Day and Weekend Family Trips in the Southeast United States

State by State Guide to Family Vacations

U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Alabama.

Richard Cummins / Getty Images

Pack up the family and head to the Southeast U.S. for the weekend. Adventures include underground cave exploration tours, an up-close look at real space shuttles, and relaxation time on the beach. Plan day trips or weekend vacations to the states in the Southeast region of the United States. 

If you are in the Gulf Coast or Atlantic Ocean states, enjoy a beach vacation, get in some water sports or learn about rockets and space. Inland states are filled with history, lush gardens and exciting cities with top amusement parks.

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Alabama for Kids

Visit the birthplace of the civil rights movement or go out of this world through space exploration. Alabama travel offers visits to a state with a rich history as well as modern-day explorations of space and speed. Attractions in the Cotton State include:

  • International Motorsports Hall of Fame - Lincoln
    On the same grounds as the Talladega Superspeedway, this hall of fame and museum features millions of dollars worth of vehicles and motorsports memorabilia.
  • McWane Science Center - Birmingham
    Let the kids get their hands on dinosaur bones, watch jellyfish turn colors or play an oversized piano with their feet in Birmingham. A special play area just for small children lets them climb safely, enjoy water play and create special crafts. An IMAX theater is also on-site.
  • National Historic Trail - Selma to Montgomery
    This historic route from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, is the same path civil rights advocates marched in 1965. Visitors can drive the route and visit the National Voting Rights Museum, Slavery and Civil War Museum, Old Depot Museum, Smitherman Museum, and the Edmund Pettus Bridge. Once you arrive in Montgomery, the famous Dexter Avenue Baptist Church where Martin Luther King, Jr., preached can be found about a block away from the Alabama Capitol.
  • Rosa Parks Museum - Montgomery
    This Montgomery museum is located on the very spot where Rosa Parks was told to give up her seat on the bus to a white man in 1955. The event triggered the Montgomery bus boycott that the Rosa Parks Museum captures with its artifacts from the era, historical documents and a replica of the bus Parks was on.
  • Talladega Superspeedway - Lincoln
    The longest track in NASCAR is also where one of the most exciting races in the sport takes place. You can even camp there. A weekend at Talladega isn't a vacation you'll soon forget.
  • U.S. Space and Rocket Center - Huntsville
    Touch real rockets, watch an IMAX movie and learn about space. Located in Huntsville, the U.S. Space and Rocket Center is also home to Space Camp.
  • U.S. Army Aviation Museum - Fort Rucker
    See both fixed and rotary wing aircraft and learn about the history of Army aviation. The museum is located on a military post. All visitors to Fort Rucker, ages 16 and older, must have photo identification.
  • Bellingrath Gardens - Mobile
    There are 65 acres of gardens to explore around the beautiful Colonial mansion at Bellingrath. The gardens host children's workshops and seasonal special events such as a lights display at Christmas.
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There's a reason Arkansas is called "The Natural State." Cave tours, waterfalls and diamond digging are natural wonders the whole family can enjoy together. Attractions in this interesting state include:

  • Clinton Library and Museum - Little Rock
    Check out artifacts from former President Bill Clinton's time in office. Follow the timeline of his life up to his presidency and then peruse displays that chronicle the events during his time in office. You can even see a real presidential limousine.
  • Crater of Diamonds State Park - Murfreesboro
    Visit the only public diamond mine in the world in Murfreesboro, Arkansas. Over 75,000 diamonds have been found on the 37-acre field.
  • Hot Springs National Park - Hot Springs
    Although it's the smallest national park, you'll still be able to enjoy 26 miles of trails, a campground, scenic locations for picnics and historic bathhouses. Hot Springs is about an hour from Little Rock and is relatively close to other national forests with caves and waterfalls to explore.
  • Little Rock Zoo - Little Rock
    Over 600 animals live at the Little Rock Zoo. Children can also feed fish, lorikeets and farm animals. Special seasonal displays are a draw.
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Florida travel is the ultimate family getaway because of the beautiful beaches, warm weather and every kids' favorite—Disney World. But Florida has more to offer than a nice tan and a hug from Mickey Mouse. Attractions in the Sunshine State include:

  • Busch Gardens - Tampa Bay
    This 335-acre theme park is located about 100 miles southwest of Orlando. There are rides and coasters, 12,000 animals from 300 different species, and special events and shows for the whole family.
  • Daytona International Speedway - Daytona Beach
    Plan ahead to watch a race at one of the greatest NASCAR tracks. Or you can visit the Daytona 500 Experience any time of year where families can join a pit crew, tour the track and see the inner workings of a race car.
  • Everglades National Park - Southern Florida
    Explore the home of crocodile, rare panthers, and the manatee. The Everglades span the southern tip of Florida.
  • Gold Coast Railroad Museum - Miami
    Take a train ride, watch the model trains and see historic train engines. Kids can also play with toy trains at this Miami railroad museum.
  • Kennedy Space Center - Brevard County
    Watch the shuttle lift off, learn about space exploration or see an IMAX movie. Located about halfway between Jacksonville and Miami.
  • Zoo Miami - Miami
    This zoo, the largest and oldest in Florida, features over 1,200 animals. It's the only sub-tropical zoo in the continental United States and so houses some animals you're unlikely to see elsewhere.
  • SeaWorld Orlando - Orlando
    See killer whales, dolphins, sea lions, otters, and other marine life on about 200 acres filled with aquatic shows and theme park rides.
  • Universal Studios Orlando - Orlando
    Movie magic comes to life at this Hollywood-themed production lot. There's also a water park with takes on hit movies, children's books and comic books.
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The beauty of Georgia travel is that one minute you can be in the heart of a bustling city and the next, you're surrounded by butterflies on a nature complex. Attractions in the Peach State include:

  • Callaway Gardens and Resort - Pine Mountain
    Nature is at its best on 14,000 acres of trails, flower gardens, and butterflies all around. Enjoy some water sports at Robin Lake. Located about an hour southwest of Atlanta.
  • Centennial Olympic Park - Atlanta
    Located in downtown Atlanta, Centennial Olympic Park spans 21 acres and was built for the Centennial 1996 Summer Olympics. It's a great place to throw a frisbee in the summer or ice skate outdoors in the winter.
  • CNN Studio Tour - Atlanta
    See the inner workings of CNN as the news happens. Ever wanted to play weatherman? Step in front of the chroma key wall to star in your own forecast.
  • Georgia Aquarium - Atlanta
    The world's largest aquarium features 8 million gallons of water and a variety of sea creatures. The aquarium is in the heart of Atlanta.
  • Imagine It! The Children's Museum - Atlanta
    Hands-on learning and imaginative play areas are specifically designed for kids 8 and under. Water play and painting fun are some of the permanent exhibits with temporary exhibits rotating several times throughout the year.
  • Wild Animal Safari - Pine Mountain
    Zebras, giraffes, and ostriches roam the grounds of Wild Animal Safari in Pine Mountain, Georgia. About 45 minutes from Columbus, families ride through the park in buses, vans or your own car for face-to-face encounters with exotic animals.
  • The World of Coca-Cola - Atlanta
    Right next to the Georgia Aquarium, you'll find another can't-miss attraction. The World of Coca-Cola is a monstrous building filled with memorabilia, old commercials, robotic bottling simulations and more than 60 sodas you can taste from around the world.
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The Kentucky Derby is what the state's famous for but the breathtaking parks are a nature lover's triple crown winner. Attractions in the Blue Grass State include: 

