Small-town getaways are often reserved for parents-only weekends. But many small towns are more fun for kids than you might think. These are the best small-town getaways for families.
1. Lake Geneva, WI
Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, once served as a vacation retreat for the wealthiest people in the Midwest (we’re talking the Schwinns and the Wrigleys). Today, it attracts both couples and families, who enjoy the area’s charming downtown and the lake itself, where you can go swimming, kayaking, fishing and more. Kids especially love the U.S. Mail Boat Tours (via Lake Geneva Cruise Line) in the summer; watch the local mail men and women quickly jump off the boat to deliver mail to residents who live around the lake! There’s also a water park resort in town, so you can’t go wrong.
Recommended Hotel: The Abbey Resort and Avani Spa
2. Grapevine, TX
Minutes from Dallas International Airport, Grapevine, Texas, is known for its award-winning wineries and shopping along historic Main Street, as well as Grapevine Mills. But Grapevine knows how to entertain kids; in fact, we’d argue this wine destination is more family-friendly than it is adult-friendly! Highlights include the Grapevine Glockenspiel (where a live “train robbery” takes place four times daily), LEGOLAND Discovery Center, SEA Life Aquarium and Nash Farm, not to mention there’s a Great Wolf Lodge in town! Be sure to book tickets for the Grapevine Vintage Railroad.
Recommended Hotel: Gaylord Texan Resort & Convention Center
3. Waco, TX
Dreaming of a weekend in Waco? Pack your bags and bring the kids, too! Wide-open green space, a mini farm, food trucks and swings will keep your little ones and spouse entertained while you browse the home goods at Magnolia Market. When you’re done, take the kids to Hawaiian Falls Waco water park or the Dr. Pepper Museum. Downtown, you’ll find antique stores and family-friendly restaurants.
Recommended Hotel: Home2 Suites by Hilton Waco
4. Frederick, MD
Frederick, Maryland, is a great weekend getaway destination for families based in and around Washington, D.C., Philadelphia and New York. The small Civil War-era town is home to a lovely waterfront park, some-200 shops and boutiques, and a growing number of breweries. Kids will like Cunningham Falls State Park (where you’ll find the highest cascading waterfall in Maryland), a Frederick Keys baseball game, and the Catoctin Wildlife Preserve in nearby Thurmont. And don’t miss Jesse James Day on the Walkersville Southern Railroad (about 20 minutes outside of Frederick). Costumed performers reenact a train robbery, stealing loot (fake cash and beads) from passengers! The kid-friendly event takes place once a month, June through September.
Recommended Hotel: Hampton Inn Frederick
5. Asheville, NC
Asheville, North Carolina, is no longer a secret. This eclectic mountain town, located in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, has long attracted visitors to the famous Biltmore Estate. But a boom in breweries has craft beer enthusiasts coming to this mountain town in droves. And if you like beer, you’ll be happy to know the breweries are kid-friendly, too! Other kid-friendly activities in the area include ziplining, hiking, whitewater rafting, and visits to the Aquarium Shark Lab by Team ECCO.
Recommended Hotel: Haywood Park Hotel
6. Greenville, SC
About 1.5 hours from Asheville is another small town with a lot to offer families: Greenville, South Carolina. Highlights include the Saturday farmers market, The Children’s Museum of the Upstate, and everyone’s favorite, Falls Park on the Reedy River. Here, you can cross the famous expansion bridge for great views of Greenville and the waterfalls below. As you pop in and out of shops and cafes downtown, let the kids search for the the “Mice on Main Street,” inspired by Goodnight Moon.
Recommended Hotel: Aloft Greenville Downtown
7. Savannah, GA
The moss-draped buildings of Savannah’s Historic District, shopping on River Street, and museums in Savannah don’t scream “take the kids!” But there is plenty in Savannah, Georgia, that does. We recommend the Georgia State Railroad Museum, Forsyth Park, The Pirate’s House and for older kids, ghost tours. (Savannah is quite haunted!). Fun Fact (especially for Girl Scouts): you can visit the Juliette Gordon Low Birthplace; the founder of the Girl Scouts of the USA was born in Savannah and her former home is open for tours.
Recommended Hotel: Comfort Suites Historic District
8. Fort Wayne, IN
If you like Vera Bradley, you know the headquarters is in Fort Wayne, Indiana. But what you might not know is this small town is perfect for a trip with kids! Aside from shopping, highlights include the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo, Science Central and the Foellinger-Freimann Botanical Conservatory. Fort Wayne is also a great place to get outside; go kayaking on the Three Rivers or rent bikes—there are more than 100 miles of trails on which to explore.
Recommended Hotel: Hilton Fort Wayne at the Grand Wayne Convention Center
9. Sedona, AZ
Sedona is a spiritual destination and as such, attracts wellness-minded travelers with yoga retreats, spa resorts, and outdoor adventures amongst the Red Rocks. It also has a small downtown where you can browse gift shops and boutiques, grabbing a bite to eat along the way. But don’t mistake this for an adults-only vacation destination. Plenty of families head to Sedona for the famous pink Jeep tours on the Red Rocks, swimming at Slide Rock State Park, stargazing with Sedona Stargazing and a chance to see Snoopy Rock, a rock formation that actually resembles Snoopy. While in Sedona, families can easily plan side trips to Grand Canyon National Park, Flagstaff, and the former mining (and now very haunted) town of Jerome.
Recommended Hotel: BEST WESTERN PLUS Inn of Sedona
10. Cape May, NJ
“On the way to Cape May, I fell in love…” Cape May, New Jersey, is a favorite for couples, with cozy B&Bs that resemble dollhouses, shopping at the Washington Street Mall, upscale restaurants and a few breweries and wineries. But Cape May is just as fun for kids. Aside from the beaches, there’s Cape May Lighthouse (in which you can climb to the top), the Naval Air Station Wildwood Aviation Museum, Historic Cold Spring Village, and mini-golf options galore. Bike and surrey rides are also popular here.
Recommended Hotel: Congress Hall
11. Traverse City, MI
Traverse City, Michigan, has a great downtown area; microbreweries, wineries, cideries and distilleries galore; and just about any outdoor activity you can imagine. Sound amazing? Your kids will agree once they experience nearby Sleeping Bear Dunes National Park for the first time. Traverse City is also known as the “Cherry Capital of the World,” so expect to find lots of U-pick farms, cherry treats, and the National Cherry Festival, hosted every summer.
Recommended Hotel: Inn at Bay Harbor, Autograph Collection Hotels
12. Santa Rosa, CA
Sonoma County offers tons of family-friendly fun, even in Napa and Sonoma! We especially love Santa Rosa, where parents will enjoy a quaint downtown area and local wineries and breweries (including Russian River Brewing Company) while kids will like Safari West and Howard Park. Everyone will love the Charles M. Schulz Museum (creator of Charlie Brown, Snoopy and the gang) and nearby Francis Ford Coppola Winery, where you can drink wine and go swimming! When you’ve had your fill of wine and Peanuts, head to San Francisco or Mendocino.
Recommended Hotel: BEST WESTERN PLUS Garden Inn