Top 10 U.S. Cities for a Family Vacation

Written by: Jamie Baker - April 2012



Planning a vacation with the whole family? Perhaps just a weekend getaway where every family member can relax and have fun? Here are the top 10 cities in the US where you can vacation to your heart’s content:


1. San Francisco, CA
Start off some sightseeing at the world-famous Golden Gate Bridge then say hello to the animals at the San Francisco Zoo with its newly developed Lemur Forest. For a glimpse of marine life, visit Aquarium of the Bay. It also features a Bay Theater, magic show and restaurant of exotic food. The California Academy of Sciences and San Francisco Museum of Modern Art provide the educational touch to your vacation while China Beach and Ocean Beach are great places to get a dip or just feel the sand between your toes. And if your family is fearless, tour the historic former maximum security federal prison—Alcatraz.


2. San Diego, CA
A San Diego vacation isn’t complete without visiting the renowned San Diego Zoo with its thousands of animal species and conservation advocacy programs. LEGOLAND theme park has a waterpark and SeaLife Aquarium that are sure to dazzle any kid who’s played with LEGO blocks. The USS Midway Museum —longest-serving naval aircraft carrier —will definitely charm the lover of big ships and aircrafts. Other points of interest include Old Town San Diego and the Maritime Museum of San Diego.


3. Orlando, FL
Favorite destinations in this city are Disney World and Universal Studios. Disney charms with all its magical shows, thrill rides, stunning fireworks, castles and princesses; and Universal Studios allows you behind the scenes of favorite movies. For something different but equally exciting for the family, there’s iFly Orlando. It’s a unique activity that closely simulates sky-diving. Or try the gator zipline over at Gatorland. These activities make a unique vacation with kids. Other all-time favorite places include SeaWorld and the Kennedy Space Center.


4. Seattle, WA
Take the family on a vacation surrounded by nature at Discovery Park. It offers breathtaking views of the Olympic Mountain ranges, has cliffs, open meadows, streams, forests and beaches. Totally relaxing. If your kids are into flying machines, the Museum of Flight is filled with artifacts of aviation history, aircrafts and spacecrafts. Baseball enthusiasts will enjoy touring Safeco Field and Theo Chocolate is obviously a must-see for chocolate lovers. Before you head home, take the whole family for a ride on one of the Washington State Ferries.


5. New York
The Big Apple is a huge city with millions of people where anyone can easily get lost. But with careful planning and a strict code to stick together, it’s an awesome place to explore on a family vacation. A popular visitor site is the American Museum of Natural History featuring prehistoric animal fossils and other exhibits. Carnegie Hall and Manhattan Children’s Theatre offer classy stage and musical performances while the younger kids will enjoy the puppet shows at Asphalt Green’s Lenny Suib Puppet Playhouse. Madame Tussaud’s New York will delight teenagers with wax replicas of favorite celebrities. Of course, don’t leave without visiting the Statue of Liberty or running through Central Park at least once or going all the way to the top of the Empire State Building.


6. Denver, CO
This is the city for the outdoors family. You and your kids can happily hike on any of the Rocky Mountains trails. Or go white-water rafting on the famous Colorado River. Not the outdoorsy type? Denver is still good for a vacation with kids. They’ll love the Butterfly Pavilion where they interact with butterflies, a friendly tarantula and more. The Carousel of Happiness is a one-of-a-kind carousel ride not only on horses but various individually carved animals. And if the family gets a craving for Mexican food, try Casa Bonita Restaurant which also features retro picture-taking, daredevil skydivers, and strolling musicians.


7. Atlanta, GA
This "Capital of the South" was home to the 1996 Olympics so a visit to the Centennial Olympic Park is a treat. The park has R&B, reggae and jazz music performances on certain weekdays and a once-a-month free family fun day of games, kids’ activities and surprises. Stroll along Piedmont Park’s spacious green ball fields and playgrounds. If you brought Fido along, he can chill out at the dog park. Free movies await you at the Atlantic Station or haggle over goods at the open flea market there. Also worth visiting are the World of Coca-Cola, Underground Atlanta, and the Yellow River Game Ranch.


8. Boston, MA
Ever ridden a swan boat? You can ride one at the Public Garden waterways in stately Boston—another great city for a vacation with kids. Along with the swan boats are "Make Way for Ducklings" sculptures inspired by the classic children’s book of Robert McCloskey. Fenway Park offers an "in-the-game" atmosphere with it being the oldest major league baseball park in the US. The whole family can also listen to the Boston Pops at Symphony Hall. Quincy Market, the New England Aquarium and Children’s Museum are also interesting places to visit.


9. Washington, D.C.
Interesting museums abound with the Smithsonian’s 19 museums showcasing natural history, American art, air and space. Storytellers, mimes, dancers, and puppets of Discovery Theater will hold kids’ attention for an hour or so with classic and folk tales. Of course, it isn’t a true capital city vacation unless you say hello to the Washington Monument, Lincoln Monument, and Jefferson Monument; or at least take a glimpse of the White House and the Capitol Building. You also might want to try the Library of Congress, National Archives, and National Cathedral.


10. Las Vegas
Last but definitely not the least destination for a family vacation is Las Vegas. This exciting city offers some of the biggest and finest hotels, electrifying shows suitable for all the family such as Cirque du Soleil and Blue Man Group, food to whet the most sophisticated of appetites and the option for the grown-ups to challenge lady luck. Things to do with kids in Las Vegas include everything from Adventuredome, a 2-hectare indoor amusement park located in the Las Vegas Strip, to Siegfried and Roy’s Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat at the Mirage hotel, to great nature tours in the Grand Canyon south rim, situated only two hours away, driving distance. These are just a few of the attractions available, making for a perfect Las Vegas family vacation. And, best of all, low season in Las Vegas coincides with school summer vacation, making Las Vegas the best bargain around!

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Jamie Baker is a travel and lifestyle expert currently working for VegasKids.info where she writes about Las Vegas kids activities and attractions and specifically about Las Vegas shows for kids.