All Ages

The 50 Best Family Vacations in America

See recent posts by Amanda Norcross

If you’re feeling stir-crazy, let this list of the best vacations in each state be your inspiration. And, some of them may be in your back yard! These are the 50 best family vacations in America. Keep in mind that COVID-19 restrictions vary by state, and be sure to follow all quarantine rules and travel restrictions when crossing state lines. Note that some amenities/attractions mentioned here may be closed or have limited hours due to the pandemic, so always confirm operating hours before visiting.

1. Gulf Shores, Alabama

Child on Beach in Gulf Shores, Alabama

Beautiful beaches and vacation rentals galore—that’s what makes Gulf Shores an ideal vacation destination for families. If you can peel the kids from the sand, make a trip to historic Fort Morgan, and when everyone gets hungry, head to LuLu’s. There’s a guaranteed wait at the restaurant, but that’s half the fun considering this local institution offers a giant sandbox and even ziplining!

Recommended Hotel: The Beach Club

2. Denali National Park, Alaska

Puppies in the Piazza on Princess Cruises to Alaska

If Denali National Park isn’t on your family’s travel bucket list, add it now. You can cruise to the famous park—Disney, Carnival and other major cruise lines make the trek—or try a scenic train ride from Anchorage or Fairbanks. Be sure to visit the Husky Homestead to learn about Alaskan dog sledding, and even hold the resident pups!

Recommended Hotel: Denali Bluffs Hotel

3. Sedona, Arizona

Family in Sedona, Arizona

The Grand Canyon is worthy of a visit—don’t get us wrong—but Sedona is equally beautiful and far less crowded. Take the kids on a Pink Jeep Tour of the Red Rocks, and be sure to look for Snoopy Rock, a rock that closely resembles Snoopy lying on his back! Afterward, head to Mariposa Latin Inspired Grill for dinner with a view, or catch the sunset at Sedona Airport Overlook.

Recommended Hotel: Sky Rock Inn of Sedona

4. Hot Springs National Park, Arkansas

Waterfall at Hot Springs National Park; Courtesy Zack Frank/Shutterstock

While you can’t actually soak in the famous springs that drew people to this area in the 1700’s, you can certainly touch them. Beware they reach temps of 142 degrees Fahrenheit, though! Other activities in Hot Springs National Park include hiking, biking and picnicking.

Recommended Hotel: Embassy Suites by Hilton Hot Springs

5. La Jolla, California

La Jolla Family Vacations; Courtesy of Dancestrokes/

La Jolla, just outside of San Diego, is the California you’ve dreamed of visiting with your children—beautiful beaches, swaying palm trees and a pack of sea lions creates the perfect backdrop for your family vacation. The area has ties to a certain author named Dr. Seuss, too. The late writer’s Truffala tree in The Lorax was inspired by the trees in La Jolla, in fact! Bonus: La Jolla is close to Coronado and Carlsbad.

Recommended Hotel: La Valencia Hotel

6. Colorado Springs, Colorado

Colorado Springs, COl Courtesy of LanaG/Shutterstock

You don’t have to be a family of skiers to enjoy Colorado, especially in Colorado Springs. Located 1.5 hours from Denver, this area offers outdoor adventures galore, wildlife sightings and even a castle (Glen Eyrie). Not to be missed is a drive through Garden of the Gods Park, and a ride on Pikes Peak Cog Railway, located in nearby Manitou Springs. It is the highest cog railway in the world! Note: Pikes Peak Cog Railway is closed until 2021. 

Recommended Hotel: Cheyenne Mountain Resort


7. Mystic, Connecticut

The Mystic bascule bridge spans the Mystic river, it carries foot traffic to the tourist district of town.; Courtesy Paul Latham/Shutteerstock

Visit Mystic Seaport to see what a 19th century shipbuilding village would have looked like, complete with a ship provisioner and pub. Every building has been restored to look like it did hundreds of years ago. Boat rides out of the seaport are available, too. Of course, no visit to Mystic is complete without a slice at Mystic Pizza, which inspired the movie with the same name starring Julia Roberts.

Recommended Hotel: Taber Inne & Suites

8. Rehoboth Beach, Delaware 

Boardwalk at Rehoboth Beach in Delaware; Courtesy of Ritu Manoj Jethani

Rehoboth Beach is the quintessential beach vacation for families, with a beautiful stretch of sand and surf, and a boardwalk with old-school amusements and delicious eats at family-owned Funland.

Recommended Hotel: The Bellmoor Inn & Spa

9. Key West, Florida

Family Photo at Southernmost Point in Key West, Florida

You can’t get any closer to the Caribbean than this. In fact, Key West is where the Southernmost Point in the U.S. is located. Stop by the landmark for a family photo, then stroll the historic streets lined with pastel-colored homes. Be sure to spend an evening at Mallory Square, and don’t miss Blue Heaven for breakfast (or the area’s famous key lime pie).

Recommended Hotel: Southernmost on the Beach

10. St. Simons Island, Georgia

St. Simon's Island in Georgia; Courtesy CE Photography/Shutterstock

The unspoiled beaches of St. Simons Island beg families to dig their toes in the sand—and do little else. But if you want to explore, rent bikes, go fishing, visit St. Simons Lighthouse or head to nearby Savannah.

Recommended Hotel: King & Prince Beach & Golf Resort

11. Oahu, Hawaii 

Aulani, A Disney Resort & Spa in Oahu, Hawaii

It’s hard to pick just one destination in Hawaii—but with world-class beaches like Waikiki Beach and the history of Pearl Harbor, it’s hard not to visit this storied island. Other highlights include tours and Dole Whips at the Dole Plantation, and eco and movie tours at Kualoa Ranch, where Jurassic Park was filmed. Of course, no visit to Oahu is complete without a visit to the North Shore, a surfer’s paradise.

Recommended Hotel: Aulani, A Disney Resort & Spa

12. Silverwood, Idaho

Silverwood, Idaho is the Northwest's Largest Theme Park with over 70 rides, slides, shows and attractions; Courtesy Silverwood Theme Park

Silverwood is home to the largest amusement park in the Pacific Northwest, with rides for all ages. It’s also close to Couer d’Alene, another town worth exploring.

Recommended Hotel: La Quinta Inn by Wyndham Sandpoint

13. Chicago, Illinois 

Explore an Urban Oasis at Millennium Park ; Courtesy of Choose Chicago

Chicago has it all, from beautiful views at Skydeck Chicago (Willis Tower) to delicious eats in Greektown. Of course, you can’t miss “The Bean” and Navy Pier. Chicago also has a beach along Lake Michigan!

Recommended Hotel: Four Seasons Hotel Chicago

14. Santa Claus, Indiana

ind Santa at the Santa Claus Christmas Store and get your holiday wishes in early.; Courtesy Spencer County Visitors Bureau.

Yes, that’s the name of the town! Santa Claus, Indiana, is home to one of the most lovable amusement parks in the South: Holiday World and Splashin’ Safari, a family-owned amusement park that’s especially fun for young kids. Other themed attractions in town include the Santa Claus Museum and Village.

Recommended Hotel: Holiday Inn Express Hotel & Suites Jasper

15. Lake Okoboji, Iowa 

Lake Okoboji Iowa; Courtesy Jacob Boomsma/Shutterstock

Lake Okoboji, Iowa, is a popular summertime retreat for families in the Midwest, with beaches, lake swimming, water sports, and nearby Arnolds Park Amusement Park (a small, family-owned amusement park on the water) among the offerings. Don’t miss The Barefoot Bar at Okoboji, where you can sit outside and enjoy casual eats and music while the kids play on an inflatable slide in the water.

Recommended Hotel: Bridges Bay Resort

16. Overland Park, Kansas

Overland Park Arboretum and Botanical Gardens.; Courtesy Tripadvisor Traveler/AntonAnderssen

The second largest city in Kansas, Overland Park is a mecca for all things outdoor adventure. Among the highlights are the Deanna Rose Children’s Farmstead and Overland Park Arboretum and Botanical Gardens.

