Top 5 Family Summer Vacations
School’s out and workloads are lighter, making summer a prime season for family travel. Considering factors that make a destination stand out for families (like family-friendly accommodations, attractions that appeal to kids and easy travel itineraries), we determined this list of the best family summer vacations. Use this ranking to jumpstart your family vacation planning.
With dramatic peaks and pristine lakes, Yellowstone National Park is an outdoor enthusiast’s paradise. Multicolored pools swirl around hot springs; verdant forests weave past expansive meadows; and volatile geysers launch streams of steaming water toward the sky. While you traverse its 3,000-plus square miles of mountains, canyons, geysers and waterfalls, be prepared to share the trails with permanent residents like buffalo, elk and sometimes even grizzlies.
Although Yellowstone attracts more than 4 million visitors every year, chances are – unless you spend your entire trip at Old Faithful – you won’t see much of them. Yellowstone’s 2.2 million acres creep from the northwest corner of Wyoming into the edges of Idaho and Montana, offering plenty of untouched territory to explore. Carve out a day or two to take in the view at Yellowstone Lake and Mammoth Hot Springs. But save some time for the trails through lesser-known regions, like the hot springs of the West Thumb Geyser Basin and the untamed wildlife dotting the Lewis River Channel and Dogshead Loop. While the sheer number of trails and wildlife-watching opportunities may seem daunting at first, remember: You can always come back.
Yellowstone National Park Service Website:
2) Grand Canyon
Measuring approximately 277 river miles in length, up to 18 miles in width and a mile deep, this massive chasm in northern Arizona is truly a natural wonder. For six million years, the Grand Canyon has expanded with the help of the mighty Colorado River, and for centuries, people from all over the globe have traveled to gaze out over its red and orange grandeur. Managed by the National Park Service and officially designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site, the Grand Canyon leaves its approximately 6 million visitors per year awestruck.
The South Rim – home to the Grand Canyon Village and the well-worn Bright Angel Trail – is particularly popular for sightseers and hikers. It is on this side that you’ll find the most amenities. For a break from the crowds, head to the North Rim. This is the place for backwoods camping and hardcore hiking. And for an unforgettable view of the canyon, consider signing up for a helicopter tour.
Grand Canyon National Park Service Website:
3) Outer Banks
History drips from the Outer Banks: Here, aviators Orville and Wilbur Wright took their famous first flight (at Kill Devil Hills), the pirate Blackbeard fought his last battle (at Ocracoke) and the mysterious Lost Colony disappeared (exactly where is anyone’s guess, but it was last seen on Roanoke Island near Manteo). Yet this chain of barrier islands located off the coast of North Carolina – affectionately dubbed OBX – isn’t just for history buffs. Fishing, windsurfing and wildlife watching attract adventurous types as well. The Outer Banks’ roughly 3,000 shipwrecks, explorable by snorkeling or scuba diving, earned it a reputation as “the graveyard of the Atlantic.” Families gravitate toward the beaches, the mini-golf courses and the North Carolina Aquarium at Roanoke Island.
Each neighborhood has its own charm: Old lighthouses, rugged dunes and secluded beaches in the south coupled with vacation rentals, water sports and kitschy beach shops in the north all form a unique seaside destination. OBX is ideal for those looking to skip overly developed touristy towns and head straight for the unspoiled beaches. You won’t find big nightlife, but you will find an abundance of natural beauty. Beaches are more populated during the summer months, but with so many destinations spread out along the barrier islands, you likely won’t experience unmanageable crowds at any time of year.
Outer Banks Vacations:
4) Mount Rushmore
A national treasure, Mount Rushmore National Memorial symbolizes the ideals of freedom and Democracy. Completed in 1941, Mount Rushmore features the 60=foot high faces of four US presidents intricately carved out of the granite mountainside.
Located in the Black Hills region of South Dakota, Mount Rushmore is often considered a rite of passage to see in one’s lifetime. Drawing in more than 3 million tourists per year, visitors from around the world travel here to take in the awe-inspiring views of this patriotic site.
Mount Rushmore National Park Service Website:
5) Washington D.C.
With its marbled monuments and high-profile politicos, Washington, D.C., has long been saddled with a reputation as a stuffy government-driven town. Washington is often seen by outsiders as slow and inefficient. But these days, our nation’s capital is awash with a new energy, transforming itself into an exciting, faster-paced East Coast vacation destination. Although the government is still the sun around which this city orbits, the District also offers a host of renowned museums and interesting neighborhoods. And with a recent explosion of restaurants, cafes, boutiques and clubs, D.C. is transitioning into a thriving cultural hub.
You can choose a traditional D.C. adventure, filled with tours of classic attractions like the White House and the Washington Monument, the U.S. Capitol and the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. But if you’ve already seen the national landmarks, get a feel for the city’s more youthful ambiance, highlighted by its urban neighborhoods, marquee art galleries and vibrant farmers markets. While you’ll only need a few days to see the city as you know it from your history book, it could take months to experience the Washington that today’s locals know and love.
Washington DC Tourism Site: