I think many of us know that we need to take vacations. They’re opportunities to reset and recharge, plus family vacations are a great opportunity to reconnect as a family. The next hurdle is then wondering where should I go on vacation? The lovely folks at Lonely Planet recently released their picks for the best places to visit in 2018. I’m taking their list to come up with family vacation ideas with the help of some of my family travel writing friends.
Best Places to Take a Family Vacation in 2018
10. Southeastern Utah
Mary from The World is a Book says:
Southeastern Utah boasts some of the country’s most picturesque and spectacular sceneries. Its unmatched landscapes are filled with red rocks and canyons, sandstone cliffs and towering rock formations. Don’t miss these attractions for an unforgettable family trip.
Moab is a great base to explore two incredible National Parks nearby. Arches National Park has the world’s largest concentration of over 2,000 sandstone arches. Canyonlands has been called the “showcase of geology” with several overlooks into deep canyons and amazing rock formations. There are plenty of easy hiking trails for families in both parks.
Moab is also an outdoor recreation paradise offering varied adventures. Families can go rafting on the Colorado River, go rock climbing, canyoneering, ballooning, hiking, fishing, biking or ATV riding.
Lake Powell is North America’s largest man-made lake. It is a haven of houseboats (some with slides). It offers many water recreation activities against a backdrop of red rock canyons.
The iconic Monument Valley has been used as a backdrop for many films and a symbol of the American Wild West. We highly recommend doing the scenic and cultural tour to explore the back roads and learn more about the Navajo people.
9. Minneapolis, Minnesota
Kendra from Kendra Pierson Love, Learn, Travel says:
Minneapolis makes the list of best places because it’s a location with interests for every member of the family in just about every season. The family outdoors lover will love being able to fish in one of the more than 10,000 lakes while the art lover can explore the Walker Art Center. The best part is that quality fishing can take place within the city limits, so your family can split up for the day and still meet up for dinner in the eclectic foodie scene.
Families will also want to visit the Science Museum of Minnesota. Right inside their lobby is Mississippi River Visitor Center National Park. Sports fans will want to score tickets for one of the six professional teams. Finally, everyone has to take a visit to the Mall of America. With a Nickelodeon themed amusement park in the center and no tax on clothing purchases, it’s just one of the places that you visit just to say that you have!
8. Kentucky Bourbon Country
Allison from Family Vacations US says:
Few things hold such pride for the people of Kentucky than Thoroughbred horses and bourbon. In fact, there are more barrels of bourbon in the state than people. Often, would be visitors to the Bluegrass State ask lots of questions about a visit to one of the many bourbon distilleries.
Here’s the thing, the fact of the matter is, if you can escape for a couple’s trip along the bourbon trail or a getaway with your friends to explore, you are guaranteed to have a fantastically fun time.
However, a lesser known fact is that a large percentage of the bourbon distilleries that participate in the tours along the bourbon trail, offer tours that are focused on the history behind their operations. While, I wouldn’t recommend taking little ones on even a historical tour, chances are your older kiddos would really enjoy the experience.
The beauty of choosing to go on a tour at one of the storied distilleries is that you can make it work in terms of what you want to get out of it. Want to sample the product that the distilleries are known for? Go for it! Would you rather tour the immaculately kept grounds? That can happen too! No matter the desire behind the reason to go on a tour, chances are you are going to love spending time in the rich history of the Bluegrass State.
Once you’ve enjoyed learning a bit about the famous Kentucky bourbon, don’t miss all the other great things to do in Kentucky!
7. Richmond, Virginia
Patricia from Fairfax Family Fun says:
Old and new, high-tech and laid back, thrilling and peaceful… whatever you hope to find in a family vacation, it’s likely in Richmond. Love nature? How does spending a day in a gorgeous botanical garden sound? Richmond, Virginia (the state’s capital) is home to the Ginter Botanical Garden, a beautiful facility with a lovely children’s area, and the Metro Richmond Zoo, with many animals and a treetop adventure. If science is more your speed, the Science Museum of Virginia will not disappoint, and neither will the children’s museum right next door.
The city offers much for history buffs, especially at Richmond National Battlefield Park, which commemorates 13 American Civil War sites, including Tredegar Iron Works, which supplied much of the artillery to the Confederacy. Thrill seekers and adventurous types might like the heart-pumping action of the Richmond Raceway or testing their own limits with fun rides at the Kings Dominion theme park (which has a wonderful – and tame! – kids’ area). But if you prefer to take it easy, Richmond has something for you, too, especially along the nice Canal Walk, where you can take in the city sights and learn about its 400-year history.
6. Midcoast Maine
Francesca at The Working Mom Travels says:
MidCoast Maine is a collection of small towns and islands and is a wonderful place for a family vacation. The region, just off of US-1 (the heavily traveled route between Portland and Acadia National Park), simply has it all: excellent food; abundance of outdoor activities; arts and culture; and jaw-dropping scenery.
First off, the lobster. There can’t be talk about Maine without mentioning lobster. The whole family can enjoy a lobster dinner in MidCoast Maine for a fraction of what it might cost at home. Claws, a casual, family-friendly lobster shack in Rockland, is a top pick.