Recommended Hotel: Sheraton Overland Park Hotel at the Convention Center

17. Louisville, Kentucky

Louisville, KY Slugger Museum; Courtesy of Go to Louisville

Home of the Kentucky Derby, families will enjoy a visit to the Kentucky Derby Museum in Louisville—whether they’re attending the annual event or not. Have baseball fans in the fam? Be sure to check out the Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory, too! It’s home to the “Big Bat,” the largest baseball bat in the world (and an exact replica of Babe Ruth’s 34-inch Louisville Slugger).

Recommended Hotel: Hyatt Regency Louisville

18. New Orleans, Louisiana

Family Tour in New Orleans

Think New Orleans isn’t kid-friendly? Think again! Family-friendly highlights include the Louisiana Children’s Museum, Carousel Gardens (a mini-amusement park), Story Land and even a kid-friendly tour of the French Quarter (French QuarTour Kids). No trip is complete without beignets and a face full of powder at Cafe du Monde, and a dinner cruise aboard the Steamboat Nachez.

Recommended Hotel: The Roosevelt New Orleans

19. Acadia National Park, Maine

Acadia National Park; Courtesy of Zack Frank/

Two words: Cadillac Mountain. Drive your way to the top of Acadia National Park for breathtaking views your family won’t soon forget. On your way back down, stop at Pink Sand Beach before heading into downtown Bar Harbor for dinner and a stroll for ice cream.

Recommended Hotel: Bar Harbor Grand Hotel

20. Ocean City, Maryland

Family on Surry Ride in Ocean City, Maryland

Ocean City, Maryland, is a fantastic family vacation destination. Find a hotel on the beach or rent a house for your extended family to share. Be sure to check out Jolly Roger Amusement Park on the Ocean City Boardwalk (one of the best in the U.S.), and plan a day trip to nearby Assateague Island National Seashore to see the wild horses roam.

Recommended Hotel: Francis Scott Key Resort

21. Cape Cod, Massachusetts 

Cape Cod, MA; Courtesy of Massachusetts Office Of Travel & Tourism

There’s nothing like a summer on Cape Cod, with its lovely beaches, delicious seafood restaurants and charming villages. While there, take a ferry to Martha’s Vineyard and/or Nantucket.

Recommended Hotel: Sea Crest Beach Hotel

22. Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, Michigan

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, Michigan; Courtesy Craig Sterken/Shutterstock

Climb the towering dunes, relax on the beach and explore the the Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. You can camp at the park, or stay in nearby Traverse City, the “Cherry Capital of the World” and another place worth exploring with kids.

Recommended Hotel: Harbor Lights Resort and Marina

23. Bloomington, Minnesota 

Nickelodeon Universe at the Mall of America in Bloomington, MN

Bloomington, Minnesota, is home to the Mall of America, which houses Nickelodeon Universe, an indoor amusement park! MOA also has a SEA LIFE Aquarium, Crayola Experience and simulated FlyOver America ride.

Recommended Hotel: Radisson Bloomington by Mall of America

24. Biloxi, Mississippi

Biloxi beach; Courtesy of Coastal Mississippi

In Biloxi, relax on the beach and climb the area’s namesake lighthouse. Try a Biloxi Shrimping Trip, too—an interactive experience in which the whole family will learn how to shrimp like pros! There’s also a fun Mardi Gras museum in town.

Recommended Hotel: Beau Rivage Resort & Casino Biloxi

25. Branson, Missouri 

Branson, Missouri

Branson, Missouri, is as family-friendly as family-friendly gets. Enjoy classic family fun in the great outdoors, from hiking and biking in Table Rock State Park to kayaking on Lake Taneycomo. Plan to spend some time at Silver Dollar City, too, with offers rides, attractions, shows, and food for families of all ages and interests. It’s especially festive at Christmastime!

