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Family vacations create precious lasting memories but choosing where to go isn’t always easy. Ideally, the ultimate family vacation destination includes activities and points of interest for all ages to enjoy. From coast to coast, there are several family-friendly cities to visit in the US that offer unique experiences, stunning sights, and loads of laughs and fun. Whether you’re planning a multi-generational trip or a vacation with just the kids, these cities should be on your destination shortlist.

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Family-Friendly Cities for Vacation in the US

Orlando, Florida

Orlando is considered the theme park capital of the world for good reason: it’s home to Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando, among others. Families can immerse themselves in their favorite characters’ worlds in both parks while enjoying thrilling rides and meeting friendly faces along the way. Accommodations around Orlando, whether onsite at one of the theme parks or around the city, cater to families. Most have amenities like a kids’ club, swimming pool, and game room to keep kids entertained while parents have a little bit of time to relax and unwind. With Florida’s year-round warm temperatures, Orlando is a fantastic destination during all months.

Gatlinburg, Tennessee

Gatlinburg is nestled at the foot of the gorgeous Great Smoky Mountains National Park, making it perfect for families looking for an outdoor adventure. The park has world-class scenic hiking trails, whitewater rafting, and animal watching. Black bears are abundant, so don’t be surprised if you catch a glimpse of one while visiting. Aside from natural beauty, Gatlinburg offers an array of attractions, including Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies, the Moonshine Mountain Coaster, and many arcades, go-kart racing, and mini golf spots. Make sure to stop by Gatlinburg’s Parkway to check out local boutique shops for local treats and handcrafted souvenirs.

San Diego, California

Sunny San Diego is a paradise for families looking for a beachfront getaway on the West Coast. Of the many beaches to visit, La Jolla Cove is a must-see. This beach is part of a protected marine reserve, so it’s ideal for swimming, surfing, and snorkeling. It’s also a prime spot to see California sea lions resting on the bluffs. For more animal sightings, head over to the San Diego Zoo. It’s the most visited zoo in the US and one of the top zoo systems in the world. Guests can see more than 4,000 animals here. Guided tours and animal encounters are also available. For a more laid-back day, pay a visit to Old Town. Old Town San Diego is the site of the first European settlement in California, making it the oldest settled area in the state. It’s filled with historic sites and great shopping and dining options. The region also holds special festivities for holidays like Day of the Dead and Cinco de Mayo.

Outer Banks, North Carolina

The Outer Banks is a strip of barrier islands in the Atlantic Ocean. While there are several towns in the Outer Banks, the area is considered a collective destination. No matter where your family stays here, chances are high that you’ll be very close to a beach, if not right on it. Swimming, bodysurfing, kayaking, and dolphin watching will keep the family busy for hours during the day. At night, try your hand at ghost crab hunting. Corolla, located in the Upper Outer Banks, offers some of the best attractions in the area. Get up close and personal with Corolla’s famous wild horses on the beach or spend an afternoon teetering above on jungle gym sky courses and ziplines at Corolla Adventure Park.

Washington, D.C.

If your family loves history, Washington, D.C. is the perfect destination. It’s also a budget-friendly city since there’s so much to do and see for free or low cost, especially for kids. Most of the iconic landmarks and Smithsonian museums are free for guests of all ages, including the popular Museum of Natural History and Museum of American History. Though you’ll need to purchase tickets for it, the International Spy Museum is a huge hit with families with children, as kids can sign up to join in on top-secret missions and test the spy skills they learned about in the museum. If you visit in the summer, be sure to stop by Yards Park to cool off. This award-winning waterfront has dancing waterfalls and a canal basin in addition to a dog run, boardwalk, and overlook patio.

San Antonio, Texas

San Antonio might not be the first place that comes to mind when you think of family-friendly cities for vacation. However, it has everything from thrilling theme parks to historical landmarks to relaxing riverside attractions. The city’s River Walk may seem adult with its many shops and restaurants, but it does have a lot of kid-friendly experiences. Scenic boat tours along the San Antonio River are a big hit with families of all ages. San Antonio is also home to the Alamo, where families can learn about this historical battlefront and the city’s roots.

Natural Bridge Caverns takes visitors back to simpler times, as families can mine and pan for gems and fossils following guided excursions through this cave system. If modern thrills are more your thing, Six Flags Fiesta Texas delivers them in a big way. If your family is looking for a theme park that caters to people of all abilities, Morgan’s Wonderland in San Antonio fits the bill. This amusement park is the world’s first designed with ultra-accessibility in mind, ensuring everyone has an incredible experience.

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