2014 family holidays in the USADiscover the best family-friendly destinations in the USA
HomeAway travel expert on USA family holidays
First time visitors to the USA are often surprised to realize how big the country is, and how much diversity the culture incorporates. It’s impossible to see everything, and transit times can be long, so you’ll want to choose one or two regions to visit. There is no one national food, but you’ll find regional specialities in each part of the country, as well as a local cuisine that incorporates the foods brought in by wave after wave of international immigration. From the amusement parks in Orlando to the wide beaches of Southern California, to the big city museums and Broadway shows in New York you’ll find the backdrop and activities that help you create enduring family memories.
Holiday rentals can be found in virtually any area that you would want to visit. They’re a good fit for family travel since each provides the comforts of a kitchen, washing machine, and the opportunity to integrate your family into the fabric of a residential area. Know that only the largest US cities tend to have good public transportation systems, and that taxis can be expensive, so unless you are headed to large cities you’ll want to budget for a rental car and parking.
Open places. It’s no secret that kids love to have the space to run and play, and the United States has lots of options for families. Visit the popular beaches in Florida and San Diego or take a roadtrip into the wide open spaces outside the cities.
Modern cities. Bustling, modern cities like New York and Chicago might all seem the same on the surface. Look closer, though, and you’ll find local differences permeate everything from kids activities to music and food.
Amusement parks. Every kid seems to know about America’s amusement parks. Though smaller parks dot the country, the areas around Orlando, Florida and Anaheim, California are packed with theme parks where you can go for a wild ride with your kids.
Top places for families in the USA
San Diego, California
The lure of the pacific ocean, sunshine and California’s wide beaches and dreams of sitting on the beach and watching the surfers all day might be enough to lure you to San Diego, but there’s way more to discover. Kids will enjoy the 100-acre San Diego Zoo, and the Zoo’s Safari Park (30 miles north of San Diego), and SeaWorld. LegoLand, just north of San Diego gives younger kids a chance to explore the world of Lego through pint-sized rides, shows and a water park.
With young kids, one of the city’s many hop-on-hop-off bus tours is the best way to take in New York’s many landmarks, and you can decide which ones you want to see from the bus and which ones you want to visit in more detail. Once you’ve gotten an overview, dive in to the city’s museums with a visit to the Metropolitan Museum or the American Museum of Natural History and roam through Central Park. Finally, you’ll want to take in at least one of New York’s famed Broadway Musicals.
What kid wouldn’t love a city whose claims to food-fame are pizza, hot dogs and popcorn? Between meals, Chicago's museums, many of which have specialized kid-friendly exhibits, make this city a fun and interesting destination for both kids and adults. Add the engaging sculptures in Millenium park, a free zoo, lakefront beaches, the carnival atmosphere of the Navy Pier, and a new indoor Legoland, and you'll find a destination that the whole family will love.
There’s a reason that Hawaii is featured as a kind of paradise in so many American movies and TV shows. This is the place we “mainlanders” all dream of on short, cold winter days. Oahu is the most bustling of the Islands, with lots for kids to see and do when they’re not in the water. From the Polynesian Cultural Center, where kids can learn about island culture, to Pearl Harbor, and the crystal clear snorkelling at Hanauma Bay, you’d be hard pressed to see and do everything in a week on Oahu.
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If your kids are begging for nonstop amusement parks and themed restaurants (and I’ll bet they are), Orlando is the place to go. Walt Disney World (which encompasses four theme parks and two water parks, Universal Studios, Sea World, Busch Gardens and LegoLand Florida all make their home in or near Orlando meaning that you’ll be consuming kids entertainment from sunrise to sunset (and with any luck your kids will be smiling from ear to ear the entire time). If that sounds a little overwhelming, know that Cocoa Beach is a mere hour away by car.