Top 31 Best Family Vacation Spots in the US for 2021

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Ready to plan your next family vacation and wondering where to go? For 2021, I combined my favorite family vacation ideas with a few recommendations from fellow travel writer friends. From coast to coast we’re ready to help you with our picks for the best family vacation spots in the US!

Why are Family Vacations Important?

Taking a family vacation isn’t just about having fun, there are some great benefits to family vacations.

The Benefits of Taking Family Vacations:

  • Getting away helps you take a break from a high-stress lifestyle.
  • You can model successful problem-solving and planning to your kids while on vacation.
  • Family vacations provide an opportunity to learn new things.
  • Traveling together can create a bond over shared experiences.
  • You’ll create family memories that will last for many years.

How Much Does the Average Family Vacation Cost?

The cost of a family vacation varies based on many factors. Are you taking a road trip or flying? Are you planning to go to a lot of attractions with entrance fees or planning to do mostly free things. And, where are you staying? A five-star resort will obviously cost more than staying at a budget motel.

Based on my calculations, the average cost for vacation is $5,197. You can use my vacation cost calculator (in my cost for vacation post) to determine your expected costs. And you can print off my vacation budget planner if you’d like to calculate your vacation cost on paper.

How Long Should a Family Vacation Last?

There are a few factors that will decide how long a family vacation should be. Some studies have suggested that a vacation should be eight days long to capture the full benefits of your time away.

But for some families, you might be limited based on how many vacation days you have from work or school. Hotel and food can also add up fast, so longer vacations will mean spending more money on the trip.

For our family we typically like to plan our main family vacations to be seven to eight days long depending on travel time. If we’re flying most of the first day, then we might need an extra day to experience the destination.

However, I’ll be honest that by day seven most of us are missing home and a bit tired. You don’t want to be so busy on vacation that you feel like you need a vacation AFTER your vacation!

How Often Should You Take a Family Vacation?

As often as you can! 🙂 Our family tries to take at least two family vacations a year, plus a couple of weekend getaways. But I’d say that you should try to plan at least one family vacation a year.

I know that responsibilities and finances can affect how often you can take a family vacation. But, even if you make time for a simple weekend getaway you’ll be creating memories with your kids and experiencing something new!

What is the Best Family Vacation Spot in USA?

It’s impossible for me to actually tell you the BEST family vacation spot in the US. That will depend on whether you’re looking for something close to you or far away. Flip through my family vacation ideas story.

Are you looking for beach or mountain escape? Perhaps you want to visit a big city, or maybe you’re looking to explore the great outdoors. All of these factors will help you decide what the best family vacation spot is for your family.

Some of the most popular destinations for families include Florida, California, Hawaii, DC, Yellowstone, and New York. However, every state has amazing activities and natural beauty that will make for a great family trip.

I’ve created my list below based on my own family vacations and with the help of some of my travel writing friends. Each of these USA destinations is a great family vacation idea!

Keep in mind that some of the destinations may have travel rules or restrictions you’ll need to follow in 2021. I’ve also included affiliate links in this post, if you choose to purchase from my links I may earn a commission.

Does the US have All-Inclusive Resorts that are Family-Friendly?

While all-inclusives are popular in the Caribbean (check out our fun stay at the Moon Palace Jamaica), they’re not very common in the United States. There are a few all-inclusive resorts in the US that welcome families. Note that some simply have an all-inclusive package option that you can choose to add to your reservation.

  • Club Med Sandpiper Bay in Port St. Lucie, Florida
  • The Ranch at Rock Creek in Philipsburg, Montana
  • Travaasa Hana, Maui in Hana, Hawaii
  • Grand Hotel in Mackinac Island, Michigan
  • Vista Verde Guest Ranch in Clark, Colorado
  • Woodloch Pines Resort in Hawley, Pennsylvania
  • Lodge on Little St. Simons Island in Little St. Simons Island, Georgia
  • Club Med Sandpiper Bay in Port St. Lucie, Florida
  • White Stallion Ranch in Tucson, Arizona
  • Skytop Lodge in Skytop, Pennsylvania
  • Blackberry Farm in Walland, Tennessee
  • Kachemak Bay Wilderness Lodge in Homer, Alaska

What is the Best State to Visit in the US For Families?

All 50! I’m slightly joking here but honestly, I think that all 50 states offer amazing discoveries that will benefit families. I think the best state for your family vacation is based on what kind of vacation you’re looking for.

The US offers states with amazing National Parks (like Montana and California), others have fabulous beaches on both the ocean or a lake (like Florida or Michigan), and still, others offer amazing historical educational opportunities (like DC and Alabama).

You might consider helping your kids get a start on a 50 State Bucket List Challenge and visit as many states as you can while your kids are young.

Top 31 Family Vacation Ideas for a Perfect Family Holiday

Northern California

One of our family’s favorite trips has been a road trip down the California coast. We all fell in love with Northern California. The towering redwood trees in the Redwood National & State Parks are absolutely amazing. And there are so many family-friendly hikes that will put you deep into these giants.

redwood trees in northern california
Getting up close with Atlas, one of the widest coastal redwood trees in northern California.
© Stuffed Suitcase

Glass Beach in Fort Bragg is a unique spot that makes for some fabulous family photos! The nearby MacKerricher State Park invites kids to get out, explore, and enjoy nature. And, you might even spot whales during the right season!