Recommended Hotel: Big Cedar Lodge

26. Glacier National Park, Montana 

Red Jammers; Courtesy of Glacier Country

Hop on a red Jammer (the most authentic way to get around Glacier National Park) to experience the park’s most iconic route: Going-to-the-Sun-Road. The narrow, winding road offers lookout points with stunning vistas, and actually crosses the Continental Divide (at Logan Pass)! Other highlights inside the park include playing on the beach at Lake McDonald and hiking at Hidden Lake. Outside of the park, you’ll enjoy the town of Whitefish, where there’s great restaurants, breweries, distilleries, shops, hotels and a ski resort, Whitefish Mountain Resort.

Recommended Hotel: Kandahar Lodge 

27. Omaha, Nebraska 

Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha, Nebraska; Courtesy Gwells/Shutterstock

The Henry Doorly Zoo, alone, makes Omaha a must-visit city for families. Other attractions include the Omaha Children’s Museum and Fun-Plex, a small amusement park—both of which are geared toward tiny tykes.

Recommended Hotel: Residence Inn Omaha Downtown/Old Market Area

28. Las Vegas, Nevada

Bellagio Fountains in Las Vegas

There’s plenty for families in Las Vegas, from kid-friendly shows to family-friendly hotels. There’s also a wealth of free activities, including the famous Bellagio Fountains water and light shows. Of course, a day trip to the Grand Canyon is a must, and for Instagram-worthy photos, check out Seven Magic Mountains.

Recommended Hotel: Venetian Resort Hotel Casino

29. North Conway, New Hampshire 

Mountain Washington Cog Railway; Courtesy Mountain Washington Cog Railway

Take the kids to Story Land amusement park, go kayaking on the Saco River, and whatever you do, don’t miss a ride aboard the Mountain Washington Cog Railway for views of the famous Mount Washington Valley. Bonus: There are some pretty cool hotels in North Conway, too, including Adventure Suites, which features themed guestrooms.

Recommended Hotel: Red Jacket Mountain View Resort

30. Long Beach Island, New Jersey

Long Beach Island, New Jersey; Courtesy Andrew F. Kazmierski/Shutterstock

The Jersey Shore offers a wealth of family-friendly beaches, each with their own distinct character. But when it comes to families, Long Beach Island (LBI) reigns supreme with families. The beach is clean, calm and hardly ever feels crowded, and a small amusement park (Fantasy Island) and water park (Thundering Surf Waterpark) are at the ready come summertime.

Recommended Hotel: Hotel LBI

31. Santa Fe, New Mexico

Santa Fe, New Mexico

Santa Fe offers a diverse array of offerings that particularly appeal to budding artists, including Meow Wolf, the Museum of International Folk Art, and the Georgia O’Keefe Museum. You can also ski at nearby Taos Ski Valley, or visit White Sand Dunes National Park, designated a national park in 2019.

Recommended Hotel: Residence Inn Santa Fe

32. Rochester, New York

Strong Museum of Play in Rochester, New York

It’s tough to choose a favorite destination in New York, where iconic destinations include the Catskills, CooperstownLake Placid and of course, New York City. But we especially love Rochester for families. Located in the Finger Lakes, Rochester is home to the award-winning Strong Museum of Play (known to have the world’s largest collection of toys!). It’s also home to a very important part of women’s history: the National Susan. B Anthony Museum and House, as well as the Mount Hope Cemetery, where the late activist was laid to rest. If you like skiing, check out Bristol Mountain. Fun Fact: New York has more ski resorts than any other U.S. state!

Recommended Hotel: Woodcliff Hotel and Spa 

33. Outer Banks, North Carolina

Outer Banks

For families, nothing beats a vacation in the Outer Banks, where you’ll find some of the best beaches in North Carolina. Here, it’s all about relaxing—whether you spend the day at your vacation rental pool, relax on the beach, or both. Other highlights include Jockey Ridge State Park (bring a kite!), Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, H2OBX water park, and Duck Donuts.

