Best Summer Vacation Spots in the U.S.

In the blink of an eye, summer vacation is going to be here! If you haven’t already, it is time to get planning some fun summer adventures with your family. To help you get started, I listed below some of the best summer vacation spots in the U.S.

We have taken our boys to all of these summer vacation spots, and I can tell you that each of these destinations are fantastic for kids!

Each of the vacation recommendations below are budget friendly, have lots of family friendly restaurants, are easy to get around, and most importantly, have many kid friendly things to do!

Kansas City, Missouri

I am such a HUGE fan of Kansas City! It is a fantastic family friendly place.

If you are planning to stay in Kansas City for close to a week, I recommend staying at the Great Wolf Lodge near Legends Outlet Mall for some indoor/outdoor waterpark fun and then move to a hotel closer to downtown for a couple of days.

There are endless things to do in Kansas City, especially in the summer. Visit Science City at Union Station or some of the many free things to do in the area including the Money Museum, Crown Center, and art museums. 

You could also visit the College Basketball Experience and enjoy a baseball game cheering on the Kansas City Royals. 

There really is so much fun to be had for your family in Kansas City!

Chicago, Illinois

We LOVE visiting and staying downtown Chicago in the summertime. To save on parking, consider leaving your car in the suburbs and taking the train downtown.

One of our favorite hotels to stay at in downtown Chicago is the Residence Inn Chicago River North. It is very family friendly and in a great location!

Some must see family attractions in Chicago include The Bean at Millenium Park, Maggie Daley Park, Willis Tower, Navy Pier, Field Museum, Shedd Aquarium, Museum of Science and Industry, Buckingham Fountain, and so much more!

**Hot Tip: If you are a member of a science center or museum near you, with your membership card, your admission to some of these museums may be complimentary. If not, it might be worth it to join your science center if you know that you are going to be heading to Chicago. It will save you a lot of money on admission at some of these museums!

While in Chicago, you may also want to head to a Cubs game.

There is so much to see and do in Chicago that your family will love!

North Shore, Minnesota

If you are looking for more of a quiet summer vacation, I 100% recommend visiting the North Shore in Minnesota. 

The North Shore of Minnesota lies along Lake Superior and is absolutely stunning!

You will likely want to stay at a vacation rental here as there are not a ton of hotels. I suggest trying to find a vacation rental with a view of Lake Superior if you can!

If you are looking for a hotel, there are some in Duluth as well as a few sprinkled along the North Shore.

My favorite thing to do at the North Shore in Minnesota is hike! There are so many great hiking trails to stunning waterfalls. These hikes are also extremely family friendly.

I recommend the following attractions in the North Shore area: Gooseberry Falls State Park, Split Rock Lighthouse, Black Beach (made up of black pebbles–so cool!), Palisade Head Overlook, Lutsen Mountains‘ alpine slide and gondola, Grand Marais, Devil’s Kettle Waterfall, and Grand Portage State Park. 

Plus, Duluth also has many great family friendly things to do, too!

Moab, Utah

Moab, Utah is a fantastic vacation destination. In the summer it can get very hot, but if you take your time and stay hydrated, you can really have an amazing time here even with the heat!

The highlight of Moab, in my opinion, is Arches National Park. You could easily spend 3-4 days just seeing Arches National Park. 

I recommend staying at the Springhill Suites which is just a few miles from the entrance of the park. This will allow you to easily go to and from the park and even go back in the evening when park reservations are not required. 

The Springhill Suites also has a phenomenal swimming pool area that families will love.

Besides Arches National Park, there is also Canyonlands National Park nearby. You can hit up two national parks in one stay.

For more to do in Moab, check out my post on Things to Do in Moab with Kids.

Black Hills and Badlands in South Dakota

A  road trip that should be on everyone’s bucket list is the Black Hills and Badlands of South Dakota. 

This area is absolutely incredible. The beauty of Badlands National Park plus the Black Hills area including Custer State Park and Wind Cave National Park is unparalleled. 

Besides visiting all of these parks, other attractions in this area include Mt. Rushmore, Crazy Horse Memorial, Bear Country USA, and more.

Note: Some people are uber focused on visiting the national parks, but make sure you do not miss Custer State Park. It is such a gem, and its beauty is right up there with other national parks in our country. 

For this vacation, you may definitely want to find more than one location to stay overnight on your trip.

I would recommend finding an accommodation near Badlands National Park if you want to spend a day or more there. Plus you can visit Wall Drug and some other attractions in that area.

