30 Cheap Family Vacations You Haven’t Thought of Before

Budget-friendly picks for the whole brood

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Planning a great family holiday can feel like a challenge, especially if you are working within a specific budget. Instead of doing the same old thing (or just giving up and going to Disney World again, which, let's be honest, is anything but cheap), it’s possible to come up with a creative idea that doesn’t require flying around the world or spending a ton of cash.

We scoured the map looking for the best cheap family vacations across the country, where you can find accommodations for $250/night or less (for a family of four), plus a bevy of free and inexpensive things to do. From camping in Yellowstone to small, charming Southern towns, here are 30 cheap family vacations for your next trip with the whole squad.

20 of the Best All-Inclusive Resorts in the U.S.

cheap family vacations: yellowstone national park
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1. Yellowstone National Park, WY

  • Why We Recommend It: legendary national park, varied outdoor activities for all ages and abilities, close proximity to Grand Teton National Park
  • Free Things to Do: Old Faithful Geyser, Mammoth Hot Springs, Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River
  • Getting there: 30 minutes from Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport
  • Where to Stay: Mountain Family Cabin (from $123/night, sleeps 7); Cozy Yellowstone River Cabin (from $185/night, sleeps 8); Log Retreat by Yellowstone (from $199/night, sleeps 10)

Why leave the country when we’ve got one of the most majestic places in the world right here? Take the kiddos for adventures at Yellowstone National Park—we’re talking watching wildlife in Lamar Valley, visiting the Midway Geyser Basin (aka the largest hot spring in the U.S.) and spending the day splashing around at Yellowstone Lake. You can get a seven-day private vehicle pass for $35.

cheap family vacations: balboa park san diego
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2. San Diego, CA

  • Why We Love It: museums, beaches, gardens and great eats can all be found in this coastal SoCal town
  • Free Things to Do: sunsets on La Jolla cove, Gaslamp Quarter, Mission Bay Park, Mission Beach Boardwalk
  • Getting there: San Diego International Airport
  • Where to Stay: San Diego Bungalow (from $84/night, sleeps 4); Lemon Grove Home (from $148/night, sleeps 9); Tropical Paradise Home (from $236/night, sleeps 6)

Drive south from Los Angeles and you’ll hit San Diego, a sunny enclave on the coast filled with activities kids and adults will love. You can birdwatch at the Tijuana Estuary or let the little ones run through Balboa Park while you admire the Spanish Colonial Revival architecture and gardens. Need a nighttime activity? The San Diego Astronomy Association hosts monthly stargazing events. Check out the murals at Chicano Park and don't forget to to experience one of the city's famed, otherworldly sunsets.

cheap family vacations: hershey pennsylvania
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3. Hershey, PA

  • Why We Love It: dive into a world of chocolate with an amusement park, museums and other Hershey attractions
  • Free Things to Do: chocolate tour, horse racing, Swatara Creek
  • Getting there: 20 minutes from Harrisburg International Airport
  • Where to Stay: Sunny Hershey Abode (from $147/night, sleeps 6); House in the Heart of Hershey (from $149/night, sleeps 9); Hershey Historical Home (from $163/night, sleeps 8)

Known as the “Sweetest Place on Earth,” Hershey is a great family destination for those who want to experience a theme park without the sky-high prices. The town is home to Hersheypark and ZooAmerica, as well as The Hershey Story Museum and Hershey Gardens. Need to burn off all that sugar? Swatara Creek and the Hershey Medical Center Trail are great places for outdoor activities, including 10 trails for hiking, biking, walking and kayaking.

cheap family vacations outer banks
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4. Outer Banks, NC

  • Why We Love It: endless ocean views, serene ambience, lots of outdoor activities
  • Free Things to Do: Bodie Lighthouse, National Scenic Byway, see the Corolla Wild Horses
  • Getting there: 2 hours and 30 minutes from Norfolk International Airport
  • Where to Stay: Dolphin View Beach House (from $184/night, sleeps 8); Oceanfront Condo (from $119/night, sleeps 6); Home in Nags Head (from $159/night, sleeps 6)

