Family Vacations to Take in the U.S.
When I was growing up, my family went on vacation every summer. Most of our summer vacations were road trips, but we started flying as my brother and I got older. Summer vacations are very fond memories for me. I even remember vacations that we took with my cousins, aunts and uncles, and my grandparents! Our family vacations were always special, so I wanted to share some of these great family trips with you. Here are some family vacations to take around the United States (including in my home state, Texas):
First Stop: Biltmore (Asheville, NC)
The first stop on this trip is not exactly what you would expect for a family vacation, but it is worth it! When you visit the Biltmore, stay at the Inn and order a fruit and cheese tray to your room. Right after you order the tray, you can watch the farm to table philosophy put to work; an employee will go out to the vineyard and pick the fruit that will be delivered to your room. On the grounds you can also find a playground for the kids, trails, tours, falconry, carriage rides, and off-roading experiences! Do not forget to tour the Biltmore House and grounds, too!
Side note: I clearly remember my mom telling us to "behave because we're staying at a very nice hotel" right before we entered the hotel room, put on the robes and slippers, jumped on the beds, and ordered room service... kids will be kids 😬
Second Stop: Great Wolf Lodge (Concord, NC)
Your kids will have a blast at Great Wolf Lodge. There is a massive indoor water park and there are plenty of activities. They have a live action game called MagiQuest where the kids will go around the entire resort with a wand to play games and collect items. There are several dining options in the resort, so you won't even have to leave when your tummy starts to grumble. If you're looking for an even more amazing experience, book a themed suite!
Third Stop: Myrtle Beach, SC
Head to Myrtle Beach for some quality family time by the beach. Both times we visited Myrtle Beach, we stayed at the Hilton North Myrtle Beach Oceanfront Resort. At the time, the hotel offered plenty of activities for kids, including t-shirt tie-dyeing and a pie eating contest. The hotel is right on the beach and has a pool! The hotel rooms have balconies that offer views of the ocean! There are also plenty of family-friendly activities in town, like mini golf, go-karts, an aquarium, and more. The Medieval Times Dinner & Tournament is great for an evening of entertainment! You'll enjoy a four-course meal and a battle between knights.
Add-on: Charleston, SC
If you still have some time, head over to Charleston for a few days. Charleston is a very historical city with family-friendly activities, like an aquarium and a children's museum. You can also visit Fort Sumter, where your kid(s) can be a junior ranger and complete an activity book.
Home Base: Gatlinburg
Gatlinburg is great place for some family fun and it is close enough to other family-friendly activities that you can use it as a home base and venture out for day trips. Gatlinburg has fun activities like mini golf, a ropes course, a mountain coaster, etc. The Park Vista (DoubleTree Hotel) is a nice place to stay and has incredible views!
Day Trip: Dollywood (Pigeon Forge, TN)
For the first stop on this trip, your family will have a blast! Head to Dollywood, a theme park opened by the queen herself, Dolly Parton. There are a lot of rides and shows for people of all ages. They also just opened a water park!! Don't forget to catch a dinner show for some evening entertainment.
Day Trip: Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Great Smoky Mountains National Park is a great park to visit with family. There are hikes/trails for different skill levels, some of which lead you to waterfalls! Go for a drive through the park to see black bears (from the car, of course... with the windows and doors closed and locked haha). Because it is a national park, kids have the opportunity to be junior rangers!
Trip One, Stop One: Galveston
You may not think of Galveston for your next family vacation, but I promise that you'll have a good time when you combine Houston and Galveston for a family vacation. Galveston has Moody Gardens, which has an aquarium and an indoor rainforest. For an extra special experience, you can also do a penguin encounter. Go for a dolphin tour and head to the west end of Galveston for some family time at the beach. Stay at the San Luis or the Grand Galvez, or rent a beach house!
Trip One, Stop Two: Houston
On the way from Galveston to Houston, check out Johnson Space Center! It's a great place to learn about space and NASA while having fun (try some space ice cream while you're there). Once in Houston, enjoy some good food with your family. Check out the Children's Museum Houston (one of my favorites), Houston Zoo, Houston Museum of Natural Science, and the Health Museum. Houston has some of the best museums and theatres!
Side note: I used to live in the Houston-Galveston area and have done all of the kid-friendly activities a thousand times. I still enjoy them!
