Every State's Top Destination for Family Travel

Aerial view of the beach in Gulf Shores, Alabama. (Photo via LiteLight/iStock/Getty Images Plus)
Scott Hartbeck
by Scott Hartbeck
Last updated: 9:00 AM ET, Sat September 9, 2023

Alabama: Gulf Shores

Tremendous go-kart tracks, great mini golf courses, The wonderful Wharf Entertainment District (complete with a signature soaring Ferris wheel) and a shoreline perfect for days filled with family fun. These are just a few reasons why Gulf Shores is the go-to for families from across the Southeast—and further afield.  

Alaska: Anchorage

In addition to serving as the perfect base for adventurous family endeavors in the surrounding region, the biggest city in Alaska also possesses many family-friendly activities within the city proper. The Tony Knowles Coastal Trail, Alaska Native Heritage Center and Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center are all must-dos in Anchorage as is hopping aboard the Alaska Railroad.


Arizona: Scottsdale

From family-friendly resorts to the already-legendary Arizona Boardwalk (home to kid-friendly attractions Butterfly Wonderland, OdySea Aquarium, Museum of Illusions and more), Scottsdale will be a dream destination for your whole crew. The best way to end a day? By cooling down at the Sugar Bowl Ice Cream parlor, a Scottsdale classic since 1958.

Arkansas: Hot Springs

From family-friendly resorts to the already-legendary Arizona Boardwalk (home to Proud of its heritage as the nation's first national park, Hot Springs also overflows with fun things to do. Home to Magic Springs—the state's only theme & water park—the city is also a place to experience the wonder of Garvan Woodland Gardens, the Mid-America Science Museum, Tiny Town (a mini city featuring all-American scenes) and the granddaddy of them all: The Arkansas Alligator Farm and Petting Zoo, which has been thrilling kids of all ages since 1902. 

California: San Diego

The family travel attractions in San Diego are the epitome of A-list: Sea World, Balboa Park and the exceptional San Diego Zoo. Add into this mix stunning beaches that have on their shores some of the nation's most revered hotels (looking at you, Hotel Coronado) and you have the perfect family getaway.

Colorado: Breckenridge

One of the state's most beloved ski resorts, Breck' is also a base of fun for every member of the family. High Line Railroad Park and Playground is a firm favorite among families as is the Edwin Carter Museum. Regardless of the season, your crew will find all sorts of things to do, from sledding, ice skating and admiring the works at the International Snow Sculpture Championships in winter to rafting and swimming or taking part in a rubber duck race during summer.

Connecticut: New Haven

It may be famous for being the home of Ivy League institution Yale, but New Haven is home to plenty of cool things to do for kids who aren't quite ready for college yet. Lighthouse Point Park,  It Adventures Rope Course and the nearby PEZ Visitor Center (home to the largest collection of PEZ memorabilia in the world) will all compete to be the highlight of your trip.

Wilmington, Delaware

A stroll on the waterside Wilmington Riverwalk will go down a treat with the whole family and it's just the tip of the iceberg of the reasons why this city is the choice for the Blue Hen State. Other family-friendly attractions include the Delaware Children's Museum, Hagley Museum (an attraction that charts hundreds of years of history) and nearby Brandywine State Park, which is home to beautiful landscapes. 

Florida: Jacksonville

Yes, that city with the name that starts with an "O" and ends with “lando” is a family travel destination par excellence, but everyone knows that. So why not head up north to Jacksonville and experience a little something different? In addition to holding Kids Free November each year (an event where kids and their families can enjoy free or heavily discounted admissions to attractions), the city is home to the fascinating Museum of Science & History, the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens and stretches of uncrowded beach (some even pet-friendly).

Georgia: Atlanta

From the LEGO Discovery Center, the quirky collection of Tiny Doors and the oozy fun of the Sloomoo Institute (dedicated to all things slime!), Atlanta is the spot to be in the Peach State. This is to say nothing of all the fun to be had at the Center for Puppetry Arts, the Georgia Aquarium and the education to be gained at the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historical Park and National Center for Civil and Human Rights.  

Hawai'i: Honolulu

From walking the sands of Waikiki Beach (or taking surfing lessons or even boarding an outrigger there!) to learning about Hawaiian culture at the Polynesian Cultural Center and scaling Diamond Head Mountain, the state's biggest city is filled with family fun. A road trip to the majestic North Shore or the nearby Sea Life Park Hawaii are also highlights of a trip to Honolulu, too. 

Idaho: Coeur d'Alene

Home to sweeping vistas, peaceful lakes full of endless recreation opportunities and Silverwood—the region's only theme park—this lakeside town in northern Idaho is the place to go for families. The best way to end a day full of family fun? A cruise on the lake from Lake Coeur d'Alene cruises, an experience none of you will forget anytime soon.

Illinois: Chicago

The Windy City is home to a perpetually unfurling list of things to do for families, with a few new attractions being seemingly added each year. The Field Museum, Shedd Aquarium, Navy Pier, Museum of Science & Industry and SkyDeck are classics, but there's always a surprise waiting to be discovered in this wonderful city, like the Skating Ribbon in Maggie Daley Park that has been delighting crowds each winter since 2014.

Indiana: Indianapolis

Home to the Children's Museum of Indianapolis—the world's largest family museum by size—the state capital is also its hub of fun. Explore the museums' enthralling permanent displays (everything from dinosaurs & trains to glass sculptures & pop culture) before experiencing one of the other great family attractions like meandering White River State Park and the nearby living history museum Conner Prairie.

Iowa: Dubuque

Located on the shores of the Mississippi River, Dubuque is home to a host of family-friendly things to do. Start by learning all about America's biggest river at the Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium, then walk among the blooms at the Dubuque Arboretum & Botanical Garden before taking a ride on the Fenelon Place Elevator (open April through November), the so-called "world’s steepest, shortest scenic railway" to enjoy great views and an all-around retro-cool experience.

Kansas: Dodge City

Get the heck into Dodge and take the whole family for a trip back to the Old West. This city was notoriously a wild & wooly town full of cowboys and your crew will love following in their footsteps at the Boot Hill Museum, sipping a sasparilla at the Long Branch Saloon, going to the Gunfighters Wax Museum and seeing the Dodge City Ruts—historic marks left by wagon wheel tracks from wagons heading West on the Santa Fe Trail.

Kentucky: Louisville

Year-round, Louisville is full of delightful things to do for each and every member of the family. The Kentucky Science Center, Louisville Slugger Museum and Louisville Mega Caverns (home to the world's only fully underground zipline) are the big-name attractions, with an Ohio River cruise on the Belle of Louisville or a trip out to Churchill Downs being two other sure-fire ways to put smiles on faces.

Louisiana: New Orleans

Make your way to Mardi Gras World to show the family all the revelry and fun of Carnival season any time of year and then head straight for Cafe du Monde, where you will all enjoy getting a little powdered sugar on your shirt while enjoying some beignets. Other great family attractions in the Big Easy include Audubon Zoo and Aquarium and Storyland in City Park. 

Maine: Bar Harbor

Home to year-round recreational opportunities—and a summer season full of fun like nowhere else on the Eastern Seaboard—Bar Harbor is the ultimate family travel destination. Explore the pathways, vistas and shoreline of Acadia National Park before enjoying attractions in town like The Oceanarium and Education Center and the one-of-a-kind Naturalist Notebook.

Maryland: Ocean City

Could there be a better name for a family destination than this one? Obviously, you and your bunch will want to take a tour of the amusements (Jolly Roger, Baja and Speedworld Go-Karts are a few of the firm favorites) before hitting the rest of the boardwalk and enjoying all the fun that the Ocean City's pretty stretch of sand has to offer.   

Massachusetts: Boston

From re-tracing the American Revolution to being enthralled at the Boston Children's Museum and New England Aquarium, Beantown is full of fun things to do for the entire family. This is to say nothing of a tour of Fenway Park or a spin around the city on one of the world-famous Boston Duck Tours. 

Michigan: Ann Arbor

Yes, Ann Arbor is one of the nation's coolest college towns, but that doesn't mean that it doesn't have a host of great things to do for families. A case in point is the Urban Fairy Doors (a series of small front doors to "fairy" homes hidden around town), which is easily one of the country's coolest & quirkiest kid-friendly attractions. Ann Arbor is also located a short drive from Toledo, Ohio and its famous zoo.

Minnesota: Minneapolis

Where else can you ride a rollercoaster and experience an aquarium inside of a mall and then take in a wonderful waterfall—all in the same afternoon? Nowhere. Luckily for you and your family, Mall of America and Minnehaha Falls are just the start of the fun in Minneapolis, a list that also includes a host of excellent indoor, all-season waterparks.

Mississippi: Jackson

The state capital is also the capital of family fun in the Magnolia State. Make for the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum for an experience that is both emotional & educational before taking in other enlightening family-friendly attractions like the Mississippi Museum of Natural Science and the Mississippi Children's Museum.

Missouri: St. Louis

From taking a ride up to the top of the Gateway Arch and being amazed at the St. Louis Science Center and City Museum to being blown away by the quality of the city's renowned free zoo, the 'Lou is full of amazing family-friendly experiences. Head just outside of the city limits to Kirkwood to be amazed at the one-of-a-kind Magic House, home to exciting educational attractions for children. 

Montana: Bozeman

From tubing and kayaking to visiting the fascinating Museum of the Rockies, Bozeman is one of the West's best destinations for familes.  Other great attraactions here include the Montana Science Center and the trampoline-filled local Jump Time Bozeman.

Nebraska: Omaha

Once again, the biggest city in the state is also the best base for families and Omaha is that special type of place that checks all the boxes while also being that "just-right" size. Start things out at the Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium before making for the Durham Museum or Omaha Children's Museum before taking a stroll across the Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge, which spans the Missouri River.

Nevada: Reno

Summer is spectacular around the so-called "Biggest Little City in the World" as two of the city's signature events take place: Hot August Nights (a leading classic car gathering) and the Great Reno Hot Air Balloon Race. Outside of summer, the city doesn't miss a beat with its Truckee Riverwalk looking great in any season and the Circus Circus Midway providing thrills all year-round. 

New Hampshire: The White Mountains

From scenic railroads that top mountains to theme parks and lakes perfect for cruising and watersports, you'll never run out of family-friendly things to do with your bunch in the White Mountains. This is to say nothing of the range of snow-based recreation that appears each winter. 

New Jersey: Long Beach Island

Your crew will love this slightly quieter section of the Shore, regardless of the season. Highlights include visiting the New Jersey Maritime Museum, seeing the Barnegat Lighthouse and taking in shows at the Surflight Theatre.

New Mexico: Red River

Tucked in the mountains of northern New Mexico, Red River seemingly has a festival or an outdoor pursuit for every season. Whether it's attending the 8750′ BBQ & Music Festival, Aspencade, Oktoberfest or Mardi Gras in the Mountains (which are all family-friendly affairs) events or exploring the stunning landscapes, everyone in your family is bound to remember Red River as one of the best vacations they ever had.

New York: The Finger Lakes

Home to numerous lakes and hundreds of miles of shoreline, The Finger Lakes is home to some of the Empire State's most enchanting landscapes—and it's also a dreamy place to bring the family. Located in the region, The Strong National Museum of Play is one of the finest children's museums in the nation and even boasts its very own indoor butterfly garden. In nearby Rochester, the Strasenburgh Planetarium is sure to fascinate and educate your crew in equal measure.

North Carolina: The Outer Banks

The legend of these barrier islands has spread far and wide but OBX remains a family vacation paradise. You and your bunch can take part in everything from parasailing, jet skiing, kayaking, horse tours, deep sea fishing and everything else under the sun in addition to exploring attractions like the Roanoke Island Adventure Museum, Settlement Site and North Carolina Aquarium.

North Dakota: Fargo

The Red River Zoo, the Fargo Air Museum (you can see everything from flying machines that belonged to the Wright Brothers to modern-day unmanned aircraft) and the Thunder Road Family Fun Park (open May through November) are just a few of the reasons why Fargo is such a fantastic family destination. If you run out of things to do, then there's always the nearby Theodore Roosevelt National Park.

Ohio: Sandusky

Famous for being home to the legendary Cedar Point amusement park and its record-setting collection of rollercoasters, Sandusky is an all-around excellent family travel destination. In addition to the theme park, the city is home to the Merry-Go-Round Museum and owns a reputation as Ohio's capital of water parks, which provide a blast of summer no matter the month.

Oklahoma: Tulsa

The Sooner State's second-biggest city is second to none when it comes to providing a fantastic family experience. First and foremost, head to the acclaimed new Greenwood Rising attraction, which tells the story of Black Wall Street and the Tulsa Race Massacre. Elsewhere, the riverfront park The Gathering Place will keep you busy for a full day and the Tulsa Zoo & Oklahoma Aquarium are solid attractions too.

Oregon: Portland

Portland will be a playground for every member of the family. Washington Park should probably be your first port of call, as its one to the Portland Children's Museum, the World Forestry Center Discovery Museum, Oregon Zoo and the much-loved Hoyt Arboretum.  Then, make for the historic Oaks Amusement Park and its retro-cool roller skating rink.

Pennsylvania: Pittsburgh

All you need to know about Pittsburgh as a family destination is that some locals have taken to calling it "Kidsburgh'' due to the wealth of family attractions. From the vintage wooden roller coasters of Kennywood to the Moonshot Museum, Carnegie Museums of Art & Natural History and the Heinz History Center to the thrill of riding the incline car up to Mt. Washington, Kidsburgh has you covered.

Rhode Island: Providence

The smallest state in the union punches well above its weight when it comes to family-friendly attractions. The Providence Children's Museum is loaded with interactive exhibits and hands-on experiences while the Museum of Natural History & Planetarium and Roger Williams Park Zoo are also excellent attractions, too. The city is also home to a handful of amusements, mini-golf and roller skating venues.

South Carolina: Myrtle Beach

The Grand Strand is easily the best place in the Palmetto State to take your crew for an unforgettable getaway. Broadway at the Beach should be one of your first stops as this sprawling complex includes Pavilion Park (home to a host of rides for the whole family), WonderWorks (home to hands-on educational exhibits) and Ripley's Aquarium. Then, take a ride on the SkyWheel for views over the Atlantic and a memory that will stay with you long after you leave.

South Dakota: Rapid City

Take a stroll through American History by admiring Rapid City's famed collection of bronze statues of each American president, a collection that currently includes everyone up to and including Barack Obama. The city is also home to the kitschy-yet-cool Reptile Gardens, Dinosaur City attraction and sits just outside of the Black Hills, where you will find Mount Rushmore and the work-in-progress carving of Crazy Horse. 

Tennessee: Gatlinburg

This town sits at the heart of the Smokies and has some of the most classic family-friendly attractions in all the land: Ripley's Aquarium of the Smokies & Haunted Adventure, Anakeesta mountain top adventure park, Ober Mountain Aerial Tramway and multiple mini-golf courses. And if that's not enough, there's even a museum dedicated to pinball and a quirky museum that pays homage to salt & pepper shakers.

Texas: San Antonio

The like nothing else experience of taking a cruise down the River Walk. Re-tracing the history of Texas at The Alamo. The San Antonio Missions National Historical Park, the only UNESCO World Heritage Site in the state. All this is waiting for you in San Antonio, and if that's not enough, the city is also home to Six Flags Fiesta Texas. 

Utah: Salt Lake City

In addition to the history and architecture on display at Temple Square, the most famous square in the city is also home to the Family History Center, which offers visitors a glimpse into their family trees. Elsewhere, the Leonardo Museum is home to multiple interactive experiences for children and the surrounding mountains offer a wealth of recreation opportunities. 

Vermont: Burlington

Set beside beautiful Lake Champlain, Burlington offers families the chance to soak up spectacular lake views (or see the water up close on a boat tour) or spend time strolling the historic streets of downtown, a collection that includes the Church Street Marketplace. Nearby, the Shelburne Museum also provides days full of design, art and Americana that will put smiles on your crew's faces. 

Virginia: Williamsburg

Home to Colonial Williamsburg—the nation's signature living history museum—Jamestown Settlement, Busch Gardens and Water Country USA Waterpark, a visit to Williamsburg is destined to check all the historic (and modern) fun boxes for your family.

Washington: Seattle

The Museum of Pop Culture. The Seattle Children's Museum. The Seattle Aquarium. These are just three of the best family-friendly attractions not named The Space Needle that will provide plenty of fun for your family. But you can't skip the Space Needle or the world-famous Pike Place Market, home to a dizzying array of traders and makers (oh, and a few thrown fish).

West Virginia: Harpers Ferry

Located at the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers, this town has been at the crossroads of many historic events in American history and today it is a popular stop on the Appalachian Trail. Visit to experience the abundance of outdoor pursuits and to pick up some history lessons at the Harpers Ferry National Historical Park before stopping by True Treats Historic Candy Shop for a taste of the past.

Wisconsin: Wisconsin Dells

The “Waterpark Capital of the World” will not leave you and your family high and dry when it comes to fun. Adrenaline rush slides, crashing waves, lazy rivers and rushing rapids: it’s all here and it’s all available to be enjoyed year-round due to many of the waterparks being of the indoor variety. 

Wyoming: Cheyenne

Frontier Days is one of the West's most legendary annual events but you and your crew will enjoy the Frontier Days Old West Museum no matter when you visit. It tells the history of the city, its place in the West and the story of Frontier Day, which has become so much more than just an event. Then, retrace the steps of local suffragettes who helped Wyoming become the first state to grant women the right to vote before admiring the city's collection of artistic "big boots" scattered around town.

Whether you are looking for a summer vacation or spring break trip or are just looking to get away for a few days, picking the right family travel destination is crucial to making sure that everyone has a great trip. With a little creativity, almost anywhere in America can provide some great memories, but there are just some family travel destinations that stand head and shoulders above the rest. On the following list of great places for family travel, you'll find historic cities full of educational attractions, towns by the beach home to ride & amusement parks, metropolises with more attractions than you can imagine, places located near some of our nation's most majestic national parks and everything in between. What they all have in common though is a great mix of things to do for the entire crew, so click on the slideshow to find your next dream family travel destination. 

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Scott Hartbeck

Scott Hartbeck

Born in the USA but now based in England, Scott has been writing about travel for over 10 years. He specializes in Europe, rail...

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Helping leisure selling travel agents successfully manage their at-home business.

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CEO of Zenbiz Travel, LLC

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