Recommended Hotel: Sanderling Resort 

34. Fargo, North Dakota

Downtown Fargo and the Fargo movie theater on a summer day. ; Courtesy David Harmantas/Shutterstock

The largest city in North Dakota, Fargo offers everything from museums to outdoor excursions, plus a downtown area (it’s a college town, after all), with shopping and dining. It’s great for a weekend escape with the kids.

Recommended Hotel: BEST WESTERN PLUS Kelly Inn & Suites

35. Sandusky, Ohio

Cedar Point Amusement Park - Sunset in Park on Raptor; Courtesy of David McGill 71/Shutterstock

Cedar Point—otherwise known as “The Roller Coaster Capital of the World”—is located in Sandusky, Ohio. So are a wealth of water parks, including Great Wolf Lodge and Kalahari. It’s a must for any family, plain and simple. If you have time, cross over to the Lake Erie Islands for more adventures.

Recommended Hotel: Great Wolf Lodge Sandusky

36. Tulsa, Oklahoma

The Gathering Place in Tulsa, Oklahoma

Catch a game at ONEOK Field, go ballistic at—Go Ballistic (an activity center)—and even visit the “Center of the Universe” in Tulsa. Tulsa—the second largest city in Oklahoma—also features a wealth of outdoor parks and venues, including the epic Gathering Place. Opened in 2018, the free-admission Gathering Place spans more than 100 acres and features a five-acre playground, water play areas, green spaces, trails and more.

Recommended Hotel: DoubleTree at Warren Place

37. Columbia River Gorge, Oregon

Multnomah Falls Waterfall Autumn, Fall Bridge Columbia River Gorge, Oregon; Courtesy Bill Perry/Shutterstock

Rent a car or bring your own to take in the scenery of the Columbia River Gorge outside of Portland, Oregon. Make the trek to Mount Hood, stop at Multnomah Falls, and/or follow the “Fruit Loop,” a trail that will take you to the area’s fruit farms and vineyards. In the summer, windsurfing is fun to watch (or try!) in Hood River.

Recommended Hotel: BEST WESTERN PLUS Hood River Inn

38. Hershey, Pennsylvania


The “Sweetest Place on Earth” calls for a family trip to experience Hersheypark, The Hershey Story Museum, Hershey’s Chocolate World, and more. The other bonus of visiting Hershey? You’re close to Lancaster and Gettysburg for more adventures.

Recommended Hotel: Hershey Lodge

39. Newport, Rhode Island 

Summer mansion on the Cliff Walk, Cliffside Mansions of Newport Rhode Island; Courtesy of Joseph Sohm/Shutterstock

Newport, Rhode Island, is perfect for a weekend getaway with kids, especially in the fall. Stroll the historic downtown area, take a ghost tour and attend one of the town’s many festivals, including the annual Newport Seafood Fest in October.

Recommended Hotel: Newport Beach Hotel & Suites

40. Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

Myrtle Beach, SC at Night

Another classic beach destination, Myrtle Beach has a fantastic boardwalk with rides and amusements that include a giant Ferris wheel. The area offers a wealth of affordable hotels with pools and full-on water parks, too.

Recommended Hotel: Dunes Village Resort

41. Black Hills, South Dakota

Mount Rushmore National Memorial in the Black Hills National Forest, South Dakota; Courtesy AMB-MD Photography/Shutterstock

Visit the Badlands and Black Hills of South Dakota to see wildlife up close; a Buffalo Safari Jeep Tour through Custer State Park is a must! Also be sure to check out the town of Deadwood for an authentic Wild West experience.

Recommended Hotel: The Lodge at Deadwood

42. Pigeon Forge, Tennessee

Barnstormer at Dollywood in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee

Dollywood is just one of the many things you can do in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, with kids. Other highlights include the Dixie Stampede Dinner & Show, The Great Smoky Mountain Wheel, and WonderWorks Pigeon Forge. We highly recommended a visit to Great Smoky Mountains National Park, just 20 minutes away. It’s the most visited national park in the U.S.