Northern California is also home to Lassen Volcanic National Park, where kids can see crazy thermal activity and beautiful waterfall hikes.

If you’re looking for a lake vacation, check out Shasta Lake or Whiskeytown Lake. Families will love paddling and splashing in the sun at one of these two large lakes.

Check out hotels in Northern California.

Estes Park, Colorado

Estes Park, Colorado is a fabulous vacation spot for families who are looking for a National Park trip with some small-town charm and big-city day trips thrown in. Estes Park is home to Rocky Mountain National Park which is one of Mia’s favorite parks. It’s filled with fun hikes, beautiful views, and lots of wildlife.

biking in estes park
Biking around Lake Estes in Colorado / © Stuffed Suitcase

Estes Park is a charming main street town with lots of tourist shops, including some great candy and ice cream shops. They also have a fun pika scavenger hunt that will keep kids entertained while you stroll up and down the main street.

And when you’re ready for some big-city thrills, head into Denver. It’s about an hour and a half drive and the perfect way to have a vacation with nature and city sights. If you have any NFL fans, they can even book a tour of Broncos stadium.

Check out where to stay in Estes Park.

Oahu, Hawaii

One of my top picks for the best family vacation spots in the US is Oahu. This Hawaiian island is home to Honolulu but offers families so much more to explore. If you’re wanting to get a good feel for Hawaii, Oahu is the place to find it.

Makupu'u Lookout on my must do in Oahul list because it's the perfect spot to stop for a great view and for a nice hike
Makupu’u Lookout is the perfect spot to stop in Oahu for a great view and for a nice hike / @ Stuffed Suitcase

It’s easy to reach the island since most major airlines fly into Honolulu, east coasters might want to consider a short layover stop in California if they want to avoid the long flight.

Some of our favorite things to do in Oahu are to hike Diamond Head Monument, take a road trip around the island, eat a plate of shrimp, and of course, enjoy shave ice.

You’ll also find plenty of beaches and rocky overlooks to spend the day at. Popular spots include snorkeling at Hanauma Bay, watching the surfers on the north shore, and long walks along Kauloa Park and Secret Island.

Many families will choose to stay on Waikiki Beach in Honolulu, but some might prefer Disney Aulani which is about 45 minutes away from Honolulu. And you’ll want to catch a luau, either at the Polynesian Cultural Center or the Disney Aulani luau.

Check out hotel prices for Oahu.

Seattle, Washington

A little partial since we live in Seattle, but I do think it’s a fabulous city for a family vacation. Families will love exploring the Seattle Center area of the city where they can visit some of the top attractions.

The MoPop Museum should definitely be on your list. They have a lot of memorabilia of pop culture and some great hands-on music experiences, too. Currently, they have a Minecraft exhibit! It’s a museum all about pop culture!

Seattle also has a fabulous children’s museum, the Space Needle, a world-class zoo and aquarium, and the sea. Kids will love feeling the wind aboard a ferry, searching for crabs and shells along the beaches, and even going whale watching. And it’s easy to get to Olympic National Park from Seattle, where you’ll find amazing Pacific Northwest nature.

Parents will love all our great restaurants, breweries, and parks that offer amazing views and plenty of room to let kids run around. And if you’re a sports fan, Seattle has a football, baseball, soccer, and soon a hockey team all with fabulous fans!

Lots to see and do even if you only have a weekend in Seattle.

Check out hotels in Seattle.

Moosehead Lake, Maine

If you’re looking for a relaxing lake vacation, Moosehead Lake, Maine could be the vacation spot for you. Moosehead Lake is the largest lake in Maine, and the largest mountain lake in the eastern US.

screw auger falls gulf hagas hike maine
Screw Auger Falls requires a bit of a climb down but is a popular swimming spot! © Kim Tate

The lake is home to many cabin rentals, offering families a home away from home that lets them relax and make themselves at home. I had a chance to stay at two on my Moosehead Lake weekend trip.

Lily Bay State Park has a great beach and campground that families will love. You can book a moose safari where you go at sunrise or sunset to go out looking for moose — we saw two! You’ll find many cabins and lodges that offer kayaks and/or canoes for paddling out and enjoying the water.

Moosehead Lake is also very popular for hiking. It’s located near the Appalachian Trail and has plenty of mountains for challenging you to climb. We loved hiking up the Little Kineo Mountain Trail but the Screw Auger Falls hike will be extremely popular with adventurous kiddos.

Check out hotels in Moosehead Lake and Airbnbs.

Glacier National Park

Looking for a National Park to visit on your family vacation? We visited Glacier National Park last summer and loved it! The park is large but offers a completely different feel from the West Glacier side to the East Glacier side. If you’re traveling during the summer you’ll want to drive the Going to the Sun Road between the two park sections.

