What are the best family vacation spots in the US? It seems like everyone wants something different, and you and your partner only have so many days of vacation, so the pressure’s on to find the best places to visit in the US, and fast.
Of course, there are the top tourist cities in the US like Orlando for Disney World or San Diego for the beaches, so we’re going to skip over those and give you a list of 10 places to travel in the US that you wouldn’t have thought of on your own. Of course, if you really want to learn more about Disney, you can read our review First Timer’s Guide to Walt Disney World Rides and Attractions. For everyone else, here are 10 of the best family vacation spots in the US that have something to offer for everyone.
This Florida panhandle paradise is one of the best cities to visit in the US because it offers all of the allure for family fun while maintaining a small-town atmosphere. It is consistently ranked as one of the best US summer vacation spots, and it is renowned as one of the top destinations in the US because of its pristine white beaches and emerald-colored water. In addition to relaxing on the beach, vacationers can pursue more active adventures in the surrounding area. Popular activities for families include:
- Snorkeling, scuba diving, and swimming
- Deep sea fishing
- Boat tours to see the dolphins or pirate cruises that give youngsters the chance to go treasure hunting, storytelling and wage water gun battles on a replica pirate ship
- Gulf to table seafood restaurants
The best time to visit is early summer or fall when it’s not quite so crowded and the average temperature during the day is usually in the 90s F (low 30s C).
Hilton Waikoloa Village and Dolphin Quest, Hawaii
One of the best places to travel to in the US, Hawaii is a water lover’s utopia. The Waikoloa Village is home to pools, lagoons with snorkeling, a spa, golf courses, tennis courts, lush tropical gardens on Hawaii island’s Kohala Coast, and easily earned its place on our list of best family vacation spots in the US. The resort is 62 acres in size, but never fear, they have canal boats and trams with air conditioning to get around the property. The most notable attraction is the resort’s Dolphin Quest program, which gives kids of all ages the chance to touch, feed, and even train one of the smartest mammals on the planet: the dolphin.
As one of the best places to visit in the US for nature lovers, they have dolphin experiences for all ages from two years and older. Ranging from 10 minutes to over five hours, the interactive dolphin adventures foster a friendly relationship between guests and Kona and Keo, the two stars of the show. Under the staff’s careful guidance, guests can:
- Snorkel and swim with dolphins
- Feed and touch the dolphins
- Observe and assist dolphin trainers in their day-to-day activities
- Become a trainer for a week
- Have a private dolphin encounter with your friends and family only
- Take pictures with the dolphins
- Meet mother dolphins and their youngsters
It is one of the best US cities to visit in April and May, as this is when the rain is at its lowest and before hurricane season starts in June.
Kingsmill Resort, Williamsburg, Virginia
Williamsburg is one of the top destinations in the US, and this particular resort offers a great combination of activities for adults and kids alike. One of the best family vacation spots in the US, it is situated in 3,000 acres of wilderness. It offers both outdoor activities and the opportunity to explore historical Williamsburg, putting it firmly on our list one of the best cities in the US. The resort itself offers 4 on-site restaurants, golf, tennis, indoor and outdoor pools, group fitness classes, and a fully stocked game room.
One of the key reasons we included this on the list of the best family vacation spots in the US is the opportunities to entertain the kiddos. Once you get to the resort, kids get a Junior Guest package and the opportunity to attend the kids’ camp where they spend their time swimming, golfing, fishing, and crafting, as well as a Parents’ Night complete with pizza and games so the adults can enjoy the nightlife, and then everyone can enjoy the best US summer vacation.
One of the things that makes Williamsburg one of the best places to visit in the US is the local culture. If you want to explore what the area has to offer, you and the family can check out one of Williamsburg’s many draws, including:
- Busch Gardens amusement park, one of the top places to travel in the US
- Colonial Williamsburg, a city that takes you back to colonial times complete with costumes and shows to give kids an experience of being back in time
- Water Country USA Water Park
- Historic Jamestown, site of the first English settlement, and one of the must see places on a US road trip
- King’s Dominion amusement park
The best time to visit Williamsburg is during late spring or early fall when the weather isn’t quite as hot, and the crowds aren’t as large as in the summer. Regardless of when you decide to visit, though, it is definitely one of the best cities to visit in the US.
Tanque Verde Ranch, Phoenix, Arizona
If outdoor activity destinations are the kinds of places to visit in the US that your family is looking for, the Tanque Verde Ranch in Phoenix is at the top of the list for best family vacation spots. With over 120 horses and 640 acres or land, your family can choose from a plethora of activities, including sunrise breakfast horse rides, horsemanship lessons, and walking or loping rides across the beautiful terrain.
