Finding the right vacation spots for those upcoming family vacations has never been more difficult. It’s not a lack of selection that’s the problem either. Rather it’s the embarrassment of riches you have to sift through.
The Internet has made it easy to get confused with all the high-quality photos, videos, and enviable experiences you can find via a simple search or through your own friends’ and followers’ social media feeds.
While we can’t promise that this article will make the decision any easier, we have narrowed it down to 57 of our favorite family-friendly destinations. Pick something on this list, and you’re sure to have an experience that no one in the Fam will ever forget!
1. Miami Beach
Miami Beach remains a popular tourist destination for a reason. The sands are somewhere on the spectrum between gold and powdery white. The culture is unique. It boasts some of the most amazing cuisines in the world. Recreational activities out the wazoo. And for a big city, it’s surprisingly easy to navigate, though you do have to be on the lookout for jaywalkers and brake smashers.
Trip Advisor has a helpful list of the top things to do while you’re in Miami Beach as well as the places to go for essential dining. U.S. News and World Report also looks at the best times to visit depending on what kind of vacationer you are. Of course, the thing you’ll probably want to do most of all is kick back on the sand and catch some rays, so try to limit your focus to beachfront hotels if you can afford it.
A stay on the beaches of Destin, Florida, is less crowded than what you’ll find in Miami Beach. Also, the sands are more of a floury consistency, making it one of the more beautiful areas in the world. Thankfully, BP’s screwup from several years back didn’t completely ruin things, and the salty waters of the Gulf of Mexico are still as gorgeous as anything you’ll see in the U.S.
While checking out the top things to do in Destin, make sure to pencil in a trip to the Silver Sands outlet mall in between water sports, sailing, and a host of other activities custom-made for your inner beach-nut. Also, if budget will allow, try to eat out every meal so you can take in all 10 of the city’s best restaurants for a mix of surf-and-turf and multicultural cuisines. Ocean Reef Resorts has your hook-up for what you can expect during each season in Destin.
3. Huntington Beach
If surfing, mild weather year-round, and an intense beach culture is your thing, Huntington Beach delivers. This popular Orange County hotspot has a population of around 200,000, but it can feel a lot more crowded than that during the prime tourist season.
Ample shopping and nightlife abound, and it has some pretty amazing natural landmarks, like the Pacific Ocean to the southwest, Seal Beach to the northwest, Costa Mesa to the east, and Newport Beach on the southeast.
Not sure of where to begin? The popular Hangout Restaurant has dozens of suggestions to get you started — both free and paid. Make sure you show your appreciation by trying the braised beef brisket. Also, check out one of the other top 10 restaurants in Huntington Beach while you’re at it. And check out the Huntington Beach Travel Guide to decide the best time to go.
4. Napili Beach
The golden sands of Napili Beach in the off-the-beaten-path location of Kapalua, Hawaii, offer the peace-seeking traveler a quiet locale for escape. Napili itself is unincorporated and its neighboring Kapalua had only 353 residents as of the last Census.
While on the one hand that means restaurant and recreation selections are limited, it’s great for anyone who ever wanted to visit Hawaii just for the beach experience.
If you do want to get off the sands at some point, Trip Advisor has a list of things to do here. Primary activities in this resort community include golf and kayaking. There are also a dozen or so restaurants you can check out — not bad for such a tiny community. Best time to go: any time.
5. Gold Coast, Barbados
Barbados is the crown jewel of the northwestern Atlantic, just a stone’s throw away from the Caribbean Sea. As such, this island locale is considered a part of the Caribbean, and serves as one of its leading tourist destinations year-after-year.
There is a division between the so-called “Gold Coast” on the west and the South Coast on the, well, you know. If you go south, be prepared for choppier waters and a little more challenging swim time, though it is by no means unmanageable. Still the Gold Coast is where you will find the most peace and calm.
WhereToStay has an awesome list of the things you can do in Barbados, many of them family-oriented. Also, check out Trip Advisor’s rundown of the 10 best restaurants the island has to offer. Meanwhile, U.S. News and Report warns that if you plan to go, choose sometime between July and November to avoid tricky weather situations.
6. Zuma Beach
When people talk about hitting the beach in Malibu, California, they’re usually talking about Zuma Beach. As one of the most popular (and biggest) beaches in Los Angeles County, it is by extension considered among the best in the world.
The beach itself has facilities for all kinds of water and land-lubbing activities, such as surfing, kiteboarding, windsurfing, fishing, volleyball, eating, and more. It has also turned up frequently in film and television, serving as the iconic final scene for 1968’s Planet of the Apes and in Baywatch, I Dream of Jeannie, and America’s Next Top Model, among others.
