Whatever you like to do, kids will not be bored on their trip to small American towns and cities. Small towns in New Jersey have fantastic boardwalks that are perfect for fishing and watching passing whales, Fayetteville in Georgia has huge old mansions, Moab in Utah has dinosaur traces and fossils, and Bozeman in Montana has a grizzly bear sanctuary. Whatever you like to do, kids will have a great time on their trip to small American towns and cities.
1. Virginia Beach, VA
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With three lovely sandy beaches and a three-mile long boardwalk, there is plenty to do in Virginia Beach. This charming coastal town on the point where Atlantic Ocean spills into the Chesapeake Bay is also famous as the spot where the Jamestown colonists first came from England – check out the First Landing State Park that commemorates this important 1607 event. For those that love animals, the best way to see dolphins frolicking is from a kayak – they will swim right next to you. Meet sharks, rays, turtles, and other animals that live in the Virginia waters at the fascinating Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center. Take the kids on one of the adrenaline-pumping rides at the 15th street amusement park just off the boardwalk. Flipper McCoys arcade has some classic tech games younger people might not have seen yet. For a bit of history, visit the Adam Thoroughgood House, the oldest colonial home in town and a National Historic Landmark.
2. Amarillo, TX
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Amarillo is a great place to take the family to get a taste of the real Texas. Take the kids to visit the River Breaks Ranch and see how real cowboys live and then visit Kwahadi Museum of the American Indian to learn about their lifestyles in a building that looks like an old Indian pueblo. With Elkins Ranch Jeep Tours, you can enjoy the magnificent views of the Palo Duro Canyon. While exploring the Palo Duro Canyon State Park, check the Old West Stables and let the kids ride on horseback where cowboys and Indians once roamed. Let them tinker and explore at the Don Harrington Discovery Center or visit wild animals at the large 15-acre Amarillo Zoo. For car lovers, there is no better place than Bill's Backyard Classics collection of antique cars or the bizarre Cadillac Ranch with ten real Cadillacs buried nose-down in sand.
3. Asbury Park, NJ
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Asbury Park is a historic Jersey shore town with the best beaches in the area, miles of fine sand, blue sea, great surf, and never-ending fun. Everything in Asbury Park revolves around the oceanfront , including the popular Asbury 18 Oceanfront mini golf course and Asbury Splash Park, with giant watering cans and the famous Tipping Tea Cup. Silverball Museum Arcade has almost200 games from the 1950s classics to today's latest. There are pinball games, Skee Ball, air hockey, and many others. Don’t miss the 171-foot high Absecon Lighthouse, New Jersey's tallest, built in 1857. Battleship New Jersey, one of the most famous U.S. Navy battleships in history, is now a floating museum on the Camden Waterfront.
4. Hood River, OR
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A small town at the crossroads of the Cascade Range and the Columbia River Gorge, Hood River is surrounded by magnificent nature. It is perfect for scenic hiking and mountain biking and has become famous for its windsurfing. Hood River Waterfront Park is heaven for kids with a playground, amphitheater, and lovely sandy beach. Kids love the Western Antique Aeroplane & Automobile Museum with the largest collections of antique and still-flying vehicles in the country – and they all work. During the fruit-picking season, drive the 35-mile scenic Fruit Loop through the orchards, farmlands, and forests and pick fruits in season. At Draper Girls Family Farms, kids can pet goats and pigs, and at Kiyokawa Family Orchards they can have fun spending time in the play fort. Take a family hike to Tamanawas Falls, a 3.6-mile trip that is worth the journey once you see the awesome falls.
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5. Asheville, NC
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Overshadowed by the magnificent Blue Ridge Mountains, Asheville is a North Carolina city with a long history, beautiful nature scenes, and a vibrant art scene. Take the kids on a tour of the majestic Biltmore Castle to learn about the fairytale story of America’s rich and powerful family. Go for a hike or ski on one of many trails in the Blue Ridge Mountain Park. Let the kids have the thrill of their lives at Navitat, with their sky-high zipline between the soaring trees. Go sliding on a 60-foot high smooth natural rock and splash in an eight-foot deep pool in the Pisgah Mountain. Learn how to stand-up paddleboard down the French Broad River. If you want something beyond activities in nature, mini-golf with black light holes, climbing wall, multi-level laser tag, bumper cars, mini-bowling, arcade gallery, area with inflatables, and soft plays.
