USA holidays with kids are very popular, but where should you go? In this post, part of our series of best holiday destinations with kids, we’ll now focus on the best family vacation spots in the US and Canada. Some of our favorite family travel bloggers share their best local tips and tricks. First-hand experiences for the best family-friendly destinations in North America from families just like you.
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- 1 Best places to visit in USA with kids
- 2 Best places to visit in Canada with kids
This overview only aims to provide travel inspiration and is by no means a complete guide of all great family vacation spots in the US and Canada. Interested in more US destinations and experiences? Check out this overview of the 100 best things to do in the USA.
Best places to visit in USA with kids
San Francisco with kids
My family loves San Francisco because there are over 200+ free things to do and visit with kids! If you add what’s not free, it’s endless things to do – literally. We’ve lived here with kids for almost 4 years and are pretty active, but we still have not done everything there is to do with kids. Our list of things to experience keeps growing all the time because new places are popping up all the time!
These activities include seeing animals (the zoo, two aquariums, wild animals in Golden Gate Park), at least 10 kids museums (and adult museums are kid-friendly too), beaches, there are over 30 easy hikes you can do (many of them stroller friendly), and each neighborhood have something special for families too. North Beach for amazing Italian food and parks, Fisherman’s Wharf for sea lions and crabs, the Mission for Mexican food and culture, Union Square for shopping, and Chinatown for shopping and best dim sum you could ever ask for! Not only that, there are national parks and kid-friendly wineries in every direction right outside of San Francisco. With its generally mild temperature, it’s a great destination for every season.
Recommended by Emily from Henry and Andrew’s Guide. Read more about San Francisco with kids.
Chicago with kids
I think that Chicago is one of the most family-friendly destinations in the world with many parks, museums, beaches, and attractions perfect for kids of every age. Living in Chicago, we never run out of fun things to do with my toddler.
One of the best places for families to visit in the summer is Millennium Park – everyone will enjoy looking at their reflection and taking photos in front of The Bean (the famous mirrored sculpture) while kids will love splashing around the Crown Fountain and playing at the adjacent Maggie Daley Park which has separate play areas for kids of different ages.
Another must-see attraction for families is Navy Pier, a large lakefront pier with tons of shops, restaurants and kid-friendly attractions including a ferris wheel, a carousel, an IMAX theatre, boat cruises and a giant fountain with a splash pad. My son especially loves the Chicago Children’s Museum in Navy Pier which has multiple exhibits in different rooms, including a firehouse, an interactive system of pumps and pulleys, a kid-sized city, an excavation pit to dig for dinosaur bones and a play space for babies and younger kids.
Recommended by Matilda from The Travel Sisters.
New York City with kids
Some of my best travel memories include visiting New York City with my family each year, and I recently took my toddler to NYC for his first visit to the city. My favorite thing to do with my son at his age was to just walk around and explore, giving him time to take in the sights like Times Square, Rockefeller Center and Bryant Park at a slower pace of travel that I’ve come to love with him.
During prior visits, my most memorable family experiences in NYC include: taking the boat across to Liberty Island to see the Statue of Liberty up close, seeing a show on Broadway, ice skating at Rockefeller Center, and visiting F.A.O Swartz (which just reopened in Rockefeller) for the limitless amount of toys. There’s an endless number of restaurants including several fun, albeit touristy, places like Jekyll & Hyde, Ellen’s Stardust Diner, milkshakes at Black Tap or the iconic Tavern on the Green.
If a quiet reprieve from the city is needed, Central Park offers an expansive green space for kids run around, or you can visit the New York Public Library adorned by two lion statues to see the original Winnie-the-Pooh. Many people think New York City is too crowded or fast-paced, and they’re probably right. But the look of wonder on your children’s faces when seeing this amazing city for the first time makes the crowds, honking horns and bright lights all worth it.
Recommended by Amanda from Toddling Traveler.
Atlanta with kids
Atlanta is a spectacular city filled with family-friendly activities. Its location in the Southern part of the U.S. makes it a great city to visit year-round due to its mild winters. The downtown area of Atlanta has so much to do for the entire family. Our favorites were The Georgia Aquarium, Centennial Park, World of Coca-Cola and the College Football Hall of Fame. If your family enjoys marine life, the Georgia Aquarium has spectacular exhibits. We also loved seeing all of the vintage Coke memorabilia and tasting Coca Coca from around the globe at the World Of Coca-Cola Museum. The College Football Hall of Fame is a must-do if your family enjoys college football. There are plenty of interactive exhibits for all members to enjoy. Our favorite was catching diving passes and kicking a field goal in their indoor turf field.
All of these attractions mentioned are within walking distance of each other. We found it so easy to get around the Centennial Park area and were lucky to find a hotel within walking distance. In addition, Atlanta has become a foodie city in the last few years. There is no shortage of Southern-inspired restaurants to make you feel welcome in Georgia. I love visiting Atlanta. Each time we go, our family finds something new to do. For me, it is definitely one of the best family destinations in the United States.
Recommended by Margie from DQ Family Travel. Find out more about visiting Atlanta.
Lake Tahoe with kids
Lake Tahoe was the first place we took our little ones to enjoy snow, so it holds a special place in our hearts. It was an incredibly magical experience. My kids had a blast playing in the fresh powdery white snow, building a 4-foot snowman near the Taylor Creek visitor center. It turned out to be super fun for the whole family.
We took the Heavenly Gondola ride twice. Such was the beauty you could enjoy seeing around you from the cable car, looking down on the snow-covered alpines shooting into the sky and brave skiers sliding down from the top. On one of the Gondola rides there was a light snowfall enhancing the magic quotient immensely.
When you have infants with you on the trip, you can visit Lake Tahoe in March/April time when there is still snow and also enjoy evergreen beauty of the alpines and the gorgeous lake at not too low temperatures. Just check the weather forecast before you plan the trip and enjoy. Do not forget to visit the Lower Eagle Falls, hike up all the way to the top to enjoy unbelievably beautiful panoramic views of Lake Tahoe.
My name: Priyadarshini from Glorious Sunrise.
Oahu, Hawaii with kids
Commonly known as The Gathering Place, Oahu is easily the most visited Hawaiian island. People travel from all over to experience the island’s sun, surf and sand so, it is naturally one of the world’s most popular vacation spots all year long.
What makes Oahu the perfect family-friendly travel destination? We love the island because there are many things for grandma, mom, dad and even baby to enjoy. Beaches, shopping, waves and waterfalls are sure to make anyone visiting for the first time fall in love! Most importantly, any budget can fit into the ultimate family vacation on the island of Oahu.
There are affordable and even free things to do for tourists like going to the world famous Waikiki Beach for a swim, taking one of the many hikes found on the island, or even learning how to Hula. If money is not an issue, then tours are the answer. Going to famous movie film sets, swimming along a pod of dolphins, to flying over the island will make your time on Oahu memorable.
Recommended by Michelle from Travel Fun Fam.
Central Oregon with kids
We have seen Central Oregon continue to grow in popularity each year we visit. It’s no surprise – the area often has sunny, dry weather year-round that makes it a great destination for both summer and winter activities with the family.
One of our favorite things to do on a hot summer day is float down the Deschutes River in inner tubes. You can easily rent and get round-trip transportation in Bend or bring your own tubes to float in Tumalo, Oregon. This is best to do with older kids who are confident swimmers, and dogs love to join in, too!
Other popular family activities include biking, hiking, white water rafting, and fishing in the summer; sledding, skiing, snowboarding, or ice skating in the winter. Also, be sure to stop by the High Desert Museum which has interactive exhibits for all ages and opportunities to see Central Oregon wildlife up close.
Recommended by Michelle from Roam Redmond Oregon
Best places to visit in Canada with kids
Keene, Ontario, Canada with kids
When it comes to a travel destination our whole family enjoys, our top pick is the village of Keene, located just over an hour east of Toronto in Ontario, Canada. Although Keene it’s a tiny town, it’s situated in the heart of the Kawartha Lakes region where there’s a wealth of affordable, family-friendly activities to do.
Our top pick as a home base for family fun is Elmhirst’s Resort, an all-season, family-run collection of waterfront cottages featuring an outdoor swimming pool, lakeside promenade, indoor swimming pool, full-service spa as well as a pub, wine cellar and restaurant serving locally-sourced and sustainable cuisine. Best of all, each cottage comes with its own dock for fishing (or watching the incredible sunsets over Rice Lake) as well as a full array of activities from water skiing, tubing and crafts for kids.
Although there’s plenty to do on the resort, day trip options include visiting Lang Pioneer Village in Keene, the Primrose Donkey Sanctuary, the Indian River Reptile Zoo (and rescue center), the Canadian Canoe Museum in Peterborough and more. You actually need more than a week to experience everything there is to do in the Kawartha Lakes region of Ontario. But best of all our family enjoys reconnecting with nature and each other in a beautiful lakeside setting.
Recommended by Michele from A Taste for Travel.
Western Canada with kids – Calgary to Banff
Western Canada is so diverse you can go from a glacier in Jasper to a dessert Osoyoos. Western Canada encompasses three provinces, Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia. My family started in Calgary and drove to Kelowna BC where I was working. They picked me up and we drove back.
Let us start our kid-friendly journey in Calgary Alberta. Here you can find the Calgary stampede in July, a good ole time for every little cowboy and cowgirl. No matter where we go, we always try to visit the zoo, and Calgary is no exception. One of the best Zoos around. You can have breakfast with a Panda.
Ok, if you are in a rented car like us, which is the best way to travel in the Rockies you are going to head out on Highway 1. First stop, Banff National Park. Don’t forget to visit the castle in the mountains, Fairmont Lake Louise is a site just to see. Then ride the Sulphur Mountain gondola in Banff and look down at the town below with a 360-degree observation deck. Kids can visit the Cosmic Ray Station at the top as well.
Just before you cross over to British Columbia, take a detour to Kicking Horse Pass. Stop at the Spiral Tunnels, if you are lucky you will see a train wind its way through the mountain. On average 25 – 30 trains go by each day. Here are the two best locations for viewing.
From the viewpoint 7.4 km east of Field on the Trans-Canada Highway, you can see the Lower Spiral Tunnel in Mt. Ogden. The Upper Spiral Tunnel in Cathedral Mountain can be seen from the pull-off 2.3 km up the Yoho Valley Road.
When visiting Lake Louise travel a bit further and see Lake Moraine with its dramatic blue-green color, featured on the old Canadian $20 bill. Try to find the mountain peaks on your journey named Mount Rundle, The Three Sisters and The Rimwall.
From Banff stay on Highway 1 into Glacier National Park. Here you will find Rogers Pass a National Historic Site. Our daughter loved this spot for the wild gophers running around, but don’t feed them, they attack when you stop-trust me.
Wildlife is all around on the west coast and on the side of the road. Moose, elk, bears, deer and even some mountain goats are everywhere. The sites are amazing with endless adventures to explore.
Recommended by Michelle from Oh What A Journey