If you have family members who aren’t avid riders, it still remains one of the top destinations in the US, as they can choose from an incredible amount of other activities that include:
- Watercolor painting
- Silversmith classes
- Mountain bike riding
- Nature center activities
- Guided fishing expeditions
- Photography activities
On top of all that, they have a schedule designed specifically for kids ages 4 and up, that includes riding, arts and crafts, swimming, fishing, and the ever-popular sweet treats, further adding to its status as one of the best family vacation spots in the US.
The local weather makes this another of the best US cities to visit in April and May before the temperatures start to soar. The weather is pleasant all year round, but if you go in the summer, you can expect temperatures above 100 degrees F (38° C).
Out ‘n’ About Treesort, Cave Junction, Oregon
Oregon itself is surprisingly one of the best places to travel to in the US, and this resort in the trees is one of THE best places to visit in the US for nature lovers. All of the tree house lodgings are tucked away in the treetops, and guests can climb stairs, ladders, and a suspension bridge over 90 feet long to get from here to there. Kids can use poles and rope swings to get to the ground; guests can also take lessons in how to build tree houses, go horse riding and rafting, swimming, or participate in arts and crafts, making it easy to see why it’s on our list of the best family vacation spots in the US. If “glamping” is more your thing, you can opt for the luxury Tree Room Schoolhouse Suite which includes its own bathroom, kitchenette, and sitting area.
Aside from being a nature lover’s paradise, this is one of the best family vacation spots in the US for other reasons as well. In addition to the Morgan Horse Ranch that is on the property, they have four dogs and a cat, and a Tarzan swings for the kiddos. Check their calendar before you visit as they often have live music on site for guests to enjoy. With all that it has to offer, it’s easy to see why it is one of the best places in the US to visit.
Once guests are back at home, the resort even offers plans and parts for tree houses, zip lines, and a tree house blog so that you can keep your US travel 2019 experience going long after your vacation is over.
Summer is the best time to visit Oregon, as this time of year boasts cool temperatures and less rain.
Branson is surely one of the best family vacation spots in the US. It is part of the Ozark region in southwest Missouri, which in and of itself is one of the best places in the US to visit, and though it was once a country music hub, the theaters that line the main boulevard now offer entertainment to suit all tastes. It is home to Silver Dollar City, which is consistently named one of the top destinations in the US and has an unbelievable number of family-friendly activities, making it one of the top tourist cities in the US, too.
The driving factor behind naming it one of our best places to visit in the US is that the entire area is centered around providing fun activities for every member of the family. Adults can visit wineries, go shopping, or enjoy one of the many summer concerts. Kids and adults alike can enjoy:
- Dolly Parton’s Stampede, a Civil War themed dinner event
- Cool off at White Water water park
- Go zip lining
- Explore local caves
- Ride go-karts or play mini golf
- Visit Ripley’s Odditorium
- View a half-scale replica of the Titanic and the iceberg that felled the unsinkable ship
The best time to visit Branson is during the summer or around Christmas, when it transforms into a winter wonderland and one of the best cities in the US for enjoying Christmas cheer. The summer temperatures are usually in the 80s F (high 20s C) with minimal rainfall; November and December are usually in the 40s F (single digits C), but the unmatched Christmas spirit and displays far make up for any shivers. If it’s not already on your list, you should definitely add Branson to your US travel 2019 to do list.
San Antonio, Texas
From theme parks to shopping to a downtown area lined with canals, San Antonio is definitely one of the 10 places every American should see. It is a town full of history and yet still offers plenty of modern-day entertainment that will excite every member of your family. It is one of the best places in the US to visit for history buffs, who can go on a historical expedition to see the inside of the Alamo where Texians, as they were called in the 1800s, took refuge for 13 days while under siege from Mexican troops. Or, tour the colonial missions, which were Catholic outposts established from the 1600s through the 1800s to spread Christianity among the natives.
It’s easily one of the best cities to visit in the US as once you’ve gotten your fill of historical education, you can turn to one of the many sure-to-please theme parks in the area, including Sea World, Six Flags, Aquatica San Antonio, Morgan’s Wonderland, or Kiddie Park.
If shopping is your bag, San Antonio is certainly one of the top destinations in the US. The Riverwalk is filled with delightful boutiques and unique markets to give you plenty to choose from. There are also several of the best places to visit in the US nearby: upscale shopping malls that offer the top brands as well as an outlet mall in nearby San Marcos that has over 150 luxury stores that feature designer brands at discounted prices.
As if that weren’t enough to make this one of the best places to visit in the US, if you have any energy left, you can enjoy one of the many other things that make San Antonio one of the best cities in the US, including:
- San Antonio Museum of Art
- McNay Art Museum
- San Antonio Botanical Gardens
- San Antonio Zoo
- Downtown San Antonio, with an array of live music and Tex Mex food that is to die for
This is another one of the best US cities to visit in April as south Texas routinely experiences days over 100 degrees F (38° C) during the summer months, but with all the history and entertainment the city has to offer, it’s easy to see why it should be on your USA bucket list.
