Best Places to Vacation with Kids in the U.S. (And Some Alternatives)
For many families, it seems like forever since they were able to go on an honest-to-goodness vacation. As family travel booms again, popular destinations are filling to capacity – and beyond, especially U.S. destinations. Given that, it’s smart to look at the most popular family vacation destinations as well as some alternatives, in case your first choice is booked solid.
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Here are five of the most popular summer family travel destinations, and some “fallback” options that are anything but a consolation prize:
The Tropical Getaway
Hawaii is topping many families’ vacation wish list – and why not? It’s literally an island paradise, with some of the world’s greatest beaches, multiple active volcanoes, spectacular rainforests, and activities to explore them all.
Come to think of it, everything is spectacular in Hawaii, whether you’re basking on the sand in the shadow of Diamond Head or taking a wilderness adventure to Kauai.
The downside: Because of the unprecedented demand for Hawaii vacations, everything from accommodations to rental cars is in short supply – and expensive, even by Hawaii standards.
The fallback: Puerto Rico
Puerto Rico is almost fully recovered from a string of natural disasters – and in some ways it’s more vibrant than ever, with a renewed arts and food scene, and many completely renovated lodging and recreation options just waiting for travelers.
The beaches are warm and inviting, and it’s part of the United States, so there are no special travel requirements. Best of all, it’s an affordable tropical alternative for family and multigenerational travel.
Also read: All about vacationing in Puerto Rico
The Amusement Capital
Orlando, of course. The iconic theme parks of this central Florida vacation hub are wide-open and welcoming families. Whichever pop-culture epicenter you choose, you’re guaranteed a total-immersion experience in character, excitement, branding, delight, and merchandising, not necessarily in that order.
Obviously, there’s enough infrastructure built around these mega-destinations to support hundreds of thousands of family vacations; even so, expect the supply of rooms, rentals, and rental cars to be tight through the summer, be prepared to deal with long lines and some remaining safety protocols.
Also read: What to do on Vacation in Orlando That’s Not a Theme Park
The Wilderness Adventure
Yellowstone National Park
Does it get any more iconic than Yellowstone National Park? The world-famous national park located at the corner of Wyoming and Montana offers wildlife (buffalo and bears, most notably), scenery (mountains and geysers, for starters), and true backcountry adventures for the experienced backpacker.
Yellowstone is breaking attendance records. This is causing early closures of some park gates and stern warnings to buy your park pass online and make sure you have accommodations secured before you visit the park.
Fallback: Glacier National Park
Because it’s less accessible than Yellowstone, Glacier National Park is a less crowded yet still popular western park destination. And with its icy ecosystem arguably more threatened than Yellowstone’s, it’s definitely a park to visit sooner rather than later.
Pro tip: If you can wait until Glacier’s Canadian sister park, Waterton Lakes, is open to American tourists, so much the better.
Also read: The Best National Parks For Family Vacations
The Southern Experience
For many northerners, their first taste of the south is sweet-as-pecan-pie Gatlinburg, located at the entrance to Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
It’s hard to describe Gatlinburg to someone who’s never been there, but imagine if you took everything you’d find at your favorite theme park, mix in every near-dead restaurant chain you can think of (you want a Shoney’s? A Howard Johnson’s? A Ponderosa? They’re all here), add a heapin’ helpin’ of Dolly Parton and a score of waterparks, and roll it out for 20 miles or so alongside the road to the Smokies. That’s Gatlinburg.
Educational? Not so much. Beautiful? The mountains are pretty. And nearby Knoxville has plenty of more sophisticated creature comforts. But for those times when the kids are hot and cranky and a little bit of kitsch is just the ticket, Gatlinburg’s the destination of choice.
Atlanta is the sophisticated face of the New South, but it’s also more of a family destination than ever. “Hotlanta” is all that, but it has plenty of cool family destinations like the amazing Georgia Aquarium and the World of Coca-Cola. Older kids might appreciate a bit of a field trip, like a tour of CNN studios and excursions to historical sites like the Martin Luther King Jr. Home.
Also read: 7 Vacation Rental Escape Destinations Off the Beaten Path
The Big City
Summer is steamy in Washington, D.C., but that hasn’t stopped generations of families from making the pilgrimage to the nation’s capital.
What’s to do there? Stroll the National Mall; hop from historic site to historic site, including the Lincoln, Jefferson, and Washington memorials; check out the National Air and Space Museum, the Smithsonian museums, and the National Gallery of Art; visit the National Zoo; and walk by the Capitol and White House. And that’s just for starters. There’s undoubtedly more to see and do in Washington than there’s vacation time to do it in.
Also read: Best U.S. Historical Places to Visit with Kids or Grandkids
Fallback: New York City
“Summer in the city” was written about New York City, and it’s true: the streets can get greasy-hot in the summer. But that shouldn’t dissuade you from visiting; after all, Broadway is back up and running, and so are many of the city’s top attractions, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Natural History, and the Central Park and Bronx zoos. A trip to The City That Never Sleeps is a perfect way to reintroduce your family to the wonders of travel.
Wherever you take the family this summer, be sure to insure your travels with Generali. Our travel insurance plans can help protect any trip to just about anywhere.