When it comes to finding a great family vacation in the US, look no further than these top 13 destination hot spots of the year. Come delve through this list of fun and exciting things to do with your family. This list has been compiled by thousands of travelers. Who voted on what they felt were the best kid friendly place to visit. We hope this help you when deciding and planning your next trip.
#1 Orlando-Walt Disney World
Why go: Known for its timeless appeal, thrill rides and performances, Disney World is engineered specifically for families, and its formula is very successful. But if you aren’t up for putting on mouse ears, Orlando hosts a slew of theme parks that are sure to excite wee ones. There’s no other city in the United States — the world, even — that celebrates childhood quite like Orlando. The feeling that you get when you catch the light off Epcot Center’s Spaceship Earth (found in Walt Disney World, of course); or from your first sip of Butterbeer in Hogsmeade (located insideIslands of Adventure’s Wizarding World of Harry Potter); or when you witness the soaring heights of Shamu’s flips (during the “Believe” water show at SeaWorld) — all prove that being a kid is about state of mind, not age. The notion that only young ones will enjoy this city’s charms is just that — a notion. In reality, Orlando has a little of this and a little of that to appeal to all ages, and there’s more to do here than visit theme parks. The subtropical climate is great for golfing and the downtown city landscape is too attractive not to explore.
#2 Honolulu – Oahu
Why go: Honolulu — especially Waikiki — offers excellent child-friendly beaches and activities, like snorkeling, swimming with dolphins and the Hawaiian Waters Adventure Park. Plus, many hotels sit along the shore, negating the need for public transportation or a vehicle. Oahu blends cosmopolitan luxury and breathtaking scenery more than any other Hawaiian island. The state’s capital city, Honolulu, showcases the island’s urban appeal. Nearby you’ll find a host of cultural and historical sites, from the austere USS Arizona Memorial to ornate ‘Iolani Palace. In the nearby Waikiki neighborhood, a skyline of high-rises and resort hotels contrasts with sprawling white-sand beaches. For a taste of rural Hawaii, visit the North Shore. Here, you’ll find the most brilliant blue waters and meandering hikes. But those three spots aren’t all Oahu offers. Its high-class restaurants, vibrant cultural events, and wild nightlife further showcase this island as a “Gathering Place” of Hawaiian culture.
Why go: Kids will get a kick out of watching Old Faithful erupt, and there’s nothing quite like an afternoon hike to bring the clan together. Hotels inside the park can be expensive, so make this a BYOB (bring your own bed) vacation. With dramatic peaks and pristine lakes, Yellowstone is an outdoor enthusiast’s paradise. Multicolored pools swirl around hot springs; verdant forests weave past expansive meadows; and volatile geysers launch streams of steaming water toward the sky. With so much unspoiled natural beauty, it’s no wonder everyone suspected John Colter (a scout for explorers Lewis and Clark) was embellishing when he first described Yellowstone’s geothermal curiosities in 1807. Nowadays, there’s no doubt that the park is indeed extraordinary. While you traverse the park’s 3,000-plus square miles of mountains, canyons, geysers and waterfalls, be prepared to share the trails with permanent residents like buffalo, elk and sometimes even grizzlies.
Although Yellowstone attracts about 3 million visitors every year, chances are — unless you spend your entire trip at Old Faithful — you won’t see much of them. Yellowstone’s 2.2 million acres creep from the northwest corner of Wyoming into the edges of Idaho and Montana, offering plenty of untouched territory to explore. Carve out a day or two to take in the view at Yellowstone Lake and Mammoth Hot Springs. But save some time for the trails through lesser-known regions, like the hot springs of the West Thumb Geyser Basin and the untamed wildlife dotting the Lewis River Channel and Dogshead Loop. While the sheer number of trails and wildlife-watching opportunities may seem daunting at first, remember: You can always come back.
