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Family road trip DC -> NY -> Northeast coast -> Niagara Falls

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We are family of 5 with young children. We want to do a 4 weeks road trip. We are flying to DC, renting a car and will start our "adventure". This is a Summer trip.
We want to go to and explore the North East coast, take the children to see the Niagara Falls and from there, head west. I am wondering if it's really worth driving past Chicago. Also, would love suggestions on things that should not be missed and things that can be skipped (or avoided). We want to see the main attractions and, because we are with children, will be looking for clean, easy acces hotels on the $100-$150 per night mark.
any help is greatly appreciated.

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