Family vacations can be both a blessing and a curse, but the best kid vacations are ones offering something for even the youngest family members to enjoy. Not every getaway is perfect for every kid, and parents should keep in mind their children's ages and interests when planning a vacation. Whether it's long or short, far away or local, the best kid vacations are the ones that make family memories for a lifetime.
$ = Relatively Inexpensive
$$ = Moderately Priced
$$$ = Expensive
Price guides do not include the cost of airfare or other transportation, and all prices depend on the size of the family, length of stay, type of accommodations, and season of travel.
1. Hershey, PA
What kid doesn't love chocolate and candy? There is no better vacation than visiting the heart of it all in Hershey, Pennsylvania. In addition to free tours and tastings at the Hershey's Chocolate World factory, adventurous kids and teens will enjoy Hershey Park, a family-friendly amusement park with 10 roller coasters and dozens of great rides and attractions for all ages.
2. Caribbean Cruise
Tropical destinations, fun beaches, and tons of unique activities make a cruise one of the best kid vacations available. From dedicated children's and teen programs on board the ship to exciting adventures snorkeling, exploring pirate museums, and hiking to wonderful destinations on shore, there is something for every kid to enjoy while parents indulge in the luxuries of a cruise.
3. Orlando, FL
While Walt Disney World is the premier attraction in Orlando, it is far from the only one. Older kids will enjoy thrilling roller coasters and rides at Universal Studios Islands of Adventure, oceanography-oriented kids will love Sea World, and soon-to-be-astronauts will enjoy visiting Kennedy Space Center just an hour's drive away. To cool off in the summer, it's easy to visit either the Gulf of Mexico or the Atlantic Ocean, or stay right in Orlando and splash away at Typhoon Lagoon.
4. Grand Canyon National Park, AZ
One of the country's most astounding national features, the Grand Canyon has been a treasured family destination for decades. If just viewing the astonishing beauty is not sufficient, families can walk numerous trails, rent packhorses, or join in whitewater rafting adventures with various difficulty levels. Railway tours are also available and will especially delight kids who love trains.
5. Hometown Getaways
When families can't afford the time or money for a distant getaway, some of the best kid vacations can be found right at home. A night or two in a hotel with a pool and movie channels, eating at new restaurants, and visiting local attractions not only breaks the daily routine of work and school, but can give kids a new appreciation for the culture, fun, and history of their hometown.
6. Cedar Point, Sandusky, OH
Voted the best amusement park in the world year after year, Cedar Point offers mild family attractions, plentiful kids' rides, and some of the wickedest thrill rides on the planet with more than 15 roller coasters and over 60 different rides. Free shows, arts and crafts, and an adjacent water park and extensive beach make this a well-rounded summer destination for many families, and assorted lodging options from camping to world-class resorts offer something for every budget.
Many parents would agree that kids today have too many electronic toys, and camping is a sure way to show them there are other great pastimes including hiking, fishing, boating, and simply enjoying nature. With hundreds of campgrounds, state parks, and national parks throughout the country, every family is close to a great camping venue. From tents to RVs to cabins, there is a camping option suitable for even novice nature lovers.
8. Las Vegas, NV
Most people wouldn't think of Las Vegas as a suitable destination for kids, but there really are great family attractions in and near the city. From the exclusive M&Ms World outlet, white tiger habitats, aquariums, free shows, and roller coasters on the Strip to Hoover Dam and the Ethel M. Chocolate Factory less than an hour away, kids can find plenty of great things to do while parents enjoy the excitement of casinos and world-class entertainment.
9. Williamsburg, VA
An educational option for great family getaways is Colonial Williamsburg, where more than 3,000 employees reenact 18th century life to the delight and amazement of visitors. Kids can try their hand at colonial games and chores, and families can also visit nearby Jamestown and Yorktown for a complete look at early American history. To leap back into modern times, families can also visit nearby Busch Gardens for stunning thrills.
10. Dude Ranch
For a weekend or a week, a dude ranch is a great option for kid vacations. Kids and adults alike can learn about the real old west through riding, roping, branding, and participating in a real cattle drive. Depending on the specific ranch, hikes, trail rides, crafts, and other related activities may also be available, and no previous riding experience is necessary.
11. Orange County, CA
Orange County may be best known as a kid vacation spot because of Disneyland, but the fun doesn't stop there. In addition to the Disney Resorts (Disneyland, California Adventure park, Downtown Disney and hotels), Orange County claims Knotts Berry Farm, an assortment of fabulous beaches (Newport Beach, Laguna Beach and Dana point are all very kid friendly) and other amusements. Whether you are visiting from out of the area or making day trips from other California locations, you can have a trip jam-packed with fun.