6. Fayetteville, GA
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Not even 20 miles from the busy Atlanta airport, Fayetteville is one of those quiet, pretty Southern towns with tree-lined streets, beautiful mansions, and a rich history. Kids will love a slow, leisurely kayak trip on the lovely Horton Lake or a stroll through the Prime Community Park, known locally as the Secret Garden. Have a picnic lunch by the Starr’s Mill and its cool, refreshing waterfall. If the kids need more action, take them to the Fun Junction USA, where they can enjoy more than a dozen family attractions such as thrill rides, three mini golf courses, go kart tracks, and much more. The whole family will enjoy a friendly competition at the Fayetteville Bowling Center.
7. Allentown, PA
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Immortalized in the popular Billy Joel song, Allentown is a lovely city in the Lehigh Valley with more than its share of things to do. If you are travelling with kids, you can be sure they will not get bored. For the nerdy ones, the interactive, entertaining, and educational Imagi Nation will offer endless fun – it is a pretend world of business where they can try different careers. For the more active kids, Dorney Park & Wildwater Kingdom will provide over 100 rides and attractions such as eight roller coasters. Car fans will enjoy beautiful antique cars at the America on Wheels Museum or trucks at the Mack Trucks Historical Museum. Miniature trains will fascinate the whole family at the Merchants Square Model Train Exhibit. Take the kids to see the Liberty Bell, which was hidden from the British soldiers underneath the local church and learn a bit about Allentown history. And to cool off, stroll through the verdant paths of the Cedar Beach Park or Allentown Rose Gardens.
8. Wildwoods, NJ
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With five miles of magnificent wide, sandy beaches, life in Wildwoods on the New Jersey shore revolves around the sea. Besides swimming, relaxing on the beach, and building sand castles, there are also surfing, power boating, boogie boarding, jet skiing, kayaking, sailing, and parasailing. Along the beach is one of the most fun boardwalks in the country, with more than 100 rides and various attractions such as giant roller coasters located at Morey's Piers & Beachfront Waterparks, large Ocean Oasis Waterpark & Becah Club, kids’ Splash Zone Water Park, flashing arcades, and so much more. When the kids get tired of playing games, take them to the Wildwood Historical Society’s George F. Boyer Museum to learn a little about the history of Wildwoods through various exhibits. Spend a few hours on the water in a Silver bullet speedboat that doubles as a whale watching boat.
9. Bozeman, MT
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A lively, modern Rocky Mountains city, Bozeman is located in southern Montana, surrounded by Bridger Range on one side and Spanish Peaks on the other. It is the perfect place for winter sports and is a great starting point for hiking, rafting down Gallatin River or backpacking at Gallatin Divide. With Yellowstone Park nearby, the kids will have their choice of outdoor activities. The most attractive indoor activity will be a visit to the Museum of the Rockies, where they can see a collection of real T. Rex specimens, sure to thrill any youngster. There is also a planetarium. The whole family can get up close and personal with grizzly bears at the Montana Grizzly Encounter, a sanctuary for rescued grizzly bears and an educational facility. American Computer Museum is a fascinating place to see the incredibly fast development of computers as well as some true computing relics.
10. Charlottesville, VA
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A charming, lively Virginia university town, Charlottesville is a fascinating place to learn about the country’s history. Start your exploration by taking a guided tour of the city’s stately historic homes. You will also learn about American founding fathers Jefferson, Monroe, and Madison and about the way of life during their times. You will see a building designed by Jefferson and the dorm room at the university where the poet Edgar Allan Poe lived. Take the kids to the Virginia Discovery Museum to tinker, explore, and learn – there is always something new there. Stretch your legs and get some fresh air on the scenic
Saunders-Monticello Trail. If they still have some energy, take the kids to Bounce-n-Play, an indoor playground where they can climb, slide, bounce, and paint.
