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14 Best Places for a Family Vacation in the USA

From big-city attractions to exciting theme parks and beautiful natural landscapes, choosing from America’s abundance of vibrant family-friendly cities can be a daunting task. Those precious vacation memories are important, and choosing the right location is the first step to ensuring your next adventure is a good one.

Whether your family prefers to rub shoulders with Mickey Mouse, explore historical landmarks, or be surrounded by nature, America has a variety of vacation destinations that perfect for a range of budgets and travel styles. Packing a colorful mix of captivating attractions that appeal to both kids and adults alike, discover the best places in America for a family vacation.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee The sun rises over the mountains of Great Smoky Mountains National Park at the peak of autumn's colors
Credit: The sun rises over the mountains of Great Smoky Mountains National Park at the peak of autumn's colors by bigstock.com

Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee

One of the most visited national parks in the country, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park offers an 800-square-mile space of wilderness area that is the most biologically diverse in the United States. Over 100,000 different species of plants and animals live here, which makes it a perfect place for a family adventure. Both historic and budget-friendly, the park is easily accessible and offers ranger programs for the kids throughout the year. Ideal for families who appreciate nature, book a cozy cabin and explore its beautiful landscapes for a trip the kids won’t soon forget.

Oahu, Hawaii Oahu, Hawaii
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Oahu, Hawaii

Stunning landscapes and breathtaking natural vistas, the Hawaiian Islands need no introduction as a place to soak in some of the country’s best scenery. However, Oahu also throws family-friendly attractions in the mix, where families can not only enjoy outdoor adventures but participate in fun educational programs. Explore the diverse wildlife at The Waikiki Aquarium, Sea Life Park and Honolulu Zoo, or visit Pearl Harbor for its historical significance. The island also offers plenty of water-based activities for kids of all ages, including surf lessons, snorkeling and swimming at Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve.

Orlando, Florida Walt Disney World
Credit: Walt Disney World by Photographing Travis via Flickr

Orlando, Florida

One of the biggest family-friendly destinations in the world, Orlando is where families go to explore a long list of theme park attractions. From Disney World to Universal Studios, SeaWorld, LEGOLAND, and much more, Orlando offers an endless array of entertainment options for the entire family. Fly high above the city in the newly built Coca-Cola Orlando Eye, visit the world-renown Kennedy Space Center or meet some of Florida’s fiercest wildlife at Gatorland. The city is also just a short drive from the beaches on the coast and many of the natural Florida springs, perfect for cooling off on a hot summer day.

Grand Canyon, Arizona grand canyon
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Grand Canyon, Arizona

The Grand Canyon is an American icon, where adventurous families go to soak in the six million-year-old breathtaking panoramic landscapes that are treasured by many. A designated UNESCO World Heritage Site, it is the perfect place to pack your bags and take a road trip to explore its dramatic canyon vistas, particularly come sunset when this magnificent wonder shines brightly with vibrant colors. The kids will especially enjoy the Junior Ranger’s program and walk along the hair-raising Skywalk that is nestled 4,000 feet above the canyon.

Washington, D.C. Washington, D.C.
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Washington, D.C.

A haven for history enthusiasts, Washington D.C. is famed for its marble monuments and its family-friendly attractions. Not just for history lovers who want to grab a photo of The White House, both kids and kids at heart will delight at the towering dinosaurs found in the Smithsonian Institution National Museum of National History. If that’s not enough, kids can also explore captivating rockets in the National Air and Space Museum or catch a glimpse of adorable pandas at the National Zoo.

Myrtle Beach, South Carolina Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
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Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

Perfect for families craving some quality beach time, Myrtle Beach offers more than 60 miles of pristine coastline. There’s a lot of kid-friendly things to do here, whether you prefer to soak in the sunshine, build a sandcastle or indulge in the area’s fun-filled water sports. After a day out on the beach, walk along the lively boardwalk and promenade to discover a carnival-like atmosphere that captivates audiences of all ages. Live entertainment, amusement parks, mini-golf and other family-friendly attractions are abundant here, such as the Broadway Grand Prix and Ripley’s Aquarium.

Williamsburg, Virginia Williamsburg, Virginia
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Williamsburg, Virginia

One of the most historic towns in America, Williamsburg puts the fun in educational attractions. Walk the streets of the Colonial Williamsburg Museum, and you might bump into impressive historical figures such as George Washington and John Smith, where kids will be fascinated by the authentic 18th-century scenes and memorabilia. Watch live interpreters perform memorable events and walk in the footsteps of our Founding Fathers. After soaking in our nation’s history, families can indulge in the city’s amusement park action at Busch Gardens Williamsburg and Water Country USA.