  • Cumberland Gap National Historical Park
    Over 20,000 acres make up this park, which covers parts of Kentucky, Tennessee,  and Virginia.
  • Explorium of Lexington - Lexington
    Burn off energy while learning. Kids can learn about geography, ecology, architecture and more with fun hands-on exhibits that won't even tip them off that they're learning while playing.
  • Kentucky Horse Park - Lexington
    Horse and sports lovers in your family won't say nay at the opportunity to visit this horse farm to see the parade of breeds, ride horses and ponies, view the Hall of Champions and more.
  • Kentucky Science Center - Louisville
    A hands-on discovery center helps kids learn about natural and earth sciences. A four-story IMAX theater is also on-site.
  • Louisville Slugger Museum and Factory - Louisville
    Where do those famous baseball bats come from? The Louisville Slugger Museum, of course, where you can see bats being made for today's baseball players.
  • Mammoth Cave National Park - Mammoth Cave
    There's no way to describe the wonder in Mammoth Cave, which is about 30 miles northeast of Bowling Green. Take a boat ride underground to view the caves from a new perspective.
  • Newport Aquarium - Newport
    Experience "a million gallons of fun" that features 70 exhibits and 14 galleries showing off some of the most exotic marine life around the globe. You can also feed the lorikeets in a rainforest, travel to a penguin's paradise or see what it's like to be a bottom dweller on the floor of the Amazon River.
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Feed a giraffe in the Bayou State? Enjoy Mardi Gras with the kids? Family attractions in Louisiana can put you in fun-filled, memorable situations. Attractions include:

  • Audubon Aquarium of the Americas - New Orleans
    Right next to the historic French Quarter in New Orleans, you'll find penguins, sharks, and sea otters at the aquarium. An IMAX theater is also on-site.
  • Audubon Zoo - New Orleans
    This New Orleans zoo houses 2,000 animals on 58 acres. Don't miss the white alligators. There are hands-on animal encounters and wandering through the beautiful natural habitat.
  • Global Wildlife Center - Folsom
    Go on safari in Folsom, Louisiana, which is about an hour and a half from Baton Rouge and an hour from New Orleans. Interact with over 3,000 animals, including giraffes, zebras, and camels on more than 900 acres.
  • Audubon Butterfly Garden and Insectarium - New Orleans
    Bugs! More than 50 exhibits show kids everything from a bug's life cycle to aquatic life in a Louisiana swamp. It's located in the U.S. Custom House on Canal Street.
  • Mardi Gras for Kids - New Orleans
    Mardi Gras isn't just for adults. Special events are planned for kids to make the event more family friendly. Certain parades are better for kids than others and, if you want the children to really Mardi Gras, there are places they can view the parades that are family-friendly. 
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Mississippi travel spots are a mix of old and new. Relive American history at battlegrounds and national landmarks or set off on an excursion to discover wildlife at one of the state's zoos. Attractions in the Magnolia State include:

  • The Jackson Zoo - Jackson
    Over 200 species and more than 380 animals are on display. See their White rhino grazing, chimps playing, and the big cats sunning in their natural areas.
  • Mississippi Museum of Natural Science - Jackson
    Indoor and outdoor exhibits walk families through trails, let them touch marine life and teach them about endangered species.
  • Natchez National Park - Natchez
    Visit Melrose, an antebellum mansion, fully restored with Civil War furnishings. After you take the guided tour of the house, explore the 80-acre estate's grounds on your self-guided tour.
  • Tupelo Buffalo Park and Zoo - Tupelo
    The largest zoo in Mississippi offers a "Monster Bus" bison tour as well as a zoo filled with exotic animals.
  • Vicksburg National Military Park - Vicksburg
    Time travel back to the Civil War era to experience the battle at Vicksburg. Cannons, monuments, a restored Union ironclad gunboat are some of the things to see on the 16-mile tour.
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North Carolina

North Carolina travelers prefer the Tar Heel State for its beaches, lighthouses, and mountains. But there are even more options for your family. Family-friendly attractions include:

  • Appalachian National Scenic Trail
    Enjoy 2,174 miles of the Appalachian Mountains with exhibits, picnic areas, and campgrounds. The trail spans 14 states.
  • Biltmore Estate - Asheville
    Live a fairy tale life, at least temporarily, as you visit a 250-room luxurious castle in Asheville. Walk in the gardens to see 250 varieties of roses, 1,000 azaleas and 500 different types of plants, shrubs, and trees.
  • Blue Ridge Parkway
    Gorgeous mountains are part of North Carolina's appeal to visitors. Driving through these scenic mountains will take you 469 miles from start to finish.
  • Carowinds - Charlotte
    This 112-acre theme park is on the North Carolina/South Carolina state line. Big kids will scream with delight on the roller coasters. Little kids can play in the Nickelodeon Central area with age-appropriate rides and activities. Enjoy Carolina-style cuisine and entertainment.
  • Land of Waterfalls
    Kids love waterfalls. What will they think when they can see 250 of them? This mountainous stop on the Blue Ridge Parkway will take you to Brevard, North Carolina, about 45 minutes from Asheville.
  • Outer Banks Driving Tour
    The 35 miles per hour speed limit forces you to go slow and take in the beauty of the Outer Banks. The 130-mile stretch takes you across four islands with each having a variety of family-friendly activities to enjoy. Look for wild horses, visit the aquarium, explore lighthouses and more.
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South Carolina