Lake McDonald view in Glacier National Park
Taking in the view of Lake McDonald in Glacier National Park.
© Kimberly Tate

We stayed at two really awesome places during our trip to the park. Two nights we glamped at Under Canvas. This is my kind of camping, you get a toilet, shower, and fireplace in your tent! We also stayed inside an old train caboose at the Izaak Walton Inn. That was such a fun experience!

Glacier is also near Whitefish, Montana which offers families some fun activities at their mountain resort. And you’ll find some great dining and shopping in their mountain town.

Check out hotels near Glacier National Park.

Santa Rosa, California

Santa Rosa is the home of Charles Schulz, the artist, and creator of the Peanuts comic. There is a Charles Schulz Museum in Santa Rosa that should appeal to kids and adults alike. Kids can even try to draw the Peanuts in the museum’s art room. And, there’s a skating rink and a children’s museum within walking distance.

charles schulz museum santa rosa
Charles Schulz Museum in Santa Rosa, CA

Santa Rosa is also home to the Safari West wildlife park. Families who are interested in learning more about African animals can visit and go on a jeep tour. You can even stay onsite in one of their glamping tents, where you’ll fall asleep with the sounds of birds and lemurs calling into the night.

Santa Rosa also offers parents plenty of opportunities to enjoy wine tasting. Wineries are family-friendly, and some even offer activities on-site to keep kids entertained while parents sip away.

Check out hotels in Santa Rosa.

New Orleans, Louisiana

New Orleans may be best known for beads and Bourbon Street, but there is another family-oriented side to this Louisiana city. Creole cuisine and live jazz aren’t just for grown-ups, with lots of kid-friendly restaurants and music venues. Festive king cakes drizzled with Mardi Gras-colored icing and beignets doused in powdered sugar are tasty local treats for all ages.

new orleans streetcars
New Orleans, Louisiana, USA street cars.

Kids will especially love playing at the Louisiana Children’s Museum, which was completely redesigned and reopened in a new location inside City Park in 2019. This expansive park is also home to Carousel Gardens and Storyland theme parks, the New Orleans Botanical Garden, and the City Putt miniature golf course.

For a more educational activity, take kids to the National WWII Museum for an important lesson in history. Meanwhile, families will always remember searching for alligators on an airboat swamp tour in the Big Easy.

Adventurous children and their parents can even touch a millipede’s legs and taste cricket cookies at the Audubon Insectarium. For more traditional animal experiences, head to the impressive Audubon Zoo and Audubon Aquarium of the Americas.

To get a different view of N’Awlins, be sure to take a mule-drawn carriage ride of the French Quarter and sail the Mississippi River from Steamboat Natchez during your visit to Crescent City. The unique flavors, architecture, and friendliness of New Orleans make this city a must-see for families in 2020.

Check out hotels in New Orleans.

Austin, Texas

It’s quirky and cool like Portland – but oh, so much warmer! This vibrant and youthful city is famous for food, festivals and a fantastic live music scene (Austin is known as the Live Music Capital of America).

austin tx at sunset
Austin, Texas is a popular tourist destination in the midwest.

Families can easily spend a whole day exploring the 361 acre Zilker Metropolitan Park, which includes an excellent playground, a miniature passenger train, a popular Nature and Science Center (Where kids can dig for dinosaur bones!) and the gigantic fresh water-fed Barton Springs Pool.

Thankfully, on those extra hot days when the mercury pushes past 90 degrees (July/August), you don’t have to venture far to have a good time in this city. Most Austin hotels have awesome pools to keep their guests happy and comfortable.

When it starts to cool off in the evening, join the crowds near the Congress Avenue Bridge to watch the bats take flight. From March through October, over a million bats make their home underneath the bridge and take to the skies just after dusk. It’s a pretty unique sight…and it’s free!

Check out hotels in Austin.

Chicago, Illinois

Looking for a big city family trip? Chicago, Illinois is the perfect place to go! They have some of the best museums in the country from The Shedd Aquarium to the Museum of Science and Industry and the Field Museum. All of these have plenty to do to keep the kids occupied. Plus there is an awesome Children’s Museum on Navy Pier!

chicago illinois skyline
Chicago, Illinois is a great family vacation destination for a city escape in the midwest!

Beyond the museums, there are unbelievable parks at locations like Millenium Park where you have to check out the Bean. And don’t miss the FREE Lincoln Park Zoo!

We love that in Chicago you are in the middle of a busy city yet you are able to be outside enjoying so many different fun things from ice skating to parks to walking around downtown.

One of the cool things about Chicago is all of the different neighborhoods. Each one has something unique to offer. Make sure to take time to explore the different neighborhoods and feel the different vibe in each one.

Beyond all of the amazing things to do, there are delicious restaurants and you can’t come to Chicago and not have a deep dish pizza or 2 or 3! You and your family will have an amazing time exploring everything the city has to offer.

Check out hotels in Chicago.

Key West, Florida

Despite its reputation of being a quirky party town, Key West, FL is a great destination for families. The quirkiness is real but just adds to the charm of this sun-soaked island in the Florida Keys.

