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Thinking about taking the family on vacation, but aren't sure where to go? I've got you covered with 20 amazing family vacation ideas for the contiguous United States. These vacation ideas range from 3 to 14 days in length, and include a variety of activities and attractions. For each of the 20 locations, I've also included suggestions on top-rated experiences and attractions.

Before we get started with the list, now is probably a good time to note that most children seem to carry a 'tried and true' mentality. They don't necessarily enjoy the thrill and excitement of a new place as much as adults do. For that reason, I recommend repeating some of your favorite vacations between trying some of the new destinations found on this list. That's exactly what we do with our daughter, and she seems quite pleased with that approach.

Top 20 Family Vacations in the U.S.


Duration: 4-5 days | When to Go: July to mid-October | Airport: Portland (ME) or Boston (MA); Bangor (ME) is another potential option

explore downtown Bar Harbor's many restaurants, bars, and shops
catch a sunrise or sunset by either driving or hiking to the top of Cadillac Mountain (a vehicle reservation may be required)
bring or rent a bike to cycle along some of the Acadia National Park's 50-plus miles of wonderfully-maintained carriage roads
explore Sand Beach and then experience some exhilarating scrambling up the Beehive Trail (not recommended for young children)
spend a half-day driving the scenic Park Loop Road, stopping to see at least Thunder Hole, the Otter Cliffs, and Jordan Pond along the way
take some sort of guided boat tour out of Bar Harbor (e.g. scenic boat ride, lobster boat, sailing, kayaking, etc.)
visit the Bass Harbor Head Light Station, preferably at sunrise or sunset
eat a buttery popover and enjoy scenic views from the Jordan Pond House
challenge yourself with a family rock-climbing session with Acadia Mountain Guides
take a scenic drive along the Schoodic Peninsula
go mini-golfing at Pirate's Cove Adventure Golf
walk along some of the scenic Ocean Path
for an exhilarating experience, climb the ladders and runs of the famous Precipice Trail (typically opens in mid-August)

hiking down Champlain Mountain, Acadia National Park near downtown Bar Harbor, Maine Precipice Trail, Acadia National Park


Duration: 5-7 days | When to Go: May to October | Airport: Redmond (OR) or Portland (OR); Sacramento (CA) is another potential option

Bring or rent a flashlight to go underground at the Lava River Cave (timed entry may be required)
Visit one or several of the more than 20 breweries in Bend (e.g. Deschutes Brewery)
Let nostalgia flow by visiting the last remaining Blockbuster Store in the U.S.
Go whitewater rafting on the Deschutes River (e.g. Seventh Mountain River Company)
Enjoy a deserty hike at Smith Rock State Park
Take a river tube down the Deschutes River in downtown Bend
explore downtown Bend's many restaurants, bars, and shops
Visit the nearby town of Sisters, which has many restaurants and boutique/gift shops
Go for a hike in Newbury National Volcanic Monument (e.g. Paulina Peak, Big Obsidian Flow, Paulina Falls, etc.)
Take a moderate hike to the scenic, 97-foot tall Tumalo Falls
Ride the ATV/ORV trails around Bend
Visit the High Desert Museum, an excellent history museum with live animal demonstrations
Head east on a day trip to visit the colorful rock formations of John Day Fossil Beds National Monument
Take a scenic drive along the McKenzie Pass-Santiam Pass Scenic Byway
Go skiing at the world-class Mount Bachelor

Bend sign Lava River Cave, OR Sahalie Falls, OR


Duration: 7-10 days | When to Go: May to October | Airport: Rapid City (SD), Cheyenne (WY), or Denver (CO)

Visit Bear Country USA, one of the best drive-through zoos in the U.S.
Drive some of the scenic roads of the Black Hills (e.g. Iron Mountain Road, Needles Highway, Spearfish Canyon, etc.)
Take a moderately difficult hike to the summit of Black Elk Peak, which is the highpoint of South Dakota
Visit Mount Rushmore and hike the Presidential Trail to get closer to the presidential carvings
Take some photos at Dahl's Chainsaw Art, the most famous chainsaw-art store in the country
Eat and drink in the restaurants and breweries of downtown Rapid City
Let the wine flow at Prairie Berry Winery in Hill City
Take the kiddos to the Rush Mountain Adventure Park for a mountain coaster ride and/or zip-lining
Enjoy a scenic drive and hike within Custer State Park (e.g. Black Elk Peak, Cathedral Spires Trail, Sunday Gulch Trail)
Go underground on a guided tour of Wind Cave National Park
Take a day trip to visit the colorful scenery of Badlands National Park and visit the famous tourist trap known as Wall Drug
Visit the Reptile Gardens, one of the premier reptile zoos of the U.S.
Enjoy a dinner theatre at Fort Hays Old West Town & Dinner Show
Ride a bike along some of the George Michaelson Rail Trail, one of the finest rail trails in the country
See the various waterfalls along Spearfish Canyon
Experience wild west buildings and culture in the town of Deadwood

Badlands National Park, SD Mt. Rushmore Needles Highway, SD


Duration: 4-5 days | When to Go: May to October | Airport: Boston (MA); Manchester (NH) and Providence (RI) are other potential options

Walk the entire 2.5-mile long Freedom Trail as it passes many of Boston and Charleston's most historic sites
Explore Boston Common and the Boston Public Garden on foot (don't miss the various statues, playgrounds, and the swan boat rides)
Hop aboard a duck boat with Boston Duck Tours
Catch a baseball game at the storied Fenway Park
Take a boat ride out to Fort Warren on George's Island (part of Boston Harbor Islands National Recreation Area)
Visit the excellent Museum of Science and/or Museum of Fine Arts
Go shopping at the boutique shops along Newbury Street
Take the kids to the Boston Children's Museum
Grab dinner and dessert at one of the fine Italian restaurants of the North End (e.g. Hanover Street)
Visit the New England Aquarium and consider taking a whale-watching boat tour
Catch a performance by the Blue Man Group at the Charles Playhouse
Walk or cycle along some of the Charles River Bike Path
Visit the tourist magnets of Boston: Fanueil Hall and Quincy Market
Hop aboard 'Old Ironsides' at the U.S.S. Constitution Museum
See dinosaur fossils, gemstones, and animals at the Harvard Museum of Natural History

U.S.S. Constitution Museum, Boston, MA historic street in Boston statue in Boston Common


Duration: 4-5 days | When to Go: May to September | Airport: Bentonville (AR), Springfield (MO), Kansas City (MO), or Tulsa (OK)

Catch some rides and thrills at the beloved Silver Dollar City theme park
Take an 2.5-mile journey on an electric golf cart cart at Top of the Rock at Big Cedar Lodge
Visit one of the best zoos in the Midwest: Branson's Promised Land Zoo
Ride a zipline or mountain coaster (e.g. Runaway Mountain Coaster)
Enjoy a show (or several) at one of the many live performance theatres in town
Go shopping and see the water fountain show at Branson Landing
Take a swim at Moonshine Beach Recreation Area
See real artifacts from the Titanic ship at the Titanic Museum
Witness decades worth of toys at the World's Largest Toy Museum
Encourage the kids to burn all their energy climbing and jumping at Fritz's Adventure
Take a hike or tram tour at the Dogwood Canyon Nature Park in nearby Lampe
Score some scenic views from the Branson Scenic Overlook on MO-165

Branson sign one of many roadside attractions in Branson World's Largest Toy Museum, Branson, MO


Duration: 3-4 days | When to Go: Year-Round | Airport: John Wayne (CA), Long Beach (CA), or Los Angeles (CA)

