When traveling as a family, there are a lot of factors to consider. Attractions for kids of different ages and budget are usually the top concerns, and many families look for destinations that are within driving distance to save both time and money. Keeping all of these “asks” in mind, here’s a list of late-summer destinations across the country that will put a smile on everyone’s faces—without breaking the bank.
The plethora of theme parks in central Florida make this a no-brainer for a family vacation, but flights, hotels and tickets to the attractions can cost a pretty penny. Fortunately, there are several ways to save without sacrificing fun. The number-one way to stick to a budget is to stay at a hotel that is not affiliated with a theme park. Orlando is also overflowing with Airbnb options, so you can enjoy the comforts of home and save even more by making a grocery-store run and preparing your own meals. You can also look for travel package deals that include airfare, lodging and park admittance. With ride-share services like Uber and Lyft, there’s no need to rent a car—and this also helps you avoid daily parking fees.
Myrtle Beach (South Carolina)
This coastal destination may be well-known for its golf, but there’s plenty to keep kids and the entire family busy. Although the beaches are likely to be the main attraction, Myrtle Beach is also home to Ripley’s Aquarium, the popular Broadway at the Beach entertainment complex, amusement parks, mini-golf, family-friendly summer activities and plenty of affordable beachfront accommodations.
San Antonio (Texas)
As the saying goes, “Everything is bigger in Texas,” and this includes family vacation fun. San Antonio is a culturally-rich city, and the famous River Walk is the perfect place to stroll along the river, dine at kid-friendly restaurants and enjoy live entertainment. You can also squeeze in a little education by visiting the historic Alamo or taking in the interactive exhibits at the Witte Museum before cooling off at the Schlitterbahn Waterpark.
Great Smoky Mountains (Tennessee/North Carolina)
In addition to nature at its finest (and its East Coast proximity), Great Smoky National Park offers an endless array of activities that will delight kids and adults of all ages. Easy hiking trails, horseback rides, fishing, searching for waterfalls and the opportunity to earn a Rocky Mountain Junior Badge are just a few activities to add to your itinerary.
The best places to stay when exploring the Great Smoky Mountains are Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, Sevierville, Wears Valley and Townsend in Tennessee, along with Cherokee in North Carolina.
Fact: Many of the top family-friendly tourist destinations in our nation’s capital, including the Smithsonian Museum and National Zoo, are free to visit. Same goes for the National Mall, which is home to the Lincoln Memorial and Washington Monument. Downtown hotels can be on the pricy side, but Alexandria, Virginia offers a more affordable home base that’s only about 20 minutes away. If an amusement park is key for a memorable family vacation, King’s Dominion 80 miles south makes for a great day trip.
Wisconsin Dells (Wisconsin)
Actually known as the “waterpark capital of the world,” there’s no shortage of kid-centric activities at this Midwest destination. You can also zip through the trees, hit the water in a kayak or canoe, take scenic tours, get up-close and personal with animals (including giraffes, zebras and kangaroos at Timbavati Wildlife Park) and visit a bevy of amusement parks. The Tommy Bartlett Exploratory offers an array of interactive exhibits and the Original Wisconsin Duck tour is not to be missed for an adventure that spans water and land.
Known for its laid-back vibe and plenty of outdoor spaces, Portland offers both a city- and nature-based full-family experience. The Oregon Museum of Science and Industry, Oregon Zoo and Portland Children’s Museum provide hours of educational entertainment, while the International Rose Test Garden and Forest Park allow everyone to appreciate the beauty of nature. For thrills and family-friendly fun, the Oaks Amusement Park has been can’t-miss Portland attraction since 1905.
New Orleans (Louisiana)
Yes, New Orleans can be a family-friendly destination that offers a unique blend of culture, music and history. To experience this vibrant city, take a stroll through the French Quarter (during the day), sample Creole and Cajun cuisine and enjoy live music at virtually every turn. Attractions such as the Audubon Zoo and the Louisiana Children’s Museum are also wonderfully entertaining ways to spend your days. Late summer is actually off-peak season in New Orleans, which makes flights and hotels all the more affordable.
Wherever your late-summer travels may take you, remember that Park ‘N Fly has you covered if parking at the airport is part of your plan. Reserve a spot in advance and let us get you to the terminal quickly for a stress-free start to your trip—and our wallet-friendly pricing leaves you with a bigger budget for family-vacation fun!