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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 this list of the best family summer vacations. Use this ranking to jumpstart your family vacation planning, and vote for your choice destination below. (Note: Some of the below destinations may be affected by the coronavirus outbreak. Check with the CDC and the U.S. Department of State before traveling.)
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Yellowstone is an incredible place for adults, but its geysers, buffalo herds and rock formations can be especially magical through the eyes of a child. More than 900 miles of trails are available in the Wyoming, Montana and Idaho sections of the park, 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, including Yellowstone Lake, Mammoth Hot Springs and Old Faithful, are accessible by car. Since the park's $35 entrance fee covers everyone in your car, Yellowstone is a relatively cheap family vacation destination.
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The perfect destination for families with kids who 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 to visit and are sure to satisfy every type of traveler.
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While a rim-to-rim hike of the Grand Canyon may be too 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 most experienced summer visitors to the Outer Banks spend their trips lounging in the sun on the 100-plus 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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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 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 and warm temperatures, the Bahamas is a solid family summer 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.) Of the summer months, June is the best month to visit since hurricanes become more of a threat later in the season.
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Many adults still remember their first 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 itself, 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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Boasting incredible mountain scenery, Jackson Hole, Wyoming, is a great option for families who want to immerse themselves in nature. Adults and kids can hike through Grand Teton National Park (and keep an eye out for wildlife!) before setting up camp within the park. The area also offers horseback riding, mountain biking, fishing and river floating tours, and memorable whitewater rafting excursions start up for the summer season in May.
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Niagara Falls is the quintessential family vacation. Niagara's location between Lake Ontario and Lake Erie on the U.S.-Canada border makes it easy to reach during a road trip from American 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. Still, a family vacation to Boston wouldn't be complete without catching a baseball game at 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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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 the beauty of 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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Tropical pastel buildings offset the blinding white beaches of Aruba. One of the few Caribbean islands that lie outside of the hurricane belt, Aruba is an optimal destination throughout 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 resort 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 City in summer can enjoy the outdoors while biking through Central Park, ride the fun attractions at Coney Island and shop 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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Amsterdam's world-renowned canal system can be seen across the city, separating beautiful museums from large parks and world-class restaurants. While Amsterdam does have a lax attitude toward many vices, the Red Light District is easily avoidable, and its "coffee shops" pass as quaint cafes to the untrained eye. Given the opportunity, the city's diverse attractions – including lush Vondelpark (perfect for playing in the grass), the Artis Royal Zoo and the educational Anne Frank House – will pleasantly surprise any family.
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Families seeking a mix of culture and adventure find Puerto Rico to be a top-notch summer vacation destination. Pencil in some time to explore colorful Old San Juan, build sandcastles on the area's beaches (Sun Bay and Flamenco Beach are a few family favorites), explore El Yunque National Forest and travel to nearby islands. Kids will especially love Bioluminescent Mosquito Bay; at night, the water emits an otherworldly blue glow caused by organisms that live there.
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