Trip Two: San Antonio
Another city that is great for a short family vacation: San Antonio! Obviously you can take your kids to the Alamo for some history. Take your family to Six Flags Fiesta Texas for some more thrill and fun! Right on the edge of San Antonio are Natural Bridge Caverns and Natural Bridge Wildlife Ranch. Take a tour of the caverns before feeding some wildlife from the comfort of your car!
Trip Two Add-on: Yogi Bear's Jellystone Park™ (Kerrville, TX)
Jellystone Park™ in Kerrville is a great place for families to stay and it isn't that far from San Antonio. There are pools, a water park with big water slides, playgrounds, and a plethora of activities!
Side note: I remember there being a calendar of activities. I went to a painting class where I got to paint a Cindy Bear piggy bank and take it home!
Trip One: Walt Disney World (Orlando, FL)
I feel like this one is a given, but Disney World is always a great place for family vacations. There are so many different parks and resorts. The parks have all kinds of rides and shows for people of different ages and the resorts have plenty of activities! If you're looking for even more adventure, you can spend a day at Universal Studios (around 10 miles from Disney)!
Trip One, Add-on: Kennedy Space Center (Merritt Island, FL)
Head to Kennedy Space Center (58 miles from Walt Disney World) for a day full of space/NASA-related activities. There are so many activities and learning opportunities for families, plus you can buy and try some astronaut food!
Trip Two: Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort
The Sandestin Resort offers many different types of accommodations and activities for families. They have hotels, villas, and cottages, some of which are bayside and others that are beachfront. There is a wharf, where many different events and activities take place. The wharf also has restaurants and shopping! This is a great place for a family beach vacation!
Trip One: Colorado Springs
One of the best places in Colorado to visit as a family is Colorado Springs! If your kids are younger, definitely visit The North Pole. You can ride rides, meet Santa Claus, eat some delicious food, and do some shopping. When we visited many years ago, I even had the opportunity to make my own candle! After some thrilling rides, you might want something a bit slower paced. Head over to Garden of the Gods for a morning family hike. Afterward, hit up Ghost Town Museum to learn all about ghost towns and enjoy some fun activities, like playing antique arcade games and panning for gold. Lastly, about an hour from Colorado Springs (in Cañon City, CO) you'll find the Royal Gorge Route Railroad. Enjoy dinner and good views on this train ride. If you visit during the holiday season, you can even take the Santa Express Train!
Trip Two: Silverton
Silverton is a nice, little town in the mountains in Colorado with many outdoors-y activities. Here you can go off-roading, fishing, hiking, or panning for gold! Day trip out to Mesa Verde to see cliff dwellings made by Native Americans and learn all about Native American life. About 130 miles (2.5 hours) from Silverton, you'll also find Four Corners Monument! Snap some photos of your family standing in four states at one time before browsing the market. In the market you'll find Navajo crafts and jewelry.
First Stop: Red River
Red River is one of my favorite places in New Mexico! Whether you go in the summer or in the winter, there are plenty of activities for families. In the summer, there are some places where you can pull off by the creek and enjoy a picnic and an afternoon in the cold water. You can also enjoy the chair lift, mountain tubing, mini golf, a zip line, and hiking. For a snow adventure, head to Red River in the winter! You'll have the opportunity to ski/snowboard, tube, snowshoe, and sled!
Second Stop: Angel Fire
30 miles from Red River is another ski town called Angel Fire. You can use either Red River or Angel Fire as a home base and just day trip to the other one since they are so close. Just like Red River, Angel Fire also has summer activities! They have horseback riding, ziplines, lake activities, and a chair lift. In the winter, Angel Fire has all of your typical ski town activities, plus they have sleigh rides! We visited Angel Fire once with the entire family in the winter and then again with a few family members in the summer; both trips were great!
New York City
NYC really has something for everyone, so there is no doubt that you'll enjoy some family time there. There are sooo many different museums to choose from in the city. Go for a stroll around Central Park and take a ride around the carousel. There are also plenty of Broadway shows to catch! We saw Mary Poppins on Broadway and it was amazing!! You definitely have to check out FAO Schwarz; it's an awesome toy store! If you have a child who is into dolls, you can dine, shop, and hit up the salon at American Girl Place!
Washington D.C. & Virginia
Stop One: Washington D.C.
Washington D.C. has a bunch of museums, like the National Museum of Natural History, International Spy Museum, and National Children's Museum. Obviously all of the memorials and monuments are great places to visit as a family, too! I've been to Washington D.C. four times (I remember three of the visits), and never get tired of it!
