15 Best US Lakes For Families To Visit This Summer

A boy holding a fishing pole sits near his dad on a dock.
Photo Courtesy: Emily Kapic

An amazing summer vacation to one of the best US lakes for families awaits! Whether you’re looking to fish, sunbathe, or also hit the trails, the United States offers miles of pristine shoreline from coast to coast. Visit Lake Placid in New York to enjoy water so crystal clear it’s almost mirror-like, or, head to Lake Tahoe in California for a mix of outdoor activities and nightlife entertainment. Families who love red-rock scenery will also treasure a stay in Lake Powell in Arizona, home to the famous Rainbow Bridge. No matter where you decide to visit, we’ve compiled a list detailing what to know before setting off on your adventure. Check out this list of the 15 Best US Lakes for Families to Visit this Summer to plan your next vacation with kids! 

Best Summer Lakes on the West Coast for Families

When it comes to family-friendly summer vacations, few destinations can rival the stunning lakes on the West Coast of the United States. From breathtaking scenery to endless recreational activities, these watery oases offer something for everyone – young and old alike. Keep reading to learn more!

Lake Tahoe


Photo Courtesy (L-R): Emily Kapic, Émilie Brillon, Emily Kapic

A trip to Lake Tahoe will surely be packed with family fun! Straddling the California-Nevada border, its glimmering waters overlooking the Sierra Nevada mountains are one of the USA’s deepest, featuring activities for all interest types.

In South Tahoe, families love the lively boutiques and restaurants. Feel free to take a dip in Lake Tahoe’s warm waters at either Kings or Baldwin Beach, where families can also parasail, kayak, or rent a steamboat, among other water sports.

To see the lake from a new vantage point, kids can also ride on a gondola from the Heavenly Village Center, where you’ll cruise upstream with a panoramic view. Once you reach the top, navigate nearby hiking trails that are easy for children, like The East Peak Trail. For even more stunning views, however, don’t miss Emerald Bay State Park!

RELATED ARTICLE: Summer Activities in North Lake Tahoe Kids Will Love

Big Bear Lake


Several lake houses on Big Bear Lake in California are surrounded by fall colors of green and yellow.
Photo Courtesy: Person-with-No Name

When it comes to the best US lakes for families to visit during summer, Big Bear Lake in California is an absolute must-see destination! Boasting clear blue waters that stretch over 7 miles, surrounded by lush green forests, this picturesque man-made lake nestled in the San Bernardino Mountains offers endless opportunities for outdoor family fun. 

During the summer months, families can swim and sunbathe on sandy beaches or take a refreshing dip in the water. There are lots of places to settle in along the shoreline, including Meadow Park, which features a swimming beach, a playground, a picnic area, and more. Or, Big Boulder Bay Park, where families can visit the beach and go kayaking. Motorized boating and other fun water sports like jet skiing are also available. Plus, fishing enthusiasts will love reeling in rainbow trout or catfish from the lake’s well-stocked waters.

Beyond the water, nearby hiking trails wind their way through lush forests where wildlife like deer roam free. Then, check out the Big Bear Alpine Zoo to see some rare species, such as grizzly bears and mountain lions! 

Crater Lake


Photo Courtesy: Colleen Tran, Sakshi Thawani Mirchandani

Crater Lake is undoubtedly one of the best US lakes for families to visit during summer! Nestled in southern Oregon’s Cascade Mountains, this stunning lake formed over 7,000 years ago from a volcanic eruption and now boasts crystal-clear blue waters that will take your breath away.

Families can access the lake via Crater Lake National Park and explore via boat or by driving. You can drive your own vehicle around the 33-mile Rim Drive or jump on a trolley tour and leave the driving to someone else. For swimming and fishing, the only place you can access the lake is from the Cleetwood Cove Trail. At the trail’s end, you’ll find a shallow place on the shoreline ideal for families.

Of course, there’s even more to Crater Lake than the lake itself. Whether you want to hike overnight or for less than 30 minutes, you’ll find a hike suited to your family’s abilities. Don’t forget to also check out Rim Village with its historical district!

Best Summer Lakes in the Mountain States for Families

Searching for the best US lakes for families to visit during the summer? Look no further than the Mountain States! With crystal clear waters, stunning mountain views, and plenty of activities, these lakes are the perfect escape from bustling cities. Stay tuned to learn more!

Lake Powell 


Two girls at the bow of a boat on Lake Powell.

