Where to go for the best summer family vacations

Looking for ideas for a summer beach vacation? How about family summer vacation ideas on a budget? This guide will help you locate happening mountain towns, buzzing coastal cities, and everything between. There’s a little something for all here, whether you prefer pastel-painted bungalows with salty sea breezes and or lakeside lodges with timber decks and boat docks. The best summer family vacations await.

Sunny San Diego

With everything from kid-friendly zoos and action-packed parks to boat rides out on the harbor, San Diego is perfect for summer family vacations. The So Cal vibes are strong at the surfer beaches dotting the coastline and taco shacks delving out spicy flavors, but downtown brims with museums and cultural venues, too. Grab a modern condo or historic guesthouse suite near the Gaslamp Quarter for easy access to central attractions or head north toward Mission Bay to be near beachside amusement rides.

A spot near Yellowstone National Park

Bubbling hot springs surrounded by piney forests. Windy rivers and big boating lakes. An occasional bison or elk wandering by. This is Yellowstone, the US’s first national park and a staple for outdoorsy families looking for a little taste of the Wild West. There are endless ops for hiking and horseback riding around the expansive NP grounds that sit primarily in Wyoming, but you’ll find most vacation cabins and woodsy lodges in little communities along the outskirts in Montana, like Gardiner to the north and West Yellowstone.

Splashing around in Wisconsin Dells, WI

A favorite with Midwesterners, Wisconsin Dells is all about summer hangouts on the water. The self-proclaimed Waterpark Capital of the World has all the slippery slides and roller-coaster rides you could hope for, plus a dash of outdoorsy fun along the Wisconsin River and its outshoot lakes – up for a little boating, perhaps? Vacation rentals here are extra spacious with all homey comforts perfect for family travelers, like private bedrooms for the kids and cozy living rooms for evening story time.

Gatlinburg for mountain cabins

Looking for family summer vacation ideas in the mountains? Why not Tennessee? Part of the sweeping eastern Appalachian range, the Great Smoky Mountains have all the woodsy trails, babbling brooks, and family-centric vacation towns you could hope for. Take Gatlinburg, with its downtown amusement parks, aquarium, and cable car rides just a short hop from pine-scented cabins with timber porches looking out over the hills.

Summer family vacations in Myrtle Beach

Florida may be what first comes to mind when you’re thinking up the best beach vacations in June and July, but South Carolinians know what a gem they have in Myrtle Beach. The Grand Strand here packs a punch with its 60 miles of sandy beachfront featuring old-timey arcades and amusement rides, not to mention the celebrated golf greens nearby. Condo rentals with on-site pool decks near this zone are the ultimate for family vacations. But, if you’re after something a little easier on the budget, just sway either direction outside the primary tourist zone to the likes of North Myrtle Beach or inland a few blocks from the Atlantic.

Bucket-list Niagara Falls

Hugging the US-Canada border, thundering Niagara Falls is perfect for waterfront summer family vacations with a unique flavor. Classic boat rides to get soaked by the cascades are a must, of course, but you can also check out the view from the walking trails in Niagara Falls State Park. Guest houses and vacation rentals on the New York side huddle in historic homes, where you’ll find fully-equipped kitchens and separate sleeping spaces for the kids, sometimes in walking distance to the showstopping falls.

Families love the Bahamas

Some of the best summer beach vacations are just a quick hop from mainland USA in the Bahamas, a sun-soaked archipelago made up of 100s of islands and cays. You’ll have your pick of white beaches and turquoise-tinted waters here. Some surround small, quiet islets with breezy coastal vacation villas that open onto to powder-soft sands. While others ring action-packed Nassau, with its condos and townhouses offering up sparkling pools a quick hop from historic forts and handmade-craft shops.