Best Summer Family Vacation Ideas in the USA

  • 01 of 07

    New England

    Bass Harbor Lighthouse in Acadia, Maine, at sunset
    ••• Sunset in Acadia National Park. Jan Zwilling / Getty Images

    The six New England states offer great opportunities for outdoor recreation during summertime, with hundreds of miles of coastline plus mountains and lakes to enjoy. Some top picks include:

    • Tyler Place Family Resort, an all-inclusive summer resort set on the shores of Lake Champlain in northwestern Vermont. Owned and managed by the same family for over 80 years, Tyler Place boasts the very best children's program in the country and a return rate of about 90 percent.
    • Acadia National Park is home to myriad plants and animals, as well as the tallest mountain on the U.S. Atlantic coast. Today visitors come to Acadia to hike granite peaks, bike historic carriage roads, or relax and enjoy the coastal scenery.
    • The Upper Cape is the most westerly region of Cape Cod, where life is a bit sleepier here than on the Outer Cape. The beaches are a bit calmer and prices a bit lower, too, which combine to make this an ideal getaway with kids.
    • Ogunquit means “beautiful place by the sea,” and it is...MORE indeed a jewel along the southern Maine coast. The pretty village delights families with a stunning coastal walk, wonderful beach, saltwater taffy, lobstering cruises, and lots of unpretentious family fun.
    • Omni Mount Washington Resort, a national historic landmark, offers indoor and outdoor pools, golf, tennis, horseback riding, mountain biking, a kids camp, and family programs. 
    • Smugglers' Notch is a year-round Vermont resort with mountain adventure fun in the summer. It offers extensive kids programs, two teen centers, a 5400-square-foot child care center, an indoor FunZone, and dozens of activities for all ages.

     

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  • 02 of 07

    Mid-Atlantic

    The Sagamore Resort on Lake George, New York
    ••• The Sagamore

    The Mid-Atlantic stretches down the Eastern seaboard from New York to Virginia. Some top picks for summer getaways include:

    • The Sagamore is perfect for families looking for a lake getaway that's luxurious yet completely family-friendly, with a location on spectacular Lake George in the foothills of New York's Adirondack Mountains.
    • Philadelphia is more than the Liberty Bell and cheesesteak. The nation's first capital offers a trove of historic sites, museums, shopping and more.
    • Virginia Beach offers 20 miles of unbroken beachfront. Families have always flocked to here and in recent years the beach playground has gotten a facelift and a fresher, upgraded image.
    • Whiteface Lodge in charming Lake Placid, New York, is where luxury meets family fun.
    • Hershey is a family magnet in Pennsylvania, offering the winning combination of chocolate and an acclaimed theme park.
    • Washington DC offers a slew of free museums, iconic monuments, and history galore. 
    • Mohonk Mountain House, a two-hour drive...MORE north of New York City in the Catskills, offers 85 miles of hiking trails and rock scrambles, guided nature hikes, boating and paddleboarding on the lake, a golf course, many tennis courts, scheduled kids' and teen's programming, and an array of yoga, meditation and fitness classes.
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  • 03 of 07

    Southeast US

    From Kentucky and the Carolinas to Florida and Louisiana, the sunny Southeast is a vacation wonderland. Here are some top picks:

    • The Outer Banks are a 200-mile string of barrier islands off the coast of North Carolina. This popular family destination is renowned for its temperate climate and wide expanses of open beachfront. 
    • Disney World is the most popular theme park in the world and a rite of passage for many families.
    • Great Smoky Mountain National Park is the most-visited of all American national parks, straddling North Carolina and Tennessee and offering breathtaking scenery and wildlife viewing.
    • Hilton Head Island is a more upscale alternative to Myrtle Beach, with miles of Atlantic beachfront, a host of world-class golf and tennis facilities, and a wide choice of hotel and vacation rental options.
    • Sanibel and Captiva Islands deliver shell-strewn beaches, a laid-back vibe, terrific restaurants, chic shops, flower-lined lanes, and an incredibly diverse array of wildlife—all of which...MORE combine to provide an abundance of wow moments. 
    • Daytona Beach, the "world's most famous beach," has come a long way from its days as MTV's college spring break party town. Today's Daytona Beach is all about family-friendly fun that won't break the bank.
    • Tybee Island, just 18 miles from Savannah, is a popular family getaway destination. Rich in both history and natural beauty, the barrier island is famous for its seafood and spectacular uninterrupted three-mile beach. 
    • Pigeon Forge is just eight miles from the Smoky Mountains National Park and home to the Dollywood theme park, which has added a family-friendly resort and a super thrilling roller coaster.
    • Siesta Key deserves to be on your go-to list of Florida vacation spots. This gem of an island is just a stone's throw from Sarasota and one of the best beach vacations in the Southeast.
    • Kentucky Cave Country is underrated as a family vacation destination. Located a one- hour drive north of Nashville and less than a two-hour drive south of Louisville, the rolling green hills make for a memorable, quick getaway or a stop on a longer road trip. 
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  • 04 of 07

    Midwest US

    Sandusky Ohio: Blue Streak coaster, lake behind. Courtesy of Cedar Point Amusement Park/Resort.
    ••• Sandusky Ohio: Blue Streak coaster, lake behind. Courtesy of Cedar Point Amusement Park/Resort.