Stop Two: Colonial Williamsburg (Williamsburg, VA)
A great place to visit after Washington D.C. is Colonial Williamsburg, which is around 155 miles (3 hours) from Washington D.C. In Williamsburg you'll travel back in time and learn all about 18th-century colonial life. Colonial Williamsburg is the largest living history museum in the world, so you'll have the opportunity to visit different buildings, like the blacksmith shop, apothecary, tailor, and the gunsmith shop to see how colonists worked and lived! I went as a younger kid and then again in high school and enjoyed it both times!
Home Base: Boston
Boston is an incredible city in general, but it is also great for kids! I've been twice and can't get enough of it! First, it has one of the best children's museums in the U.S. Near Boston Children's Museum, you'll also find the Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum, where your kids can "throw" tea overboard. To spend a day outside, check out the oldest public park in the nation, Boston Commons. The Frog pond becomes an ice skating rink in the winter and a spray pool for kids to escape the heat in the summer. Boston Commons is located on the Freedom Trail, which leads you to different historical sites around the city. It's great if you would like to hit up some historical sites on your trip. One place that the kids will enjoy on the trail is Captain Jackson's Historic Chocolate. At the chocolate shop, they will teach you about how colonists made/ate chocolate and you'll have the opportunity to taste some! Another great park to visit for some outdoor time is Boston Public Garden.
Day Trip: Salem
About 22 miles (30 minute train ride) away from Boston is a small town called Salem, which is where witch trials took place in the 17th century. Visit the Salem Witch Museum to learn all about the trials, then stroll around town. We took the train from Boston to Salem and back and it was super easy!
Trip One: Philadelphia
Like many of the other cities on this list, Philadelphia has some great museums for kids! They have a science museum, a hands-on museum for younger kids, Museum of Illusions, and more. The Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University also offers many activities, like digging for fossils, and you can meet live animals! Franklin Square is great for some outdoor time; go for a ride on the carousel before you try your hand at mini golf. About 25 miles outside Philadelphia, there's a theme park that is entirely Sesame Street themed! Sesame Place has rides, meet and greets, activities, restaurants, and a water park!! Plus, it is a Certified Autism Center! Back in central Philadelphia in front of City Hall, there is a roller rink and splash fountain area set up in the summer and an ice skating rink set up in the winter! While you're there, you cannot forget to visit The Independence National Historical Park, the Betsy Ross house, and Reading Terminal Market.
Trip Two: Hershey & Amish Country
Hershey is located about 95 miles (1 hour 45 minutes) from Philadelphia, so you can visit as a day trip (it would probably make for a long day) or you can do it as a separate trip/stop. Hersheypark® has rides and a waterpark that are all candy themed! You can also visit Hershey's Chocolate World to learn all about how Hershey chocolate is made and even make your own bar!! About 28 miles (35 minutes) from Hershey is Lancaster County, or Amish country. You can find some Amish farm tours, but one of my favorite parts about visiting Amish country is going in the shops and eating at the restaurants. You can find some delicious food in Lancaster County.
Stop One: San Diego
San Diego is so much fun! One of the best places to visit with your family is the San Diego Zoo. The zoo is massive and has so many different animals and activities. There's also the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, where you can ride in a safari truck through a savannah full of animals! When we were at the San Diego Zoo, we did a hot air balloon ride. I thought it was scary but fun, while my brother cried on the floor of the hot air balloon the entire time. You can also spend a day at the beach! San Diego has beautiful water, so grab some food and have a picnic at the beach. If you head to La Jolla Cove, you may even spot some sea lions!
Stop Two: Los Angeles
Take the 120 mile (2 hour) drive from San Diego up the coast to Los Angeles. While in LA, check out the Walk of Fame, Santa Monica Pier, and the beach! When we were in LA, we booked a private van tour of LA and we were able to tell the driver exactly where we wanted to go. At the time, In-N-Out Burger was only in California, so the driver even stopped to get us food there! For the remainder of the tour he brought us to popular places and showed us celebrity houses. You have to spend a day or two at Disneyland, also! Disneyland is smaller than Walt Disney World, but it does have some different rides and is worth a visit!!
Of course these are not all of the places you can visit with your family; I have just based these trips off of the vacations that my family took when I was growing up. There are more family vacation options in the U.S., your destination all depends on the type of activities your family/kids are into and the ages of your children, though. I can say that I thoroughly enjoyed all of the vacations we took to these places and I will forever hold onto these memories. Your children will also learn so much! Traveling as a family can be exhausting at times but it makes for such great memories that your family/children will have forever!