It is about time to wrap up those family summer vacation ideas because before you know it, school will be back in session! This year, are you trying to come up with some new family summer vacation ideas? Heading to the beach or the amusement park is fun, but sometimes you get sick of doing the same thing or going to the same place every year. If that is the case, check out these family summer vacation ideas that rock.
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6 Destinations with Great Family Summer Vacation Ideas
The Florida Keys
The Florida Keys are on the top of the list of awesome family summer vacation ideas because there are so many places you can visit and so many fun things to do. If you are unfamiliar with the Florida Keys, they are an island chain off the southern end of Florida. The islands are talked about in terms of the five unique areas: Key Largo, Islamorada, Marathon, the Lower Keys, and Key West. You can pack up and visit one area of the Keys, or make it a road trip and rent a car to make your way through the different islands. The Keys are like a five-in-one vacation idea for your summer plans!
Many people have at least heard about Key Largo because of the Beach Boys. Key Largo is the first of the Florida Keys and the longest of the islands. It is a short drive from the two major airports in South Florida. From Miami International Airport, you can be in Key Largo in an hour. From Ft. Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, it is about an hour and forty-five-minute drive. Besides being a complete tropical paradise, visitors to Key Largo can visit the Everglades National Park or John Pennekamp Coral Reef Park, which was the first underwater marine park in the United States and is home to the only living coral barrier reef in the continental United States.
Key Largo is among these great family summer vacation ideas because it offers so many activities that there is something for everyone — scuba diving, snorkeling, fishing, eco-tours, gorgeous beaches, and dolphin encounters. There are also plenty of nature trails to explore and a rehabilitation center for wild birds.
Past Key Largo is Islamorada. Islamorada is made up of six islands: Plantation Key, Windley Key, Upper Matecumbe Key, Lower Matecumbe Key, and the offshore islands of Indian Key and Lignumvitae Key. Fishing is king in this part of the Keys, which is evidenced by the fact that this region is often referred to as the fishing capital of the world.
This part of the Keys is among great family summer vacation ideas because it offers so much more than fishing. Kids will enjoy feeding the huge tarpon at Robbie’s Marina and then grabbing a bite to eat. Then check out the dolphins, sea lions, sea turtles, fish, sharks, stingrays, alligators, and birds at Theater of the Sea (they also offer dolphin encounters!). Visitors will also enjoy Indian Key Historic State Park, Long Key State Park, Lignumvitae Key Botanical State Park, San Pedro Underwater Archaeological State Park, and Windley Key Fossil Reef Geological State Park.
Next up is Marathon, the heart of the Keys. Marathon includes Long Key, the Conch Keys, Duck Key, Grassy Key, Boot Key, Crawl Key, and Pigeon Key. Marathon offers spectacular sailing, fishing, kayaking, as well as wreck and reef diving, and snorkeling. If you would rather stay on land, Marathon is also full of gorgeous beaches and marine-based educational programs like the Dolphin Research Center and The Turtle Hospital. Another big hit is the Florida Keys Aquarium Encounters, which has been voted Best Place to Take the Kids five years in a row and boasts all kinds of encounters and interactive exhibits. Their signature exhibit is a coral reef and shark habitat housed in a 200,000-gallon saltwater aquarium.
Marathon is connected to the Lower Keys by the famous Seven Mile Bridge. Some of the most beautiful parts of the Keys can be found in the Lower Keys. The Lower Florida Keys include a number of small islands connected by bridges. Big Pine Key is a great place to stay in this part of the Keys while exploring the rest of the Lower Keys and other parts of the Keys. If you are lucky, you might encounter the endangered Key deer. You can also visit the National Key Deer Refuge if you are looking to spot these or the 19 other endangered and threatened plant and animal species that call this area home.
Other family summer vacation ideas for this part of the Keys include a visit to the Looe Key Marine Sanctuary. Here there is a variety of coral, a sunken ship, and more than 150 species of fish. Or spend some time on the white sandy beaches of Bahia Honda State Park, which is often called one of the most beautiful beaches in America. It offers some of the best snorkeling and beachcombing in all of Florida.
Finally, at the very end of the Florida Keys, you will find Key West. This eclectic island is home to the Hemingway Home and Museum, where you will find the famous six-toed Hemingway cats (you can also find them roaming other parts of the island). Kids will love the Key West Aquarium. They will also enjoy The Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory and the Key West Wildlife Center. If you are lucky, you might even spot manatees in the harbor.
A few other items to add to your list of family summer vacation ideas for a Key West visit include Books and Books at the Studios of Key West, a book store owned by Judy Blume herself (you can often find her working in the shop where she will autograph her books if you purchase them there); the Southernmost Point, a marker at the tip of the island that makes for a great photo opp; and Mallory Square, where you can watch tightrope walkers, jugglers, sword swallowers, and other acts perform and peruse a pop-up market in the evenings while getting the perfect look at the sun setting beyond the Gulf of Mexico.
Yellowstone National Park
Yellowstone National Park is a great destination and is full of family summer vacation ideas that will let you enjoy the great outdoors and one of the country’s amazing national parks. The park is enormous, covering more than 3,400 square miles. Although the official address is in Wyoming, and most of the park is in that state, Yellowstone National Park is actually in three different states. Small portions of the park go into Montana and Idaho, so you can easily visit places in the surrounding area of any of these three states if you want to turn your summer trip into a road trip.
Since the park is so large, it is important to plan ahead for a trip to Yellowstone, or else you could spend a lot of your time trying to get where you want to be. Yellowstone has five entrances – north, northeast, east, south, and west. Each entrance brings you to a different unique experience. Just because you enter through one entrance does not mean you will miss out on anything in the park if you want to see it. You can easily drive from one side of the park to the other if you want. Again, Yellowstone is full of family summer vacation ideas because it is so expansive and full of stops.
The North Entrance is located in Montana and brings you right to Mammoth Hot Springs. From here, you are well-situated to see the park’s incredible wildlife, as well as the famed hot springs. There is an historic hotel, Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel, and Cabins, located near the hot springs where visitors have the chance to see elk grazing around the grounds. This entrance passes the turn for Boiling River, one of two sanctioned swimming areas in the park. Here you can swim where warm hot springs water enters the Yellowstone River. If you want to venture out of the park, the nearby town of Gardiner is a small but lively western town you will enjoy exploring.
In the opposite northern corner of the park is the Northeast Entrance, which gives visitors the best access to Yellowstone’s legendary Lamar Valley and the home to grizzly bears, black bears, pronghorn, badgers, bald eagles, bison, and wolves. Here it is easy to spot animals roaming, so there are lots of pull-off spots along the road to watch for wildlife. Among the most famous wildlife inhabitants here are the Junction Butte and Lamar Canyon wolf packs that regularly draw wolf enthusiasts. Two small, primitive campgrounds can be found here and make the perfect starting point if you are interested in some early morning wildlife watching.
Next is the East Entrance, which brings visitors to Yellowstone Lake. This is the largest mountain lake at such a high elevation, and its shorelines are dotted with geothermal features. From there, the West Thumb Geyser Basic and Old Faithful lie to the southeast and the “Grand Canyon of Yellowstone” is to the north. The Grand Canyon of Yellowstone is a breathtaking sight. Twenty miles long, the canyon is up to 4,000-feet wide and 1,200-feet deep in some places. There are waterfalls, active geysers, and hot springs along the stretch of canyon.
Enter through the South Entrance to Yellowstone, and you can visit two national parks back to back. That is because Grand Teton National Park lies just 57 miles south of this entrance. So maybe consider a National Parks road trip in your family summer vacation ideas!
If you enter the park from the South Entrance, you will have a beautiful 20-mile drive without any turnoffs or stops along the way. After that drive, you will reach Great Thumb. From there, you can easily head towards either side of Yellowstone — head west to Old Faithful or go north along Yellowstone Lake and all the way up to the Lamar Valley if you want. This is a great entrance to use if you want to really span all of the park.
Finally, the West Entrance brings you straight to the heart of the park’s geysers. Know that this is the busiest of the park’s entrances, but that also means there are lots of lodging and dining options in the area surrounding the park here. Head south, and you will reach the Lower Geyser Basin, which includes Fountain Paint Pot and the Great Fountain Geyser.
You will then pass through the Midway Geyser Basin, which is home to the Grand Prismatic Spring. This spring is home to a resident bacteria that creates rainbow-like rings in the spring. It is worth the stop. Further south, you will reach the Upper Geyser Basin, which is home to the most well-known geyser Old Faithful, as well as many others. There are more than 150 geysers within a one-mile area from here.
There are so many amazing family summer vacation ideas for a trip to Washington, D.C. First off, summer is a great time to visit Washington, D.C. because the weather will be perfect. It is also a great place to visit because there are enough fun things to do that you can spend anything from a long weekend to an entire week exploring the nation’s capital.
First, you have to visit some of the monuments. If you are only spending a short time in D.C., the Washington Monument and Lincoln Memorial are must-sees. If you have the opportunity, visit the Lincoln Memorial after dark. The inner chamber of the monument is lit up at night, so you can see the statue of Lincoln from quite a distance, and the view looking out on the Reflecting Pool and the World War II Memorial from the top of the stairs is quite breathtaking.
If you have a little more time on your hands, walk around the paved path at the Tidal Basin and visit the Jefferson Memorial. Because this monument is a little out of the way, you may have overlooked it in the past, but it is pretty cool (again, this is a cool sight at night), and the view at the Tidal Basin is really pretty on a nice day.
Depending on the length of your stay, you can easily spend a few days checking out the museums in Washington, D.C. Kids will love the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History (this one is the museum featured in the movie Night at the Museum) and the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. Other museums you should put on your list of family summer vacation ideas if you visit D.C. and have the time include The International Spy Museum, the National Museum of American History, the National Gallery of Art, and the National Museum of African American History and Culture.
Another thing you have to put on your list of family summer vacation ideas in D.C. is the National Zoo. It is one of the best places you can visit in the city. Check out the giant pandas. See Asian elephants close up. The zoo is also home to lions, tigers, red pandas, cheetahs, gorillas, and so many more amazing animals. You may even spot an orangutan overhead, making use of the orangutan line hanging above the walking path that allows these great apes to travel between their two habitats.
There are so many more family summer vacation ideas to consider for a summer trip to Washington, D.C. You can visit Ford’s Theatre, where President Lincoln was shot. Visit the U.S. Capitol. Walk to The White House. Take the Metro to Georgetown and explore. Spend an afternoon exploring the United States Botanic Garden. You can even take a short drive to Mount Vernon, George Washington’s home, where you can easily spend the better part of a day.
Chicago is among these family summer vacation ideas because it is so full of fun, family activities. Summer is the best time to visit Chicago because that is when the weather is nicest here. It also means lots of baseball, if you are interested in that sort of thing. Chicago is home to both the Cubs and one of the oldest stadiums in America, Wrigley Field, as well as the White Sox, so you have a lot of opportunities to see some great baseball if you visit this city.
Besides baseball, Chicago is full of some amazing aquariums, zoos, and museums. First off, there is Shedd Aquarium. This aquarium is home to penguins, Beluga whales, sea otters, and all kinds of other cool ocean life. You may have seen their most famous penguin, Wellington, who went all over the aquarium having adventures during the early part of the COVID-19 pandemic when visitors were not allowed in the aquarium. Nearby the aquarium is Adler Planetarium. Learn about the stars and space as part of history. Learn about telescopes, the planets, and the night sky. Explore space in an interactive space adventure and experience some of the immersive sky shows offered.
Add Lincoln Park Zoo to your family summer vacation ideas. This free-admission zoo is home to a wide variety of animals, including big cats, polar bears, penguins, gorillas, all sorts of reptiles, monkeys, and other species totaling more than 1,000 animals from close to 200 species.
Other family summer vacation ideas while you are in Chicago include some of the most amazing museums in the country. You will have to decide which ones you have time to visit! The Field Museum has some amazing dinosaur fossils. The Museum of Science and Industry is one of the largest science museums in the world and is home to more than 400,000 square feet of hands-on exhibits. Then there is the Art Institute of Chicago, one of the oldest and largest art museums in the world, that is home to iconic works of art like Georges Seurat’s A Sunday on La Grande Jatte, Pablo Picasso’s The Old Guitarist, and Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks.
Virginia Beach, Virginia
For family summer vacation ideas that involve the beach, consider Virginia Beach. There is a variety of family-friendly activities here. Spend some time relaxing at the beach. Check out the three-mile boardwalk that stretches along the oceanfront. The Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center is near the oceanfront and features sharks, stingrays, sea turtles, jellyfish, and octopus.
One morning, head to Cape Henry military base to climb the steps of the Cape Henry Lighthouse. Then spend the afternoon taking a boat ride from Rudee Inlet, where you have the chance to see dolphins or charter a fishing boat and try your hand at deep sea fishing.
In addition to the beautiful beaches, Virginia Beach also has tons of hiking and biking opportunities. First Landing Acre Park and False Cape State Park offer breathtaking surroundings and great trails for hiking. The Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge spans over 9,000 acres of barrier islands, dunes, woodlands, beaches, marshes, and forests. Then there is Mount Trashmore Park, with its two man-made mountains, two lakes, two playgrounds, a skate park, and other fun, family-friendly attractions. If your family loves art, spend an afternoon exploring the public art murals of The ViBe Creative District.
READ MORE: 10 of the World’s Best Museums to Explore
Lake Travis, Texas
If you are looking for lesser-known family summer vacation ideas, consider Lake Travis in Texas for your summer getaway. Lake Travis lies just outside of Austin, TX in the town of Lakeway. There are so many activities here, evidenced by the fact that it is the most commercially active reservoir in the state of Texas. A few of the fun family activities here include Lake Travis Waterloo Adventures, an on-the-water waterpark and obstacle course. The course features a 600-foot water playground offering more than 20 obstacles, including climbing walls, monkey bars, slides, hurdles, balance beams, and bridges. The park is adjacent to its sister park Lake Travis Zipline Adventures.
Another fun thing to do here is to visit The Oasis. This place is widely known as “The Sunset Capital of Texas” because of the breathtaking views of one of the most spectacular sunsets you will ever get the chance to see. It is a massive terraced complex with views looking west over the lake for the best views of the sunset. It offers a bunch of things to add to your list of family summer vacation ideas, as it includes a restaurant, music venue, mall complex, and craft brewery.
There are also plenty of resorts and waterparks on the water of this 63-mile long lake to fill out your family summer vacation ideas. You can rent boats or jet skis, or just spend your days relaxing and enjoying the views while the kids splash in the water. You can also spend time at one of the 17 parks on Lake Travis that have campgrounds, beaches, picnic areas, boat ramps, and opportunities for swimming and shoreline fishing.
Summer vacations are the best. While they can be stressful to plan, your family will remember these trips for the rest of their lives. A family vacation does not have to be elaborate, expensive, or over-the-top. A low-key trip to Yellowstone or a few days at Virginia Beach can make wonderful family summer vacation ideas. Take inspiration from some of these 6 family summer vacation ideas and this year your family will have the best summer vacation they have ever experienced!
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