“Are we there yet?” rings a familiar tone for parents vacationing with their rugrats. If you’re looking to relax while ensuring the kids won’t be whining from the backseat, you’ve got to check out these 13 U.S. destinations for kids under the age of 10. Whether you’re looking for a relaxing tropical getaway, snow-bunny vacay, historical road trip, authentic dude ranch experience or the thrill of adventure rides, we’ve got a destination that’s sure to keep parents and kids happy. Grab your road map, luggage, ski gear or swim suit, and get ready to take off on your best family vacation yet.
1. Yellowstone National Park (Wyoming, Montana and Idaho): Introduce your kids to the natural beauty and awesomeness of the great outdoors. Hike, climb, watch animals, visit Old Faithful, camp and soak in the natural wonders of America’s first national park. If your children are ages four and up, they can be a part of Yellowstone’s Junior Ranger Program ($3), giving them a chance to be awarded an official Yellowstone Junior Ranger patch! (photo Albany Kid)
2. Mammoth Cave (Kentucky): Road trip to the longest cave system in the world, with over 400 miles of explored caverns and labyrinths. Children are born curious, and here their imaginations can run wild. Be sure to take advantage of the park’s kids-only activities that are sure to spark every child’s curiosity. (via Endless Loop)
3. Sleeping Bear Dunes (Michigan): Perhaps the highlight of every kid’s trip to Sleeping Bear is the Dune Climb, where they can climb 300 sandy feet atop the towering dunes. The best part? Running down, duh! If you’re fit and adventurous, take the kids on a rewarding 3.5 mile hike from the Dune Climb to Lake Michigan (the reward is splashing around in the lake). If you’re camping at the lakeshore, save The Legend of Sleeping Bear for a good campfire story. (photo My North)
4. The Home Ranch (Colorado): Summer or winter, a family vacation at a dude ranch is a barrel of fun. Everyone in the family gets their own horse for the week, and there’s no need to plan meals or a place to stay. On this ranch, everything is taken care of. Don’t miss out on dog sledding, skiing or snowshoeing, and when summer rolls around, get ready for horseback riding, swimming, whitewater rafting and tons of other memorable activities.
5. Smugglers’ Notch (Vermont): Snow bunnies delight in the family fun of an exhilarating run down the slopes! Ski, snowboard and gather ’round the bonfire to sip hot cocoa together at this family resort. Kids will be beyond happy when they set their sites on Smugg’s torchlight parade and fireworks after a fun day on the mountain.
6. Treehouse Treesort (Oregon): Forget the Hilton. Go out on a limb and take your fam vacation to the treetops of what may be the coolest treehouses around. Not only do you get to eat, sleep and play in a treehouse, but there’s a zipline, Tarzan swing, horseback riding, swimming, rafting, arts, crafts and more. (photo Mom Me)
7. Mackinac Island (Michigan): Get away from the hustle and bustle and ferry your family across Lake Huron to historical Mackinac Island. You’ll find that the primary mode of transportation on the island is on four hoofs or two wheels; cars are not allowed. It’s filled with forts and uncharted paths. Don’t miss out on the Butterfly House, famous fudge, a horse-drawn carriage ride or a tandem bike ride around the island.
8. Colonial Williamsburg (Virginia): Nothing’s wrong with a little history, and this living, breathing history lesson is certainly one for the books. Kids will be immersed in this 18th century town, where they’ll meet tradespeople, members of royalty, red coats, the militia, farmers, colonial children and more. (photo Family Travel Magazine)
9. The Inn at East Hill Farm (New Hampshire): It’s the little things that often yield big memories, and a family farm vacation will be a lasting one. Open your family’s eyes to life on a farm and learn where our food really comes from. Kids will have the chance to collect chicken eggs for breakfast, milk a cow and feed the farm animals. No matter what the season, there will always be fun at the farm.
10. Desert Museum (Arizona): Kids will love this fusion of zoo, botanical garden, natural history museum, aquarium and art gallery. Hike through two miles of desert and cacti, delight in the hummingbird aviary, see live desert animals in their natural habitat and descend into a replica limestone cave to discover how the desert landscape was formed. (photo Tuscantopia)
11. Museum of Science and Industry (Illinois): It’s a big place filled with big ideas that pique children’s curiosity; they may just forget they’re exploring science instead of a far-off, magical place. The museum is meant for a full weekend of exploration. One day isn’t enough. In fact, the museum is so big it features a real United Airlines Boeing 727 hanging from the balcony, a captured German U-Boat and a model of an early 20th century American town. And there are myriad exhibits and activities to explore.
12. Legoland California Resort (California): Prepare yourself to be amazed inside this LEGO lover’s dream world. Filled with 60 rides, shows and attractions, it’s a hands-on theme park that certainly earns the name Legoland. There are LEGOs everywhere you look. When you’re all LEGO’d out (can that actually happen?), you can retreat back to your Legoland hotel.
13. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter (Florida): Welcome to Hogmeade, the world of Harry Potter brought to life. Delight your wand-wielding kids in this wizarding world that’s brimming with magic. Within the walls of this 20-acre theme park, look for the fire-breathing dragon, take a ride on the Hogwarts Express and refresh with a butterbeer. Three cheers for Potterheads. (photo Brecht Castle)
What are your tips for an unforgettable, kid-friendly vacation? Talk to us in the comments below.