Top 5 U.S. Destinations for a Family Vacation!
By: Preferred Pineapple
Time to start planning your family vacation.
If your kids are not booked up for camp this summer, you’re probably starting to panic thinking “how will I keep them busy?” Maybe you don’t want to take a long haul flight for your family vacation, so why don’t you try your luck, and patience, at road trippin’?
Our neighbors to the south have got vacationing with kids down to a fine science. Family travel without the long haul flights, and European prices. Something to think about 😉
When you think about family travel to the U.S. no doubt Orlando might be the first destination that comes to mind when you think about kid-friendly summer escapes, but it’s not the ONLY choice. The U.S. offers so many (not so obvious) options for the whole family. Below are my top 5 family vacation destinations to add to your list this summer…
Las Vegas & The Grand Canyon
I know... sounds crazy for a family vacation right? Hear me out.
Vegas isn’t just for adults. There is fun for everyone, including families with kids. I mean, where else can you visit the best of four cities in one afternoon? I’m talking, New York, Paris, Venice, Cairo. Yup, only in Vegas.
Here you will find everything from chocolate factories, Venetian gondolas, 80 mph drop rollercoaster rides, towering red sandstone rock formation hikes, the fastest race karts in the country, non-boring museums, and something you wouldn’t expect in a desert - aquariums. The list goes on and on!
The pools alone in most hotels are like a theme park! Plus, kids will love some of the interactive live shows.
Also, Vegas is a great base camp to visit the Grand Canyon. Located about 300 miles southeast of Las Vegas, there are a ton of convenient tours available from Las Vegas to the Grand Canyon. Explore the canyon on guided tours by helicopter, bus, river raft, SUV or airplane. A bus tour is a little more economical -- just make sure you plan on a 12 to13-hour trip. If you’d like to get there quicker, catch a flight over the canyon and you will still see all the glorious sights.
This summer, you can “Marvel” (see what I did there?) at the Strip’s newest superhero attraction. The Avengers Station Interactive Exhibit is located inside Treasure Island. You can immersive yourself in Marvel’s cinematic world of superheroes and villains while you explore the Avengers S.T.A.T.I.O.N. headquarters.
This exhibit encourages you to get hands-on with the team’s most prized possessions and artifacts, with plenty of photo ops and insight on the Tactical Intelligence Operative Network. See if you can pick up Thor's hammer and prove you're a hero, not a villain. Forget about the kids, I think I would love this!
This state literally has everything to offer. From state parks to big cities, the Golden State is one BIG beautiful playground. With a tag-line like “Dream Big” California’s tourism industry practically promises the time of your life!
It’s hard to narrow down the highlights but some of my favorites include:
- Hiking in the Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve where you can enjoy the beautiful views of the ocean or spend an afternoon at the gorgeous beaches along the 70 miles of coastline.
- Ride a bike across The Golden Gate Bridge and take in the spectacular views.
- The year-round sports playground and the turquoise waters of Lake Tahoe.
- Seeing the tallest trees on earth in Redwood National and State Parks (RNSP).
- A full day at the world-class San Diego Zoo visiting the 3,500 animals and 650 species housed there. This Zoo has received numerous awards for its exhibits, programs, and reproduction and conservation efforts.
- Shopping in Beverly Hills and site seeing in LA.
- And of course, amazing best in class theme parks like; Disneyland, Legoland, Universal Studios Hollywood, SeaWorld, and America’s first theme park, Knott’s Berry Farm.
- While in California, you can’t miss visiting some the world-class wineries and craft breweries. Some even welcome kids, by offering games, play areas, and kids’ dining menus so that the family can enjoy a visit together. Need I say more?
Due to the state’s sheer size and multiple activities, this is one vacation to start planning for well in advance.
For the perfect family vacation, you can’t beat the nation’s capital for its museums and kid-friendly attractions. No city provides as many world-class activities for free as Washington, DC. Along with its impressive food scene, historical monuments and memorials, you must check out the National Mall’s lineup of free museums. Take advantage of the wide range of experiences with no admission fees. Crazy right?!
Some not to be missed attractions for the little ones (and the big ones) include:
- The majestic Lincoln Memorial, which honours the 16th president of the United States, with a 19-foot tall statue of the man, and an inscription of his Gettysburg Address speech.
- The National Air and Space Museum has the world’s largest collection of historic aircraft and spacecraft.