11. Wisconsin Dells
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You will not have to worry about keeping the kids entertained in Wisconsin Dells. This small Wisconsin city on Wisconsin River has more amusement parks, entertainment centers, and theme parks than any place of its size in the world. There is Mt. Olympus Water and Theme Park, Noah's Ark Water Park, Mirror Lake State Park, Timber Falls Adventure Park, and many others. At the Timbavati Wildlife Park, kids can observe wild animals, while Wisconsin Deer Park is home to 100 tame deer. Pirates Cove Adventure Golf is an 18-hole mini golf course. Little ghouls would love Ghost Outpost Haunted House, and they can speed along in ADare Go Karts. Explore a bit of the Dells’ magnificent gorges with almost vertical cliffs on a horse-drawn wagon with Lost Canyon Tours.
12. Estes Park, CO
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Located high up in the Rocky Mountains at 7,522 feet, Estes Park is your starting point for the adventures in the Rocky Mountain Park. But, charming and lively, Estes Park has its own attractions and activities such as galleries, restaurants, and shops. Start your exploration by taking the Estes Park Aerial Tramway, which connects Estes Park to the Prospect Mountain summit. The views of the city and the valley below are spectacular. Take the Trail Ridge Road to explore the wilderness close to the city – it winds past forests, craggy peaks, and tundra. If you are lucky, you might spot elk and big horn sheep, along with other wildlife. In the winter, there are many trails in the Rocky Mountain Park where the whole family can enjoy backcountry skiing or snowshoeing. In the summer, the whole area offers first-class hiking. Horseback riders go along dirt trails through dense Roosevelt National Forest. Kids would be thrilled with ziplining at the Open Air Adventure Park or rafting down Colorado River with Rapid Transit Rafting. For a more relaxed time, go for a walk on the lovely Lily Mountain Trail around Lili Lake. For those rainy days, there is a popular Estes Park Ride-A-Kart & Cascade Creek Mini-Golf.
13. Gatlinburg, TN
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Gatlinburg is a quaint mountain town in Tennessee, the place you will definitively stop in on your way to explore the vast 520,000-acre Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Start with climbing to the 407-ft. Space Needle, a popular observation tower where you can see the city and all surrounding area, and the Sky Lift, a 2.1-mile long aerial cable car that takes you from downtown Gatlinburg to the Ober Gatlinburg ski resort. After you are done hiking up and down Smokies and whitewater rafting on Pigeon River, take the kids to the Ripley's Davy Crockett Mini Golf and Mysterious Mansion Of Gatlinburg Haunted House! They will love to see 12-foot sharks and giant sea turtle at the Ripley's Aquarium of The Smokies. For car lovers, there is the Hollywood Star Cars Museum with more than 40 cars belonging to movie stars, many of which took part in famous Hollywood movies. Westgate Wild Bear Falls waterpark is a great place to cool off during the summer, while the Arcadia with over 100 exciting games is a great place to reserve for rainy days.
14. Jackson Hole, WY
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Jackson Hole is a picturesque Wyoming town snuggled in a narrow, eight-mile wide valley surrounded on all sides by green mountains. Jackson’s Town Square, where everything happens, has four entrances to the surrounding park framed by elk antler arches. In the winter, the whole town turns into a ski hub. You can go skiing at the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, Snow King Mountain, or the Grand Targhee. You can see elk, deer, and many other animals on any skiing or hiking trail. There are plenty of birds too, even swans and geese. You can see elk up close at the National Elk Refuge. There is a rodeo in town every Saturday and Wednesday with real cowboys and cowgirls. The Clubhouse – Jackson Hole Children Museum – will let them unleash their imagination on those rainy boring days. There is also the Teton Village, a playground for kids big and small.
15. Lake Tahoe, CA
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Stretched between the beautiful Lake Tahoe and the Sierra Nevada mountains, Lake Tahoe has it all: mountains for fabulous winter sports and hiking and biking in the summer, a lake for boating and fishing, and casinos for trying your luck at gambling. Once you have had enough of slot machines noise, take the kids to see the majestic Viking Castle Vikingssholm in Emerald Bay at Lake Tahoe. A 2.4-mile ride on the Scenic Gondola Ride will take you from the Heavenly Village to the observation point with a spectacular view of the lake and surrounding mountains. Another way to see the lake is aboard the M.S. Dixie II. The older kids will love parasailing on the lake with South Lake Tahoe Parasailing. Take the whole family on a picnic at Kiva Beach or hike on challenging Mt. Tallac Trail. You will also have fun at the Magic Carpet Golf Miniature Golf Course. For a bigger adrenaline rush, go rafting down the Truckee River.