One of the best vacation spots in the world, Chicago is known as the “Second City” because at one time it was the country’s second largest city behind New York (today it is third behind New York and Los Angeles). Chicago is a family playground and clearly one of the best places in the US to visit. With museums for all ages, water shows, any kind of cuisine you could imagine, and unlimited shopping, every member of your family will agree that it is one of the best vacation spots in the world for families.
What makes this city one of the best places in the US to visit with kids are all the kid-friendly entertainment opportunities. Your little ones will be thrilled to meet Sue, the largest, most well-preserved T-Rex on Earth at the Field Museum, or touch and learn all about dolphins, whales and sea otters at the Shedd Aquarium. This is also one of the best cities in the US for anyone interested in art. Art lovers should make a point to visit the Art Institute of Chicago, which houses an incredible Impressionist and Post-Impressionist exhibit.
Another reason it makes the list of top destinations in the US is the city’s cuisine and culture. Take time to eat in one of Chicago’s many Michelin Star restaurants, and don’t forget the legendary performing arts scene, where you can listen to opera, see award-winning plays, or enjoy the beauty of ballet and modern dance.
A CityPass will help you have one of your best US summer vacations by giving you a discounted rate and VIP entry at the most popular of the city’s attractions. Another feature which makes it one of the best cities to visit in the US is its architecture. When moving from place to place, be sure to take in architectural beauties like the John Hancock Building or Willis Tower (formerly the Sears Tower).
Once you’ve seen all of the top tourist attractions, you might want to check out some of the more low-key things to do, like those suggested in the Chicago Like A Local blog.
The best time to visit Chi-town during your US travel 2019 expedition is usually late spring and early fall. This is when the temperatures are pleasant, crowds are smaller, and you have a variety of festivals to choose from.
Cedar Point Amusement Park, Sandusky, Ohio
For thrill seekers everywhere, Sandusky, Ohio is one of the must see places on a US road trip. It is known as the Roller Coaster Capital of the World and has over 10 miles of coaster tracks to get your adrenaline going.
Not just a roller coaster park, Cedar Point is one of the best family vacation spots in the US for kids of all ages. You can start your day with breakfast with Snoopy, Charlie Brown, and all their friends. Then, test out one of the coasters, followed by a swing on maXair, one of the largest pendulum rides in the world. Grab some lunch and then cool off on one of the water rides like the Point Plummet, a water slide with a heart-stopping six-story drop.
Dinosaur lovers of all ages will approve of our designation as one of the best cities to visit in the US: when they take a break from riding the rails, they can visit the animatronic dinosaurs, some of which they can even control themselves. Follow this up with one of their many musical shows complete with dancing and singing, and finish off with a drive-in movie on Thursday nights during the summer, and it’s easy to see why Cedar Point is one of the top destinations in the US.
If you need a break from the park, take a trip into town to see the Merry-Go-Round Museum or the Maritime Museum. Then, you can take the kids to the Ghost Manor Thrill Center for an incredible haunted house or chill out a bit at the Lagoon Deer Park or the Firelands Winery.
This is one of the best places to visit in April through October. Temperatures rarely get over 80° F (high 20s C), and rainfall is minimal.
Niagara Falls, New York
It nearly goes without saying that Niagara Falls is on every US bucket list of travel and is one of the 10 places every American should see. Six million cubic feet of water plummeting over a massive cliff every single minute – just wow! Hop on one of the boat tours that take you right up to the falls, and then get a view like no other from the Skylon Tower or a helicopter ride over the falls.
Then, go on what makes this wonder one of the top destinations in the US, the Journey Behind the Falls, which takes you down 150 feet and through 130-year-old tunnels to see the falls up close. Be sure to bring your passport, so you can cross the Rainbow Bridge into Canada and see the falls from every possible angle.
All of the things the area has to offer, including the Fallsview Indoor Water Park and a Vegas quality magic show with Greg Frewin, make it one of the best cities to visit in the US. As night approaches, you can have a relaxing dinner with a view of the falls and get ready for the nightly fireworks show over the falls at 10 pm during the summer months.
This is one of the best places to travel to in the US during the summer, as the temperature hovers around 80 degrees F (high 20s C), and cooling breezes keep you in delightful comfort for the duration of your trip.
Other Resources for Planning your US Travel in 2019
This book by world-renowned travel experts, National Geographic, gives you at least 100 ideas of must-see spots in each and every state, so no matter where you go, you will know what to do.
One of the masters of the travel guidebook, Lonely Planet will take you on a journey through the states that will suit your taste as well as your budget.
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