Top 10 US Locations for Family Vacation

by | May 15, 2017 | 0 comments

It’s almost summer and that means schools will be going on the annual summer hiatus. Which then also means summer vacations! But the biggest question we all ask when planning a vacation is where to go! If you can’t go international, that’s okay because there are actually quite a few US locations for family vacation.

Even though you may want to go far enough from home where it feels like you’re actually away, you may not have the means for that. I totally get it!

Luckily for us, we have a zillion gems right here in our backyard!

Yes, of course we have amusement parks like Disney and Universal Studios.

However, we have so many more under-the-radar US locations for family vacation.

If you do plan on taking a family vacation this summer though, start planning now. And you can do so with this list I have assembled of some amazing places to visit.

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Read on to see some of my favorite US locations for family vacation destinations.

Clearwater, FL

When I think of summer, the first thing that comes to mind is the beach. It’s no debate that Florida is one of the hottest (literally and metaphorically) US locations for family vacation summer destinations. After all, it is the home of Disney World. However, there is a lot more to Florida than just Disney and Universal Studios.

For this guide, we’re going to focus on one part of Florida in particular: Clearwater.

Clearwater, FL is home to some of the most nationally acclaimed beaches in the country for being clean.

As a mom to a toddler, this is something really important to consider. If you’ve ever been to a number of the beaches here in the United States, you know that they aren’t always the cleanest. I can personally vouch for Clearwater’s beaches. I’ve had the pleasure of visiting them during the Spring a few years ago.

If you like beaches but don’t want to spend your entire vacation by the waves, no worries. There are tons of museums and other activities offered in the area. If your little one enjoys marine life, I highly suggest visiting the Clearwater Marine Aquarium. Here they can have a hands-on experience with dolphins, turtles and other sea animals. The Clearwater Marine Aquarium is also the home of Winter, the dolphin who inspired the movie “Dolphin Tale”.

Among other Clearwater activities are the Clearwater Segway Adventure, Mini golf courses, and kayaking in the gulf.

To see a full list of activities and attractions in Clearwater, click here.

 

Outer Banks, NC

If you’re a beach-loving family, here is another great one to add to your list of US locations for family vacation. Like Clearwater, the Outer Banks are home to more beautiful beaches on the East Coast. If you’re a family of water bugs, you can choose from any of their beaches to hang out for the day.

The Outer Banks are also home to several parks, gardens and wildlife refuges where your little ones can learn all about the vast wildlife in the area. If your kids like history, you can also visit several museums and historical markers including the Wright Brothers Memorial. Or trek up the stairs of one of the several lighthouses built in the area!

In my opinion, one of the best attractions in the area is the Children at Play interactive museum in Kitty Hawk. Admission is inexpensive, at just $5 per child and $7 per adult. And the interactive museum offers a slew of activities and classes to help sharpen your little one’s math, science, language and social skills. Just because it’s summer doesn’t mean they have to stop learning completely. So why not help them sharpen their skills with a fun and interactive museum?

To see a full list of things to do and plan your trip to the Outer Banks, click here.

 

Smoky Mountains

The Smokies are one of the most popular “underrated” US locations for family vacation destinations. The Smoky Mountain range is located just on the border of Tennessee and North Carolina. This gives you two options to choose from. Do you stay on the North Carolina side or the Tennessee side? For the sake of this post, we’re going to focus on the Tennessee side of the Smokies (since we’ve already mentioned NC previously).

If you’re looking for a more historical or wildlife approach to family vacation, then this is the best option for your family. Most families opt to stay in Gatlinburg’s many inn, motel and hotel options. However, if you want a full Smokies experience, I suggest renting a cabin in the mountains for your family.

I had the opportunity to stay in a cabin on the Smokies 2 years ago. And I will say that if you really want to show your children the true beauty of nature, you can’t go wrong with any of the beautiful cabins available.

Spending time in the great outdoors is so rewarding, but it may not be feasible if your little ones get tired of the scenery by day two or three. In this case, taking a few days to explore Gatlinburg will surely conquer your child’s boredom.

