While classic summer vacations like Disney, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, the Wisconsin Dells, and Cedar Point might all be fun, the options below take a path less traveled. Your family will make memories they won’t soon forget and you’ll find something for everyone.
This pretty city has perfect weather year-round. The whole family will enjoy manageable summer heat with zero humidity.
The award-winning San Diego Zoo is one of the largest and most reputable in the world, and is a must-stop for families. You’ll delight in seeing the giant pandas, but the fun doesn’t stop there. The northern frontier area boasts polar bears and arctic foxes while the African exhibit includes leopards, rare baboons, and lemurs.
Families can enjoy some of the nicest beaches in the country with activities like seal tours, snorkeling with sharks, and surf lessons. You can also do San Diego sand-free at the incredible Children’s Museum, Belmont Amusement Park, LEGOLand, Balboa Park, and countless other small attractions where your child can explore his or her interests.
Florida beaches like Destin and Saint Petersburg are a hit with families. So are North Florida family hubs like Disney World and Cape Canaveral. But South Florida has something different to offer. Boasting the most tropical stateside beaches, the snorkeling in Miami Beach can’t be beat, as you’ll easily spot tons of colorful fish and aquatic life.
When the heat becomes too much at midday, head indoors for more fun. There’s an exceptional children’s museum between Miami and Miami Beach not far from Jungle Island – a great indoor spot to enjoy orangutans, lemurs, sloths, and other jungle creatures. They also feature indoor sky-diving simulation, escape rooms, and more. The Ritz-Carlton at Bal Harbor also has a well-loved children’s beach club experience, but there are many other family-friendly resorts and hotels to explore, too.
New Orleans =swathed in beads and feathers for Mardi Gras is not the only draw to this warm and diverse city. While your family will undoubtedly enjoy the delicious seafood, Creole cuisine and French pastries, the Big Easy boasts much more than great dining.
NOLA is loaded with historical museums, beautiful outdoor experiences, and family-friendly music experiences. Gator tours will thrill kids and adults of all ages, the enchanting train garden makes for a fun adventure inside the botanical gardens. No family vacation to New Orleans would be complete without a romp through Storyland Park, which brings your family’s favorite characters and fairytales to life. New Orleans also caters to families with kid-friendly book stores, kid-focused restaurants, and parks on every corner. Your crew might be begging to stay forever.
Alaska gets a bad rap as a freezing cold arctic experience featuring moose encounters. While the potential for moose encounters holds true all year round, Alaska can be downright springlike. It’s a solid choice for escaping the hight temps of July and August. Stay in Anchorage, and plan trips from there to Alaska’s many outdoor destinations.
At wildlife hubs like the Sea Life Center, the Wildlife Conservatory, and Denali National Park, your family will get the chance to see – and even interact with – tons of native wildlife. Sled dogs, sea otters and puffins are among the protected creatures you might meet and interact with on tours, while luckier travelers will see bison, moose, reindeer, and even bears. Tours of all kinds allow you to paddle, hike, or cruise through the various ecosystems that make up Alaska’s unique lands.
In Anchorage itself, your family will love exploring The Imaginarium Science Discovery Center at the Anchorage Museum or the Nancy Lake State Recreational Park. Grab a Discovery Duffel at the botanical gardens, stuffed with challenges and activities for kids, and relax at a cafe or poolside at your hotel.
Gatlinburg is an eastern Tennessee town you may or may not have ever heard of. For those in the know, the Smoky Mountains bring all of the enchantment and mystery of the western US mountains to the eastern hills.
If you’ve never been, one trip on the Ober Gatlinburg Aerial Tram will blow your mind. This tram will give you a bird’s eye view of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park which is as incredible as it sounds. Even better, the end of the tram will drop you and your troops at a mountain-town amusement park. In nearby Anakeesta, you’ll enjoy mining for gems and traversing the treehouse park. By the way, mom and dad, the views are insane.
Other attractions in the area include Dollywood, exploring the Ripley’s Believe-it-or-not Museum and playing with penguins at Ripley’s Aquarium, entering a dessert dreamland at Crave Golf Club and more.
Lake Michigan is an attraction unto itself, with the usability and accessibility of a freshwater lake and the size and waves of a coastal beach vacation.
While America’s largest lake offers plenty of spots to stay and play, Sleeping Bear Dunes is among the most unique. This area boasts forests and dunes that invite adventurers to hike, bike, ride, tube, or buggy. The lake also offers constant entertainment from wading, swimming, and sandcastle building for little kiddos to jet skiing, hang-gliding, and learning to surf for older kids.
For the whole family, this area is spotted with old-town shops, ice cream parlors, and at night, the Lanphier Observatory is perfect for stargazing and forgetting to check your phone.
Olympic National Park
For an all-in-one outdoor excursion your family won’t soon forget, head to Washington state and the Olympic National Park. This national park is one of the most ecologically diverse as it includes mountains, lakes, ocean beaches, and temperate rainforests. Choose to camp in one of many pristine and remote campgrounds, opt for a lakeside resort like the Quinault lodge, or grab a hotel in a nearby staple city like Olympia, Shelton, or Port Angeles.
On the west side of the park, your crew can experience tidepools, whale watching, and sea otter spotting at the Kalaloch beaches. To the south, dip a kayak or canoe into Quinault lake, then hike out to see the world’s largest Sitka spruce tree. On the north side, from Port A, take a casual hike through the Hoh rainforest, where spots like the Hall of Mosses, bear-sightings along the salmon-filled Hoh River, or one of many gorgeous waterfalls will enchant you. From Port Angeles, you can also take a short drive to Hurricane Ridge to see acres and acres of wildflowers peppered with deer, foxes, and elk with a stunning mountain backdrop. (This is a great place to snowshoe, sled, and ski in the winter, too!)
If your family loves the water, take a dip in Lake Crescent – this lake is free of algae and is one of the deepest and cleanest in the country. You can also visit Sol Duc Hot Springs for an any-season soak. The Puget Sound, to the east, could round out your trip and, for families with time, nearby Olympia and Seattle offer tons of indoor excitement, too.
Where will you be traveling this summer?