17 Best Vacation Ideas for Families With Grade School Kids (PHOTOS)

Carinn Jade | Jul 15, 2015 Big Kid
17 Best Vacation Ideas for Families With Grade School Kids (PHOTOS)

You've left behind the diaper bag and outgrown the nap schedule; it’s time for a proper vacation again! Grade-schoolers are easier to manage, and not yet as jaded as teens. This is the time to make lasting memories as a family.

We’ve got 20 of the best destinations all across the country sure to please the grade school set -- and with all-inclusive packages and supervised programs, parents will love these options just as much!

best vacations with kids

Image via iStock.com/Christopher Futcher

  • The International Spy Museum in Washington, DC


    Image via My Life Graphic/shutterstock

    Even if your kid isn’t a CIA agent in training, we dare them to be unimpressed with the International Spy Museum. It houses the largest collection of international espionage artifacts for public viewing. But this isn’t a place where they’ll walk around staring at objects behind glass. Let your kids join the one-hour interactive spy mission or take a GPS guided tour of D.C., the spy capital of the world.

  • San Antonio Missions, San Antonio, TX


    Recently granted world heritage site status by UNESCO, the committee deemed the San Antonio Missions "a living example of the interchange of cultures bringing together the indigenous, Spanish, Mexican, and other influences that form South Texas today.” Kids love to tour the larger-than-life Alamo, the most famous of the five missions, standing in the same location for over 250 years.

  • KeyLime Cove, Gurnee, IL


    Image via Key Lime Cove

    Parents know the worst part of summer is wrestling suntan lotion onto our kids (and reapplying), but the hours of fun at the town pool is priceless. KeyLime Cove lets you have fun without the sun at this massive indoor waterpark resort. Sleeping, dining, arcades, and water rides under one roof, this is a grade-schooler's dream come true. Also nearby? Legoland and Six Flags Great America.

  • The French Quarter, New Orleans, Louisiana


    Image via SteveBrown/flickr

    No, this isn’t your college spring break version of Mardi Gras, but the spirit lasts all year! Kids will love the magicians, jugglers, and mimes in festive Jackson Square, named one the top 10 public spaces. Sit and nosh on beignets (warm doughnuts doused in powdered sugar) while jamming to jazz bands set up in the streets. Need a little more structure? Visit the Audubon Aquarium, the Audubon Butterfly Garden and Insectarium, or the Audubon Zoo.

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  • Skirball Cultural Center, Los Angeles, CA


    Image via Skirball.org

    Although there are many great exhibits, Noah’s Ark at Skirball is a childhood tale come to life. After five years of construction -- using recycled materials -- this 8,000-square-foot exhibit is a one-of-a-kind destination that invites children to connect with one another, learn the value of community, and help build a better world. While you’re in the area, don’t miss the La Brea Tar Pits, and swing by the Santa Monica Pier and enjoy an ocean-view meal at Malibu Seafood.

  • Petrified Forest, National Park, Arizona


    Image via NPS/Flickr

    Calling all Junior Park Rangers! The Petrified Forest National Park invites kids to explore the ancient environment of the Late Triassic, where petrified trees were alive and giant reptiles roamed the land. There are several well-defined walking paths, or for the more adventurous, they’ve mapped out backcountry hikes. If you’re making the trek during the summer, the July and August wildflowers promise to impress.

  • Point Sebago Resort, Casco, Maine


    Image via Point Sebago

    If you’re looking for outdoor fun for the whole family, Sebago’s got you covered. The 775-acres on Lake Sebago host tennis, golf, fishing, hiking, boat rentals, and so much more. There are daily supervised activities for kids and they’ve got you covered morning, noon, and night. Unlike other outdoor destinations, at Sebago there’s no need to fear a rainy day. The resort offers Broadway-style theatrical productions, comedians, bands, DJs, and hypnotists.

  • Ute Mountain Tribal Park, Mesa Verde Country, Colorado


    Image via Allison Herreid/shutterstock

    Hailed by National Geographic Traveler as one of “50 Places of a Lifetime - World Destinations for Travel in the 21st Century,” this ancient Tribal Park is as stunning as it is rich in history. Kids up for the physical challenge can explore some of the best-preserved ancient Pueblo dwellings -- dating back to 450 A.D. -- in these spectacular cliff dwellings and mesa-top villages. But one day’s hike isn’t enough, as this 10-day sample itinerary shows!

