25 Best Family Vacations
Breaking routine on a long weekend provides the perfect opportunity to bond over fun times and build new family memories. You can teach the kids the art of fly fishing in Carbondale, Colorado, or examine dinosaur bones in Ann Arbor, Michigan. There’s an eco-boat tour to Manatee Hideout in Naples, Florida, and exhilarating rides at LEGOLAND in San Diego, California. Whether your family leans toward natural outdoor experiences, educational fun times, or wild amusement and adventure parks, there is a perfect long weekend destination waiting for you. Photo: Margaret/Fotolia
»Ann Arbor, MI
Ann Arbor is the perfect mix of small town charm and big city sophistication featuring a diverse collection of attractions and activities perfect for a long weekend getaway with the whole family. The city features a wealth of science-focused experiences including the Nicholas Arboretum – a woodland park with a peony garden and various trails, the Creature Conservancy, and the Matthaei Botanical Gardens. Families will also find numerous educational, interactive, and down-right fun museums such as Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum – a children’s museum – and the University Of Michigan Museum Of Natural History, showcasing dinosaur bones. Scavenger hunts, the Nickels Arcade, and the Petting Farm at Domino’s Farms are additional kid-friendly activities.
» Irvine, CA
Irvine, California, boasts a beautiful blend of urban living and protected natural spaces situated in the heart of Orange County. It’s an excellent locale for families looking for extended weekends, as it’s been recognized by the FBI since 2005 as “America’s Safest Big City.” Visitors will find diverse dining experiences, world-class shopping, and a wealth of outdoor activities such as hiking and biking. Additionally, its close proximity to top attractions like Disneyland Park and Knott’s Berry Farm, only 30 minutes outside the city, make it an ideal destination. The Turtle Rock Nature Center, the Orange County Zoo, San Joaquin Wildlife Sanctuary, and the Irvine Regional Park are among its other highlights.
Franklin is a historic city dating back to 1799. This small town meets big city destination offers a number of diverse attractions. The city boasts Victorian and antebellum architecture, a vast number of museums, and a thriving downtown area with incredible shopping, world-class dining, exceptional entertainment, and annual festivals. Fascinating Civil War sites are Franklin’s biggest draw, with Carter House, Lotz House, and Carnton – an 1864 historic home and battle site – all must-see experiences. Various tour opportunities include ghost and vampire tours, food tours, and historical and heritage tours. Hiking, biking, and zip lining as well as hot air balloon rides, escape room experiences, and several farm attractions add to the city’s fun activities.
Photo: Visit Franklin, TN
Wilmington, North Carolina, is an enthralling coastal getaway with a scenic river walk that wraps around Cape Fear River and features a vibrant riverfront. It is also an architecturally stunning town, with moss-draped oak trees lining the over 230 blocks of the National Register Historic District, where antebellum and Victorian architecture seamlessly blend with contemporary designs. Scenic cruises, horse-drawn carriage rides, and guided walking tours are some of the highlights. It’s also an area with an energetic nightlife, boutique shops, premier restaurants, and numerous cultural experiences such as catching a Broadway show in the river district. Waterparks, aquariums, and historic gems like touring a WWII battleship are excellent activities for the whole family.
» Galena, IL
Galena, Illinois, is an excellent destination for families who want to experience a town filled with Old World charm reminding them of a simpler era. A natural oasis, it features rolling hills overlooking the majestic Galena River and boasts many scenic historic drives. Walking, trolley, and whacky ghost tours as well as picturesque river cruises are among the top activities for children. There is also a plethora of art galleries, boutique shops, antique stores, wineries, and incredible live entertainment performances when the parents need a night out without the kids. Zip lining with Long Hollow Canopy Tours as well as visits to Linmar Gardens, Dittmar Farms, and the Ehrler Ranch are ideal for the whole family.
Fayetteville, Arkansas, is the land of lush green spaces, cultural experiences, and craft beer, making it an excellent locale for a long weekend away. It features a wide variety of activities, such as the Lokomotion Family Fun Park and Fast Lane Entertainment as well as one-stop-shops offering numerous activities including bowling, laser tag, arcade games, go-carts, and miniature golf. Cultural highlights, like the Community Creative Center, where visitors can engage in a variety of affordable art experiences taught by local artists, and Great Passion Play, where dramatic religious performances take place, shouldn’t be missed. A must-see attraction is the Cosmic Cavern, a unique hidden treasure featuring magnificent rock formations and two underground lakes.
