Get ready to read the best summer vacation ideas in the U.S. for families! From Cape Cod to Colorado, the United States boasts some of the most scenic places to enjoy the warmer months. Take a dip in a lake, go horseback riding, and find age-appropriate activities! Whether you’re traveling with younger children or teens, we’re sure there’s a destination on this list for you. Adventurers will love all the outdoor activities that beckon in Maui, for example. But those who want a laid-back beach vacation may be better off in Nantucket. Of course, you can’t forget about the country’s gorgeous national parks! From nearby hotels to restaurants and things to do in the area, our parent-approved list covers everything you need to know to have an incredible summer vacation with kids. Here’s our list of the Best Summer Vacation Ideas In The U.S. For Families!
Best Summer Vacation Ideas in the East Coast for Families
If you’re looking for an East Coast adventure this summer, here are our favorite summer vacation ideas along the Eastern Seaboard. These kid-friendly locations are sure to please everyone in your family!
Nantucket is definitely one of the best summer vacation ideas in the U.S. for families. This tiny, secluded island off Cape Cod is easy to bike around, so you won’t need a car. However, Nantucket has drive-on beaches, like 40th Pole Beach. Accessible with a permit, this is a one-of-a-kind attraction for families! We also recommend Galley Beach for relaxing or Surfside Beach for adventurous older kids. Downtown, you’ll find Children’s Beach with no waves, plus a variety of shops, museums, and restaurants. Walk to Brant Point Lighthouse or rent a Jeep to reach the Coskata-Coatue Wildlife Refuge. Other activities for kids include taking a Critter Cruise or going fishing. On a rainy day, visit theWhaling Museum. Nantucket also boasts some great kid-friendly restaurants such as Brant Point Grill,Cru,Greydon House, and 167 Raw. Don’t forget about Sayles Fish Market for lobster rolls and clam chowder!
Pro Tip: When visiting Nantucket with kids, be sure to book your ferry ticket months in advance if you’re planning on bringing a car. Since it’s one of the best summer vacation ideas in the U.S. for families, it can get crowded, and fairly expensive.
Where to Stay in Nantucket with Kids
Wondering where to stay in Nantucket with kids? Our Families Love Travel contributors recommend the White Elephant Nantucket, an upscale hotel overlooking Children’s Beach in downtown Nantucket. There’s also The Nantucket Hotel & Resort,a historic hotel located two blocks from Children’s Beach.
With milder temperatures, Maine is an excellent place to visit during summertime. Along its rugged coastline, find beautiful beaches, charming towns, and delicious food. Take a scenic road trip or pick one town for your summer vacation. Fly to Boston and start your trip in York, known for picturesque beaches like Long Sands Beach and Nubble Lighthouse. In Ogunquit, walk the Marginal Way and explore Perkin’s Cove. Relax at Ogunquit Beach and stroll its charming town. In Kennebunkport, visit the long, sandy Goose Rocks Beach or the smaller Arundel Beach. Old Orchard Beach also offers the ultimate seaside escape, where kids can visit Palace Playland. Head to Fort Williams Park for a coastal walk overlooking the Portland Head Lighthouse. Afterward, visit Portland for a lobster roll. Take a Maine Lobster Boat Tour or explore small islands like Mackworth Island. Go fishing on Cliff Island or visit Freeport for shopping outlets.
Boothbay Harbor is another popular summer destination for more family-friendly adventures. There are so many things to do in Boothbay with kids, likevisiting historical exhibits at the Boothbay Railway Village. Visit the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens or one of Maine’s many lighthouses, like the Burnt Island Light. Take a sailing trip for a day or longer from Booth Harbor and visit nearby islands waiting to be explored. Next, stop in Camden tovisit Rockland Breakwater Lighthouse, Owls Head Lighthouse, and Camden Hills State Park. Finally, Bar Harbor is a great gateway to Acadia National Parkand Cadillac Mountain. Learn more about Acadia National Park, Bar Harbor next on this list!
Deserving of its own section, Acadia National Park is perfect for a family summer vacation! Located near Bar Harbor, this Maine destination is popular due to its mild summer temperatures (about 70 degrees). Before your visit, stop by the visitor’s center to get Junior Ranger packets for the kids. Park rangers usually have great recommendations on which programs to enroll in. Stars Over Sand Beach is an excellent program for little ones to learn more about the stars overhead. There are also plenty of hikes for all skill levels, including the easy Ocean Pathnear Sand Beach.Families can also drive or hike to the top of Cadillac Mountain for amazing views overlooking. Or, walk along the land bridge to Bar Island for tide-pooling (only accessible during low tide) and spotting colorful algae and marine animals at low tide. Jordan Pond is another popular spot, alongside the Jordan Pond House.
If you want an adventurous summer vacation, search no further than Hilton Head. Located in South Carolina, this family-friendly destination is known for its incredible beaches, golf courses, and tons of outdoor activities for kids. Of course, you’ll want to take advantage of the great summer weather. Three popular beaches for families include Islanders Beach Park, Driessen Beach, and Coligny Beach. Kids can swim, build sandcastles, or visit the playground while parents unwind. Animal lovers shouldn’t hesitate to visit Lawton Stables for horseback riding or the Pinckney Island National Wildlife Refuge. If you’d prefer to see Hilton Head’s wildlife by water, you can take a sailing tour or go bird watching with Commander Zodiac. Or, go dolphin watching with Hilton Head Dolphin Tours.Mini-golfing atAdventure Cove is also a must, and kids will enjoy the arcade too. Visit The Sea Pines Resort to climb up its legendary lighthouse!
Choose from multiple hotel options when visiting Hilton Head during the summer. Those searching for a luxury stay may love the Montage Palmetto Bluff.It has a huge property for families to explore and accommodations ranging from one-bedroom suites to Southern-style cottages. There’s also Omni Hilton Head, which features three golf courses, a kayaking lagoon, and three outdoor pools. Disney fans will love a stay at Disney’s Hilton Head Resort, which is located less than a mile from Shelter Cove Harbour. Amenities include complimentary parking, a shuttle to Disney’s Beach House, plus a kids’ pool. Marriott’s SurfWatch is ideal if you need apartment-style accommodations. Families also like theInn & Club at Harbour Town. Or, explore homes and condos in Palmetto Dunesand The Sea Pines Resort, among other options.
Cape Cod is a great summer destination for families! A lot of parents stay in Provincetown, a laid-back seaside town perfect for younger children. There’s so much to do, from Race Point Beach to the Provincetown Lighthouse and Provincetown’s Pilgrim Monument.Summer is also a good time for whale watching at the MacMillan Wharf. To explore Cape Cod outside of Provincetown, rent a bike to ride along the Rail Trail.Or, visit Wellfleet Cinemas for a drive-in movie, Pirate’s Cove for mini-golf, and Monomoy Island for a seal cruise. Older kids may appreciate The JFK Museumin Hyannis. Visit Dennisport’s Sesuit Harbor Café for a lobster roll and then Sundae School Ice Cream for dessert!You could also sample seafood at The Chatham Pier Fish Marketoreat atHangar B Eatery in the Chatham Airport. Hop on a ferry for a day trip to Martha’s Vineyard or Nantucket!
Where to Stay in Cape Cod with Kids
There are several wonderful hotels in Cape Cod for families. We recommend Chatham Bars Innfor its upscale, secluded setting. Then, famous for its stunning oceanfront location and kids’ program, another great option isWequassett Resort and Golf Club.
Ready to book your Cape Cod vacation? Find great hotel deals here!
Best Summer Vacation Ideas in the West Coast for Families
If you desire a West Coast getaway with kids this summer, check out these amazing locations. Whether you are looking for fun in the sun or outdoor adventures, you’re sure to find an amazing array of activities in these summer vacation ideas in the US for families along the West Coast!
As one of the best summer vacation ideas in the U.S. for families, San Diego has so many family-friendly hotels! Situated on 400 sprawling acres, we recommend the Fairmont Grand Del Mar. It’s centrally located, kid-friendly, and even has four pools. Families who want to stay directly on the beach will loveHotel Del Coronado, Curio Collection By Hilton. It’s housed on a Victorian property and is only five miles from downtown San Diego.
Drive the Coast of California
Take a summertime California road trip with your family! Start in San Francisco and travel south on the Pacific Coast Highway, ending in Los Angeles, San Diego, or one of the many stops along the way. As you pass through Monterey, visit the world-renowned Monterey Bay Aquarium. Neighboring Carmel offers quaint shops, a white sand beach, and a famous 17-mile drive along the rugged coast. A bit south, there’s Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, perfect for experiencing Big Sur’s breathtaking cliffside scenery. Near Los Angeles, kids will love the Santa Monica Pier, featuring a boardwalk, arcade games, and the Santa Monica Pier Amusement Park. It’s also worth visiting the California Science Centerto view the Space Shuttle Endeavor. Soak up the sun at Venice Beach, Manhattan Beach, or Ocean Beach, all off the highway as you travel south. Look for the Old Point Loma Lighthouse once you reach San Diego.
Where to Stay on Your California Road Trip with Kids
Mild temperatures and beautiful scenery make summer a perfect time to visit Olympic National Park.Located near Port Angeles, Washington, families can explore several different ecosystems here. Expect to see a temperate rainforest, beautiful mountains, and miles of gorgeous coastline. Summer is a great time to experience the park’s many beaches, between the Tree Root Cave at Kalaloch Beach to the rambunctious waves at Rialto Beach.Ruby Beach is also great for exploring the tide pools, brimming with sea stars and anemones. If an active vacation is more your style, the park has a lot of kid-friendly trails. Try the 1.7-mile Marymere Falls Trail. Kids will love passing by the lake and coming upon a huge waterfall! To hike through the rainforest, hike the Hoh Rain Forest Hall of Moss. You’ll pass towering trees, beautiful wildflowers, and more stunning scenery. There’s nothing quite like summertime at Olympic National Park!
Where to Stay Near Olympic National Park with Kids
Travelers will find plenty of accommodations near Olympic National Park. It is one of the best summer vacation ideas in the U.S. for families, after all! Families love the Olympic Lodgefor its heated outdoor pool, spacious rooms, and peaceful location. Plus, it’s located adjacent to the park, which makes it convenient too. We also recommend the Lake Crescent Lodge if you want rooms overlooking the lake. Finally, also check out Lake Quinault Lodge, another community-recommended accommodation. Families will appreciate its scenic grounds and delicious on-site restaurant.
Lake Tahoe, California
A summer vacation in Lake Tahoe guarantees family fun! Straddling the California-Nevada border, it’s surrounded by the Sierra Nevada Mountains, offering activities for all ages. Kids will love taking a dip in Lake Tahoe’s crystal clear waters at Kings Beach or Baldwin Beachin North Lake Tahoe. You can also parasail, kayak, or rent a steamboat. Adventurous teens will love renting jet skis from numerous vendors along the shore! A Sierra Cloud Catamaran Tour is another popular way to explore Lake Tahoe with an expert guide. In South Tahoe, find cute boutiques, restaurants, and bars near Heavenly Ski Resort. Take the gondola up the mountain to experience the thrill of Heavenly’s Ridge Rider Mountain Coaster!Travel back down on a hiking trail, such as The East Peak Trail. A few miles down the road, Emerald Bay State Parkoffers stunning views and a short hike down to the lake.
Where to Stay in Lake Tahoe with Kids
Families staying in Lake Tahoe, one of the best summer vacation ideas in the U.S. for families, can choose from a variety of accommodations. Though it’s a popular winter resort, Heavenly Ski Resort is also a great place to stay during the summer. For a lakeside retreat, there’s also the Franciscan Lakeside Lodge. Located at the base of the Heavenly Mountain Resort. Additionally, the Lake Tahoe Resort Hotel is also a popular option for families.
Best Summer Vacation Ideas in the Rocky Mountain States for Families
Do you see mountains in your future? You should! Especially, if you’re interested in exploring one of these Rocky Mountain states this summer. Families will love hitting the trails and seeking breathtaking mountain views along the way.
There are countless things to do in Colorado with kids! To see the state’s southern portion, fly to Colorado Springs. Kids can explore Cheyenne Mountain Zoo and the Garden of the Gods. Or, head to Pikes Peak on the Broadmoor Manitou and Pikes Peak Cog Railway.(Beware of the higher elevation!) Then, find flat hikes at the Broadmoor Seven Falls. In Durango, take the Durango & Silverton Railroad, one of the prettiest train rides in America. You can also visit Mesa Verde National Park from Durango. Not too far away, the towns Telluride and Ouray are beautiful during the summer, featuring dramatic landscapes. Go rock climbing in Ouray or take the Telluride Gondola to the mountaintop for dramatic views. Enjoy hiking, horseback riding, biking, camping, tubing, kayaking, and white water rafting. Families can visit Bear Creek Falls or Bridal Veil Falls. End your trip at Gunnison National Park.