You may also want to stay in or near Rapid City for a night plus find an accommodation fairly close to Mt. Rushmore, Custer State Park, and the Crazy Horse area. 

We also spent time checking out the Deadwood and Lead areas of South Dakota so that is another possibility of a place to stay and visit.

You really could spend a good week or more exploring South Dakota with your family. 

St. Louis, Missouri

Another favorite Midwest town of mine that also makes a fun summer family vacation destination is St. Louis, Missouri.

St. Louis is another place with so much to do for kids. 

One bucket list item for many families is visiting Gateway Arch National Park.

Some other fantastic family friendly attractions in the St. Louis area include the City Museum, Magic House, Union Station, St. Louis Zoo, Forest Park, Grant’s Farm, and more. 

Also, you cannot forget about going to a Cardinals game at Busch Stadium.

I highly recommend staying at the Drury Plaza Hotel at the Arch. It is such a great family friendly hotel that is just a 2 minute walk to the Arch. 

It has free breakfast and a light evening meal. Additionally, the Drury Plaza Hotel at the Arch has a fantastic pool with two hot tubs and an 8th floor terrace with Arch views.

Gatlinburg, Tennessee

The Great Smoky Mountains in Gatlinburg, Tennessee is another fantastic family vacation destination. 

As with these other destinations, there are so many great accommodation options at all price levels for families. There is a good mix of hotels and vacation rentals, too!

Additionally, the Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge area has tons of great restaurants for families.

Even more, families will be entertained at all of the attractions in the area as well as the infamous Great Smoky Mountains National Park. 

Some more recommended attractions to visit in Gatlinburg include Anakeesta, Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies, Gatlinburg Space Needle, Gatlinburg Sky Bridge, Ober Gatlinburg Aerial Tramway, and many quirky museums. 

Additionally, the Island at Pigeon Forge and Dollywood are even a couple of more fun places to visit. 

There is no shortage of fun in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge.

For more details on vacationing in Gatlinburg check out my Gatlinburg Family Vacation post.

San Diego, California

San Diego is also always on my list as a top vacation destination for families.

Besides the fact that the weather is usually ideal, San Diego is another place that has so much for families to do.

Some of my favorite places to visit with our family include the museums at Balboa Park, the San Diego Zoo, the USS Midway, SeaWorld, Old Town San Diego, Cabrillo National Monument, Coronado Beach, and La Jolla. 

We love to stay near Liberty Station. This area has so many great restaurants you can walk to from your hotel which makes things very convenient with kids. We usually stay at the Homewood Suites at Liberty Station.  

Check out my San Diego 4-Day Itinerary for more ideas for your San Diego summer vacation!

Mackinac Island, Michigan

Mackinac Island may not come to mind right away when you think of a family friendly summer vacation spot, but it is actually a really great place for kids!

Staying for a few days on Mackinac Island is an unforgettable experience. 

I LOVE the fact that Mackinac Island has zero vehicles and in the evening after all of the day trippers have left, the island truly feels like your own. 

Some of the best island activities include renting a bike and riding the 8.2 miles around the island, seeing Arch Rock, taste testing all of the fudge, miniature golfing at Mission Point Resort, taking a carriage ride, visiting Fort Mackinac, and just relaxing by the water and enjoying the views. 

I recommend staying at Mission Point Resort. It is a more laid back resort with so much to do and some great family friendly restaurants. 

If you want to know more about the logistics of getting to and from Mackinac Island with your luggage, read my blog post for more details on taking the ferry.

Spending a summer vacation on Mackinac Island will truly make some of the best memories with your family. 

Branson, Missouri

Branson is yet another destination that some people give me the side eye when I recommend it as a fantastic vacation spot for families. 

This summer vacation spot is yet another place that has tons to do for families. 

Spend a day at Silver Dollar City or visit the Titanic Museum. You can also enjoy a day on Table Rock Lake.

Additionally, take an evening drive on the Branson Strip and see all of the sights and lights. 

Branson has so many fun and quirky museums to visit including the Hollywood Wax Museum, Celebrity Car Museum, Ripley’s Believe It or Not, Wonderworks, and more.

This summer vacation spot has numerous fantastic resorts for families as well as so many vacation rental options. 

Looking for a place to eat? Check out the huge meatball at Pasghetti’s or the singing waiters and waitresses at Mel’s Hard Luck Diner. 

Branson IS indeed a fantastic summer vacation destination for your family!

Lake Geneva, Wisconsin

Lake Geneva is a gem of a vacation spot for families, couples, and friends. Located in southeastern Wisconsin, 90 minutes from Chicago, Lake Geneva is the perfect summer getaway.

Downtown Lake Geneva is picturesque while the lakes are gorgeous. 

While in Lake Geneva, I recommend spending some time enjoying the lake shore path along Geneva Lake. Doing so not only gives you stunning views of the lake but you also get up close glimpses of the astounding mansions that border Geneva Lake.

Also, during a vacation to Lake Geneva, you will actually want to get on the lake. Book a tour with Lake Geneva Boat Tours to learn more about these mansions that dot the lake as well as the families that own them.

I suggest taking either the 1 hour Geneva Bay tour or Ice Cream Social tour with kids of any age. For kids ages 12 and older, the U.S. Mailboat Tour would also be a fantastic option.

Some other great family activities in Lake Geneva include ziplining, attending a magic show at the Tristan Crist Magic Theatre, visiting the Lake Geneva Museum, and enjoying time downtown or at the beach.

As you can see, Lake Geneva is a fantastic summer vacation spot for your family!

Maui, Hawaii

Maui is another ideal summer vacation spot for families. 

I recommend staying in either the Kaanapali/Lahaina area or in Wailea, or even better, stay in both places!

Maui has so many stunning resorts for families in both of these areas. 

We like the Westin Maui Resort and Spa in Kaanapali as well as either the Residence Inn Maui Wailea or the Fairmont Kea Lani in Wailea. 

A vacation rental is another great option for families as we have also done that while vacationing in Maui.

In Maui, there are so many picturesque beaches and snorkeling spots for families. Some of our favorites include Kapalua Bay Beach, Kaanapali Beach, and Wailea Beach.

Besides the beach and snorkeling, my recommendations for things to do in Maui with your family include visiting the Banyan tree in Lahaina, the Maui Tropical Plantation, hiking to the Iao Needle, attending a luau, going on the Atlantis Submarine tour, ziplining, visiting Haleakala National Park, visiting the Maui Ocean Center, and so much more.

A family summer vacation in Maui would be absolute paradise! 

Vail, Colorado

Vail is one of my most favorite places to visit! I adore both Vail Village and Lionshead Village.

Both have so many fantastic restaurants and shops and are just great to walk around and spend time with your family.

If you can find an accommodation near either of these villages, I highly recommend it as it is so nice to be able to walk everywhere. 

We love playing at all the parks near and around Vail Village. It is fun to grab a coffee and head to the park.

Additionally, we enjoy renting bikes and riding on the trails.

Also, ride the Eagle Bahn Gondola up to the top of Vail Mountain and enjoy numerous activities at Adventure Ridge. 

At Adventure Ridge you can zipline, tube, and ride the alpine coaster.

Vail is surely a fantastic destination for a family summer vacation. 

Colorado Springs, Colorado

Another great place for a summer vacation in Colorado is Colorado Springs. 

Colorado Springs has so many great attractions and places to visit.

It also has many affordable hotel options as well as vacation rentals. 

The Broadmoor Resort in Colorado Springs is a favorite luxury resort for many families.

Attractions in Colorado Springs include the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, Garden of the Gods, U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Training Facility, North Pole Santa’s Workshop amusement park, Manitou Cliff Dwellings, and so many more. 

Additionally, your family could drive to the summit of Pikes Peak or take the Broadmoor Manitou and Cog Railway. 

Its natural beauty coupled with the amount of family friendly adventures and experiences, make Colorado Springs an amazing summer vacation destination. 

Minneapolis, Minnesota

The Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul also makes for a great summer vacation destination. 

This metro area offers so many hotels at all price points for families. 

On a gorgeous summer day, I recommend spending a morning or afternoon at Minneapolis’ Chain of Lakes. 

You can go on a beautiful walk or bike ride, have a picnic, rent a canoe or kayak, or just enjoy the scenery surrounding you. 

A summer visit to Minneapolis may also include attending a Minnesota Twins Game. 

If you are looking to beat the heat of the summer, you can also spend a day or two at the Mall of America. 

Visit the Nickelodeon Universe amusement park, Crayola Experience, Sealife Aquarium, Moose Mountain Adventure miniature golf, and more while at the Mall of America.

If you are looking for some more things to do in the Twin Cities, visit the Science Center of Minnesota, Minnesota Zoo, Minnesota Children’s Museum, and Como Park Zoo and Conservatory just to name a few.

With this list of attractions and sights, you will truly enjoy a summer vacation in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

So there you have it! 15 of my absolute FAVORITE summer vacation spots for your family. I hope this list gives you some great ideas as to the adventures you can go on with your family this summer.

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As always, may you LOVE your adventure! KW

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