From the upstate to the low country, South Carolina may be small in size but it packs in many activities for your family. Attractions in the Palmetto State include:

  • Carowinds - Fort Mill
    This 112-acre theme park is on the North Carolina/South Carolina state line. Big kids can hit the roller coasters. Little kids can play in the Nickelodeon Central area with age-appropriate rides and activities. In South Carolina, the park is located in Fort Mill, about 15 minutes from Rock Hill.
  • Hilton Head Island
    Gorgeous scenery makes Hilton Head a must-visit travel destination. Families can fish, relax on sparkling beaches and play miniature golf.
  • Myrtle Beach
    There's a reason people travel to Myrtle Beach and park the car for the weekend. A music park, water park, theme park and, of course, the beach gives visitors no reason to go anywhere else during their trip.
  • Patriots Point Naval and Maritime Museum - Charleston
    Warplanes, pilot audio, and historic memorabilia are part of this museum in Charleston Harbor. The USS Yorktown, USS Laffey, and USS Clamagore are all situated in the harbor. If your church or youth group is planning a weekend trip, check out the camping excursion that lets you spend the night on the USS Yorktown.
  • Riverbanks Zoo and Garden - Columbia
    More than 3,000 animals call this 170-acre zoo in Columbia home. About 4,200 species of plants grow in the nearby 70-acre botanical garden.
  • The Sandbox - Hilton Head
    This interactive children's learning museum is located in Hilton Head. Kids can play on a 16th-century ship replica, dress in pilot costumes and take flight in a plane or climb a plastic rock wall. Plan enough in advance and your kids can enjoy a kids' night in, giving you a few hours for alone time.
  • The South Carolina Aquarium - Charleston
    In Charleston Harbor, visit the aquarium that partially sits on the water. You'll encounter owls, otters, seahorses, and penguins, to name a few of your new friends from the 11 exhibit areas.
  • South Carolina Waterfalls
    Hike, picnic or simply stare at the beauty of sparkling waterfalls in Greenville, Oconee, and Pickens counties. More than 20 falls sites offer the perfect photo opportunity with the kids.
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Tennessee is known for its mountains and its music. But there's even more for families to discover together. Attractions in the Volunteer State include:

  • Chattanooga Choo Choo and Hotel - Chattanooga
    All aboard the Chattanooga Choo Choo! See the coal-burning steam engine and stay overnight in a train car. Don't miss the Model Railroad Museum, which is made up of 3,000 feet of track and has a $1 million replacement value.
  • Grand Ole Opry - Nashville
    Even if you're not a country music fan, you'll appreciate the historical significance of this long-running stage and radio show that's unlike anything in America. Highlights of this Nashville location include an Opry House tour and a 300-foot paddlewheel riverboat.
  • Great Smoky Mountains
    The heart of the Great Smoky Mountains in Tennessee is in Gatlinburg, about one hour southeast of Knoxville. This popular travel destination is full of shops, miniature golf, ice skating, skiing, and scenic drives through the wilderness.
  • Memphis Zoo - Memphis
    See more than 3,500 animals at the Memphis Zoo. In addition to polar bears and pandas, visit a butterfly garden and plant exhibit featuring thousands of native and exotic species.
  • Rock City - Lookout Mountain
    A few miles from Chattanooga, you can stand on a rock and see 7 states. Walk across the swing-a-long bridge or see if you can make it through the Needle's Eye. These awe-inspiring natural boulders and 140-foot falls will keep your family entertained for hours.
  • Tennessee Aquarium - Chattanooga
    The Tennessee Aquarium is the most recognizable building in the Chattanooga skyline. Inside, you'll find a variety of mammals, birds, butterflies, fish, invertebrates and more. The aquarium has a river building and an ocean building included in admission so you can see both types of aquatic life for one price. An IMAX theater is also on-site.
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Virginia's the perfect destination for historic tours and hands-on experience of what life was like as far back as the 1600s. But thrill seekers will also enjoy the theme parks, caverns, and boardwalk entertainment.  Attractions in the Old Dominion State include: 

