From National Parks to historic sites, there are many family adventures appropriate for every age. Of course, traveling with kids can be a challenge, but there are plenty of fun and affordable places within the United States that will give you the most value for your dollar and are rich in experience.
Each location provides opportunities for hands-on learning, beautiful scenery and plenty of family photo ops to fill your albums that can be tailored to fit any child’s age and any parent’s budget. If you’re looking for the right place to vacation with kids, we’ve got 10 family-friendly places to travel with kids that will make your vacation planning a breeze.
1. Washington, D.C.
Washington D.C. is so much more than monuments and important buildings. To see the sights in a kid-friendly way, we recommend Hop On Hop Off Tour Bus for an easy way to take in the city without having to do it all by foot. On your route, you’ll have the chance to hop off at the various Smithsonian Museums, and take insights like the Washington Monument, Pentagon, White House and Arlington National Cemetery.
For a family that’s looking to both learn and play, Washington D.C. offers lots of exciting and free museums. The National Air and Space Museum can teach kids about the planets and stars with plenty of hands-on exhibits. Kids can experience the work of NASA and famous scientists by climbing into ships and peeking into telescopes. Be sure to stop into the National Spy Museum as well as the National Museum of American History for unique experiences that are far from boring.
2. Chicago, Illinois
The Windy City! Chicago in the summer can’t be beaten and makes vacation planning with kids a breeze. Along the Magnificent Mile, you can find a row of fun shops spanning from LEGO to American Girl. You can also visit Millennium Park and stop for a photo at “The Bean,” officially titled, Cloud Gate, this is a large and completely reflective steel statue in the shape of a bean, that you must experience before you leave.
Kids will love the attractions at Navy Pier which include Build-A-Bear Workshop and the Children’s Museum. To see the city from a higher point-of-view we recommend going for a ride or two on the iconic Centennial Wheel and of course, ride the carnival-style rides in Pier Park for a day of fun and beautiful city views.
Baseball fans can have fun watching the Cubs or White Sox play, which are both easily accessible by train. The Shedd Aquarium is also a family favorite and offers various exhibits, dolphin shows and an interactive penguin experience. Next, stop by the Field Museum with a famous T-Rex named SUE. SUE is the largest and most complete T-Rex ever found and is 40 feet long and about 13 feet tall! Whether you visit in summer, winter, fall or spring, Chicago is one of our favorite places to travel with kids.
Tip: Make sure the family is wearing comfortable shoes as Chicago is best explored by foot.
3. Panama City Beach, Florida
Panama City Beach offers beautiful beaches and crystal blue waters at any time of year. If you are looking for family vacation ideas that give you plenty of time in the sun, look no further. You definitely will want to pack plenty of sunscreen!
When you’re not spending your time relaxing on the beach, Panama City Beach also has family-friendly attractions. From mini-golf to family resorts with pools, this city has activities and plenty of dining options for the entire family to enjoy.
4. San Antonio, Texas
From the Alamo to the River Walk, families will love the historic presence of San Antonio! The Alamo city is home to several historic landmarks of cultural and historical significance beyond the Alamo, including the old missions and battlegrounds from the Mexican-American War that are explorable for all age groups. Just north of the city center are the The Witte Museum, which offers a world class dinosaur exhibit and the highly interactive Children’s Museum (dubbed The Do-Seum.) These two spots are easy to get to, and are conveniently located just up the road from one another.
Along the River Walk downtown, you can meander in a kid-friendly atmosphere along the waterfront. Along the banks of this man-made river are restaurants, shops and exciting tours to build an age-appropriate itinerary as a family. Here, you can stop into notable chains that kids love- The Rainforest Cafe, Ripley’s Believe It Or Not and Louis Tussaud’s Wax Museum. Enjoy great shopping while dad and the kids ride water taxis for fun. With kid-friendly attractions within arm’s reach of one another, San Antonio makes vacation planning with kids absolutely seamless for families of all sizes.
5. New York, New York
New York City is a bustling urban experience your kids will remember for a lifetime. With theaters, historic landmarks, Central Park and the Statue of Liberty your kids will have plenty to explore and experience.
Younger children will enjoy a visit to the Bronx Zoo, and if you have children 7+ they can enjoy an obstacle course and zipline at the Bronx Zoo Treetop Adventure. The American Museum of Natural History includes exhibits in archaeology, animal science, and natural history. Within the Museum resides the Rose Center for Earth and Space. Families can explore the history of our universe, learn about the far off stars and galaxies and cap the day off with space shows in the Hayden Big Bang theater to take a glimpse into our solar system.
