15 travel writers have selected the best summer family vacations for 2018. They’ve included everything from beaches to museums to outdoor adventures that will please family members of all ages.
1. Huntington Beach, California
Two words why Huntington Beach is a great family vacation destination: Outdoor Fun! With 10 miles of wide, flat sandy beach, the kids can fill their days building sandcastles, learning to surf, riding bicycles on the beach, and boogie boarding in the water. Vans’ Off the Wall Skatepark features a large street course with two bowls – a flow bowl and a clover bowl. It’s free and open to the public, 7 days a week, weather permitting. You can also purchase a kite from Kite Connection on the pier and fly it on the beach. Cruise down to the smooth waters of Huntington Harbour and rent a kayak or stand up paddle board at one of the shops on Pacific Coast Highway. The kids will love Adventure Playground, a fun-filled spot, open every summer in Huntington Beach Central Park, featuring a rafting pond, mudslide, rock climbing, and fort-building ($3 per child).
Priscilla Willis, shescookin.com
2. St. Augustine, Florida
The oldest continuously occupied European settlement in North America, St. Augustine is full of history and adventure with attractions such as Castillo de San Marcos Fort, Ponce de Leon’s Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park, the Old Jail and the Pirate and Treasure Museum. Anastasia State Park has 139 campsites with electricity, free WiFi at the concession stands, bike trails, nature trails, kayaking, canoeing, and four miles of protected beach and dunes. Older kids will love getting spooked in St. Augustine by hearing all the bone-chilling stories of hauntings throughout the city by taking one (or all) of the many ghost tours available.
Mary Chong, calculatedtraveller.com
3. Long Beach Peninsula, Washington
There’s a lot to love and much to do for everyone in the family on Long Beach Peninsula, the 28-mile strip of land between Willapa Bay and the Pacific Ocean in southwest Washington. Summer is prime time for outdoor activities like combing the miles of sandy beaches, hiking in three state parks, exploring lighthouses, horseback riding on the beach, biking the seven-mile Discovery Trail, and enjoying summer festivals. Local chefs take full advantage of the local bounty and the peninsula’s seven communities have unique histories and personalities, each exemplifying the best of the Pacific Northwest.
Nancy Zaffaro, ConfettiTravelCafe.com
4. Sarasota, Florida
For a great summer family vacation destination everyone will love, Sarasota can’t be beat. The five white sand beaches are perfect for families to make sandcastles and collect seashells. You can explore a world of fascinating birds, animals and plants at Sarasota Jungle Garden or visit a tropical rain forest at Marie Selby Botanical Gardens. If you’re looking for more active adventure, Myakka River State Park offers kayaking and hiking. Sarasota is also home to the famous Ringling Circus Museum.
Mira Temkin, miratemkintravel.com
5. South Tyrol, Italy
For active families, the South Tyrol region of Italy offers hiking, biking, climbing, swimming and horseback riding amid rolling meadows, mountain lakes, and rushing streams, with the towering Dolomites as a backdrop. In the summertime, it’s a refreshing alternative to the stifling heat and crowds of Italy’s major cities and beach resorts. Family-focused hotels, ranging from simple farmhouses to celebrated five-star spa resorts, offer kids-stay free programs, large family rooms, kids’ clubs and meals, and indoor and outdoor pool complexes. Some even have petting zoos or farm animals. The region’s rich history as a strategic trade route through the Alps means there are Roman ruins, imposing medieval castles and forts, and historical museums waiting to be explored.
Elizabeth Heath, elizabethfheath.com
6. Traverse City, Michigan
Traverse City, situated on Grand Traverse Bay (a bay of Lake Michigan), is the perfect place for kids to spend hours swimming and building sand castles with its sugar sand beaches and see-through blue waters. The area’s many inland lakes offer even more family fun, like fishing, boating, water skiing, and tubing. Family vacation accommodations in the area range from the traditional motel and hotel rooms to beachfront resorts and private home rentals. For the of-age adults in the family, the region is also known for its stellar vineyards, craft breweries and distilleries, and fine restaurants, most of which welcome and cater to families.
Francesca Mazurkiewicz, theworkingmomstravels.com
7. Santa Fe, New Mexico
There are so many things for a family to do in Santa Fe over the summer. The kids will get a kick out of the unusual and quirky Meow Wolf immersive experiences. Sante Fe is also host to the 38th Annual Challenge New Mexico Arts & Crafts Festival in June on the historic Santa Fe Plaza, where the works of over 150 national and local artists are showcased. Rodeo de Santa Fe also happens in June for a ton of family fun.
