All Ages

13 Best Cities for Family Vacations in 2020

See recent posts by Amanda Norcross

Cities make great getaways—short or long—for families. They are hubs for direct flights, ample accommodations, top-notch restaurants and iconic, innovative attractions that appeal to all ages. In these cities, children (and parents) will be wide-eyed with amazement. Plus, these cities provide a touch of history, making them both educational and fun. These are the best cities for family vacations in 2020, with age-specific attraction recommendations and hotel suggestions.

Tourists Stroll in Front of Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.; Courtesy of Destination DC

1. Washington, D.C.

History books come to life in Washington, D.C., where there are so many fantastic attractions for families—many of which are free! The Smithsonian Institute offers 19 free museums, including the Air & Space Museum, Museum of Natural History, Museum of American Art and even the National Zoo. The area is also famous for several iconic monuments, such as the Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial and the Jefferson Memorial, located around the National Mall. Want to see the White House? Americans can schedule a guided tour through their congressional representative!

Best for Infants and Toddlers (0-2)

National Zoo

Best for Little Kids (3-6)

National Museum of Natural History

Best for Big Kids (7-9)

Monuments by Moonlight

Best for Tweens and Teens (10-13+)

Newseum

Recommended Family Itinerary

Washington, D.C. Weekend Guide

Recommended Family Hotel

Hilton Garden Inn Washington DC Downtown

 

Little Boy Playing With Boston Ducks; Courtesy of Greater Boston Convention & Visitors Bureau

2. Boston, MA

Boston is a small, big city with a healthy dose of old and new. Boston‘s past remains a fixture of its present, with cobblestone roads that Bostonians have navigated since the 1700’s. In this very walkable city, you’ll find the country’s oldest standing baseball stadium, Fenway Park, shopping and dining in the city’s historic and original “mall” at Quincy Market and a beautiful green space at Boston Common. The Freedom Trail is worth a visit in itself, too, with 16 historic sites along its route. Newer buildings house the Boston Children’s Museum, one of the best children’s museums in the U.S., and New England Aquarium, as well as the Museum of Science, all of which provide kids with hands-on learning opportunities that are also fun and exciting.

Best for Infants and Toddlers (0-2)

Boston Public Garden

Best for Little Kids (3-6)

New England Aquarium

Best for Big Kids (7-9)

Freedom Trail

Best for Tweens and Teens (10-13+)

Fenway Park

Recommended Family Itinerary

Boston Weekend Guide

Recommended Family Hotel

Hotel Commonwealth

Children’s Museum of Indianapolis – Indianapolis, IN ; Courtesy of Children’s Museum of Indianapolis

3. Indianapolis, IN

This Midwestern city offers families a variety of things to do when visiting. But 2020 will mark the city’s bicentennial so you can count on even more events to commemorate the milestone. Indianapolis is widely known for the Indianapolis (Indy) 500. But did you know this all-American city is also home to more monuments and memorials than any other city in the U.S.? The 210-foot Indiana War Memorial is a tribute to WWI veterans, but is surrounded by two museums, three parks and fountains. The city’s Red Line mass transit system makes it easier for families to navigate the city. Kids will love the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis, the largest children’s museum in the world (and a direct stop on the Red Line), and the Carter’s Antique Toy Museum, where you can ride bumper cars and play on antique pinball machines.

Best for Infants and Toddlers (0-2)

Canal Walk

Best for Little Kids (3-6)

Children’s Museum of Indianapolis

Best for Big Kids (7-9)

Carter’s Antique Toy Museum 

Best for Tweens and Teens (10-13+)

Indianapolis Motor Speedway

Recommended Family Hotel

JW Marriott Indianapolis

Customers at Pike Place Market; Courtesy of f11photo/Shutterstock.com

4. Seattle, WA

The family will be sleepy in Seattle—after a day spent exploring this beautiful city, that is! Visit the famed Space Needle, Seattle Great Wheel and Kerry Park—all of which provide spectacular views of the city and neighboring Olympic National Park. Be sure to visit the Ballard Locks for a little history, and Pike Place Market for a bite to eat and a “show”—watch fishmongers toss fish to customers in one of the city’s quirkiest traditions. Don’t miss the city’s beaches, either. Alki Beach and Golden Gardens Park are among the best for families.

Best for Infants and Toddlers (0-2)

Pacific Science Center

Best for Little Kids (3-6)

Ride the Ducks of Seattle

Best for Big Kids (7-9)

Theo Chocolate Factory Tours

Best for Tweens and Teens (10-13+)

Museum of Pop Culture

Recommended Family Itinerary

Seattle Weekend Guide

Recommended Family Hotel

Sheraton Seattle Hotel

Independence Hall in Philadelphia; Courtesy of Sean Pavone/Shutterstock.com

5. Philadelphia, PA

Philadelphia is so much more than cheesesteaks and the “Rocky steps” (hough both should be on your itinerary). Situated between New York City and Washington, D.C., this thriving city is home to new(ish) attractions such as One Liberty Observation Deck and the Museum of the American Revolution, as well as classic landmarks including the Betsy Ross House, where the first American flag was sewn into history, and Independence Hall, where the Declaration of Independence was signed. Other family favorites include the Please Touch Museum, Franklin Institute, and for the perfect family photo, Elfreth’s Alley (the oldest residential street in the U.S.) or Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens. Bonus: Sesame Place is located about an hour outside of Philadelphia.

Best for Infants and Toddlers (0-2)

Philadelphia Zoo

Best for Little Kids (3-6)

Please Touch Museum

Best for Big Kids (7-9)

Betsy Ross House 

Best for Tweens and Teens (10-13+)

Franklin Institute

Recommended Family Hotel

The Logan

The Shark Reef Aquarium at Mandalay Bay hotel and Casino in Las Vegas; Courtesy of Kobby Dagan/Shutterstock.com

6. Las Vegas, NV

How can a destination whose nickname is Sin City possibly be family-friendly? Easy. Las Vegas offers amusement park thrills, kid-friendly shows, museums and aquariums. Just outside the city, families can explore the Red Rock Canyon and the ghost town of Rhyolite, or hop on a bus tour to see the Hoover Dam and the Grand Canyon. Bonus: There are lots of free things to do in Vegas with kids.

Best for Infants and Toddlers (0-2)

Fountains of Bellagio

Best for Little Kids (3-6)

Discovery Children’s Museum

Best for Big Kids (7-9)

Adventuredome Theme Park

Best for Tweens and Teens (10-13+)

Stratosphere

Recommended Family Itinerary

Las Vegas Weekend Guide

Recommended Family Hotel

Bellagio Las Vegas

San Antonio River Boat Tour; Courtesy of Visit San Antonio

7. San Antonio, TX

Deep in the heart of Texas is the uber family-friendly city of San Antonio. Although the city itself is large, its downtown River Walk means you can ditch the car and experience the old town, with its vibrant shops and restaurants. Visit The Alamo and other historic missions before a relaxing dinner cruise on the river. Just outside the city awaits more fun at SeaWorld San Antonio, Six Flags Fiesta Texas and Morgan’s Wonderland, the world’s only amusement park designed for kids with special needs. Visit Texas Hill Country while you’re in San Antonio, too —the area features a series of small towns and outdoor adventures galore.

Best for Infants and Toddlers (0-2)

The DoSeum

Best for Little Kids (3-6)

Natural Bridge Caverns

Best for Big Kids (7-9)

Six Flags Fiesta Texas

Best for Tweens and Teens (10-13+)

Pearl Brewery District

Recommended Family Itinerary

San Antonio Weekend Guide

Recommended Family Hotel

Embassy Suites San Antonio Riverwalk-Downtown

Kids Play in Water Fountain in Tallahassee, Florida; Courtesy of Visit Tallahassee

8. Tallahassee, FL

Tallahassee is the capital of Florida and the proud home of Florida State University. But it’s also a mecca for family fun, from outdoor adventures (including wildlife sightings) to historic sites. “Tally” also has an amazing array of restaurants (we’re looking at you, Lofty Pursuits). Its small size makes it especially perfect for weekend getaways with the kids, too.

Best for Infants and Toddlers (0-2)

Cascades Park

Best for Little Kids (3-6)

Tallahassee Museum

Best for Big Kids (7-9)

Mission San Luis de Apalachee

Best for Tweens and Teens (10-13+)

Harry Smith Outdoors Kayak Tours

Recommended Family Itinerary

Tallahassee Weekend Guide

Recommended Family Hotel

Four Points by Sheraton Tallahassee Downtown

Kids Boating in San Diego, California; Courtesy of Joanne DiBona/Visit San Diego.org

9. San Diego, CA

In Southern California, San Diego is a must-visit destination for families. It offers near-perfect weather year-round, as well as several iconic attractions and beaches. Visit spots such as Balboa Park, where you’ll find beautiful green spaces, museums and the San Diego Zoo. In the downtown area, families can walk through the historic Gaslamp District and visit the Maritime Museum and the USS Midway Museum. Be sure to visit neighboring Carlsbad, home of LEGOLAND California and Carlsbad Beach, as well as Coronado, where you’ll enjoy another beautiful beach and a look at the historic Hotel Del Coronado.

