22 Best Family Vacations in the U.S. That Are Perfect for Everyone — From Toddlers to Teens

From big cities to small towns, these family vacations in the U.S. will delight both kids and adults.

Siblings dipping feet in water on pier at Outer Banks, North Carolina

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What people look for when traveling with kids is entirely different than for a girls trip, romantic getaway, or solo vacation. Sure, virtually any destination can be reasonably family-friendly — it just might require some more planning and preparation (which anyone who has ever traveled with a little one knows comes with the territory anyway). On the flip side, other places are filled with kid-centric activities like parks, playgrounds, zoos, interactive museums, aquariums, riverfront walking paths, and hotels that cater to guests of all ages. 

Luckily, you don't have to travel far to find one of these spots. Here are 22 of the best family vacations in the U.S., from big cities to national parks for camping or glamping.

New York City, New York 

Kids playing in Central Park, New York

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New York City offers nonstop fun for families with museums, Broadway shows, and every type of restaurant imaginable. Stores like FAO Schwarz and Dylan’s Candy Bar dazzle younger shoppers. Both Central Park and the Hudson River Greenway are great spots to let the little one burn off some energy. Plus, Arlo Soho and the Freehand have bunk rooms, which will surely earn you brownie points with kiddos. 

Jackson, Wyoming 

Teenage girls kayaking in Colter Bay on Jackson Lake, Wyoming

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When kids get a little older, there’s a definite need to seek out places with plenty of room to roam. With access to two national parks, three ski resorts, and ample outdoor recreation — from hiking to zorbing (literally going downhill inside a transparent orb) — Jackson certainly fits that description. And the Western-themed shops are great for stocking up on souvenirs, too.

San Diego, California 

Beach at Carlsbad, San Diego, California

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The sun-splashed city of San Diego feels like a dream, with beautiful beaches and legendary waves. What adventurous kid wouldn’t want to take a surf lesson? Travelers who prefer to stay on dry land will find plenty to enjoy in the form of shopping, dining, and the San Diego Zoo. Fairmont Grand Del Mar and Hotel del Coronado, Curio Collection by Hilton are top picks for family-friendly lodgings. 

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 

Kids on Scooters Rittenhouse Square, a Philadelphia landmark, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

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Many major cities have kid-friendly attractions, but Philadelphia takes it to the next level. Tykes will love Sesame Place and the Legoland Discovery Center. Between The Franklin Institute and the Please Touch Museum, the interactive exhibits never seem to end. And that’s even before mentioning the Philadelphia Zoo and Adventure Aquarium. Apartment hotels like Roost Rittenhouse mean you won’t have to cram everyone into one tiny room. 

Orlando, Florida 

Ferris Wheel at Icon Park in Orlando

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It wouldn’t be a list of best family vacation destinations in the U.S. without mention of "The Happiest Place On Earth." Besides big-name theme parks — among them, Walt Disney World and Universal — Orlando has some awesome hotels like the Four Seasons Resort Orlando and JW Marriott Orlando, Grande Lakes, both of which boast spacious rooms and lazy rivers. 

Park City, Utah

Kids skiing at Park City, Utah

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Park City is family-friendly no matter the season. The warmer months are prime for hiking, mountain biking, and riding the town lift. Kids will delight in the crafts, face painting, and food at the weekly Park Silly Sunday Market. Come winter, it’s all about skiing and snowboarding. A dusting of snow gives Main Street postcard vibes that will enchant visitors of all ages.

Cape May, New Jersey 

Washington Street Mall in Cape May, New Jersey

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A Jersey Shore town with sandy beaches, year-round excitement, and wholesome fun, Cape May remains a longtime family favorite. It’s home to pretty Victorian homes that resemble giant dollhouses, a historic striped lighthouse, and Congress Hall — a dream of a hotel for both kids and parents. There’s also a pedestrian shopping area called the Washington Street Mall with many shops and restaurants. 

Chicago, Illinois 

Climbing Wall at Maggie Daley Park, Chicago

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The Windy City packs a punch in terms of family-friendly attractions. Kids won’t be able to contain their excitement over the awesome playgrounds and climbing wall at Maggie Daley Park, the animal-filled Lincoln Park Zoo, and the Centennial Wheel. If it gets too chilly to spend another moment outside, head indoors to the Chicago Children's Museum or hit the Shedd Aquarium

Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin 

Teenagers ride the Anaconda at Wisconsin Dells' Kalahari Resort

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One of the best lake destinations in the Badger State, Wisconsin Dells comes up big in the family fun department. During the summer, Noah's Ark Waterpark is the place to be for rides and games. Pirate's Cove Adventure Golf has 91 unique holes, plus a playground and picnic area. Set kiddos loose for some free-range (but still supervised) exploration at Mirror Lake State Park

Sedona, Arizona 

Red rock formations showing erosion in the Fay Canyon near Sedona

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The breathtaking beauty of Sedona is enough to elicit a smile from even the surliest of teens. Plus, it’s super Instagrammable. Hiking through the red rocks promises to be a bonding experience. If you need a little inspiration, Fay Canyon and Sugarloaf Loop are generally considered to be relatively easy trails. Another exhilarating way to soak in the scenery that doesn’t necessitate hoofing it? Pink jeep tours

Washington, D.C.