Cacinda Maloney, PointsandTravel.com
8. Outaouais Region, Canada
Right across the bridge from Canada’s Capital of Ottawa, the Outaouais Region has everything you could ask for in a family vacation. Gatineau Park is a breathtaking beauty to explore in any season, but summer is my favourite. For a challenging zipline and obstacle course your family will remember forever, drive to Arbraska LaFleche Cave and Aerial Park in Val Des Mont, about 25 minutes from Gatineau. The museums in Gatineau are educational and family-friendly too. A spectacular adventure awaits at Parc Omega, just over an hour north of Ottawa-Gatineau area. From the wapitis that greet you as you drive in to the natural environment featuring North American species of flora and fauna to the bears and wolves you spot throughout, this is a must do with kids. With many opportunities to camp on site, you can wake up with wolves and bears nearby!! Or stay in the world’s largest log castle at Fairmont Le Chateau Montebello.
Paula Schuck, thriftymommastips.com
Alaska offers a cool weather vacation in the middle of summer, with the most remarkable views of natural beauty. Families are inspired to appreciate and admire Alaska’s offerings with extended daylight hours of up to 20 hours during the summer months. Hiking in both Ketchikan and Juneau offer awesome family experiences to see glacier views, to feel the massive spray of waterfalls, to encounter wildlife up close in their natural habitat, and if lucky, spy gold flake along a riverbed.
Jan M. Smith neverenoughtravel.com
10. Las Vegas
Most people consider Las Vegas a mecca for adults, but it has, for years, offered activities for everyone in the family. The award-winning Discovery Children’s Museum offers children of all ages an exciting learning experience through permanent and visiting exhibits. The SeaQuest Interactive Aquarium invites visitors to travel through the desert, rainforest, and ocean to interact with everything from stingrays to toucans to snakes. Of course, there are many other family-friendly attractions in the Las Vegas Valley, but getting the family out and moving is also fun; there are more than 20 great hikes within an hour of the city.
Christine Cutler, coldpastaandredwine.com
11. Grand Marais, Minnesota and the North Shore
Grand Marais is a historic trading post town positioned on the north shore of Lake Superior and at the entrance to the Gunflint Trail leading to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. A number of state parks and national forests provide trails, campsites and wayside rests for picnics and great photos. This is the ideal place to experience either the wild shores of Lake Superior or the serene lakes in the woods of Northern Minnesota. Or both. The town of Grand Marais is known for its art colony and the busy North House Folk School. It’s also a great place to stock up for a fishing, camping or canoe trip up in the Boundary Waters.
Kristin Henning, travelpast50.com
12. Lone Mountain Ranch, Big Sky, Montana
By summer, Lone Mountain Ranch is an award winning family dude ranch. (During the winter it is a fantastic Nordic cross-country spot with 80 miles of groomed tracks.) There are private cabins for families with all the comforts of home and a grand lodge for gourmet meals and gatherings. Ranch hands, expert guides and chefs create great family activities and make new memories come to life, including horseback riding, fly fishing, canoeing, mountain biking, hiking, yoga, campfires and music.
Deirdre Michalski, TastesAndTravel.com
13. Vancouver, British Columbia
Vancouver has so much to offer visiting families with close proximity to the ocean and the mountains, and a rich cultural history tied to the first nations. You can ski in the morning in Whistler (two hours away) and then swim in the afternoon at English Bay. Vancouver also offers an impressive cycling/blading experience along the expansive seawall with amazing views as well as incredible activities for hiking and climbing enthusiasts at Grouse Mountain. There’s something for everyone, along with a vast array of foodie experiences from Little Italy to Chinatown.
Rossana Wyatt, lifeisfullofadventures.com
14. Burlington, Vermont
Families can find plenty to do in Vermont’s largest town, Burlington, in the summer. It is located along the eastern shore of the beautiful Lake Champlain where you can enjoy the lake by swimming, sailing, kayaking or standup paddle boarding. Right on the waterfront, you will find the ECHO Lake Aquarium and Science Center. It has 70 species of live animals, over 100 interactive exhibits and daily activities. Not too far away is Shelburne Farms, a 1,400-acre working farm and National Historic Landmark. Hike the trails, visit the animals or see how their famous cheese is made. It is also worth a visit to the nearby Shelburne Museum where kids will love exploring the steamboat Ticonderoga, riding the carousel and exploring the Circus Building. Don’t miss the tour at the Ben and Jerry’s Factory in Stowe. Your kids will thank you.
Dana Freeman, danahfreeman.com
15. Seminole County, Florida (Orlando North)
Just north of the most popular family destination, Seminole County, or Orlando North, offers a little bit of everything for everyone in the family. There are nature tours, kayaking, swimming, antiquing, dining and nightlife, ghost tours and historic attractions. It’s easy to get around on the free downtown trolley, or enjoy a limo-cycle tour and ride a paddlewheel showboat. Take the kids to the foodie famous Wondermade where you can make your own or buy handcrafted marshmallows.
Kathleen Walls, americanroads.net