The Best Family Vacations in all 50 States
Sometimes, you just don't have the money for a big-budget trip overseas. Family weekend getaways or a modest vacation to some nearby destination must suffice. Luckily, the United States is a big country, and every state has something to offer—consider our list of the best family vacations in all 50 states:
Explore the Alabama Gulf Coast
Must-do activities: Let the kids loose at the 2-mile beach on Gulf State Park, Alabama's premier Gulf Coast attraction. Make it a weekend by staying in nearby Mobile and seeing the coast via the duck-boat tour, which traverses both land and sea.
Go Fishing in the Alaska Gulf near Seward
Must-do activities: Take a boat tour past the massive glaciers in Kenai Fjords National Park, or go on a fishing expedition in the Gulf of Alaska. Then head back to nearby Seward to meet the sea otters at the Alaska SeaLife Center.
Hike along Lake Powell
Must do activities: Already taken the family to the Grand Canyon? Do Lake Powell instead, where you can explore Glen Canyon National Recreational Area and take the kids to the scenic overlook at the picturesque Horseshoe Bend (picture above).
Meet Tigers and Lions in Eureka Springs
Must-do activities: Located on the edge of the Ozarks, this town is called "the Little Switzerland of America" for its mountain setting and charming shops. But kids will want to stop at the Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge, home to tigers, lions, and other big cats.
Catch a Game in Anaheim
Must-do activities: Few kids can resist California's theme-park capital, since Anaheim boasts Disneyland, Disney's California Adventure Park, and Knott's Berry Farm. But at a budget price, you could pick up tickets to a sporting event to see the Angels or the Dodgers, or even the LA Galaxy soccer club.
Bike around Pikes Peak in Colorado Springs
Must-do activities: Colorado Springs is an outdoorsy family's paradise. Start the morning with a ride around Pikes Peak by renting a bike with Challenge Unlimited, followed up by a day at the Garden of the Gods to see its otherworldy geological formations.
Step Back in Time in Mystic
Must-do activities: This East Coast's town main attraction is the Mystic Seaport, an open-air maritime museum/historic seafaring village with a number of century-old ships. Afterwards, head back to the 21st century with a stand-up paddleboard rental in nearby Niantic.
Spend Summer Nights in Rehoboth Beach
Must-do activities: Rehoboth Beach's boardwalk is one of Delaware's most classic weekend trips, the kind of festive atmosphere rife with funnel cake and saltwater taffy. For an escape from the beach, try a sunset cruise off nearby Dewey Beach.
Go Racing in Daytona Beach
Must-do activities: In between trips to Daytona's postcard-worthy beach, take a tour of the famed Daytona International Speedway, including a tram ride along its 31-degree banked turns. Gearhead families can follow that up with a Harley motorcycle ride along the beach.
Walk through Savannah's History
Must-do activities: Take a walking tour of Savannah's Spanish-moss-draped historic district, home to 22 distinctive squares. Then tiptoe through the centuries-old gothic tombstones at Bonaventure Cemetery.
Snap Photos in Photogenic Kauai
Must-do activities: Go hiking in Waimea Canyon State Park, known as the "Grand Canyon of the Pacific" and much greener than its Arizona equivalent. Then head to the coast for a little snorkeling in the Pacific.
Water Sports in Coeur d'Alene
Must-do activities: Take the whole family white-water rafting down the Spokane River, or opt for a scenic cruise on Lake Coeur d'Alene instead—but keep your eyes open for bald eagles, which are prevalent in the area.
Stroll through Historic Galena
Must-do activities: In the summer, tour U.S. Grant's post-Civil War mansion and walk down the quaint Main Street. In the winter, pair your trip with some skiing at nearby Chesnut Mountain Resort, which overlooks the Mississippi River.
Tour South Bend and Amish Country
Must-do activities: Ideally, you can attend a Notre Dame football game. But if not, tour the campus and take the kids to the Hall of Heroes Superheroes Museum, housed in a replica of the Super Friends' Hall of Justice. Afterwards, take a scenic drive through Indiana's Amish Country, punctuated with pies, donuts, and snickerdoodles from the famed Rise'n Roll Bakery.
Meet the River Otters in Dubuque
Must-do activities: The whole family should find something to like at Dubuque's National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium, a Smithsonian affiliate that's part-transportation museum (with a historic steamboat), and part-aquarium featuring sting rays, jelly fish, and river otters. Pair it with a visit to the decades-old John Deere toys at the National Farm Toy Museum in nearby Dyersville.
Go Underground in Hutchinson
Must-do activities: This midsize town claims two of Kansas's best museums: the Underground Salt Museum—located more than 600 feet below the ground—and the Kansas Cosmosphere & Space Center, where you can see the Apollo 13 command module and a backup version of Sputnik. At night, play 10 frames at the Alley of Hutchinson, a local favorite.
