Photograph by Allison Achauer, Getty Images
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A little girl frames up a shot of the Grand Prismatic Spring in Yellowstone National Park on a rainy day while her grandmother looks on.
Photograph by Allison Achauer, Getty Images

The Best Places to Take Your Family on Vacation This Summer

The top family bloggers in the United States share their picks for the most brood-friendly destinations in America.

Want to know where the most with-it parents in America take their families for summer vacation?

I did, so I headed to the Mom 2.0 Summit, the ultimate gathering of moms who do it all—run blogs, businesses, and families—to find out.

Now that school’s out, here’s a few handpicked destinations for families looking to get outside and explore together.

Outstanding National Parks

With the National Park Service centennial front of mind, several bloggers offered thoughts on the best parks for families.

Whitney Moss, one half of the duo behind the Rookie Moms blog, swears by caving at Lava Beds National Monument in northern California. The caves come in all shapes, sizes, and colors, offering hikes ranging from moderate to challenging. And the little ones are sure to get a kick out of hoisting huge boulders of lava that look heavy but are actually very light due to all the air trapped inside.

That being said, Whitney warns, this isn't a trip for overprotective parents. “It's is a pretty raw experience—which we don't often have a chance to share with our kids in this age of molded plastic playground equipment," she says.

For Val Curtis of Bon Bon Break, a “magical” family experience awaits closer to the coast, at Redwood National Park. Her kids, wowed by the towering trees, said wandering among the redwoods made them feel like characters in their very own fairy tale.

Jeff Bogle of Out With the Kids, one of a handful of superdads attending the conference, agreed with Val’s pick, and had a few side trips to add to the itinerary: A nature walk through nearby Fern Canyon—“the coolest living museum,” in his words—and a jaunt to Gold Bluffs Beach, where he says “the redwoods dramatically meet the sea’s raw and untamable power.”

On the other side of the country, Jessica McFadden points to Virginia's Shenandoah National Park as an idyllic family escape. The A Parent in America blogger recently rented a cabin there and she and her brood spent the weekend hiking along the park's iconic Skyline Drive, stargazing at night, and exploring nearby Luray Caverns. Her tip: Hire a guide to get the most out of the experience.

But for Shelby Barone, founder of the Orange County Mom Blog, nothing compares to America's very first national park. In her mind Yellowstone is as good as it gets when it comes to providing a backdrop to the ultimate family vacation. Her tip: As big as the park is, and as much as you want to see everything, make sure to get out of the car and explore the incredible scenery on foot.

Unbeatable Beaches

"Beach" and "family vacation" might as well be synonyms. Nothing beats a day at the ocean with the sun and surf—and the squeals of children as they play in the sand.

For The Family Coach's Catherine Pearlman, Cape Cod, Massachusetts, offers “quintessential beach towns with a slow pace, long days, and lots of ice cream.” She loves the great summer weather ("not too hot, not too cold"), serene shores, photogenic scenery—and filling her whole families’ bellies with fried clams.

Amy Morrison of Pregnant Chicken says that when she thinks of summer she thinks of Virginia Beach, because of the warm childhood memories she formed there splashing in the water, eating ice cream, and drinking in the salty beach air.

The Outer Banks may get all the ink when it comes to North Carolina beaches, but Andrea from Just Is a Four Letter Word prefers less touristed Wrightsville Beach. A few of the highlights: sweeping shorelines, low-key atmosphere, and seemingly endless options for scenic walks in nature.

Offbeat Adventures

If you're looking for a bit of culture when it comes to planning your family vacation, there are plenty of options awaiting you in a country as vast as the U.S. Here are three destinations worth exploring.

Coeur d’Alene in northern Idaho holds allure for Kimberly Tate of Stuffed Suitcase. She and her husband took their family there for an Ironman triathlon and fell hard for City Park—with its urban beach, colossal playground, and summer concert series—and the sheer amount of lakes in the area.

Emelia Cellura of Half-Crazy Mama recommends Virginia City, Nevada, a boomtown for silver in the mid-1800s. Vacationing there, she says, “is like stepping back in time to an old western town—wood-plank walkways and all.”

And Sarah Hirsch, the blogger behind Well Traveled Kids, sees the greater San Diego area as an ideal summer getaway for families because it brings a little bit of everything to the table—beautiful beaches, grand hotels, incredible nature on Coronado Island, proximity to Legoland (with Disneyland just 65 miles farther afield), and a bright and sunny climate that matches its vibe.