Why go: What makes Yosemite an excellent family destination is its numerous outdoor offerings, from hiking and camping to mountain climbing and rafting. And, unlike other parks, Yosemite boasts relatively easy accessibility (San Francisco is only a few hours away by car). One of California’s most formidable natural landscapes, Yosemite National Park features nearly 1,200 square miles of sheer awe: towering waterfalls, millennia-old Sequoia trees, daunting cliff faces and some of the most unique rock formations in the United States. But despite its enormous size, most of the tourist activity takes place within a seven-square-mile area of Yosemite Valley. Here you’ll find the park’s most famous landmarks — Half Dome and El Capitan — as well as excellent hiking trails through the natural monuments. Even inexperienced hikers can enjoy Yosemite — guided tours and climbing lessons are offered from local adventure outfitters. Just don’t expect to experience it by yourself. Like so many other American tourist destinations, crowds are the biggest obstacles to an enjoyable Yosemite vacation — at least four million people visit a year. But if you go at the right time (and start your day a little earlier than usual), Mother Nature’s wonders will reveal themselves to you in a miraculous and serene way.
#5 Grand Canyon
Why go: The Grand Canyon is a universally admired family destination, perhaps due to the Brady Bunch and the Griswold’s. You’ll find lots to do here, including hiking, kayaking, rafting and riding Grand Canyon Railway. The Grand Canyon also manages to be budget-friendly. “Grand” doesn’t begin to do this canyon justice. Measuring approximately 277 miles in length, up to 18 miles in width and a mile deep, this massive chasm in northern Arizona is truly a natural wonder. For six million years, the Grand Canyon has expanded with the help of the mighty Colorado River, and for centuries, people from all over the globe have traveled to gaze out over its red and orange grandeur. Managed by the National Park Service and officially designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site, the Grand Canyon leaves its approximately 4.5 million visitors per year awestruck.
But if you’re seeking a secluded escape to Mother Nature, you should be prepared: The Grand Canyon can be very crowded. The South Rim — home to the Grand Canyon Village and the well-worn Bright Angel Trail — is particularly popular for sightseers and hikers. It is on this side that you’ll find the most amenities. However, for a true escapist experience, head to the North Rim. This is the place for backwoods camping and hardcore hiking.
#6 Washington D.C.
Why go: The key to D.C.’s family appeal is the National Mall, which is surrounded by free, kid-friendly museums and renowned monuments. If you have some extra time, spend a few hours at the National Zoo (which also offers free entry) or snag a treat at one of Georgetown’s cupcake shops. With its marbled monuments and high-profile politicos, Washington, D.C., has long been saddled with a reputation as a stuffy government-driven town. A “city of southern efficiency and northern charm,” as John F. Kennedy once described it, Washington is often seen by outsiders as slow and inefficient. But these days, our nation’s capital is awash with a new energy, transforming itself into an exciting, faster-paced East Coast vacation destination. Although government is still the sun around which this city orbits, the District also offers a host of renowned museums and interesting neighborhoods. And with a recent explosion of restaurants, cafes, boutique shops and clubs, D.C. is transitioning into a thriving cultural hub. As the D.C. Tourism Board is emphasizing through its “DC Cool” campaign, this isn’t the Washington you remember from your middle school field trip — it’s much hipper than that.
You can choose a traditional D.C. adventure, filled with tours of classic attractions like the White House and the Washington Monument, and the Smithsonian’s Natural History Museum. And there’s no better way to experience iconic D.C. than with a stroll around the Tidal Basin. (Plan to visit in late March or early April —just in time for the National Cherry Blossom Festival — and you’ll be rewarded with a canopy of beautiful pink bloom.) But if you’ve already seen the national landmarks, get a feel for the city’s more youthful ambiance, highlighted by its urban neighborhoods, marquee art galleries and vibrant farmers’ markets. Follow foodies to Eastern Market, where Capitol Hill residents shuffle through stands for the freshest produce and trendiest clothing (before working their way through a mile-high stack of pancakes). Afterward, peruse the high-end stores peppering Georgetown or rub shoulders with savvy Washingtonians at the many bars and music joints crowding the U Street Corridor. While you’ll only need a few days to see the city as you know it from your history book, it could take months to experience the Washington that today’s locals know and love.