With mountains above and Penobscot Bay below, MidCoast Maine is a year-round, outdoor family playground. A great spot for families to enjoy the outdoors (along with that jaw-dropping scenery) is Camden Hills State Park. Hike, bike, or drive to the top of Mount Battie for sweeping views of the bay and Camden Harbor. Families looking to be out on the water are in luck. There is no shortage of schooner day cruises in MidCoast Maine.
For a bit of culture, families should head to Rockland, Maine’s new arts destination. Rockland is home to Farnsworth Art Museum and Center for Maine Contemporary Art (CMCA). Both institutions focus on MidCoast Maine’s role in the arts, from 100-year-old pieces at Farnsworth to modern creations at CMCA.
5. Cincinnati, Ohio
Nedra at Adventure Mom says:
Cincinnati, Ohio is a great destination for families. Enjoy scenic views of the river from the swings, ride the carousel and make music as you step on the giant outdoor piano at Smale Park. Take a ride on the streetcar and connect to the Over the Rhine neighborhood and enjoy a meal at one of the great restaurants on Vine Street and experience many of the activities at Washington Park. You can visit Fiona, everyone’s favorite hippo at the Cincinnati Zoo. Thrill seekers will love the ride options at Kings Island Amusement Park and families will appreciate their award-winning kids’ section.
The Cincinnati Reds games are held in a very family-friendly baseball stadium with a whiffle ball field and playground for kids who need a break in between innings. The city is rich in history and the arts with fantastic art museums that are free to the public and creative street murals located on buildings throughout the city. Take in a gorgeous view from the observation deck of Carew Tower and don’t forget to try local favorites Cincinnati style chili and Graeter’s ice cream.
4. Florida’s Space Coast
Tamara from We3Travel says:
The Florida Space Coast is a beautiful gem on the East Coast of Florida with something for everyone. The beautiful wide sand beaches on the Atlantic have made towns like Cocoa Beach a surfer’s paradise. With beachfront, affordable hotels, family-friendly dining, and kid-approved activities like miniature golf, there is everything you need for a relaxing family vacation. But what makes this region so special is, of course, the Kennedy Space Center.
You don’t need to be into space to find KSC fascinating. Kids can of course learn about the history of the space program, but they can also learn to perform a mission in space, crawl through a model International Space Station, and walk under the massive Saturn V rockets. If you are really lucky with your timing, you may even get to see a rocket launch. Only about an hour from Orlando, the Space Coast makes a great option for families that want to pair some beach time with a visit to the theme parks.
3. Chattanooga, Tennessee
Lesli from 365 Atlanta Family says:
The population of Chattanooga, TN stands at less than 200,000, but it’s not your ordinary small Southern town. Chattanooga is an outdoor playground, promising nature-loving families a weekend worth of fun. From caving to hang-gliding and rafting to rock-climbing, high adventure reigns. After you work up an appetite, head into town for impeccable eats. Urban Stack is our family’s favorite but you’ll find plenty of locally-owned options to choose from.
Looking for more traditional attractions? Try Chattanooga Aquarium, Ruby Falls, Tennessee Valley Railroad, and Hunter Museum of American Art. Don’t miss the opportunity to visit Moon Pie General Store – Moon Pies originated in Chattanooga!
While we do recommend a visit to the Chattanooga Choo-Choo Hotel during the day, The Chattanoogan remains our favorite overnight accommodation. You’ll find spacious rooms, an inviting lobby, and the perfect heated, indoor pool offering views over the neighborhood.
2. Boise, Idaho
Chez Chesak says:
There are some good attractions for kids in Boise, like Zoo Boise and the Discover Center of Idaho. But they are relatively small and generally feel a bit worn. The real strength of Boise as a family destination are all the outdoor activities.
A system of public parks runs through the center of town, and the nine riverside parks are known collectively as the ‘Ribbon of Jewels’. These parks are full of walkways, playgrounds, trails, disc golf courses and other outdoor diversions. The Greenbelt is a paved bike path that links all the parks (and much of the rest of the town) along the river. Further, when the weather is good, families can leisurely float the Boise River, and a regular bus will shuttle you back to the put-in point. Camel’s Back Park, while not on the river, is filled with trails, playgrounds, etc. – and it’s located near a handful of great family-friendly restaurants (and Goody’s ice cream shop).
It’s worth your time to take the winding drive up to Bogus Basin, the local, nonprofit, ski hill. There are great hikes there, wonderful views of the city, and it can be a completely different temperature than in the valley itself. In the winter there is skiing (both downhill and cross-country) and a tubing hill.
1. California’s Redwood Coast
Seeing the Redwoods at the top of the list is what inspired me to write this article. I admit that we fell in love with the redwood forests during our Seattle to Disneyland road trip many years ago. It was on a recent trip to California where I was able to revisit these majestic trees that clinched their place in my heart as one of my favorite spots in the United States.
I think the California Redwood Coast is a perfect spot for a family vacation, whether it be the whole vacation or just a part of a bigger journey. The trees will amaze little kids, have them try to wrap their arms around one to get the full impact of just how big these giants really are. There are plenty of family-friendly hikes dotting the redwood parks. Each hike will let you discover just how quiet a forest can actually be.
Lastly, hopefully a visit to the California Redwoods will help your kids learn about nature and create a soft spot in their hearts for our world. We need to raise our kids to care about our natural wonders and to understand how precious nature is. They need a world to inherit and the knowledge to care once it’s their turn.
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