7. Main Beach
The Main Beach in East Hampton, New York, draws many tourists to this “playground for the rich” each year. With white sands and sparkling blue waters, you could get lost in the day sunbathing. Just make sure to plan ahead during the main season. Parking can be a bit of a nightmare.
While on Long Island, make sure you check out East Hampton proper for one of the many cool things that go down each year, like the annual independent film festival and a star-studded Artists and Writers Softball Game, which in the past has included players like former President Bill Clinton, actor Dustin Hoffman, and author Kurt Vonnegut.
For more suggestions, check out these things to do while there as well as Nick & Toni’s Italian Restaurant or one of these other delicious eateries. As for the best time to go, take Fodor’s Travel advice, and plan for the off-season (September through May).
8. Perdido Key State Park
The Perdido Key State Park in Pensacola, Florida, offers an easy-access and affordable way to experience the sights and sounds of the Gulf of Mexico. At just $3 per vehicle of eight persons and with picnic areas, boardwalk, and some of the best fishing in Pensacola, it is a vacation essential when hitting the Florida panhandle.
If you get bored doing that, consider taking in the National Naval Aviation Museum or a baseball game at Blue Wahoos Ballpark. There are also numerous bike tours, walking tours, and wine bars, along with numerous other activities to choose from. Seafood lovers will want to check out Joe Patti’s Seafood or one of these phenomenal locations. Destination360 has some helpful info if you’re wrestling with when to go.
9. Kiawah Beachwalker Park
Kiawah Island is a barrier island on the shore of the Atlantic Ocean. It’s also the site of South Carolina’s breathtaking Kiawah Beachwalker Park, which features 11 miles of unmolested beachfront.
Situated between the Bohicket River and the ocean, the park gives families a comfortable chance to explore with a treelined oversized boardwalk, picnic area, snack bar, beach access, restrooms, dressing areas, showers, and various beach rentals. Admission is anywhere from free to $10, depending on what time of year that you go.
10. Saona Island
Discovered by Christopher Columbus on his second voyage to the Americas in 1494, Saona Island is located just off the Dominican Republic mainland. It is the quintessential “desert island,” and has often been a target for advertisers and filmmakers looking for such a location. That translates to a peaceful and relaxing time for all as it is one of the few gorgeous beachfronts yet to be heavily commercialized.
While there, hit the water for some boating or snorkeling, and check out the zip-line adventure in neighboring Punta Cana. And don’t forget to stop for a meal at Playa Tao Beach Club & Restaurant — well worth it! Last but not least, if you’re wondering where to go, here is some helpful insight into the weather patterns of the area.
11. Siesta Key Beach
Yet another gorgeous attraction along the Gulf of Mexico is Siesta Key Beach in Sarasota, Florida, with its deep blue waters and sugar-colored sands. Throughout its existence, it has earned titles, such as the “whitest and finest sand in the world” (The Great International Beach Challenge, 1987); the “Best Sand Beach in America” (The Travel Channel, 2004); the “Best Beach in America” (Dr. Beach, 2011); and the No. 1 U.S. Beach (Trip Advisor, 2015). It is also a favorite locale for boogie boarders.
Thankfully, its home base of Sarasota has plenty to do if you’re needing a break from the swimming, sunbathing, and sand castle construction. Here are the top 10 attractions as picked by Trip Advisor along with a list of the best restaurants for 2016. Spring Break through the summer months are perfect times for young adults, while families and older adults may want to wait until the beaches are less crowded in October before paying a visit.
12. Coast Guard Beach
Eastham, Massachusetts, is the site of the beautifully serene Coast Guard Beach, and according to the National Park Service, it is also where the Mayflower made her initial landfall in 1620. Today, it is a largely well-kept beach with a handicapped-friendly environment for families that may be traveling with someone, who has special needs. Great swimming and view, and extends easily into Cape Cod for more vacationer options.
While there, budget-conscious families may want to check out the Boston website’s list of 25 free things to do. There are also some pretty delicious eateries worth your time. As for the best times to travel, U.S. News and World Report recommends the months of April, May, October, or November.
Peaks and Valleys
1. Grand Canyon National Park
Grand Canyon National Park in northwestern Arizona is one of those U.S. sites that you have to see before you die, and it’s an ideal getaway for families, thanks in part to the wide array of activities available with helicopter and plane rides, hiking, and walking tours around some of the canyon’s most jaw-dropping lookout points.
Once you’re done there, consider dropping by neighboring Tusayan for a little more action with these activities that should keep everyone busy for a while. The town also has a number of steakhouses and cultural cuisines because traipsing across the Canyon creates a hearty appetite. For the best times to visit, U.S. News and World Report recommends either March through May or September through November for the cooler daytime temps and thinner crowds.
