Family-Friendly Vacation Spots in the U.S. that Your Kids Will Love

A floor to ceiling glass aquarium is in the background of the picture. In the aquarium is yellow and silver fish and stingrays with a shipwreck on the left hand side. A man and woman are standing in front of it in sillouette with a little boy inbetween them.

You know that phrase, “The world is your oyster?” When picking a destination for a family-friendly vacation, I don’t want the whole dang oyster; just give me a single satisfying bite, and I’ll be happy. 

There are endless travel possibilities, and picking one you and your children can enjoy together can be challenging, to say the least.

You’ll need fun activities, opportunities for adventure, delicious food for children’s pallets, and plenty of chances for family bonding time. 

So, while you might know a ton about the casinos of Vegas, and an adult-only resort in the Bahamas sounds divine, you obviously need to make better choices when you’re hitting the skies or road with toddlers, tweens, and teens.

Picking a place that offers something for everyone in your family is the task: but how do you do it??

Luckily, there are a plethora of outstanding alternatives that will be a hit during your next family vacation. Instead of adding more parenting stress to your plate by doing piles of travel research, why not take a look at our best options for vacations with kids?

Whether you’re in the mood for mountains, beaches, or something in between, the list below contains our favorite kid-friendly vacations in the US and around the world. 

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The Best Vacations for Kids Under 10

Planning a family trip with younger kids in tow takes careful consideration. After all, most children under 10 need something quite different than great restaurants, shopping, and museums. 

Lounging by the pool for hours on end, for example, won’t suffice when it comes to the younger generations, although most kiddos do love an active day at the pool. 

Thankfully, there’s no shortage of family-friend vacation ideas for kids under 10. Take a look at the list below for ideas.

1. Disney World (Orlando Area)

I’m sure you’re SHOCKED to find Disney World on a list of kid-friendly vacations. While you’ve probably considered a trip to the “Land of the Mouse,” it’s certainly earned its place on this list.

Whether you’re a die-hard Disney fan or not, the theme parks inside Disney World Orlando offer many attractions, shows, and activities for little ones. They’ll meet their favorite characters, try famous snacks (dreaming of a Dole Whip as we speak!), and experience some of the most famous rides in the world.

Need help planning the perfect Disney World vacation? There are plenty of great online articles and books you should check out. 

The location is another excellent reason to take a trip to Walt Disney World. Orlando is a beacon for family-friendly activities. If you want to take a day off from the parks, you’ll have tons of other options at your fingertips. 

As a native Floridian, some of the places we love to visit outside of Disney World include:

2. Chicago, IL

From Navy Pier to the Shedd Aquarium, Chicago is home to an astounding number of kid-friendly activities and attractions. Plus, the tall buildings and the big-city feel will blow your kiddos away! 

While I wouldn’t classify Chicago as a “cheap family vacation,” there are ways to save money. Since you’ll probably want to visit many museums and attractions, you can purchase a City Pass to receive discounted pricing. 

3. San Diego, CA

Did you know that San Diego is home to Balboa Park – the largest urban cultural park in the United States? In one area, you and your family will have access to a seemingly endless number of things to do, including live performances, museums, playgrounds, and places to eat. 

If you plan to stay for seven consecutive days, you can even purchase a Parkwide Pass to enter several museums and attractions, like the San Diego Zoo

When you’re ready to leave the park, don’t fret, there are plenty of other ways to have fun around this California beach town, such as visiting La Jolla Cove or taking a harbor cruise

Fodor’s Travel offers a great visitor’s guide if you’re looking for more information on visiting San Diego!

4. Dude Ranches

Do your littles dream of being real cowboys and cowgirls? Make those dreams come true with a trip to a dude ranch!

I’m going to be completely honest, until I started doing research for this article, I was convinced these weren’t real. I’d heard of them in shows and movies, but I’ve never known anyone who’s gone to one.

Well, let me tell you, not only do they exist, but they’re also an amazing option for vacations with kids!

Dude ranches are usually all-inclusive vacations that highlight “Western lifestyle activities.” Your family will get to build campfires, go horseback riding, and go fishing. Some famous dude ranches in the United States include:

5. Denver, CO

Whether your family is indoorsy, outdoorsy, or something in between, Denver has options to satisfy your vacation wants and needs. 