Sea salt air and uncrowded beaches makes the Outer Banks an ideal spot for a relatively serene family vacation. You can spend the day sprawled out and getting a healthy dose of vitamin D (just don’t forget to pack sunscreen) at Rodanthe, Nags Head or Waves beaches. For some fun and adventure with the kiddos, you can opt for climbing the Currituck Beach Lighthouse or the Bodie Island Lighthouse or spend the day taking historic monuments at Wright Brothers National Memorial and Chicamacomico Life-Saving Station Historic Site and Museum.

cheap family vacations fort myers florida
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5. Fort Myers, FL

  • Why We Love It: laid-back, colorful town, easy beach and water access
  • Free Things to Do: Six Mile Cypress Slough Preserve, Fort Myers River District, Bunche Beach
  • Getting there: 30 minutes from Southwest Florida International Airport
  • Where to Stay: Charming Cape Coral Home (from $119/night, sleeps 6); Cape Coral Canal Home (from $150/night, sleeps 8); Fort Myers Home (from $156/night, sleeps 6)

Nothing screams rest and relaxation quite like the white sand beaches of Fort Myers. That means there’s plenty of opportunity for tons of water-based activities—deep-sea fishing, kayaking and jet skiing with the family. You can also ditch the kids and spend the day golfing or catch a sunset cruise for just you and your beau.

cheap family vacations myrtle beach south carolina
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6. Myrtle Beach, SC

  • Why We Love It: 60 miles of beaches, stand-out golf courses, boardwalk, iconic amusement park
  • Free Things to Do: Broadway at the Beach, Myrtle Beach Boardwalk, South Carolina Hall of Fame, Conway Riverwalk
  • Getting there: 10 minutes from Myrtle Beach International Airport
  • Where to Stay: Grand Cayman Oceanfront Suite (from $61/night, sleeps 8); Beach Side Vacation House (from $59/night, sleeps 4); Oceanfront Family Suite (from $79/night, sleeps 6)

Between the amusement and water parks, mini-golf courses and an aquarium, you’ll find so many activities to do in Myrtle Beach, a week’s vacation won’t seem like it's enough. After a fun-filled day spent at tourist hot spots like Alligator Adventure or Blackbeard's Pirate Cruise you can either ramp up the energy and head over to the Carolina Opry for an entertaining variety show, or go slow by taking a leisurely stroll with your brood on the beach. If you’re simply not sure what you’re in the mood for at any given time, head over to Broadway at the Beach—a 350-acre entertainment and shopping center—where you’re guaranteed to find something that tickles your fancy.

cheap family vacations williamsburg virginia
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7. Williamsburg, VA

  • Why We Love It: part of the "Historical Triangle" with Jamestown and Yorktown, living history museum
  • Free Things to Do: hiking in York River State Park, Yorktown Trolley, York County Historical Museum, Williamsburg Botanical Garden
  • Getting there: 27 minutes Newport News/Williamsburg International Airport
  • Where to Stay: Historical Williamsburg Condo (from $93/night, sleeps 6); Resort Apartment (from $115/night, sleeps 6); Cozy Single Family Home (from $154/night, sleeps 6)

Busy the mini-me’s (and yourself) with wild rides at Busch Gardens or a day filled with historic reenactments at Colonial Williamsburg. For some family bonding time, you can also sail the York River, ride horses, hike or bike through the 30 miles of trails York River State Park offers. The options are plenty.

cheap family vacations niagara falls
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8. Niagara Falls, NY

  • Why We Love It: iconic, massive waterfall and vibrant city with many outdoor activities and attractions
  • Free Things to Do: drive Niagara Parkway, Niagara River Recreation Trail, Niagara Parks Botanical Gardens
  • Getting there: 14 minutes from Niagara International Airport
  • Where to Stay: Riverway Village Charmer (from $103/night, sleeps 8); Home with River Views (from $116/night, sleeps 11); Grand Island Townhome (from $158/night, sleeps 4)

Those on the East Coast can easily pack up the car and head north to Niagara Falls, where they’ll find a vibrant city filled with museums and parks and of course, the Niagara Falls themselves. There’s a lot to see in this vivacious city, from the Niagara Parks Botanical Gardens to the history museum and endless beautiful drives that all can enjoy.

cheap family vacations bowling green kentucky
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9. Bowling Green, KY