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  • The Crookedest Street, San Francisco, CA


    Image via Chris Parker/flickr

    Kids love Lombard Street, also known as the Crookedest Street in San Francisco, with eight hairpin turns in one city block! The views from the top are spectacular, and the impeccably maintained gardens and flowers add to the charm. After walking the steep hill, jump on an iconic cable car, say hello to the sea lions at Pier 39, and eat at Fisherman’s Wharf. San Francisco has so much to offer the family!

  • Plimouth Plantation, Plymouth, MA


    Image via Everett Historical/shutterstock

    Plimoth Plantation, born of a young archeologist's dream, is dedicated to telling the complex and interwoven stories of the Native and English cultures. The 17th Century English village is a living re-creation of a community of Plymouth colonists, complete with role-playing villagers ready to answer questions about religion, education, family, or profession. But this year presents an extra incentive to visit: Plimoth Plantation's full-scale reproduction of the Mayflower -- the Mayflower II -- has pulled into port. The ship was built in Devon, England, crossed the Atlantic in 1957, and is available for informational tours.

  • Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral, FL


    Nowhere else but the Kennedy Space Center can you feel what it's like to rocket into the stratosphere on the Shuttle Launch Experience flight simulator and afterward have lunch with an astronaut. Explore the Museum of Space Exploration or burn off energy in the Children’s Play Dome -- kids of all ages will love the experience of being an astronaut for a day!

  • Rocking Horse Ranch, Highland, NY


    Image via Tatiana Bobkova/shutterstock

    Named a Traveler’s Choice Top Family Resort in the World for 2015 by TripAdvisor, this all-inclusive Rocking Horse Ranch has it all. Pony rides, horseback riding trails, and horse-drawn wagon rides are to be expected from a barnyard ranch, but Rocking Horse has so much more. Outdoor water sports, volleyball, softball, basketball, mini golf, bungee jumps, and an indoor water park are all part of this family-owned and -operated ranch built in 1958.

  • Wisconsin Dells, WI


    Image via Wisconsin Dells

    Known as the Waterpark Capital of the World, this place is for the adventurous, thrill-seeking clan. Visit one or all of their four distinct water parks, and explore the indoor and outdoor attractions as well as their theme park. With their live animal exhibits, museums, and live entertainment theater, you could even go to the Dells without your bathing suit -- but why would you want to miss all that extra fun?

  • Denver Museum of Nature & Science, CO


    Image via f11photo/shutterstock

    You’ll have no summer slide worries with a trip to the Denver Museum of Nature and Science! This summer there’s an extra special exhibit around Mythical Creatures: Dragons, Unicorns, and Mermaids. Kids will explore the stories that unfold in popular culture, art, and music, and they’ll also uncover the truths behind the myths. If 70-foot dragons are not your thing? Try the mummies, planetarium, wildlife exhibits, or Discovery Zone for younger siblings aged 3–5. And while you’re in the area, don’t miss the Forney Transportation Museum; Denver Museum of Miniatures, Dolls, and Toys; and the Children’s Museum.

  • The Liberty 360 3D Show at the PECO Theater, Philadelphia, PA


    Image via xavier gallego morell/shutterstock

    It can be hard to get children born in the technology-saturated millennium to understand the way the country looked from the perspective of the first settlers from England. Liberty 360, “hosted” by Benjamin Franklin, bridges that gap using a 360-degree screen measuring 50 feet in diameter and 8 feet high where kids will see images of America float in front of them. When the show’s over, they’ll be ready to walk the city with new eyes.

  • Paradise Guest Ranch, Buffalo, Wyoming


    Image via Christopher Boswell/shutterstock

    The kids program at Paradise dude ranch is rated as one of the best in the business. Toddlers through teens can spend as much or as little time as you’d like in Paradise’s supervised program bonding with their peers and connecting with nature. Riding programs begin at age 6, but there are other games, arts and crafts, and fishing activities for your kids to join.

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  • Hershey Park, Hershey, PA


    Image via Lissandra Melo/shutterstock

    So much more than yummy chocolate and candy, Hershey Park is less overwhelming than Disney but just as exciting for the kids. Ride on their roller coasters, splash in their water park, take a ride on the monorail, or discover on their boardwalk. Attractions are organized and clearly marked by their size restrictions, from the less-than-36” Hershey’s Minis to the full-grown (over 60”) Jolly Ranchers.

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