#7 San Diego
Why go: The simple truth: San Diego offers 70 miles of sandy fun. When the waves start to bore little ones, the creatures at the San Diego Zoo or SeaWorld are sure to hold their interest. Plus, if you need some relief from the sun, head to the museums of Balboa Park. Consistently sunny weather and 70 miles of magnificent coastline are what draw active types to San Diego throughout the year: that and the mouthwatering cuisine, thriving nightlife and one of the country’s favorite zoos. And then there are the beaches: Retreat to Mission Beach to soak up the rays, to La Jolla to catch a wave and to Coronado for a leisurely seaside stroll. When you’re ready to ditch your flip-flops and board shorts for more formal attire, you’ll find pockets of vivacious nightlife throughout, especially near the historical Gaslamp Quarter.
America’s Finest City is a confluence of different communities defined by the area’s military and Hispanic heritage: San Diego is home of the U.S. Navy’s Pacific Fleet and sits adjacent to the U.S.-Mexico border. In spite of constant growth (and its title as California’s second-largest city), San Diego maintains a small-town feel, making it a popular destination for families and anyone looking for a laid-back, Southern California getaway in the sun.
#8 Myrtle Beach
Why go: Myrtle Beach lacks the diversity of other destinations on this list. But in terms of accessibility and cost, Myrtle Beach offers an excellent family getaway. Meanwhile, Ripley’s Aquarium and Mount Atlanticus Miniature Golf are welcome distractions from the shoreline. The clean beaches are the main draw in Myrtle Beach, but there’s more to her than miles of brown sand. One of the best East Coast family vacation destinations, Myrtle Beach, S.C. boasts hundreds of golf courses for golfers at all levels; amusement parks that fling the kiddies around on water rides, roller coasters and race tracks; Dolly Parton singing and dancing for dinner guests; and Ripley’s Aquarium, which dares visitors to commune with the sharks. It might not be the ritziest vacation, but the casual capital of South Carolina’s 60-mile long waterfront, the Grand Strand, is a rambunctious smorgasbord of family fun.
#9 San Francisco
Why go: San Francisco is home to some excellent family-friendly attractions — Fisherman’s Wharf, Alcatraz and the Golden Gate Bridge, to name a few. The city is also close to great outdoor areas, including Yosemite National Park and Muir Woods. The only downside: It’s pricey. A jumbled collage of colorful neighborhoods and beautiful views, San Francisco draws those free-spirited types who have an eye for edgy art, a taste for imaginative cuisine and a zeal for adventure. It’s really not surprising that songwriter Tony Bennett left his heart here: The city boasts jaw-dropping sights, world-class cuisine, cozy cafes and plenty of booming nightlife venues — there’s no shortage of ways to stay busy here. Spend an hour or two sunning yourself alongside sea lions on the bay, admiring the views of the city from Twin Peaks, or strolling along the Marina. And for the quintessential San Franciscan experience, enjoy a ride on a cable car.
Often described as Los Angeles’ more refined northern cousin, cool and compact San Francisco takes the big-city buzz exuded by its southern counterpart and melds it with a sense of small-town charm. Here, you’ll discover a mish-mash of culture flourishing throughout San Francisco’s many vibrant quarters. Follow the crowds to the touristy Fisherman’s Wharf area (which offers spectacular views of Alcatraz) before heading along the bay to the Presidio for a glimpse of the famous Golden Gate Bridge. But don’t forget to save time for the Mission district, The Haight and The Castro for exposure to all of the different varieties of the San Francisco lifestyle.
