When it comes to planning family getaways, it’s always challenging to find a location that will satisfy everyone’s interests. Add in a multi-generational vacation, and a trip is even more challenging. Where can you go that will have something for everyone, from grandparents to children? Fortunately, we’ve done the leg work and believe we’ve found some great places for the entire family -- from Bobo and Papa all the way to the little ones -- to enjoy and have a happy, fun family vacation.
1. Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Oklahoma City embodies the Modern Frontier and is clearly defining its own future. A young city steeped in Native American and Western culture, openness, and an enterprising nature, OKC is creative when it comes to embracing its roots and is paving the way as a center of innovation and entrepreneurship. Vacationing in OKC, your family will feel like anything is possible.
Hop on the OKC Streetcar, which takes you through Midtown, City Center, and Bricktown on its six-mile route, making it easy to visit retail, dining, and attraction stops along the way. Science Museum Oklahoma will challenge every family member’s mind and imagination as they explore the recently renovated planetarium and interactive exhibits highlighting all forms of science. With giant postcard murals detailing the city’s history as well as the beauty of an 1800s warehouse district reimagined, a water taxi tour of the canal in Bricktown is a must when visiting Oklahoma City. The National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum offers a look at the American West through art and sculpture and a new outdoor area that brings diverse stories of the West to life through replicas of a Kiowa tipi, Puebloan cliff dwellings, a train depot, a Chickasaw Council House, and more. If that sounds fun, you can also experience staying overnight in a Conestoga wagon or teepee at Orr Family Farm. The accommodations may look historic but come with modern comforts like king-sized beds and air conditioning. Your family will have a blast “roughing it” in these glamping accommodations, which can sleep groups of four to eight people.
Have more time or want more inspiration? Read up on 14 fantastic things to do in Oklahoma City.
2. St. Louis, Missouri
From the Gateway Arch National Park on the banks of the Mississippi River to the Magic House, St. Louis offers a fun adventure for the entire family. Enjoy a ride to the top of the St. Louis Arch and get an impressive view of the Mississippi River valley. Take a stroll to the Old Courthouse, site of the famous Dred Scott case, when a slave sued for his freedom. With sea lions swimming overhead and penguins only an arm’s length away, the St. Louis Zoo at Forest Park is a perfect day outing. The Magic House may be a children’s museum, but there’s something for everyone, from the bubble room to the static electricity ball, where even grandpa will want to see his hair stand up. Good luck keeping everyone together at the City Museum, where, from the moment you arrive, the family will quickly want to explore each of the museum’s four floors, with caves, slides, and old architecture. The rooftop is a must, where you can check out a bus hanging over the ledge, as well as ride a Ferris wheel. Speaking of Ferris wheels, Union Station is home to St. Louis’s newest attraction -- The St. Louis Wheel -- as well as the St. Louis Aquarium.
3. Denver, Colorado
With mountains in the background, take a fun family road trip about an hour west of Denver for an old-fashioned train ride aboard the Georgetown Loop Railroad. Ride the rails through forests and around Colorado’s mountains for an opportunity to enjoy the amazing scenery that the entire family will love. While in Denver, walk among dinosaurs and encounter Egyptian mummies during a visit to the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. Along with children’s activities, the museum also explores Western history including Native Americans and gems and minerals. Pose for photos next to the Big Blue Bear that peers into the Denver Convention Center. You’ll want to hop aboard the Denver Trolley -- which resembles the trolley from Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood -- for a fun ride around the city, taking in sites like the Broncos’ stadium.
4. Duluth, Minnesota
Enjoy a cruise along Lake Superior, passing giant ore ships and taking in the beauty of the Great Lake. Feed the gulls and take in the fun sites at Duluth’s Canal Park. Visit Split Rock Lighthouse during a drive along North Shore Scenic Drive, or take in the beauty on a ride with the North Shore Scenic Railroad. Explore history and enjoy beautiful views of the grounds during a tour of the Glensheen Mansion, which covers 12 acres of pristine scenery. Children will enjoy exploring the SS Meteor (over the border in Wisconsin, about a 15-minute drive from Duluth) while the adults learn about the history of Lake Superior on the last whaleback ship in the world.
