Lifestyle / Family Fun / 13 Family-Friendly Vacation Destinations

13 Family-Friendly Vacation Destinations

Take your whole clan to one of these fun-filled U.S. cities

By Olivia Putnal Posted June 09, 2009 from

The kids are out of school and the whole family is ready for some summer vacation fun—but choosing the right destination for everyone can prove tricky (not to mention expensive). Luckily, has the inside scoop on 13 wallet-friendly cities around the country that are jam-packed with activities for the whole family. Whether you’re looking to hit up an action-packed theme park or a relaxing beach-side resort, there’s a vacation spot here that meets every family’s needs. Read on to get the nitty-gritty on the offerings in our top family-friendly cities, then hit the road for a trip the whole clan will never forget.

Seattle, Washington

This waterfront city has a welcoming atmosphere and offers plenty of options for everyone. Kids will want to watch sea lions feast along the shore’s edge or check out the boats coming in and out at the Hiram M. Chittenden Locks. Then, there’s the Carl S. English Jr. Botanical Garden, home to over 500 species and 1,500 varieties of plants, as well as the Seattle Aquarium —guaranteed to keep the whole family entertained. If the weather is rainy, head to one of many indoor activities, including the famous Boeing Museum of Flight, the Seattle Art Museum and the infamous Space Needle, where elevators travel at a zippy 10 mph. Once you reach the top, your family can enjoy a delicious meal at SkyCity restaurant, which rotates 360 degrees and provides a beautiful view of the city below. For more information, go to

Little Cottonwood Canyon, Utah

Located 25 miles outside of Salt Lake City, Little Cottonwood Canyon is home to two of the biggest ski and summer resorts—Snowbird and Alta. Snowbird resort offers numerous camps for kids throughout the year, plus lots of shopping and daily activities such a hiking, horseback riding, zip lines, fishing and four-wheeler riding. In the summer, there’s a variety of festivals, including the Mountain Music Festival, the Celebration of Gospel Music and the Grill on the Hill BBQ and Brewfest. In the colder months, Snowbird boasts 89 ski runs, 11 lifts and 2,500 skiable acres to practice your skills. At Alta resort, enjoy the lodge’s famous outdoor summer brunch amidst wildflowers, high peaks and the cool mountain air. Then, come back in the winter to brave the ski slopes, voted #1 by Skiing Magazine!

Portland, Maine

Rated by Forbes as the most-livable city in the U.S., this coastal city was a no-brainer pick for our list. Explore the magical village fairy house on Mackworth Island for an activity that’s sure to entertain the kids. Then, visit the Children’s Museum of Maine, complete with interactive exhibits that put the fun back into learning. If it’s sunshine you crave, head for Southern Portland or Willard Beaches and be sure to stop by the Spring Point lighthouse, which offers tours every Saturday. Or, for a more hands-on summer outing, visit Broadturn Farm for some strawberry-pickin’ good times. For more information, go to

Saugatuck, Michigan

The easygoing town of Saugatuck, also known as the “Art Coast of Michigan,” is the perfect getaway for those looking for a true outdoors escape. The town is sandwiched between the Kalamazoo River and Lake Michigan, providing plenty of water-based activities. Try the running rivers kayak adventure, which sends you paddling downstream from New Richmond, where you can take in the surrounding wilderness along the way. Looking for a real thrill? Sign up for one of the Saugatuck dune rides and travel through the lost town of Singapore while surveying the exotic local vegetation and wildlife. Less adventurous travelers can stick to town to spend a quiet afternoon window-shopping in a cluster of small boutiques peddling everything from handcrafted jewelry to yummy sweet treats. For more information, go to

Boston, Massachusetts

Sports fans are sure to fall in love with this charming New England city. Home to the legendary Fenway Park, Gillette Stadium, Banknorth Garden and the New England Revolution, there’s a site here for every kind of sports enthusiast. After taking in a game or two, if you’re still craving more action, head to the Boston Harbor to partake in some boating and sailing, or visit one of the numerous golf courses throughout the city. If your kids are soon university-bound, don’t miss an opportunity to tour one of the many colleges in and around the city, including Harvard, Boston College, Northeastern or MIT. Plus, history buffs will love climbing the Bunker Hill Monument or touring the State House. For more information, go to

Austin, Texas

If you’re looking for a good ole time, hightail it over to the capital of the Lonestar State. Foodies will be delighted by the city’s many culinary options—everything from fine-dining to down-home BBQ. Once you get your fill of good grub, take in the many sights, such as the Capital Building, which includes landscaped lawns, 17 monuments and 22 acres to roam. If you’re visiting in the summer, be sure to bring the kids to the Congress Avenue Bridge, where you can spot 1.5 million Mexican free-tailed bats congregate under the bridge between the months of March and September. You can also head over to South Congress, or SoCo as the locals call it, to shop for unique local wares or to check out the burgeoning art scene. For more information, go to

San Diego, California

This unique city offers more than enough activities to keep the whole family busy for days. Start off by visiting the well-known San Diego Zoo, home to over 4,000 animals and a state-of-the-art breeding program (Lucky visitors might even catch a glance of some adorable zoo babies!) Then, for great shopping, good eats and live music, don’t miss the Gaslamp Quarter—also known as the “Historic heart of San Diego." If you’re looking to spend a day away from the hustle and bustle of the city, head to nearby Coronado, where you’ll find white sand beaches, golf courses and ferry rides to and from San Diego. Then, for an amusement park like your kids have never seen, Lego Land is a short 30 minute drive north of San Diego and is certain to leave a lasting impression on young visitors. For more information, go to

