20 Family Summer Vacation Ideas from Travel Bloggers
School's out for summer! And you know what that means: It's the perfect time for a family vacation. What destinations are best when traveling with kids? We reached out to a few of our favorite family travel bloggers for ideas — and, hopefully, inspiration.
And before you leave, make sure you get a break too and discover these 8 Ways To Find Child Care On Vacation.
In the West:
1. San Juan Islands/Seattle, Washington
Lissa Poirot, editor at Family Vacation Critic, recommends the San Juan Islands in Washington: "The hundreds of islands dotting the Washington coastline provide water aplenty for kids to swim, splash, boat and fish in," she says. And Seattle is just a ferry ride away, as well: "It never disappoints with its museums and cultural attractions, but for more unique exploration try Puget Sound cruises."
More highlights: Poirot says your family definitely shouldn't miss the iconic Seattle Space Needle.
2. The Oregon Coast
Often visited by chance during road trips from California to Seattle, the Oregon coast is worth a trip all its own. "With the 32,000-acre Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area, the Oregon Coast offers plenty of sand to explore by ATVs and buggies," Poirot says.
More highlights: Here's another opportunity to combine both relaxation and culture into one family vacation, Poirot says: Portland, Oregon is a fun city with a great science museum, discovery museum, children's museum and zoo. Your kids will especially love riding the Aerial Tram and playing in the numerous parks and gardens scattered about the city."
In the Midwest:
3. Lake Erie Shores and Islands, Ohio
Tésa Nicolanti of 2 Wired 2 Tired is an Ohio travel expert; it's where she's based and where she grew up. "My three favorite vacation spots in the Midwest are all wrapped up in one," she says, speaking of Ohio's Lake Erie Shores and Islands. "With Cedar Point Amusement Park and it's many acres of thrill rides, kiddie lands, and fantastic shows, it's got something for the whole family," she says. "Put-in-Bay and Kelleys Island are wonderful getaways with parks, beaches, boating, tour trains, mini-golf, cave tours, and golf carts to drive around."
More highlights: Car lovers shouldn't miss Put-In-Bay's antique car museum or the weekly antique car parade.
4. Hocking Hills, Ohio
Nicolanti also loves Hocking Hills, Ohio, which she describes as a "gorgeous state park filled with cabins and caves," especially if you want to rent a cabin and unplug. "Evening skies fill with stars and make the perfect backdrop for a family cookout of hot dogs and s'mores," she says. Plus: "Hiking and cave exploring are two of our favorite family activities."
More highlights: Check out the Hocking Valley Scenic Railway!
5. Cleveland, Ohio
Finally, Nicolanti recommends her hometown of Cleveland, Ohio. "There's so much to do for families, between the Rock N' Roll Hall of Fame, the Great Lakes Science Center, the Greater Cleveland Aquarium, Horseshoe Casino and more," she says.
More highlights: For shopping and dining, she suggests Tower City, East 4th Street, as well as the restaurants by Iron Chef Michael Symon.
In the South:
6. San Antonio, Texas
"Texas is such a large state that families really need to plan ahead on what type of vacation they'd like when they visit," Poirot says. "But San Antonio is a favorite [Texas city] because the kids will love SeaWorld and underground caverns, while mom and dad can squeeze in history and culture for the kids along River Walk and visiting the Alamo."
More highlights: Want to hit two major metropolitan areas while in Texas? Three hours away, you'll find the state's largest city: Houston. "It's a bustling city with museums and culture aplenty, as well as the Space Center, which kids go gaga over," says Poirot.
7. New Orleans
Is Louisiana the most fascinating state in the U.S.? Quite possibly. "It's a fantastic destination for families because it's got a culture like no other in its bayous, swamps and Creole history," Poirot says. "Kids can enjoy an adventurous airboat ride in the swamps, or take an old-fashioned steamboat ride along the Mighty Mississippi."
More highlights: "Parents and kids alike will get a kick out of the eclectic neighborhoods of New Orleans, especially the French Quarter, where music spills from every corner and beignets will cover kids in powdered sugar," says Poirot.
8. Mississippi's Gulf Coast
Not only fun, but also educational — at least in the spelling department: M-i-s-s-i-s-s-i-p-p-i's Gulf Coast beckons, Poirot says: "It has 62 miles of shoreline and fun family attractions like water parks, mini golf, carnivals and more." Plus, she says shrimping trips can be very unique experiences everyone will enjoy.
More highlights: Family in Mississippi? Poirot asks if there's any chance Mom and Dad can get a babysitter at night: "The shore's casinos and gaming centers provide entertainment and fantastic dining."
In the Southwest:
9. National Park Tour
"How about 'The Big Four National Park Tour' — Grand Canyon, Lake Powell, Zion National Park, and Bryce National Park?" suggests Lisa Bedford, the blogger behind TheSurvivalMom and author of Survival Mom, who's based in the Southwest. "They are all located within about 400 miles of each other and all four can be enjoyed in just five or six days."
Bedford is also a big fan of cliff dwellings: "The ingenuity and scale of these stone apartment buildings will impress any kid!" Bedford says. "Check out Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado." Just be sure to pack bottled water, sunscreen, and hats during the summer months, she says.
More highlights: During your stop at the Grand Canyon, she says to hit the north rim: "You'll get to enjoy the Grand Canyon in a whole new light, surrounded by pine forests — plus, there will be far fewer people and different vistas." And in the museum at Mesa Verde, your kids can learn about the tools, clothing, and other objects used in day-to-day activities by the ancestral puebloans who once lived there.
10. Lake Powell, Arizona
"Imagine the magnificence of the Grand Canyon combined with sparkling blue waters and almost 2,000 miles of coastline, and you'll understand why Lake Powell in Arizona is a must-see," recommends Bedford. "It offers opportunities to fish, hike, sunbathe, water-ski, and much more."
More highlights: You can rent a houseboat here! Need we say more?
In the Northeast:
11. Cuttyhunk Island, Massachusetts
Nancy Harper, the Travellin' Mama, who lives in Ontario, suggests Cuttyhunk Island, Massachusetts. Why? "Unlike many of the other see-and-be-seen hotspots in this part of the United States, Cuttyhunk is a great place to do a whole lot of nothing. There are no malls, no nightclubs, no parking lots, and not much action. What Cuttyhunk does have in spades is natural beauty, some beautiful hiking trails, plenty of peace and quiet - and the ideal environment for reconnecting with family"
More highlights: The Ice Cream Stall is a favorite dessert spot. (You can earn a sweet treat by hiking the island's trails.)
12. Camden or Boothbay Harbor, Maine
In the Northeast, Harper also loves visiting Maine: "Off-the-charts charming, Camden, Maine will have you checking out the real estate boards and getting ready to move there for good!" And Elizabeth Thorp of Poshbrood agrees that Maine, with its "incredible natural beauty," is the way to go: "There are nearly 50 state parks and historic sites are destinations for outdoor recreation, sightseeing and hands-on learning," she says. "Maine also offers other attractions for the whole family, like amusement parks and water parks with thrill rides, plus Maine's animal parks and zoos feature native wildlife along with exotic and rare animals that are surprising in Maine." She also suggests checking out the Maine Botanical Gardens: "It's one of the most impressive facilities we've ever seen, especially the fairy house village and children's garden that can occupy kids for hours." Eating lobster and exploring little coastal towns will appeal to mom and dad, too!
More highlights: "If we're not at grandma's or a rental cottage, you'll find our brood at Spruce Point Inn, situated on a stunning stretch of oceanfront on [Boothbay Harbor's] rugged coast," says Thorp.
13. New York City, New York
Prefer a cityscape? Thorp and her posh brood love New York City in the summer when the crowds of locals have headed to their "summering" spots [like the Hamptons and Fire Island]. "Central Park alone offers 843 acres of room to run, 9,000 park benches for relaxing, 26 ball fields and 21 playgrounds, a carousel, and a duck pond," she says. "New York also offers iconic museum such as the American Museum of Natural History with its popular dinosaur exhibits, world-class entertainment, restaurants, parks, shopping, communities, cultures, and sporting events."
More highlights: Thorp says one of her family's favorite places to stay is Omni Berkshire Place in Midtown Manhattan: "The hotel has been completely renovated and rooms are large for NYC - they also offer family rates and discounts for second adjoining rooms."
In the West:
14. Snowmass, Colorado (near Aspen)
About 20 minutes to the northwest of swanky Aspen, Colorado — yes, Aspen in summer! — Thorp recommends Snowmass, Colorado. Her family had a blast at the two-story, 25,000-square-foot Treehouse Kids' Adventure Center, the hub of the destination's summer camp programs, with its family-friendly climbing gym, teen activities, and themed rooms for kids of all ages. "Our posh kids cried when we came to pick them up at the end of the afternoon," she says.
More highlights: "[The Snowmass Resort] offers villas and condos for families, outdoor pools, golf, and fire pits," she says. Plus, in the summer, visitors can swim, fish, bike, hike, go white water rafting, and go horseback riding. Thorp also recommends nearby Aspen's summer food and music festivals.
In the North:
15. Mount Rushmore, South Dakota
Mount Rushmore will certainly warrant a spot in your kids' "What I Did Last Summer" essay — plus extra credit because it's so educational. Harper explains, "It's a wonderfully hands-on lesson in history and politics, and possibly the easiest way — no books required! — to teach the kids something truly important."
More highlights: Talk about bragging rights...you can take the Rushmore Tramway to the top of a nearby peak, and, better yet, what comes up must go down: Ride the 2,000-foot President's Alpine Slide back to the base.
16. Yellowstone Park (Wyoming, Montana, Idaho)
Be one with nature — but keep your distance from the more dangerous animals, like bison! — at Yellowstone Park, suggests Harper. "It's a must-see for nature lovers, whether you want an easy trip by car or to sleep rough in the backcountry," she says.
More highlights: A trip to Yellowstone Park isn't complete without watching the Old Faithful geyser do its thing, but your kids might be more impressed by Dragon's Mouth Spring, where it really looks like a dragon lives inside the cave.
17. Badlands National Park, South Dakota
Finally, cross South Dakota off your travel to-do list: "Check out the hauntingly beautiful Badlands [National Park] with a side trip to Wall Drug, which is billed as 'America's Favorite Roadside Attraction,' for some hilariously over-the-top Americana," she suggests. (You'll start seeing billboards advertising this kitschy tourist mall starting hundreds of miles away.)
More highlights: Your kids might not be as excited by Badlands as you are... until you tell them about the saber-toothed cat (among other ancient mammals) who once called this area home.
When looking for summer family vacation spots, don't overlook Europe. William Gray, a British family travel blogger, recommends Iceland. "It's Europe's ultimate adventure playground where you can search for whales one day and go glacier hiking or snowmobiling the next," he says. "Kids also get an unforgettable lesson in geography here."
More highlights: In Iceland, there are excursions you just can't experience anywhere else. Iceberg sailing, anyone? Tractor tour to a puffin colony?
Another less expected family travel destination? Slovenia. "It has a little of all the good bits of Europe, from Alpine peaks and lakes, to caves and even a slither of the Adriatic," he explains. "You can experience it all in [two weeks], and there are also some great activities at places like Lake Bohinj where you can go rafting, mountain biking and canyoning."
More highlights: In true fairytale fashion, there are around 500 castles, manors, and ruins in Slovenia — some of which now house active museums, restaurants or hotels.
Gray also suggests Cornwall in England (and he should know; he wrote the "Cornwall with Kids" guidebook). "It has some of the world's most beautiful and child-friendly beaches, great places to stay, and plenty of those all important rainy-day attractions — like the superb Eden Project and National Maritime Museum," he says.
More highlights: Cornwall is a popular spot for learning how to surf, and several schools welcome kids. Plus, if you're looking for a night out sans kids, Care.com has expanded to the UK (you can Skype your interviews and reference checks to be fully prepared)!