Spend 2 days (or perhaps even 3) enjoying the two main parks of Disneyland: Disney California Adventure Park and Disneyland Park
Head to Downtown Disney for shopping, dining and entertainment (this is admission free as it is location outside of the two parks)
Spend a day at the nearby Knott's Berry Farm amusement park and water park
Enjoy a dinner theater experience at Medieval Times Dinner & Tournament
Have some more fun at the Adventure City amusement park (best for younger children)

In addition to what is described above, you could also consider adding more days to visit any of the following: Hollywood (including Universal Studios), Los Angeles, Pacific Park on the Santa Monica Pier, Six Flags Magic Mountain, and/or the southern beaches of California
Disneyland, California


Duration: 7-10 days | When to Go: April to November | Airport: Knoxville (TN), Asheville (NC), or Greenville-Spartanburg (SC)

Drive up Newfound Gap Road (US-441) and Clingmans Dome Road and then take a short walk to the highpoint of TN (Clingman's Dome)
Enjoy a show (or several) at one of many live performance theatres in Pigeon Forge (e.g. Dixie Stampede, Hatfield & McCoy)
Visit Dollywood, one of America's best theme parks
Take a day hike within Great Smoky Mountains National Park (e.g. Alum Cave, Grotto Falls, Laurel Falls, Rainbow Falls, Charlies Bunion)
Enjoy one of the great water parks that are located in the region (e.g. Dollywood Splash Country, Soaky Mountain Waterpark, etc.)
Go underground on a guided cave tour at Forbidden Caverns
Seek some thrills with one of the many zip-lining tours in the area (e.g. Adventure Park, CLIMB Works, Wahoo, etc.)
Enjoy the shops and amusements found within 'The Island' tourist area of Pigeon Forge
Try zorbing at the Outdoor Gravity Park
See real artifacts from the Titanic ship at the Titanic Museum in Pigeon Forge
Drive some of the paved scenic roads in the Smokies (e.g. Cades Cove, Newfound Gap, Roaring Fork Motor Trail, etc.)
Enjoy a few of the dozens of family-fun centers found in Pigeon Forge (e.g. go-karting centers, mini-golf, amusement parks, etc.)
Watch lumberjacks at the Paula Deen's Lumberjack Feud
Take some sips at some of the many moonshine distilleries and wineries in the area
Explore the downtown area of Gatlinburg, which is packed with shops, restaurants, museums, and other attractions
Zoom down one of the area's mountain coasters (e.g. Rocky Top Mountain Coaster)

Titanic Museum, Pigeon Forge Farmhouse Cafe, Pigeon Forge historic cabin in the Smokies


Duration: 5-7 days | When to Go: April to November | Airport: Harrisburg (PA), Philadelphia (PA), or Baltimore (MD)

Ride the famous rollercoasters of Hersheypark
Immerse yourself in chocolate at Hershey Chocolate World
Take the younger children to Dutch Wonderland, one of the finest children's amusement parks in the country
Climb aboard a guided horse and buggy tour in Dutch country
Cycle some of the Northwest Lancaster County River Trail
Take a tour of a working Amish farm (e.g. Old Windmill Farm)
Explore more than 100 locomotives and railroad cars at the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania
Enjoy some delicious Dutch cooking (e.g. Shady Maple Smorgasbord)
Take a ride on the top-rated Strasburg Rail Road
Walk the lovely gardens at Hershey Gardens
See classic cars and other historic vehicles at the AACA Museum in Hershey
Patron some of the boutique shops and shopping villages found along PA-340 in the towns of Bird-in-Hand and Intercourse
Be entertained at one of the local theaters (e.g. Dutch Apple Dinner Theater)
Immerse yourself in Amish/Dutch History at Ephrata Cloister
Take a day trip and head north to the (free admission; pay-as-you-ride) Knoebels Amusement Resort

Hershey's Chocolate World, PA Amish statue Hersheypark, PA


Duration: 4-5 days | When to Go: June to October | Airport: Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport (SC)