Take a dip in Arizona’s family-friendly Lake Powell! Bordering Utah, this 2,000-mile shoreline brags eternal sunshine, breathtaking scenery, and countless activities to keep entertained. Houseboats, camping, and other expeditions are popular ways to tour this massive red-rock playground, nicknamed “America’s Lost National Park”.

To explore by water, families can rent kayaks, paddleboards, or even boats, available from access points onshore. Lounge on sandy beaches at Antelope Point in Arizona. Or, Wahweap if you’re on the Utah side. Located in Arizona’s Bullfrog Bay, Hobie, and Stanton Beach are also popular with kids, featuring accessible swimming and nearby facilities.

Aside from relaxing on the lake, families can also take advantage of its endless nature walks! Within Glen Canyon National Park, older kids can hike Horseshoe Bend for panoramas of the Colorado River. For younger children, Hanging Gardens Trail is usually easier. And, a family photo at the iconic Rainbow Bridge is a must! 

Flathead Lake


Two kayakers enjoy a sunny day paddling around the water in Montana.
Photo Courtesy: Visit Montana

Imagine diving into the shimmering waters of Flathead Lake, Montana, one of the best US lakes for families to visit during summer! Nestled between the rugged peaks and valleys that surround Glacier National Park, this stunning freshwater lake provides families with incredible views and natural beauty. Plus, with a length of 28 miles and a depth of nearly 400 feet, there is no shortage of space to swim, fish, or boat on this massive body of water! 

For families looking for some outdoor fun under the sun, you can rent a kayak or paddleboard and explore the lake at your own pace. At Somers Beach State Park, located on the north shore of the lake, families can also enjoy a sandy beach from fall through late spring. Fishing enthusiasts will also have a blast hooking trout, salmon, and whitefish in abundance. If you’re feeling adventurous, go on a boat ride – motorized vehicles are allowed, except in certain areas around the north shore.

Families visiting Flathead Lake can also access Wild Horse Island by boat on a day trip. Kids will love seeing herds of wild horses, as well as sheep, deer, and other wildlife, grazing along the island’s various hiking trails! 

Where to Stay near Flathead Lake with Kids

When it comes to where to stay near Flathead Lake with kids, there’s one spot that stands out – Flathead Lake Lodge. This all-inclusive, family-owned guest ranch combines rustic charm and modern luxury in a stunning natural setting. There’s also an outdoor pool, kids’ club, game room, and other fun amenities for families. Or, you could check out Vrbo to rent a cabin along Flathead Lake.

Best Summer Lakes in the Midwest for Families

The Midwest is a hub of natural beauty and tranquility, with some of the best United States lakes for families to visit during summer. These picturesque oases offer a break from hectic city life, perfect for family vacations and quick getaways. Here are our favorite suggestions!

RELATED: Best Lakes in the Midwest for Families

Lake Michigan 


The nose of a red kayak maneuvers across Lake Michigan.
Photo Courtesy: Pure Michigan

Lake Michigan is a fantastic lake for your next family adventure! In fact, it’s the only Great Lake located entirely within the United States! Plus, spanning Michigan’s West Coast for nearly 23,000 square miles, you’ll find tons of space to have fun with your kids!

With all that space, you’ll definitely find countless activities for adults and kids alike, whether it’s a loop to spot Lake Michigan’s many lighthouses, or a visit to the Michigan Maritime Museum to learn more about them.

Plus, between soaking up the sun at Grand Haven State Park or Sleeping Bear Point Beach, you’ll find plenty of water sports to keep you occupied either way! Then, the Leelanau Peninsula, which is on the western side of Lake Michigan, is also a good place to hike or explore by kayak or canoe. Finally, little ones who love building sandcastles may particularly enjoy visiting Sleeping Bear Dunes, known for its miles of dunes.

Looking for more options in Michigan? Read about the 13 Fantastic Lake Destinations In Michigan To Visit With Kids This Summer!

Where to Stay near Lake Michigan with Kids

Wondering where to stay near Lake Michigan with kids? We suggest the Bay Watch Resort or Pinestead Reef Resort, both of which are in Traverse City. Families who want to camp can also check out the campgrounds at Ludington State Park Beach. Or, rent a lake house or cabin on Airbnb or Vrbo.

