Best Lakes in the USA for Summer Vacation

When planning a lakeside vacation, most families want to know, where are the lakes near me? Lucky for you, we have some ideas, and we asked others to share their choices for the best lake vacations in the US. From the east coast to the west, these are some of their favorite lake vacations. Most of these are swimming lakes and offer plenty of other adventures, so they are perfect for summer fun.

Best Lake Vacations in US for families-Kids Are A Trip

Best Lake Vacations for Families in the US

Best East Coast Lakes

Lake Erie, Pennsylvania

Lake Erie in Pennsylvania is a perfect lakeside vacation destination for families in the US. The major draw to Lake Erie is Presque Isle State Park, which is miles of sandy lakefront beach that rivals many oceanfront destinations. 

Lake Erie PA walk on beach - Amanda Emmerling
Photo: Amanda Emmerling

In addition to Lake Erie’s beach, there are so many fun things to do with kids in Erie, PA. From themed boat rides like Scallywags’ Pirate Adventure to the Erie Zoo and Waldameer Amusement Park, Lake Erie offers a number of fun attractions for a family vacation.  

There are also several great options for waterfront dining in Erie, plus the infamous Sara’s of Erie, which is a nostalgic 50s style restaurant that can’t be missed.  If you’re looking for a combination of family fun and relaxation, Lake Erie is a US lake vacation spot that should definitely be on your list. Amanda of Toddling Traveler

Lake Placid, New York

As far as the best lake vacations go, Lake Placid is in a world of its own. Lake Placid has it all. Crystal clear lakes dot one of the largest forests in the country. The towering Adirondack mountains touch the clouds making for a dramatic backdrop that most people don’t associate with New York State.

Lake Placid also has a huge sports scene. In fact, this small town has hosted not one, but two separate winter Olympic Games. And a visit here can’t be enjoyed without exploring some of the Olympic sites such as the terrifyingly fast bobsled run, or the awe-inspiring views from the ski jump towers.

Kayaking Lake Placid New York-Kids Are A Trip
Photo: Wandering Wagars

Although Lake Placid has a diminutive population of 2,500 residents, in the summers it explodes with visitors. Hiking, biking, cycling, running, climbing, and just about any other outdoor activity offer a sure way to connect with locals. But the local beer scene is also on-point. And the relative proximity to the popular Finger Lakes wine region also ensures that the beverages are always flowing.

Get yourself a room at the Golden Arrow resort for the best views of Mirror Lake. And spend your evenings on the patio of the countless locally-run restaurants serving up every kind of Americana that you can imagine.

While you’re in Lake Placid make sure to check out the views from Whiteface Mountain and the Veteran’s Memorial Highway. Head over to nearby Tupper Lake and explore the tree top walk at the Wild Center. Or take in the boardwalks of the waterfall-filled High Falls Gorge. Kevin of Wandering Wagars

Need help carrying all of your lake vacation essentials? Check out these best beach wagons to help transport everything!

Lake Champlain, Vermont

Located between the Adirondack Mountains of New York and the Green Mountains Lake Champlain in Vermont covers 490 square miles. It is home to incredible waterfront parks, cool historic sites, more than 80 islands, and an iconic lake monster. The area surrounding Lake Champlain was made a UNESCO biosphere reserve in 1989. Burlington is Lake Champlain’s largest waterfront city with 42,000 residents, and it’s the perfect home base for a family lake vacation. 

Burlington has been named one of the healthiest cities in America many times over, in part because there are so many things to do outdoors, from city parks and beaches to the eight-mile Burlington bike path that runs along the water.

Spirit of Ethan Allen Burlington Lake lighthouse sailboats-Tara Schatz
Photo: Tara Schatz

The Lake Champlain Sailing Center and the Spirit of Ethan Allen cruise ship both give families an opportunity to get out on the water.  Be sure to keep a lookout for Champ, Lake Champlain’s famous monster. Families will also love exploring the ECHO center to learn about the natural history of Lake Champlain, as well as the plants and animals that call this region home. 