Gatlinburg has a very unique history, which shows itself throughout the town. You don’t need to worry about whether or not your little one will have fun here because Gatlinburg offers attractions of all kinds. Ranging from the “Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Museum” to a ski resort/ amusement park combo, you can’t go wrong!

To plan your trip to Gatlinburg and/or the Smoky Mountains, click here.

 

Hershey, PA

As you can guess from the name, Hershey, PA was named after the famous Milton Hershey – Candy Extraordinaire. Located just a short drive from Harrisburg, Hershey is the home to the renowned Hershey Amusement Park and other fun family attractions.

If you are a family with kids up to 8th grade, Hershey Park is the perfect US locations for family vacation to take a summer trip. I should warn you though, if you aren’t careful you may leave with a few cavities! 🙂

Whether your little ones are thrill seekers, animal lovers or history buffs, you will find something to please everyone. Hershey Park has 13 roller coasters plus 70 additional rides to choose from, including their new Hershey Triple Tower. Once you’ve finished conquering the theme park rides, you can take the whole family to the Hershey Museum to learn about the history of Milton Hershey and his journey with Hershey candy. You can also explore all the different kinds of wildlife in North America through the ZooAmerica walk-through zoo.

To plan your trip to Hershey, click here.

 

Amish Country

Our next virtual trek is just a short drive from our previous journey to Hershey. Amish country in Lancaster, PA is known throughout the country for their well-made, hand crafted goods. When I think of Amish country I immediately think about their use of electricity (or lack thereof).

Little do most people know, there are a lot of fun and educational opportunities that come with visiting Amish country. That’s what makes this a great place to add to your list of US locations for family vacation.

The Amish culture dates all the way back to the early 1800’s and offers an interesting history to look into. You and your family can do just that by going on a horse and buggy ride through Amish country, tour Amish farmhouses, visit an Amish museum or my personal favorite… visit the Dutch Wonderland Theme Park.

Dutch Wonderland is a beautiful theme park that offers rides, shows and activities catered toward young kids. If you have a family with young children, I highly recommend this theme park. However, if you’re wrangling a ban of teenagers, this may not be as fun for them.

To plan your trip to Amish country, click here.

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Frankenmuth, MI

Most people consider Frankenmuth to be more of a Winter family vacation spot largely due to the fact that it is home to Bronner’s, the world’s largest Christmas store. However, there are still a lot of fun activities during the summer months too.

Also known as “Little Bavaria,” Frankenmuth is home to lots of shopping and other family friendly activities and attractions. I remember travelling to Frankenmuth once a year for the longest time when I was young. I remember taking carriage rides throughout the town and visiting the many unique shops and restaurants.

If you’re looking for lodging in Frankenmuth, a great place to stay that will surely be a hit with the kids is Zehnder’s Splash Village Hotel & Waterpark. Yes, despite being renowned for their Christmas store, Frankenmuth also has a pretty kick-butt waterpark too!

Picture of mom's life hacks logo cartoon light bulb with a heart filament MLH Fun Fact about Zehnder’s: They accept Canadian currency! So, get out all of those random Canadian coins you find around your house all the time because you can finally put them to use without leaving the country!

On top of the carriage rides and water slides, Frankenmuth is also home to several museums and a zoo. By far, this is probably one of my favorite US locations for family vacation. Any time of the year!

To plan your trip to Frankenmuth, click here.

 

Northern Colorado

If you’ve ever seen Colorado, then you know why it has made it on this list of the top US locations for family vacation destinations. With this state, it doesn’t really matter where you choose to go because there is no doubt that it will be absolutely breathtaking.

The main reason I want to focus on northern Colorado is for one thing: Dr. Seuss. What does Dr. Seuss have to do with Colorado? Well, technically nothing. However, in Fort Collins a restaurant called Sammy’s Breakfast Bar has recently opened and the theme of the eatery is none other than… Dr. Seuss.

There is nothing I love more than a good themed restaurant, especially one that my kids can relate to.

Although this restaurant is one of the main reasons I chose this family vacation spot, it certainly isn’t the only activity to partake in while there. In and around the Fort Collins area, you can find several easy-to-moderate level hiking trails in the mountains.