- The most visited natural history museum in the world, the National Museum of Natural History which has an incredible rotating collection of 127 million items including dinosaur bones, the Hope Diamond, and ancient Egyptian mummies.
- The National Museum of American History. This museum houses some of the most impressive historical gems like, the top hat that Abraham Lincoln wore to Ford’s Theatre the night he was assassinated, Dorothy’s ruby slippers in The Wizard of Oz and the most American artifact of all: The original Star-Spangled Banner Flag. Did I mention ALL FREE!
Chicago is a true foodie destination - even for your pickiest of eaters! Known for its world-class restaurants, Chicago is most famous for its take on Deep Dish Pizza, Hot Italian Beef, the humble Hot Dog and my favourite, Chicago mix popcorn. Discover all these famous tastes from local family friendly restaurant institutions. You’ll be amazed how much your kids eat at each meal 🙂
After eating your way through the windy city, schedule a little time to see:
- The Architecture River Cruise. Even if little ones get bored by all the talk of buildings, the boat itself provides plenty of entertainment.
- Take your kids out to the ball game! No trip is complete to Chicago without catching a game at Wrigley Field. Also, any basketball fans in your family will want an IG pic with the famous bronze statue of Michael Jordan.
- Go visit Sue. The largest and most complete fossil skeleton of a T. rex specimen ever found. SUE, is 40-ft-long and 90-percent-complete and is about 67 million years old. A colossal sight!
- A stroll through Millennium Park. Relax in the vast 24.5-acre section of the city. It’s one of the most popular places to spend time outdoors in the city, look at public art and attend special events. Highlights include the Cloud Gate (a.k.a. the Bean), go for a stroll through the serene Lurie Gardens, or catch a free concert in the Frank Gehry-designed Jay Pritzker Pavilion.
- Party at Pier Park. Home to a 200-foot-high Ferris wheel, an IMAX cinema live music, and public art exhibitions. Here you’ll find the Chicago Children's Museum, Chicago Shakespeare Theater and a rotating roster of live entertainment on the Family Pavilion Stage.
Whether you’re traveling with little ones or teenagers, there’s something for all ages in Chicago, just be sure to pack your turkey pants.
The Big Apple. Where do I begin?
There is nothing more magical than seeing NY through the eyes of your children. When you think about it, there are virtually thousands of classic movies, books, and songs set in NYC, so they already instinctively know the city that never sleeps.
Nothing compares to seeing the landmark buildings and parks for the first time.
If it’s your first visit for a family vacation, I’d suggest starting with a hop on/hop off bus tour to get your bearings and learn some interesting facts before you head off and experience them up close.
A few highlights I would suggest are:
- Dylan’s candy bar. Nostalgic candies that will take you back to your childhood… Oh, and tons your kids will like as well.
- Walk across the Brooklyn Bridge.
- The Eloise Tea sitting at The Palm Court in The Plaza Hotel. Afterward visit the Eloise Boutique, located on the concourse level.
- A Shake Shack lunch in Madison Square Park.
- Times Square at night
- Climb the Statue of Liberty.
- Walk the High Line. An impressive elevated pedestrian walkway that spans 20 blocks and is lined with trees and gardens.
- See a Broadway show. School of Rock is amazing kids of all ages.
- An art class at the MoMA.
- Spend an afternoon in Central Park. Be sure to see the Carousel, The Alice in Wonderland Statue and of course the famous Central Park Zoo.
- Both the Empire State building and the Top of the Rock - especially for the views of the Empire State building.
- Explore The American Museum of Natural History.
All that being said...
Orlando is still my number one destination for kids. To this day it is my favorite place on earth for childhood memories (mine and my kids) and Disney… well, that requires a whole other dedicated blog. Stay tuned 😉
Hopefully, some of these family vacation suggestions have inspired you to get out there and travel that holiday road.
Marsha is a travel designer and founder of Preferred Pineapple. She quit her advertising career of 25+ years to turn her pursuit of travel into a full-time job. If she’s not designing and planning bespoke itineraries for her clients, she is traveling with her husband and two sons – adding to her little black book of amazing places. Marsha travels with curiosity and passion and inspires people to do the same! She’s been to 22 countries and counting!
If you need help planning your next dream vacation, email her at Marsha@preferredpineapple.com
Or click on the pink icons below for Marsha’s awesome social media!