Family jumping together on the beach, backlit by sunset Tom Wang | Adobe Stock

The 10 Best Family Vacation Destinations in the U.S.

See recent posts by Lauren Dana

School’s out for summer — which means it’s time for another fun-filled summer vacation. And, while this year’s trip may look and feel a bit different than most, you can still partake in engaging activities that are sure to please everyone in the family. Read on for a few of our favorite family-friendly destinations to visit this summer, plus where to stay for a memorable trip. 

1. Myrtle Beach, SC

Aerial view of Myrtle Beach South Carolina

Myrtle Beach is among the most popular family-friendly beach destinations in the U.S. The city is home to 60 miles of beaches plus a 1.2-mile boardwalk, which is sure to delight even the pickiest of eaters (think: ice cream, pizza, and anything else you or your kids could dream of!). Need a break from the beach? Stroll through Barefoot Landing, where you’ll find plenty of shopping and dining options. Other noteworthy attractions include Ripley’s Aquarium and Family Kingdom Amusement Park. WonderWorks, which is home to 100+ science exhibits and a laser tag and ropes course, are also fun attractions. Lastly, book a table at House of Blues, where you and your little ones can enjoy live music plus hearty southern classics like gumbo, BBQ brisket nachos, and jambalayas, followed by a round of mini-golf at Lost Treasure Golf.

Where to Stay: The centrally located Marriott Myrtle Beach Resort & Spa at Grande Dunes offers luxury accommodations and a beautiful beachfront location. Rooms and suites are modern, and each boasts private balconies. Other on-site amenities include a spa, swimming pool, and four restaurants. 

2. Branson, MO 

This quaint mountain town attracts visitors of all ages with its vast array of entertainment offerings — including Branson’s Promised Land ZOO, World’s Largest Toy Museum Complex, and The Butterfly Palace & Rainforest Adventure. Branson is also home to the 356-acre Table Rock State Park (a popular hiking and biking spot), Moonshine Beach (a sandy public beach that’s ideal for swimming, picnicking, sunbathing), and Lakeside Forest Wilderness Area, which spans 140 acres of trails with waterfalls and picnic spots. 

Where to Stay: Spanning over 4,600-plus acres, Big Cedar Lodge is a family-friendly oasis. Highlights include a 50,000-square-foot activity center, five golf courses, an 18,000-square-foot spa, two marinas, incredible dining options, and rustic-chic-inspired accommodations. Other on-site activities include dance classes, yoga, and tie-dye. 

3. Lake Tahoe, CA

Lake Tahoe may be known as a popular winter skiing destination, but it’s pretty spectacular in the summertime, too. Of course, no trip here is complete without a trip or two to Emerald Bay State Park, where you can embark on a family hike followed by a picnic lunch. Alternatively, avoid the crowds and visit the often-overlooked D.L. Bliss State Park. If you prefer a more leisurely activity, hit up one of the many nearby beaches, including Regan Beach or El Dorado Beach. Speedboat Beach is another excellent option — especially if you and your kiddos are into kayaking and paddling.

Where to Stay: The Landing Resort & Spa is a centrally located upscale waterfront resort. Rooms here feature gas fireplaces, scenic views, and heated bathroom floors. The property also boasts a swimming pool, full-service spa, and elegant bar and restaurant. 

Related: The 17 Best East Coast Family Vacations

4. Cannon Beach, OR

This small coastal city — about 90 minutes from Portland — is best known for its pristine shoreline. As its name appropriately suggests, Cannon Beach is home to a number of beaches, including the Tolovana Beach State Recreation Site. Here, you’ll find nesting birds, tidepools, and Haystack Rock. The awe-inspiring sea stack stands at a whopping 235 feet tall. Ecola State Park is also nearby and is best known for its scenic hiking trails and surfing opportunities. You’ll also want to leave enough time to explore the city’s vibrant downtown area, which is home to plenty of galleries, shops, and eclectic eateries

Where to Stay: The family-friendly Surfsand Resort — which is just 12 steps from the beach — offers 95 spacious rooms and suites. Nightly s’mores bonfires and beach cruisers are included in your stay. The hotel also offers children’s programming and exclusive events

5. St. Pete Beach, FL 

Kick back, relax, and soak up the sun in this vibrant Florida beach town. After a few days of swimming, surfing, and sandcastle-building, take a beach breather and head to the nearby Explorations Children’s Museum. The sprawling, 24,000-square-foot museum offers dozens of entertaining —and educationally stimulating — exhibits. Alternatively, head to Sunken Gardens: The famous four-acre attraction is home to 50,000 species of colorful, tropical plants — plus flamingos and a butterfly garden. Craving more adventure? Embark on a family paddling trip and rent glass-bottom kayaks via See Through Excursions

Where to Stay:  Affectionately known as The Pink Palace thanks to its iconic pink facade, The Don CeSar opened its doors back in 1928. Today, the 277-room beachfront resort is one of the area’s most famous — and luxurious — properties. 