To explore Colorado’s northern regions, fly to Denver and drive north. Be sure to stop by Estes Park, where you can visit Rocky Mountain National Park. It’s one of the most visited national parks in the country! There are also tons of beautiful hikes in the park to enjoy during the summer, like Bear Lake, the most popular lake in the park. Don’t forget to visit Dream Lake or Emerald Lake, where you can dip your toes in the water. Green Jeep Tours are a great way to explore the park too. There are tons of activities for kids in Estes Park, including hiking, biking, horseback riding, and more. Be sure to shop at The Taffy Shop with kids while in Estes Park. Finally, Boulder is another great city to visit, offering shops, outdoor adventures, and plenty of kid-friendly restaurants!
Wyoming’s National Parks are great places to visit in the summer! These national parks are ideal summer vacation ideas in the US for families. In Wyoming, you can explore Yellowstone National Park and Grand Teton National Park. Each offers its own stunning hikes, wildlife viewing, and more!
Yellowstone National Park
Yellowstone National Park, known for its incredible collection of geysers, hot springs, and fumaroles is a favorite destination for families. Hikes you can take in the park during the warmer months include the Grand Prismatic Hot Spring, an easy 1.6-mile hike with amazing views of the spring. There’s also The West Thumb Geyser Basin Trail, Midway Geyser Basin Trail, and Wraith Falls Trail, all one mile or less. For a longer hike, try the Upper Geyser Basin and Old Faithful Observation Point Loop, which is 4.5-miles. Kids will also love passing through Lamar Valley, where they can see grizzly bears, wolves, bison, and other wildlife! Artist Point is an easy-to-reach viewpoint in the summer if it’s too hot to hike far.
Grand Teton National Park
Located under two hours from Yellowstone, families can also visit Grand Teton National Park.Summertime means you can enjoy the park’s extended hours and a variety of scenic drives in the comfort of your car’s air conditioner. But first, we recommend taking the shuttle across the lake. From there, hike to Inspiration PointandHidden Falls. Wander back along Jenny Lake for incredible panoramic views, or take the Jenny Lake Scenic Drive (if still in your car). The Signal Mountain Summit Road is another popular spot. Head across the Jackson Lake Dam to the southside of the park to spot animals meandering the meadows. Look out for bald eagles, bison, elk, and moose! Mormon Row and Antelope Flats Road are two additional areas where you can spot wildlife in the summer. Finally, try easy hikes to Leigh Lakeor Hermitage Point if you have tiny trekkers in tow.
Where to Stay Near Yellowstone and Grand Teton with Kids
If you’re planning to visit Yellowstone National Park in the summer with your family, be sure to book your accommodations in advance. For the convenience of staying within the park, families love Canyon Lodge & Cabins and Old Faithful Inn. There are also great lodging options in nearby Big Sky, West Yellowstone, and Jackson Hole.
If your family is seeking a secluded, one-of-a-kind vacation, visit a dude ranch in Montana. Families who want a lakeside retreat will love Averill’s Flathead Lake Lodge in Bigfork. Located on the shores of Flathead Lake, enjoy the lakeside beach with a variety of water sports. Plus, an outdoor pool, horseback riding, and more summer activities for families! For the ultimate luxury ranch experience, book a stay at The Ranch at Rock Creek. Situated on a 19th-century property in Philipsburg’sRock Creek Valley, this family-friendly ranch showcases summer activities such as mountain biking, fly fishing, and stagecoach rides. At the Nine Quarter Circle Ranchin Gateway, families can stay at a ranch outside Yellowstone National Park.The Resort at Paws Up combines the convenience of an all-inclusive resort with the familiarity of a Montana dude ranch. Families seeking a more personalized vacation may prefer the family-owned Western Pleasure Ranch.
Glacier National Park, Montana
Glacier National Park is surely one of the best summer vacation ideas in the U.S. for families. Located in Montana’s Rocky Mountains, warmer weather is a great opportunity to experience areas closed during the winter. For example, families can drive the famous Going-To-The-Sun Road. Pass through glacial lakes, cedar forests, and grassy valleys along the way! This narrow, two-lane highway showcases some scenic twists and turns best explored during warmer months by an experienced driver. The park also features flat and scenic hikes to trek in the summer, even with younger children. We recommend the Avalanche Lake Trail for smaller children and the Fish Lake Trail for more experienced hikers. Regardless of where you are in the park, watch out for wild animals like mountain goats! Also, don’t forget about strolling through West Glacier Village, where you’ll find multiple dining options, shops, and even mini-golf.