Las Vegas, Nevada Area

In northern Arizona, near the Nevada border, you’ll find one of the most beautiful natural wonders of the world: The Grand Canyon. With so much to explore and do, this attraction alone will keep your family occupied for days. You can hike along the Colorado River on the South Kaibab trail, backpack along the many trails, ride mules or even raft down the river. While you’re out West, be sure to stop by the Hoover Dam just 30 miles from Las Vegas, then check out Lake Mead for lots of water recreation activities set amongst gorgeous scenery. Plus, while Las Vegas may not strike you as a family-friendly destination, there are in fact lots of places to take the kids. The Fountains of Bellagio water show is an experience the whole family will enjoy, and for a classic outdoor movie under the stars, visit The Green: All you need is a blanket and some popcorn to enjoy a Disney flick under the Las Vegas skyline. For more information, go to .

Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

This Southern coastal town is ideal if you want a laid back getaway. Start off your trip by visiting kid-friendly Broadway at the Beach, with 350 acres of shopping, dining, attractions and hotels. You can also see what’s playing at the Imax 3D Theatre, take a ride on the Miss Broadway Water Taxi or explore the sea life at the Ripley Aquarium. If you want to experience a country rockin’ good time, check out The Carolina Opry, where you’re sure to witness a performance like you’ve never seen before. Of course, this beach town is also widely known for its sparkling waters and pearl-colored sand, so don’t forget to pack your swimsuits for a trip to any one of the pristine public beaches, where you can watch the boats come in from a long day of fishing at the Marina at Grande Dunes. Better yet, if you live nearby and own a boat of your own, bring it along and dock it right at the marina. For more information, go to

Washington, DC

It’s no surprise that the nation’s capital has historical highlights for miles. Learn about our country’s history at landmarks like the Lincoln Memorial, the Washington Monument, the Arlington Cemetery and, of course, the White House. In the evening, enjoy live music under the stars, performed by none other than one of the various U.S. Air Force, Navy and Army bands. For a breath of fresh air, take the Metrorail to Georgetown, home of the prestigious Georgetown University, and tour the gorgeous campus with its breathtaking Gothic-style architecture. Then, for the ultimate museum experience, head to the Smithsonian, where you can learn interesting facts about everything from ants to triceratops. For more information, go to

St. Louis, Missouri

No trip to St. Louis is complete without a ride to the top of the famed Gateway Arch, which towers 630 feet over the Mississippi River. Once you’ve checked that off your list, head to the nearby Cohakia Mounds and explore the ancient sites at this millennia-old settlement. At the 150-year-old Missouri Botanical Garden, you can get back in touch with nature amid 79 acres of breathtaking botanical gardens. Then, depending on the season, sports fans can cheer on the Cardinals, the Rams or the Blues. Plus, don’t miss a chance to visit the Challenger Learning Center, where future astronauts can gain an unforgettable, truly out-of-this-world experience. For more information, go to

Orlando, Florida

When most people consider visiting Orlando, they immediately think of Mickey Mouse. However, in addition to the six theme parks at the wonderful world of Disney, there are numerous family attractions that have all the makings of a memorable visit. Sea World is home to not just thousands of well-trained animals, but also a variety of entertaining rides, shows and exhibits. Then, for even more animal encounters, visit Gatorland to watch enormous gators in action at “The Alligator Capital of the World.” If you’re looking to escape the crowds, head to one of the many lakes in Central Florida, such as Lake Jesup, for some waterside relaxation. For more information, go to

Denver, Colorado

Rediscover the great outdoors and indulge a love of history in the city of Denver. Choose from museums such as the Denver Art Museum, the Colorado History Museum or the Denver Museum of Nature and Science for an educational afternoon. If you’re looking to check out the local scenery and musical offerings, the Red Rocks Park and Amphitheatre is a unique place to enjoy some live entertainment. Of course, for the sports enthusiasts, Denver is also home to eight professional sports teams, and animal-lovers won’t want to miss the Denver Zoo, with over 650 different species of animals. During the wintertime, head 20 minutes outside the city to the Rocky Mountains, where you can partake in hiking, snowboarding, skiing and more. For more information, go to .

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Posted by


cool vacation destinations!!Visiting Seattle can be an infinitely fun experience.Seattle is a city that has much to offer young and old alike as a vacation destination.thanks for a great list!!

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Posted by AmyB

Irresponsible Photo of baby on alligator

Puh-lease! Who's idea was it to post that photo of the baby riding the alligator? C'mon Woman's Day editors? That photo is a bit ridiculous for your target audience...Moms with small children. I sure hope that alligator is a fake. Gatorland is good, safe fun for kids and families, and they DON'T allow babies to "ride" alligators.

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Posted by Kara

To: 'Where Are We?'

I recently visited New Orlean, and have to disagree that it is 'missing' from a list of 'family friendly' vacations. I would put it on a list of great bachelor/bachelorette party and spring break destinations.

Seattle is my hometown, and I know we are all biased toward our own communities, but we really are family friendly. The comfortable climate, and beautiful natural surroundings combine with fun places and activities. My cousin grew up in the hills of California, and upon visiting here as a young boy remarked "why are there so many trees?"

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Posted by Jesi


As a native to Seattle I thought I should mention some of things that were forgotten. The Seattle center is a great place for families, especially in the summer when everyone runs through the fountain to cool off. And the science center is also a blast and the the woodland park zoo. Just a few things to keep in ming if you're visiting.

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Posted by Denise


Our beloved city of New Orleans was not mentioned, We too have a lot to offer and not just the seasonal Hurricanes.

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