16. Moab, UT
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A quiet, small, pleasant town surrounded by spectacular Arches and Canyonlands National Park, Moab is a popular base for tourists exploring mesmerizing red rocks and fascinating geological formations, mountain bikers who come for the challenging Slickrock Trail, and people riding off-road vehicles who come to take part in the annual Moab Jeep Safari. Explore the Breathtaking Forest of the La Sal Mountains, go rafting on the Colorado River, take the kids on trails between the fascinating red rock formations, or have them learn how to wall climb and rappel with one of several rock climbing companies. Visit Moab Recreation and Aquatic Center for its lovely pools and slides or head to Ken’s Lake for some swimming, kayaking, canoeing, rafting, and fishing. Take at least one Family Dinosaur Field Trip to see dinosaurs tracks – many used to roam around Moab.
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17. Myrtle Beach, SC
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With 60 miles of white sand beaches on the Atlantic coast, Myrtle Beach is South Carolina’s most popular vacation destination. Myrtle Beach is famous for its watersports and beach amusement parks but also for the famous celebrity-designed golf courses. Along the beachfront stretches a boardwalk with shops and arcades, as well as the famous Family Kingdom amusement park and the enormous SkyWheel, one of the tallest Ferris wheels in the country. Other fun amusement parks are Palmetto Adventure Land and Broadway Grand Prix racing with Go-Karts and minigolf. The Palmetto Adventure Land is great playgrounds for the kids with a boat, swings, submarine, wave facade, slides, monkey bars, and much more. Take a Plantation Island Tour for an ATV ride, horseback riding, surf fishing, kayaking, and more.
18. Naples, Florida
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Located in southwest Florida on the Gulf of Mexico, Naples is known for its fabulous sugar-fine sand beaches, famous golf courses, and the Naples Pier, the symbol of the city. Built in 1888, the pier is where everyone gathers for fishing, dolphin-spotting, and sunset watching. It is also the site of the annual kids’ fishing tournament. Sanibel and Captiva Islands are great for picking up some beautiful shells on the beaches. A cool place to visit is the Aquatic Butterfly Garden with beautiful ponds and waterfalls. The Children's Museum of Naples is the place where kids learn through play while weaving through a maze, climbing a huge banyan tree, or working the water station. Sun-N-Fun Lagoon is a fun water park with pools, a lazy river, a splash playground, water slides, and much more. Don’t miss a tour of the Everglades in an airboat or in a kayak.
19. Pismo Beach, CA
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Pismo Beach is a quintessential Central California beach town on the Pacific Coast about half way between Los Angeles and San Francisco. The town is famous for its spectacular sandy beaches, 1200-foot pier, and great boardwalk that stretches along the beach. After they get tired of swimming, surfing, or kayaking, take the kids to ride huge dunes in an ATV, to fish on the Pier, or to collect clams on the beach. At the Pismo Beach Monarch Butterfly Grove, they can see more than 20,000 beautiful, blue monarch butterflies. They will have fun in the Dinosaur Caves Park, which has a unique play area with a dinosaur, two concrete dolphins, three dinosaur eggs, three seals, a big tire swing, and the USS IMAGINATION, all made of colorful concrete. If they want to learn to scuba dive, Pismo Beach Dive Shop is the right place.
20. Rapid City, SD
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Located on Rapid Creek in South Dakota east of Black Hills National Forest, Rapid City is known as the place to stop in on the way to Mt. Rushmore and the stone faces of its four presidents. The best place to learn a bit about the city history is the Journey Museum & Learning Center, while the reptile garden has a nice collection of snakes for those who are not afraid. Get up close to real bears at Bear Country USA and explore the Badlands, one of the richest fossil beds in the world where the horse, rhino and saber-toothed cat once roamed. Learn about the fascinating Black Hills formed 2.5 billion years ago at the Journey Museum, visit the Hot Springs site where over 100 mammoth fossils were discovered and explore Black Hills Caverns. There is so much to do in this fascinating area, you might forget about Mount Rushmore.