  • Why We Love It: great for car enthusiasts, small-town charm, historical attractions
  • Free Things to Do: Fountain Square Park, Lost River Cave, Hobson Grove Park
  • Getting there: 1 hour and 25 minutes from Nashville International Airport
  • Where to Stay: Modern Chic Apartment (from $115/night, sleeps 8); Cozy Duplex (from $102/night, sleeps 6); The Candle Loft (from $145/night, sleeps 4)

For families with children currently bewildered by cars, trucks and the like, Bowling Green may be the unexpected destination where your kids will have the time of their lives. The city is the only place in the U.S. that manufactures Corvettes, and a trip to the General Motors GM Bowling Green Assembly Plant allows visitors to see the step-by-step production of the sleek sports car. The Corvette Museum also includes one-of-a-kind prototypes, that were designed but never manufactured, among other cool Corvette relics.

cheap family vacations denver colorado
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10. Denver, CO

  • Why We Love It: perfect mix of outdoor adventure, art, history and culture year-round
  • Free Things to Do: Golden Triangle Creative District, Colorado State Capital, United States Mint, Denver Central Library
  • Getting there: fly into Denver International Airport
  • Where to Stay: Spacious Denver Guest Unit (from $116/night, sleeps 9 guests); Bright 2-Bedroom Escape (from $120/night); Historic Home with Garden (from $99/night, sleeps 10)

While Denver may be a popular hotspot for winter vacationing, it’s not a shabby destination for some summertime family fun. You can spend the day watching elephants swim, orangutans swing and lions roar at the Denver Zoo. You can also explore fossils and dinosaurs, ponder the mysteries of space at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, which is right next door.

cheap family vacations: grand canyon village arizona
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11. Grand Canyon Village, AZ

Fair warning: A trip to Grand Canyon Village—which houses the widely popular Bright Angel Trail—will not be the quietest vacay to go on. However, looking at the vast wonder that is the Grand Canyon itself will be well worth it. Located at the South Rim, the buzzy town is chock full of things to do with the kids. You can hike and set up a picnic at Shoshone Point (the trail is only a mile long), head over to the Yavapai Geology Museum where kids can touch a 3D large topographic relief model of the area and if you plan for a trip in June, you can even join in on one of the Grand Canyon’s Annual Start Party where you spend the night stargazing.

cheap family vacations washington dc

12. Washington D.C.

  • Why We Love It: world-class museums, historical sites and cultural attractions
  • Free Things to Do: Smithsonian museums, National Mall, Library of Congress, National Archives, Georgetown, Museum of Natural History
  • Getting there: fly into Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport
  • Where to Stay: Gorgeous Townhouse (from $110/night, sleeps 8); Capitol Hill Apartment (from $120/night, sleeps 4); Townhouse in Greener Part of Town (from $129/night, sleeps 8)

The main draw of Washington, D.C. is the National Mall, where all the museums offer free entry to visitors. Most of the national monuments are also free to explore, and the National Zoo welcomes guests for no charge every day of the year. Just make sure you reserve passes in advance for everyone, including infant children.

cheap family vacations: catskill mountains, new york
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13. Catskill Mountains, NY

  • Why We Love It: tranquil refuge from bustling NYC, easy drive from the city for a family weekend getaway
  • Free Things to Do: Slide Mountain, Dutchman's Landing, Pratt Rock, Hudson-Athens Lighthouse
  • Getting there: 2 hours and 22 minutes from JFK International Airport
  • Where to Stay: Modern Townhouse (from $220/night, sleeps 6); Lakefront Cabin in Ferndale (from $139/night, sleeps 6); Woodland Valley Bungalow in Phoenicia (from $210/night, sleeps 6)

Another destination mostly popular for its cold-weather festivities, the Catskills can be equally amusing during the summertime. While you won’t be able to go skiing or anything like that, you can still get your adrenaline pumping at Hunter Mountain's New York Zipline Adventure Tour where you can fly through the air on the longest, fastest and highest zipline canopy tour in North America. You can also get up close and personal with the tigers, bears, alligators, camels, ostriches and farm animals housed at Bailiwick Ranch and Animal Park. And for some truly vacation-appropriate eats, head over to Mama's Boy Burgers where you can fill up on grass-fed black angus beef burgers and top it off with your choice of 26 flavors of frozen custard and yogurt or Jane’s homemade ice cream.

