I don’t have kids, I’ll admit that straight up. However, I was once a kid, have friends with kids, and am a teacher, so I have a little bit of insight! And I get asked all the time where to take kids if I had them. Below are my top picks for travel places in the USA for you and your kids with some reasons why. You’ll notice no theme parks on this list (initially…). Not that they’re bad… I just think that is a post all of its own. 🙂 These are in no particular order, FYI.

  1. Monterey, Big Sur, & Santa Cruz, California. YOUR KIDS WILL LOVE: Monterey Bay Aquarium is one of the best in the country AND right on the ocean! Big Sur and Highway 1 have waterfalls, bridges, and beaches galore. Head up an hour north to Santa Cruz to go to the Redwoods at Henry Cowell State Park and the Mystery Spot that appears to defy gravity. Take your level to see how it does this! Oh, and did I mention that Santa Cruz is often called the surfing capital of the USA? If you or your kids are wanting to learn, this is the perfect ocean location.
  2. Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Park, California. YOUR KIDS WILL LOVE: When you’re little, you may not remember much of what you see when you get older. But you’ll remember the enormity of this place–one of the many reasons I recommend this park and the Redwoods. Such a peaceful park with lots of easy hikes and strolls.
  3. Strong Museum of Play, Rochester, New York. YOUR KIDS WILL LOVE: If you need a place to take your kids all day, this is it. TONS of things to do, see, learn about, play with including some very cool sections about space and Sesame Street! If you’re a kid at heart, this place holds so much nostalgia. I enjoyed playing foosball and old video games. Also in town and nearby: lots of beaches, waterfalls, easy and flat bike trails (Erie Canal!). You can also visit the graves and iconic locations of Susan B. Anthony, Fredrick Douglass, and head an hour down the road to the Seneca Falls Convention/Women’s Rights park site.
  4. NYC. YOUR KIDS WILL LOVE: Everything!? Okay, that might be a little bit of a stretch, but really… NYC is full of the amazing: Broadway shows, historical sites such as the 9/11 Museum and the Statue of Liberty, parks, statues, art, art museums, and taking elevators to the tops of skyscrapers. So much to do, so little time! Notice I didn’t put any links in this paragraph. That’s because there are far too many!
  5. Washington D.C. YOUR KIDS WILL LOVE: REALLY everything here. I love everything about D.C. The Smithsonians are top notch, especially the TWO air and space museums (you’ll need to drive to the other one, but VERY much worth it!), lots of parks, several gardens (gorgeous!), and if you’re up for driving a little or public transportation, there is a really cool, little known national health and medicine museum. I always appreciate the powerful reminder of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, but it may not be for your kids depending on their ages. I recommend this for teenagers and up. Get tickets in advance, though. There are a zillion other places in town to check out, so don’t just go with my small list!
  6. Yellowstone and Glacier National Park. YOUR KIDS WILL LOVE: The wildlife, mountains, waterfalls, kayaking on the lakes, boat rides, mostly easy hikes, and geysers! Both parks are super crowded, but oh so worth it. Also nearby: Learn to fly fish, Grand Tetons NP, lots of dinosaur exhibits within a few hours, and Wyoming Rodeos.
  7. Sand Dunes. YOUR KIDS WILL LOVE: Okay, so sand dune are all over the US. I loved White Sands, New Mexico and the Great Sand Dunes National Park in Colorado. Also, I have friends who love the Indiana Dunes National Park and Sleeping Bear Dunes in Michigan! TAKE YOUR SLED! That’s what the kids will love most! Also nearby: Near White Sands, check out Roswell and Carlsbad Caverns.


  8. Wonders of Wildlife, Springfield, Missouri. YOUR KIDS WILL LOVE: This place lives up to the WOW factor it brags about. Be prepared to be here all day! You can also “dive” with sharks and do a lot of fun interactives– WOW! Also nearby: In town hit up the Springfield Art Museum or Discovery Center. Branson brags tons for the kids including Silver Dollar City, go-carts, a ferris wheel, tons of family-friendly shows, and the lake! A close 2 hour drive away is Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art and the Amazeum.
  9. St. Louis, Missouri. YOUR KIDS WILL LOVE: Going up in the arch (get tickets in advance!), the City Museum, the Magic House, seeing the river and all the boats on it, lots of parks, and St. Louis style pizza and ravioli!
  10.  Chicago, Illinois. YOUR KIDS WILL LOVE: Navy Pier, going up in the Willis Tower, see Sue the dinosaur at the Field Museum, Millennium Park with the “bean” (cloud) sculpture, catch a sporting event or concert of your choice, Eataly for dinner, and more! Chicago boasts SO many things to do.
  11. BONUS: Oshkosh, Wisconsin EAA AirVenture Fly-In. This really IS the world’s greatest week long airshow. See it for yourself to believe me! Thousands of planes, airshows, concerts, good food, demonstrations, and exhibitions. Occasionally a famous pilot or astronaut shows up. There’s nothing quite like it. Perfect for kids of ALL ages, and one of my very first travel memories.

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