The 12 Best Summer Vacation Destinations For Families In The U.S. 2024

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Lindsay Cohn, Contributor

Forbes Vetted

With children free from the grind of schoolwork and extracurricular commitments, summertime is the perfect opportunity for a family getaway. Long, sunny days and warm weather in most of the United States make it a great time to explore different parts of the country, and a diverse landscape means there’s a destination for every type of interest. The best summer vacation destinations for families in the U.S. are sure to create core memories that will last a lifetime.

Fans of gorgeous alpine scenery should consider Park City and Aspen, while crews who crave outdoor adventure will love the adventurous spirit of the Outer Banks. Set your sights on Cape Cod or venture down to South Padre Island for sandy beaches, or head to Chicago for a city break that includes plenty of educational activities and seasonal events. Below, our picks for the best summer vacation destinations for families in the U.S. in 2024—and where to stay in each one.

Where To Stay In The Best Summer Vacation Spots For Families In The U.S.:

Santa Monica

Santa Monica Pier on the background of an orange sunset, calm ocean waves, Los Angeles, California


Santa Monica, California

Who Will Love It: Sun lovers; beachgoers; active families

All-Star Attractions: Santa Monica Pier; Santa Monica State Beach; Cayton Children’s Museum

What Not To Miss: Riding the world’s first solar-powered Ferris wheel

Where To Stay: Fairmont Miramar Hotel & Bungalows; Oceana Santa Monica, LXR Hotels & Resorts; Shutters On The Beach

Picture-perfect weather, beaches and nostalgic activities make Santa Monica the ideal seaside destination for families. This sun-kissed Southern California city offers miles of wide, sandy beaches lapped by the waters of the Pacific Ocean. The Marvin Braude Bike Path, also known as the Stand, runs 22 miles from Rogers Park to Torrance Beach—and it’s not just for bikes. The paved pathway welcomes walkers, runners, rollerbladers, teetering tots and parents pushing strollers. Pull off for a pitstop at North Beach Playground for slides and climbing apparatus. The epicenter of family fun, the Santa Monica Pier has an iconic Ferris Wheel and confession stands selling classic treats.

Where To Stay:

Fairmont Miramar Hotel & Bungalows: This urban resort feels like a family retreat with a swimming pool that’s always full of smiling kiddos and parents, grassy lawns for youngsters to play and spacious bungalows that sleep up to eight people. In the summer, there’s also a poolside cinema.

Shutters On The Beach: A well-heeled coastal retreat right on the sand, this Santa Monica stalwart has breezy rooms, an ocean-facing pool and kid-friendly dining at Coast. Complimentary oceanfront yoga promises to help parents relax. Buckets and shovels for little ones are a nice touch, too.

Oceana Santa Monica, LXR Hotels & Resorts: For a private beachhouse-but-better atmosphere, look no further than Oceana Santa Monica. Luxury-loving families will fall hard for the generously sized suites equipped with Frette linens, Bottega Veneta toiletries and close vicinity to the Pacific Ocean. The doting staff makes guests of all ages feel like VIPs.


Sunrise hits snow dusted peaks of Maroon Bells while being reflected in lake below, along with Aspen trees in their full fall foliage display of golden colors.


Aspen, Colorado

Who Will Love It: Outdoorsy families who don’t mind a little altitude; luxury lovers

All-Star Attractions: Maroon Bells; Aspen Mountain; Independence Pass

What Not To Miss: A scenic gondola trip to the top of Aspen Mountain

Where To Stay: Aspen Meadows Resort; The St. Regis Aspen Resort; The Little Nell

Nestled in Colorado’s Rocky Mountains, Aspen sets the gold standard for outdoorsy family vacations with stunning, tree-laced alpine scenery and recreation for all ages and abilities. The scenic paved walking paths of the Rio Grande Trail are great for strollers and tots, and nearby, John Denver Sanctuary is a nice place to stop for a picnic. The whole family can enjoy the easy walk around the pond at the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies, and when parents want to indulge in a spa treatment or do a date night at a fabulous restaurants, it’s a cinch to book a babysitter through Aspen Nannies.