Key West’s best attractions are arguably on the water, so be sure to book a snorkel tour or go parasailing. For something more laid back, a sunset cruise is a perfect way to wrap up a lazy day in paradise. Fury Key West or Sebago offers several tours and excursions that we enjoyed.

boat in key west fl
Take a family vacation to Key West Florida. Photo credit: Carrick Buss

Besides soaking up some rays, other activities include a tour of Key West on the Conch Train or in the evening, learn about Key West’s spookier side on the Ghosts and Gravestones tour.

No trip would be complete without stopping by the Southernmost Point for a selfie, and if you love cats, the Ernest Hemmingway Home and Museum is the perfect way to spend a few hours. Fair warning though – you may fall in love with the cuddly 6-toed kitties and not want to leave!

Be sure to budget a day for a visit to Dry Tortugas National Park. You can reach the park by ferry or seaplane (the seaplane is awesome!), and it’s a fun adventure that the kids will love. Dry Tortugas is one of America’s most remote Parks and is really one of the most unique that we’ve visited. As far as day trips are concerned, this is one of the best we’ve been on.

Finally, don’t leave without sampling the key lime pie. It goes without saying, but there’s no better place to find it! Try a frozen slice on a stick dipped in chocolate from Kermit’s. You can thank us later!

Recommended by Carrick Buss from Along for the Trip. Read more about the fun activities in Key West with kids.

Check out prices for Key West hotels.

Yellowstone National Park

This is definitely a bucket list family vacation destination. Yellowstone is one of those trips that everyone should experience since it’s the oldest National Park in the United States.

hot spring pool in yellowstone
Seeing major landmarks in Yellowstone with Adventures by Disney. © Kim Tate

Exploring Yellowstone will take you many days. Near the northern entrance is popular Mammoth Hot Springs and Larimar Valley where you’ll often see bison. South of Larimar Valley is the amazing Grand Canyon of Yellowstone waterfall. From the west entrance heading south you’ll be able to catch all the amazing geothermal pools and geysers, like Old Faithful.

There’s so much to see and learn at Yellowstone which makes it a great family vacation destination! If you’re thinking of taking a tour around Yellowstone, check out our Disney Adventures trip to Yellowstone.

Check out prices for Yellowstone hotels.

Raleigh, North Carolina

If you are looking for entertaining, free activities for families, along with plenty of chances to explore nature, Raleigh, North Carolina is a great option. The capital of North Carolina is an easy flight from many destinations and is affordable for a family vacation.

jordan lake in raleigh
Jordan Lake in Raleigh, NC. Photo credit: Jodi Grundig

Free museums include the must-see North Carolina Museum of Natural Science. This museum is spread out over two different buildings and offers kid-friendly, hands-on exhibits and demonstrations. The onsite café is delicious, and features fresh, local food.

Nearby is the North Carolina Museum of History, which showcases the history of North Carolina. This Smithsonian affiliate is also home to traveling exhibits, and is free, although some special exhibits may have a fee.

We also enjoyed the North Carolina Museum of Art, which offers a beautiful outdoor park that connects art with nature in addition to traditional indoor exhibits. Kids can borrow a complimentary backpack, which includes items they can use to explore the park.

Families that want to get outside may want to visit nearby Jordan Lake. This 14,000-acre, undeveloped reservoir is the third largest lake in North Carolina. There’s also Go Ape, a treetop ropes course, which is located near Raleigh.

Recommended by Jodi from Family Travel Magazine. See more things to do in Raleigh here.

Find the best hotels in Raleigh, NC.

Las Vegas, Nevada

Las Vegas may not seem like an obvious location for a family vacation, but it was a great destination for our family. As long as the adults in your party are ok foregoing gambling and nightclubs, we recommend “Sin City” for families.

las vegas aerial view
Las Vegas can be great for families – it’s more than just gambling!

Direct flights are easy to find, and Las Vegas offers a plethora of amazing hotels that offer gorgeous pool areas that kids love. Because there are more hotel rooms in Las Vegas than any other US city, families can often score a great value for a luxury hotel on or off the Strip.

The Strip is the world’s most visited tourist attraction, and kids love the outdoor displays like Mirage’s Polynesian waterfall that “erupts” hourly during its evening shows, the fountains at the Bellagio and the Venetian canals.

Kids get a “taste” of New York, Paris, Venice, and Rome by exploring the Strip. My four-year-old son was so amazed by the half-scale Eiffel Tower that he begged us for four years to take him to Paris. (Lucky for him that our actual trip to Paris also included visits to Venice and Rome.)

There are also never-ending options for great meals. Our family particularly enjoyed Caesar’s Bacchanal Buffet and Lotus of Siam, which has been rated as the best Thai restaurant in the US. For families who want a break from the neon canyon, the Red Rocks and Hoover Dam are each just a short drive from Las Vegas and great day trip options.

Recommended by Catherine D’Cruz from We Go With Kids. Find out more from Catherine about Las Vegas with kids. Plus families can enjoy some great outdoor activities with kids near Las Vegas.

Check out prices for Las Vegas hotels.

Disneyland / Anaheim, California

For most families, a trip to Disney is a popular family vacation. Our family has certainly enjoyed a LOT of trips to both in the US. Disneyland is in Anaheim, California, and has two theme parks with lots of rides and attractions that are great for all ages.

