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Anticipation mounts every year as your family vacation quickly approaches. But before that, you have a lot of planning to do! Where to go, what to do, how to get there, and when to leave are all important considerations.
Besides, not every vacation destination is family friendly, so it’s probably more important that you choose a spot everyone will enjoy and you’ll feel welcome to stay. Perhaps the popular spring break destinations or the 55+ communities aren’t the best options.
Here are some fun family vacation ideas to get your creative juices flowing. Choose one of these or let one of these guide you to your own idea of what your family will love this vacation season.
1. Colorado Springs, Colorado
For you outdoorsy types, Colorado Springs is not only a beautiful hiking destination, but there’s plenty more to do. Better yet, it’s an affordable vacation for the whole family. Who doesn’t love that?
Hike through the Garden of the Gods and observe mammoth teetering rocks that have been there for millions of years. Wind through Native American cliff dwellings, or drive to the summit of Pikes Peak.
The Royal Gorge is in nearby Canon City and could be worked easily into the same trip. If you have a thing for heights, that is.
2. Cooperstown, New York
If you have a baseball-loving family, you can’t beat Cooperstown, New York for a family-friendly atmosphere and plenty of baseball history. My best advice is to avoid it during Baseball Hall of Fame induction weekend, unless you like big crowds or there’s someone being inducted you want to see.
Otherwise, enjoy the best rolls ever at Schneider’s Bakery, tour the Baseball Hall of Fame, visit Doubleday Field, watch them make bats at the Cooperstown Bat Company, and enjoy the beautiful upstate New York scenery and hospitality.
3. Orlando, Florida
Disneyworld. Need I say more? If you’re into more fast-paced excitement, Orlando, Florida almost has too many amusement parks to count. But aside from Disneyworld, Universal Studios, and Epcot, there’s SeaWorld, Legoland, and so much more.
If the crowds and lines are too long, visit Cocoa Beach for a relaxing day in the sun, be an astronaut for the day at Kennedy Space Center, or get up close and personal with African wildlife at Safari Wilderness Ranch.
4. Los Angeles, California
We can’t leave out Disneyland if we’re considering Disney attractions. Other nearby attractions include SeaWorld, the San Diego Zoo, the pier in Santa Monica, Beverly Hills, Hollywood, Rodeo Drive, and tons of beaches.
If you’re into music, there are plenty of recording studios to visit. If the celebrity life fascinates you, take a tour of celebrity houses.
5. St. Louis, Missouri
Don’t let it’s location fool you. This Midwest destination has a more east coast feel. The St. Louis Zoo is free. That’s right – free. Bear in mind that it does get pretty busy, because who doesn’t love free?
Take a ride to the top of the arch or enjoy Six Flags St. Louis. There are Six Flags parks all over the United States, but the Six Flags in St. Louis has a reputation for being one of the best.
6. Outer Banks, North Carolina
Outer Banks is affectionately referred to as OBX by locals and those who visit frequently. It is comprised of a series of little towns sprinkled along a narrow strip off of the coast of North Carolina.
It’s less than a mile wide in many spots, it is loaded with beautiful beaches, and it’s a quaint, less-touristy destination than, say, Myrtle Beach. Visit Kitty Hawk for the First in Flight museum where you can see how far each of the Wright brothers flights were.
And don’t forget to make your own donuts at the original Duck Donuts in Duck, North Carolina.
7. San Antonio, Texas
San Antonio, Texas is a fantastic place to visit if you’re interested in The Alamo, but there’s also excellent shopping and the gorgeous river walk. Hope on a boat and cruise down the river, shop til you drop, or go to the botanical gardens.
8. Bloomington, Minnesota
If you love shopping, the biggest attraction in this suburb of Minneapolis is Mall of America. This 4.8 million square-foot mall is one of the biggest shopping centers in the world. It houses an amusement park, an aquarium, numerous food courts and restaurants, and more than 500 stores.
9. Branson, Missouri
They call them the flyover states, but the Midwest is a great destination for families. You won’t find hospitality like this anywhere else in our great country. Of course, that’s coming from a proud Midwesterner who would never think of living anywhere else.
Branson is home to Silver Dollar City, a Titanic museum, a hoppin’ nightlife, the rolling Ozark hills, Table Rock Lake, Dolly Parton’s Dixie Stampede, and all kinds of really cool caves.
10. Sandusky, Ohio
If you love amusement parks, here’s another one for you. Cedar Point is home to one of the tallest, fastest roller coasters in the world. However, it’s still a worthwhile destination even if you don’t visit the park.
It’s located on the beautiful Erie Peninsula, so take a ferry ride, parasail over the lake, visit the Marblehead lighthouse, or drive an hour east to Cleveland and visit the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Trust me, it’s worth it.
11. Chicago, Illinois
Chicago is surprisingly easy to get around using the “L” train, and you don’t even need to rent a car. Believe me, you don’t want to rent a car in Chicago anyway. Shop on the famous Michigan Avenue, tour the art museum, ride the elevator to the top of Willis (formerly Sears) Tower, and go to the aquarium.
Take my word for it while eating there – you will not want to miss Volare. It’s just a block off of Michigan Avenue, you can walk there after a long day of spending your money, and this hole in the wall has some of the best Italian food ever.
Honestly, I just couldn’t pick one place in Arizona. There’s so much cool stuff to do that you might have to make this one more than one trip. Phoenix is a hub of exciting activities like Wrigley Mansion, where the gum creator himself lived and Taliesin, the Phoenix home of architect Frank Lloyd Wright that’s since been given to an architecture school.
Outside of Phoenix, there’s the famous old west town of Tombstone, the Grand Canyon, four corners, and plenty of state and national parks.
13. Pacific Northwest
The Pacific Northwest has plenty of beautiful places to visit. Downtown Portland is home to the original Voodoo Donut, Powell’s Books, St. Cupcake bakery, and really great public transit. You may also want to try hiking up Mount Hood.
Take a drive to the coast to visit Canyon Beach. If you’re a fan of The Goonies, you’ll recognize Haystack Rock, and the water is shallow enough that you can even walk around it.
Seaside is another fantastic beach destination whose ordinances don’t allow any chain businesses. If you love shopping local, this is the place to do it. It’s quaint and quiet.
Head on up to Seattle on I-5 for a great view of Mt. St. Helens on the way and visit Pike’s Place Market, the Space Needle, the original Starbucks (and lots of other great coffee), and the aquarium on the Puget Sound.
The year-round temperate weather makes everything in this region worth visiting, especially when the summer sun gets hot in the south.
14. South Dakota
Here’s another state loaded with cool stuff to do. The Black Hills are mesmerizing, Devil’s Tower is a natural marvel, Mt. Rushmore holds a great history lesson for kids, Sturgis is a biker’s dream, Wall Drug is a pharmacy of epic proportions, and the Mitchell Corn Palace is a house made entirely of corn.
A short jaunt from Mt. Rushmore is the Crazy Horse Memorial, another carving in the mountain side featuring the famous Native American who put the needs of his people over his own.
This memorial is a giant work in progress, and while it’s not done, you can learn its story and contribute to its completion.
15. Boston, Massachusetts
If you love American history, you won’t be able to get enough of Boston. The Freedom Trail will take you on a walk through our country’s early days with stops at the State House, Park Street Church, the site of the Boston Massacre, Paul Revere’s house, Faneuil Hall, Bunker Hill, and the USS Constitution.
Make sure you have enough cash to visit family-owned Mike’s Pastry and don’t forget to drive a few hours up the beautiful coast of Maine to Portland Lobster Company for the best Lobster Rolls you’ve ever had.
Here’s another state in our union with way too much to do!
Head south to Nahsville, the country music recording capital of the United States. Visit the Grand Ole Opry, the Ryman Auditorium, and the Country Music Hall of Fame. Stroll the streets of downtown or tour the beautiful Belmont University.
You can also relax in the park or tour the life-size replica of the Greek Parthenon. Don’t forget to snag a pair of cowboy boots to commemorate the trip.
Escape to Gatlinburg, a gorgeous, mountainous region where you can explore the Great Smoky Mountains National Park for free. Known as the gateway to the Great Smoky Mountains, this location features some beautiful, mysterious haze.
There’s plenty of camping, fishing, white water rafting, live entertainment, and family attractions like the famous Salt and Pepper Shaker Museum.
And who can leave out Memphis, home of Elvis and his famous Graceland. Catch some jazz on Beale Street and watch the ducks swim at the Peabody Hotel. If you’re into dirty, southern barbecue, this is the place to get it.
17. Washington, D.C.
Here’s another location for history buffs and tried and true Americans. Washington, D.C has the Reflecting Pool at the Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial, the Smithsonian, the White House, and the capitol building.
18. Wisconsin Dells
The Dells are really beautiful year-round, but if you decide to brave it in the winter, bundle up and bring your snow boots.
There are indoor and outdoor water parks, amusement parks, petting zoos, live entertainment, ziplines, museums, and awesome scenic tours. You may also want to see if you can snag some time away for some great wineries.
19. San Francisco, California
This is an entrepreneur’s haven, especially for those in the tech industry. Home to Silicon Valley, one of the largest hubs for tech startups in the world, San Francisco and its surrounding areas have a whole lot to do.
Walk the famous hilly streets, take a tour of the bay, visit Alcatraz, and go across the Golden Gate Bridge.
20. Yellowstone National Park
Mostly in Wyoming, Yellowstone National Park also has some acreage in both Idaho and Montana. The most famous attractions at Yellowstone include Old Faithful and the paint pots, but you may also enjoy some wildlife observation, hiking, and other outdoor activities.
Just a short drive to the south, you’ll find Grand Teton National Park. This is home to some of the most majestic mountains you’ll ever see. Jackson Hole has great shopping, and all of Wyoming has fantastic camping.
21. Kansas City
I saved the best for last. I’m only half kidding. Kansas City is famous for it’s barbecue. You’ll have dozens of joints to choose from, too. You could stay for weeks, eating at a different place everyday, and never run out of choices.
The City of Fountains is also home to a rich jazz heritage. Visit 18th & Vine for a world-famous jazz museum, and then hop on over to the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum.
The Nelson Atkins Museum of Art is always free, for those who want to experience a little culture while in town. The National WWI Museum and Memorial takes you through the first World War, where kids can make their own propaganda poster at the end.
It’s also home to Hallmark Cards, so take a walk through the visitor’s center for free and then head next door to Kaleidoscope for a fun (and free) creative experience for the kids.
Among other cool things to do are the Steamboat Arabia Museum and Rivermarket, Union Station, the Crossroads Art District, and the American Royal.
Bonus points if you can tell me which state this city is in.
Your Next Vacation
Steal one of these ideas or create your own epic family trip with some of these fun family vacation ideas! It’s bound to be your best adventure yet!