It is home to some of the best museums in the country and has gorgeous hiking trails in Rocky Mountain National Park. It’s also only a short drive from some top-notch snow skiing locations, like Winter Park and Keystone

Whether you’re looking to escape into nature or submerge yourself in the hustle and bustle of the city, Denver has you covered. 

6. National Parks

If your family loves hiking and nature, why not consider one of the gorgeous national parks our country has to offer? Some of the most popular include:

Each of the parks mentioned above includes a wide range of hiking trails and sites that will appeal to the whole family. And don’t worry about rough terrain, there are plenty of locations in each that are easily accessible for younger hikers.

There are also various lodging areas in each. From camping to cabins, you’ll have plenty of options when it comes to finding a place to stay.

Want to learn more about traveling to a national park with your child? Why not get them a Junior Ranger National Park Activity Book to begin planning your trip and get them ready for what’s to come?

7. Cocoa Beach, FL

Attention space fans! I’ve got the perfect vacation spot for your family! If your kids want to learn everything they can about astronauts, space, and the universe, why not take them to Cocoa Beach, FL, and hit up the Kennedy Space Center?

If you plan it out far enough in advance, you can even catch a rocket launch while you’re there!

Beyond Kennedy Space Center, Cocoa Beach is also a fantastic spot for beach lovers and surfers. They even have a surf school you can check out during your stay that’s part of the famous Ron Jon Surf Shop. 

8. Wisconsin Dells

The Wisconsin Dells has served as a family-friendly tourism metropolis for generations. From indoor water parks to animal habitats, your family will have many fun activities to pick from during your stay.

There are also plenty of outdoor adventure activities in the Dells, such as ATV rides, zip lining, and boat or kayak rentals

In the mood for an adult libation while you’re on your trip? Parents will love the selection of local breweries, wineries, and distilleries!

9. New Orleans 

Okay, I know what you might be thinking: there’s no way New Orleans is family-friendly.

Well, let me tell you something, I stand by this claim. The Crescent City is more than just beads, boobs, and booze! In fact, if you know where to look, you’ll find that this gorgeous city offers TONS of things to do for families on vacation. 

And trust me when I say this; I’m a self-proclaimed expert on all things NOLA.

Not only will you have access to some of the best food (your kids will talk about beignets for years to come!) and music in the country during your stay, but there are also exciting activities your kiddos will love–ours did!

Some of our favorite child-friendly activities in New Orleans are:

10. New York, NY

Here’s the thing about New York City, no matter where you are in life, you’re bound to find something you love. 

And kids are no exception!

Think back to when you were a child; what would you have thought of a vacation spot that provided access to one of the biggest parks in the country, gigantic toy stores, and a famous dessert spot that offers decadent frozen hot chocolate that is the size of your head (looking at you Serendipity)?

There’s ice skating, city bus tours, and, let’s not forget, the Statue of Liberty! Trust us when we say your kids will beg to return to NYC after you leave.

11. Cumberland Island, GA

My husband and I stumbled across Cumberland Island during our 10th-anniversary trip in 2021. Despite living in Florida all our lives and being frequent visitors to Georgia, we’d never heard of it. We loved it so much we’re bringing our girls back this summer!

This island sits off the shores of St. Mary, GA, between the Florida/Georgia border. You can only reach it by boat, but there’s a convenient ferry system in St. Mary’s to help get you there.

Once you arrive, you’ll be greeted by gorgeous nature preserves, mansion ruins from bygone eras, and, most impressively, wild horses that have staked claim to the island –yes, that’s right, wild horses!

This is a fantastic spot for camping, or you can stay in one of the nearby towns and catch the ferry for a day trip. 

12. Pigeon Forge, TN

The perfect mix of family fun and southern charm, Pigeon Forge, TN, and the nearby town of Sevierville, are ideal options for booking a vacation with kids. 

Not only will you have the gorgeous views from being up in the Tennessee mountains, but you’ll also be close to many fun activities, museums, restaurants, and outdoor adventures.

