6 Favorite Places to Take a Family Vacation

by Chris on January 22, 2010

Wondering where to take a family vacation? Here are some of my personal favorite family vacations – perhaps you’ll get some ideas for your family.

Old Faithful, Yellowstone National Park

I’m appearing this morning on Good Day Columbus on FOX28  in Columbus, Ohio. I’m in town for the AAA Great Vacations Expo, where I’ll be speaking later today and tomorrow at noon. I’m a little bummed that I’m going to miss headliner Adam Richman of Man vs. Food do his thing, but I’ve been away from my husband a lot this month. If you are in Columbus, check out the Expo!

For the show, the producers asked me to come up with a list of my favorite places to go on a family vacation. I chose the ones below because they are places where I have great memories of visiting with my family and others. I’m happy to hear your suggestions – just leave them in the comments section below!

Yellowstone National Park

Bears and buffalo, wolves and elk – you’re almost guaranteed a wildlife sighting at some point in Yellowstone National Park. Besides the animals, Yellowstone offers geothermal wonders such as Old Faithful, Mammoth Hot Springs and bubbling hot pots. The park also has a fantastic Junior Ranger program for kids 5 to 12 that’s a perfect introduction to the National Park system. Admission is $25 per vehicle for a pass that’s good for 7 days.


Washington DC

The Capitol, the White House, the Washington Monument, the Lincoln and Jefferson memorials – where else can you see so many American icons in one place? DC is also one of the best vacation deals around, as almost all of the Smithsonian’s museums are free. Some of the more popular attractions do require reservations so it’s best to book ahead.


Tucson, Ariz.

Arizona’s second city south of Phoenix really has the best of the west. Outside of town, there’s the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, where kids can see native wildlife such as cougars, roadrunners, and scorpions. From Sept. to May, admission is $13 for adults, and $4.25 for kids ages 6 to 12 (prices drop in the hot summer months). At Old Tucson Studios, kids can tour sets and pretend they are starring in their own Western (admission is $16.95 for adults and $10.95 for children ages 4-11).   For even more history, drive an hour south to Tombstone – the site of the famous shootout at the OK Corral.

Colonial Williamsburg

Colonial Williamsburg

Filled historical interpreters wearing authentic Colonial garb, the whole town is an educational experience. Kids can  watch a blacksmith in action, get lost in the Palais maze or take their photo in the stocks. Children 5 and under are free, and there’s special rates for kids 5 to 17. Older youngsters might like visiting nearby Yorktown, where the Revolution ended, and Jamestown, the first perman English settlement in the United States.

Niagara Falls

Niagara Falls

This was one of my favorite vacations as a kid. Adventurous children will love taking the Maid of the Mist, a boat that takes you close to the falls (the ride is free for children under 5). Within Niagara Falls State Park, you can also take the Cave of the Winds tour that gets you within 20 feet from Bridal Veil Falls. Although some of the tours are only open in the late spring through fall and do charge an admission fee, you can go to the visitor center and see the falls from the observation tower for free.


Monterey, Calif.

I wanted to make sure my list had a beach on it. Sure, you can go to tourist meccas such as Ocean City, Maryland or Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. But I love the natural beauty of Monterey. Kids can explore tidal pools, watch surfers and see seals and sea lions. Older children might like historic Cannery Row or renting bikes for the city’s Recreation Trail. If you want to splurge, the Monterey Bay Aquarium is one of the best in the world (tickets are $29.95 for adults and $17.95 for kids 3 to 12; students between 13 and 17 pay $27.95).

| Chris Gray Faust is a veteran journalist, travel expert, social media butterfly - and editrix of this site. Like what you read? Check out her writing, editing and social media services.

{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

Caitlin Murphy January 22, 2010 at 9:21 am

I love Niagara Falls since I spent my summers at my grandparents’ house just minutes away. Great to have that on the list.

These suggestions are great for domestic travel – For the Caribbean, how about one of TripAdvisor’s top 10 “Best Hotels for Families?” Coconut Bay Beach Resort & Spa in St. Lucia: http://www.coconutbayresortandspa.com/splash/ (Full disclosure: I manage the hotel’s PR.)


Chris January 22, 2010 at 10:19 am

Caitlin – The station wanted me to come up with domestic options, so that’s why you don’t see St. Lucia, Costa Rica or Mexico on the list. I’m glad you like Niagara Falls! Seriously, when I was a kid, I thought it was the coolest.


Kara @ The Vacation Gals January 22, 2010 at 10:37 am

What? No Hawaii?! That’s a HUGE favorite in my family. We’re heading to Yellowstone this summer, and I’m sure will hit D.C. when kids are in middle school, if not sooner. Colorado mountains (my home turf) make a great vacation destination in both winter and summer — in fact, warm-weather season in high country is my favorite!


Kat January 22, 2010 at 10:52 am

Great choices. I especially like the first.


Beth Ervin January 22, 2010 at 10:57 am

Chris, Welcome to Columbus. It was great to meet you last night. Enjoy your time here, and come back soon.


Caitlin Murphy January 22, 2010 at 11:18 am


About DC, I would definitely reserve a spot on the White House tour!

Also has anyone been to the “Newseum” yet? It seems fun, especially for us news types. http://www.newseum.org



Chris January 22, 2010 at 11:23 am

The Newseum is fantastic! It’s one of my favorite museums of all time (of course!) I didn’t include it, though, because admission is on the pricey side – $20 for adults and $12.95 for kids. That could really add up, which is a shame because DC has so many things to do that are free!


Melanie January 22, 2010 at 3:19 pm

We love a cruise for a favorite family vacation destination. They are great way to see lots of destinations, participate in lots of different activities. There are things for the kids to do with other kids, parents to do with other adults, or things for parents and kids to do together.

We love them!


Don January 22, 2010 at 3:57 pm

The Newseum is my favorite in DC, although it is a bit pricey. I spent 3 hours there one day and 4 hours another day with my father-in-law. It’s easy to want to read everything that’s there – of course, you’d need a month to do that. I especially liked their different video rooms and their display of Pulitzer winning photographs.


williamsburg vacation January 25, 2010 at 9:02 am

A trip to Williamsburg, Virginia provides the rare opportunity of literally stepping into history while still enjoying all the modern comforts of home. The area’s biggest attraction is America’s Historic Triangle, which is made up of: Historic Jamestowne, the first permanent English settlement in the New World, the Yorktown Battlefield, site of the last major battle of the American Revolutionary War and of course Colonial Williamsburg, world’s largest living history museum.

Colonial Williamsburg is a treat for history buffs and younger students of American history. It is a re-creation of 18th-century Williamsburg comprised of 301 acres of historic buildings and gardens where costumed docents pursue their trades and depict aspects of Colonial life. You can visit the blacksmith, take part in the everyday life of the city and interact with its citizens while large “streetscape” performances take place as well as smaller demonstrations.

Once you’re done walking through history, you can step aboard the latest high-tech thrill rides and roller coasters at Busch Gardens Europe. One of the newest rides is the Griffon, the world’s first floorless and world’s tallest dive coaster which carries you 205 feet in the air and then comes straight down at 75 mph.
Other attractions in the area include Water Country USA, Go-Karts Plus, Williamsburg Pottery and the Williamsburg Winery.


Nancy D. Brown January 25, 2010 at 1:50 pm

Hi Chris,
I’m back from a horseback riding vacation in Wickenburg, AZ.
This was my first experience at a “dude” or guest ranch and it offered excellent riding; gorgeous scenery; tasty food and comfortable lodging at a reasonable price. A wonderful family vacation opportunity in the USA.

Follow me on Twitter @Ridinghorseback


Jane March 24, 2010 at 9:30 pm

Where would you recommend staying in DC?


kacenkka May 13, 2010 at 5:52 am

i took a family trip to DC two years ago and it was great! my kids were babies but even though we had a relaxing and wonderful time! this summer we are going over to athens greece!!! i am so excited cause the kids will be able to enjoy the beach and me and my husband love excursions to museums and archeological sites! i found this cool website on facebook http://www.facebook.com/cityofathens they have sooo much info on things to do for families as well! i cant wait to take a walk with the family in plaka and taste their cuisine!


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