Lake Superior

Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan

Photo Courtesy: Antonia Grant, Antonia Grant, Chelsey Knealing

Lake Superior is the world’s largest freshwater lake by surface! Flanked by Ontario, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan, this massive lake is home to generations of legends, shipwrecks, and adventures for little ones to enjoy. Luckily, there are also many wonderful places to explore Lake Superior as a family!

In Minnesota, you’ll find lodges, shops, and outdoor adventures from Duluth to Grand Marais. Find amazing views of the lake and hear its history at Split Rock Lighthouse, for example. Or, check out the William A. Irvin ship in Duluth.

Next, in Wisconsin, Bayfield and the Apostle Islands gives families opportunities to explore Lake Superior by sailboat, kayak, or lake cruise. Take a ferry to Madeline Island for hiking, golfing, or relaxing on the beach!

Then, Munising, Michigan, is a low-key town nestled along Lake Superior that offers outdoor adventures for all ages, from hiking to biking, swimming, and kayaking. When staying here, you’ll also be within a short distance of Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, featuring one of the UP’s iconic landmarks. Then, to beat the heat, you can visit one of the many watering holes in town, like Memorial Falls, or head to Sand Point Beach. Kids will also love taking a Glass Bottom Shipwreck Tour to see several shipwrecks up close! 

Don’t miss these other fun lakes in Minnesota for families: 17 Minnesota Lakes for a Fun and Relaxing Family Vacation this Summer.

Lake Table Rock


The beautiful Lake Table Rock on a sunny summer day.
Photo Courtesy: Visit Missouri

Lake Table Rock is another gem on our list of best US lakes for families! Missouri’s 500-mile-long lake has scenery to soak in at every turn, overlooking the stunning Ozark Mountains. Adventurous families will find a perfect mix of outdoor activities here!

Moonshine Beach, for example, is a great option for little children to splash in calm waters or build sandcastles while parents relax. For a more active approach, Table Rock State Park’s marina offers anything from paddle boats to fishing gear, in addition to numerous picnic areas and hiking trails. Explore mysterious geological formations at the Talking Rock Cavern, which you can take a tour of. Or, rent a bike to head to Dogwood Canyon, a sprawling natural area across the Missouri-Arkansas border.

Of course, definitely, Silver Dollar City and Shepherd of the Hills Amusement Park are must-visits, too, featuring zip-lining, obstacle courses, and more! 

Lake of the Ozarks


A woman jet skis on Lake of the Ozarks.
Photo Courtesy: Visit Missouri

Plan your next epic summer getaway to Lake of the Ozarks in Missouri! With over 1,100 miles of pristine shoreline and an area that spans more than 54,000 acres, this reservoir lake is a dream destination for families seeking adventure and relaxation amidst nature’s beauty.

Whether you’re interested in boating, fishing, swimming, or just relaxing on a sandy beach, Lake of the Ozarks has something for everyone. Families who want to relax can do so at Lake of the Ozarks State Park, where you’ll find the lake’s two sandy beaches. There’s Public Beach #1, located off Highway 134, and Public Beach #2, also known as Grand Glaize Beach, right off Highway 54, west of the Grand Glaize Bridge. Both have children’s playgrounds nearby, shady picnic areas, and restrooms. Fishing is also popular here, plus kayaking, jet skiing, and motorized boating.

And when it’s time to take a break from all the aquatic adventures, you can explore nearby attractions like Jolly Mon Indoor Water Park or check out local restaurants serving up delicious barbecue and other classic Midwest fare.

Best Summer Lakes on the East Coast for Families

There’s nothing like spending hot summer days lounging by a lovely lake with good company. From sun-kissed beaches and thrilling water sports to peaceful fishing spots and scenic hikes, look no further than the best US lakes for families to visit during summer on the East Coast!

Lake George

New York

Little girl on boat looking at water at Lake George
Photo Courtesy: Gunjan Prakash

Families will love Lake George’s shimmering waters! From the stunning Adirondack Mountains to a modern downtown area, this New York destination is perfect for kids of all ages.

Go for a swim, paddleboard, or rent a kayak along its 32-mile stretch of shoreline! You can also visit Ushers Park Beach, popular for its calm waters and playgrounds. The Stone Bridge Caves, which are within driving distance, is also an easy hike for little kids. Or, visit Fort William Henry to learn some history!

More family fun can be found at the downtown Lake George Village area, where kids can ride roller coasters and play carnival games! Children will also love The Around the World Golf Course, with U.S. landmarks as different holes. Bolton Landing is also a non-touristy alternative before enjoying dinner at places like Cate’s Italian Garden or The Huddle!

