20 of Our Favorite Family Road Trip Destinations in the U.S.


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Graphics by: Anna Wissler & Caitlin Schneider
Graphics by: Anna Wissler & Caitlin Schneider

Some of the best family memories are made while on vacation. It’s a time for putting our to-do lists aside, adventuring a little, relaxing a lot, and spending time together without the distractions of everyday life. There’s truly no better way to get quality time than spending days in a confined space together. That’s right, we’re talking about road trips!

A road trip can be a great way to spend a family vacation for several reasons. First, they’re often more affordable than buying plane tickets for everyone (and there’s no 50-pound limit on what you can pack). Plus, nothing beats the added bonus of spontaneity that only road trips can provide. If you see a sign for the world’s largest ball of yarn, there’s no one saying you can’t swing by for a photo op. 

From exploring our National Parks to hitting the beach and everything in between, road trips make for some of the best memories. We love the freedom they allow, but when the possibilities are endless it can be tough to decide on the perfect destination. That’s why we’ve compiled a list of 20 of our favorite road trip destinations in the U.S. that are perfect for the trip of your dreams, organized by region. 

Out West

1. Grand Canyon National Park, AZ

Everyone should experience the Grand Canyon at least once. It’s the quintessential road trip destination within the U.S. because it’s easily drivable from most parts of the country. Whether your little ones are adventurous enough to spend time hiking around the canyon or seeing the drivable parts is enough, this is an experience everyone will enjoy. Plus, there are so many things to do in the area like mule riding, whitewater rafting, and experiencing Native American culture. This is a trip they’ll remember for a lifetime. Plus, it’s only a two-hour drive to Sedona, Arizona which offers even more possibilities.

Where to Stay at the Grand Canyon

Just minutes from Grand Canyon National Park is the Bright Angel Lodge. The perfect home base, the rustic establishment offers stays within the lodge or private cabins. There are two restaurants on the property open year round, and a seasonal old-fashioned ice cream shop, the Soda Fountain. And don’t miss the gift shop, coffee house, and old style saloon also on the property.

2. Black Hills, SD

We’re here to tell you that there’s more to the Black Hills of South Dakota than just Mount Rushmore (although that’s a must-see as well). On your way out to the carved mountain, take in the beauty of the scenic drive through the Badlands. Don’t forget to go through Bear Country, where your little ones will be able to (safely) get-up close and personal with wildlife like bears, buffalo, and wild donkeys. Be sure to check your dates to make sure it’s open during the time of year you want to go.

For more family fun, check out Custer State Park and drive the impressive Needles Highway, tour the underground trails of Jewel Cave, and take a leisurely train ride through the mountains on the 1880 Train. When you’re ready to head back to civilization, make your way to Deadwood for live daily reenactments of the Wild Wild West. 

Where to Stay in Black Hills

Hunker down in historic Spearfish at the Canyon Lodge for a stay that will make you feel like you’re one with nature. The property has a restaurant and bar, and offers mountain views.

3. San Diego, CA

San Diego is an excellent option for a family vacation because there’s something for everyone. If your little ones are extra adventurous, they’ll love taking surfing lessons on one of the city’s beautiful beaches. Plus, the San Diego Zoo is famous for a reason—with more than 650 species of animals, your little ones will love spending a day at this attraction. Be sure to stop by La Jolla Cove to see dozens of seals basking in the sun before hitting the water yourself for some snorkeling. And you won’t want to miss Balboa Park, home to 17 museums everyone will enjoy. 

Where to Stay in San Diego

Soak up the sun while in Cali by staying in the Mission Beach area at the Bahia Resort Hotel. Just a short drive to kid-centric attractions, the hotel also has an on-site restaurant, a game room, tennis courts, and deluxe suites.

4. Leavenworth, WA

It’s fun to fantasize about vacationing in Europe but when you only have a few days and kids in tow, we have to get creative closer to home. Leavenworth may be located in the Pacific Northwest but it fulfills cross-Atlantic travel dreams with its storybook Bavarian-style architecture, fresh alpine air, and delicious German food (schnitzel, anyone?). Visiting this enchanting town in the Cascade Mountains gives ample opportunity for travelers to get outside—whether that’s by mountain biking and zip-lining or strolling around downtown.  

Where to Stay in Leavenworth

Bavarian Lodge looks straight out of a storybook with its flower-box adorned facade. The property earns rave reviews from past guests (including many families) with its central location, complimentary breakfast buffet, and turret suites. The heated indoor pool and hot tubs are great for warming up after all that outdoor action. 

