With two years of pandemic-related restrictions now mostly in the rearview at last, Americans’ demand for travel is white-hot. Pent-up demand (and accumulated savings) mean travelers are ready to get back on the road (and in the skies) in a major way. Is your itchy booking finger ready to make some plans? Our list of the best family vacation ideas around the country has you covered.
Our list of top family destinations around the U.S. includes ideas for any budget, age range, and idea of a good time, from affordable national park explorations (Yellowstone turns 150 this year!) to bucket-list trip ideas (hello, Maui and Malibu). Disney fans will find options from coast to coast, and urban adventurers will find plenty of bustling picks. And we invite you to give a second look to a pair of cities you might not associate with kid-friendly fare (looking at you, Las Vegas and New Orleans)!
Our guide to the best family vacation ideas for 2022 includes 20 standout places to go around the country, as well as ideas for what to do with kids and where to stay when you get there. So read on for inspiration — and get to booking. Then get to packing!
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You won’t need a passport to visit one of the world’s most beautiful and iconic beaches. Malibu’s stunning stretch of coastline in Los Angeles County provides endless opportunities for beach and sea activities by day.
Take the family to Paradise Cove for a leisurely meal on the sand, followed by extended playtime at the beach. Visit the nearby Getty Villa for a transporting art and cultural experience. Hike Solstice Canyon, which has striking architectural ruins as well as a waterfall, and is totally doable even with young kids.
Stay at Hotel June Malibu, which recently reopened after wildfires forced its closure in 2018.
Grand Canyon National Park
Put simply, the Grand Canyon should be on everyone’s bucket list — and a trip here is conveniently affordable, too. Take the family to the world-famous national park for awe-inspiring views and endless possibilities for adventure. Go hiking, of course. (Serious hikers will plan a descent from the rim to the river — and then back up again in two days.) Raft the Colorado River. Or just check out the white-knuckle view from Grand Canyon Skywalk. Pitch tents for a camping trip, or go the less-rugged route with a stay at the historic landmark Bright Angel Lodge & Cabins.
Have you ever arrived at your vacation destination to some sense of disappointment about the IRL landscape compared with expectations? Yeah, Maui won’t do that to you. At all.
The beaches here are just what you’ve been dreaming about. The jagged peaks and turquoise waters give the island a screensaver vibe. Come to play on the beach with the kids and properly relax. Or get your urban experience on: Maui, with its many resorts, restaurants, and shops, offers the full range of options compared with some of the other Hawaiian islands.
For a memorable stay on a grand scale, visit the family-friendly Grand Wailea in the bustling Wailea area. Round out your Hawaiian getaway with a luau, featuring traditional ceremonies, music, and delicacies like poi, poke, and haupia.
If budget permits, take your family to the nearby Four Seasons Maui at Wailea (even just for a meal) to immerse yourselves in the real hotel that starred in HBO’s hit The White Lotus.
Palm Springs, California
Sure, Sin City’s reputation as — well, just that — may not make it an obvious choice for a family vacation. But overlook it at your peril. Vegas is home to some of the world’s most expansive pools with an unrivaled events and entertainment calendar. Take the kids to the Shark Reef Aquarium, and go for a spin on the High Roller, the tallest observation wheel in North America at 550 feet.
Plus, it’s where you can find seriously top-end lodging at a budget-friendly price point (because the resorts make their money on the casino floor). Spread out at the residential-like Signature at MGM Grand, whose suites feature kitchenettes.
Arizona’s diverse landscape makes it an ideal destination for all kinds of travelers, all year round. But among the state’s standout features is its natural hot springs. These mineral pools located throughout the state’s woodlands offer health benefits from stress reduction to pain relief, plus plenty of potential for family fun away from it all.
For a budget-friendly family stay, spend a weekend camping at Essence of Tranquility with a communal kitchen and patio. The facility offers five private pools and one communal pool, with temperatures ranging from 98 to 105 degrees.
If your budget is bigger and so are your kids, indulge in a bucket-list getaway to Castle Hot Springs. This spectacular resort for the 16-plus crowd has been around since the 1890s, when it was a favorite among America’s titans of industry for its rugged luxury and therapeutic benefits. (Close your eyes and pretend you’re in The Gilded Age.) Teens and adults alike will find adventure in archery, ATVs, shooting, and more. There’s even an intense aerial bridge and Via Ferrata climbing course for the truly bold.
In Montana near the Canadian border, Greenough is a distinct treat in all seasons. When the weather is warm, enjoy the extended daylight with horseback riding, fly fishing, hiking, and rafting on the Blackfoot River. In winter, it’s a snowy wonderland and a paradise for skiers. Stay at Paws Up Resort, which sprawls over 37,000 acres and feels like a national park — but with tons of family amenities. Think horseback riding, go-karting, ATVs, and more. (There’s also a dedicated kids’ camp here.)
According to Google data for summer 2022, Orlando was the most-searched destination by Americans planning trips for the upcoming season. No surprise there, as the sunny destination is also in the middle of a major milestone year: Walt Disney World is celebrating 50. So look out for special commemorative events, offerings, and merch (of course).
The family-friendly Wyndham Grand Orlando is just about two miles from the park, but feels like a secluded getaway. The kids will go nuts over five pools, a mini-golf course, and two lazy rivers.