Where to Stay Near Glacier National Park with Kids
Need a place to stay in Glacier National Park? That won’t be a problem, since it’s one of the best summer vacation ideas in the U.S. for families. Located directly inside the park, the Glacier Park Lodge is one of the most convenient accommodations for families. History buffs seeking a more upscale experience can book the luxury Prince Of Wales Hotel instead. Finally, there’s also the Belton Chalet,located outside the park’s West entrance.
Best Summer Vacation Ideas in the Midwest for Families
Those exploring the Midwest this summer will adore additional national park recommendations for maximizing their summer vacation ideas with kids!
Badlands National Park, South Dakota
Badlands National Park is another option for summer vacation ideas in the U.S. for families. Known for its jetting rock formations, this South Dakota destination provides hiking opportunities, plus chances to spot animals. If you’re traveling with younger children, we suggest the 0.25-mile Fossil Exhibit Trailor Window Trail for the best views. Older kids may prefer the 5-mile Castle Trail – just watch out for occasional steep drops. Cycling rentals from Black Hill Badlandsare another popular way to get around Badlands National Park in the summer. Set off on the Sage Creek Loop and you’ll even see wildlife along the way! Temperatures can be high during July and August, so we suggest making this an early summer trip. If the heat is too unbearable, drive the Badlands Loop Road. Plan your days around sunset or sunrise for the most comfortable experiences (and the best views!).
Where to Stay Near Badlands National Park with Kids
Families searching for convenient accommodations near Badlands National Park won’t have to look too far. For lodging directly in the park, book a stay at the Cedar Pass Lodge. It’s the only hotel in the Badlands, featuring rustic log cabins, WiFi, and air conditioning. Or, reserve one of the 96 available campsites at the Cedar Pass Campground. Kids will love staying on a working cattle ranch like Circle View Guest Ranch, which is set on over 2,000 stunning acres right on the outskirts of Badlands National Park. Finally, Frontier Cabins has genuine log cabins and the nearby KOAoffers a private campground.
Best Summer Vacation Ideas in Alaska & Hawaii for Families
Then, Alaska and Hawaii both offer families an ideal summer vacation with kids. In both states, discover an array of kid-friendly hikes and other activities, while being surrounded by untouched natural beauty.
Which accommodation you choose for your family in Alaska depends on where you’re staying and what type of experience you want. In Girdwood (near Anchorage), you’ll find the family-favorite Alyeska Resort & Hotel Alyeska, a luxury mountaintop destination with a spa, saltwater pool, and even its own aerial tram. It’s perfect for families who want a chic, scenic vacation without much stress. If you’d prefer to stay in Anchorage, consider the Homewood Suites by Hilton Anchorage. For a cozier experience, you can book a room at the Denali Perch Resort. Tucked into the woods, it offers quaint cabins nearby Denali National Park.In Talkeetna, book a stay at the Talkeetna Wilderness Lodge, which features seven private cabins for rent.
Maui is certainly one of the best summer vacation ideas in the U.S. for families! In this tropical paradise, travelers can relax while enjoying lots of fun things to do with kids. Visit popular beaches such as Lahaina’s Baby Beach, Sugar Beach, or Ka’anapali Beach. Kids will love the calm waters, soft sand, and opportunities for water sports! Older kids can also snorkel, surf, or scuba dive with a variety of tour operators throughout the island. Maui also offers once-in-a-lifetime experiences such as helicopter tours over the falls, biking down volcanos, or parasailing. Families can also explore Haleakalā National Park, a beautiful natural expanse with multiple hiking trails. Or, drive the Road To Hana, ride an Atlantis Submarine, and go whale watching with Makai Adventures and the Ultimate Whale Watch & Snorkel. Don’t forget to experience a classic Hawaiian Luau Dinner with tour operators like Old Lahaina Luau!
As always, this article on the Best Summer Vacation Ideas in the U.S. for Families would not have been as helpful, informed, or family-friendly without the contributions and input from the amazing members of our Facebook group, Families Who Love To Travel! For more travel recommendations on summer vacation ideas in the U.S. for families, be sure to join us on Facebook at Families Who Love To Travel. It’s a community of dynamic families who love to adventure and explore through travel. Plus, follow us on Instagram (@families.love.travel) to connect with other families who love the unique experiences travel has to offer – and to get sneak peeks of upcoming articles!
*Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, some of the accommodations, things to do, and restaurants on this list of summer vacation ideas in the U.S. for families may be closed. Please ensure availability before making your decision.
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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.