Where To Stay:

Aspen Meadows Resort: A short drive from downtown, this 40-acre property is a family-friendly goldmine with an outdoor lap pool, tennis, pickleball and several hiking trails right on site. Suites feature kitchenettes, sleeper sofas and room service that starts at 7 a.m.

The St. Regis Aspen Resort: The St. Regis feels very much like a resort with amenities like a world-class spa and complimentary s’mores by the fire pits, but it offers the added benefit of a downtown location that’s steps from shops, and restaurants (though, you can’t go wrong with the on-site dining options), and parks.

The Little Nell: The Little Nell is a luxurious respite for parents and offspring. The peaceful rooms and suites encourage even overtired tots to snooze. Chowing down on truffle fries and burgers just feet from the gondola on the patio of Ajax Tavern is a highlight for families.

Acadia National Park

View from the rugged cliff rocks to Bass Harbor Head Light. The lighthouse was built in 1858 and is located on the coast of the US state of Maine within Acadia National Park in Mount Desert Island.


Acadia National Park, Maine

Who Will Love It: Nature lovers; birders

All-Star Attractions: Park Loop Road; Jordan Pond; Sand Beach

What Not To Miss: Visiting Thunder Hole

Where To Stay: Under Canvas Acadia; Terramor Outdoor Resort; Salisbury Woods Cabin

July and August top the list of the best months to visit Acadia National Park due to the warmer weather (daytime temperatures average between 55 and 75 degrees). Though the lakes and ocean remain too chilly to swim comfortably, it’s still prime time for waterfront fun with kayaking tours, whale-watching cruises, excellent fishing, coastal hiking trails, tidal pools and mountain-ringed beaches awaiting families. Fledgling birdwatchers should keep an eye out for bald eagles, loons, peregrines and cormorants. In the summer, visitors have the option of staying at campgrounds inside the park (just be sure to book in advance) or nearby glamping resorts.

Where To Stay:

Under Canvas Acadia: Open early May through late October, Under Canvas Acadia attracts crews who want to be immersed in nature without giving up creature comforts. Adjacent tent setups with private bathrooms, woodburning stoves, panels for viewing the cosmos from bed and decks that are tailor-made for families.

Terramor Outdoor Resort: Just minutes from the entrance to Acadia National Park, Terramor makes it easy for kids and parents to enjoy the great outdoors with five different tent types, including one with bunk beds. Pancake breakfasts, a swimming pool and stargazing round out the family fun.

Salisbury Woods Cabin: For a getaway that’s equal parts cozy and convenient, this contemporary cabin comes with two bedrooms, a full kitchen, a spiffy bathroom and an RV pad with hookups. Guests also have access to the grounds, including a barbecue and fire pit.


Chicago Riverwalk and Skyscrapers


Chicago, Illinois

Who Will Love It: Urbanites; foodies; curious kids (and parents) of all ages

All-Star Attractions: Lincoln Park Zoo; Navy Pier; Shedd Aquarium

What Not To Miss: Igniting imagination (and burning off some energy) at Maggie Daley Park’s Play Garden

Where To Stay: Four Seasons Hotel Chicago; The Langham, Chicago; The Ritz-Carlton, Chicago

Chicago is one of the best family-friendly city breaks in the country, and summer weather makes it even better. In June, July and August, the Windy City comes alive with seasonal events and outdoor attractions. Bring little ones to the play garden in Maggie Daley Park and watch their imagination soar on the life-sized ship, mini-lighthouse and animal-themed watering hole. Keep older kids off their devices with trips to the Lincoln Park Zoo and the Centennial Wheel. Don’t forget to pose for some family photos in front of The Bean in Millennium Park. On the off chance that the weather doesn’t cooperate, head to the Chicago Children’s Museum or hit the Shedd Aquarium.

Where To Stay:

Four Seasons Hotel Chicago: Plush and full of family-oriented perks, the luxurious Four Seasons welcomes young guests with Sammy the Skyscraper activity books at check-in, an on-call ice cream cart, weekly movie nights and a dedicated kids playroom on the 32nd floor.