2. Death Valley National Park
Death Valley National Park is a shared attraction between California and Nevada, with the nearest cities on either side being Lone Pine and Beatty, respectively. Each year more than 1 million come through to see this vast desert land, 95% of which has been marked as “wilderness” by the National Parks Service.
If you want to go sightseeing, you should know ahead of time that it’s the largest and the hottest national park in the 48 contiguous states. To cover any great distance, you’ll want to do so via personal auto, jeep, or ATV. Depending on your family’s size and average age, proceed with caution. Activities include hiking, camping, and stargazing.
If the heat gets to be too much, know that both Lone Pine and Beatty have plenty of things for you to do. Lone Pine has the Museum of Western Film History and a slew of amazing restaurants. Ditto for Beatty on both.
3. Antelope Canyon
The Antelope Canyon isn’t as easily and freely accessible as many of the items on this list, but it offers some truly amazing geographical characteristics for those of you with a photographer in the family. The beams of sunlight in the Upper Antelope Canyon — and the natural “paintings” they create — are worth the price of admission.
And yes, there is a price as Antelope Canyon belongs to the Navajo Tribe, who require guided tours from a certified tour guide. Depending on what time of day it is, the cost can be anywhere from $28 to $128 per person, so keep that in mind. You also have to purchase your tickets in neighboring Page, Arizona.
Before you leave for the journey, we suggest stopping by Big John’s Texas BBQ or one of these other amazing restaurants.
4. Todra Gorge
Morocco prides itself on tourism, with 13 million per year coming from all over the world to see its sights and experience its rich culture. While there, the one place you and your family have to go if you go nowhere else is the beautiful Todra Gorge in the eastern part of the High Atlas Mountains.
Hiking and bike riding here is a breeze, and the sightseeing, especially in the last 2,000 feet of the gorge, is unbelievable, with a flat stony track, corridors as narrow as 33 feet, and sheer and smooth rock walls up to 525 feet high on both sides.
Once you’ve spent a day in the gorge and the kids are adequately worn out, head back to Tinerhir for a meal at Le Petite Gorge for exquisite Mediterranean cuisine.
5. Kings Canyon
Kings Canyon in Australia’s Watarrka National Park, not to be confused with the Kings Canyon National Park in the U.S., is located about 200 miles from Alice Springs. The canyon’s three walls are at least 323 feet high, so you can get incredible views of the gorge below and all the nearby scenery from whatever vantage point you have.
Doing the entire Rim Walk is well worth your time, but it will take about three hours to complete, which is pretty much a full day when you factor in drive time to-and-from.
If you’re staying in Alice Springs, make sure you pencil in some extra time to explore, and grab a bite to eat at the Page 27 Cafe, the area’s No. 1 restaurant as selected by Trip Advisor.
6. Gorges du Verdon
The entrance to the Gorges du Verdon (or Verdon Gorge) in southeastern France is a stunning sight, guarded by the turquoise waters of the Lac de Sainte-Croix. Seriously, you may not even make it to the Gorge itself when you see how beautiful this water is.
We do recommend you put in the extra effort, though, as the limestone walls of the canyon can reach heights of several hundred meters (more than 1,000 feet).
Thankfully, this location is near the French Riviera, and so it is custom-made for tourists. That means there is plenty to do for families if you’re tired from a day on the lake. Plus, the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence has perhaps the most diverse restaurant selection in all of France.
7. Acadia National Park
Campers, climbers, hikers — the Acadia National Park in Maine offers plenty of wilderness for you to explore, while the rugged shoreline kisses the dark blue waters of the Atlantic. Lots of plants, animals, and nature to enjoy, make this an ideal family destination, and for those who don’t mind sleeping outdoors, the Cadillac Mountains at sunrise are instant bucket list material.
For a trek back to civilization, you’ll only need about 30 minutes in your car to reach neighboring Bar Harbor, where you can enjoy boating and bus tours, golf, a healthy night life and arts scene, and a variety of other activities. While there, make time for the Side Street Cafe and any number of these certified excellent chow halls.
8. Lake Louise
The hamlet of Lake Louise in Alberta, Canada, is divided into two small communities — an upper and a lower — with the pair sharing their namesake lake for fun and recreation. If staying there, we recommend the breathtaking Chateau Lake Louise hotel located directly on the waterfront at the upper elevation.
This being a hamlet of barely 1,000 people, things to do are limited with most of it incorporating nature in some way. Still, you will get access to some of the finest cuisine in Alberta at one of the many restaurants. As for best times to go, we recommend the winter, though you’d better make sure to pack some long-handled underwear.
9. Yosemite National Park
Yosemite National Park is a vast national park in the central-eastern part of California, home to the Sierra Nevada Mountains and around 4,900 of the state’s 7,000 plant species (3,500 in the Sierras and 1,400 within Yosemite itself).