  • America's Historic Triangle
    About an hour from Norfolk and Richmond, America's Historic Triangle includes three Colonial locations—Colonial Williamsburg, Jamestown, and Yorktown. Lessons in history are abundant at the "birthplace of American democracy." Battlefields, recreated forts, replica ships, and reenactments bring history to life for your kids.
  • Busch Gardens Williamsburg - Williamsburg
    Aside from Florida's Busch Gardens, this Virginia theme park is the only one of its kind. Rides, shows and kid-friendly areas that feature playgrounds, a 4-D Sesame Street movie and age-appropriate rides are just some of the park's highlights.
  • Poplar Forest - Forest
    This 4,819-acre plantation was home to Thomas Jefferson. It's now a National Historic Landmark open to the public for guided house tours and self-guided grounds exhibits. Families learn how bricks are made, how to write with a quill and children's areas feature colonial games from Jefferson's era.
  • Shenandoah Caverns - Quicksburg
    A one-mile underground tour of limestone formations. Located two hours west of Washington, D.C., and two and a half hours northwest of Richmond.
  • Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center - Virginia Beach
    This isn't your typical aquarium. See thousands of animals, plus unique exhibits that replicate life in the Red Sea, a Malaysian peat swamp and more. An IMAX theater is on-site.
  • Virginia Beach Boardwalk - Virginia Beach
    This three-mile boardwalk has everyone's entertainment covered. Shops for mom. A fishing pier for dad. Amusement areas for the kids.
  • Virginia Safari Park - Natural Bridge
    Will a giraffe walk up to your car to say hello? It could be a zebra that decides to stop your tour by blocking your way. Go on a wild animal safari right in Natural Bridge, Virginia.
  • Water Country USA - Williamsburg
    Virginia's largest water park is about a 45-minute drive from Virginia Beach and is right next door to Busch Gardens Williamsburg. There are plenty of special water play areas for kids and bigger kids will enjoy water slides hundreds of feet high.
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West Virginia

The beautiful mountains give nature lovers plenty of outdoor activities to enjoy during their West Virginia travel excursion. But there's a variety of other attractions the whole family can experience throughout the state as well. Attractions in the Mountain State include:

  • Camden Park - West Huntington
    Enjoy more than 30 rides and attractions at this theme park. There's also a Kiddie Land just for visitors under 48" tall.
  • Cass Scenic Railroad State Park - Cass
    The railroad was built in 1901 to haul lumber, and now it's ready for passengers to enjoy a ride on a steam locomotive.
  • The Children's Museum of the Ohio Valley - Wheeling
    Open your kids' minds to play and learning at the same time. Hands-on exhibits let them play at a Lego Bar, in a hospital, on a climbing wall and more.
  • National Parks
    Pack the camera and get ready for plenty of photo ops with the family. These national parks in West Virginia put you up close with the state's natural beauty.
  • Oglebay's Good Zoo - Wheeling
    Feed the lorikeets, and see zebras, river otters, bears and more. The Oglebay Resort and Conference Center also has a golf course, spa and horseback riding on-site.
  • Seneca Caverns - Riverton
    Go underground! The caverns have a history that dates back to the 1400s. Now the caverns are open to the public for a day full of adventure 165 feet under the ground.
  • Water Parks
    Have a soaking good time at one of the water parks in West Virginia. The water parks tend to be small and seasonal, yet cooling fun in warm weather. This list of water parks in the state will help you get there.
  • West Virginia Zoo at Hovatter's Wildlife Zoo - Kingwood
    The shaded zoo is home to more than 30 different species of wildlife. Seasonal schedule. 
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