Take a pirate-themed boat cruise with Pirates of Hilton Head
Catch a highly-rated family-friendly comedy and magic show at the Comedy Magic Cabaret
Explore the grounds and museum of the Coastal Discovery Museum
Tackle an aerial adventure park with zip-lining at Adventure Hilton Head
Relax at Coligny Beach
Go for a hike at the Sea Pines Forest Preserve
See mermaids on a Mermaid Encounter Tour
Cycle some of the 60-plus miles of paved bike paths on Hilton Head Island (this is one of the best places for biking in the U.S.)
Stay at the Disney Hilton Head Island Resort
Take a scenic dolphin-spotting boat tour
Spend a half-day walking around the beautiful Historic District of Savannah, Georgia
Hilton Head Island


Duration: 5-7 days | When to Go: April to November | Airport: Salt Lake City (UT), Denver (CO), or Las Vegas (NV); there are also some regional airports but they are limited in operation

Enjoy some of the best family-friendly day hikes in Arches National Park (e.g. Double Arch, The Windows, Sand Dune Arch, Broken Arch)
Catch a sunset at Dead Horse Point State Park
Take an short hike in the Islands in the Sky district of Canyonlands National Park (e.g. Mesa Arch, Grand View Point Trail, etc.)
Book a reservation for a guided 4x4 Hummer driving tour with the Moab Adventure Center
Take a moderate, 3.0-mile round hike to stunning Corona Arch, a 105-foot tall natural arch
Enjoy the many shops and restaurants of downtown Moab
Hike some of the moderately-challenging, top-rated trails of Arches National Park (e.g. Devils Garden, Delicate Arch)
Rent a bike and cycle some of the paved paths found in and north of town
Float down a section of the Colorado River with the help of a local guide service
Rent a jeep or ORV/UTV and explore some of the hundreds of miles of scenic dirt roads in the area
Take a day trip to the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park, stopping at Wilson Arch and Newspaper Rock along the way
Ride some of Moab's world-class mountain biking trails (not recommended for younger children)
Have the kids participate in Arches National Park's Junior Ranger program
Hike a few of the best hiking trails found outside of Arches (e.g. Fisher Towers, Jeep Arch, Mill Creek, Morning Glory Bridge, etc.)
Challenge yourself with a guided rock-climbing or canyoneering adventure

Moab sign Corona Arch, Moab 4x4 Hummer touring in Moab


Duration: 5-7 days | When to Go: April to December | Airport: JFK (NY) or LaGuardia (NY); Newark (NJ) is another potential option

Explore the trails and playgrounds of southern Central Park (e.g. Heckscher Playground, Billy Johnson Playground, etc.)
Catch an age-appropriate show on Broadway (e.g. Lion King, Wicked, Michael Jackson, Radio City Rockettes, etc.)
Enjoy the splash pad at Washington Square Park in summer
See dinosaurs, animals, and gemstones at the enormous American Museum of Natural History
Book a 'salon treatment' doll experience at the American Girl NYC store
Visit NYC's most iconic toy store: FAO Schwarz at Rockefeller Plaza
Take the kids shopping at some of their favorite stores (LEGO, M&M, Hershey's Chocolate World, Disney, Harry Potter, Nintendo, etc.)
Ride the tall and fast metal children's slide at the Chelsea Waterside Park
Enjoy the elevated views from the SUMMIT One Observatory (reservations highly recommended)
Pretend to be a spy at SPYSCAPE
Take a walk along the High Line with a detour to visit Little Island as well
Visit the iconic Economy Candy store in the Lower East Side
Book a reservation for a boat trip to the Statue of Liberty (or take the free Staten Island ferry to score great views of it from the water)
See more than 6,000 animals at the Bronx Zoo
Ride the SeaGlass Carousel in lower Manhattan
Enjoy the seaside amusements of Coney Island in summer
Catch a ballgame at Yankee Stadium