5. Yellowstone National Park, WY

Experience what it feels like to be a Dutton (sort of) by heading out west to Yellowstone National Park. This is the “Old Faithful” road trip millions of people have taken, and for good reason. At Yellowstone, families can see thousand-year-old geysers, tons of wildlife, and gorgeous canyons. This destination has been made incredibly family-friendly, with most attractions having stroller-friendly boardwalks. Your littles will be so excited to talk about all the wildlife they may not usually get to see. Some other great places to check out while in the area are Jackson Hole, WY, Idaho Falls, ID, and Bozeman, MT.

Where to Stay at Yellowstone

Feel like you stepped onto the Dutton Ranch while staying at the Old Faithful Inn. A National Historic Landmark, staying at the cabin-style inn feels like stepping back in time. It offers in-room views, a historic dining room, and several other in-house dining options perfect for different times of day.

6. Sausalito, CA

Situated across the bay from San Francisco, Sausalito earns our vote as the most adorable and family-friendly town in Marin County. This seaside community supplies a mild Mediterranean climate and heaps of opportunities for hiking and biking through Golden Gate National Recreation Area, plus beaches for strolls and kayaking. The walkable downtown brims with stores, cafĂ©s, casual restaurants, and ice cream shops (be sure to stop for a scoop at Lappert’s). Colorful houseboats line the marina. Oh, and don’t miss the Bay Area Discovery Museum and The Marine Mammal Center.

Where to Stay in Sausalito

Families flock to Cavallo Point for many reasons. Activities range from on-property hikes to kite flying. There’s a large grassy lawn to let kids run around or do a picnic lunch, an excellent restaurant, and accommodations with sleep-promoting amenities (which, let’s be real, all parents could use).

The South

7. Gatlinburg, TN

Head to the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee for the family fun of your dreams! With endless attractions for kids like the SkyLift Park, Hollywood Star Cars Museum, and Anakeesta theme park, your kiddos will be asking to go back here again and again. You won’t want to miss out on a day at Dollywood, either! Tennessee’s premium amusement park is just 20 minutes north of Gatlinburg in Pigeon Forge. You’ll have the best time going on all the rides and trying fun foods. Gatlinburg is also filled with fun distilleries like Ole Smoky and Sugarlands, so bring the grandparents along to babysit for parents’ night out sampling some Tennessee whiskey and moonshine.

Where to Stay in Gatlinburg

Renting a personal cabin is the way to go for a stay in the Smokey Mountains. The Eagle’s Nest Mountain Cabin has views of the surrounding mountains, in-house table tennis and pool, a private terrace, and four spacious bedrooms.

8. Galveston, TX

For the ultimate kid-friendly beach vacation, head to Galveston, TX. The city is filled with beautiful beaches, fun attractions like waterparks and aquariums, and the historic Pleasure Pier boardwalk you won’t want to miss. A vacation to Galveston is the perfect mix of fun and relaxation. You can head to the beach at Galveston Island State Park for swimming, surfing, and sunbathing. Then, make your little ones’ dreams come true by spending a day or two at Texas’ premium waterpark, Schlitterbahn. Plus, there’s nothing quite like a road trip through Texas—if you don’t stop at a Buc-ee’s gas station along the way, you’re missing out (trust us on this one)!

Where to Stay in Galveston

You can’t go wrong by going the rental home route while visiting a beach town like Galveston. But there are also some great BNBs in the area, like the George Manor. The historic building has a gorgeous garden, picnic area, and sun terrace to soak up the seaside air. Plus, enjoy their family-friendly restaurant for lunch, dinner, or a special high tea.

9. Myrtle Beach, SC

If south Texas is a bit too far, consider Myrtle Beach, SC. Your little ones will love playing on the beach while you get some much-needed R&R. Myrtle Beach is also filled with tons of kid-friendly attractions like Ripley’s Aquarium, a Pirates Voyage dinner show, and amusement parks galore. If extended family is joining and you have the option for parents’ night out, check out The Bowery on the boardwalk for a fun live music experience every night. You can spend days perusing the Myrtle Beach boardwalk for shops and restaurants before enjoying some sun and sandcastle-building on the beach. 

