10 Must-Visit Family Travel Destinations That Won't Break the Bank
Ready for some fun in the sun? We've been ready since last summer, and we're already gearing up for our next family trip. The perfect family travel destination looks a lot different than the perfect destination for couples or solo travelers. With a larger group in tow, including a mixture of ages, the ideal spot has activities for all, great food for every palate (even the picky ones) and prices that won't break the bank.
Family Destinations Guide analyzed the most popular cities in the U.S. for family travel and designed a 10-point scale to rank the outcome. Mileage may vary depending on personal preference, but it's hard to go wrong with any of these fantastic, family-friendly destinations.
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10. Tulsa, Oklahoma
Family attractions (per 100,000 people): 7.15
Restaurants (per 100,000 people): 221.26
Final score: 4.65
Tulsa probably isn't the first place that crosses your mind when you think of a family travel destination, but there's a lot to appreciate about it. The Gathering Place is one of the coolest parks we've ever been to. It covers over 100 acres, featuring playgrounds throughout, and visitors can see the entire city skyline from the swing set.
Next, stop at the Philbrook Museum of Art or the Tulsa Air and Space Museum. There's also an award-winning zoo, plus breathtaking trails through the Keystone Ancient Forest.
*All stats are drawn from a 2023 report released by Family Destinations Guide.
9. Mesa, Arizona
Family attractions (per 100,000 people): 5.15
Restaurants (per 100,000 people): 322.43
Final score: 4.81
Who wouldn't want to surf in a pool? The Rhodes Aquatic Center offers a surf machine for kids to try out, and admission is way, way cheaper than at most Flow Rider locations. Boogie boarding is also acceptable for more tentative riders.
Since Mesa is hot almost all year round, families can also opt to float down the Salta River on an inner tube. In spring, you can also watch an MLB spring training game at Sloan Park.
8. Seattle, Washington
Family attractions (per 100,000 people): 18.05
Restaurants (per 100,000 people): 345.44
Final score: 4.92
A trip to the Emerald City wouldn't be complete without stopping at the Space Needle. The trip to the top is overpriced, but you have to see it at least. It's right by the Seattle Children's Museum, which features gorgeous art exhibits and 18,000 square feet of play space.
There's also the Museum of Pop Culture and the Pacific Science Center, along with about a million other museums. Have lunch at Pike Place Market before you take a ride on one of the Washington State Ferries, which have appeared countless times in episodes of "Grey's Anatomy."
7. Portland, Oregon
Family attractions (per 100,000 people): 12.03
Restaurants (per 100,000 people): 406.61
Final score: 5.31
The Oregon Zoo is undoubtedly the first stop on any Portland family vacation, with over 1,000 animals to see in ethical, species-centric exhibits. For the youngest travelers, the Portland Children's Museum is always a hit. At lunchtime, grab takeout at one of the countless eclectic eateries downtown, and head to Keller Fountain Park for a picnic. The kids can splash while you plan your next stop.
Our suggestion? Pick up a sweet treat at Voodoo Doughnut in Old Town and then meander through Powell's Books.
6. Washington D.C.
Family attractions (per 100,000 people): 21.79
Restaurants (per 100,000 people): 260.65
Final score: 5.36
You know about the White House, obviously, but there's so much more to do with kids in the D.C. area. A stop at the Smithsonian's National Zoo is a must, along with the United States Botanic Garden.
The littles can blow off some steam at the Beauvoir Outdoors Playground whenever school is out, and Yards Park offers kayaking, dancing fountains, a splash pad, a wading pool and outdoor movie screenings all summer long.
5. Atlanta, Georgia
Family attractions (per 100,000 people): 12.82
Restaurants (per 100,000 people): 497.96
Final score: 5.84
Atlanta is totally underrated as a family vacation destination. It easily makes our top five thanks to amazing attractions like the massive Georgia Aquarium, Zoo Atlanta and the Atlanta Botanical Garden.
Cool off at the World of Coca-Cola, an interactive museum that offers samples of over 100 different beverages while museum-goers get a behind-the-scenes look at the history of America's most popular soft drink. If you want to get in a workout, rent a bike for an art-lined ride along the sprawling Atlanta Beltline.
4. Tucson, Arizona
Family attractions (per 100,000 people): 12.37
Restaurants (per 100,000 people): 259.74
Final score: 5.92
If your first criterion for a family vacation destination is sun, head to Tucson. First, take a hike or bike ride through the picturesque Sabino Canyon.
Stop by the Arizona-Senora Desert Museum to see local artwork and cultural history, followed by a picnic at Saguaro National Park. Just don't lay the blanket out on a cactus! The Mini Time Machine Museum is a family favorite, too.
3. San Francisco, California
Family attractions (per 100,000 people): 22.02
Restaurants (per 100,000 people): 412.25
Final score: 6.19
San Francisco gets a bad rap for being expensive, but what childhood is complete without seeing the Golden Gate Bridge? There's also amazing seafood, an Exploratorium with over 650 interactive exhibits, the Walt Disney Family Museum and water taxis that guide visitors around Alcatraz island.
Don't forget to take a ride on one of the city's historic streetcars or stroll along Fisherman's Wharf, where eating a bowl of clam chowder is a must.
2. Las Vegas, Nevada
Family attractions (per 100,000 people): 29.87
Restaurants (per 100,000 people): 582.54
Final score: 8.25
Vegas might not sound like the obvious choice for a family vacation, but it should be. There's way more to see there than just casinos.
Family-friendly arcades, amusement park rides, concerts and shows are all way cheaper than in other major cities. You can even try indoor skydiving and zipline over Fremont Street.
1. Miami, Florida
Family attractions (per 100,000 people): 31.2
Restaurants (per 100,000 people): 680.54
Final score: 8.36
If beach life is your thing, Miami is hard to beat. The downtown area is busy with tourists in summer, but with so many amazing restaurants to try and endless warm, sandy beaches, does it matter?
Try out snorkeling or scuba diving, visit the Everglades and stop by the iconic Miami Tower before you leave.