Mother and daughters riding bicycles by Capitol Building, Washington DC

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A trip to the nation’s capital presents an opportunity to see democracy in action and visit landmarks that bring history to life for kids (and parents). After clocking countless steps between the myriad monuments, museums, parks, and botanic gardens, return to the Fairmont Washington, D.C., Georgetown, a family-friendly hotel with connecting rooms, an indoor swimming pool, and a canine ambassador named Georgie. 

Maui, Hawaii 

A family standing on a rocky coastline watching a sunset in Maui

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The chance to dive into a good book while your kids build sandcastles, frolicking in the waves together — a family beach vacation is always a good idea. Maui exudes tropical charm with its golden sand, clear water, and swaying palms. The Four Seasons Resort Maui at Wailea caters to guests of all ages, thanks to multiple pools, kids’ programming, and babysitting services. 

Mystic, Connecticut 

Mystic Connecticut Seaport

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Connecticut’s 19th-century whaling village of Mystic brims with coastal New England charm, and it's a great place to explore with the kiddos. Beeline it to Mystic Seaport, the largest maritime museum in the U.S., and go see beluga whales at the Mystic Aquarium. Afterward, grab a pie at Mystic Pizza. Even if the little ones are too young to remember the 1988 film, the pizza will still taste delicious. 

Branson, Missouri 

Night Summer Aerial View of the Branson Ferris Wheel in Branson, Missouri

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Many people call Branson the epicenter of family fun in Missouri. It’s also officially the Live Entertainment Capital of the World, with dozens of shows. Nab tickets to Dolly Parton’s Stampede and Abba Tribute — Thank You for the Music. Hopefully, you’ll have time to squeeze in some local performers, too. Needless to say, there’s no chance kids or parents will be bored for even a minute in this small but mighty Midwestern town.

Gatlinburg, Tennessee

Gatlinburg, Tennessee, in the Smoky Mountains

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With proximity to Great Smoky Mountains National Park, endless outdoor recreation, and scenic attractions, Gatlinburg ranks as a top destination for a family getaway. Trying to get the kids off their iPads and interested in the natural world? Bring them to the 400-foot panoramic observation deck or for a ride on the aerial cable car that goes from the slopeside amusement park Ober Gatlinburg to downtown. 

Bar Harbor, Maine 

Old Wooden store buildings on waterfront at the town of Bar Harbor in Acadia national Park, Maine

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The gateway to Acadia National Park, Bar Harbor attracts outdoorsy travelers, including families keen on trading screen time for fresh air, hiking trails, and mountain-ringed beaches. Keep the kids distracted by booking a whale-watching cruise or kayaking tour. And buy a few more hours of good behavior at the many shops and eateries in the village. The Shore Path is easily accessible and oh-so scenic. 

Niagara Falls, New York 

Tourists on boardwalks doing the Cave of The Winds Tour, Niagara Falls

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Best known for the majestic natural wonder and sheer power of Niagara Falls, the town of Niagara Falls in New York offers families thrilling, water-logged voyages on the Maid of the Mist, stellar views from the Prospect Point Observation Tower, guided tours of Cave of the Winds, and hiking into the Niagara Gorge. Bonus: you don’t need to pack a passport. 

Truckee, California

Summer fun in Lake Tahoe Basin, Truckee, California

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Nestled in the foothills of the High Sierra mountains, Truckee is the perfect home base for a family vacation to Lake Tahoe. Travelers can soak in all the Old West charm of the shops, restaurants, and festive events downtown while still staying within a short drive of hiking and boating. When the temperature drops and the snow falls, it’s time to hit the slopes at Northstar California Resort

Yellowstone National Park  

Tourists walking on elevated walkway along Grand Prismatic Geyser

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Visiting Yellowstone National Park as a family? Kids can become junior rangers and even receive a badge of honor making it official. Activity booklets (available for purchase at one of the visitor centers) outline the requirements, which include sitting in a real-life ranger talk and going on a hike. It’s a great way to get the youngest parkgoers excited — as if seeing Old Faithful wouldn't be compelling enough. 

Williamsburg, Virginia 

A horse drawn carriage along the street in Williamsburg in the Fall

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Most of the notable attractions in Williamsburg — basically one giant outdoor living museum — are family-friendly. You could probably get the kids to approve of the trip by just showing them photos of the 80,000-square-foot indoor water park at Great Wolf Lodge. If they still need some convincing, sweeten the deal by promising a scoop from Bubba's Ice Cream Shack.

Outer Banks, North Carolina 

Aerial view of Outer Banks North Carolina

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It’s impossible not to have a good time when visiting the Outer Banks with loved ones. Planning an epic family escape to the barrier islands off the coast of North Carolina is actually pretty foolproof. That’s because the area overflows with kid-friendly offerings, from water parks and pirate-themed mini golf to surfing, parasailing, and sprawling cabin rentals that don’t demand anyone to share a room.

Hilton Head Island, South Carolina 

A sand pathway leads to the beach with a sailboat in the background on Hilton Head Island, SC.

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Hilton Head Island has all the makings of an unforgettable family vacation with Atlantic Ocean beaches, wildlife viewing, and Lowcountry cuisine. Perhaps sign the kids up for a supervised recreation program or sports camp (if that’s something they're into, of course) and go hit the links. Then, reunite for a pirate cruise, zodiac ride, visit to one of the interactive children’s museums, or dolphin watching.

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