For easy access to all that Burlington has to offer, check out Hotel Vermont, which is right on the waterfront downtown. If you need more room to spread out, consider Homewood Suites, which is just a short drive from the water. Tara of Backroad Ramblers

Lake Winnipesaukee, New Hampshire   

Lake Winnipesaukee in New Hampshire is one of our favorite places to visit in New England, especially during the hot and humid days of summer. There are a number of vacation towns surrounding this massive lake, but we always camp out near Wolfeboro, NH.

There are several B&Bs and a few inns on the lake, but vacation rental homes are the best accommodations you will find here. Families gather every year, generations packing into the same house for the same week(s) every summer. 

Lake Winnepesaukee New Hampshire-Keryn Means
Photo: Keryn Means

Most people drive, but you can also fly into Manchester, NH, rent a car and head north to the lake. Bailey’s Bubble is our favorite outing, because who doesn’t love ice cream in the summer? This hand-packed ice cream comes in your usual flavors, with a few seasonal favorites like blueberry pie and the Green Monster (in honor of Fenway Park). 

There is also mini golf and a few historic sites and museums, but what most people will do for fun always includes the lake. Waterskiing, jet skiing, kayaking and SUPing are big here, as is just a lazy afternoon reading on the dock. Nights stargazing and campfires take over evenings, as well as concerts at the gazebo in town and movies in the park. Keryn of Walking on Travels

Moosehead Lake, Maine

Moosehead Lake is located about three hours from Portland, Maine and two hours from the state capital of Augusta. The largest lake in Maine, it measure 40 miles in length and serves as a home base for hiking, fishing, boating, and exploring in Maine’s Lakes and Mountains region. 

Colorful sky Moosehead Lake Maine vacation-Kids Are A Trip

I would encourage families to rent a cabin for a week, or try a more remote stay at one of the lodges run by the Appalachian Mountain Club in Maine’s 100 acre wilderness. For shorter stays, The Lodge at Moosehead Lake near Greenville offers perfect sunset views over the water. 

Be sure to leave time for an early morning moose safari — either on your own or with Northwoods Outfitters. Avid hikers should try to complete the Moosehead Pinnacle Pursuit and try to summit all six mountains in the area. Tamara of We 3 Travel

Best Midwest Lakes

Broken Bow Lake, Oklahoma

Broken Bow Lake is a hidden gem in southeastern Oklahoma. The area is three hours from Dallas and Little Rock, and just under four hours from Oklahoma City. Broken Bow Lake is a reservoir that covers 14,000 acres, and it is perfect for boating, kayaking, fishing, and swimming. There are endless hiking trails in Broken Bow. Some of our favorites include the scenic Friends Trail and Cedar Bluff Trail. Both are good hikes for families. There are additional trails in Beavers Bend State Park and Hochatown State Park with varying levels of difficulty.

Broken Bow Lake Oklahoma-Kids Are A Trip

Most visitors choose to stay in one of the many Broken Bow cabins (or search for Beavers Bend cabins), which come in all shapes and sizes. If you are traveling with extended family, check out one of these Broken Bow cabins for large groups. There are also several campsites and RV parks in the Broken Bow area if you choose to go that route.

First time visitors might not realize that the town of Broken Bow is not the closest to the action. Hochatown has the restaurants, wine tasting, shopping, a petting zoo, and even an Escape Room! There are so many things to do in Broken Bow with kids. Plan on spending a lot of time in town and on the lake, Broken Bow does not disappoint!

Chain of Lakes, Minneapolis, Minnesota

Minneapolis’ Chain of Lakes immediately captivated us with a dazzling chain of five lakes each with its own unique vibe. We visited during a summer evening and easily fell in love with the atmosphere at lake beaches, the energy of the people, and its natural beauty. A full range of nature activities including kayaking, swimming, biking, hiking, fishing, paddle boarding, boating and more will appeal to all adventurers. 

During our visit, we quickly forgot that we were only miles from downtown Minneapolis in spite of a visible skyline. As the sun descended, we enjoyed a serene walk with lovely water views. We encountered adorable duck families and watched kayakers disappear into the fading sun. The next morning we enjoyed a peaceful brunch on the water. We found Chain of Lakes to be an enchanting nature escape for families. You will quickly forget you are near a city! Melissa of A Little Time and a Keyboard

Lake McCounaghy, Nebraska

Nearly everything about Lake McConaughy is big. Located eight miles north of Ogallala in western Nebraska, “Lake Mac” is the largest lake in Nebraska at 20 miles long, four miles wide, and 142 feet deep at the dam. With over 35,000 surface acres and more than 100 miles of shoreline including white sand beaches and plenty of campsites, this lake is perfect for families. 