The Langham, Chicago: Eliminate the “I don’t want to go back to the hotel” complaints by reserving a room stocked with teddy bears, mini robes, tents and backpacks at The Langham. For a fun family night, book a private movie screening in the property’s cinema suite, complete with popcorn and sweet treats.

The Ritz-Carlton, Chicago: Children lucky enough to call The Ritz-Carlton home for a few days while visiting Chicago will love the mini bathrobes and Ritz Kids program, while parents will appreciate the well-designed rooms and suites sized to keep sibling rivalry at bay.

Cape Cod

Aerial shot of Hyannis, the “Capital” of Cape Cod on a Fall evening. Authorization was obtained from the FAA for this operation in restricted airspace.


Cape Cod, Massachusetts

Who Will Love It: Nostalgia chasers; beachgoers; New Englanders

All-Star Attractions: Cape Cod Rail Trail; Wellfleet Drive-In; Cape Cod National Seashore

What Not To Miss: Bayside beach hopping

Where To Stay: Chatham Bars Inn; Wequassett Resort & Golf Club; Cottage In Dennis

An iconic American summer destination, Cape Cod conjures images of the Kennedys frolicking at their Hyannis compound. It’s hard to oversell the charm of little towns with classic New England architecture, lighthouses, casual seafood joints, ice cream shops for sundaes that fulfill childhood dreams and stores to buy souvenir keepsakes. This hook-shaped peninsula also offers some of the best beaches in the country—including family-friendly Mayflower Beach and Skaket Beach, two bayside gems with tidal flats, clean restrooms, showers and concession stands.

Where To Stay:

Chatham Bars Inn: This timeless oceanfront resort has all the hallmarks of a classic Cape Cod summer getaway. Family-friendly perks include a private sandy beach, kiddie pool, tennis clinics, seasonal kids programming, clambakes and an on-site dock with a fleet of boats for excursions such as whale watching and sailing.

Wequassett Resort & Golf Club: This 27-acre retreat provides heaps for families to do, from hitting the tennis courts to swimming in the outdoor heated pools. The children’s center hosts day and evening programming to give parents a break—and, of course, kids will have a blast doing crafts and playing on the nautical-themed pirate ship playground.

West Dennis Cottage: When you want a little privacy, this shingled cottage in Dennis delivers quiet living and sleeping spaces and a washer/dryer (tiny people amass a lot of dirty clothes). It’s a short walk to South Village Beach and even has a fire pit for low-key nights with the family.

Jackson Hole

Early morning magenta light illuminates clouds and the Moulton Barn on Mormon Row at the foot of the Grand Tetons near Jackson, Wyoming, USA.


Jackson Hole, Wyoming

Who Will Love It: Outdoor adventurers; wildlife peepers; thrill seekers

All-Star Attractions: Snow King Mountain; Grand Teton National Park; Jackson Hole Mountain Resort Aerial Tram

What Not To Miss: Soaking in cowboy culture at the Jackson Hole Rodeo (Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day)

Where To Stay: Four Seasons Resort And Residences Jackson Hole; The Cloudveil, Autograph Collection; The Virginian Lodge

Jackson Hole stands out as a four-season destination for outdoor adventure, high-flying thrills and wildlife peeping. Kids as young as three years old can bounce on the bungee trampoline at Snow King Mountain, and there’s no age minimum for sparking some friendly competition at the 18-hole mini golf course or learning about constellations at the planetarium. It’s a doable drive (yes, even with fidgety youngsters) to Grand Teton National Park and Yellowstone National Park for hiking and spotting animals in the wild. And of course, no trip to this western-tinged Wyoming town would be complete without saying “cheese” in front of the antler arch at Town Square.

Where To Stay:

Four Seasons Resort And Residences Jackson Hole: The Four Seasons goes above and beyond for families with children’s amenities such as baby-proofing, high chairs, cribs, rollaway beds and bottle warmers at no extra charge, plus babysitting services for an additional fee, summer horseback-riding camps and sprawling multi-bedroom residences.

The Cloudveil, Autograph Collection: This boutique hotel in the heart of Jackson supplies upscale accommodations and easy access to the outdoors. Outdoor-savvy concierges take the stress out of planning excursions to nearby parks, eco-tours and chef-prepared picnics. The property is also very dog-friendly, so it’s great for furry family members, too.

