The Top 25 Family Vacation Spots in the US, Ranked

Julie Ryan Evans | Aug 1, 2017 Big Kid

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When it comes to childhood memories and the stories told over and and over throughout our lives, family vacations often play a starring role. Stepping outside daily life to explore the world is a chance for learning, bonding, relaxation, and fun. Of course, there may be some flat tires, sibling spats, and missed connections along the way, but that's all part of the journey.  

While the world is full of places to explore, you don't need to leave the country to see some amazing sites. From historic destinations that bring US history lessons to life to awe-inspiring natural wonders -- and some that are just plain old fun -- here are 25 incredible vacation spots in the United States that are great for families to explore together. 

  • 25. Dinosaur Valley State Park, Glen Rose, TX

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    Take a step back to prehistoric times at Dinosaur Valley State Park, where you can hunt for and even walk in the tracks left by dinosaurs. The park is located in Glen Rose, Texas, which is about 60 miles southwest of Fort Worth; there's also hiking, fishing, swimming, and junior ranger programs for outdoorsy kids.  

  • 24. Alcatraz Island, San Francisco, CA

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    Home to what was one of the most famous prisons in the world, Alcatraz Island is chock-full of edgy history. You can check out the first lighthouse built on the US west coast, splash in gorgeous tide pools, spend some time bird watching, and, of course, check out the cells where notorious criminals were housed. While in San Francisco, there are plenty of other sights to see and places to explore, including the Golden Gate Bridge, cable cars, and Fisherman's Wharf.

  • 23. Sanibel Island, Florida

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    Located on Florida's Gulf Coast, this picturesque island is known for its lovely, seashell-covered beaches. Quaint and beautiful with a scarcity of chain businesses, it's a true escape from everyday hustle and bustle. Beyond basking on the beach, there's also bird watching, hiking, kayaking, and more to explore. 

  • 22. Colorado Rockies

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    Whether you want to ski in the winter or hike and bike in the summer, the Colorado Rockies provide a breathtaking backdrop for outdoor activities all year. From quaint towns like Telluride to Rocky Mountain National Park in Estes Park, there are plenty of options to explore.

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  • 21. Outer Banks, North Carolina

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    With miles of beaches and sweet little towns aplenty, North Carolina's Outer Banks are a fantastic family vacation destination. From climbing sand dunes to attractions like the North Carolina Aquarium on Roanoke Island, adventure and relaxation await. 

  • 20. Key West, Florida

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    The clear blue waters of Key West, Florida, perfect for fishing, boating, scuba diving, and more. There's also history galore (visit the Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum) and a thriving arts scene to explore on this island paradise.

  • 19. French Quarter, New Orleans, LA

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    While New Orleans' raucous Mardi Gras celebrations may not be the right fit for families, the city offers plenty of age-appropriate activities as well. From the historic French Quarter to the Audubon Aquarium of the Americas, museums, and crazy good Creole cuisine, there's something for everyone in the Big Easy. 

  • 18. National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, Cooperstown, NY

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    For players and fans big and small, this is the baseball mecca. Filled with nostalgic memorabilia and exhibits, the National Baseball Hall of Fame is sure to be a hit. 

  • 17. Sesame Place, Langhorne, PA

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    Ernie, Bert, Big Bird, Elmo, and the gang take center stage at Sesame Place. With Sesame Street–themed rides, a water park, and even opportunities to eat with their favorite TV friends, the park brings dreams to life for little ones, and it's a lot of fun for the rest of the family too. 

  • 16. Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral, FL

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    Rockets are launched into space at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex. Organized into Mission Zones, the complex provides an amazing look at how far the US space program has come over the years. You can even take a bus tour that provides up-close views of historic launch sites as well as those that are in use today. 

  • 15. USS Arizona Memorial, Honolulu, HI

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    While Honolulu's white sand beaches are lovely, the USS Arizona Memorial is a must-see for Americans who are lucky enough to make their way to this tropical paradise. Built directly on top of the sunken battleship USS Arizona, the memorial is filled with history and serves as a beautiful tribute to all those who died in the deadly attack on December 7, 1941. 

  • 14. Gettysburg National Military Park, Gettysburg, PA

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    History comes to life when visiting the site of what was one of the most significant battles in our nation's history. While the kids may not initially be as excited visiting this as much as, say, a theme park, once there they'll be fascinated by interactive museum exhibits, ranger-led hikes, programs for kids, and more. 