Located off the bustling and bright center of Times Square, you can find tickets to Broadway shows running at the area’s historic theaters. There are several tactics to getting tickets for cheap for kid-appropriate Broadway shows- including signing up for a ticket lottery, taking a chance on tickets the day-of and utilizing deal sites for last minute openings. Doing your research ahead of time to compare prices is always wise, but being flexible on what you see and when can help you experience a Broadway show with your kids for a better price!
6. The Black Hills, South Dakota
The Black Hills of South Dakota offer history and beautiful nature for kids to explore. While you visit South Dakota, you can take a hike around Mount Rushmore. Kids can also dig for mammoth bones and explore Wind Cave, the longest cave in the world. Park Rangers at Mount Rushmore also offer the Junior Ranger program, geared for kids to learn about the memorial in a way that’s suited for their age group.
If you’re looking for natural beauty and a leisurely day in nature, you’ll want to spend a day at Custer State Park. At the park, you can take a short hike, picnic and learn about new plants and animals as a family.
For kids that love the Old West, be sure to visit Hill City. Hill City is an old western town where you can ride a steam train from the 1880’s on the Black Hills Central Railroad. You can also explore the Museum at the Black Hills Institute to learn more about dinosaurs and the area’s past.
7. Yellowstone National Park, in Idaho, Wyoming and Montana
Yellowstone National Park offers natural wonders you just cannot find elsewhere. Yellowstone National Park is one of the few places on Earth that has geothermal hot spots you can visit. These hot spots create hot springs, mud pits, and geysers you can see up close. For any kids interested in science, visiting these geothermal spots in person can be a living science lesson viewed from a safe distance.
The most well-known geyser is Old Faithful. When heat and pressure from the Earth’s core build up, Old Faithful shoots steam as high as 185 feet into the sky. Be sure to stop into the Old Faithful Visitor Center for hands-on exhibits that are suitable for children of all ages.
8. Boston, Massachusetts
Boston is the perfect place for kids to learn about the American Revolution and see how our country came to be. Kids can learn about history along the Freedom Trail, a 2.5-mile journey of 16 historic landmarks through America’s early history.
Along the Freedom Trail, you can also get on a trolley tour or walk the trail at your pace to suit your child’s age and activity level. For a thrilling adventure, kids can also throw tea overboard in the Boston Harbor. During your visit, you can walk in the literal footsteps of the early colonists and revolutionaries and see artifacts to bring American history to life.
Be sure to stop in and see Boston’s great museums as well. At the New England Aquarium you can see penguins, sharks, sea turtles and hundreds of fish. The Museum of Science is great for any young explorer and offers exhibits, an enclosed butterfly garden as well. You can end your visit to Boston by stopping in the Children’s Museum for age-appropriate and hands-on exhibits along with cultural demonstrations and plenty of play time.
9. Honolulu, Hawaii
Honolulu is a great place to travel with kids for a nature-filled vacation you’ll talk about for years. During your visit, spend time amongst exotic animals at the Honolulu Zoo such as poison tree frogs, cheetahs and Sumatran tigers. The Waikiki Aquarium boasts an array of beautiful fish, coral reefs and educational exhibits to learn about Hawaiian sea life. To get out and explore, you can hike, play and picnic in Kapiolani Park.
Of course, Honolulu is also a great place to relax. The tropical beaches are perfect for mom and dad to unwind as kids boogie board and play in the sand.
10. Atlanta, Georgia
Atlanta, Georgia has gained a reputation for being a kid-friendly destination that parents can enjoy too! Whether you want to explore indoors or outdoors, Atlanta offers something for everyone. Spend an afternoon playing in the Children’s Museum, with hands-on exhibits geared for children as young as 10 months, up to around 8 years. Kids can explore topics like city planning, food, science and different cultures through play. A visit to the Georgia Aquarium puts kids up close and personal with rare marine animals such as whale sharks, beluga whales and rare tropical fish.
For a bit of outdoor play time, visit the city’s famous Piedmont Park for life-sized play areas to climb on and take in some sunshine. The city also offers exhibits and attractions to learn about civil rights and history. Kids can learn about Martin Luther King Jr. and other historical figures at the Civil Rights Museum.
Truly, there is no shortage of fun places to vacation with kids. No matter where your next vacation takes you, we hope these ideas will get everyone in your pack excited for your next adventure! Happy travels!