cheap family vacations branson missouri Images

14. Branson, MO

  • Why We Love It: diverse entertainment acts in historic theaters, amusement park and outdoor, kid-friendly activities
  • Free Things to Do: Grand Village, Historic Downtown, hiking in the Ozarks, Branson Landing
  • Getting there: one hour from Springfield-Branson National Airport
  • Where to Stay: Boho Gated Condo (from $96/night, sleeps 7); Loft Condo (from $97/night, sleeps 8); Branson Home (from $89/night, sleeps 9)

Don’t let the drama of Netflix’s Ozark dissuade you from exploring this lovely city. It is filled with tons of options for things to do with the kids. Silver Dollar City is a rousing amusement park, popular with both locals and visitors. Not only can you find thrilling rides and entertainment, but the park has a 19th century vibe to it and offers an array of shops selling souvenirs and homemade candies. Also included on your itinerary should be a trip to the Titanic Museum—where there’s tons of hands-on exhibits and hordes of Titanic artifacts—Promised Land Zoo, and Ripley’s Believe It Or Not located in the Branson Theater District.

cheap family vacations south padre island texas
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15. South Padre Island, TX

  • Why We Love It: resort town with calm waters and plenty of wildlife
  • Free Things to Do: bird watch at the World Birding Center, Laguna Madre Nature Trail, Andy Bowie Park, Whaling Wall, Palmito Ranch Battlefield
  • Getting there: 40 minutes from Brownsville Airport
  • Where to Stay: Luxurious Ground Condo (from $121/night, sleeps 10); Island Treasure Townhouse (from $170/night, sleeps 12); Aquarius Condo (from $150/night, sleeps 6)

If your kids are hardcore animal lovers, a trip to this little island off the southern coast of Texas is the perfect pick. The island is packed with plenty of venues to interact with animals they otherwise wouldn’t have the opportunity to interact with. Sea Turtle Inc., for example, is an educational yet fun-filled facility actively engaged in rescuing sea turtles. Equally thrilling is the SPI Birding, Nature Center and Alligator Sanctuary where the fam can observe the birds, butterflies and natural wildlife. Maybe just try to avoid March and April when spring breakers take over like wildfire.

cheap family vacations orange beach alabama
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16. Orange Beach, AL

  • Why We Love It: 32 miles of white sand beaches, championship golf, nature trails, excellent cuisine
  • Free Things to Do: Gulf State Park, Orange Beach Indian & Sea Museum, The Coastal Arts Center
  • Getting there: 15 minutes away from Jack Edwards National Airport
  • Where to Stay: Beachfront Condo (from $180/night, sleeps 6); The Sandy Hideaway (from $129/night, sleeps 13); Escapes Resort 1304 (from $207/night, sleeps 6)

Orange City may be small (population is currently at 6,607), but this tiny town packs a punch. Known as a water sports hub, it’s no wonder this is hands-down one of the best destinations for a beach vacation. You can partake in regular ole’ water activities such as fishing, paddle boarding, parasailing. But if you really want to dial up the fun factor, you can also book a once in a lifetime dolphin or pirate cruise.

cheap family vacations: aerial view of ocean city, maryland
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17. Ocean City, MD

  • Why We Love It: resort town with theme-park attractions, wildlife and miles of beaches
  • Free Things to Do: Ocean City Boardwalk, Movies on the Beach, Assateague Island 
  • Getting there: 2 hours and 36 minutes from Baltimore International Airport
  • Where to Stay: Oceanfront Condo (from $93/night, sleeps 6); Edgewater Escape (from $83/night, sleeps 4); Beach Paradise Townhouse (from $66/night, sleeps 12)

A beach vacation doesn’t have to include a five-star resort. Ocean City, Maryland, is a great place to experience the best of the shore, from a lively boardwalk to seaside vacation rentals, and it also offers access to Assateague Island National Park, where the wild ponies run free. (How much will your horse-obsessed 6-year-old love that?) Spend a day on the vibrant boardwalk where you can hit up Marty’s Playland—a video arcade built in the 1940s—as well as The Kite Loft, where you can get the rundown on everything you didn’t think you needed to know about flying kites, which is to say, a lot.

