Every summer, my husband turns into Clark Griswold from National Lampoon’s Vacation and spends days upon days planning our summer vacation. We’ve had so much fun in past years driving on long road trips, flying on planes, riding trains, and even cruising on boats. We’ve rented beach houses, lake houses, stayed in log cabins, explored big cities, and staycationed in our own small neighborhood. It’s a time when our family can disconnect from the outside world and reconnect with one another. As the kids grow each year, our trips get a little longer and a little more memorable.
No matter what age your children are, family vacations serve as a precious time to form a deeper connection with your loved ones. No matter what your family’s interest or activity level is, there are so many wonderful options that will make every member of the family happy. We’ve rounded up some of the best summer vacation ideas for families of all ages to enjoy, so get your bags packed and get ready to create memories that will last a lifetime.
Nothing says summer like a day spent at the beach, however, not every beach is family friendly (nude beaches, anyone?). The best beaches for families should have important amenities, such as lifeguards on duty, access to restrooms, nearby eateries, and other attractions for when you and the kids need a break from the sun and sand.
Seaside Beach, Seaside, FL
What to do: Grab some food at one of Seaside’s food trucks; take in a kid-friendly show at The Repertory Theater; shop boutiques in Central Square; visit the Seaside Farmer’s Market on Saturdays.
Myrtle Beach, SC
What to do: Explore Savannah’s Playground; visit the Family Kingdom Amusement Park; hay wagon rides at Thompson Farm; stroll down the Boardwalk.
What to do: Pack a picnic; visit the iconic Hotel Coronado; go tide pooling; learn to paddleboard; visit the Wizard of Oz exhibit at the Coronado Children’s Library; visit the San Diego Zoo.
Tybee Island, GA
What to do: Visit the Tybee Island Lighthouse Museum; explore Little Tybee Island for nature hikes and bird watching; observe dolphins at North Beach.
What to do: Visit Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore; take a drive on the Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive; hike the Empire Bluff Trail; build sand castles on North Bar Lake.
Just because your children are on vacation doesn’t mean they have to stop learning. Summer is the perfect time to give your kiddos some structure-free history lessons. Enjoy a fun, educational vacation by visiting cities that are rich in our nation’s narrative.
What to see: Harvard Museum of Natural History; USS Constitution Museum; The Paul Revere House; the Freedom Trail; the John F. Kennedy Library.
What to see: The Smithsonian; the National Zoo; the National Gallery of Art; the White House; the Lincoln Memorial; Glen Echo Park; the Mount Vernon Trail.
What to see: The Interactive Civil War Museum; Steam into History train ride; Gettysburg National Military Park.
What to see: Colonial Williamsburg; Historic Jamestown; Jamestown Settlement; Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Museum.
What to see: Betsy Ross’s house; The Franklin Institute; Franklin Square; Sesame Place; Independence Seaport Museum; the National Constitution Center.
Bright Lights, Big City
Large metropolitan cities can be a wonderland for kids. There are so many sights and sounds, and an endless array of things to do and explore. Keep your kids up past their bedtime in these cities with endless activities.
What to see: Millennium Park; The Museum of Science and Industry; The Children’s Museum at Navy Pier; Lincoln Park Zoo; the Shedd Aquarium; 360 Chicago and Skydeck Chicago; Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum; Maggie Daley Park.
New York, NY
What to see: The Statue of Liberty; Broadway shows; Central Park; the Met; the Children’s Museum of Manhattan; Pier 25 Playground; Washington Square Park.
San Francisco, CA
What to see: The Exploratorium; Aquarium of the Bay; the Golden Gate Bridge; Fisherman’s Wharf; Children’s Creativity Museum; the San Francisco Zoo.
San Antonio, TX
What to see: The Riverwalk; the Alamo; Morgan’s Wonderland; Natural Bridge Caverns Discovery Tour; San Antonio Aquarium.
Step Into Nature
Being immersed in nature has a way of recharging our senses. Stargazing, the feeling of grass on bare feet, the babbling of creeks — these simple things can bring so much unexpected joy. Let your kiddos “get lost” in the beauty of the world around them.
Niagara Falls, NY
What to do: View the waterfall via boat tours or the observation towers; visit Old Fort Niagra; visit the Niagara Butterfly Conservatory; go on the Niagara SkyWheel.
Jackson Hole, WY
What to do: Raft the scenic Snake River; visit the National Museum of Wildlife Art; take a dip in the Granite Hot Springs; take a trail ride.
Dinosaur Valley State Park, Glen Rose, TX
What to do: Walk in the archaic footprints left in the Paluxy River; take a covered wagon tour, mountain bike the trails; visit the museums in downtown Glen Rose.
Glacier National Park, MT
What to do: Go on a family bike ride on the Going-to-the-Sun Road (one of the most scenic in the world); take a Glacier Park red bus tour to see wildlife; hike the Hidden Lake Trail.
Where’s your favorite place to vacation with your family?