If you want to visit one of the most popular attractions in Pigeon Forge, however, you can’t miss Dollywood! This fun theme park is owned by the one and only, Dolly Parton! You can also check out her fun dinner theater, the Dixie Stampede, while you’re in town. 

A boy in a cowboy hat and orange, light blue, and dark blue plaid shirt with jeans is riding a horse and smiling. A girl wearing a white tank top and cowboy hat is guiding the horse while walking in front of it.
Dude ranches are a great family-friendly vacation that everyone can participate in.

The Most Popular Kid-Friendly Vacations in the US

Most of the options below still work for families with young kids on vacation. That said, many of them are also popular as little ones turn into tweens and teens. 

1. Atlanta, GA

Home to Centennial Olympic Park, Atlanta is a hot spot for family vacations. While there are some great options for younger kids, Atlanta still packs tons of entertainment for older children, too!

Not only does Atlanta have one of the best aquariums in Georgia, but it also has eye-catching immersive experiences, top-notch shopping locales, and outdoor adventure sports. 

If you have a new driver, they’d love to check out the Porsche Experience Center, where they can get behind the wheel with a professional driving coach. 

This isn’t all Atlanta has to offer, though. There are plenty of ways to show your kids a good time in the ATL, including:

2. San Antonio, TX

There are plenty of great cities in Texas. Still, San Antonio is definitely one of the best, especially if you and your loved ones are trying to plan an unforgettable summer vacation or trip for your family.

One of my favorite things about San Antonio is the perfect blend between fun, educational, and beautiful. 

There’s a happening Riverwalk area with tons of great shopping, dining, and entertainment for everyone. Plus, there are historical monuments, such as The Alamo and the Missions National Historical Park

3. Los Angeles, CA

Want to score major cool points with your tweens and teens? Take them to LA for vacation! They’ll likely swoon for the chance to do some celebrity spotting, shopping on Rodeo Drive, and gallivanting on the beautiful Hollywood-area beaches. 

There are dozens of fun things to do with kids in Los Angeles, the only hard part of planning your trip will be narrowing them down. 

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4. San Francisco, CA

Is it any surprise that San Francisco also made it onto this list? Whether you’re organizing a trip for yourselves or your kids, you will be able to find good options in the Golden City.

Some of my faves include walking around Fisherman’s Wharf, taking a tour of Alcatraz, riding the cable cars, visiting Chinatown, and spending time in Golden Gate Park

There are also plenty of exciting places to take a day trip around San Fran, including Big Sur, Santa Cruz, and Sonoma. 

5. The Florida Keys

As someone born and raised in Florida, I can’t wax poetic enough about how awesome the Florida Keys are for family-friendly vacations. And I’m not just talking about Key West! 

Key Largo, for instance, is a laid-back beach town that includes the John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park. If your family is into sports fishing and boating, Marathon might be a hit. Big Pine Key is also a haven for anyone interested in outdoor living. It’s also home to the famous key deer!

6. Washington D.C.

Washington D.C. is the kind of place that’s earned a spot on many a bucket list. For anyone living in America, it’s the center of our nation’s history and a governmental landmark. That’s why it’s the perfect location for a family-friendly vacation. Your children will remember visiting these sites, from the White House to Lincoln Memorial, for years. 

7.  Boston, MA

Boston is another classic American city that’s a popular getaway for many families, but why?

For one, Boston is the kind of place that’s easy to get around. It’s highly walkable, which is convenient for families who want to make the most of their stay. 

It’s also a haven for foodies. You can even do food walking tours that wander through popular areas like the North End and the Freedom Trail. Is your family into breweries? There are plenty of family-friendly beer gardens, such as The Anchor, where you can enjoy a local beer and play yard games with your littles. 

Boston is not short on things to do! Some other highlights include:

8. Savannah, GA

Ahhh, Savannah…one of my favorite places when I’m in the mood for weekend getaways. My husband and I have been to this picturesque Georgia town more times than I can count, and I’m constantly longing to return.

If you’re in the mood for a relaxing vacation with kids, this is it. While plenty of fun things exist, it’s also a fantastic place for people-watching, strolls, and laid-back window shopping. 

