18 family-friendly places to visit in 2018

As you look ahead to 2018 why not plan a trip (or two) to a family-friendly destination? I could envision my own little crew having a blast in any of these unique spots and they could be a great fit for your family travel list too.

1. Alaska: Denali National Park and Preserve  

If your family loves nature, visiting Denali National Park and Preserve will create memories that last a lifetime. The summer season is ideal for a trip because the days are longer, so you can squeeze in more family fun. Opting for the Cabins at Denali Park Village will get you closest to the park entrance and these affordable accommodations boast views of the Nenana River. Adventurous families can bond while rafting or ziplining and there are plenty of options for tasty food too. Obsessed with Top Chef? Check out 229 Parks where recent contestant Laura Cole dishes up locally sourced ingredients such as Alaskan seafood. 

2. Colorado: Colorado Springs

Outdoor adventure meets cultural flair in Colorado Springs for an unforgettable summer or fall trip. Soaring 14,115 feet, Pike’s Peak inspired Katharine Lee Bates to pen “America the Beautiful.” Don’t fret if your family is not up for hardcore mountain hikes, you can view the splendor from the comfort of the Pikes Peak Cog Railway or frolic in the foothills at Garden of the Gods, a city park with out-of-this-world red rock formations. After a dose of nature, hit the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center to see Latin American and Native American treasures or meander through the Downtown Colorado Springs Creative District to take in more than 50 pieces of public art. The Cheyenne Mountain Resort will be perfect for any water-loving family, as it has a private beach plus five pools. Pikes Peak Market offers everything from tamales to crepes, so there should be something that appeals to even the pickiest pint-sized eaters. 

3. Delaware: Rehoboth Beach

Families who can’t get enough of beach bumming will not want to leave this sandy haven with its classic boardwalk. Summer is the prime time to enjoy the sunshine, but if you can sneak away in September after Labor Day, you just might find a slice of paradise with fewer people and more affordable accommodations. Avenue Inn & Spa is just a block from the beach and will help your family avoid getting hangry. They offer free wine and cheese for mom and dad and freshly baked cookies that the kiddos can munch on. The noshing can continue during a stroll along the boardwalk with stops for classics such as Dolle’s saltwater taffy or Thrasher’s fries. Work off all of that quality snacking with a family hike at a state park such as Delaware Seashore or Cape Henlopen.

4. Idaho: Stanley

Head to Stanley for summer stargazing, as it is part of the Central Idaho Dark Sky Reserve, meaning that you can take in unparalleled views of the night sky. During the day you can build memories at Redfish Lake with family fun in paddleboats, canoes, kayaks or pontoons. You can even stay near the water at Redfish Lake Lodge, which offers cabins that can house the family under one rustic roof. Keep the cabin theme going at Stanley Baking Company & Cafe where java and creative breakfast fare will keep the whole family humming along. 

5. Iowa: Des Moines Area

A late summer visit to Des Moines this year could offer some new options for family fun. Adventureland Amusement Park in Altoona is already a kid’s paradise with 100 rides, shows, games and an outdoor waterpark. Bernie’s Barnyard is slated to open in May 2018 and will add two new rides plus a new playground to Adventureland’s offerings. You can even stay adjacent to the action at Adventureland Inn. Nearby, visit the Jester Park Nature Center (opening in Summer 2018) in Granger to bond outdoors with activities ranging from birding and fishing to camping and hiking, plus kiddos will love the nature playscape. 

6. Kansas: Wichita

Situated on the Arkansas River, Wichita could be perfect for a visit in May or June when the weather is warm for moonlit strolls along the water. 316 Hotel looks like a good option for families as it offers complimentary breakfast and shuttle service to nearby attractions. Exploration Place has a variety of exhibits that will keep your kiddos learning and having fun. Meanwhile, the Old Cowtown Museum will give your family a look back in time to life in the 1800s. Make sure to stop for a bite at the Doo-Dah Diner, a laid-back spot where your family can dig into homey food like biscuits, burgers and shakes.  

7. Maryland: Salisbury

A September stop in Salisbury could make for a memorable family vacation. This small town is tucked away between Maryland’s beaches and the Chesapeake Bay and was just chosen to host the National Folk Festival from 2018 to 2020. This year, the festival is scheduled for Sept. 7-9, which is a great time for folk music loving families. There is plenty more for families to do in the area such as canoeing and kayaking or stopping by the new Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Historical Park.

8. Massachusetts: Cape Cod

Late spring through early fall is a good time to visit Cape Cod for beautiful weather and smooth ferry rides to Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard islands. Take your budding gourmands on a culinary experience such as sea scalloping and cranberry bog tours or see how the crunchy magic happens at the Cape Cod Potato Chip Factory. Staying at The Barley Neck Inn, an old sea captain’s home, will be the perfect fit for this nautical destination. If your crew fares well on boat rides, whale watching could be an exciting excursion. Prefer relaxing on the shore? Check out Nauset Beach, an 11-mile stretch of Atlantic waterfront.  

9. Michigan: Grand Rapids

A road trip to Grand Rapids could make for an affordable vacation with a drive that is not long enough to drive you and the kiddos crazy. Staying at the Holiday Inn Downtown will be easy on the family budget as well with complimentary parking and kids eating free at the Pearl Street Grill. You will also be near the Grand Rapids Art Museum and Rosa Parks Circle, a city park to let out some energy. When you are out and about, the Grand Rapids Downtown Market can solve the family dining conundrum as its food court style set up offers everything from sushi to tacos. 

10. Minnesota: Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul

The Twin Cities know a thing or two about cold weather, so there are plenty of options to stay cozy if you visit at any time of year. The Great Wolf Lodge Adventure Park has an indoor water park that will keep your kiddos entertained. Bonus: The lodge is across from the Mall of America. Little ones will love the mall’s indoor theme park, Nickelodeon Universe. If your family includes animal aficionados, head to the Como Zoo in St. Paul where you can see a ton of wildlife, including four newbies: two baby zebras, an orangutan and a giraffe. 

11. Montana: Bozeman

Montana is calling our name! Bozeman already had me at the surrounded by mountains, rivers and valleys part. A summer visit could be awesome for outdoor fun such as tubing along the warm waters of the Madison River. The Hyalite Canyon Recreational Area offers hiking with incredible views, so be sure to grab a family snapshot at picturesque Palisade Falls. After working up an appetite outdoors, head to Buffalo Bump Pizza for a family-friendly vibe and fresh eats in a big red barn!

12. New York: Rochester

Rochester offers a winning combo of beautiful outdoor scenery and many indoor options for family fun. The Strong National Museum of Play has so much to offer wee ones. The Can You Tell Me How to Get to Sesame Street? exhibit will make little imaginations run wild as they explore the world of the beloved show. The Rochester Museum and Science Center will spark interest with its opportunity to create never seen before inventions. Outdoors, families can bike or hike along the scenic Erie Canal. Try another option for family bonding with canoeing or kayaking along one of Rochester’s many waterways. 

13. North Dakota: Theodore Roosevelt National Park

The Theodore Roosevelt National Park celebrates its 40th anniversary in 2018 and with 70,000 acres, there are endless reasons to celebrate this natural treasure. Plan a trip for late spring through early fall for optimal weather. Visitors can hike kid-friendly trails, spot wildlife, or ride horses all while taking in knock-your-socks of views of the rugged terrain. Stay in nearby Medora, which has several options for family accommodations. For a tasty bite, stop by Badlands Pizza and Saloon for family-friendly fare. 

14. Oregon: Seaside

Just a stone’s throw from Portland on the Oregon coast, Seaside has everything a family could want in a coastal getaway. Grab a room at The River Inn at Seaside overlooking the Necanicum River. With a saltwater indoor heated pool, playground, game room, bike rentals and fire pits just screaming for s’mores, there is no shortage of pastimes for your little ones. Also, these accommodations will put your family within walking distance to downtown and the beach. Now about that beach, summer is ideal to enjoy temperatures in the mid-70s as you walk or bike the promenade, dig for clams or just kick back and do some quality beach lounging. Families who heart seals will never forget the experience of feeding them at the Seaside Aquarium

15. South Carolina: Spartanburg

It’s all about the food in Spartanburg, which makes it my kind of town. Pack up your little foodies and head to the South in spring where you’ll be rewarded with blossoming dogwood trees and azaleas. Wade’s Southern Food will make your mouth water just looking at the spread of sides pictured above. Go a bit kitschy with burgers from Sugar-n-Spice Drive In or eat alfresco at Fr8Yard. The food scene is thriving in Spartanburg, but if you can tear yourself away from the table for a moment, head to Chapman Cultural Center to see 4 (yes, 4!) museums under one roof. The 7,000 acres of Croft State Park offer boating, hiking, biking and horseback riding because you have to burn off that Southern comfort food one way or another. 

16. Tennessee: Memphis 

Start your family trip to Memphis by checking into The Peabody Memphis where kiddos will delight in the marching ducks show. Keep the good times rolling with an excursion to the Memphis Zoo that is home to more than 3,500 animals, including the grinning panda in the photo. Next, head to The Children’s Museum of Memphis for a spin on the recently restored 1909 Dentzel Memphis Grand Carousel. It is beautiful! A trip to the South is not complete without fried chicken: Get the family fix at Gus’s World Famous Fried Chicken

17. Virginia: Shenandoah National Park

Take a trip Shenandoah National Park in the spring to catch the scenery popping into bloom. Autumn is another ideal option to see fall colors painting the mountain landscape. The Lewis Mountain Cabins right in the park offer privacy and affordability for families. Hiking will give your little explorers a view of everything from mountain peaks to scenic waterfalls. If your kiddos are not game for a trek, you can take in the beautiful surroundings via Skyline Drive, a 105-mile byway. Pollock Dining Room at Skyland Resort offers pint-sized patrons a kid’s menu. Bring on the silver dollar pancakes and incredible views for all!

18. West Virginia: The New River Gorge

Protected by the National Park Service, the New River Gorge encompasses 70,000 acres near Fayetteville. The outdoor offerings of this immense natural paradise provide ample pastimes for families. Make the most your time with a summer visit when all of the activities are in full swing. Your crew will never forget a ziplining canopy tour and rafting or kayaking on the river. The Bridge Walk soars 800 feet above the New River and spans 3,000 feet across, so there will be no shortage of scenic shots for the family shutterbug to capture. After an adventurous day in nature, unwind at Pies and Pints, where the family can share quality pizza and parents can sip craft brews. 

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