Oh, the places we hope to go soon in America! These epic destinations come with bragging rights, from epic natural wonders to big city adventures, and legendary theme parks to bucket-list beaches. These are the best summer vacations in the U.S. for families.
1. Disney World, FL
It really is worth caving in and planning a Disney vacation while the kids are still young. You’ll never forget the look on their faces when they see Cinderella’s Castle for the first time or get to hug their favorite Disney character. And the fully immersive worlds of Star Wars, Avatar, and Toy Story feel truly magical, even to adults. Professional-caliber stage shows and fun parades give you a break from walking and help ward off the inevitable midday meltdowns at the “Happiest Place on Earth.” Every enchanting activity—from roller coasters to animal encounters or character dining at restaurants where, thankfully, you can get a beer—is a dream come true.
2. Outer Banks, NC
If your ultimate family vacation is one spent wearing flip flops every day, then head for North Carolina’s Outer Banks. Nearly entirely free of big box stores and fast food, Highway 12 links a stretch of barrier islands where you’re never far from a beautiful sandy beach. Kids can walk up the hill to the windy spot where the Wright Brothers first flew. Ocean breezes power kite boarding and keep kids cool as they play on the East Coast’s largest sand dune or climb lighthouse staircases along the coast. Discover maritime history listening to stories of shipwrecks, rescues, and Blackbeard the pirate at the Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum.
3. The Florida Keys
Rent a Jeep, crank up some Jimmy Buffett tunes, and take the kids on a tropical road trip. With its 42 bridges, the 113-mile Overseas Highway suspends drivers in paradise for much of the route through the Florida Keys to Key West. Snorkel with dolphins at John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park in Key Largo. Book a reef fishing charter or hand-feed tarpon from the dock in Islamorada at Robbie’s Marina. Once you reach Key West, visit the 40-some cats (many with six toes!) at the Ernest Hemingway Home & Museum. Don’t miss sunset celebrations at Mallory Square and selfies at Mile Marker Zero.
4. Branson, MO
This wholesome “Vegas of the Ozarks” dazzles families with more than 100 different shows. But the live music, comedy, magic shows, and stampede show are only the beginning of the entertainment along “The Strip” and beyond. For thrills, you can hit Branson’s water parks, go karts, and a simulated skydiving wind tunnel. Silver Dollar City is an 1880s-themed amusement park with great rollercoasters. See the half-scale replica of the ship at the Titanic Museum or ride the Showboat Branson Belle on Table Rock Lake. About a 15-minute drive from Branson, the lake offers ziplining through the trees and quiet coves perfect for doing cannonballs off the dock on your family vacation.
5. Yellowstone National Park, WY
For family bonding, it doesn’t get any better than a night at America’s first national park sitting around the campfire, telling stories, roasting marshmallows, and stargazing in a dark sky. Pitch a tent at one of the park campgrounds or get a cowboy campfire experience at the park’s covered wagon cookout. Yellowstone’s Junior Ranger program teaches kids about the Old Faithful geyser and the park’s other geothermal features including the mud pots and hot springs. Early risers can pack a thermos of hot chocolate and head to Lamar Valley at sunrise for the best chance of seeing wildlife. Yellowstone is home to grazing bison, foraging bears, bugling elk, and wolves on the hunt.
All these above-mentioned places are fun to go for a summer vacation with your family.