The Virginian Lodge: This Western-fringed modern motor lodge is the ideal launchpad for outdoor adventure. After days full of hiking and biking, families can swim in the year-round heated pool, roast marshmallows by the fire pit and cozy up in retro-chic rooms outfitted with Pendleton wool blankets.

Lake Tahoe

Aerial View of Lake Tahoe Mountains and Turquoise Blue Water, California, USA


Lake Tahoe, Nevada

Who Will Love It: Water sports enthusiasts; beachgoers

All-Star Attractions: East Shore Trail; Sand Harbor; Secret Cove Beach

What Not To Miss: A daytime cruise on the M.S. Dixie II

Where To Stay: Edgewood Tahoe Resort; Hyatt Vacation Club At High Sierra Lodge; Zephyr Cove Resort

The jewel of the Sierra Nevada and the highest alpine lake in the United States, Lake Tahoe is a beloved family-friendly destination that straddles the border of California and Nevada. The best way to experience lake life here is to get out on the water, whether that’s by renting a speed boat, doing a kayaking tour or traveling back in time on a a paddle-wheeler like the MS Dixie II. If trekking to the top of a mountain with tykes doesn’t seem feasible, rest assured you don’t have to sacrifice vistas by sticking to a lower elevation. Push the stroller along the 3.3-mile Tahoe East Shore Trail for beautiful views and beach pit stops.

Where To Stay:

Edgewood Tahoe Resort: Summer vacationers love Tahoe’s only lakefront golf resort because of its championship course, swimming pool and sunset movies on the lawn. The new villas range from two to five bedrooms, so you can bring the entire extended family.

Zephyr Cove Resort: Nothing brings families together quite like singing songs, swapping stories and grilling hotdogs before slumbering in a tent under the stars. Not into the whole sleeping on the ground thing? This resort also offers cozy cabins, lodge rooms and an RV park.

Incline Village Condo: Featuring three bedrooms (one with kid-approved bunk beds), a full kitchen and an outdoor fire pit, this well-equipped condo in Incline Village sleeps eight comfortably—which means extending an invite to your cousins.

Park City

Park City is a city in Summit County, Utah, United States. Park City Ski Resort and Canyons resorts merged creating the largest ski area in the U.S.


Park City, Utah

Who Will Love It: Alpine adventurers; history buffs; foodies

All-Star Attractions: Park City Mountain Resort; Main Steet; Utah Olympic Park

What Not To Miss: Mornings at the Park Silly Sunday Market

Where To Stay: Montage Deer Valley; Pendry Park City; Stein Eriksen Lodge Deer Valley

A silver mining hub turned favored winter resort that’s absolutely fantastic for families in the summer, Park City is a great place for hiking with toddlers, teens and everyone in between thanks to easy trails around town and more challenging routes up in Deer Valley and beyond. Downtown has lots of stores to stock up on souvenir tee-shirts, outdoor gear and cowboy boots, plus a tasty ice cream shop, kid-friendly restaurants, the Park City Museum and the iconic chairlift. The Park Silly Sunday Market brings together craft and food vendors, live music, face painting and even a kid-sized rock climbing wall. There are also many excellent parks and playgrounds in the area.

Where To Stay:

Montage Deer Valley: This luxurious Deer Valley resort offers families miles of hiking trails, indoor and outdoor pools, an on-site bowling alley, in-room “camping” amenities and the Paintbox children’s program. Kiddos can also collect the Montage merit badges. The property’s UPPAbaby rental program means you don’t have to pack a stroller.

Pendry Park City: This contemporary slopeside resort in Canyons Village starts the family fun upon arrival with stuffed animals up for grabs at check-in. Add to that an awesome kids club as well as two-bedroom residences with bunk rooms that are guaranteed to earn parents extra cool points.

Stein Eriksen Lodge: A high point for families staying at Stein Eriksen Lodge is the 3,500-square-foot entertainment area with pinball, video games and billiards. The enormous luxury suites with five bedrooms, full kitchens, living and dining areas and patios could easily be mistaken for private home rentals.