NYC from Brooklyn Central Park views SUMMIT One Observatory, NYC


Duration: 3-4 days | When to Go: June to September | Airport: Atlantic City (NJ), Philadelphia (PA), or Newark (NJ)

Walk and/or bike the 2.5-mile long wooden beach boardwalk
Spend some cash at the various amusement attractions found all along the beach boardwalk (e.g. rides, arcades, mini-golf, etc.)
Relax at the beach
Take a day trip to head south to enjoy more seaside amusements in the town of Wildwood
Bounce your way along the Totally Tubular Aqua Park
Eat all sorts of seaside junk food! (beach pizza, taffy, fried everything, donuts, etc.)
Enjoy some exciting watersports (e.g. water-tubing, parasailing, etc.)
Hop on a top-rated boat tour (e.g. pirate adventure boat, speed boat rides, etc.)
Ocean City, NJ Ocean City, NJ


Duration: 7-14 days | When to Go: Year-Round | Airport: Orlando International Airport (FL)

Spend at least 1 day at each of the four main Walt Disney World parks: Magic Kingdom, EPCOT, Hollywood Studios, and Animal Kingdom
Visit one or both of the two major Universal Orlando Resort parks: Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure
Get soaked at one of the many water parks in the Orlando area (some but not all are run by Disney and Universal Studios)
Swim with dolphins at Discovery Cove
Go shopping at more than 150 stores at Disney Springs
Enjoy more family-fun amusements at Fun Spot America
Experience alligators and other reptiles at Gatorland
Ride a giant 400-foot ferris wheel at ICON Park
Enjoy the rollercoasters, water rides, and animal experiences at SeaWorld Orlando
Go river-tubing at the nearby Rock Springs Run at Kelly Park
Drive 75-minutes south to visit LEGOLAND Florida and/or the Peppa Pig Theme Park
Cycle some of the excellent West Orange Trail rail trail
Take a guided airboat tour from Kissimmee
Eat at the World's Largest McDonald's in Orlando
See manatees at Blue Spring State Park in Orange City in winter
Swim in a beautiful natural spring at Wekiwa Springs State Park
EPCOT, Florida Magic Kingdom Disney Survey Marker


Duration: 7-10 days | When to Go: March to November | Airport: San Antonio (TX) or Austin (TX)

See thousands of Mexican free-tailed bats fly out from under the Congress Avenue Bridge in Austin
Swim in a gigantic natural spring-fed 68-degree pool within Zilker Park in Austin
Seek some thrills at the Six Flags Fiesta Texas amusement park in San Antonio
Try some of Austin's 50-plus craft breweries (that's not a typo)
See more than 500 animals stuffed on the walls of the famous Buckhorn Saloon
Walk the famous San Antonio River Walk and continue on to visit The Alamo
See more than 3,500 animals at the San Antonio Zoo
Go underground on a guided tour of the Natural Bridge Caverns
Take a day trip to visit the charming town of Fredericksburg (or even better, try to stay there for 1-2 nights as well)
Spend a day getting soaked at Schlitterbahn in New Braunfels, one of the best water-parks in the U.S.
Enjoying the rides, attractions, and animal attractions of SeaWorld San Antonio and Aquatica
Shoot some photos of the World's Largest Cowboy Boots, a fun roadside attraction in San Antonio
Drive west to visit the Hamilton Pool Preserve, which features a 50-foot limestone waterfall
Eat some famous BBQ in Austin (e.g. Franklin's)
Shop along South Congress Street in Austin
Tour four stunning and historic Spanish frontier mission buildings within the San Antonio Missions National Historical Park
Take a dip in the huge Barton Springs Pool in Austin
Take a self-guided or guided driving safari at Natural Bridge Wildlife Ranch
Walk the lovely grounds of the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in Austin

The Alamo, San Antonio Riverwalk, San Antonio


Duration: 5-7 days | When to Go: Year-Round | Airport: San Diego (CA)

