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10 best US cities for a family vacation, according to family travel pros

10 best US cities for a family vacation, according to family travel pros
Posted at 9:30 AM, Jun 05, 2023
and last updated 2023-06-02 17:21:36-04

In case you haven’t heard, family vacations aren’t just fun — they can also boost your kids’ emotional growth.

But finding the perfect destination can be tricky. Can you locate a spot that will satisfy your teen’s desire to shop, your younger kids’ penchant for water sports, and your partner’s longing to slow down and relax?

Maybe, maybe not. But you can still have a terrific family trip if you have access to these three things: a comfortable, affordable hotel room, family-friendly attractions and a good selection of restaurants.

The vacation planning experts at FamilyDestinationsGuide specifically considered these factors in 50 cities across the U.S. Once they’d rated how well the cities met each requirement, they rolled all of that data into a single score (on a 10-point scale). The result? A list of the 10 best U.S. cities for a family vacation. Read on to find out which cities came out on top.

1. Miami, Florida

Miami came in first place, which is hardly a shock considering its distinct advantages: year-round warm weather and miles of coastline. You can take part in active outdoor sports like paddle boating, parasailing, and swimming, but you can also enjoy all the museums, clubs and coffee shops you’d normally find in a bustling city. If you like Art Deco architecture, Cuban-influenced music and unlimited numbers of family activities, you’ll never want to leave.

Miami won the numbers game: it has 31.2 attractions and 680.54 restaurants per 100,000 people along with an average hotel price of $875.91 for a family of four. The city received an overall 8.36 score out of 10.

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2. Las Vegas, Nevada

With its plentiful casinos, cannabis dispensaries, and adult entertainment, Vegas has long been known as a playground for adults. But it also caters to kids and families. Teens will love shows like the high-energy dance performance spectacular Jabbawockeez at the MGM Grand. Young kids won’t want to miss Excalibur’s Tournament of Kings and the spectacle-filled Adventuredome at Circus Circus. And unless your brood hates sweets, you definitely need to stop in at the Coca-Cola Store, M&M’s World and Hershey’s Chocolate World.

Las Vegas, with an average hotel price of $675.91, received a final score of 8.25 on Family Destination Guide’s list. It has 29.87 family attractions and 582.54 restaurants per 100,000 people.

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3. San Francisco, California

In San Francisco, you can hop on cable cars, explore museums, set off on bay cruises, and fill your Instagram feed with glorious beach photos. In fact, this busy city has so many family attractions, shopping spots and dining opportunities that you can get overwhelmed. You might want to start with this list of ideas from SF Tourism Tips.

Pier 39 is a nice spot for families — you can see the famous sea lions that bask on K-Dock, visit the Aquarium of the Bay, have a virtual adventure at the 7D The Flyer Thrill Zone, have dinner, and enjoy tons of other activities. Or, visit the Walt Disney Family Museum, where an upcoming exhibition explores Walt Disney’s evolving animation styles for dogs and cats. You can also visit Golden Gate Park and Muir Woods or visit the California Academy of the Sciences.

San Francisco has an average hotel price of $815.70 and receives a 6.19 score from FamilyDestinationsGuide. It has 22.02 family attractions and 412.25 restaurants per 100,000 people.

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4. Tuscon, Arizona

Tucson is a great destination for affordable fun with the whole family. The gorgeous desert landscapes are a major draw for hikers of all levels, and there are lots of kid-friendly trails around. You’ll find plenty of other things to do as well, including museums like the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, botanical gardens and the small but family-oriented Reid Park Zoo, which features Summer Safari Nights every Saturday throughout the season.

Tuscon has 12.37 family attractions and 259.74 restaurants per 100,000 people and the least expensive average hotel price of the top 10, with $446.89. For this list, it got a final score of 5.92.

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5. Atlanta, Georgia

Atlanta caters to kids big and small. Your family might like World of Coca-Cola, where a tour of the Coke museum ends with an opportunity to sample nearly every drink the company has ever made. Families can enjoy the 12.82 family attractions per 100,000, like the Georgia Aquarium, the only aquarium in the U.S. that has whale sharks.

Check out the Children’s Museum of Atlanta. Reserve a ticket for one of the puppet shows at the Center for Puppetry Arts, where the top-quality shows are often accompanied by puppet-making workshops, or visit “Jurassic World: The Exhibition,” a touring immersive experience which is at Pullman Yards now and currently offering tickets through the end of July.

The average hotel price is $733.09 and there are 497.96 restaurants per 100,000. Atlanta receives a final score of 5.84.

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6. Washington, D.C.

The hotels in the nation’s capital are a bit pricey. But Washington, D.C. also offers a one-of-a-kind experience that makes this destination worthy of at least one vacation while the kids are still at home. The museums are world-class, and the zoos and botanical gardens are among the best in the nation. You can also, of course, get a behind-the-scenes look at the way the federal government works, enjoy sports (go D.C. United and Washington Nationals!) and visit monuments and memorials important to U.S. history.

The average hotel price in D.C. is the highest of the cities on this list at $847.65. However, it has 21.79 family attractions and 260.65 restaurants per 100,000 people, so there’s plenty to see, do and eat. Washington, D.C. gets a 5.36 final average score.

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7. Portland, Oregon

Portland is incredibly family-friendly, which means it’s rich with zoos and museums like the World Forestry Center Discovery Museum for “tree-huggers of all ages,” according to Travel Portland. Aside from the parks and gardens this city is known for, there are some notable attractions for kids, including the Oaks Amusement Park and the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry.

Portland receives a 5.31 average store for its 12.03 family attractions and 406.61 restaurants per 100,000. It has an average hotel price of $732.09.

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8. Seattle, Washington

In this city that’s jam-packed with fun activities from the Space Needle to Woodland Park Zoo, just riding on this city’s monorail can be fun for kids. Tweens and teens will no doubt enjoy a stroll around the Museum of Pop Culture, and little (and big) kids can be as active as they want to be at the Artists at Play Playground at Seattle Center. There’s a 35-foot climbing structure with rope ladders, a climbing net and two gigantic tube slides.

The average hotel price in Seattle is the highest of all, at $1143.46. It has 18.05 family attractions and 345.44 restaurants per 100,000 and a final score of 4.92 out of 10 as a result of FamilyDestinationGuide’s study.

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9. Mesa, Arizona

Whether you like floating down a lazy river on a tube or scaling the orange monster climbing structure at Eastmark Great Park, you will find something to do with your family in Mesa. This is an outdoorsy town, so horseback riding, mountain biking and hiking abound here. But downtown Mesa also features the Mesa Arts Center, which has lots of events, shows and museum exhibits to explore.

Mesa has an average hotel price of $555.63 with 322.43 restaurants and a low 5.15 family attractions per 100,000. Its final score was 4.81. There are better places to take your kids — but also a lot worse places.

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10. Tulsa, Oklahoma

Tulsa’s in last place, because it has the least amount of family attractions of all the destinations on this list. But if you ask a Tulsan, you’ll no doubt find there are plenty of things to do with kids from the Tulsa Botanic Garden to parks and summer festivals. And with the affordable hotels and restaurants, it’s worth a trip just to explore the abundant green space and many cool museums.

The average hotel price is just $531.43. There are 7.15 family attractions and 221.26 restaurants per 100,000 people. Tulsa gets a final score of 4.65.

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