Family Vacation time is the most exciting time of the year for many families, allowing families to escape from the routine of day-to-day living. Deciding your vacation destination can be an overwhelming task, especially with the options our great nation has to offer. Whether you’re looking for a hike in the mountains or a big-city getaway, these cities are sure to provide timeless bonding experiences.
The following cities are some of the country’s hottest and most desirable destinations. I’ve avoided including regional cities such as Orlando and Miami because, sometimes, the beaches and the theme parks are simply too close to home.
Soak in the sights and sounds of history in one of the nation’s oldest cities, boasting attractions and sights for almost everyone. The shopaholic will feel right at home at Faneuil Hall, one of the leading premier urban marketplaces for retail, food, and non-stop entertainment. Sports fans will enjoy catching a game at Fenway Park, the legendary home of the Boston Red Sox. History buffs will appreciate a visit to Paul Revere’s house, the Revolutionary War hero, or the Bunker Hill monument on the Freedom Trail. Whether you’re looking to get lost in the winding cobblestone alleyways hiding centuries-old stories, immerse yourself within Boston’s world-class educational opportunities, or simply fancy a duck boat tour, Boston proves to provide a unique and memorable experience at every corner.
The nation’s capital not only welcomes diplomats and world leaders from around the world, but a whopping 20.2 million tourists who visit the city each year. Needless to say, Washington D.C. is teeming with historical and cultural sites, from icons such as the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument, to the acclaimed Smithsonian Institution and the free National Zoological Park. One of the most photogenic cities on this list, Washington D.C. has an impressive concentration of some of the most recognizable structures and sites in the world. After all, the nation’s capital is owed a visit by its citizens.
New York, NY
When you think vacation, you might think lounging on the beach or skiing down rocky slopes, but in this city, you’re thrown into the jungle. One of the largest cities on the globe, New York City is truly the city that never sleeps. You probably already know about its endless nightlife and world-renowned cuisine, but there are so many opportunities perfect for family getaways. Take a stroll through Central Park and get lost in the urban oasis, take a ferry ride to the Statue of Liberty, ascend her even, for an impressive 360 degree view, catch a show or two in the bright lights of Broadway, bordered by the infamous Times Square (see my Broadway On A Budget blog post), or soak in some culture at some of New York’s most prestigious museums. Just don’t let the bad costume characters on Times Square make you think you’re at Disney.
Another one of America’s bastions of history, this city is most notable for display of the cracked Liberty Bell (depicted above), the preservation of Independence Hall where the Declaration of Independence and Constitution were signed, and of course the infamous steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, immortalized by Sylvester Stallone’s run in “Rocky.” There are simply too many sites to take in on foot, even though it’s one of America’s most walkable cities, so consider a Hop-On, Hop-Off bus tour of the city, or even a Segway rental to help navigate your discovery of one of America’s oldest cities.
Moving west to the great frontier, Denver is arguably one of America’s most scenic and eclectic cities, both geographically and culturally. Bordered on one side by endless plains, and the other by great, towering mountain peaks, Denver is the city for the outdoor lover. The only major city for 500 miles, Denver is an urban beacon for the region, boasting world-class shopping, dining, and cultural attractions, as well as a number of famous historical and sports venues. In no time, you can be hiking or skiing in the Rocky Mountains, kayaking in majestic white rapids, or riding a rollercoaster at Elitch Gardens in the heart of the city. Just be sure to pack some Aleve, the “mile-high” city is known for causing some headaches for us sea-level folks.
Between its masterful urban design, access to green space, and its focus on creating a sustainable, clean city for its residents and visitors, Portland is all about the environment. If you search for things to do in Portland, most of the results will direct you to one of their many parks, gardens, zoos, trails, and beautifully serene wooded areas. Portland’s skyline would not be complete without the towering presence of the snow-capped Mount Hood, an active volcano and one of the tallest mountains on the continent. Perfectly balancing rural relaxation with urban convenience, Portland is sure to satisfy even the pickiest traveler’s needs. Just be sure to pack an umbrella, it rains a lot in the Pacific Northwest.
Santa Fe, NM
Certainly the smallest city on this list, Santa Fe also proves to be the most unique. Rooted in Native American and Spanish colonial history, Santa Fe is the oldest state capital city in the United States. The city is peppered with indigenous architecture, heritage museums, and awe-inspiring palaces and chapels. When you’re not enjoying the city, you can explore the rolling hills and steep plateaus of the surrounding countryside, complete with hiking trails and cave tours. Popular sites include the Palace of the Governors, Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, Canyon Road outdoor art exhibition, Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis Assisi, and Lensic Performing Arts Center, a Spanish Renaissance-style theater.
Like Santa Fe, this city is probably not the first that pops into most people’s heads when they think about their family vacation—but I seek to change that. Located on South Carolina’s coastline, this historic city is defined by its picturesque cobblestone streets, horse-drawn carriages, and pre-Civil-War-era architecture. A mini New Orleans, Charleston is a charming destination for its European characteristics and its rich early American history. Visitors enjoy the City Market, a landmark 4-block market which could rival Faneuil Hall, touring and even staying on old plantations, taking pictures at Fort Sumter, an old sea fort with a pivotal Civil War role, and much more. Its beaches are also popular tourist destinations.
Whether you’re taking a family picture in the tallest building in New York, or exploring a caved deep in the desert of New Mexico, I’m sure your family vacation is going to be one you never forget.