Visit the world-famous San Diego Zoo, home to more than 14,000 animals
Spend a day enjoying the rides, attractions, and marine animal shows of SeaWorld San Diego
Enjoy the beach and seaside amusements of Mission Beach and Belmont Park
Take a hike at the nearby Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve
Head north to La Jolla to enjoy its beaches and tide pools
Enjoy a scenic view from the top of Cabrillo National Monument
Walk through the various gardens of the top-rated San Diego Botanic Garden
Tour a historic U.S. Navy aircraft carrier at the USS Midway Museum
Snap some photos at the scenic Sunset Cliffs Natural Park
Bring the younger kiddos to Sesame Place San Diego
Drive through the San Diego Zoo Safari Park
Take a day trip north to visit LEGOLAND California in Carlsbad

San Diego sunset Torrey Pines


Duration: 5-7 days | When to Go: March to November| Airport: Tampa (FL) or St. Pete-Clearwater (FL)

Spend a day or two enjoying the popular beaches of St. Pete (e.g. Upham Beach Park) and Clearwater Beach
Ride rollercoasters and other thrill rides, plus see thousands of animals, at the massive Busch Gardens theme park
Let the young ones play at the Glazer Children's Museum
Get soaked at the Adventure Island water park, located across from Busch Gardens
Enjoy inexpensive fun by letting the kids enjoy the playgrounds and splash pad at Carrollwood Village Park
Visit the impressive Florida Aquarium
See your favorite animals at ZooTampa
Catch a Tampa Bay Ray's baseball game

In addition to what is described above, you could also take a day trip south to the Bradenton and Sarasota area (which is packed with great beaches, notable museums, and more).


Duration: 7-10 days | When to Go: July to mid-October | Airport: Manchester (NH) or Boston (MA)

Climb through boulder caves at the Lost River Gorge and Boulder Caves in North Woodstock
Reach the top of Mount Washington by taking the Auto Road or the Cog Railway (you can also hike the mountain, but it's very difficult)
Explore downtown North Conway, making sure to include a stop at the beloved Zeb's General Store
Take a scenic drive along the Kancamagus Highway (NH 112), stopping at Sabbaday Falls, Rocky Gorge, and Lower Falls along the way
Find a local swimming hole and take a dip
Ride a canoe or river-tube down the Saco River in Conway and western Maine (e.g. Saco River Tubing Center, Saco Bound, etc.)
Take the kids to Story Land and/or Santa's Village, two great theme parks geared towards younger children
Go for an easy or moderate hike in the national forest (e.g. Arethusa Falls, Artist's Bluff, Bridal Veil Falls, Glen Ellis Falls, Mount Willard)
Backpack up to an AMC backcountry hut and stay the night (dinner and breakfast are served in season)
Visit Madison Boulder, one of the largest boulders in the United States, in Madison
Enjoy some outlet shopping at the Settler's Green Outlets in Conway
Go swimming at either one of the two lakes named Echo Lake (there's one near Cannon Mountain and there's one in North Conway)
Take a canopy zip-lining tour at Bretton Woods
Find Christmas ornaments at the massive Christmas Loft store in North Conway (a smaller store of theirs also exists in North Woodstock)
Drive the US-302 scenic highway through Crawford Notch State Park from Jackson to Twin Mountain (or vice versa)

Glen Ellis Falls, Jackson Mt. Washington Cog Railway Franconia Ridge, NH


Duration: 5-7 days | When to Go: May to September | Airport: Newport News/Williamsburg (VA), Norfolk (VA), or Richmond (VA)

