Is it time for spring break yet again? Are you making plans for fun family vacations over the summer? Or maybe you’re searching for family vacation ideas for a long weekend? Organizing a trip for the whole gang is no easy task, so let us help you narrow down one of the biggest decisions: where to go. Our list of favorite destinations includes fun vacations for kids as well as the best family vacation spots with educational and cultural highlights. After all, travel is a great way to make learning fun!
1. Washington, D.C.
At the top of our list of best family vacations is the nation’s capital, Washington, D.C. It’s iconic, it’s interesting, it’s easy to get around, and it’s a whole lot of fun for all ages.
Kick off your family adventures in the Capital City by visiting the most famous landmarks: the White House, the Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial, and the US Capitol Building. While you can’t actually enter the White House (unless you have some powerful, well-connected friends), you’ll be able to snap photos from the outside.
D.C. is also home to many renowned museums, several of which are must-sees even for the little ones. Amateur paleontologists will love the enormous dinosaur skeletons at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History and aspiring astronauts will go wild for the shuttles, rockets, and planes at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. Older kids and teenagers will also appreciate the iconic memorabilia at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History. As if the Smithsonian museums aren’t amazing enough, they’re all completely free to visit!
More highlights in the D.C. area include the International Spy Museum, where kids can pretend to be a secret agent for the day, the Smithsonian National Zoological Park, a massive zoo with pandas and elephants, and Nationals Park, where the whole fam can watch the Washington Nationals run the bases.
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2. San Diego, California
Easily one of the best vacation spots for kids – and not only because of its perfect weather year-round – is San Diego, California. This SoCal gem is home to enough things to do with kids that you can easily fill a week-long trip with activities. In the walkable Downtown area, highlights include the USS Midway Museum, which is set atop a real-life aircraft carrier, Petco Park, where the San Diego Padres baseball team plays, and The New Children’s Museum. Not to mention the scenic, walkable waterfront!
Just north of Downtown, Balboa Park is an essential element of any trip to San Diego with kids. This massive green space contains the San Diego Zoo, (home to the famous pandas!), the San Diego Air & Space Museum, and the Fleet Science Center. If the little ones would prefer to expend some energy outside, hop on the ferry to Coronado Island and hang out at beautiful Coronado Beach.
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3. Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
Yellowstone National Park isn’t only one of the best family vacation spots in the United States, but one of the best vacation spots in the world, period. This breathtaking natural wonder is the perfect antidote to busy lives filled with screen time. Leave the iPads at home and introduce the kids to the great outdoors.
Make sure to see the iconic Old Faithful geyser, but remember that it’s far from the only sight worth seeing at the park. There are more geysers at Yellowstone than anywhere else in the world, the park is also home to some incredible wildlife. Wild animals don’t only live at the zoo! Perhaps you’ll see bison, bighorn sheep, or bears. Yellowstone has a Young Ranger program that helps kids learn outdoor skills, and the park features 12 different campgrounds for the ultimate off-the-grid experience.
4. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Dive into a real-life history lesson with a visit to Philadelphia, a destination that certainly qualifies as one of the best family vacations in the US. See possibly the most iconic American symbol, the Liberty Bell, for yourself and bring a new perspective to the American history lessons the kids learn in school. Older kids may also find the Eastern State Penitentiary interesting, which offers the chance to see cells where notorious bad guys like Al Capone spent time.
Educational vacations for kids are sometimes filled with remarks like “shhh!” and “don’t touch!” by the adults in charge, but at Pennsylvania’s Please Touch Museum, kids have free reign to touch, climb, run, and make noise. It’s best for toddlers and elementary schoolers; tweens and teens might have more fun elsewhere, like at the The Franklin Institute or Reading Terminal Market.
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5. Orlando, Florida
Of course, no list of best vacations for kids is complete without mentioning Orlando, Florida! Home to the “happiest place on earth,” Orlando is theme park heaven, with highlights like Disney’s Magic Kingdom, Disney’s Animal Kingdom, Universal Studios, and Epcot. Kids will love seeing their favorite movie characters come to life and visiting their favorite fictional places at attractions like the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
Besides Orlando’s theme parks, kids will enjoy getting up close and personal with Florida’s wildlife in the Everglades or staying cool at one of the city’s many waterparks, like Universal's Volcano Bay and Aquatica Orlando.
With our top 5 best family vacations in the US, your next spring break, summer vacation, or weekend getaway is sure to be one for the books.