Photo: Diana Rowe

Experience all the water sports possible including boating, tubing, and even parasailing. Lounge on the boat or catch some rays on the beach. Fire up the grill for a lakeside family barbecue. 

This is also the home to world-class fishing for rainbow trout, catfish, walleye, and bass. Reel in the big one as the fish grow to trophy proportions, accounting for several state records. Diana of Traveling in Heels

Lakes Near Me for Summer Vacation-Kids Are A Trip

Lake Michigan, Wisconsin/Illinois/Michigan/Indiana

Lake Michigan is the third largest great lake, covering 22,300 square miles. It borders four different states, but there are plenty of places on Lake Michigan to escape from the crowds and have quality beach time. 

Some of our favorite places to stay along Lake Michigan include: Traverse City, Michigan City, Lake Forest, and Washington Island. These have some of the best Lake Michigan beaches.

Traverse City in Michigan is known as the US cherry capital. It has easy access to Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, and the Leelanau Peninsula, known for its charming towns and vineyards. Other great Michigan beach towns include: South Haven, Saugatuck, and Holland. And if you’re looking for something really special, head to Mackinac Island for a car free vacation.

Indiana Dunes National Park-Kids Are A Trip
Michigan City beach

Michigan City, Indiana is the best home base for exploring Indiana Dunes National Park. It also offers access to several local beaches with sunset views. It’s easy to reach from Chicago and Indianapolis, and there’s a great zip line course in nearby Crown Point.

Lake Forest, Illinois enjoys an enviable location on Lake Michigan, with a beautiful beach, historical downtown, and one of the best boutique hotels in the country, The Deer Path Inn. It’s thirty miles north of downtown Chicago and makes for a great Chicago day trip

Washington Island can be found at the tip of the Door County Peninsula in Wisconsin. Visitors have to take a car ferry from the mainland, but the island has an awesome limestone rock beach (Schoolhouse Beach) and lavender farm, and kids will love the Mountain Park Lookout Tower with views of the island and lake.

door county schoolhouse beach-Kids Are A Trip
Schoolhouse Beach on Washington Island

Lake Okoboji, Iowa

Okoboji is the top summer destination in Iowa for families. Okoboji is a collective name for the area of the state that has five inter-connected lakes. Families can spend most of their day out on the water or relaxing on the small, sandy beaches, but there’s more to Okoboji than water fun. The historic Arnolds Park Amusement Park is a big draw, but hidden gems you don’t want to to skip include Dickinson County Nature Center and Okoboji Classic Cars. 

Lake Okoboji Iowa summer vacation-Kids Are A Trip

The Barefoot Bar is a popular, family-friendly lakeside restaurant complete with a waterslide into the lake. Other great dining options for families include O’Farrell Sisters for breakfast and Tweeter’s for lunch. 

Family-friendly lodging ranges from quiet, lakeside resorts to in-town chain hotels near Arnolds Park. We wanted a quiet getaway, so Crescent Beach Resort near Gulf Point State Park was ideal for us. Bridges Bay Resort is another good option, since it has an indoor waterpark. Take the time to explore Okoboji and you won’t be disappointed. Kim of Oh My Omaha

Table Rock Lake, Missouri

Table Rock Lake is a gorgeous lake destination for families nestled in the Ozark Mountain Country of southwestern Missouri, dipping slightly across the border into Arkansas.

A sprawling, pristine lake, Table Rock offers families loads of outdoor recreation like fishing, swimming, boating, water-skiing, tubing, camping, and more. If you don’t own a boat, you can easily rent one from a nearby marina.

table-rock-lake-missouri-ozarks-Tanya Raedeke
Photo: Tanya Raedeke

If camping isn’t your thing, rent a cabin tucked away in a cove, or pick one of the fine resorts sprinkled around Table Rock Lake’s perimeter, like Big Cedar Lodge. Rustic, luxurious, and home to Bent Hook Marina, Big Cedar Lodge offers so many fabulous amenities for all ages that you’ll never need leave the resort.