Note: Disneyland has been closed since March 2020, and a reopening date is unknown.

disneyland sleeping beauty castle
Disneyland is a popular family vacation destination! © Kim Tate

Beyond Disneyland, Southern California has a lot of fun family-friendly attractions. You can check out Universal Studios — their backlot tour is so much fun! And you’re near some of the best California beaches, including Huntington Beach AKA Surf City USA.

If you want help booking your Disneyland vacation, my booking partners at Get Away Today are Disneyland experts and offer great discounts on tickets and hotel packages. Use my code ‘Stuffed Suitcase’ to get $10 off your booking of a 2+ night hotel package.

Disney World / Orlando, Florida

Disney World is in Orlando, Florida, and has four theme parks in addition to two waterparks. If you’re looking to be immersed in Disney, a weeklong trip to Disney World and staying onsite will certainly offering you a lot of Disney magic! We loved staying at the Disney Riviera Resort and using the Skyliner to get to the parks.

slinky dog ride at disney world
Where’s the Best Seat on Slinky Dog Dash?
© Kimberly Tate

Beyond Disney World, Orlando and the Kissimmee area has so many activities for families. You will have to take multiple trips to experience it all. My teens love Universal Orlando with its crazy thrill rides.

Looking for a deal on your Walt Disney World and Orlando vacation? My partners at Get Away Today can offer you great prices on hotels and tickets, PLUS they offer a Disney World concierge service and will book your fastpasses and dining reservations for you.

San Luis Obispo, California

California is filled with amazing family-friendly locations, but one often overlooked region is the San Luis Obispo area on the Central Coast. Located on the popular Pacific Coast Highway route between San Francisco and Los Angeles, this is an area worth stopping for a few days.

san luis obispo family vacation
San Luis Obispo, CA. Photo credit: Karilyn Owen

SLO CAL, as it is often called, offers families an abundance of year-round outdoor activities, animal sightings and even a few quirky sights too.
From kayaking at Morro Bay with some of the world’s remaining sea otters to sailing with Captain Mark in search of whales, there is so much to do and see on the water.

For land-based families, you can try your hand at driving sand dune buggies or sand sledding at the one of a kind state park, Oceano State Vehicular Recreation Area.

On a coast filled with cool beaches, another must-visit in this area is Grover Beach where you can drive on the beach to set up your own bonfire wherever you want. Or head to Moonstone Beach to collect rocks while searching for the elusive moonstone.

Families into the quirky will love a visit to the Madonna Inn, Hearst Castle and of course the infamous Bubblegum Alley in San Luis Obispo. Don’t forget to look for check out the elephant seal rookery in San Simeon and the herd of zebras in the pastures nearby.

There is so much to do and see in this region that a quick pass through on Highway 1 can never do it justice. Book a room, stay for a while and give yourself time to see it all.

Recommended by Karilyn from No Back Home. Read about her weekend in San Luis Obispo.

Find hotels in SLO, CA.

Door County, Wisconsin

Door County, Wisconsin is one of our all-time favorite family destinations. Located just two hours north of Milwaukee, Door County is actually a peninsula surrounded by Lake Michigan on one side and Green Bay on the other. Families will love the year-round outdoor activities available, beautiful scenery, and laid back atmosphere.

ferry ride on family vacation in door country wisconsin
Ferry ride in Door Country, WI. Photo credit: Kirsten Maxwell

For those planning a trip to the area, choose a home base in the center of the peninsula (we recommend Fish Creek or Egg Harbor) for easy access to all of the area’s attractions.

In the warmer months, families can enjoy picking fresh fruit, zip-lining through nature preserves, kayaking on the lake, and visiting the area lighthouses. They can even watch the latest movies at the local drive-in. In the fall, Door County is one of the top places for foliage with spectacular colors and Highway 42 is one of the most beautiful drives in the country.

Winter visitors can enjoy quiet hikes on the local beaches, trying winter sports in Peninsula State Park, or shopping in the charming small towns. One thing is for sure, Door County doesn’t disappoint any time of year and families will think it is the perfect getaway for all ages.

Recommended by Kirsten Maxwell from Kids Are A Trip. Read more from her about Door County

Find hotels in Door County.

Folly Beach, South Carolina

Folly Beach in South Carolina is a friendly beach island just 25 minutes from Charleston, SC that’s perfect for families. It has plenty of rental properties and hotels right by the water, and the ocean is shallow enough for little ones to play in. For adults, there is an astoundingly high quality and variety of food and nightlife.

sunset in folly beach sc
Folly Beach, South Carolina. Photo credit: Lillie Marshall

The overall vibe is relaxed and welcoming, and there are numerous water activities (we took an excellent boat tour out to an island with a lighthouse!) as well as biking, strolling, and being one with nature.

Did you know that Folly has DOLPHINS naturally frolicking in its waters?! Though the island is very popular in the summer, consider checking out Folly Beach in the off-season or shoulder season, as it’s still a great getaway then, and prices and crowds are lower.

Another perk: Because it’s surrounded on all sides by water, Folly Beach has some of the most beautiful sunrises and sunsets I’ve seen in my entire life!

Folly Beach was recommended by Lillie Marshall from Around the World “L”.

