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9 Most Kid-Friendly Summer Vacations They’ll Love

Summer inspires a sense of restlessness when school is out, the mercury is edging up the thermometer, and most families have more time to get away. The long, hot days and warm, star-gazing nights, gives our family the itch to travel. Destination possibilities are many and varied as the tastes of the family, but there are kid-friendly summer vacations that simply rock.

These are the places that take the frustrations out of family travel. Sure, you may still stumble upon wait times or crowded attractions, but overall, these are the most kid-friendly summer vacations where the memories will outlast the double scoop of ice cream melting in your toddler’s hand.

The best Kid-Friendly Summer Vacation Destinations that your kids will love.
Kid-Friendly Summer Vacations are worth every penny for the memories!

I know there are skeptical parents, who are convinced, that no matter the destination, there’s no such thing as a good family vacation. You’re just parenting in another city. Late nights, missed naps, overpriced snacks, and schlepping cranky kids through crowded places can exhaust parents into never traveling with kids again. We get it!

However, when you pick the right family travel destination, magic happens. Just like how they came into this world, you’ll forget the tough parts. You’ll be left with fond memories and a deep desire to do it all over again.

1. Key Largo, Florida

Hop in a car or board a plane with the compass pointed as far South as it is possible to go in the continental U.S.: The Florida Keys. When you’re traveling as a family, bypass Key West and head to Key Largo. Key Largo offers a beautiful blend of adventure, relaxation, and learning. One of my favorite kid-friendly Key Largo attractions is John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park. Most of the state park is underwater and it’s full of vibrant coral reefs. Whether you enjoy the reefs from the water surface while snorkeling or from a glass-bottom boat, the kids will even appreciate the beauty. 

If your kids love dolphins, another Key Largo vacation must-do is Dolphins Plus Bayside. The whole family can experience the joy of interacting with dolphins in a natural lagoon setting that’s mostly shallow. This educational and interactive facility allows families to learn about these fascinating creatures. Structured swims and close encounters are available, making it suitable for all ages.

Key Largo's pier is one of their most famous features.
The Key Largo Pier is humble, but it shows the laid back vibes of the island!

2. San Diego, California

San Diego boasts beautiful summer weather that includes sunshine without humidity, but it’s an ideal location for adventurous family fun. It’s my favorite pick for planning West Coast kid-friendly summer vacations.

Discover Naval history, spend time on the water (keep your eyes peeled for whales), frolic on the beach, and check out the major attractions. It’s home to Seaworld, Legoland, and the San Diego Zoo. I love the variety that San Diego offers and it’s been one of my favorite family-friendly California cities. Our family vacations to Southern California have been packed with fun and San Diego truly caters to kids of all ages (even young at heart). 

The San Diego Zoo is known for its massive size, devotion to conservation efforts, and beautiful habitats for its animals. The zoo is home to several endangered animals, including the Black Rhino, Giant Panda, Sumatran Tiger, and the African Elephant. Even though the zoo covers tons of acreage, they’ve got a tram system that I recommend for families with little ones. That makes seeing the zoo so much easier. Pick a few must-see exhibits from your list and make those a priority. If you want to see the entire zoo, plan on two days to do it all.

Another activity beyond the beach is the San Diego Botanic Garden. It’s a fascinating destination for plant lovers, beautiful for photos and they’ve got a whimsical children’s garden that doubles as a play area. The garden offers a full lineup of engaging events including workshops, plant sales, and bird-watching tours. It’s an awesome summer attraction if you’re visiting San Diego.

The San Diego Skyline and the harbor.
San Diego has beautiful waterfront views and the zoo is absolutely epic!

3. Anaheim, California

Take a stroll down Mainstreet U.S.A at Disneyland or enjoy Mrs. Knott’s Chicken Dinner after a day at Knott’s Berry Farm. Anaheim, California is a great destination for theme parks on the West Coast. Like San Diego, it has beautiful California summer weather. Spend a day at each theme park to keep your vacation itinerary easy.

The city of Anaheim has grown in recent years so parkgoers aren’t restricted to paying high-dollar for on-property hotel stays. Opt for a hotel in Anaheim, between Disneyland and Knott’s Berry Farm (which is just outside of Anaheim in Buena Park) so your family can easily commute to either.

Summer at Disneyland is peak season. Book your park tickets and accommodations in advance, and unfortunately, peak season may not offer amazing deals. Take advantage of Disney’s MaxPass system to avoid long lines and make dining reservations prior to your vacation. Keep an open itinerary for your day and have a flexible attitude. Disneyland is still very enjoyable during the summer. 

Knott’s Berry Farm is famous for thrill rides. There’s nothing I love more than the old-school excitement of GhostRider, their long-track wooden roller coaster, and the park’s western theming. Night owls will appreciate the Knott’s Summer Nights event which offers extended park hours, interactive family games, live music, and photo opportunities. It starts in June and ends on Labor Day weekend. 

Disneyland Park in Anaheim, California
I grew up going to the parks in Anaheim! Kids love them. ©Disneyland, Brinegar

4. Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

Myrtle Beach is one of the most vibrant family-friendly destinations on the East Coast. The city is a popular family destination because it offers an abundance of entertainment options alongside beautiful beaches. Myrtle Beach boasts 60 miles of shoreline, so there’s plenty of space to spread out and not feel overcrowded for your family beach day. 

Broadway at the Beach is sure to please all ages in your household, with a myriad of attractions, shopping, live entertainment, and restaurants. It’s a great break from the beach. Kids love the carousel, Ripley’s Aquarium, and WonderWorks for entertainment options. There’s even Broadway entertainment at the theater inside the complex. Complete the perfect summer day with a fireworks viewing. Check the Broadway at the Beach summer fireworks schedule when planning your Myrtle Beach itinerary. 