Ride the world-class rollercoasters at Busch Gardens
Engage in history at Colonial Williamsburg, the largest living history museum in the U.S.
Enjoy the beach and seaside amusements of Virginia Beach
Challenge yourself at the Go Ape Zipline and Adventure Park in Williamsburg
Visit the site of the first permanent English colony in America at Historic Jamestowne
Learn from costumed interpreters at the Jamestown Settlement
Get wet at the largest water park in the Mid-Atlantic (and one of the finest in the U.S.) at Water Country USA
Visit another excellent living history museum at the American Revolution Museum in Yorktown
Take a drive along the 23-mile Colonial Parkway
Climb aboard the U.S.S. Wisconsin at Nauticus, a maritime museum where you can tour a large U.S. Navy battleship
Walk through the Norfolk Botanical Garden, one of the finest botanic gardens in the U.S.
Spend time enjoying the trails and beaches of First Landing State Park, dubbed the 'crown jewel of Virginia state parks'
Visit the Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center at Virginia Beach, a large aquarium with more than 10,000 animals from 300-plus species


Duration: 4-6 days | When to Go: July to August | Airport: Madison (WI) or Milwaukee (WI)

Take a scenic boat tour to visit the Dells of the Wisconsin River
Spend a full day at Noah's Ark, one of the best and largest water-parks in the country
Stay at an indoor waterpark resort (e.g. Wilderness Resort)
Zoom through the air at the excellent Bigfoot Zipline
Take a guided horse-drawn carriage tour through cliff-walled gorges with Lost Canyon Tours
Catch the famous Rick Wilcox Magic Theater magic show
See and feed more than 100 deer at the Wisconsin Deer Park
Head to the free admission Henry Villas Zoo in Madison
Go river-tubing on the Wisconsin River (e.g. Point Bluff Tubing Resort)
Walk the grounds of the Olbrich Botanical Gardens
Visit the eclectic House on the Rock (and bring cash so that the kids can feed the amazing animatronics)
Drive 25-minutes south and take a day hike within Devil's Lake State Park, Wisconsin's premier natural area
Step underground on a guided tour of the Cave of the Mounds in nearby Blue Mounds
Enjoy some of the dozens of family-fun centers in town (e.g. amusement parks, go-karting, arcades, water-parks, mini-golf, etc.)

House on the Rock Devil's Rock State Park Capitol Building, Madison


Duration: 5-7 days | When to Go: June to September | Airport: Bozeman (MT), Jackson (WY), Salt Lake City (UT), or Idaho Falls (ID)

Witness the eruption of the famed Old Faithful geyser (erupts roughly every 90-100 minutes or so)
See plenty of wild animals from the safety of your vehicle along the Park Loop Road (e.g. bears, bison, elk, etc.)
Walk the various boardwalk trails of Lower Geyser Basin near Old Faithful to see a variety of colorful hot spring pools
Have the kids participate in Yellowstone's Junior Ranger program
Rent a bike from the Old Faithful Snow Lodge and ride to see Morning Glory Pool
Take a hike for an elevated view of the dramatic Grand Prismatic Spring
Hike the great trails around Lower Falls and Upper Falls of the Yellowstone River
Walk the easy trails at West Thumb Geyser Basin to see some of the best hot springs in the park
Rent a rowboat or small motorboat at the Bridge Bay Marina on Yellowstone Lake
Go waterfall hunting (there are hundreds in the park, and many are accessible via roadside or short hike)
Consider heading east to visit the nearby town of Cody, Wyoming (be sure to catch the Cody Nite Rodeo and visit the Buffalo Bill museum)

West Thumb Geyser Basin, Yellowsone Grand Prismatic Spring, Yellowstone Morning Glory Pool, Yellowstone


Here is a list of additional top-rated family-friendly vacation areas in the United States. Each of these vacation ideas almost made the top 20 list above. Please email me if you see any glaring omissions from this list.

