Planning a family vacation and feeling a little stuck? That’s understandable. With multiple family members to please and so many options, it can be mind boggling to plan an enjoyable and fun vacation that’s appealing to everyone.
Rather than take your family to some of the more expensive amusement parks in the west and southeast, consider taking a deep dive into one specific state or city. Often, a mixture of “living like a local” and more tourist-specific attractions can offer a really exciting vacation for the whole family. Check out these six vacation ideas the entire family will love.
Go south to the Heart of Dixie
Known as the “Heart of Dixie,” Alabama offers a whole lot of southern charm for the whole family. For families with beach-lovers, Gulf State Park offers thousands of acres of serene beaches to spend a day or two at, as well as hiking trails, golfing, tennis courts, and even a zip line for the more adventurous. Lovers of all things outdoors will also want to head to Cheaha State Park, home to Cheaha Mountain, the highest point in all of Alabama.
Fans of museums will also be satisfied with what Alabama has to offer. In Huntsville, AL, visitors can learn about the history of space travel and rockets at the US Space and Rocket Center. There are also plenty of museums in and around Birmingham, AL. The Birmingham Museum of Art, Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, and Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum are all crowd-favorites of visitors, each showcasing something unique to appeal to a different family member. Art lovers, especially, will want to visit Dothan, AL to see the famous murals that adorn the historic buildings of the city. Dothan’s street festivals and annual fairs are also perks of this lesser-known Alabama town.
Head east to the Garden State
Looking for something fun to do on the east coast? Look no further than the state of New Jersey, often referred to as “the Garden State” for its abundance of produce (agriculture is one of the state’s largest industries and has been since the 1800s). That abundance translates to some of New Jersey’s best restaurants, too. Restaurant Nicholas in Red Bank, NJ exclusively offers new American menus while Cucharamama in Hoboken, NJ provides exotic cocktails and Latin American inspired tapas. Another favorite for fans of upscale American cuisine is Common Lot in Millburn, NJ.
Beyond food, there are many other reasons to visit New Jersey. If anyone in your family is a museum lover or history buff, there are plenty of things to do in New Brunswick, NJ. Rutgers University’s Zimmerli Art Museum showcases modern and ancient artwork, while their Geology Museum features a mummy as well as fossils. Rutgers Gardens are also a popular stop for visitors, as these year-round botanical gardens even include a bamboo forest.
Take a trip to the Aloha State
Many families dream of heading to Hawaii, and it’s little wonder why. Aside from being known as “the Aloha State,” some people simply refer to Hawaii as “paradise.” That said, heading to a resort and staying there won’t give you the full breadth of experience that Hawaii has to offer. Rather than just lounging on one of the island’s beaches, consider trying a new hobby while you’re on vacation. Taking surf lessons in Waikiki or learning to scuba dive in Oahu can be life-changing experiences that provide you with wonderful family memories.
In addition to enjoying Hawaii’s ocean views, nature enthusiasts will also find much to love across the state’s six main islands. Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, located on the Big Island, is a must-see destination. Featuring the Kīlauea and Mauna Loa volcanoes, both of which are active, as well as Thurston Lava Tube, the sights at this national park are truly unparalleled. Hikers and visitors can learn more about the volcanoes and steam vents at the Jaggar Museum, located along Crater Rim Drive.
Enjoy everything the Creole State has to offer
Besides their annual Mardi Gras celebration, one thing Louisiana is best known for is its cajun and creole cuisine. As such Louisiana has become a major destination for foodies all around the world. Whether you’re seeking a more traditional seafood restaurant or one of Louisiana’s more modern updates on cajun-creole fare, such as New Orleans’ Atchafalaya, you’re bound to have an unforgettable meal when you visit Louisiana. Fans of chef and television personality Emeril Lagasse will also want to make a trip to Emeril’s New Orleans, a restaurant serving upscale versions of mouth-watering classics.
But Louisiana has a lot more to offer than just food. The French Quarter in New Orleans has a vibrant night scene, and the state’s rich musical history is on display nightly at the many jazz and blues clubs along Bourbon Street. New Orleans’ Garden District is quite popular with architecture lovers who can stroll the streets and view grandiose mansions and historic gardens along St. Charles Avenue. There are also plenty of boutiques and shops to visit throughout the city, including the legendary Cafe Du Monde, known for its open-air layout, scrumptious beignets, and cafe au lait.
Embrace the other side of Florida’s Gulf Coast
When people think of Florida vacations, they often think of trips to Disney World, Universal Studios, and the beach. While all of these are worthwhile attractions, Florida’s Gulf Coast has much more to offer than just amusement parks and sandy, oceanside views. To truly experience Florida’s Gulf Coast, one needs to experience the other things the beach has to offer, like hunting for ghost crabs, combing the beach, and boating or paddle boarding. Florida’s Gulf Coast also features several historic lighthouses worth visiting, like the St. George Island Lighthouse, the Pensacola Lighthouse, and the Ponce de Leon Inlet Lighthouse and Museum.
Other activities along Florida’s Gulf Coast that don’t involve beaches include a shopping trip to any of the boutiques, galleries, and shops located on St. Armands Circle or Coconut Point, a popular shopping mall in the area. If shopping isn’t on your to-do list, consider visiting The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, which even features an interactive circus portion of the museum. Naples, FL also offers some unique experiences, like the Naples Zoo at Caribbean Gardens, known for its diversity of animals despite its smaller size, and the year-round Naples Botanical Garden. From museums to shopping, there’s plenty to do in Florida between your beach days.
Get back to nature in the Great Lake State
Families who love the outdoors are sure to enjoy a trip to Michigan. Whether you’re strolling through the expansive Sleeping Bear Dunes National Park’s bluffs or are kayaking and hiking amidst Isle Royale’s lush, coniferous forests, the outdoorsman in your family is sure to love the nature of Michigan. Other popular outdoor attractions throughout the state include the lighthouses of Ludington and Manistee, as well as Munising’s picturesque waterfalls.
Explore Lansing, MI, the state’s capital, to break up your time in the wilderness. Lansing features a dynamic collection of museums and learning centers in addition to its shopping outlets and family-friendly places to eat. The Potter Park Zoo is one popular destination, known for housing threatened species such as the black rhino. Also worth visiting are The Impression 5 Science Center’s interactive museum, named for the five senses, and the R.E. Olds Transportation Museum, one of the top-rated automotive museums in the United States.
Embracing everything a state has to offer is a challenge, but it’s well-worth the deep dive. From great art to engaging museums, delicious food, and beautiful scenery, these six states have plenty to showcase for families looking for an unforgettable vacation. Rather than pick one destination, make the entire state your destination, and forge unforgettable family memories at the same time.