cheap family vacations bar harbor maine
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18. Bar Harbor, ME

  • Why We Love It: peaceful coastal New England town, gateway to Acadia National Park
  • Free Things to Do: Shore Path, Bar Island, downtown Bar Harbor
  • Getting there: 20 minutes from Bar Harbor Airport; 4.5 hours from Boston Logan International Airport
  • Where to Stay: Sunset Studio (from $65/night, sleeps 4); Bar Harbor Condo (from $83/night, sleeps 4); Talley Cottage (from $150/night, sleeps 5)

Acadia National Park is popular for a reason—its rocky and rugged coastal landscape, wildlife on land and sea and the highest point on the United States’ East Coast, Cadillac Mountain—but that’s only the tip of the iceberg. Hop on one of Lulu Lobster’s Boat Tours where you can spend two hours learning all about lobster fishing and even catch some yourself. You can also book one of Bar Harbor Whale Watch Company’s magnificent for a chance to possibly spot some whales off the Gulf of Maine.

cheap family vacations gatlinburg tennessee sunrise
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19. Gatlinburg, TN

  • Why We Love It: charming town at the base of the Smoky Mountains, beautiful views, nature activities, arts, history and culture scene
  • Free Things to Do: Gatlinburg Parkway, Little Pigeon River, Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail, Gatlinburg Tunes and Tales
  • Getting there: 1 hour and 10 minutes from Knoxville McGhee-Tyson Airport
  • Where to Stay: Pigeon Forge Cabin (from $143/night, sleeps 7 guests); Smokies Log Cabin (from $170/night, sleeps 10); Sevierville Cabin (from $90/night, sleeps 10)

This resort town is a coveted hotspot because of the fact that it’s a gateway to the roughly 520,000-acre Great Smoky Mountains National Park. You can hike the Clingmans Dome, which is only a mile long and leads to a watchtower you can climb, overseeing the entire national park. You also have the option to either drive or hike to three waterfalls in the park—Mingo Falls, Abrams Falls as well as Grotto Falls, if your squad is not yet able to hike long distances. Just be sure to head there early as the fall tends to get crowded.

cheap family vacations milwaukee wisconsin
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20. Milwaukee, WI

  • Why We Love It: lively city on the shores of Lake Michigan with an impressive food scene, museums and history
  • Free Things to Do: Riverwalk, Lake Michigan, Milwaukee Public Market, Lakeshore State Park, Old World 3rd Street, Milwaukee Central Library
  • Getting there: Milwaukee General Mitchell International Airport
  • Where to Stay: The Little Gray House (from $206/night, sleeps 9); Cozy Modern Guest Cottage (from $105/night, sleeps 5); Cream City Inn and Gallery (from $153/night, sleeps 10)

Milwaukee is a vibrant Midwestern city overflowing with art, culture and food. Here, beer and cheese flow in equal measures, thanks to the city's German roots. Take the whole family to sample fare at establishments such as The Bavarian Bierhaus or Café Bavaria. There is also a plethora of farm-to-table restaurants serving up the best the seasons have to offer. With a whopping 17 museums located downtown, everyone in the family will find something to discover, but we think the kids will be especially entertained by the Milwaukee Public Museum. Keep a sharp eye out for murals by local artist David Mark Zimmerman, whose creations appear in the most unlikely places. Want to get moving? Kayak in the Milwaukee River, play at the beaches of Lake Michigan and stroll the historic Mitchell Street Neighborhood.

cheap family vacations atlanta georgia
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21. Atlanta, GA

Atlanta may be sweet like a Georgia peach, but beneath the Southern skin is a thriving multi-cultural identity that makes it a captivating destination for the whole family. Let the kids run down their energy on the 22-mile BeltLine, a pathway with trails and parks that weave between Atlanta's neighborhoods, filled with art installations and city views. Arabia Mountain is an easy drive if you want an outdoor excursion, featuring farmland, trails, lakes and a nature preserve. Be sure to also hit the Buford Highway, renowned for its worlds of cuisine, from Korean barbecue to tacos and bubble tea. In town the kids will get a kick out of meeting Kermit the Frog at the Center for Puppetry Arts, which is free if you check the museum pass out at the library. Other can't-miss activities? The Coca-Cola Museum and Trap Music Museum, which dives into the world of hip-hop.