Photo: Natalia Bratslavsky/Fotolia
»Grand Marais, MN
Grand Marais is a self-proclaimed quirky and artsy small town where families, creatives, and adventure-seekers will all find their place. Situated between Lake Superior and the Sawtooth Mountains, there is an array of outdoor activities and attractions. Miles of biking and hiking trails as well as kayaking, canoeing, and horseback riding opportunities spell family fun. The town is the oldest art colony in Minnesota, boasting several galleries, museums, and boutiques. Some of its best natural attractions include Judge C. R. Magney State Park, Grand Portage State Forest, and the Grand Marais Lighthouse. Mini-golf, game centers, Segway tours, and fishing charters are among the top activities for children.
Carbondale, Colorado, is a city situated at the base of the beautiful Mount Sopris, on a broad plain characterized by the convergence of the Roaring Fork and Crystal rivers. It lies in the heart of the Rocky Mountains, offering visitors a picturesque oasis with a strong music and arts scene as well as the Penny Hot Springs. Carbondale’s various outdoor activities are a huge draw for families who are looking to unplug with hiking, biking, kayaking, cross-country skiing, snowmobiling, and snowshoeing opportunities. It is also a world-class skateboarding and gold-medal fly-fishing destination. Carbondale Public Arts Commission, Crystal Theatre, Thunder River Theatre Company, and the Powers Art Center are among its top cultural attractions.
» San Antonio, TX
San Antonio is the seventh largest city in the United States, providing a wealth of family-friendly things to do for those looking to get away for an extended weekend. Its diverse collection of natural, historic, cultural, scenic, and modern attractions ensure that the entire family will find something they love. Among the top selections are the Natural Bridge Caverns, an underground tour and canopy adventure; the Alamo Mission in San Antonio, a legendary fort and history museum; and the historic San Antonio River Walk, boasting various eateries, hotels, and shops along the river. SeaWorld San Antonio, the San Antonio Zoo and Aquarium, and Six Flags Fiesta Texas are great attractions for kids.
» Key West, FL
Key West is the southernmost point of the United States, prominently known for its beaches, watersports, historic sites, and energetic nightlife. It’s the ideal destination for parents traveling with children, as it has a little bit of everything. A walking tour is the best way for families to tour the area, which features extraordinary architecture, beautiful gardens, and lively courtyards. Top attractions include the Florida Keys Eco-Discovery Center, the Key West Lighthouse and Keeper’s Quarters Museum, the Vandenberg Wreck, the Key West Cemetery (for its whacky headstones), and Dry Tortugas National Park. The Ernest Hemingway House and his favorite restaurant Sloppy Joe’s Bar are must-see attractions.
Photo: Irina Schmidt/Fotolia
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» Naples, FL
Naples, located along the Gulf of Mexico in southwest Florida, is prominently known for its world-class culture, high-end shopping, and premier restaurants. With that said, it is also one of the most affordable family destinations, appealing to beach and nature lovers alike. The Naples Zoo at Caribbean Gardens, Sun-N-Fun – a six-acre waterpark – the Audubon Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, and the NGALA Wildlife Preserve are among the best attractions for children. There are also various tours offered for families, including a six-passenger eco-boat excursion to visit the remote Manatee Hideout. When it’s time for a much-needed parent break, the historic downtown area offers several art galleries, chic boutiques, and waterfront restaurants.
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» Chattanooga, TN
Chattanooga is nestled in the Southeast Tennessee Mountains along the Tennessee River. It is well known for being one of America’s most breathtaking cities. Families will find a number of fun outdoor adventures, world-class restaurants, and incredible attractions. It is also one of the most affordable destinations for a long weekend. Among its top attractions are Rock City, a walking trail with ancient rock formations and gardens, and Ruby Falls, a 145-foot-high underground waterfall. Visitors will also find numerous museums, state parks, archeological sites, and art galleries. The Chattanooga Zoo at Warner Park, Lake Winnepesaukah amusement park, and Coolidge Park are city’s best kid-friendly attractions.
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» Dallas, TX
Dallas is the ninth largest metropolitan city in the United States, home to the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys, and one of the most diverse cities in the nation. This city’s various attractions and activities make it the ideal place for a long weekend family getaway. Dallas is historic, cosmopolitan, cultural, artistic, and vibrant with sights such as the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Gardens, the Dallas World Aquarium, and the Dallas Zoo. Educational and fun kid-friendly activities include the Perot Museum of Nature and Science, Pioneer Plaza, and the Frontiers of Flight Museum. Guests to this area will also find several tour opportunities, national parks, and historic plazas.
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Home to Red Rock Country, Sedona is a geological wonderland featuring multi-hued stone formations protruding from the high desert floor, creating a majestic ambiance that changes regularly with the light. This sacred land, surrounded by 1.8 million acres of national forest, is the perfect destination for a long weekend away with family where recreational activities are aplenty. Biking, hiking, and bouncy jeep rides are among the top activities here. It’s also a prime resort area with over 40 galleries, dozens of spa facilities, vineyards, and vortex energy centers. Visits to the Montezuma Castle National Park, the Tuzigoot National Monument, and the Dead Horse Ranch State Park shouldn’t be missed.