Check out some of the great hotels in the area!

New York City, New York

City adventures make for great family trips, and few places can top the urban wonderland that is New York City. One could almost ask, what doesn’t it have? The Big Apple is packed full of a wide variety of accommodation options, has an easy and affordable public transit system, tens of thousands of restaurants to choose from, and never, ever sleeps.

family vacation to new york city
Times Square in New York City. Photo credit: Claudia from The Travelling Mom

There’s something in the city for everyone. Families with younger kids can spend time in the Children’s Museum of Manhattan, check out the larger than life displays at the Natural History Museum, and run through Central Park and its Zoo. American Girl fans will love a stop at its flagship store, and every sweet tooth will enjoy Dylan’s Candy Bar or baked treats at Magnolia Bakery.

Older kids often want to be in the center of the action, so take them to Times Square at night. Ride up to the top of the Empire State Building (lots of selfie opps!) and fill them up with pasta and gelato at Eataly NYC Flatiron.

Walk over the Brooklyn Bridge, go on a Scott’s Pizza Tour, take in a Yankees, Knicks or Rangers game, and experience The Ride through Manhattan, one of the most unique attractions in the city.

New York has museums and art galleries to spare. Families with art lovers shouldn’t miss the Guggenheim, Met Museum, or the Frick Collection (for kids 10+).

Theatre-loving kids and parents can take in shows and plays to their heart’s content on Broadway. Frozen, School of Rock and Dear Evan Hansen (older kids) are great family theatre experiences.

Check out the massive Hudson Yards neighborhood with public art and cultural spaces like The Shed, restaurants, shops, markets, and the highest outdoor observation deck in the western hemisphere – 1,100 feet above the ground. As always, New York goes big.

Recommended by Claudia from The Travelling Mom.

Check out hotel prices in NYC.

The Grand Canyon

The Grand Canyon is one of the natural wonders of the world and indeed, you would be hard-pressed not to experience wonder and awe in front of its majestic beauty. Beautiful, engaging and easy to enjoy, the canyon is a fantastic destination for families and has a lot to offer to adults and kids of all ages.

grand canyon south rim
The Grand Canyon South Rim View. Photo credit: Marta Correale

In terms of activities, you have a vast choice of options to suit all levels of fitness. You can take one of the many hikes available (some, not all, are suitable for kids), you can explore the historic buildings and museums in the park or even simply enjoy the scenery using the handy and free shuttle bus that connects the many points of interest and viewpoints in the area.

The more adventurous types can opt for more strenuous canyon hikes, go cycling or even go rafting joining one of the family tours available. There is plenty to keep energetic kids entertained and it is an easy place to keep them away from the screen without boredom setting in.

Rangers hold regular family-friendly talks and activities in the park and the visitor centers offer good information booklets and materials to help you enjoy the park in your own time and at your pace, should you wish to do so.
Families have a vast choice of accommodation options ranging from cabins, to lodges and beautiful hotels, making the Grand Canyon not just beautiful but also easy to enjoy at all ages.

Recommended by Marta Correale from Learning Escapes. Read her tips for visiting the Grand Canyon with kids.

Find hotels near the Grand Canyon.

Colorado Springs, Colorado

Located just 90 minutes from Denver, families should put Colorado Springs and the surrounding Pikes Peak Region on their radar for their next vacation. Family-friendly activities include a visit to Cheyenne Mountain Zoo. Within its 40 acres, kids will enjoy several up-close-and-personal animal experiences including feeding the giraffes.

giraffe feeding
Giraffe feeding at the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo in Colorado Springs. Photo credit: Diana Rowe

Give your kids a taste of the Old West with a visit to the Ghost Town Museum. There’s nothing more magical to kids than visiting Santa, and families can do that from May – Christmas Eve at The North Pole – Home of Santa’s Workshop. All aboard Pikes Peak Cog Railway for year-round stunning views of the mountains. Load the family in the car for a scenic drive or hike at the always-free Garden of the Gods.

Drive a little farther into Canyon City and take in the view from the Royal Gorge Bridge and Park, one of the world’s highest suspension bridges. And there’s so much more to do and see in Colorado Springs and Pikes Peak Region that one visit will not be enough.

Recommended by Diana Rowe from Traveling in Heels. Read her post about a multigenerational trip to Colorado Springs. Also, read about these things to do in Colorado Springs plus kid-friendly activities in Colorado Springs.

Check out hotels in Colorado Springs.

Southeastern Utah

Mary from The World is a Book says:
Southeastern Utah boasts some of the country’s most picturesque and spectacular sceneries. Its unmatched landscapes are filled with red rocks and canyons, sandstone cliffs and towering rock formations. Don’t miss these attractions for an unforgettable family trip.

monument valley north view
Monument Valley North View. Photo credit: Mary, The World is a Book

Moab is a great base to explore two incredible National Parks nearby. Arches National Park has the world’s largest concentration of over 2,000 sandstone arches. Canyonlands has been called the “showcase of geology” with several overlooks into deep canyons and amazing rock formations. There are plenty of easy hiking trails for families in both parks.