These and other attributes make the park, a World Heritage Site, one of the best outdoor experiences that the U.S. has to offer with streams, sequoia groves, waterfalls, granite cliffs, and biodiversity galore.
The nearby Mariposa, California, is your closest destination as far as civilization goes. There you will find museums, adventure packages, local pubs and breweries, wineries, and fine dining, to name a few.
10. Vigilius Mountain Resort
Want a family retreat with higher aspirations? Book a stay at the Vigilius Mountain Resort approximately 5,000 feet above civilization and enjoy the gorgeous greenery and crisp mountain air of picturesque South Tyrol, Italy.
Nearby Lana also features a number of things to do to spice up your stay if you get tired of being in the mountains. Drop by the Lana Golf Course for a few whacks at a Titleist or make time for a swim at Lido Lana. Restaurant-wise, you’ll never have a shortage of fine Italian cuisine. Our personal favorite is the Pizzeria Liesy (for obvious reasons).
11. Whistler Mountain Resort Community
The Whistler mountain resort community in British Columbia, Canada, is one of the best ski towns for families looking to hit the slopes. If certain sights look familiar, you may remember some of the heavy outdoor action of the 2010 Winter Olympics taking place here, particularly the alpine, luge, skeleton, and bobsled events.
The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Parts I and II were also filmed in the area, which will probably appeal to those of you with children, who are fans of the books and movies.
A gondola ride, bike trails, food tours, and various winter sports activities are among the major attractions, though the list of things to do is actually far more robust than that. While there, you will also want to try out many of the town’s 131 restaurants. Take your pick, but the Red Door Bistro and Peaked Pies are non-negotiable.
Small Town USA
1. Mt. Airy, North Carolina
What better way to spend family time than to take the kids on a living tour of the birthplace of The Andy Griffith Show, one of the most popular sitcoms of all time? Andy Griffith was from this small community and based much of Mayberry on his childhood there.
While there, you will also want to check out Pilot Mountain, or as it is known in the series, “Mount Pilot.” And when it comes to food, you’ve got the 13 Bones, Little Richard’s BBQ, and, show favorites, the Snappy Lunch and Walker’s Soda Fountain.
2. Mystic, Connecticut
If you’re in the mood for a small town vacation, then it is probably safe to assume you want something quaint, peaceful, and serene — someplace like Mystic, Connecticut, population of just 4,200, which was immortalized in film with 1988’s Mystic Pizza.
And just in case you’re wondering, yes, there is a pizza joint there that goes by that name. It inspired the name of the film, which was shot in and around the community.
While there, you will definitely want to check out the Mystic Seaport, where key scenes from the movie as well as Steven Spielberg’s Amistad were filmed. There are also dozens of other delicious restaurants other than the town’s claim to fame, among them the S&P Oyster Co. and Captain Daniel Packer Inne Restaurant and Pub.
3. Dyersville, Iowa
Dyersville is the home of the Field of Dreams from the 1989 baseball drama starring Kevin Costner and James Earl Jones. After the film wrapped and became a massive box office hit, the town decided to keep the field around for future generations, and we are glad they did.
As far as area attractions are concerned, you can also take the kids to the national Farm toy museum or out for shopping at the Ertl Company outlet store. Top it off with a trip to by the Country Junction Restaurant or one of 18 other fine eating establishments in the area.
4. Virginia City, Nevada
There aren’t too many Wild West towns still around that haven’t been modernized to death. Among the dwindling number is Virginia City, Nevada, a location that looks like it came out of a Great American Western movie.
While the modern conveniences are there if you look for them, the town has worked hard to preserve its Western heritage, and taking the family here would be a nice bit of escapist fun.
While here, make sure that you check out the myriad museums and tours. We especially dig the rail and mining tours. It’s a part of the past not readily available in other parts of the world. Also, grab a slice of pizza from the Red Dog Saloon. You won’t be sorry.
5. Cooperstown, New York
Cooperstown is where you will find the National Baseball Hall of Fame, but that isn’t the only thing that it has going for it. It is a great place for families because there is something for everyone.
Baseball games and memorabilia, boating tours and other outdoor fun, water sports, the opera, and the world famous Cooperstown Distillery — you definitely won’t walk away from this small town feeling cheated.
If the hunger bug starts to bite, there are 56 restaurants within Cooperstown that allow you to bite back. Stagecoach Coffee, New York Pizzeria, and Mel’s at 22 are favorites from the ones we’ve actually gotten to try.
6. Heber City, Utah
Appreciate the mountains but not too keen on scaling one? Heber City, Utah, may have your solution. While here, you can take the family on a scenic train ride of the legendary Rocky Mountains while riding in an authentic 1907 choochoo. The little ones will love it!
Beyond that, you can take in a plane tour of the region care of the Utah Warbird Adventures service and watch a matinee in the historic Avon Theatre — truly a different experience than what you will get from a multiplex! Follow that up with the one-two combo of Snake Creek Grill followed by dessert at the Dairy Queen, and you have the trappings of the best day ever.
7. Jackson, Wyoming
Jackson, Wyoming, is where you go if you want to drop in on the wonders of Yellowstone National Park. However, we’ve included it here instead of with the other parks on this list because there is so much more to do on top of that. On top of the Yellowstone experience, you can spend a week here slushing down the slopes of the numerous ski environs.
There are also wildlife preserves, river rafting and tubing, art galleries, horseback riding, rock climbing, wineries, ice parks, and balloon rides to name a few. The best times to go to experience all the Jackson and greater Jackson Hole areas have to offer are April, May, September, and October.
8. Glenwood Springs, Colorado
Another classic Wild West town, Glenwood Springs has undergone a bit of a makeover during the last 150 years. Today it is a family-friendly small town that stands out in part for its claim to fame as having the world’s largest hot springs that are completely swimmable, and a favorite of tourists from all walks of life.
Of course, that isn’t the only thing that Glenwood Springs has going for it. While here, you can enjoy any number of things to do, including lake trails, skiing, adventure parks, and dinner theaters. Of course, no trip here is complete without stopping by the grave of legendary gunslinger Doc Holliday. Eats-wise, the Slope & Hatch is an essential, but there are also 72 other restaurants to choose from.
9. Hood River, Oregon
Hood River, Oregon, is a welcoming tourist community ideal for families because of its youthful energy. Three in five people living here are under the age of 44, so the town has to keep pace with energetic activities and experiences to keep their population happy.
As an outsider with a family of your own, you get to reap the benefits from that as Hood River is ideal for water sports like kiteboarding and windsurfing and winter/mountain-based sports like skiing and biking. The downtown area features a healthy night life with bars, pubs, art galleries, wineries, breweries and more.
Trip Advisor has a list of the 63 things you can do while you’re there. Not all will be family-friendly, but most are; and the restaurant selection is amazing with close to 100 unique eating establishments that you can dig in to in spite of the town having a population of just over 7,000.
10. Nantucket, Massachusetts
While Nantucket, Massachusetts, may look like a quaint little community in the northeastern United States, there is nothing quaint at all about its history, activities, and culture. This is where Herman Melville’s inspiration came from to write his literary classic Moby Dick, based on the sinking of the Essex at the “hands” of a sperm whale in 1820.
To honor that event, the town also has a Whaling Museum featuring a sperm whale skeleton and in 2015 it unveiled a two-year exhibit dealing directly with the shipwreck, which also inspired the Ron Howard film and Nathaniel Philbrick book In the Heart of the Sea.
Other things to do in Nantucket include lighthouse tours, biking tours, beach swimming, wildlife refuge visits, gift and specialty shops, and seafood dining at one of the many restaurants that the area boasts. If visiting Nantucket, avoid the winter months as those can be quite difficult.
1. Apple Headquarters
Unfortunately, the tech giant doesn’t offer tours of its vast headquarters in Cupertino, California, but that won’t stop you from enjoying a visit there and perhaps a meal at Cafe Macs. Plus, it’s cool to see where the proverbial sausage is made for one of the most life-changing devices of the last 100 years or so. You can also hit the Apple Campus Store for souvenirs.
Aside from that experience, the town of Cupertino is a pretty fascinating one, and you can read at length about its history in this fascinating piece over at Fusion. As for the standard things to do, there are a lot of those as well like winery tours, park visits, dinner theaters, and more. For the best pizza in town, you’ll want to check out BJ’s Restaurant and Brewhouse, No. 3 on Trip Advisor’s overall list of the 156 best restaurants the city has to offer.
2. Washington, D.C.
There is no one clear hotspot in the District of Columbia. Sure, you’ve got to go to the White House while here, but you’ll also need to make time for the Smithsonian Museum, Ford’s Theatre, the Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial, and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. That’s a lot of the nation’s history for one location, and your family should definitely see it.
If you’re concerned about the cost of D.C. — and it can get expensive — make sure you incorporate some of the suggestions from this list of 100 free (and almost free) things you can do while vacationing here. Also make sure to consult Trip Advisor for an overview of the district’s nearly 2,500 eating establishments.
3. Alcatraz Island
The Alcatraz Island prison is one of the most notorious landmarks in American history. A harbinger of controversy since it was first built in 1847, the location is now free from crime and punishment and open to tourists looking to see the inescapable “rock” where Al Capone served out his time. Located in the San Francisco Bay, Alcatraz is a snapshot of America’s darker past.
It’s also just 1.25 miles away from San Fran Proper, so if the surroundings get to be too depressing, you can always float back to the mainland and take in the hundreds of sights and sounds that have made this western city one of the most famous locations in all of California. And before you leave, make sure to check out the Bimini Twist, Ichido, Seven Hills, or one of the other 4,236 eateries to choose from.
4. Mark Twain’s Boyhood Home
Mark Twain, born Samuel Clemens in the town of Hannibal, Missouri, was one of the world’s greatest authors and humorists. His Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer novels were instant literary classics and have remained so for more than a century. Something else that has remained is the birth home, which you can still see for yourself in picturesque Hannibal, Missouri.
The entire town is a shrine to the characters and events from the book, and any family with a book lover or two will love it. While there, make sure you stop and have a bite to eat from one of the town’s 48 restaurants. A personal favorite of ours is Fiddlestiks Food and Spirits Company.
5. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
We’ve placed Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in the educational section of this piece because as far as city exploration goes, there are better choices. The crime rate has been notoriously high compared to other parts of the country, but if you stay in the right locales, you can avoid it.
What we would suggest going to this city for is the educational experience. It has the home of Benjamin Franklin, Independence Hall (where the signing of the Declaration of Independence occurred), and the Liberty Bell, among other attractions. It is also a pop culture haven. This is the birthplace of Larry Fine of the Three Stooges and the place where Rocky Balboa ran the steps at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
While here, we do suggest that you take in a sporting event and make room for one of these 363 things to do in the city. Also, don’t pass up the opportunity to dine at Ristorante Pesto, one of the best Italian eateries you’ll ever slurp spaghetti at!
6. The Alamo
The Alamo is where Texas as we know it today was born. There is a lot of pride taken in the legendary story of outnumbered Texans fending off the Mexican army in the name of independence. Some of it is myth; some is reality.
While a trip to determine which is which won’t necessarily yield you any results, it will allow you to walk the same halls and see what Davey Crockett and the rest experienced through the scope of history.
San Antonio, the home place of the Alamo, has plenty more to offer, too, so if you get tired of the educational experience, you can take refuge in the active night life or eat at one of the 4,000-or-so restaurants that are open for business.
7. The John F. Kennedy Space Center
The John F. Kennedy Space Center is a largely restricted area, but there is enough open to make it worth a family vacation. Located at Merritt Island, Florida, this recognized “Center of Excellence” for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) will get you up to speed on the historic Apollo program, with a number of historic locations abounding and open for a visit.
Kids will love the connection to the U.S. space program, and you can also check out the numerous activities, such as extreme adventure tours, museums, air tours, and wildlife preserves. If you get hungry in between activities, there are more than 100 restaurants to check out. El Tucan Restaurant scratches that itch for Mexican food.
8. Little Big Horn Historic Site
The Little Big Horn Battlefield National Monument is a site that everyone should see in their lifetime. A reminder of the hostility that existed between U.S. forces and the native tribes, the current location looks much like it did on that fateful two-day span when Northern Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes massacred the 7th Cavalry Regiment of the United States Army.
The battle was part of the Great Sioux War of 1876 and involved General George Armstrong Custer, who was one of the casualties that day.
This is a trip for families that enjoy learning about history as there aren’t just an abundance of things to do in Crow Agency, Montana, the site of the battlefield. However, if the hunger bug bites you, we recommend either of the location’s delicious restaurants — Custer Battlefield Trading Post and Shake & Burger Hut. You can’t go wrong either way!
9. Gettysburg, Pennsylvania
They were three of the darkest days in American history, made all the worse by the fact they took place right before the day commemorating our own Declaration of Independence in 1776. Eighty-seven years removed from that historic event, around 50,000 Americans — Confederate and Union combined — were killed on the battlefield of Gettysburg during the Civil War.
If you’re looking for an educational experience for your family vacation, this is it. Sadly, it’s still as relevant to us today as it was then.
If you can get past that fact, though, there are plenty of things to do with horseback riding, winery tours, and dozens of other non-battle-related options. Food 101, Hunt’s Battlefield Fries & Cafe, and a host of other restaurants will also make you (temporarily) forget about one of the most painful times in our history.
10. Pearl Harbor
The fallout from Pearl Harbor continues to divide America. While most were behind the country’s entry into World War II after U.S. naval bases were attacked by the Japanese at the Hawaii location, today America’s reactionary ways are under wider scrutiny amid terrorist attacks (and the fear of terrorist attacks) on U.S. soil.
Such a relevant part of history and of the current national discussion deserves a family visit if education is what you’re after. It is said that you can still see the sunken vessels from the surface — a truly moving experience!
Naturally, you will want to step away from such an emotional and sobering experience. Luckily, the island of Oahu has much to offer. Scuba, snorkeling, windsurfing, kitesurfing — you may not want to leave the water. But if you do, we suggest checking out one of the more than 2,700 restaurants. Uahi Island Grill and Helena’s Hawaiian Food are two of our favorites.
11. Dodge City, Kansas
Dodge City, Kansas, is the quintessential Old West town with ties to Wyatt Earp, Bat Masterson, and Doc Holliday. It is also where the legendary actor Dennis Hopper was born. Today the town’s leaders have gone to great lengths to preserve its rowdy heritage, so you and your family can get a sense of what life was like in the rugged days of old.
Numerous trails, museums, tours, and parks, are there to keep things interesting. Hunger doesn’t stand a chance either as the town is home to 62 popular local restaurants, including the awesome Central Station Bar & Grill and Prime on the Nine.
Fun with Cities
1. Orlando, Florida
The Orlando Metropolitan Area is home to more than 2.3 million people, and it has more than enough fun and recreation to keep them all happy, as well as the millions of tourists flocking in each year to experience Walt Disney World or Universal’s Islands of Adventure Theme Parks. Additionally, there is Sea World Orlando, the Holy Land Experience, Old Town, and a variety of other attractions built specifically for families.
Plus, if Mom and Dad need to get away at night and have Grandma or Grandpa on hand to watch the kids, there is a booming night life with bars, clubs, live music venues, theaters, and stadiums for the frequent sporting event. Last but not least, for a meal out, there are over 2,900 restaurants to choose from.
2. New York City, New York
A trip to New York City should be on every family’s vacation bucket list, if for no other reason than the sheer quantity of things to do. Times Square is filled with great shopping and restaurants. There is the Seinfeld tour, the Statue of Liberty, and 9/11 Memorial. If none of those float your boat, Trip Advisor has a list of about 944 other activities to make your stay a memorable one.
Of course, the restaurants are unbelievable with more than 10,000 to choose from. Our personal favorite is Bouley on Duane Street for the best in French and gluten free cuisine. As far as the best time to go, the city that never sleeps lives up to its name and will deliver a top-notch experience no matter what time of the year you go, so just pick a date and rest easy. You’re going to have a great time.
3. Los Angeles, California
Yes, the traffic is pretty much year-round horrible, but Los Angeles has far too many attractions not to plan for when it comes to one of your next family vacations. In addition to iconic sites like the Hollywood sign, L.A. has movie studio tours for Warner and Universal where you can check out classic Hollywood filming locations for pretty much any movie or television show that comes to mind.
There are also family-friendly activities like the California Science Museum and the L.A. County Museum of Art. While there, you will also want to kick back on one of the area’s many beaches, take in a Dodgers game, and hang out at the Petersen Automotive Museum.
Thousands of activities, close to 8,000 high-quality restaurants, and so much more make L.A. a year-round option for family vacations.
4. St. Louis, Missouri
St. Louis, home of the Cardinals and until recently the Rams, is a sports town with a stellar downtown experience, all within walking distance of the famous Gateway Arch that, at 630 feet tall, may be a little scary if you have people in the family afraid of heights. Remind them, however, that it’s been open for more than half a century, and there’s nothing to be afraid of because this is a must-see!
5. Chicago, Illinois
The Windy City is a place of historical significance, passion, and recreation with family favorites like the Chicago Cubs’ Wrigley Field, the Lincoln Park Zoo, and the Chicago Riverwalk among the hundreds of standouts. While there, you will definitely want to check out the Museum of Contemporary Art and the legendary Tribune Building, and if it’s football season, no trip is complete without dropping by Soldier Field to watch Da Bears play.
Also, a Chicago deep dish slice is required if you want to do your Windy City visit right. And as far as Italian foods go, La Scarola is likely the best you will ever come into contact with. The city isn’t all about Italian cuisine, though. It has more than 7,300 restaurants to choose from, so there is bound to be something in there for everyone.
6. Dallas, Texas
Dallas is one of the most progressive cities in the United States, with a healthy economy and plenty of attractions to keep you and the family busy. From pro sporting events to arthouse theaters, myriad shopping opportunities to the finest cuisine, this is where you want to be if you live in the Lone Star State.
The city has preserved the JFK assassination site to the exact look that it had that fateful day in 1963, so coming here could be as educational as it is fun. We’ve decided to include it here since by nature Dallas is a city always looking forward.
Wondering where your trip planning should begin? Start with this list of the top 200 things to do while visiting, and don’t forget to leave a little room on your itinerary (and in your stomach) for one of the more than 2,800 eating establishments.
7. Nashville, Tennessee
It’s the home, heart, and history of country music; but whether you’re a country fan or not, Nashville has a plethora of attractions for families to enjoy. The downtown area is one of the most booming in the nation, and the cultural diversity will shatter every expectation you have if you’re visiting this Tennessee city from the north.
The arts are very important to the citizens of Nashville, shown in small part through the hit namesake television series and the growing throng of celebrities from outside the country music world calling it home.
Before you come check out the schedules for the Ryman Auditorium, and while you’re here, make sure you take in the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. There are concerts, sporting events, shopping venues, and more than 1,600 high-quality restaurants. Joey’s House of Pizza and Two Ten Jack are among our favorites.
8. Boston, Massachusetts
If we ever do a baseball stadium bucket list, Fenway Park would probably be at the top. Home of the Red Sox and the Green Giant, it has been standing since 1912, making it one of the oldest living in all the MLB.
Beyond baseball, though, Boston is a pretty groovy city with much of the United States’ history playing out in surviving memorials and landmarks. Try the Paul Revere House, the Freedom Trail, and the Bunker Hill Monument for starters.
If history isn’t your thing, the city attracts the most popular acts in entertainment and has plenty of shopping and dining options to keep your schedule interesting.
Being absolute food junkies, we would be remiss if we didn’t advise you to hit Sam LaGrassa’s while you’re in town. Also, Mistral for French cuisine; Mamma Maria for Italian; and The Capital Grille for the best steaks in town.
9. Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Oklahoma City, to us, is “The Other Windy City,” for obvious reasons. If you wear a head cover — ball cap, toupee, or otherwise — the gusts here will take it straight off your head pretty much year-round. Get past that, though, and there are some pretty awesome and awe-inspiring sites.
Of course, the Bricktown entertainment district is a must-visit as is the OKC Bombing Memorial. There is also pro basketball and other sporting events as well as live music at one of the many entertainment venues throughout the city.
For restaurants, we love the fondue specialty The Melting Pot as well as Hideaway Pizza, Cheever’s Cafe, and Cattlemen’s Steakhouse, but if none of that does it for you, fret not. There are over 1,300 high-quality options.
10. Indianapolis, Indiana
Indianapolis is quite a large city when you start talking about the inland United States. With close to 2 million people in the greater metropolitan area, it is a city that places value on fun, family-oriented things to do. Adventure packages, professional and collegiate sports, live music, and incredible food, are all specialties.
The Indianapolis Zoo, Children’s Museum, escape rooms, and active night life, just scratch the surface for all of the attractions. When tabling up for a meal, we recommend getting started with Union 50 or Taste of Havana before venturing out into the 1,800+ other selections awaiting you.
11. Minneapolis, Minnesota
Minneapolis, along with St. Paul, is one of the “twin cities” that native Minnesotans take pride in, and with all the choices, it’s easy to see why. A hub for the arts, sports, live music, and night life, for starters, it’s a place where families can come to cut loose.
Whether you want to go shopping or spend a day in the outdoors at one of the many lakes and parks, there are numerous activities to enjoy.
While here you have to check out Manny’s Steakhouse for the beef or Butcher & The Boar for the best barbecue that the state has to offer. These and 1,379 other restaurants vie your attention, so make sure that you do some advanced planning to cut down on the indecision. One last thing: this being Minnesota, it can get quite cold if you go during the winter months, so if you’re not used to that, then target June to August as your vacation dates.
12. Green Bay, Wisconsin
Normally, we wouldn’t send you into a snow-heavy area in December, but if you can, get some tickets to a Green Bay Packers game for the surly colder games. There isn’t another experience like it in the NFL. And while here, take some brewery tours, visit the Green Bay Packer Hall of Fame, hang out for a day at the Bay Beach Wildlife Sanctuary, and join a fishing charter from All American Fishing Charters.
For foodies, Green Bay has close to 400 high-quality restaurants. Plae Bistro is awesome for American and contemporary cuisine. Titletown Brewing Company has the best pizza in town. And a large breakfast at The Pancake Place is how every vacation day should start.
13. New Orleans, Louisiana
The undying spirit of New Orleans has seen the city through some tumultuous times (like Hurricane Katrina for starters). While it took a wallop that is still felt throughout the region today, the wondrous sense of fun and adventure is alive and well.
A walk up and down the French Quarter could fill an entire vacation, though it may not be as family-friendly as some of the other attractions — like the Audubon Zoo, the National World War II Museum, the New Orleans Museum of Art, and the fishing and swimming on gorgeous Lake Pontchartrain.
During your stay, you’ll need to pencil in some time for authentic Cajun cooking, which can be found in numerous restaurants throughout the city. Our personal favorite is the Upperline Restaurant on Upperline Street.
The next time you’re out of ideas for some great family vacation spots, we hope that you will drop by this page and start planning!
Which of these have you tried out? Which ones are you hoping to try out? And what should we have included on the list? Sound off in the comments section below!