Pick up additional tips (and restaurant recommendations!) in our guide on how to enjoy a perfect weekend in Duluth.
5. Albuquerque, New Mexico
Home to the annual International Balloon Fiesta, Albuquerque is a must-visit for balloon and outdoor enthusiasts. The entire family can enjoy a hot air balloon ride over the Sandia Mountains and the New Mexico desert. As you visit the Duke City, head to the Sandia Peak Tramway for a ride to the top of the mountain, where you’ll stand one mile above sea level. While on the mountain, explore the wilderness along one of the impressive trails. Historic Old Town has a little something for everyone, from shops and open-air markets with locals offering authentic Native American jewelry and more to authentic New Mexican food. You can also learn about the history and culture of Southwestern Native Americans at the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center.
Editor’s Note: The 49th International Balloon Fiesta has been rescheduled for October 2 to 10, 2021, since the 2020 event is canceled.
6. Long Beach, Washington
On the coast of the Pacific Ocean, Long Beach Peninsula is home to what’s known as the World’s Longest Beach as well as the world’s largest frying pan, chopsticks, and razor clam (kids will love it, as it spews water). You may find Sasquatch in front of stores, such as Marsh’s Free Museum and the Candy Man shop. The beach is a beautiful spot to walk, with a boardwalk trail that recognizes the Lewis and Clark expedition. You may want to grab a bucket and shovel and join locals each morning to dig for razor clams. Long Beach is also a kite flier’s dream, with gusty winds and open terrain. The World Kite Museum is located here, with immaculate and uniquely designed kites on display that will impress everyone. Cape Disappointment State Park is a short drive from Long Beach and showcases where the Columbia River meets the Pacific Ocean. After a steep walk along a paved trail, you’ll see and hear giant waves crashing into the side of the bluffs near the confluence.
7. Brainerd, Minnesota
Rent a lakeside house and spend a week on the lake in Brainerd, in central Minnesota. The small town could pass for a coastal town on the East Coast. Rent a boat for fishing or just for fun. Everyone can enjoy swimming in the lake, followed by a tour of the town. Visit Paul Bunyan Land, an amusement park featuring a 26-foot-tall Paul Bunyan statue that greets each child by name. You can also play a friendly round of miniature golf at Pirate’s Cove. For a true adventure, stop by the Brainerd visitor center and pick up a map of Paul Bunyan attractions. It’s a fun road trip around the area, and children will enjoy finding Paul and his ox, Babe. You’ll travel through neighboring towns, all of which offer impressive views of Minnesota’s lake country.
8. Salt Lake City, Utah
As the largest salt lake in the Western Hemisphere, Great Salt Lake offers visitors some of the most beautiful scenery in the Western United States. As you cross the bridge onto the state park island, you’ll immediately notice the enormous size of the lake. Touring the area, look for a herd of wild bison (please, do not approach the animals) running along the beach. As host to the 2002 Winter Olympics, Salt Lake City is home to several Olympic attractions, including Park City, where you can watch future Olympians practice on the ski jumps, as well as take a ride on the bobsled track. The Olympic Park also features a zip line and more fun. Home to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, you may be fortunate enough to catch them practicing during a visit to the Historic Temple Square, home to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.
For more attractions plus shopping, dining, and drinking recommendations (yes, you can have a drink in SLC), consider the best things to see and do in Salt Lake City.
9. Omaha, Nebraska
Home to one of the world’s best zoos, a trip to Omaha almost requires a visit to Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium, with more than 100 acres devoted to attractions based on each part of the world, such as the African Grasslands and Asian Highlands, as well as the world’s largest indoor desert dome and one of the largest indoor rain forests. The Old Market is home to excellent shopping, great food, and fun places to visit, such as Hollywood Candy and the Museum of Shadows, named the most haunted museum in the world. The Durham Museum mixes Omaha’s history with its railroad story, as well as interesting special exhibits. The Omaha Children’s Museum features dozens of interactive exhibits for children and special exhibits that adults will find interesting. A trip to the Strategic Air Command and Aerospace Museum, about 30 miles west of town, offers a look at more than 30 military aircrafts and spacecrafts.