Outer Banks

The coast of North Carolina’s Corolla Beach in the Outer Banks


Outer Banks, North Carolina

Who Will Love It: Active families; water sports enthusiasts; history buffs; wildlife lovers

All-Star Attractions: North Carolina Aquarium; Roanoke Island Festival Park; Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge Wright

What Not To Miss: Climbing to the top of the largest dune on the East Coast at Jockey’s Ridge State Park

Where To Stay: Sanderling Resort; Home In Nags Head; Dune Haus

Families with kids who need constant action and outdoor thrills should consider the Outer Banks. A vacation to this chain of barrier islands off the coast of North Carolina is packed with opportunities for windsurfing, paddleboarding, kiteboarding and fishing. Youngsters with an interest in pirate lore will definitely want to visit the site where Blackbeard fought his last battle at Ocracoke, while teens can go snorkeling or scuba diving around the thousands of shipwrecks (hence the destination’s nickname, “the graveyard of the Atlantic”). Extend the screen-free hours with educational trips to the Wright Brothers National Memorial and the North Carolina Aquarium.

Where To Stay:

Sanderling Resort: Tucked between the Atlantic Ocean and Currituck Sound, Sanderling Resort gives guests of all ages a taste of the Outer Banks. The zero-entry pool is a toddler favorite, while teens will favor the beach and off-site excursions organized by the adventure-versed concierges.

Home In Nags Head: Much of the fun of an Outer Banks vacation is everyone bunking up in a big house after an action-packed day. This remodeled beach house in Nags Head fits the bill with a living room with board games and toys, a swimming pool and a gas grill.

Dune Haus: This coastal cottage rental bills itself as an “oceanfront Outer Banks paradise.” With four bedrooms, a light-filled living room, a hot tub, a cargo lift to haul groceries and luggage, and private beach access, that seems like a very fitting title.

Hilton Head Island

Hilton Head, South Carolina, lighthouse at dusk.


Hilton Head Island, South Carolina

Who Will Love It: Beachgoers; wildlife lovers; foodies

All-Star Attractions: Pinckney Island National Wildlife Refuge; Coastal Discovery Museum; The Sandbox Children’s Museum

What Not To Miss: Dolphin-watching tours aboard Zodiac rafts

Where To Stay: Hilton Grand Vacations Club Ocean Oak Resort Hilton Head; The Inn & Club At Harbour Town, Sea Pines Resort; Harbour Town Sea Pines Condo

For a sun-and-sand getaway, look no further than Hilton Head Island. This fan-favorite summer destination offers beautiful Atlantic Ocean beaches, golf courses, great food and wildlife viewing galore. Families can look forward to catching rays on the white-sand shores and witnessing local wildlife. The Pinckney Island National Wildlife Refuge is home to wading birds, raptors and white-tailed deer, and you might even spy alligators sunning on the banks of the lagoons. Pirate cruises and dolphin-watching tours aboard Zodiac rafts are sure to become core memories, while even picky palates won’t be able to resist a real-deal Lowcountry boil.

Where To Stay:

Hilton Grand Vacations Club Ocean Oak Resort Hilton Head: A 10-minute walk from Coligny Beach Park, the Hilton Grand Vacation Club gives families access to suites the size of apartments, an oceanfront pool and bar and a picnic area with charcoal grills for cooking up crowd-pleasing burgers.

The Inn & Club At Harbour Town, Sea Pines Resort: At the top-rated luxury hotel on Hilton Head Island, guests can expect elegantly furnished accommodations that are still child-friendly, seasonal beach concierge service at the Sea Pines Beach Club and a first-class golf course.

Harbour Town Sea Pines Condo: Because this villa doesn’t share any walls with neighbors, it’s a super quiet and private pick for families. The view overlooking a lagoon with fountains lends extra tranquility to the overnight experience—perhaps enough to inspire kiddos to sleep through the night.