But, if you find you do need a break from the lake scene, nearby Branson’s 76 Country Boulevard is lined with famous live shows and family attractions, like Dolly Parton’s Dixie Stampede Dinner. Nearby Silver Dollar City, an 1800s-themed amusement park with live music, is a hit with kids and adults. Tanya of Rad Family Travels

Best Lakes for Vacation in the South

Lake Lanier, Georgia

Lake Lanier is the largest lake in Georgia with 690 miles of shoreline and covering 37,000 acres. It’s the perfect family trip this summer if you are looking for a lake getaway in the southeast. The lake is fifty miles from Atlanta and sits at the foothills of Georgia’s Blue Ridge Mountains.

Lake Lanier Georgia-Kids Are A Trip

There are plenty of things to do at Lake Lanier. Kids will love being on the water all day, fishing, swimming, or boating. More adventurous souls should try wake boarding at Terminus Wakepark or head to the nearby Ocoee River for whitewater rafting. If these options aren’t enough, there’s also horseback riding, kayaking, and hiking nearby.

Consider a Lake Lanier house rental, or book a stay at Legacy Lodge, a lakeside resort with golfing, hiking trails, and easy access to Margaritaville at Lanier Islands Waterpark.

Lake Lure, North Carolina

Lake Lure in North Carolina is a great destination for a family getaway. At nearby Chimney Rock State Park you can experience incredible views of the region. The park has several hiking trails including one that takes you to the 2nd largest waterfall east of the Mississippi.

After your time at the state park, Chimney Rock Village has lots of shops, places to eat, and a scenic riverwalk next to the creek. Lake Lure Flowering Bridge is a gardeners and creatives dream. Every planter on the 155 ft long bridge is a different theme and attracts between 8,000 to 10,000 visitors from April- October.

Lake Lure in North Carolina summer vacation-Kids Are A Trip

Of course no visit to the area is complete without spending time at Lake Lure. If you want to learn more about the area I highly recommend taking a scenic boat ride with Lake Lure Tours. Families will love spending the day at Lake Lure Beach with a water park with water slides, water games, and a sandy beach. Nedra of Adventure Mom

Best Lake Vacations in the West

Flathead Lake, Montana

The Majestic Flathead Lake is one of my favorite places in Montana with its sparkling blue waters adjacent to the miles and miles of impressive towering snow-capped mountains along the East shore – the Mission Range. We have been adventuring there with our kids during the summer for over 20 years. It is the largest natural freshwater lake by surface area west of the Mississippi River.  

Families flock to Northwest Montana to partake in the abundance of activities both on and off the lake that this region of 185 miles of shoreline has to offer.

Relax by Flathead Lake
Photo: Dynie Sanderson

Here are a few of my favorite outdoor activities you will find during the inviting, yet relatively uncrowded summer months.

  • Rent a boat or a jet ski you can cruise for miles from Somers down to Polson
  • Camp and hike at the many surrounding Montana State Parks – Elmo, Big Arm, Finley Point, Walstat Memorial Park, Yellow Bay, Woods Bay, and Wayfarers.
  • Take a boat tour with Shadow Lake Cruises
  • Go on a guided horseback ride with The High Country Trail Rides
  • Kayak or paddleboard along the shores or just relax at one of the many beaches
  • There are countless opportunities for fishing whether boating or shore fishing
  • Visit the charming town of Bigfork, which offers plenty of summer activities, events, and weekly farmers markets
  • Stay for a week at a historic dude ranch, The Flathead Lake Lodge, where it’s all about family time
  • Be sure and add in a day trip to hike and picnic at Wild Horse Island accessible only by boat

There are all sorts of options for your stay during your visit around Flathead Lake, from hotels, bed and breakfasts, vacation rentals, campgrounds, and so much more. Be assured your visit to Flathead Lake will bring lots of family memories. Dynie of Napa Food Gal Travels

Lake Chelan, Washington

Washington state is full of amazing sites to see, but for one of the best lake destinations in the Pacific Northwest, you can not pass on Lake Chelan. This amazing family lake destination in Washington is located under 200 miles to the east of Seattle. 