Moab is also an outdoor recreation paradise offering varied adventures. Families can go rafting on the Colorado River, go rock climbing, canyoneering, ballooning, hiking, fishing, biking or ATV riding.
Lake Powell is North America’s largest man-made lake. It is a haven of houseboats (some with slides). It offers many water recreation activities against a backdrop of red rock canyons.

The iconic Monument Valley has been used as a backdrop for many films and a symbol of the American Wild West. We highly recommend doing the scenic and cultural tour to explore the back roads and learn more about the Navajo people.

Check out hotels near Moab.

Minneapolis, Minnesota

Kendra from Kendra Pierson Love, Learn, Travel says:
Minneapolis makes the list of best places because it’s a location with interests for every member of the family in just about every season.

The family outdoors lover will love being able to fish in one of the more than 10,000 lakes while the art lover can explore the Walker Art Center. The best part is that quality fishing can take place within the city limits, so your family can split up for the day and still meet up for dinner in the eclectic foodie scene.

Minneapolis outdoor sculptures spoon with cherry
Minneapolis has a lot of fun activities for families, including this crazy outdoor sculpture garden.

Families will also want to visit the Science Museum of Minnesota. Right inside their lobby is Mississippi River Visitor Center National Park. Sports fans will want to score tickets for one of the six professional teams.

Finally, everyone has to take a visit to the Mall of America. With a Nickelodeon themed amusement park in the center and no tax on clothing purchases, it’s just one of the places that you visit just to say that you have!

Check out hotels in Minneapolis.

Richmond, Virginia

Patricia from Fairfax Family Fun says:
Old and new, high-tech and laid back, thrilling and peaceful… whatever you hope to find in a family vacation, it’s likely in Richmond. Love nature? How does spending a day in a gorgeous botanical garden sound? Richmond, Virginia (the state’s capital) is home to the Ginter Botanical Garden, a beautiful facility with a lovely children’s area, and the Metro Richmond Zoo, with many animals and a treetop adventure.

lewis ginter botanical garden conservatory in richmond virginia
Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden Conservatory. Photo credit: Patricia Lee Hall

If science is more your speed, the Science Museum of Virginia will not disappoint, and neither will the children’s museum right next door.

The city offers much for history buffs, especially at Richmond National Battlefield Park, which commemorates 13 American Civil War sites, including Tredegar Iron Works, which supplied much of the artillery to the Confederacy.

Thrill-seekers and adventurous types might like the heart-pumping action of the Richmond Raceway or testing their own limits with fun rides at the Kings Dominion theme park (which has a wonderful – and tame! – kids’ area). But if you prefer to take it easy, Richmond has something for you, too, especially along the nice Canal Walk, where you can take in the city sights and learn about its 400-year history.

Check out hotels in Richmond.

Midcoast Maine

Francesca at The Working Mom Travels says:
MidCoast Maine is a collection of small towns and islands and is a wonderful place for a family vacation. The region, just off of US-1 (the heavily traveled route between Portland and Acadia National Park), simply has it all: excellent food; abundance of outdoor activities; arts and culture; and jaw-dropping scenery.

mid coast maine aerial overview
Midcoast Maine is one of the top spots to take your family vacation. Photo credit: Francesca at The Working Mom Travels

First off, the lobster. There can’t be talk about Maine without mentioning lobster. The whole family can enjoy a lobster dinner in MidCoast Maine for a fraction of what it might cost at home. Claws, a casual, family-friendly lobster shack in Rockland, is a top pick.

With mountains above and Penobscot Bay below, MidCoast Maine is a year-round, outdoor family playground. A great spot for families to enjoy the outdoors (along with that jaw-dropping scenery) is Camden Hills State Park. Hike, bike, or drive to the top of Mount Battie for sweeping views of the bay and Camden Harbor. Families looking to be out on the water are in luck. There is no shortage of schooner day cruises in MidCoast Maine.

For a bit of culture, families should head to Rockland, Maine’s new arts destination. Rockland is home to Farnsworth Art Museum and Center for Maine Contemporary Art (CMCA). Both institutions focus on MidCoast Maine’s role in the arts, from 100-year-old pieces at Farnsworth to modern creations at CMCA.

Check out hotels in Mid Coast Maine.

Cincinnati, Ohio

Nedra at Adventure Mom says:
Cincinnati, Ohio is a great destination for families. Enjoy scenic views of the river from the swings, ride the carousel and make music as you step on the giant outdoor piano at Smale Park.

Take a ride on the streetcar and connect to the Over the Rhine neighborhood and enjoy a meal at one of the great restaurants on Vine Street and experience many of the activities at Washington Park.

You can visit Fiona, everyone’s favorite hippo at the Cincinnati Zoo. Thrill-seekers will love the ride options at Kings Island Amusement Park and families will appreciate their award-winning kids’ section.

cincinnati ohio queen city sign
Cincinnati Ohio is one of the best places in the US for your family vacation. Photo credit: Nedra at Adventure Mom

The Cincinnati Reds games are held in a very family-friendly baseball stadium with a whiffle ball field and playground for kids who need a break in between innings.

The city is rich in history and the arts with fantastic art museums that are free to the public and creative street murals located on buildings throughout the city. Take in a gorgeous view from the observation deck of Carew Tower and don’t forget to try local favorites Cincinnati style chili and Graeter’s ice cream.

Check out hotels in Cincinnati.

Florida’s Space Coast

Tamara from We3Travel says:
The Florida Space Coast is a beautiful gem on the East Coast of Florida with something for everyone. The beautiful wide sandy beaches on the Atlantic have made towns like Cocoa Beach a surfer’s paradise. With beachfront, affordable hotels, family-friendly dining, and kid-approved activities like miniature golf, there is everything you need for a relaxing family vacation.

But what makes this region so special is, of course, the Kennedy Space Center.

kennedy space center
Kennedy Space Center on Florida’s Space Coast. Photo credit: Tamara at We3Travel

You don’t need to be into space to find KSC fascinating. Kids can, of course, learn about the history of the space program, but they can also learn to perform a mission in space, crawl through a model International Space Station, and walk under the massive Saturn V rockets. If you are really lucky with your timing, you may even get to see a rocket launch.

Only about an hour from Orlando, the Space Coast makes a great option for families that want to pair some beach time with a visit to the theme parks.

Check out hotels on the Space Coast.

Chattanooga, Tennessee

Lesli from 365 Atlanta Family says:
The population of Chattanooga, TN stands at less than 200,000, but it’s not your ordinary small Southern town. Chattanooga is an outdoor playground, promising nature-loving families a weekend worth of fun. From caving to hang-gliding and rafting to rock-climbing, high adventure reigns.

chatanooga overlook of river
A top travel destination for families is Chattanooga, TN.

After you work up an appetite, head into town for impeccable eats. Urban Stack is our family’s favorite but you’ll find plenty of locally-owned options to choose from.

Looking for more traditional attractions? Try Chattanooga Aquarium, Ruby Falls, Tennessee Valley Railroad, and Hunter Museum of American Art. Don’t miss the opportunity to visit Moon Pie General Store – Moon Pies originated in Chattanooga!

While we do recommend a visit to the Chattanooga Choo-Choo Hotel during the day, The Chattanoogan remains our favorite overnight accommodation. You’ll find spacious rooms, an inviting lobby, and the perfect heated, indoor pool offering views over the neighborhood.

Also, read:
Things to Do with Kids in Chattanooga
Free or Cheap Things to Do in Memphis TN

Check out hotels in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

Boise, Idaho

Chez Chesak says:
There are some good attractions for kids in Boise, like Zoo Boise and the Discover Center of Idaho. But they are relatively small and generally feel a bit worn. The real strength of Boise as a family destination are all the outdoor activities.

hiking overlook in boise
Family vacation in Boise Idaho.

A system of public parks runs through the center of town, and the nine riverside parks are known collectively as the ‘Ribbon of Jewels’. These parks are full of walkways, playgrounds, trails, disc golf courses and other outdoor diversions.

The Greenbelt is a paved bike path that links all the parks (and much of the rest of the town) along the river. Further, when the weather is good, families can leisurely float the Boise River, and a regular bus will shuttle you back to the put-in point.

Camel’s Back Park, while not on the river, is filled with trails, playgrounds, etc. – and it’s located near a handful of great family-friendly restaurants (and Goody’s ice cream shop).

It’s worth your time to take the winding drive up to Bogus Basin, the local, nonprofit, ski hill. There are great hikes there, wonderful views of the city, and it can be a completely different temperature than in the valley itself. In the winter there is skiing (both downhill and cross-country) and a tubing hill.

Check out hotels in Boise.

Caribbean Cruise

Our family really loves cruising. And while most of the Caribbean isn’t in the US (except for Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands), heading out on a Caribbean cruise is easy from multiple US ports of call like Miami, Galveston, and even NYC. Just know that you will need passports.

celebrity edge cruise ship pool
Best Things to Do on Celebrity Edge Cruise Ship
© Kimberly Tate

As the primary planner in the family, I love that the planning is pretty straightforward with cruises. You find a ship or cruise line that you think fits your family, look at the schedule and ports of call, and book.

Cruises allow families tons of freedom with dining. Everyone can find something they’ll enjoy! Plus kids can have some freedom to plan their own day, where they want to eat, what they want to do, and where they want to go next.

Cruising also offers you a chance to get a feel for destinations you wouldn’t necessarily plan an entire trip around. You’ll be able to pop into a few different ports of call. There are also small cruise ships that don’t have the same “city on the sea” feel of the mega-ships.

Check out prices for cruise vacations.

Here’s more great inspiration for vacation planning:

If you’re working with a limited vacation budget, check out these 15 Cheap Vacation Spots. Or perhaps you’re looking for some Luxury Trip ideas.

How about escaping winter to these Warm Weather Destinations for Families — consider a visit to Florida Beaches. Or one of my favorite states, discover great Spring Break Spots in California and Frugal Spring Break Spots.

And here are some other great ideas from my friends: What to Do in Nashville, the Mississippi Gulf Coast, a Family Vacation to Alaska, or go international with a Costa Rica Family Vacation.

best family vacation spots in the us
Best family vacation ideas in the US!

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