If your family is up for a few “day trips” you can visit the Pearl Street Mall in Boulder where you will find several stores and sidewalk attractions like balloon animals and musical performances. Or, you can travel to Cascade and ride a train up to the top of Pike’s Peak to see what the view is like from the top of a mountain!

To plan your trip to Colorado, click here.

 

Mammoth Caves

The Mammoth Caves in Kentucky are one of the most eerie but intriguing family vacations that I have ever been on. If you’re raising an explorer or future geologist then the Mammoth Caves in Kentucky may be the right choice for your family.

The most popular activity on a vacation here is obviously cave touring, but what kinds of things will you see? Will it be worth it? I can wholeheartedly tell you that it most certainly will be!

I haven’t been to Mammoth Caves in years, but I remember marveling at the uncanny beauty of the caves at just 8 years old. This is actually very surprising because it was definitely not easy trying to impress me as a child.

After you tour the Mammoth Caves, you can take your little paleontologist to see Dinosaur World. A dinosaur museum with life size models and displays of history’s biggest inhabitants.

If you and your family enjoy camping, there are several riverside camp sites available to tourists that you can take advantage of.

To plan your Mammoth Caves family vacation, click here.

 

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Pure Michigan

Maybe your family likes any kind of activity and you’re having a hard time picking a place that offers a slew of options. Luckily, the State of Michigan has several tourist cities and countless attractions to cater to everyone’s interest.

Whether that be by the water on Mackinac Island or Mackinaw City, or channeling your small town vibe in Empire, Michigan has an option for you.

I understand that Michigan is a pretty big state and there is a massive list of options to choose from, but every option comes with its own perks. For the sake of this post, let’s focus on three locations in Pure Michigan: Empire, Mackinaw City/Mackinac Island, and Beaver Island.

In Empire, you have a vast variety of activities to choose from with most of them being outdoors. Surrounded by dunes, you and your family can enjoy hanging out there for the day and take a shot at one of Empire’s golf courses.

In Mackinaw City and Mackinac Island, there are activities and attractions ranging from historical reenactments to Zoo parks all the way to parasailing.

If you want to show your children true beauty. Beaver Island is the perfect place to do so. With it being positioned smack dab in the middle of northern Lake Michigan, it offers one of the finest sky views for stargazing in the United States. It’s no wonder why Michigan made it on my list of US locations for family vacation.

To plan your Pure Michigan trip, click here.

Wisconsin Dells

Wisconsin Dells is the ultimate family vacation spot for any family with little water bugs. Deemed the waterpark capital of the world, Wisconsin Dells is home to some of the largest waterparks in the country, and even some parts of the world.

When planning a trip here, you can choose from one of the four waterpark options they have available: Kalahari Resort Waterparks, Mt. Olympus Water & Theme Park, Chula Vista Resort Waterparks, or Noah’s Ark Waterpark.

Heck, you can take your family to all four for all I care, nobody is judging here!

Aside from waterparks, Wisconsin Dells also has a slew of other activities to choose from so your kid’s hands don’t get too pruney. Whether you choose to ride go-karts or head over to a farmer’s market, Wisconsin Dells will have it ready for you.

To plan your trip to Wisconsin Dells, click here.

US locations for family vacation two parents and two children walking on a beach holding hands

So there you have it. There are ten of my top rated US locations for family vacation destinations.

These are perfect for those of you who don’t want to spend an arm and a leg at any of the Disney parks this year.

These are great family bonding places to visit because they are something fun and different to do!

Do you have any underrated US locations for family vacation you’re fond of? Let us know!

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Melissa

Writing and blogging has always been an interest of Melissa’s, but never something she pursued until recently. She is an avid reader, collecting books for the library in her home. She says “there is no such thing as too many books”. Her obsession with books and reading is what turned her towards writing. She is a sunny South Florida native with a passion for traveling the world. She loves coffee, Gilmore Girls, dinosaurs, bright lipsticks, she is a vegan and loves all animals. She is a proud mom to one adorable fur-baby, and a loving aunt to two nephews.
Melissa