6. Virginia Beach, VA

In addition to its beautiful beaches, Virginia Beach is also famous for its ample hiking and biking opportunities. The 2,888-acre First Landing Acre Park and 4,321-acre False Cape State Park offer breathtaking postcard-worthy surroundings and trails. Meanwhile, The Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge spans a whopping 9,108 acres of barrier islands, dunes, woodlands, beaches, marshes, and forests. The 165-acre Mount Trashmore Park comprises two man-made mountains, two lakes, two playgrounds, a skate park, and other fun, family-friendly attractions. If your kids are into art, carve out an afternoon exploring The ViBe Creative District and admiring the public art murals (don’t forget your camera). 

Where to Stay: The oceanfront Hyatt House Virginia Beach has 156 contemporary rooms and suites with private balconies and sleeper sofas with kitchenettes or full-sized kitchens (some with full living and work spaces, too). There are also two on-site eateries. 

Related: 15 Beach Bag Essentials You Need For Summer 2021

7. Lake Placid, NY 

Nestled in New York’s Adirondack Mountains, Lake Placid (which hosted the 1980 Winter Olympics) is just as magical in the summer as it is in the winter. Boating, hiking, and biking are all popular here in the warmer months: Mirror Lake, Hurricane Mountain, and Franklin Falls Loop are all worth a visit, respectively. After a day well spent outdoors (and breaking up a sweat) cool off inside the Lake Placid Winter Olympic Museum. Alternatively, stroll down Lake Placid’s Main Street and refuel at one of the many nearby mom-and-pop restaurants (Black Bear Restaurant and The Pickled Pig are local favorites) before an afternoon of shopping. 

Where to Stay: With its prime lakefront location and private beach, there’s no better place to stay in Lake Placid than Mirror Lake Inn. The property offers an array of rooms and suites to choose from, including several Family Rooms, which vary in sizes in amenities to best suit your family’s needs.

8. Wisconsin Dells, WI

Wisconsin Dells is chock-full of attractions to appease everyone in your family. Kids — and kids-at-heart — will love Mt. Olympus Water & Theme Park, Tom Foolerys Adventure Park, Timbavati Wildlife Park, and  Timber Falls Adventure Park. Take a leisurely stroll through the quarter-mile-long Scenic River Walk, which offers exceptional views of the waterfront. The city’s walkable downtown area is also worth exploring. Here, you’ll find everything from axe-throwing to homemade fudge. Nearby, you’ll also find some of Wisconsin’s most breathtaking state parks, including Devil’s Lake (which offers over 30 miles of hiking trails and panoramic views); Mirror Lake (which spans over 2,200 acres and is ideal for serene strolls and picnicking); Roche-A-Cri (which is perfect for hiking and fishing); and Rocky Arbor (secluded hiking trails and picnic sites surrounded by towering pines and sandstone bluffs). 

Where to Stay: Kids and adults alike will appreciate a stay at Chula Vista Resort & Waterpark. The property boasts an array of accommodations to choose from (ranging from standard double rooms to spacious luxury villas), plus an indoor waterpark, an outdoor waterpark, cabana rentals, a spa, and five on-site eateries (not including two grab-and-go options). 

9. Jackson Hole, WY

You may equate Jackson Hole with skiing, but the picturesque town is teeming with summer fun, too. Between hiking, mountain biking, climbing, and horseback riding — check out Willow Creek Horseback Rides for the latter — outdoor activities abound. If whitewater rafting sounds fun to you — and your kiddos are old enough to embark on the adventure — plan your adventure with Jackson Hole Whitewater Rafting. Prefer something a bit more mellow? Take a float trip down the Snake River instead (more info here). Grand Teton National Park is well worth the hype and is a must-visit when in town. You can even embark on a guided wildlife safari through the park for an even more memorable experience. 

Where to Stay: Despite its name, Snow King Resort (ironically) makes a great home base for a summer vacation in Jackson Hole. The property offers sleek accommodations, a  year-round hot tub, an outdoor seasonal pool, and two on-site eateries.  

Related: 10 Incredible National Park Glamping Locations

10. Coeur d’Alene, ID

This charming Idaho city, named after the famed 25-mile-long Lake Coeur d’Alene that it borders, is best known for its wide array of watersports, family-friendly attractions, and outdoor activities. Come summertime, locals and visitors alike all flock to the lake to kayak, paddleboard, jet ski, and parasail. Raptor Reef Indoor Waterpark and Silverwood Theme Park & Boulder Beach Water Park are also nearby. Or, take a hike: Literally! While there are several trails in the area, Mineral Ridge National Recreation Trail, which spans 3.3 miles, is among the most renowned. Once you work up an appetite, head downtown to grab a bite to eat.

Where to Stay: With chic yet comfortable accommodations, each with pristine water views, One Lakeside is arguably the best hotel in the area. Guests also have access to daily snacks, an outdoor terrace, and a rooftop terrace with a hot tub. 

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