No, it’s not exactly under the radar. But New York City is forever an epic choice for a family destination. For one thing, it’s accessible by often affordable nonstop flights from cities around the country. In town, you have your choice of activities based on your interests: Catch a Broadway show, eat at an endless array of tempting eateries (from Michelin starred to sidewalk carts), stroll in Central Park, catch a game at Citi Field, or hit the beach and boardwalk at Coney Island. Go for a ride on the Staten Island Ferry for postcard views and one of the cheapest thrills in town.
Marriott’s Moxy Times Square is budget friendly (especially by city standards), kid friendly, and well located for sightseeing on foot.
Nowhere will you find a higher concentration of world-class museums to enrich and delight kids. In addition to all the district’s Smithsonian Museums, Galleries, and Zoo, there’s the National Museum of Natural History with the Q?rius interactive learning space for tweens and teens, and the Butterfly Pavilion to captivate kids of all ages. Hit the National Geographic Museum for jaw-dropping works by the magazine’s photographers as well as displays that encourage kids to think about protecting the natural world’s resources and animals. And that’s all before you’ve even explored the National Mall!
Stay at the new Hotel Madera, fully renovated under new management and ownership in the heart of D.C.’s Dupont Circle neighborhood.
Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
Kids will love getting up close and personal with reptiles at Alligator Adventure, a 15-acre park featuring diverse species of reptiles as well and other animals. At Dockside Village, stroll the walkable restaurant district, which even has a children’s playground and amphitheater for live entertainment and events all year long. Pavilion Nostalgia Park offers rides and games, including a 110-year-old carousel. Stay at the well-located and refreshingly affordably Marina at Grande Dunes.
Birmingham is a lively Deep South destination all year round, with abundant green spaces, lakes, and golf courses. But this summer, it’s a particular treat for sport fans: The World Games is an 11-day sporting event held every four years. About 3,600 athletes from around the world in 34 sports will come to Birmingham this July, where the games are set to be held in the US for the first time since 1981. Bring the family for a stay The Valley Hotel, which offers a bucolic boutique-like experience conveniently located near the Wold Games action.
Nashville always brings the party, but the pandemic put a damper on some of the festivities. Now, the fun is back: Come for Steeplechase horse racing and Independence Day fireworks. Go boating on the lake, and eat your way through a mouth-watering dining scene.
After a two-year break, country music’s CMA Fest returns this summer at last. Watch for some of the genre’s biggest stars participating in the events around the downtown area.
Stay in the brand new 1 Hotel Nashville, slated to open its doors in summer 2022. The sustainable luxury property is conveniently located downtown, walking distance to Lower Broadway. (A knockout rooftop bar and lounge seals the deal.)
Yellowstone National Park
There’s no better time than right now to visit Yellowstone National Park. That’s because Yellowstone, America’s first national park, is celebrating its 150th anniversary this year and has planned an array of activities and programs to celebrate the huge milestone. See Old Faithful, and geysers shooting water 100 feet into the air. There’s no end to the opportunities for hiking and exploring; Yellowstone spans nearly 3,500 miles, so it’s one of our biggest national parks, too.
To stay in one of the park’s lodges, plan ahead: They require reservations. If you can, stay at Old Faithful Snow Lodge & Cabins, just 10 minutes from its namesake geyser.
Charleston, South Carolina
Charming Charleston is a perennial favorite domestic destination for all ages, with 90 miles of coastline and 120 public parks to explore. When it’s hot in the summer, take a dip at Folly Beach or kayak in Shem Creek Marina. Catch some of the country’s best 4th of July fireworks here, too. Stay at the historic landmark hotel The Charleston Place, in the heart of the city; it recently went independent. Borrow a Moke electric, open-air vehicle to tote the whole brood around town in a fun and unique way.
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Sure, New Orleans is known for its party scene and distinctly R-rated Mardi Gras festivities. But the exuberant southern city is home to tons of family-friendly fun. Visit the Audubon Zoo to check out the lions, orangutans, ocelots, and flamingos, and head to the Aquarium to chill out with the penguins, sharks, and stingrays. Hit Storyland in City Park, a playground filled with miniature houses and storybook characters. Obviously, you can’t miss stopping for beignets at the famous Café du Monde! Stay at the family-friendly Roosevelt New Orleans.
Fun fact: Old San Juan is the oldest city in the U.S. It’s celebrating 500 years in 2022! With kids, visit Parque de las Palomas (Pigeon Park), where vendors sell corn to feed the birds. Just next door, check out La Fortaleza, the governor’s mansion, and the beginning of the Calle Fortaleza shopping strip. Snap a pic in front of the five-foot-wide Narrow House. And then grab a bite at Barrachina Restaurant, which claims to have served the first piña colada (although this is contested). Kids can go for a virgin version. Old San Juan’s El Colonial hotel is 150 years old — and newly refurbished.
If you’re dreaming of a far-flung, Mediterranean-feeling island vacation, you can achieve the dream without a passport — just about 20 miles across the Pacific Ocean from Los Angeles. This sun-drenched island flies under the national radar, but it deserves your consideration as a faraway-feeling, car-free family vacation.
Arrive to the charming town of Avalon by Catalina Express ferry. Set up shop at Descanso Beach Club for a day of sand and sea (and adult beverages — you’re not driving, so why not?). Sleep it off and then get the blood pumping with a Zip Line Eco Tour, offering spectacular views of the island and sea below.
Stay at the newly renovated Bellanca Hotel, with an ocean-view rooftop lounge.
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