San Diego, California San Diego from Coronado
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San Diego, California

With its ideal weather and endless sunshine, it comes as no surprise why San Diego is beloved amongst vacationing families. Putting aside its breathtaking coastline and beaches that offer fun throughout the year, San Diego also offers exciting kid-friendly attractions. Take the little ones to explore the hands-on exhibits at the Ruben H. Fleet Science Center or head to the San Diego Zoo to spot a cuddly koala bear up close. Watch animatronic dinosaurs delight a crowd at the San Deigo Natural History Museum, or discover unique attractions like Belmont Park, a beachfront amusement park with thrilling roller coasters.

St. Augustine, Florida St. Augustine, Florida
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St. Augustine, Florida

The oldest city in America, St. Augustine packs a lot of punch for its small size. Visitors will feel like they stepped back into time when they visit here, as they are surrounded by charming cobblestone streets that are lined with quaint cafes and historical landmarks. Watch exciting cannon firings at the daily reenactments held at the picturesque Colonial Quarter, visit the Oldest Wooden Schoolhouse or take a narrated tour of the city on the famous Old Town Trolley. Those looking for something truly unique might enjoy the Pirate & Treasure Museum with its collection of pirate artifacts, while families can have some peaceful fun in the sun at nearby Crescent Beach.

Seattle, Washington Seattle skyline with Space Needle.
Credit: Seattle skyline with Space Needle. by © Sorin Colac - Dreamstime.com

Seattle, Washington

Eclectic and artsy, Seattle is a great destination for family-friendly entertainment. While the kids will put the experience of soaring up to the 605-foot high Space Needle at the top of their list or delight in the idea of catching a fish thrown at the Pike Place Market, the Emerald City has so much more to offer. The Seattle Aquarium offers a peek into colorful underwater marine life, the Museum of Pop Culture teaches kids about music through interactive technologies and a trip to the Seattle Children’s Museum allows for a chance to explore and play through interesting hands-on exhibits.

Jackson Hole, Wyoming Jackson Hole, Wyoming
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Jackson Hole, Wyoming

Perfect for families who crave adventure, Jackson Hole is a stunning area that offers postcard-worthy landscapes throughout the year. From outdoor activities to cultural events, families will be able to spend quality time together in this beautiful setting. In the winter, experience a once-in-a-lifetime dog sledding tour, visit The National Elk Refuge or take a ride snow tubing. When the weather gets warmer, go on a tranquil fishing excursion, visit Snow King Mountain theme park or hike one of the area’s many scenic trails.

New York City, New York Central Park, New York City
Credit: Central Park, New York City by Bigstockphoto.com

New York City, New York

In a city that it’s simply impossible to be bored in, New York City offers a wide array of attractions, from museums to entertainment, historical sites, and iconic landmarks. A destination that appeals to everyone in the family, explore the area’s biggest attractions including Rockefeller Center, the Bronx Zoo and the American Museum of Natural History, or soar to the 86th floor of the Empire State Building. When you need a break, take respite in the lush Central Park or dine in one of the city’s family-friendly eating establishments.

Charleston, South Carolina Charleston, South Carolina
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Charleston, South Carolina

Brimming with Southern charm, Charleston boasts the perfect blend of historic attractions and beach landscapes. Filled with super friendly locals, picturesque streets and rich history, families come to explore this beloved city to see the South Carolina Aquarium, Charleston Harbor and Children’s Museum of the Lowcountry. After a day of adventure, relax at one of the many beaches, as Charleston is fronted by several barrier islands.

Chicago, Illinois The Bean in Millenium Park
Credit: The Bean in Millenium Park by © Lisa Mckown | Dreamstime.com

Chicago, Illinois

A captivating city for visitors of all ages, Chicago has something for everyone. From its world-class museums to its abundance of rich history and delicious deep-dish pizza, kids will be enthralled with its wealth of family-friendly fun. Head to Shedd Aquarium for a peek at 32,500 creatures hidden in waters, say hello to Sue, the largest and best-preserved T-Rex on the planet in the Field Museum or explore the Lincoln Park Zoo. Take the family photos next to the Bean at Millenium Park or take a ride up to the top of the famous Ferris Wheel at Navy Pier.

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