    Summer is prime vacation time in the Midwest. Here are some top picks:

    • Wisconsin Dells is known as the Water Park Capital of the World, which makes it a kid magnet.
    • Badlands National Park's natural stone formations and rugged ancient bedrock are often compared to the lunar landscape. Its landscape holds the fossilized remains of mammals that inhabited this part of the world millions of years ago.
    • Chicago is at its very best in the summer, when the lakeside beaches offer family fun and high temperatures are moderated by lake breezes.
    • Sandusky is another huge water park hub, with some impressive theme parks in the mix.
    • Detroit has become a breakout destination in Michigan. The city's famed zoo has opened the world's largest penguin exhibit. It's the perfect excuse to explore the Motor City's excellent array of family-friendly attractions.
    • Ohio State Park Lodges are a great place for an affordable Midwest beach getaway this summer. Located in parks throughout the central and...MORE northern regions of the Buckeye State, the lodges offer a surprising array of beach experiences on lakes, rivers and reservoirs.
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  • 05 of 07

    Mountain States

    Yellowstone National Park
    ••• Kelly Cheng Travel Photography / Getty Images

    Some of our most spectacular landscapes lie in Idaho, Montana, Wyoming and Colorado. Here are some top getaway picks:

    • Yellowstone National Park is arguably also the most unique. Its 2.2 million acres fall mainly in Wyoming and sit atop one of the continent’s largest active supervolcanoes, whose two-million-year history formed a diverse eco-system of lakes, canyons, geysers, mud pots, hot springs, and fumaroles.
    • Idaho is a tremendous and varied landscape, from its sage-covered high desert, volcanic ridges, whitewater rivers, and spectacular canyons to mountain peaks, glacial lakes, and vast pine forests.
    • Great Sand Dunes National Park is a shock to those who believe Colorado is completely mountainous. The tallest dunes in North America are the center piece in an incredibly diverse landscape of grasslands, wetlands, forests, alpine lakes, and tundra. 
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  • 06 of 07

    Southwest US

    ZionNationalPark.jpg
    ••• National Park Service

    From Texas to Nevada, the Southwest brims over with fun vacation options. Here are some top picks: 

    • Grand Canyon National Park is a bucket-list destination for families and a popular road trip destination. 
    • Utah's Mighty 5 includes a quintet of spectacular national park gems: Arches, Zion, Bryce, Canyon, Canyonlands, and Capitol Reef.
    • Scottsdale is known for its tony resorts and also offers families a wide array of museums, shops, restaurants, and other ways to have fun.
    • America's Most Insane Water Slide is a kid magnet and YouTube sensation in Waco, Texas.
    • Utah's Dinosaur Graveyards are why the state is often called a real-life Jurassic Park.
    • Galveston is a pretty, properous town on a barrier island in the Gulf of Mexico known for its beautiful historic district, amazing fried shrimp, beaches (including seven miles of new beach), and myriad family fun attractions.
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  • 07 of 07

    Pacific West

    Pismo_SandbarSurf.png
    ••• Sandbar Surf Company

    The West Coast states and Hawaii are magnets for vacationers. Here are some top picks for families:

    • Yosemite National Park is must-stop on any California road trip, offering majestic scenery and plenty of fun recreational activities for the whole family.
    • San Diego is a family playground, offering an ideal climate, 33 amazing beaches, and tons of affordable activities.
    • Hawaii is a tropical paradise with wonderful beaches and culture, with fabulous family hotels.
    • Santa Barbara is one of SoCal's most appealing beach towns.
    • San Francisco is one of the world's most beautiful cities, with tremendous appeal for families.
    • Cannon Beach on Oregon's North Coast offers dramatic vistas, sandy beaches, and many fun attractions for families.
    • Olympic National Park takes you from breathtaking mountain vistas with meadows of wildflowers to colorful ocean tidepools to valleys of ancient forests. Ninety-five percent of the park is wilderness.
    • Pismo Beach is a gem along California's Central Coast...MORE and a great base for exploring Big Sur and the Five Cities along Highway 1.

    - Edited by Suzanne Rowan Kelleher