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» San Diego
San Diego is one of the most family-friendly cities in the United States with hundreds of miles of beautiful coastline, beaches, and unique neighborhoods. Incredible attractions such as LEGOLAND theme park, Balboa Park, featuring kid-friendly museums and the adjacent San Diego Zoo, and the historic beachside Belmont Park are ideal for children. Various activities such as surfing, boogie-boarding, biking, hiking, and animal watching are common here, as are exceptional tours like the Land to Sea SEAL tours, Midway military ship tours, and historic Old Town tours. Neighborhoods like Little Italy, Point Loma, Pacific Beach, Downtown, and Mission Beach each offer their own unique environments with attractions like Sunset Cliffs and Petco Park.
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» Orlando, FL
For most people, the one thing that comes to mind when thinking of Orlando, Florida, is Disney World. While this city is the home to Cinderella’s castle and the “happiest place on Earth,” there is so much more to see and do here. It has a little something for everyone from foodies and luxury shoppers to outdoor enthusiasts and adrenaline junkies. The 400-foot Coca-Cola Orlando Eye is an incredible glass capsule that provides stunning views of the city. The annual Daytona 500 race provides family thrills. Quirky activities like the wax figures at Madame Tussauds Orlando and the Great Escape Room as well as marine life interactions at the Exotic Animal Experience only add to this city’s appeal.
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» Charlotte, NC
Charlotte, North Carolina, offers visitors both old-fashioned Southern charm and the energetic vibrancy of a cosmopolitan city. It’s wealth of diverse, fun, and intriguing activities make it a huge draw for families who are looking to get away for a long weekend. The city’s historical and educational sights are among the top attractions, including the Levine Museum of the New South and the Carolinas Aviation Museum. Children will especially enjoy Carowinds, the local theme park, the Discovery Place Science Museum, and Freedom Park. The NASCAR Hall of Fame, Blumenthal Performing Arts Center, and McDowell Nature Center and Preserve are additional popular attractions.
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» Williamsburg, VA
Williamsburg is an award-winning travel destination listed among the top 15 cities in the United States. This cultural and historical haven has numerous sights and attractions as well as a diverse culinary and shopping scene. Outdoor activities are boundless here, where visitors can sail down the York River, rent a kayak or canoe, and even do paddle yoga. Hikers will enjoy over 50 miles of trails on the Virginia Capital Trail or the Greensprings Greenway Interpretive Trail. Historic Jamestowne, an active excavation site, and the American Revolution Museum are excellent activities for history buffs. Of course, there’s plenty of family fun at Busch Gardens adventure park.
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» Sanibel Island, FL
Sanibel Island is situated along the Gulf of Mexico, famous for its luxurious resorts, stunning sunsets, and lighthouses. It is also the premier destination for families traveling with small children due its incredible weather and numerous beaches, where shelling is a popular pastime. Outdoor activities are plentiful here, such as swimming, snorkeling, sailing, and fishing. The J. N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge, San Carlos Bay-Bunche Beach Preserve, and Lighthouse Beach Park are among its top attractions. Additional places to see include the Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum, the Sanibel Historical Museum and Village, the Pine Island Sound Aquatic Preserve, and the Everglades.
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» Hilton Head, SC
Hilton Head is a beautiful and affluent island boasting 12 miles of pristine coastline and sandy beaches, where sunbathing, swimming, and surfing are prominent activities. Outdoor adventures are among the city’s highlights. Visitors can bike along the beach, hike moss-draped trails, and take a horseback ride through the forest preserve. Hilton Head also features over 20 world-class golf courses, more than 300 tennis courts, and over 250 restaurants, many of which offer their famous Lowcountry cuisine. The Coastal Discovery Museum, Pinckney Island National Wildlife Refuge, Stoney-Baynard Plantation, and Heyward House Historic Center are the area’s main attractions. There are also numerous tours, excursions, and cruises to choose from.
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» Laguna Beach, CA
Laguna Beach is a lovely coastal town situated at the hallway point between San Diego and Los Angeles. This year-round playground is ideal for families as it offers a plethora of things to do. There are stunning natural attractions like the coastal canyons of Laguna Coast Wilderness Park, along with 7 miles of coastline with 27 hidden coves. The city boasts several art galleries, beaches, and outdoor adventure activities. Its top attractions are St. Francis by the Sea – the smallest cathedral in the world – the Whaling Wall, the Foss 125 shipwreck, and Heisler Park. Exploring the tide pools, wine tasting at the Laguna Canyon Winery, and whale watching cruises are also popular.