cheap family vacations glacier national park montana
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22. Glacier National Park, MT

  • Why We Love It: over 700 miles of hiking trails, water activities and access to Whitefish
  • Free Things to Do: Hidden Lake, Going-to-the-Sun Road, Logan Pass, Huckleberry Lookout
  • Getting there: 1.5 hours from Glacier Park International Airport
  • Where to Stay: Historic Cottage on Foys Lake (from $245/night, sleeps 4); Martin City Log Home (from $117/night, sleeps 8); Kalispell Log Farmhouse (from $253/night, sleeps 7)

Whether you're all keen to see the breathtaking vistas of the Continental Divide or want to test your athleticism with a vertical five-mile hike to Huckleberry Lookout, Glacier National Park is a family-friendly destination that everyone can enjoy. The entrance fee is just $35 per vehicle ($25 in the winter) for a vehicle, and you can camp in the park for a nominal fee. If you're driving in, a free shuttle runs through the park, making it easy to hit the sites without worrying about your car. Whitefish is nearby, with all the charm and amenities you'd expect from a resort town.

cheap family vacations oklahoma city
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23. Oklahoma City, OK

  • Why We Love It: cowboy culture meets fine art and outdoor fun
  • Free Things to Do: Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art, drive Route 66, Keystone Ancient Forest, Conoco Museum, Oklahoma State Capital
  • Getting there: 20 minutes from Will Rogers World Airport
  • Where to Stay: The Village Home (from $85/night, sleeps 8); Modern Oklahoma City Home (from $96/night, sleeps 6); The Billen Ave House (from $118/night, sleeps 6)

Oklahoma City is proof you don't need a pile of cash to have a good time. With so many free things to do, you'd be surprised. Budding artists and art appreciators will enjoy the Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art, which houses 16,000 artworks, including some by Vincent van Gogh and Georgia O'Keeffe. At the Conoco Museum, your family can learn about the city's past as an oil town. Need a little old-fashioned adventure? Cruise the famed Route 66 highway itself. At the Salt Plains National Wildlife Refuge, the kids can spend hours searching for hourglass selenite crystals, and if you want a really big thrill, check out Robbers Cave. The former outlaws hideaway now offers rappelling, mountain biking and swimming.

24. Thousand Islands, NY

An overlooked gem near the New York-Canada border, Thousand Islands New York is a serene and incredibly beautiful destination that boasts plenty of things to do for families. The fairytale magic and romantic story behind Boldt castle will charm all members of your brood and the sparkling blue waters of the St. Lawrence River provides ample opportunity for a wide range of activities, including boat tours, kayaking, fishing and swimming. Be sure to tour as many islands as you can during your stay—Singer Castle on Dark Island is well worth a visit—and learn a little bit about the history of the region with a visit to 1000 Islands History Museum and the Antique Boat Museum, too.

25. Traverse City, MI

  • Why We Love It: lake beaches, wine tasting, natural beauty
  • Free Things to Do: Point Betsie Lighthouse (free for children under 6), Haserot Beach Park, Torch Lake
  • Getting there: Cherry Capital Airport
  • Where to Stay: The Gristmill Apartment (from $69/night, sleeps 4); Modern Cabin in Bellaire (from $99/night, sleeps 4); The Loft on Union Street (from $199/night, sleeps 6)

Traverse City, Michigan is a beloved vacation spot for many, and it’s not hard to see why. The northern Michigan city has long been a top destination due to its abundance of freshwater beaches, vineyards and natural attractions—most notably the bluffs, sand dunes and lush forests at the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. Downtown Traverse City is a vibrant place with an excellent culinary scene that will make foodies of all ages swoon, and there’s no shortage of outdoor activities on offer in the surrounding area—including rock hunting, biking, hiking, kayaking, canoeing and good old fashioned sand castle building. Let’s just say you’re unlikely to hear the words “I’m bored” when you bring your family here.