Best for Infants and Toddlers (0-2)

La Jolla Cove

Best for Little Kids (3-6)

San Diego Zoo

Best for Big Kids (7-9)

Balboa Park

Best for Tweens and Teens (10-13+)

California Surf Museum

Recommended Family Itinerary

San Diego Weekend Guide

Recommended Family Hotel

Omni San Diego Hotel

Kids Sailing Miniature Boats on the Water Conservatory in Central Park in New York City; Courtesy of Christopher Penler/Shutterstock.com

10. New York, NY 

In New York City, you can fill an entire weekend in just a few blocks. Hop aboard the ferry to Ellis Island and Lady Liberty or ride the elevator to the Top of the Rock or One World Observatory for awe-inspiring vistas. Stroll through Central Park before a kid-friendly Broadway show, then grab a slice of pizza from a street vendor or let the kids sample frozen hot chocolate at Serendipity. There’s something for everyone in the Big Apple.

Of course, there’s no better time to visit New York City than during the winter holidays, with the city’s roster of events including the famous Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, Radio City Christmas Spectacular with the Rockettes and New Year’s Eve in Times Square.

Best for Infants and Toddlers (0-2)

Central Park Zoo

Best for Little Kids (3-6)

American Museum of Natural History

Best for Big Kids (7-9)

Luna Park at Coney Island

Best for Tweens and Teens (10-13+)

New York TV and Movie Tour

Recommended Family Itinerary

New York City Weekend Guide

Recommended Family Hotel

Casablanca Hotel

Little Girl Feeding Turtle at Nashville Zoo; Courtesy of Samantha Currington/Nashville Convention & Visitors Corp.

11. Nashville, TN

Nashville—otherwise known as Music City—is famous for its Grand Ole Opry (and the original one at Ryman Auditorium), the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, Historic RCA Studio B, Loretta Lynn’s Ranch, the Johnny Cash Museum and so many more music attractions. You can also hear live music just about anywher—stroll downtown Nashville and you’re bound to hear some tunes! Other stand-outs include the Nashville Zoo at Grassmere and the Cheekwood Estate and Gardens.

Best for Infants and Toddlers (0-2)

Adventure Science Center

Best for Little Kids (3-6)

General Jackson Showboat

Best for Big Kids (7-9)

Grand Ole Opry

Best for Tweens and Teens (10-13+)

Historic RCA Studio B

Recommended Family Itinerary

Nashville Weekend Guide

Recommended Family Hotel

The Hermitage Hotel

Spokane, Washington; Courtesy of Nick Fox/Shutterstock

12. Spokane, WA

This Pacific Northwest city is four and half hours from Seattle. Spokane offers families the perfect combination of city and nature. The Spokane Waterfalls (the largest urban waterfall in the United States) and Spokane River run directly through the city and there are pretty walking trails and multiple viewing points to watch the rushing falls situated right in the city center. Younger kids will love the science and children’s museums, and there’s a giant Radio Flyer wagon slide, carousel and ice skating rink at Riverfront Park across the street. For teens or adventure seekers, Spokane offers plenty of thrills, too, with zip-lining tours, rafting, kayaking and skiing nearby.

Best for Infants and Toddlers (0-2)

Manito Park

Best for Little Kids (3-6)

Mobius Children’s Museum 

Best for Big Kids (7-9)

Riverfront Park Spokane

Best for Tweens and Teens (10-13+)

Mica Moon Zip Tours

Recommended Family Hotel

Oxford Suites Downtown Spokane

Ferris Wheel at the Navy Pier in Chicago; Courtesy of Choose Chicago

13. Chicago, IL

Chicago‘s Magnificent Mile and beaches lining the shores of Lake Michigan make it a must-visit for families, as does the famous Navy Pier. Another hit for families is the Museum Campus, which houses the Shedd Aquarium, the Field Museum and the Adler Planetarium & Astronomy Museum. Iconic Wrigley Field calls Chicago home, and kids can catch the World Series-winning Cubs, Stanley Cup-winning Blackhawks Sox, Bulls and Bears in stadiums across this sports-loving city.

Best for Infants and Toddlers (0-2)

Lincoln Park Zoo

Best for Little Kids (3-6)

Navy Pier

Best for Big Kids (7-9)

Skydeck Chicago

Best for Tweens and Teens (10-13+)

Second City

Recommended Family Itinerary

Chicago Weekend Guide

Recommended Family Hotel

Four Seasons Hotel Chicago

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