Why Go: Nearly everything in this tiny Virginia town caters to families. Colonial Williamsburg allows youngsters to immerse themselves in history. If you’re visiting in the summer, don’t deny the kids a chance to cool down at Water Country USA or to ride the coasters at Busch Gardens. For such a historical town, Williamsburg — as tourists know it — is fairly new. It wasn’t until the 20th century that the downtown area of this Virginia Peninsula city was restored. Now you can tread the same steps that our Founding Fathers once took — in fact, in Williamsburg, you just might even find yourself trekking alongside those men (or at least, alongside some talented, costumed interpreters acting out their parts). The area isn’t a novelty, though. Instead, Williamsburg and the nearby cities of Jamestown and Yorktown are breathing monuments to some of the best-known figures of our colonial history. Patrick Henry, George Washington, John Smith, Pocahontas and more — they all receive their due.
Why go: Similar to its Disney sister city, Orlando, Anaheim has enough mouse-themed attractions to keep parents and kids busy and smiling. Plus, Anaheim has the added benefit of its California location, which sits in close proximity to the beaches and sites of Los Angeles and San Diego. Many vacationers come to Anaheim for Disneyland. A plaque at the entrance of the park says: “Here you leave today and enter the world of yesterday, tomorrow and fantasy,” and for more than 50 years, this complex of amusement parks and hotels has remained a fun fantasy world. Even if you’ve been to other Disney resorts, nothing beats the original’s unique place as a vintage landmark in the heart of Southern California. This vibrant park is still a great place for families — in fact, your kids will most likely have so much fun with Mickey and friends that they’ll never want to leave. And with plenty of thrilling rides and a bustling Downtown entertainment district, you might not want to leave either.
But Disneyland isn’t the only thing luring visitors to this Southern California city. There are other parks like Knott’s Berry Farm and Adventure City, a picturesque nature park and even an “angelic” baseball stadium. And, although you might not know it as you’re sweating it out in the summertime, Anaheim is within a 30-minute drive to the cooling ocean breeze of Long, Huntington and Laguna beach’s.
#12 San Antonio
Why go: San Antonio contains an abundance of family-oriented attractions, including the Alamo, Six Flags Fiesta Texas, SeaWorld and several historic parks. Add plentiful family-friendly restaurants and a relatively unique setting and San Antonio truly is a first-rate family destination. Davy Crockett may have perished at the Alamo, but San Antonio clings to the Texan pride shown by the “King of the Wild Frontier” and his compatriots in 1836. This modern city’s history especially rears its noble head throughout downtown. In addition to the Alamo, you’ll find several other famous missions, all of which are now a part of the San Antonio Missions National Historic Park. And amongst the gleaming skyscrapers, the austere San Fernando Cathedral still stands as a testament to the city’s religious past. But, don’t be fooled: You don’t need a hankering for history to enjoy this city. With theme parks, top-notch museums, professional sports teams and the famous River Walk, you might have too much to do to “Remember the Alamo.”
Why Go: Trade crowded, expensive Orlando for relaxed, affordable Tampa. Mingle with manatees at the Tampa Electric Manatee Viewing Center or look for lions at Big Cat Rescue. If your family can’t shake the longing for roller coasters, Busch Gardens and Adventure Island will do the trick. Everyone knows that Tampa is the place for families, and for animal lovers, also for conventioneers. But possibly — even if you don’t fit into any of those demographics — Tampa is for you too? This balmy city by the bay still has plenty of charms away from the amusement park, the aquarium and the convention center (although Busch Gardens and the Florida Aquarium are not shabby ways to spend a day). There’s lots of history here — for example, Theodore Roosevelt and his Rough Riders stopped here on their way to Cuba during the Spanish-American War. And you’ll also find a few choice museums, including the Museum of Science & Industry. And then there’s the sports — this is the home of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (NFL) and the Tampa Bay Lightning (NHL). It’s the namesake city of the Tampa Bay Rays baseball team, and the actual spring training home base for several other major league teams. And when you’ve exhausted all that Tampa has to offer, you can just pop over to St. Petersburg for some sophisticated dining or to Clearwater for the beach.
Courtesy of Travel US News