Looking for a luxurious vacation? We’ve got some ideas. Thinking about a road trip through the national parks? We have some suggestions for that. Want to just get away with the kids for a few hours? Yes, we know just the spot.
These are the best summer family vacation ideas.
Written by Lissa Poirot
Vacation Like Royalty
There's no place like London! The city is full of fun for a summer family vacation, from attractions to accommodations. It's also rich in history, with landmarks like the Tower of London, Tower Bridge, Big Ben and Buckingham Palace, where families can watch the Changing of the Guard. Kids will love the London Eye, a Ferris wheel-like ride with gorgeous views of the city.
How's this for a summer family vacation idea? Instead of sitting on the beach this summer, consider lending a hand in a fun volunteer vacation. You can travel abroad with a reputable group like Cross-Cultural Solutions, or stay close to home with a group like Give Kids the World. You might also consider helping to clean up our national parks and trails by joining the Sierra Club.
Ride a Loop De Loop
What kid doesn't want to run around an amusement park, screaming wildly when they are flipped, looped and tossed about on roller coasters and other thrill rides? It's even better with a parent who doesn't have nerves of steel; something about watching us squirm makes them laugh and appreciate our efforts even more! Be a kid again and hit a local amusement park for your summer family vacation. Check out these new rides and roller coasters for 2018.
Cruise on the Disney Dream
Disney Cruise Line provides families with an amazing opportunity to visit some of the most beautiful destinations, all with a magical touch. Try a cruise on the Disney Dream, which sails to the Bahamas and stops at Castaway Cay -- a private island! On the ship, you'll find kids' clubs (including programs for infants), top-notch shows, themed restaurants, pools and water play areas. Parties and a fireworks show round out the fun!
Sleep at a Museum
Did your kids (and you) love "A Night at the Museum"? The American Museum of Natural History in New York, featured in the film, offers a chance to spend a night at the museum in real life! Other museums and even zoos offer similar experiences that are perfect for summer family vacations, with interactive activities and breakfast often included. Read 13 Best Museum Sleepovers for Kids to find a participating museum near you.
Go to a U.S. Island Resort
Who says you have to leave the U.S. to enjoy an island vacation? Book a stay at an island resort, such as The Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island. The old-fashioned resort -- only accessible by boat -- harkens back to yesteryear, when families would spend a week or an entire summer with friends and family. The resort provides outdoor games, an onsite restaurant and a beautiful lakeside setting. Read 5 Family-Friendly Islands to Visit This Summer for more inspiration.
Wisconsin Dells is the self-proclaimed "Water Park Capital of the World," and we won't dispute that -- the town offers up nearly two dozen water parks to visit, both indoors and out. Popular resorts include Great Wolf Lodge, where you'll find several waterslides, a lazy river and special play areas for little ones.
Sometimes, the road trip is the summer family vacation. Drive the Pacific Coast Highway from San Diego to San Francisco (or Los Angeles). Famed for its coastal views and Big Sur, it remains a dream trip for many families. You might also like one of these 8 Scenic Family Road Trips.
Celebrate Another Red, White and Blue Event
Bastille Day, July 14, is the date the French celebrate their independence, and French nations come alive with fireworks and events. You don't have to go to Paris (although it certainly wouldn't hurt!) for this summer family vacation, though. Quebec City and Montreal both offer their own celebrations. Even American cities like Boston and Philadelphia have parties via their Alliance Francaise, blocking off streets for fairs and food-filled fun.
Sample Some Sweets
Got someone with a sweet tooth in the family? Head to Hershey, Pennsylvania, known to be the Sweetest Place on Earth! There, you can visit Hershey's Chocolate World to learn the story of Milton Hershey and sample sweet treats (and even make your own) along the way. You might also like the Ben & Jerry's Factory in Vermont, or the Jelly Belly Factory in California, both listed among the 12 Best Food Factory Tours for Families.