If you’re looking for fun activities, some of our favorites include:

Plus, if you want to dip your toes in the ocean while you’re on vacation, Savannah provides close access to the white sand beaches of Tybee Island. 

9. Park City, UT

The slow pace of Savannah may not strike your fancy. Instead, you’d like to find a vacation spot for families full of adventure.

Enter Park City, Utah!

Whether you want to hit the slopes, jump on a zip line, go mountain biking (in the summer), or do some tubing (a fun winter activity if you don’t know how to ski), Park City has everything you need for outdoor family fun for both the winter and summer seasons.

10. Portland, OR

Despite being a major city, Portland is still a family-oriented town. If you want a unique family vacation idea, this cool spot could be the right choice.

Something I love about Portland is how many things there are to do all year long. Whether it’s the middle of winter or summer, you’re bound to find a fun activity. In fact, this city hosts dozens of different festivals throughout the year, such as:

11. Seattle, WA

While we’re talking about the Pacific Northwest, we should mention Seattle! Regarding kid-friendly vacations in the US, this cool town checks all the boxes. You’ll have plenty of activities to pick from, such as the Space Needle, Pike Place Market, or the Chihuly Garden & Glass Museum.

12. Branson, MO

Okay, here’s the thing about Branson, MO: it’s chock full of standard “touristy activities.” You know, the “Ripley’s Believe it or Not’s” of the world.

That doesn’t mean, however, that it’s not the perfect place for your upcoming vacation with kids. In fact, Branson’s touristy cheesiness makes it an exceptional addition to this list. 

This town has everything if you want to keep every family member entertained. You’re guaranteed to find something fun for everybody. 

13. Hawaii

Now listen, I understand that Hawaii isn’t the most affordable option on this list, but if you can swing the expense, go for it!

You’ll get great waves, fun excursions, relaxing all-inclusive resorts, and some of the most breathtaking views you’ll ever see. Treat your family to a traditional luau, a helicopter ride over a volcano, or a trip to the spa for Mom. Either way, you’ll come home with a well of memories that will last a lifetime. 

14. Nashville, TN

The country music capital of the world is an excellent idea if you want to plan a family-friendly vacation. After all, who doesn’t need to visit the Country Music Hall of Fame at least once in their lifetime?

If you want to up the ante on a good time during your Nashville family trip, why not stay at the Gaylord Opryland Resort?

Using the word hotel doesn’t do this resort justice–it’s enormous! You could easily spend an entire day exploring the grounds and never get bored. There is a water slide, rock climbing wall, boat rides, and even a nightly light and music show!

Don’t have the money to stay at the resort? No problem, you can walk around the grounds without a room key whenever you’d like!

You can also enjoy other attractions in Nashville, including the Adventure Science Center, Nashville Zoo, and walking around Centennial Park

15. Asheville, NC

Asheville, NC, is good for more than just a visit to the Biltmore–although, why not check it out if you’re in town? This beautiful city is also home to many activities and attractions, such as the Asheville Pinball Museum, Pisgah National Forest, and the Adventure City of Asheville

Asheville is a quirky town that young children, tweens, and teens will get a kick out of. 

A woman is splashing water at the camera in the ocean. Beside her is a little boy in a baby life ring. A man holds the camera in one hand to take the picture while holding a baby in his other arm.
With so many family-friendly vacations available, which should you choose?

Planning Vacations with Kids is Easier than You Think

Remember, no matter what location you pick for your next summer trip or vacation, kids are easier to please than we give them credit for. Simply being somewhere new will be a thrilling experience for most little ones.

After all, name one kid who doesn’t think staying in a hotel is one of the coolest things in the world!

If you need help finding a place to go, though, the options above are certainly some of the best vacation spots in the US. Don’t get too hung up on picking the “right one.” Any of these locations, from southern California to Boston, will provide the family bonding you want and need.

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What are some of your favorite family-friendly vacation spots?

Entertainment for Kids Link Round-Up

With summer approaching, it’s time to start thinking about ways to keep your kiddos busy and balance your at-home work schedules during their days off of school. Here are some great articles to get you started: