Summer is upon us, and with it comes summer vacation trips. Family vacations can be very difficult to plan out, especially if you are going halfway across the continent or further. You have to find a location, book the rooms, plan your adventure, and make sure you have packed everything. [Read: 12 Mistakes to Avoid When Packing for a Trip]
But family trips can be very fun and rewarding when planned right. Most dads have seen themselves mocked in cartoons and TV shows where the dad tries to plan the trip he wants and everything falls apart. To avoid any whiny children and disappointed spouses, make sure you plan a trip that the entire family will enjoy.
There are many great locations around the world for vacations, but if you don’t get out of the house much then you should start with what’s in your backyard. The United States has numerous places that make for great trips; so many that we could only pick and choose our very favorite ones to save space.
Here are ten spots that are the top in U.S. family vacation destinations.
- Hershey’s Chocolate World. When a list starts out with chocolate, you know it is going to be good. The Chocolate World is actually the visitor’s center of Hershey, Pennsylvania, and it is a sweet place to visit. Families can take a ride on the Hershey’s tour to see the transformation from bean to chocolate bar, go on a Tasting Tour where to learn about and sample many different kinds of chocolate, and even design their own candy bar. Kids especially will enjoy the new interactive 4D Great Chocolate Factory Mystery show where they will get to interact with the characters and help solve a mystery.
- Carlsbad Caverns. If ancient stalagmites and myriads of hungry Brazilian bats are your idea of fun, then the Carlsbad Caverns National Park in New Mexico are for you. The limestone caves are believed to be millions of years old, were the home of multiple civilizations over the ages, and are now one of the most popular cave destinations in the world. Families can choose from numerous self-guided or ranger-guided tours, including descending to 803 feet in “King’s Palace,” exploring with nothing but headlamps and flashlights in “Slaughter Canyon Cave,” and doing some tricky free climbing in “Hall of the White Giant”. Just know that some tours have age restrictions.
- Legoland Discovery Center, Atlanta. Everyone likes playing with toys, and at Legoland you get to revert back to your childhood without feeling guilty. The Discovery Center in Atlanta, GA is full of fun attractions for people of all ages. See how legos are created and manufactured in the Lego Factory. Go on a cinematic adventure in the Lego 4D Cinema. Take a ride on the Kingdom Quest and zap skeletons and trolls with your laser gun as you save the princess. The list could go on and on. There is even a Duplo Village full of over sized blocks so the youngest members of the family can have fun. And if Atlanta is too far away there are also Discovery Centers in Chicago, Dallas/Fort Worth, and Kansas City.
- San Diego, California. Not only is San Diego the home of Ron Burgundy, it is also popularly known as “America’s Finest City”. Families comes from miles and miles around to partake in the eternally sunny beaches and wide variety of attractions. It is easy to stay classy and entertained in San Diego because there is just so much to do. Tour the land on the Old Town Trolley Tour or see the sea on one of the coast’s Whale Watching Tours. Kids will get lost in wonder at Balboa Park, which features fifteen different museums and the incredible San Diego Zoo. And the Gaslamp Quarter, with its nightclubs and rousing jazzy nightlife, will be of particular interest to parents once the kids are asleep.
- Walt Disney World. Everyone knew it would be on this list, so let’s get it over with. Disney World is paramount in family vacations and probably the most popular and recognizable vacation destination in the world. It’s so famous that families are flying in from other countries just to spend a week there. Its older brother Disneyland Park has nothing on this 47 square mile amusement empire in Lake Buena Vista, Florida. Disney World features two water parks, four theme parks, and a staggering twenty-four themed resorts. Your kids will experience a wonderful sensory overload as they see all of their favorite Disney characters come to life. And if you don’t have a heart attack from the bill you might just enjoy the awesome rides and attractions yourself.
- Yosemite National Park. America’s first National Park is perfect for the outdoorsy and adventure-oriented family. There are plenty of great National Parks to visit across the country, but the ease of access and geographical diversity make Yosemite one of the most popular. Hiking, camping, rafting, mountain climbing and more are offered against a stunning scenic backdrop of towering waterfalls and vibrant green valleys. Downhill skiing, cross-country skiing, and snowshoeing are also available for those who travel here during the winter months. This is definitely one destination that you will want to add to your bucket list. [Read: Top 10 U.S. Landmarks for Your Bucket List]
- Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Enjoy some fun in the sun at one of the East Coast’s best beach destinations. Beaches have always been a top family vacation location because there is something there for everyone. Myrtle Beach has advantages in spades – pristine beaches, abundant attractions, low costs, and easy accessibility. Family-friendly activities include a trip to Ripley’s Aquarium, a day at the Family Kingdom Amusement Park, and a leisurely afternoon spent lounging on the beach. You can plan your trip by pretty much picking any spot along the 60 mile Grand Strand and you won’t regret it.
- Jellystone Park Camp-Resorts. Experience nostalgic fun in a place where Yogi Bear and his friends come to life and mingle with excited campers. But don’t let the cheesy theme fool you, the Jellystone Parks offer first-rate activities, amenities, and accommodations. There are multiple locations across America with the majority being located in the eastern half. Kids will love the waterslides, bike trails, mini-golf courses, volleyball, and fishing opportunities. Even the adults will find themselves on their feet and entertained during karaoke nights and potato sack races. I mean really, what could be better than roasting marshmallows over the fire with a bear? (The one that won’t reprimand about forest fires)
- Telluride Ski Resort. Yosemite might have its share of snow sports, but for the families looking exclusively for an exciting winter vacation you can’t beat the Telluride Ski Resort in Mountain Village, Colorado. Spread across over 2,000 acres of skiable terrain are 120 runs in varying experience levels (from beginner to expert). Claimed by Conde Nast Traveler to be the number one ski resort in North America, Telluride Ski Resort has everything to meet your family’s skiing and snowboarding needs. The snow is perfect on the slopes and the accommodations are luxurious in the resort’s Hotel Madeline. There is also a Ski & Snowboard School if your kids (or you) are shaky on their skis. Best of all, the resort is remote and often hard to access, meaning it won’t be overrun with tourists like other resorts are.
- Washington, D.C. Our nation’s capital doesn’t have the beaches, amusement parks, and outdoor adventure of other locations on this list. But what it does have is a ton of cool museums, monuments, and a strong sense of national heritage. Encourage your kids to partake in America’s history as you go on guided tours through the National Mall to the White House, the Capitol Building, and other famous memorials to our country’s past. The Washington D.C. Zoo, the Museum of Natural History, and the National Air and Space Museum are also great places that will dazzle and delight the entire family. And dads, I know you can’t wait to sneak off and see the International Spy Museum.