There are some amazing Lake Chelan resorts including Campbell’s Resort which is in an awesome location. Another popular option is to rent a house at Lake Chelan. There are literally hundreds to choose from.

Lake Chelan Washington lake vacation-Kids Are A Trip

This crystal clear lake in Washington is an awesome swimming lake, and it’s perfect for kayaking, jet-skiing, or even fishing. The area is full of other attractions as well including mini-golf, water parks, hiking, and many wineries to explore as well.

Lake Chelan has a great location where you can take various day trips from, including Leavenworth which is only a short drive and a great Washington destination year-round! Amanda of Patsey Family Travels

Lake Powell, Arizona

Lake Powell is the perfect spot for water lovers, national park enthusiasts, and those who want to truly get away from it all. The scenery at Lake Powell is akin to the Grand Canyon if the Grand Canyon was filled with water; not surprising considering Lake Powell was created by damming a portion of the Colorado River not far from the Grand Canyon.

The best way to experience Lake Powell is to rent a houseboat. A Lake Powell houseboat rental typically includes water toys (like a ski boat, or jet skis), so you can find your own private cove on this lake filled with tons of secret nooks and crannies. During the summer months, afternoon highs hover between 85-105, making it the perfect spot to waterski, jet ski, tube, swim, or just float in an inner tube with something cold and frosty in your hand.  

Lake-Powell-Houseboat-rental-Arizona- Sharlene Earnshaw
Photo: Sharlene Earnshaw

During the evenings, expect to be dazzled by an incredible night sky filled with a blanket of stars and meteors dazzling your kids exhausted from spending the day outside having the time of their lives. 

Don’t miss: Rainbow Bridge National Monument, the largest natural bridge in the world which is only accessible by boat. Sharlene of Trekaroo

Lake Wenatchee, Washington

If you’re a family that loves the outdoors, don’t miss a trip to Lake Wenatchee, a glacier-fed lake two and half hours east of Seattle that is one of the best lakes in Washington. 

Lake Wenatchee Washington-Gina Tarnacki
Photo: Gina Tarnacki

You’ll find a sandy beach that has plenty of driftwood on it to climb over and building forts. The crystal blue water is often calm and it’s a great for swimming. Families wanting to spend the night can do so at the Lake Wenatchee State Park campground.

If you want a change of pace from the lake during your vacation, you’re also a short drive to Leavenworth, a Bavarian-inspired town that will charm visitors of all ages. Gina of Evergreen and Salt

North Lake Tahoe, Nevada

A North Lake Tahoe summer is all outdoor family adventure all day long! Zip line and test your resolve on 65 tree platforms at Granlibakken Treetop Adventure Park by day. Join an astronomy group with Tahoe Star Tour by night. Rent boat and jet skis over in Carnelian Bay. There are so many things to do at Lake Tahoe with kids!

Are you an ambitious crew when it comes to exercise? Take on the Tahoe Rim Trail, a 165-mile loop around the circumference of the lake! Tahoe ski resorts are open for summertime fun including mountain biking, horseback riding and hiking. Squaw Valley offers a ropes course with multiple opportunities for vertical climbing. When hunger sets in, head to over to Whitecaps Pizza in Kings Beach or have dinner at Gar Woods. 

North Lake Tahoe family vacation-Kids Are A Trip

Soule Domain is great for either a date night or an intimate family dinner. The area has quite a few charming family (and dog) friendly places to stay including the Rustic Cottages and the Cedar Glen Lodge. Another favorite is the Plumpjack Squaw Valley Inn, once home to the 1960 Winter Olympics delegation. Lake Tahoe also spans into California, so be sure to explore this area too. And don’t miss these best lakes in California! Kristine of Trekaroo

If you’re spending time in the Lake Tahoe area, be sure to head to Carson City. There are plenty of things to do in Carson City with kids!

We hope we have the question, where are the best lakes near me? As you can see, they are all around the country, now all you have to do is get yourself there!

Looking for other outdoor vacations? Don’t miss our favorite summer mountain vacations and best beachfront rentals in the US.

Summer Lake Getaways Families will Love-Kids Are A Trip