26. San Antonio, TX

There’s lots of history and a boatload of free educational activities to be found in San Antonio, Texas. The Alamo is an obvious choice, but other attractions like the San Antonio Museum of Art and the Institute of Texan Cultures are not to be missed. Carve out time in your itinerary for a leisurely picnic in beautiful Brackenridge Park and don’t sleep on the opportunity to stroll the scenic River Walk, where you’ll find top-notch restaurants, boutiques and numerous street performers bringing the city’s vibrant energy to life.

27. Savannah, GA

  • Why We Love It: family-friendly beach, public parks, Savannah Children’s Museum
  • Free Things to Do: Forsyth Park, Tybee Island, Ellis Square splash pad, Hutchinson Island Ferry, Fort Pulaski National Monument, Savannah Botanical Gardens, Skidaway Island State Park
  • Getting there: Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport
  • Where to Stay: Downtown Riverfront Condo (from $159/night, sleeps 4); Sophisticated Home in Historic District (from $129/night, sleeps 4); Renovated 1900s 2-Bedroom Apartment (from $76/night, sleeps 4)

Oak trees weeping Spanish moss, charming cobblestone streets, riverboat cruises, trolley tours and a vibrant art and food scene make Savannah one of the most appealing places to visit in the South. Forsyth Park is a beautiful public space that boasts two stellar playgrounds and plenty of scenic places to picnic. The city's iconic River Street—lined with candy shops, boutiques and restaurants—is a perfect place to take a stroll, and the Savannah Children’s Museum and Savannah National Wildlife refuge are well worth a visit as well. Oh, and we’d be remiss not to mention that a family beach day at Tybee Island is an absolute must during the warmer months.

28. Nashville, TN

  • Why We Love It: hip and artsy vibes, great music and food scene, lots of parks
  • Free Things to Do: Arrington Vineyards, Frist Art Museum, Musician’s Corner, Metro Nashville Parks
  • Getting there: Nashville International Airport
  • Where to Stay: Edison Condo (from $49/night, sleeps 8); Electric Ave Parkside Retreat (from $71/night, sleeps 6); Dream Treehouse (from $224/night, sleeps 4)

Head to Reese Witherspoon’s stomping grounds for a one-of-a-kind and decidedly budget friendly vacation in Music City. History buffs, blues enthusiasts, foodies and energetic kids itching for a public park to romp around in will all find what they’re looking for in Nashville. In fact, the greater Nashville area has a whopping 243 public parks, so you’ll never be wanting for a splash pad, playground or picnic spot. Centennial Park is a nice spot to spend a leisurely afternoon, while Radnor Lake State Park and the Edwin and Percy Warner Parks are ideal for hiking and enjoying the region’s natural beauty. Both kids and adults will enjoy the Frist Art Museum, Nashville Zoo and Adventure Science Center, as well. Best of all, affordable accommodations are easy to find and none of the aforementioned activities will break the bank, either.

29. Charleston, SC

The old-school Southern charm and laid back vibes of Charleston are hard to beat—and for families seeking a perfect balance of relaxation and entertainment, this destination does not disappoint. Explore the beautiful historic district and Charleston City Market, pay a visit to the South Carolina Aquarium (and then eat some of the amazing seafood you can find all over the city) and soak up some sun on one of the numerous pristine and family-friendly public beaches before you head to your budget-friendly lodging to sip some ice cold lemonade on the porch while the kids play in the yard. Perfection.

30. Newport, RI

Newport has long been Rhode Island’s most popular vacation destination, and for good reason. This New England gem affords its visitors access to beautiful, windswept beaches, historic landmarks, amazing seafood and incredible seaside mansions, many of which are open to the public for tours. The Cliff Walk is the thing to do for a restorative stroll—it’s studded with said mansions and features oh-so scenic coastal views—and Bowen’s Wharf is a picturesque commercial center where 18th century buildings house art galleries, boutiques, souvenir shops and some of the best seafood restaurants on the east coast. And if your kids aren’t tuckered out after a day at the beach, sample some fudge at the Newport Fudgery and take them to the playground at the historic Miantonomi Park or the arcade at Ryan Family Amusement Center to burn off the last of their energy.

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purewow author

Freelance PureWow Editor

Emma Singer is a freelance contributing editor and writer at PureWow who has over 7 years of professional proofreading, copyediting and writing experience. At PureWow, she covers...