Where to Stay in Myrtle Beach

It would be wrong to drive all the way to Myrtle Beach and not stay on the beach, so be sure to book a place like the Hilton Grand Vacations Club. All the accommodations we know and love from Hilton, plus ocean views, a large outdoor pool, and a prime location that’s walking distance from the boardwalk.

10. Fredericksburg, TX

One of the loveliest small towns in the Lone Star State, Fredericksburg may not be big but this beloved destination punches well above its weight when it comes to culture and charm. A few days in this beloved Texas Hill Country destination gives travelers the chance to amble through downtown, admire the German architecture, eat some delicious food (like the kid-approved chicken fingers and loaded nachos at Tubby’s Ice House), and visit Wildseed Farms to pick pumpkins, see farm equipment up close, and sip local wine (obviously, that’s just for parents). 

Where to Stay in Fredericksburg

Located just a short walk from Main Street, Inn on Baron’s Creek is a favorite of budget-conscious families that don’t skimp on comforts, conveniences, or amenities. Perhaps best of all, rooms with separate sleeping and living spaces allow parents and older kids to hang out while younger sibs nap.

11. Dahlonega, GA

U-pick farms make Dahlonega the perfect weekend getaway for families looking to taste all the bounty of Georgia. Speaking of food, this town also serves up home-cooked fare that even picky eaters will devour. Underground mine tours, panning for glittering nuggets, and gemstone grubbin’ at the Consolidated Gold Mine are always exciting for kiddos. Dahlonega Butterfly Farm gives visitors a glimpse at majestic winged creatures in a beautiful setting. Be sure to check out their local farmers’ markets and annual festivals like October’s Gold Rush Days.

Where to Stay in Dahlonega

For a family-friendly stay in the historic district, the Dahlonega Square Hotel is a great choice with rooms and suites that have en-suite bathrooms, comfy beds, and kitchens to cook meals when the kids are too spent to make it out to dinner as well as on-site parking.

East Coast

12. Williamsburg, VA

Just because your kids are on vacation doesn’t mean it can’t be educational! They’ll learn all about the role of Williamsburg in the American Revolution by experiencing the living history museum that is Colonial Williamsburg. With actors dressed in period attire, your little ones will learn all about colonial life—and maybe appreciate some of the luxuries we have today a bit more. Be sure to stop by Jamestowne and Yorktown when you’re in the area to get the full “Historic Triangle” experience.

Where to Stay in Williamsburg

What better way to soak up all the history of Williamsburg than a stay in a historic bed and breakfast? One of the best in the business is Cedars of Williamsburg. The gorgeous Georgian brick building will transport you back in time, but still provide you with all of the modern amenities you know and love.

13. Lenox, MA

Lenox used to be a high-society summer resort back in the day. But travelers have since gotten wise to its appeal in other seasons. During the fall, this Berkshires town is enchanted with colorful leaves and ample outdoor recreation. Hiking trails for all levels wind through Pleasant Valley Sanctuary and Kennedy Park and are a perfect way to reconnect with nature any time of the year. Aspinwall Equestrian Center does lessons for beginners and guided horseback riding through the hills. Toddlers and older kids with an interest in trains will jump at the chance to visit the Berkshire Scenic Railway Museum

Where to Stay in Lenox

Courtyard by Marriott Lenox Berkshires is a great family-friendly option with reasonable rates (especially compared to many of the higher-priced hotels in the area), well-appointed rooms, an indoor pool, and a 24-hour market that sells snacks and personal items (so parents don’t have to hunt for a store that’s open at 6 a.m.).

14. Acadia National Park, ME

Acadia National Park in Maine is beautiful and incredibly kid-friendly. This 47,000-acre recreational area is filled with beaches, the East Coast’s highest point (Cadillac Mountain), and endless amounts of wildlife. You and your family can spend an active week biking, hiking, and boating, all while enjoying the natural beauty of the area. Plus, everyone can leave with the title of “Junior Ranger” after completing one of Acadia’s Ranger Programs, where you’ll learn all about the nature and culture of the area from an actual Park Ranger.

Where to Stay at Acadia National Park

Stay minutes from the park in Seal Harbor in your own rental home like the Pine Cottage. Here you’ll have nice amenities like a washer and dryer, a fully equipped kitchen, and a private garden. Or ensure you come home to a freshly manicured room each night after exploring by staying at a local in like the Sand Bar Cottage Inn.