Looking for more options in New York? Escape The City Heat: 14 Best Lakes in New York State For Families To Visit During Summer!

Where to Stay near Lake George with Kids

Lake George features various accommodations for families, from home rentals to camping and boutique hotels. Children who enjoy camping may love staying at nearby sites like Adirondack Camping Village, Lake George Battleground State Campground, or Lake George Escape Campground, featuring heated pools, sports fields, and organized weekend activities. Or, stay on your own specially reserved island campsite by booking in advance through Lake George’s official camping website!

If you want easy access while exploring one of the best lakes near New York City for families, then luxury resorts like The Sagamore are definitely the way to go. Alternatively, find a Lake George vacation rental now using Vrbo.

RELATED: Best Lake Resorts in the Northeast Families Will Love

Lake Placid

New York

Mom and a son on a kayak in Lake Placid, one of the Best US Lakes to Visit with your Family this Summer.
Photo Courtesy: Sarah Einhorn

Lake Placid provides families with year-round fun! A world-famous New York ski destination, it’s an equally fantastic summer location with kids. Within this beautiful mountain town, find high-class dining, quaint shops, and plenty of outdoor fun!

Enjoy a trip to Mirror Lake, where kids can canoe, paddleboard, kayak, or swim, lined by tiny picturesque cottages. At Lake Placid’s south end, lounge on its Village Beach, complete with soft sand, shallow water for kids, and a tennis court. Nearby, you’ll also find a pier to stroll and take in views of the amazing Adirondack Mountains.

Or, take a longer, half-hour hike along High Falls Gorge to earn a mesmerizing view of the falls! Kids visiting Lake Placid may also be fascinated by its history, which once hosted the Winter Olympics. Stop at the Lake Placid Olympic Museum or the Lake Placid Olympic Ski Jumping Complex to learn more! 

Where to Stay near Lake Placid with Kids

Lake Placid has something for everyone in terms of accommodations, including cabins, resorts, and hotels within walking distance from most attractions. For a hotel experience, consider the nearby Whiteface Lodge, Golden Arrow Lakeside Resort, Lake Placid Lodge, High Peaks Resort, Mirror Lake Inn & Spa, or the Placid Bay Hotel. Families visiting Lake Placid also opt to rent lakeside accommodations from places such as Vrbo.

Lake Winnipesaukee

New Hampshire

Bridge on the Lake Winnioesaukee with lush green trees,  one of the best US lakes for families.

Unwind at the foothills of New Hampshire’s White Mountains at Lake Winnipesaukee! As NH’s largest lake, you’ll find plenty to experience throughout three waterfront villages, accessible by car or boat.

Weirs Beach is most popular for families, boasting an arcade, boardwalk, and water sports of all sorts! Fishing, kayaking, and canoeing are all family-friendly ways to see Lake Winnipesaukee. With a 600-foot beachfront, picnic areas, and pristine waters, Ellacoya State Park is also great for little children!

Teens may fancy a visit to the historic village of Meredith, where you’ll find quaint antique shops and galleries. Then, visit Moulton Farm to stock up on fresh produce and more homemade sweets! In Wolfeboro, hike the scenic Cotton Valley Rail Trail.

Plus, no Lake Winnipesaukee visit is complete without ice cream! Try Kellerhaus in Weirs Beach, Town Docks in Meredith, or Bailey’s Bubble in Wolfeboro. Then, visit Weirs Drive-In Theater to catch a movie! 

Lake Lanier


Photo Courtesy: Timothy Dachraoui

Lake Lanier is a true gem among the best US lakes for families to visit during summer! Less than an hour north of Atlanta, Georgia, this man-made lake spans over 38,000 acres and has more than 692 miles of shoreline. So, it’s a perfect getaway for families who are looking for some fun on the water! 

Since the lake’s shoreline is so vast, there are lots of beaches and family-friendly spots to soak up the fun. One favorite is Don Carter State Park, which offers a beach, a playground for children, and a boat ramp. There are also kayaks, aqua cycles, and stand-up paddleboard rentals. Old Federal State Park also has two beach areas with life jacket stations for kids and a small playground. River Forks Park is right near a playground and picnic pavilion, but it can also get a bit crowded (you can stroll to another pavilion nearby).