South Padre Island

Sunrise at Isla Blanca Park, South Padre Island Texas USA


South Padre Island, Texas

Who Will Love It: Beachgoers; water sports enthusiasts; wildlife peepers

All-Star Attractions: Sea Turtle, Inc.; South Padre Island Birding and Nature Center; Laguna Madre Nature Trail

What Not To Miss: Marveling at the largest outdoor sandcastle in the United States

Where To Stay: Best Western Beachside Inn; Coastal Shores Condo; Beachfront Condo

Keen to trade screen time for beautiful beaches, watersports and nature-based attractions? South Padre Island, a Texas resort town on the 34-mile barrier island that shares its name, packs a punch in terms of family-friendly activities. Summer is the best time to experience the calm waters, white sands and boogie boarding at South Padre Island Beach. Animal lovers won’t want to miss Sea Turtle, Inc., South Padre Island Birding and Nature Center, as well as the Laguna Madre Nature Trail. After days full of sun, sea and seeing local wildlife, toss on a tee-shirt and grab something to eat at one of the easygoing local restaurants.

Where To Stay:

Best Western Beachside Inn: It’s easy to understand why families gravitate toward the Best Western Beachside Inn. The rooms are clean and comfortable. With rates starting at $100 per night, it’s an excellent value, and you can’t beat the location right by seafood favorite Blackbeards’.

Coastal Shores Condo: This beachy boho ground floor unit comes with a lot of family-friendly amenities—including a newly renovated kitchen with all new appliances, a huge balcony to soak up the views with kiddos nap, two parking passes and a shared pool with loungers and umbrellas.

Beachfront Condo: This condo gives guests two bedrooms and a queen sleeper sofa, so there’s plenty of room for everyone to snooze. Access to a playground, outdoor pool, and tennis and basketball courts is an awesome bonus.


MYSTIC, CT – DECEMBER 17: cute buildings and shops downtown Mystic, on December 17, 2017 in Mystic, CT USA


Mystic, Connecticut

Who Will Love It: History buffs; foodies; budding marine biologists

All-Star Attractions: Mystic Aquarium; Mystic Seaport Museum; Downtown Mystic

What Not To Miss: Seeing beluga whales at the Mystic Aquarium

Where To Stay: The Whaler’s Inn; Hyatt Place Mystic; Downtown Mystic Apartment

The 19th-century whaling village of Mystic has evolved into a coastal New England tourism darling that’s become increasingly popular with families. You could (and should) block an entire day to learn about maritime history at the Mystic Seaport Museum, while kids and parents alike will be mesmerized by the giant beluga whales, sea lions and other fascinating underwater creatures at the Mystic Aquarium. Beautiful summer weather calls for paddle boarding, kayaking and boat rides. Be sure to carve out some time to stroll around the lively downtown, snap frame-worthy photos on the drawbridge and grab a pie at Nana’s Bakery & Pizza.

Where To Stay:

The Whaler’s Inn: Featuring stylish rooms and suites spread across five adjacent buildings, a kid-approved on-site restaurant that serves farm-to-fork fare and a convenient location near all the must-see sights, The Whaler’s Inn is by far the best choice for families in downtown.

Hyatt Place Mystic: Clean rooms, an outdoor swimming pool and a location near the Mystic Aquarium make the Hyatt Place a great option for families looking to explore. Even with the uptick of travelers in the peak of summer, rates remain reasonable.

Downtown Mystic Apartment: For families who like to be in the middle of the action, this light-filled downtown apartment satisfies. It’s right by the iconic draw bridge and has three bedrooms, a full kitchen and use of a backyard with a patio and barbecue.

About Lindsay Cohn, Your U.S. Family Summer Vacations Guide

I’m a travel journalist with over a decade of professional experience writing, editing, and jet-setting. My passion for seeing the world has taken me to 46 countries across six continents—and counting. Whether I’m exploring somewhere new or returning to a familiar favorites, I’m always vetting the best boutique hotels, wine bars and juice shops. When I’m not writing, you can find me doing yoga, hanging with my son and planning a trip to one of the destinations on my ever-growing bucket list. In addition to Forbes Vetted, my work has appeared on Travel + Leisure, Condé Nast Traveler, InsideHook, The Zoe Report, Hotels Above Par, Tripadvisor, PureWow, ELLE Decor and more.

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