Many of our national parks offer free admission, while others charge a fee. Luckily, all parks are free of charge on select days throughout the year. National parks provide opportunities for hiking, mountain biking, fishing, or simply relaxing with a picnic lunch. If you're lucky, you'll get up close and personal with wildlife, too!
Vacation Like a Vanderbilt
The ultra-wealthy sure knew how to enjoy their free time back in the day! They spent their family vacations in grand mansions with top-notch service and outstanding views. For a luxurious, old-fashioned experience like this, visit Newport, Rhode Island, to see the Vanderbilt family's summer "cottage," The Breakers, or head to The Biltmore, their mountain estate in Asheville, North Carolina. Stay at the Inn on Biltmore Estate for intimate access to the historic grounds (which cover more than 8,000 acres) and all-season outdoor activities.
Who says you can't go to a ski resort for your summer family vacation? Using their lifts to bring people to the mountain peaks for downhill mountain biking or hiking on the trails, ski resorts provide family fun year-round. All that melted snow results in nearby rivers offering fantastic river rafting adventures, and winter resorts open their doors for summer travelers who splash in their pools and gather 'round fire pits for S'more-filled evenings.
Bunk at a Summer Camp Together
Summer camp isn't just for kids. There are a host of family summer camps that allow parents to sleep away with their tots and participate in all the fun! Partake in everything from potato sack races to greased watermelon swimming races, and then gather at night for ghost stories and scavenger hunts. Check out our favorite summer camps for families for more ideas.
Take a Mini-Getaway
Summer means long weekends around Memorial Day, Labor Day and (usually) the Fourth of July -- perfect for summer family vacations! Use those extra days to plan an extended weekend getaway. Head to a beach town or explore a city you have yet to see with one of our city weekend guides.
Go to the U.S. Open
The U.S. Open is a fantastic, kid-friendly tennis tournament held annually in New York, and many families don't realize that before the event, a special kids-specific event is held. The Arthur Ashe Kids Day, named for the renowned U.S. tennis champ, is filled with Disney performers and kids' favorites putting on concerts while tennis greats introduce youngsters to the sport. Besides the tennis, families will find plenty to do in the Big Apple.
Party Like It's the End of the World
The "end of the world" came and went on Dec. 21, 2012, but it's always an exciting time to explore the Mayan ruins in Mexico. Cancun and Riviera Maya, two of the country's most popular destinations, are within close proximity of Tulum (the only Mayan ruins that overlook the Caribbean Sea) and Chichen Itza. The architecture, in and of itself, will amaze you and even your otherwise bored teenager. Additionally, Mexico provides plenty of opportunities for snorkeling, zip-lining, and of course, relaxing -- especially if you're lucky enough to stay at one of the 10 Best All Inclusive Family Resorts in Mexico.
Head to a Dude Ranch
For a good time your kids will rave about for years to come, consider a dude ranch family vacation. The entire family can get outdoors for horseback riding, fishing, hiking, and swimming in ponds and streams, and then gather nightly around the campfire for stories and S'mores. At many dude ranches, you'll also be able to help with daily chores, such as feeding the horses. Dude ranches provide different levels of accommodations, too, from luxurious cabins or glamping experiences to traditional campsites.
Hit the road and head to a state fair for your summer family vacation. Many fairs offer kid-specific events and areas for youngsters. The Indiana State Fair provides a Kiddie Land Midway, for example, complete with a dozen or so rides for little ones. Of course, you'll find delicious treats (try the cream puffs at the Wisconsin State Fair) and thrill rides at all fairs, along with daily shows. Before you visit, look for family discounts -- most fairs offer incentives for families and kids. Check out our 12 Best State Fairs for Families to learn more.
Head to Bean Town
Boston makes for the perfect summer family vacation. Popular attractions include the Boston Children's Museum, Museum of Science and New England Aquarium. Explore Freedom Trail, which leads to more than a dozen historic attractions, and enjoy a baseball game at famous Fenway Park. Additionally, the city provides a number of interesting activities and tours, including bike excursions and carousel rides at Boston Common.