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  • 13. Mount Rushmore National Memorial, Keystone, SD

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    Looming majestically large in the Black Hills of South Dakota, Mount Rushmore is a sight your family will never forget. Surrounding the 60-foot-high granite faces of four of the most prominent US presidents, there are plenty of other activities to explore in the area including hiking trails, a museum, and more.

  • 12. Badlands National Park, Interior, SD

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    Visitors from around the world travel to see these incredible geologic deposits which are full of fossils that are tens of millions of years old. The gorgeous, diverse landscape full of valleys and grasslands serves as an amazing background for hiking, biking, and wildlife spotting. As it's located just about an hour and a half from Mount Rushmore, the two can be combined into one trip easily. 

  • 11. Niagara Falls State Park, Niagara, NY

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    Located in between Canada and the United Sates, the Niagara Falls State Park provides amazing views of three powerful water falls. There are also other fun things to explore in the area, such as tours, in-park dining, and the Aquarium of Niagara, which houses penguins, seals, and other aquatic creatures. 

  • 10. Arches National Park, UT

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    More than 2,000 red rock arches make up the mind-blowing landscape of Arches National Park just outside of Moab, Utah. So breathtaking are the formations, you almost feel like you're on another planet. From hiking, cycling, and driving to simply sitting and watching the sunset, there are countless ways to explore the abundance of natural beauty here. 

  • 9. Yosemite National Park, California

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    With waterfalls, valleys, and vast wildlife spaces, Yosemite National Park is a majestic wonderland in the middle of California's Sierra Nevada Mountains. There are endless family friendly activities to explore year-round while there, including gold-panning, hiking, camping, and museum browsing.

  • 8. The Freedom Trail, Boston, MA

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    You literally walk through history on the 2.5 mile Freedom Trail in the heart of Boston. Sixteen sites along the way, including museums, churches, and burying grounds, provide information and insight into the days of the American Revolution. 

  • 7. Statue of Liberty, NY

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    The stunning site of Lady Liberty in the New York Harbor is something all Americans should aim to experience at some point in their lives. Whether you prefer to see it from the water or by walking right up into her crown, there are plenty of ways to appreciate this historic piece of America. Afterwards, you'll want to explore more of the Big Apple too.

  • 6. Wizarding World of Harry Potter, Universal Studios, Orlando

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    For fans of J.K. Rowling's series of books and movies, the Wizarding World of Harry Potter is like stepping right into the magic. There are rides, foods (Butterbeer and Bertie Bott's Every Flavour Beans!), wands, and even the Hogwarts Express to carry you between the Harry Potter–themed attractions at both of Orlando's Universal parks. It's a magical experience for the entire family. 

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  • 5. 9/11 Memorial & Museum, NY

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    The chilling yet stunning memorial to those who lost their lives on September 11, 2001, sits on the World Trade Center site. In addition to a museum, the names of everyone killed in the terrorist attacks can be seen engraved around two gorgeous pools. It can be an intense emotional experience, however, so you'll want to make sure your child is mature enough for it; the museum provides a guide to help prepare younger children for the 9/11 Memorial Museum

  • 4. Yellowstone National Park, ID, MT, WY

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    The entire 3,500-square mile park that spans parts of Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming is full of breathtaking views and endless opportunities for adventure. Of course, Old Faithful plays a starring role, and the geysers will impress even the most difficult-to-impress children with its incredible eruptions around the clock. 

  • 3. National Mall, Washington, DC

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    From the Lincoln Memorial to the US Capitol, the Washington Monument to the Smithsonian museums, the National Mall is known as America's front yard. Whether you chose to tour by bus, boat, bicycle, or on foot, there are endless opportunities to explore our nation's great capital and bring to life so many classroom lessons. 

  • 2. Disney World, Orlando

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    When your mission is simply to have fun, it's difficult to find a place that fits the bill better than Disney World. With four parks full of rides, food, shows, characters, and little touches of magic everywhere, it's place you can visit over and over without it ever getting old, no matter how old you are.

  • 1. Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona

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    While all our nation's national parks are amazing, the Grand Canyon is often considered to be the granddaddy of them all. It's humbling to stand beside its vast expanse. At every turn there are gorgeous views, amazing wildlife, and activity options aplenty for the most adventurous explorers to those who prefer a tamer trip.

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