is home to museums and historical sites, including Gadsby's Tavern, where George Washington and Thomas Jefferson often dined, and an active archaeological dig.

Phone, Web: 703-746-3301;

Boston suburbs

Location: Eastern Massachusetts.

Driving distance from Philadelphia: About 300 miles.

Reason to visit: The area surrounding Boston is filled with communities that have kept their classic small-town look and style. Wrentham features a tree-lined town square and offers summertime recreation at Lake Crystal and the Big Apple Farm. North of Wrentham lies Maynard, whose quiet neighborhoods, old-fashioned theater, and community ice cream stand take you back to the 1950s.

Phone, Web: Maynard, 978-897-1300;; Wrentham, 508-384-5400;

Also consider: Jim Thorpe, Pa.; Salisbury, Md.; New Haven, Conn.

Big-city fun


Driving distance from Philadelphia: 137 miles.

Reason to visit: Summer is a great time in the nation's capital, especially for families. During Restaurant Week for Kids (June 7 to 10), participating eateries will offer kid-friendly menus during lunch and dinner. If the kids don't seem thrilled about visiting the Lincoln Memorial or the Smithsonian, try the International Spy Museum, which offers interactive programs designed for younger audiences. There's also free outdoor fun at Theodore Roosevelt Island and the National Arboretum. And the King Memorial is scheduled to be dedicated on Aug. 28, the 48th anniversary of his "I Have a Dream" speech.

Phone, Web: 202-789-7000;


Driving distance from Philadelphia: 272 miles.

Reason to visit: The city markets itself as "The Creative Capital," thanks to its diverse collection of museums and galleries. Check out many of these attractions for free during Gallery Night, the third Thursday of every month. Providence's signature attraction is WaterFire, an outdoor art installation that uses bonfires to illuminate much of the city.

Phone, Web: 1-800-233.1636;


Driving distance from Philadelphia: 305 miles

Reason to visit: Forget the steel industry. Modern Pittsburgh - the birthplace of the Big Mac - is best known for its food options. Take an international food tour with Polish halupki, Indian curry, Czech kolache, and other dishes during annual food festivals, or sample some local creations, such as a Primanti Bros. sandwich - a trucker-inspired delicacy featuring meat, cheese, coleslaw, and french fries. There also are several farmers markets and pick-your-own farms. For a panoramic view of the city, including the stadiums where the Steelers and Pirates play and Pittsburgh's three rivers, ride a cable car up the Duquesne Incline to Mount Washington.

Phone, Web: 1-800-359-0758;

Also consider: Baltimore, Cleveland, Raleigh.