Albuquerque & Santa Fe, New Mexico - 4-5 days
Bryce Canyon National Park & Capital Reef National Park, Utah - 5-7 days
Burlington & Stowe, Vermont - 4-5 days
Cape Cod & the Islands, Massachusetts - 5-7 days
Chattanooga, Tennessee - 3-4 days
Chicago, Illinois - 4-5 days
Destin, Florida - 3-4 days
Door County, Wisconsin - 2-3 days
Erie, Pennsylvania - 2-3 days
Estes Park & Rocky Mountains National Park - 4-5 days
Florida Keys & Dry Tortugas National Park - 4-5 days
Grand Canyon National Park, Williams, and Flagstaff, Arizona - 4-5 days
Gulf Shores & Orange Beach, Alabama - 3-4 days
Hot Springs, Arkansas - 2-3 days
Jackson, Wyoming & Grand Tetons National Park - 4-5 days
Las Vegas, Nevada - 3-4 days
Lake George, New York - 3-4 days
Lake Tahoe, California - 3-4 days
Mackinac Island & Traverse City, Michigan - 3-4 days
Medora & Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota - 2-3 days
Myrtle Beach, South Carolina - 4-5 days
Naples and the southern Gulf Coast, Florida - 4-5 days
Northern Utah skiing (e.g. Park City, Deer Valley, etc.) - 4-5 days
North Carolina Mountains - 5-7 days
Ocean City, Maryland - 3-5 days
Old Orchard Beach & Portland, Maine - 3-5 days
Oregon coastline (including Newport, Bandon, and Sisters) - 3-5 days
Outer Banks, North Carolina - 3-4 days
Page, Arizona & Kanab, Utah - 5-7 days (split this time between the two places)
Palm Springs & Joshua Tree National Park, California - 4-5 days
Rehoboth Beach, Delaware - 3-4 days
Redwood National and State Parks, California - 3-4 days
Sandusky & Cedar Point, Ohio - 3-4 days
Sedona, Arizona - 5-7 days
Siesta Key, Florida - 3-5 days
St. George, Utah - 3-4 days
Tucson and southern Arizona - 4-5 days
Washington, D.C. - 3-5 days
Wildwood, New Jersey - 3-4 days
Yosemite National Park, California - 3-5 days
Zion National Park, Utah - 3-4 days


I also highly recommend family vacations to these special places in Canada:

Banff & Jasper, Alberta - 7-10 days in summer or 4-5 days in winter
Mont Tremblant Ski Resort, Quebec - 4-5 days in winter
Niagara Falls - 2-3 days in spring, summer, or fall
Quebec City - 4-5 days in summer, fall, or winter
Prince Edward Island - 3-5 days in summer or fall
Whistler Blackcomb, British Columbia - 4-5 days in winter


Here are some general tips for successful (and hopefully less-stressful) family vacations:

I always check online reviews using several websites before booking any accommodations. As a general rule, I have found that if an accommodation has an overall rating of at least 8.8 on, 4.4 on Google Reviews, and 4.5 on Tripadvisor, it is almost certainly going to provide a great experience. I don't think I have ever been disappointed by an accommodation that has an overall rating of at least 9.2 on, 4.6 on Google Reviews, and 4.6 on Tripadvisor. I'm at the point now where I get really excited when I see an accommodation that has reviews of that magnitude, because I know it's going to provide a fantastic experience.

As I also mention above, your children will likely appreciate if your vacations are a mix of old and new. Kids tend to enjoy returning to places where they have fond memories. I think a good rule of thumb is to spend half your vacation time on repeat destinations and the other half on new places.

To take the stress out of family travel, you absolutely need to make yourself a travel checklist. And as soon as you return from a trip, edit and improve that checklist for the next trip. After a few rounds of editing, that checklist will allow travel to become MUCH easier for you.

Don't be afraid to pull your children out of school to experience travel. I generally think it's OK to pull kids out of school a few days per year, although we try to limit ourselves to 5 or fewer days per school year. Teachers sometimes get upset with this, but travel teaches kids a lot too.

More and more nature parks and amusement parks are requiring reservations or 'timed entry'. I recommend performing research at least 6 months in advance (12 months if you are thinking about visiting national parks).

Walmart Supercenters!

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