15. Washington, D.C.

If you want to ensure your little ones get top marks in history class when they get back to school, then hit the road to Washington, D.C. As one of the most historic cities in our country, the learning possibilities are endless. Between the Smithsonian, Lincoln Memorial, National Archives Museum, and much, much more, your week will be packed with unforgettable experiences. There’s history around every corner in our nation’s capital. While you’re there, be sure to swing by The White House for a tour.

Where to Stay in Washington D.C.

You can’t go wrong going the hotel route in a city like Washington, D.C. One known for being highly family-friendly is the Hotel Washington, located just down the road from must-see spots like The White House and the Lincoln Memorial.

16. Middleburg, VA

Just a short drive from bustling Washington, D.C. is the family-friendly countryside destination of Middleburg. Just about an hour from the nation’s capital, this charming Virginia town at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains feels like a true reprieve from city life. It offers a great opportunity for a scenic drive or walk on one of the many walking trails. As one of the country’s equestrian capitals, it’s a great place to go horseback riding, take a horsemanship class, and watch races.

Where to Stay in Middleburg

With pools, tennis courts, a putting green, archery, kids’ camp (for children ages 4-10), and lawn games, Salamander Middleburg Resort & Spa is easy to stick around and hard to leave. Fair warning: It’s going to be hard for the kids to say bye to Cupcake, the resort’s miniature horse, at the end of the weekend. 

17. Hudson, NY

Looking for a great weekend getaway from New York York City? This beloved riverside town turns on the charm in September, October, and November, but is great all year round. Families keen to commune with nature on a deeper level have access to hiking trails in nearby parks. Apple picking and farm tours also top the list of memorable outdoor activities for all ages. Don’t forget to pick up some souvenirs at the shops along Warren Street.

Where to Stay in Hudson

One of the best independent hotels in town, The Hudson Milliner is a cool and family-friendly home base. The individually-designed accommodations blend history and contemporary style with exposed brick, wooden furnishings, and eclectic art. Some rooms even have full kitchens to prepare snacks and meals for hungry little travelers. 

The Midwest

18. Door County, WI

For a good chunk of the year, it may be unbearable to withstand a Wisconsin winter—but the late spring, summer, and fall are quite different. One of the most charming places to visit in Wisconsin is the Door County Peninsula. Especially in the summer, the county is brimming with locals and visitors alike soaking up the warm sun on beautiful Lake Michigan. It’s the perfect spot to relax and get back to nature, while also being able to explore picturesque small towns filled with charming restaurants and shops. Bike, hike, kayak, camp, and experience Wisconsin’s slower pace of life with this one-of-a-kind destination. While you’re in town, you won’t want to miss out on a Wisconsin classic, the fish boil.

Where to Stay in Door County

There are plenty of options when visiting Wisconsin’s most beautiful county. Fully commit to nature by snagging a spot in a campground, booking a cozy Airbnb, or grabbing a room at a local inn or B&B to fully immerse yourself in the local charm. One of our favorites is Eagle Harbor Inn in storybook-worthy Ephraim, right off of the water. Whatever you do, be sure to book in advance!

19. Hermann, MO

Travelers know and love Hermann for its wine heritage. But Missourians will tell you that this low-key small town is a dream destination for a family trip. From biking the Katy Trail to zip-lining through the forest, there’s no shortage of outdoor adventures. Self-guided walking tours through the historic district bring the past to life for kiddos (and parents who maybe don’t remember the westward expansion units back in school). And everyone loves the sweet treats from Sugar Momma’s.

Where to Stay in Hermann

For a cozy place to stay in the heart of the historic district that won’t blow your entire travel budget, look no further than the Vinchester Inn. This 11-key boutique hotel features newly renovated rooms with comfy beds as well as kitchen conveniences such as coffee makers, mini-fridges, and microwaves. 

20. Lutsen, MN

Find yourself in peaceful serenity in the Northwoods of Minnesota. The best times to visit are in the gentle heat of the summer or colorful fall for out of this world views of the foliage. Get outside by hiking on local trails like Oberg Mountain Trail, or kick up your feet on a gondola ride on the Lutsen Mountain Summit Express. After you work up an appetite, be sure to check out the charming Wild Country Maple Products store and stock up on fresh maple syrup. Be on the lookout for for local wildlife like caribou and moose while exploring.

Where to Stay in Lusten

Cabin-style resorts are the place to be when in Northern Minnesota. You’ll feel right at home in the log cabin-style lodges like the Caribou Highlands Lodge, which gives a classic North Shore experience without lacking in comfort and modern amenities.

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