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» Seattle, WA
Seattle is an energetic cosmopolitan city surrounded by incredible natural beauty and offering a wealth of activities and attractions. Its top attractions are the Space Needle – a 600-foot spire with observation deck – the iconic Pike Place Market, and the stunning Puget Sound. The Jimi Hendrix-inspired Experience Music Project Center, the Chihuly Garden and Glass art museum and sculpture garden, and Discovery Park, the city’s largest green area with miles of trails and beaches, are additional exciting attractions. Visitors should also be sure to check out Woodland Park Zoo, the Seattle Great Wheel, and Seattle Aquarium, all activities ideal for children.
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» Denver. CO
Denver is one part cosmopolitan sophistication and one part outdoor oasis with a diverse collection of attractions and activities ideal for long weekend family getaways. Its main draw is the magnificent Rocky Mountains in its backyard. This allows several tour companies to offer all-day trips departing from Denver and exploring the natural attractions of Rocky Mountain National Park. The Denver Zoo, Botanic Gardens, Museum of Nature and Science, and Elitch Gardens Theme Park are attractions that provide a little something for everyone. Denver also has a vibrant culture and arts scene, including world-class museums and funky art districts, perfect for families with older children.
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» Louisville, KY
Louisville is an authentically one-of-a-kind destination known for pushing boundaries and shaking up the standard Southern stereotype. One of their most unique features is the Urban Bourbon Experience, the only one of its kind, where visitors will enjoy this city-wide trail lined with craft cocktail establishments, award-winning micro-distilleries, and exhibits. It also offers a wide array of attractions that the whole family will love, such as the Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory, the iconic Churchill Downs, and the Muhammad Ali Center. Atlantis Water Park, Go Ape Zip Line & Treetop Adventure, Jefferson Memorial Forest, and Derby Dinner Playhouse are ideal activities and attractions for children.
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» Savannah, GA
Savannah is a charming coastal city that is ideal for families who appreciate off-the-beaten-path vacations. With tree-lined cobblestone streets that feature stunning architecture, it’s a pedestrian-friendly town with a unique and dynamic urban design and a historic edge. Visitors will enjoy architectural tours, art exhibitions, museums, music and food festivals, and regular Civil War reenactments. Families will especially enjoy the Savannah Riverboat Cruises, Old Town Trolley Tours, and Dolphin Magic Tours, where they can immerse themselves in the city’s vibrancy and natural splendor. The Savannah Historic District, Forsyth Park, Savannah Children’s Museum, Skidaway Island State Park, and Summer Waves aquatic park will also wow families.
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25 Best Family Vacations
- Ann Arbor, MI, Photo: Courtesy of mattkaz - Fotolia.com
- Irvine, CA, Photo: Courtesy of steffstarr - Fotolia.com
- Franklin, TN, Photo: Courtesy of Visit Franklin, TN
- Wilmington, NC, Photo: Courtesy of spiritofamerica - Fotolia.com
- Galena, IL, Photo: Courtesy of Ian - Fotolia.com
- Fayetteville, AK, Photo: Courtesy of Natalia Bratslavsky - Fotolia.com
- Grand Marais, MN, Photo: Courtesy of wildnerdpix - Fotolia.com
- Carbondale, CO, Photo: Courtesy of volgariver - Fotolia.com
- San Antonio, TX, Photo: Courtesy of leekris - Fotolia.com
- Key West, FL, Photo: Courtesy of Irina Schmidt - Fotolia.com
- Naples, FL, Photo: Courtesy of lunamarina - Fotolia.com
- Chattanooga, TN, Photo: Courtesy of SeanPavonePhoto - Fotolia.com
- Dallas, TX, Photo: Courtesy of rivzero - Fotolia.com
- Sedona, Photo: Courtesy of JJAVA - Fotolia.com
- San Diego, Photo: Courtesy of William - Fotolia.com
- Orlando, FL, Photo: Courtesy of aiisha - Fotolia.com
- Charlotte, NC, Photo: Courtesy of f11photo - Fotolia.com
- Williamsburg, VA, Photo: Courtesy of jon_chica - Fotolia.com
- Sanibel Island, FL, Photo: Courtesy of Chad McDermott - Fotolia.com
- Hilton Head, SC, Photo: Courtesy of annie1961 - Fotolia.com
- Laguna Beach, CA, Photo: Courtesy of steffstarr - Fotolia.com
- Seattle, WA, Photo: Courtesy of Crin - Fotolia.com
- Denver. CO, Photo: Courtesy of f11photo - Fotolia.com
- Louisville, KY, Photo: Courtesy of f11photo - Fotolia.com
- Savannah, GA, Photo: Courtesy of Travel_Bug - Fotolia.com
- Cover Photo: Courtesy of Margaret - Fotolia.com
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