Best Family Summer Vacations
School's out and workloads are lighter, making summer a prime season for family travel. Considering factors that make a destination stand out for families (like family-friendly accommodations, attractions that appeal to kids and easy travel itineraries), U.S. News determined a list of recommended summer trips for the whole gang. Use this ranking to jumpstart your family vacation planning, and vote for your choice destination below.
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Yellowstone is an incredible place for adults, but the park's geysers, buffalo herds and rock formations become practically magical through the eyes of a child. More than 900 miles of trails are available, so you're guaranteed to find the perfect route for your family. If you'd rather avoid hiking, you'll find that many of Yellowstone's most memorable attractions are accessible by car, including Yellowstone Lake, Mammoth Hot Springs and Old Faithful. Since the park's entrance fee of $35 per vehicle covers every individual in your car, Yellowstone is a relatively cheap family vacation destination.
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While some of the Grand Canyon's hikes (think: Rim to Rim) may be a bit daunting for the whole family, everyone can appreciate the park's world-class views. There are also more accessible trails for adventurous families to take advantage of, while groups hoping for some relief from Arizona's heat can enjoy the canyon during a river rafting excursion. Most visitors head to the Grand Canyon's South Rim for its assortment of amenities, but families in search of thinner crowds and a more rustic experience should consider exploring the national park's North Rim.
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The perfect destination for families with kids that have recently completed a U.S. history class, the District of Columbia appeals to visitors of all ages. Summer days on the National Mall are incredible, as you can enjoy the warm weather while walking between national landmarks like the Washington Monument, the U.S. Capitol and the Lincoln Memorial. What's more, the city's multitude of Smithsonian museums are free and are sure to satisfy every type of traveler.
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The most experienced summer visitors to the Outer Banks spend their trips lounging in the sun on the 100 miles of barrier islands that line North Carolina's portion of the East Coast. When you're not soaking up some sun, explore the Outer Banks' iconic lighthouses or take in the view from one of the area's piers. To give your kids a dose of history, head to the Wright Brothers National Memorial, which sits on the location of the brothers' famous first flight.
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Many adults still remember their first (and subsequent) visit to Disneyland, making it no surprise that Anaheim is a top summer destination for families. Although kids would likely be perfectly content spending their entire vacation at Disneyland, Mickey Mouse isn't this Southern California city's only draw. Families can explore Anaheim's lesser-known theme parks, such as Adventure City and Knott's Berry Farm. Be sure to enjoy Anaheim's warm weather, too, as it's (probably) not every day your family gets to bask in the California sun.
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Analysis paralysis is the only issue facing families visiting San Diego, as the California city offers so many excellent things to do. If your children have an affinity for aardvarks (or other exotic animals), check out the world-renowned San Diego Zoo. Meanwhile, Mission Beach, Pacific Beach and Coronado Beach offer breathtaking sands for budding architects to use while building sandcastles. Regardless of how your family spends a summer day in San Diego, they're bound to create lifelong memories.
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With family-friendly resorts, warm temperatures and fewer crowds in the summer, the Bahamas is a solid family vacation spot. Many island hotels feature kids clubs, water sports equipment rentals and massive pool and water park areas. Plus, children and adults alike can enjoy the islands' excellent desserts, which include guava duffs and rum cakes. (Don't worry, most of the alcohol cooks off during baking.) June is the best month to visit since hurricanes become more of a threat late in the season.
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Niagara Falls is the quintessential family vacation. Niagara's location between Lake Ontario and Lake Erie makes it easy to reach during a road trip from U.S. cities like New York, Philadelphia, Cleveland and Detroit. Kids and parents alike can enjoy an up-close view of the tumbling falls during a Maid of the Mist boat excursion or a Journey Behind the Falls walking tour. Additionally, the falls sit close to animal-focused attractions, such as the Aquarium of Niagara and the Niagara Parks Butterfly Conservatory.
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Boston is home to world-class museums like the Boston Children's Museum and the Museum of Science, giving families the chance to keep the educational spark alive even when school's out. And a family vacation to Boston wouldn't be complete without catching a baseball game at the famous Fenway Park. First-time visitors should also consider joining a Boston Duck Tours outing to see the city from both Newbury Street and the Charles River.
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This South Carolina beach town caters to families with its lifeguard-patrolled sands and lodging options galore (think: hotels, condos and vacation rentals). Myrtle Beach also offers family-friendly activities like mini-golf, Ripley's Aquarium and the Family Kingdom Amusement Park, and the area's assortment of outlet malls provides the perfect location to buy back-to-school outfits. Plus, this laid-back beach destination is simple for East Coasters to get to by car.
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Featuring a wide beach, mini-golf courses, plenty of ice cream shops and a lively boardwalk, Ocean City, Maryland, is a quintessential summer vacation spot for families. Plan to book accommodations early, though: Thousands of vacationers travel here during June, July and August. Also, keep in mind that Ocean City's appeal is relatively exclusive to the summer, as many of the boardwalk's attractions close during the winter months.
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The U.S. Virgin Islands offer a beach retreat that's equal parts relaxing and adventurous. The islands are home to numerous beachfront resorts with organized kids clubs and activities. Between the resorts are pristine preserves like Virgin Islands National Park, where families can hike and take in nature. Plus, families can book snorkeling excursions and kayaking tours to explore the picturesque scenery. The beaches here are nothing to scoff at, either.
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Initially operating as the Virginia Colony's capital from 1699 to 1780, Williamsburg now welcomes families searching for a destination saturated in U.S. history. Visitors can soak up the Colonial town's history while watching historical reenactments of iconic figures, including George Washington, John Smith and Pocahontas. What's more, kid-friendly activities and games are scattered throughout Colonial Williamsburg. For an adrenaline rush or a refreshing soak, save time for a visit to Busch Gardens or Water Country USA.
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Tropical pastel buildings offset the blinding white beaches of Aruba. One of the few Caribbean islands that lie outside of Hurricane Alley, Aruba is an optimal destination throughout the summer. If you're not looking to spend all day on the beach, many of the island's resorts offer activities for kids that are both fun and educational. Alternatively, those looking to leave their resorts for a family excursion can try visiting the island's butterfly and ostrich farms.
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The Big Apple is a playground for children and adults alike. Families visiting New York in the summer can enjoy the outdoors while biking through Central Park, taking in a classic Broadway musical and shopping at kid-focused stores like American Girl Place and The Lego Store. Plus, parents with picky eaters can satiate their appetites at one of the city's multitude of eateries. Don't forget to save time for snapping pics of iconic sights like the Empire State Building and the Statue of Liberty.
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