Recommended Hotel: Dollywood’s DreamMore Resort

43. San Antonio, Texas

San Antonio RiverWalk

San Antonio‘s RiverWalk beckons families to stroll the shops and restaurants that line it. Don’t miss the guacamole at Boudros (and be sure to make a reservation)! You can also take a boat ride along the canal, visit the Alamo and check out the trendy Pearl District.

Recommended Hotel: Omni La Mansion del Rio

44. Zion National Park, Utah 

Group of hikers walking down the stairs and enjoying view of Zion National Park; Courtesy Dudarev Mikhail/Shutterstock

One of several national parks in Utah, Zion National Park is a favorite for families, with plenty of kid-friendly hiking trails (Watchman Trail, Riverside Walk, and Par’us Trail, to name a few), wildlife sightings (tarantulas!) and scenic drives (Zion-Mount Carmel Highway and Zion Canyon Scenic Drive).  

Recommended Hotel: Zion Ponderosa Ranch Resort

45. Swanton, Vermont

Tyler Place Family Resort; Courtesy of Tyler Place Family Resort

Why Swanton, Vermont, you ask? Because it’s home to Tyler Place Family Resort, one of the best all-inclusive family resorts in the U.S. Located on Lake Champlain, the resort offers countless activities for guests of all ages, from water play for infants to spa treatments for adults. Unique to the resort is separate dining for kids and adults, allowing kids to get out with the camp counselors as early as they like while parents enjoy a quiet meal alone. (Family dining is also an option). 

Recommended Hotel: Tyler Place Family Resort 

46. Williamsburg, Virginia

Williamsburg Virginia horse drawn carriage; Courtesy Wangkun Jia/Shutterstock

Unique to Williamsburg, Virginia, is Colonial Williamsburg, a living history playground with attractions, museums and events that bring the 1700s to present day. Your kids will be awed by the reenactments and demonstrations—performed by actors in period dress—at the shoemaker, wigmaker, and even the Public Gaol, where prisoners once lived (and died). Bonus: Busch Gardens Williamsburg is located nearby. 

Recommended Hotel: Kingsmill Resort & Spa 

47. Seattle, Washington

Pike Place Market in Seattle 

Seattle has a little bit of everything—museums, farmers’ markets (we’re looking at you, Pike Place), festivals, hip neighborhoods and even beaches along Puget Sound. Of course, a visit to the Space Needle should be tops on your list, too, for views of Mount Rainier National Park in the distance.

Recommended Hotel: Silver Cloud Hotel – Seattle Broadway

48. Harpers Ferry, West Virginia

Harper's Ferry, West Virginia; Courtesy Jon Bilous/Shutterstock

Harpers Ferry is an outdoor lover’s dream, with ample opportunities for hiking, biking, fishing, ziplining and more. Rent a cabin in the woods to make it a true getaway, or stay at a budget motel for savings. Bonus: Harpers Ferry is close to Frederick, Maryland, another quaint town.

Recommended Hotel: Quality Inn Harpers Ferry

49. Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin 

Wilderness Resort in Wisconsin Dells, WI

Wisconsin Dells is the “Water Park Capital of the World,” with more than a dozen water park resorts on offer (many of them offering both indoor and outdoor water fun). If you can manage to pull the kids from the pools, head to downtown Wisconsin Dells for shopping and dining, or take a boat tour through the Dells!

Recommended Hotel: Great Wolf Lodge Wisconsin Dells

50. Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

Yellowstone National Park lives up to every bit of hype you’ve heard. One of the best national parks for kids, Yellowstone features otherworldly landscapes, wildlife sightings galore, geysers and our favorite, the gurgling painted pots. Encourage the kids to get involved in Yellowstone’s Junior Ranger Program (offered at all national parks). It’s a great way to explore the park, famous for its Old Faithful Geyer that erupts often.

Recommended Hotel: Canyon Lodge & Cabins

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