Picking a Family Vacation Destination
Looking for a great destination for a family vacation? This list of top family-friendly locations features options to suit many interests and budgets across a variety of geographic locations. Each is considered among the crème de la crème of destinations for traveling families. Start planning today for your next family adventure!
Click the "More Details" link on any of the following slides for additional details about the suggested location.
If you're looking for a beach vacation, Honolulu, Oahu is probably the best bet for an active family. Rated as one of the best places to take your family by US News & World Report, this island paradise boasts a variety of kid-friendly hotels.
In addition to miles of endlessly beautiful beaches and historic locations, Honolulu offers the benefits of a busy city including bus service and many great restaurants. While you are there, visit Sea Life Park and ride in a submarine to see sunken ships and reefs. You can also enjoy whale watching, snorkeling and scuba.
If you don't want to be stuck on just one island, you can take the 'island hopper' plane from Oahu to any of the other islands.
Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
You don't have to leave the mainland to enjoy a family-friendly beach getaway. US News & World Report says that Myrtle Beach is another great family beach destination.
Myrtle Beach boasts 60 miles of clean beaches, but there is more to do in the laid-back southern town than just build sand castles. When you get tired of the beach, check out Family Kingdom Amusement Park, Ripley's Aquarium, or one of three water parks. Be sure to take a walk along the Boardwalk, which has year-round happenings. When you're ready for dinner, kids might enjoy Dolly Parton's Dixie Stampede.
Yellowstone National Park
If hiking through seemingly endless miles of trails and being close to nature is your family's thing, Travel and Leisure recommends Yellowstone.
Kids love exploring this National Park's hiking trails and participating in cool programs like Junior Rangers and Young Scientists. There are also numerous sites brimming with storytelling possibilities like Dragon's Mouth Spring and the Fishing Cone at West Thumb Geyser Basin. Of course, everyone should see Old Faithful at least once in their lifetime.
Beaver Creek Ski Vacation
For the family that wants to "hit the slopes," there are a number of family-friendly ski towns and resorts. However, it's Beaver Creek that seems to win top honors as the best family-friendly place to ski. Families love the miles of slopes and world-class skiing terrain, but it's the little touches that make Beaver Creek especially nice for family vacations.
There is free weekly programming, complimentary chocolate chip cookies at the base of the Centennial Express chair lift, ice skating, a tubing hill, and phenomenal skiing and snow boarding lessons onsite. Plus, the resort is self-contained and set up in such a way that parents can let their kids go ski while they enjoy their time.
Walt Disney World
Time and time again, Walt Disney World is a top-rated theme park. As a place dedicated to making kids' dreams come true, there is hardly a more family-centered vacation destination in the United States. From their all encompassing resorts, to the kid-centric places like Magic Kingdom, kids of all ages can do everything from be made over like a princess to hanging with pirates.
There's no shortage of budget-friendly options either - you can camp at Disney Wilderness, or even stay at themed hotels that are just right outside the major theme park. Even your older kids will love places like Disney's Hollywood Studios, Epcot and the Animal Kingdom. If you're going during the warmer months, head to Typhoon Lagoon, a great water park for all ages.
Branson, Missouri was voted as one of Fodor's Top Family Destinations for 2010, and it's easy to see why. Branson happens to be home to a plethora of fun and interesting activities, from the Silver Dollar City theme park to a museum dedicated to the Titanic.
Branson is also known as a prime spot for a variety of shows, so it'll be easy to find live entertainment to fit everyone's taste. Check availability before you go, but know that there is everything from country-style sing-alongs to acrobatics acts.
If you get tired of staying indoors, make sure to check out the ziplining tours if you have older children.
New York City
Family Vacation Critic voted New York City the number one family-friendly vacation city. What really makes New York City work so well for families is the myriad of things to do. Whole families are likely to enjoy FAO Schwartz (which happens to be about a block from the Central Park Zoo), Times Square with the giant Toys R Us, South Street Seaport, the ferry to Staten Island, and numerous museums.
While hotel rooms aren't cheap in NYC, there are a number kid-friendly hotels. On top of that, the city is teeming with fantastic food that will appeal to even the most picky palate. From the fun Peanut Butter & Company, to themed restaurants like the Hard Rock Cafe and Mars 2112, you could probably make a vacation just out of eating at different restaurants.
Boston, with its variety of venues and interesting attractions is a popular place to take your family according to Family Travel Network. There's the Boston Duck Tour, where a land/sea vessel is driven into the river along with the tribute to Robert McCloskey's Make Way for Ducklings in the Public Garden, which is sure to delight your elementary-aged set.
A little food, rest, and shopping for everyone can be found at Quincy Market. There's also the Boston Children's Museum, the New England Aquarium, and the Museum of Science. If you're in need of a little history, check out the Freedom Trail and the Black Heritage Trail. If you're looking for some sports, there's Fenway Park to visit on a tour or you may be able to attend a Red Sox, Celtics, or Bruins game.
Ready for bed? There are several kid-friendly hotels in the Boston area.
Described as an idea family vacation city by FamilyVacationCritic.com, Washington, D.C, is as historic as it is kid-friendly. It has a number of great spots for families to enjoy, as well as opportunities to tour the Capitol building and the White House.
Smithsonian properties like the National Air & Space Museum, National Museum of the American Indian and National Museum of Natural History have children's programs and hands-on attractions. Additionally, there are a number of parks and events for children, as well as family-friendly tours by bus, water or bike. The National Zoo houses the famous pandas and the Kid's Farm, a delightful attraction designed to teach children about agriculture in a kid-friendly way, and much more.
Noted as a family-friendly destination by Huffington Post, Los Angeles proudly boasts a 75-mile coastline of beautiful beaches as well as Disneyland, Universal Studios, and lots of museums that kids can really get into.
Take your kids to the Page Museum at the La Brea Tar Pits and be sure to visit a few studio sets. Another cool place to go is the Griffiths Observatory, then take a quick drive to nearby Travel Town where your kids will enjoy the train ride. There are also a lot of kid-friendly hotels to choose among.
If you want to combine fun with education and a little hands-on history, head to Virginia's Colonial Williamsburg, says Budget Travel. There are plenty of regularly planned kids' activities and there is always something new to learn and do. Dress up in period costumes, and do 18th-century chores for fun at Great Hopes Plantation. You can also just walk around the main town and talk to the various docents, all of whom are in full costume and quite knowledgeable.
Colonial Williamsburg is located close to Busch Gardens, which is always a popular hit for the whole family.
Carnival Dream Cruise
If you're looking to take your clan to the high seas, Carnival Dream just might be your ticket to paradise according to Parents magazine. With a seven-night cruise to the Western Caribbean, the ship literally boasts something for everyone. The highlights of this cruising experience though, are the huge water park called WaterWorks, and "Camp Carnival," a well-supervised children's activities program.
For the adults, the ship offers babysitting services so parents can enjoy the amenities that make cruising so popular. Additionally, the ship has staterooms with five berths and two baths, a more affordable alternative to adjoining rooms or suites for families with three children.
Tanque Verde Ranch, Arizona
One of the Travel Channel's Top 8 Family Vacation Spots, Tanque Verde Ranch in Tucson, Arizona has everything a family could want on vacation.
On-site there is hiking, fishing, horseback riding, swimming and a nature center. The daily Kids' Club activities allow parents to take some time to themselves and relax in the spa or just have some time alone. Families can also explore the picturesque Sonoran Desert with a guided hike, hang out at the outdoor BBQ, or take a picnic ride along the trails. There's never a dull moment!