Myrtle Beach South Carolina is one of the best southern kid-friendly summer vacations
A Southern favorite is Myrtle Beach for best kid-friendly summer vacations.

5. Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone is perfect for families with older kids who love outdoor adventures. There are numerous opportunities for hiking, wildlife viewing, camping, and exploring geysers and hot springs. If you’re lucky, you may even experience some up-close wildlife encounters. Even from a safe distance, there’s so much extraordinary nature to explore at the park.

One of my favorite outdoor activities with my kids is hiking. It’s such a great serene activity that brings us together. The best family-friendly hikes, that are also scenic at Yellowstone, are the South Rim Trail, Trout Lake, Wraith Falls Trail, or the Upper Geyser Basin. These trails are rated best for families that want scenic views without strenuous activity. 

Kids are always in awe of the park’s geothermal features. You’ll see geysers, hot springs, mud pots, and fumaroles. Old Faithful is the park’s most famous geyser. Surprisingly, Old Faithful is a geyser that runs like clockwork and it’s easy to see it spring to life!

Yellowstone National Park is one of the best kid-friendly national parks in the country.
Nothing beats a summer of outdoor exploring at Yellowstone National Park!

6. Atlanta, Georgia

If you’re looking for an urban destination that’s kid-friendly, head South to Atlanta. Downtown Atlanta is packed with fun things to do amongst skyscraper buildings. It’s a hot summer destination, but most of the best attractions are indoors and within walking distance of each other. The Atlanta Airport is a major hub, so it’s easy to find flight deals. Take MARTA (the Atlanta public transportation train) from the airport to downtown Atlanta and settle in for a weekend of fun.

The Georgia Aquarium is an absolute must-do. It’s the largest aquarium in the United States with multiple floors of marine habitat to see, like whale sharks, beluga whales, and penguins. Across the way is the World of Coca-Cola, which is an interactive museum showcasing the history of Coke and how it became the brand we love today. Kids love the tasting room with over 100 Coca-Cola products! If you’ve got little ones, the Children’s Museum of Atlanta is a fantastic stop where they can explore through creative play with interactive exhibits. The Children’s Museum has traveling exhibits, so there’s always something new to see. 

Atlanta offers so much diversity when it comes to family fun.
Atlanta offers so much family fun and it’s all within walking distance.

7. Burlington, Vermont

No New England city offers a blend of quirky, scenic, and cultural quite like Burlington, Vermont. Summer brings out the greenest time of year to visit the city. From bike tours to outdoor marketplaces, and Lake Champlain, there’s plenty of family fun. 

Lake Champlain is my favorite Burlington attraction. Families can swim, kayak, paddleboard, or simply relax on the beach. Rent a bike and cycle along the Burlington Bike Path, which offers scenic views of the lake and mountains. Check the city’s event calendar for summer festivals that take place along the lake shores at Waterfront Park, which is the city’s big green space.

If you want to explore beyond Burlington, but be back by nighttime, take a day trip across Lake Champlain to the Adirondack Mountains in New York. Explore charming towns like Lake Placid and Saranac Lake, hike scenic trails, or relax by pristine lakes. Day trips are great when you’re traveling with kids and want to see more, without the hassle of switching accommodations. 

Burlington harbor over Lake Champlain
The city of Burlington overlooks Lake Champlain for a beautiful backdrop.

8. Sandusky, Ohio

Situated on the shores of Lake Erie, Sandusky is Ohio’s energetic city that offers family fun. You don’t think of Ohio when you look for kid-friendly summer vacations, but I can change your mind. You’ll find record-breaking thrills at the city’s most famous theme park, Cedar Point. The park is hailed as the “Roller Coaster Capital of the World” and doesn’t disappoint. Find towering coasters that provide adrenaline-pumping thrills alongside family-friendly rides. Cedar Point offers something for everyone. The park offers signature events during the summer with live entertainment and limited-time treats.

While Cedar Point might be the biggest reason to visit Sandusky, you’d be doing the family a disservice if you skipped the lake. Lake Erie is one of the Great Lakes and there are plenty of ways to enjoy the water. Find opportunities for boating, fishing, and beachcombing along Lake Erie’s shores. Hike scenic lakeside trails, go on a picnic, or visit during one of the fair weekends. 

Cedar Point is one of the highlights of Sandusky Ohio
What is a summer without coasters? Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio is thrilling!

9. Hilton Head Island, South Carolina

I’ve never visited a more suburban-feeling island as much as Hilton Head Island, South Carolina. You’re just a few miles from the beach on either side of you, but there are plenty of great attractions to explore in between. Rent bikes, as a family, to commute across the island. It’s the best way to bypass summer traffic and get around.

Hilton Head’s most iconic attraction is the lighthouse, but it’s a bit tricky to find. The lighthouse is located in the gated residential area of The Sea Pines Resort, at Harbour Town. Each car must pay a small fee, but kids love climbing the lighthouse for the panoramic views. There are also neat playgrounds, trails to walk, and family-friendly restaurants. My pro tip: save your restaurant receipt and you’ll be reimbursed for your entrance fee into The Sea Pines Resort.

During the summer, Hilton Head’s Shelter Cove Harbour & Marina offers a multi-week festival that runs from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day weekend. The festival includes children’s entertainment, live music and ends with a fireworks show. Plus, I love the shopping and dining options at Shelter Cove so there’s even more to enjoy beyond the festival. 

Best things to do in Hilton Head Island With Kids
Hilton Head Island is full of family-friendly fun and recreational fun.

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