21. Sandusky, OH
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Located on the shores of Lake Erie in northern Ohio, Sandusky is strategically positioned about midway between Toledo and Cleveland. Sandusky is home to the Cedar Fair Entertainment Company, so it is no wonder that it has a large number of amusement parks. Kids will love every one of them: Cedar Point Amusement Park, Kalahari Water Park, Castaway Bay Waterpark, Great Wolf Lodge Water Park, Skateworld, and Ghostly Manor Thrill Center. If kids ever get tired of park attractions, you can take them to Lagoon Deer Park to see real deer, visit Sanduski Maritime Museum, or to see some birds and stretch their legs at the beautiful wetlands area Pickerel Creek Wildlife Area
22. Sedona, AZ
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Sedona is a picturesque desert town near Flagstaff in Arizona near magnificent red-rock buttes, fragrant pine forests and steep canyons. Exploring the vast Red Rock State Park is the first activity you should have the family do. Hiking is the best way to see the spectacular rock formations. Many birds that make their homes in this arid world, and a two-hour tour of the main landmarks on the popular Broken Arrow Trail in a 4WD open jeep will thrill both kids and parents. Don’t miss the Honanki ruins of dwellings where three different cultures lived during the last 700 years. Sedona Heritage Museum tells the story of the area, its history, and its peoples. If you really want to thrill the kids, take them on a balloon or helicopter tour of the area; the views are out of this world.
23. St George Island, FL
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St. George Island, a narrow, 28-mile long barrier island off Florida's Gulf Coast, is a quaint, unspoiled oasis with some of the best beaches in the country. Most people spend time lying on the beach, swimming, collecting beautiful shells of all shapes and sizes, fishing, or hiking through the verdant marshes full of birds. Many trails will take you all around the island. You can walk or rent a bike – the island is so small you can see a lot in a short time. Visit Apalachicola very informative Maritime Museum, climb 92 stairs to the top of the Cape Saint George Lighthouse, take the kids fishing with one of many charter boats, go snorkeling, build sand castles, or sample one of many great seafood restaurants.
24. Traverse City, MI
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Traverse City is located on Grand Traverse Bay on the banks of Lake Michigan, and it is famous for its National Cherry Festival and beautiful Victorian Opera House. Check if there is a game at the Wuerfel Park, the home of Beach Bums, the Traverse baseball team. Visit the Dennos Museum Center to see a fascinating collection of Inuit art or have a family picnic at the Traverse City State Park and explore one of its many trails. Visit the historic Mission Point Lighthouse, explore the bay from a kayak or paddleboard, let the children unleash their imagination at the interactive Great Lakes Children's Museum, and have fun finding your way out of Jacob's Corn Maze.
25. Worcester, MA
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About 40 miles from Boston in the heart of Massachusetts, Worcester is quickly becoming part of Boston’s suburbs. It is most famous for the invention of mass-produced Valentine’s cards. The best place to start exploring the city is Worcester Historical Museum with its fascinating colonial weapons and other exhibits. Green Hill Park Farm has a small zoo where city kids can play with chickens, ducks, pigs, and miniature horses. Go for a hike through Broad Brook Meadow Conservation Area, the largest wildlife area in New England. In the winter, Ski Ward area is the city’s ski and snow tubing destination. In the summer, Little Harbor Boathouse is the place to rent paddleboard or a kayak for some quiet time on the water.
What are the 25 Best Small Town USA Weekend Getaways with Kids?
The 25 Best Small Town USA Weekend Getaways with Kids according to local experts are:
- Virginia Beach, VA
- Amarillo, TX
- Asbury Park, NJ
- Hood River, OR
- Asheville, NC
- Fayetteville, GA
- Allentown, PA
- Wildwoods, NJ
- Bozeman, MT
- Charlottesville, VA
- Wisconsin Dells
- Estes Park, CO
- Gatlinburg, TN
- Jackson Hole, WY
- Lake Tahoe, CA
- Moab, UT
- Myrtle Beach, SC
- Naples, Florida
- Pismo Beach, CA
- Rapid City, SD
- Sandusky, OH
- Sedona, AZ
- St George Island, FL
- Traverse City, MI
- Worcester, MA