Go Spelunking in Mammoth Cave National Park
Must-do activity: Take a ranger-led tour—the National Park Service offers around 15 different tours each day during the summer, from the stalacite-focused Domes & Dripstones tour to the lantern-lit Star Chamber tour. Or you can stay above ground (70 feet above ground) and go ziplining through the 60-acre course.
Walk through Louisiana History in Natchitoches
Must-do activities: Natchitoches dates back to 1714, and while the Kaffie-Frederick General Store doesn't go back that far, it is purportedly Louisiana's oldest store. Find old-school hardware, cookware, and toys for the kids after a guided walking tour of the historic district.
Ride Horseback along the Maine Coast in Kennebunkport
Must-do activities: Drive slowly past spectacular homes and even more-spectacular ocean views on Ocean Avenue, a scenic route that best exemplifies Maine's rugged coast. Afterwards, explore the rest of the scenery via horseback ride.
Saunter along the Boardwalk in Ocean City
Must-do activities: Spend the day kayaking along Ocean City Beach or swimming at the Jolly Roger waterpark, then spend the night walking along the OC Boardwalk, named one of USA Today's "Best Boardwalks for Food" (try the hand-dipped donuts).
Bike from Lighthouse to Lighthouse in Cape Cod
Must-do activities: Seems like every New Englander has their favorite family getaway in Cape Cod, but we recommend Falmouth and its Shining Sea Bikeway, which follows the path of a former rail line. Combine it with a stop at the Cape Cod Children's Museum.
Ditch the Car on Mackinac Island
Must-do activities: There are no cars allowed on this island, so see it in style on a horse-drawn-carriage tour, which should pass by Arch Rock, the island's dramatic limestone arch. Then meet the colorful creatures inside The Original Mackinac Island Butterfly House & Insect World.
Dive into Duluth's Lakeside Scenery
Must-do activities: Use the rolling hills of charming Duluth as your jumping off point for the North Shore Scenic Drive, a 142-mile route along Lake Superior that passes by cliffs, mountains, forests, and more. Back in Duluth, meet the Siberian tigers and snow leopards at Lake Superior Zoo.
Picnic in Historic Natchez
Must-do activities: Take a walk through the Natchez's historic district, home to several antebellum mansions. The National Park Service organizes ranger-led tours of Melrose, considered one of the South's best-preserved estates. For lunch, enjoy a gourmet picnic along the Mississippi River from Natchez Perfect Picnics.
Take a Midwestern Safari in Cape Girardeau
Must-do activities: Take a dip at Cape Splash Family Aquatic Center, then ride a camel at the Lazy L Safari Park, which is also home to goats, alpacas, zebras, lemurs, and more.
Experience the Beauty of Glacier National Park
Must-do activities: Your kids will ooh and ahh during a drive down Going-to-the-Sun Road, which delves into the park's mountain and valleys. Keep your eyes out for bighorn sheep, and don't forget to stop at the scenic overlooks, including one that affords views of the Jackson Glacier.
Hike up Scotts Bluff National Monument
Must-do activity: If your family is up for a challenge, follow the short-but-strenuous Saddle Rock Trail up to the top of the bluff. Otherwise, just drive your car up via Summit Road—the views of Scottsbluff and the rest of Nebraska are gorgeous either way.
Introduce the Kids to the Outdoors in Lake Tahoe
Must-do activities: Explore Tahoe however you choose—by kayak, canoe, boat, or stand-up paddleboard. Nevada's side of the lake is less developed and features Sand Harbor, where you can enjoy Sierra Nevada views from along the beach.
Zipline above White Mountains National Forest
Must-do activities: First head low—hike through Flume Gorge's granite walls at the base of Mount Liberty. Then go high—zipline above the forest on the Bretton Woods Canopy Tour, located at the Omni Mountain Washington Resort.
Spot Birds and Pet Alpacas in Cape May
Must-do activities: Located along a coastal migration trail, Cape May is one of the country's most-famous birding destinations, but we'd guess your kids would rather meet the furry characters at the Jersey Shore Alpacas farm, where you can pet and feed 17 different alpacas. Or spot dolphins and whales on a Cape May Whale Watcher boat tour.
Fly in a Hot-Hair Balloon over Taos
Must-do activity: New Mexico is America's hot-air balloon capital, so ask Pueblo Balloon's expert balloonists to fly you over the nearby Rio Grande Gorge and the Sangre de Cristo Mountains.
Ride a Bobsled in Lake Placid
Must-do activity: The 1980 Winter Games took place at Lake Placid, and you can relive those glory days with a ride on Whiteface Mountain's Bobsled Experience, which uses the actual bobsled and luge run from the games.
Drive the Blue Ridge Mountains from Asheville
Must-do activities: Tour the Biltmore Estate, the Vanderbilt family's extravagant chateau on the outskirts of the Smokies. Afterwards, take a ride on the Blue Ridge Parkway, one of America's most-beloved scenic drives, or embark on a self-guided scavenger hunt of Asheville.
Behold the Badlands near Theodore Roosevelt National Park
Must-do activity: Be like the former president—who once lived in these parts—and ride horseback through Theodore Roosevelt National Park's lunar-like Badlands.
Explore the Scenery in Ohio Amish Country
Must-do activity: In between scenic drives through the undulating hills of northern Ohio, make sure to stop at the Guggisberg Cheese Factory in Millersburg to try its award-winning Swiss cheese (and the nearby Victorian House for its Queen Anne-style architecture).
Boat Away the Afternoon in Broken Bow
Must-do activities: Outdoor aficionados love Broken Bow Lake and nearby Hochatown State Park, both mountainside recreational areas where you can go boating, picnicking, or teach your kids how to fish.
Find the Majestic Waterfalls at Columbia River Gorge
Must-do activity: Hike, hike, hike. The trails in this naturally scenic area lead to a number of beautiful attractions, from impressive waterfalls to the dramatic Crown Point, a promontory cliff above the Columbia River. Afterwards, the kids can befriend the life-size woolly mammoth at Columbia Gorge Discovery Center & Museum.
Stand Among History at the Gettysburg Battlefield
Must-do activities: If you're in Gettysburg, you're probably there to visit Gettysburgs National Military Park, home to the sacred battlefield and the subsequent cemetery where President Lincoln delivered his famous address. At night, join up with a local guide for a Gettysburg ghost tour.
Look up at America's Greatest Mansions in Newport
Must-do activities: Experience America's most-glamorous Gilded-Age mansions on the Cliff Walk, an oceanside path that goes past the estates of the Astors and the Vanderbilts. You'll see them during a Native Newporter guided tour. It's the perfect complimentary activity to spending a day at one of Newport's beaches.
Take a Carriage Tour of Charleston
Must-do activities: The parents will love the romance of a horse-drawn carriage through colonial-era Charleston, while the kids will dig the tiger shark at the South Carolina Aquarium. Both can enjoy the spanish moss trees and blooming gardens at the 17th-century Magnolia Plantation.
Roam with the Buffalo in the Black Hills
Must-do activities: Obviously, you're going to visit Mt. Rushmore. But after you're finished there, go spot the buffalo herds in Black Hills National Forest and then visit STAN, one of the world's most-complete T.Rex skeletons, at the Black Hills Institute and children's museum.
Gawk at Nature in the Great Smoky Mountains
Must-do activities: There's no better view of the Smokies—or of the Appalachians?—than the one from Clingmans Dome, an observation tower at Tennessee's highest point. And be sure to visit nearby Gatlinburg, a kitschy, kid-friendly compliment to the mountains with attractions like the 7D Dark Ride Adventure.
Remember the Alamo in San Antonio
Must-do activities: Yes, do the Alamo, the River Walk, and a city tour. But stay until after dark, when a vivid, colorful lightshow called "The Saga" retells Texas and San Antonio history using the facade of the San Fernando Cathedral.
Take Selfies with the Rock Formations in Arches National Park
Must-do activities: Any of Utah's national parks would make for one of the best family vacations on a budget, but Arches stands out. Hike the Windows Trail, where you'll pass by (and through) the rock formations that Arches is best known for, then camp under the stars at Devils Garden.
Ride to the Top of Killington Mountain
Must-do activities: No matter the season, this ski-resort town offers scenic lifts or gondola rides to the top of Killington Mountain. In the summer, kids love the Adventure Park and its tree-lined Beast Mountain Coaster.
Witness the Wild Horses of Chincoteague
Must-do activities: Any horse lovers in the family? Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge is the place to spot wild ponies galloping along oceanside beaches, making it one of the best family weekend getaways for equestrians. Afterwards, float over the Virginia coastline via one of the local hang gliding outfits.
Explore the Tidepools in Olympic National Park
Must-do activities: Spot the colorful anemones in the tidepools at the Hole in the Wall rock face, then head north to Port Angeles along Puget Sound for fudge from Northwest Fudge Confections. And if you have any Twilight fans in the car, the nearby town of Forks is where the novels are set.
Feel Presidential at White Sulphur Springs
Must-do activities: Stay at the Greenbrier, a luxurious 5-star resort dating back to late 18th-century, where 26 U.S. Presidents have stayed. Here, your family can zipline through the surrounding forest or fish at a nearby creek. About 10 miles off the property, the kids can go subterranean with a tour of the Lost World Caverns.
Taste Dairyland Products in Door County
Must-do activities: Wisconsin's the Dairy State, so you can't miss Door County Creamery, a goat farm that specializes in cheeses and goat-milk gelato. Pair your dairy with a trip to one of the county's 53 beaches or a local kayaking tour of the bay.
Admire the Stars at Devils Tower National Monument
Must-do activities: The night sky around Devils Tower is an almost-supernatural sight, with the Milky Way putting on a light show of its own. There are ranger-led night programs in the winter, and plenty of chances for Close Encounters of the Third Kind references.