When kids want a break from the lake, you can check out Margaritaville at Lanier Islands, an amusement park with a wave pool, arcade games, and more family fun! 

Smith Mountain Lake


An aerial view of a marina at Smith Mountain Lake.
Photo Courtesy: Jay White

Smith Mountain Lake offers endless opportunities for adventure and relaxation alike! Less than an hour outside of Roanoke, it’s the state’s second-largest freshwater lake, offering 500 miles of shoreline and acres of fun for families looking to enjoy a lake trip.

Families can settle in at Smith Mountain Lake State Park, which boasts a 500-foot beach with a snack bar, fishing, and boating. Plus, plenty of rental options if you don’t have your own supplies. You can rent and partake in tours involving jet skis, fishing charters, kayaks, paddleboards, sailboats, pontoon boats, and more. In addition, there are 13 hiking trails, ranging from a half mile to three miles, showcasing wooded areas, lake vistas, and secluded coves. The local chamber of commerce also promotes various fun events for families, like local theater shows, nature events, and annual celebrations like Pirates Weekend. The local visitor guide offers maps and additional selections – from dining to off-water fun like mini-golf, an alpaca farm, and more!

Here are 8 more Virginia Lakes for an Awesome Family Vacation with Kids

Where to Stay near Smith Mountain Lake with Kids

Smith Mountain Lake State Park has several lodging options managed by the park, including cabins, bunkhouses, and campsites; cabins are open between Memorial Day and Labor Day, while camping is more widely available in three seasons of the year. For a hotel stay, Westlake Waterfront Inn, Unwind and Reel’ Em Inn, and Halesford Harbour Inn sit right on the water. Meanwhile, The Virginian at Westlake offers a family-friendly resort a short drive away. Of course, housing rentals give families a home away from home – from quaint wooded cabins to waterfront chalets.

Deep Creek Lake


Deep Creek Lake in Maryland on an overcast day.
Photo Courtesy: Famartin via Wikimedia Commons

Deep Creek Lake, Maryland, is truly one of the best US lakes for families to visit during summer! Located in the heart of Maryland’s western mountains, the 13-mile-long lake, with 69 miles of shoreline, is a boater’s paradise that boasts plenty of quiet coves and swimming holes to explore along the way. Plus, it’s just over a three-hour drive from major cities such as Washington DC!

From swimming and fishing to hiking and kayaking, there is something fun for every member of the family at this incredible lake destination. Nature is a big draw, with Swallow Falls State Park – home to Maryland’s tallest free-standing waterfall – and Deep Creek Lake Park, which houses the area’s only public beach. For kayaks, canoes, and other water sports rentals, check out Deep Creek Rentals.

Deep Creek Lake Discovery Center also has interactive exhibits, live animals, and daily programs like reptile encounters, fishing trips, and evening campfires. On a rainy day, kids can visit the area’s several arcades, like Funland and the Deep Creek Fun Zone. There’s also mini golf, go-karts, and more family fun! 

Where to Stay near Deep Creek Lake with Kids

Need somewhere to stay near Deep Creek Lake with kids? Lakefront rentals range from cozy one-bedroom cabins to expansive eight-bedroom homes. For a local resort, check out Wisp Resort which has efficiencies and suites for various-sized families. The resort offers whitewater rafting, pontoon boating, and kayaking on the water. Plus, cool features like a kids’ play area, a mountain coaster (you can ride alone at age 8), and various ropes courses on land.RELATED ARTICLE: 11 Exciting Weekend Getaways from Minneapolis for Families

Happy Lake Escape!

A young girl and her mom swim in Michigan.
Photo Courtesy: Rebecca Giguere

We hope you’ve enjoyed our list of the 15 Best US Lakes For Families During Summer! No matter where you choose to visit for your summer vacation, you’ll have a fantastic time at any of these destinations. Enjoy your family lake escape!

*This post may contain affiliate links that may earn us a small commission, at no additional cost to you. Affiliate links in no way inform the hotels, sights, products, or other recommendations included in our articles. All opinions and recommendations expressed here are compiled from submissions submitted by the generous members of our Families Who Love To Travel community.


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The Families Love Travel Team has a zest for life and an even bigger passion for globetrotting! Comprised of real-life travel professionals, we work hard behind the scenes to provide dynamic solutions for adventuring with children. Our enthusiastic team understands the challenges that often accompany traveling with kids and is committed to making Families Love Travel an inclusive space to convey these experiences.