Since travel is going to look different for awhile, why not plan to travel closer to home? Whether you decide to head out camping, explore the national parks, or find something new in your own backyard, we are sure you will find what works for you and your family. If you want to explore your nearest cities, we have rounded up some of the best family staycation ideas in your area. From the west coast to the east, here are some of the best places for a staycation with kids in the United States.
US Family Staycation Ideas
What is a Staycation?
The idea of staycation involves seeing somewhere close to home with a new set of eyes. Maybe it’s visiting the nearest city, exploring a new park, or trying the newest restaurants. Whether you take a day trip or travel for the weekend, there are sure to be staycation ideas nearby.
We asked travel writers across the country to share their favorite places for a staycation with kids. No matter where you live, there is sure to be a place on this list your family can enjoy.
Midwest Staycation Ideas
Chicago offers so much for families whether they are tourists or locals. To make the best of a city staycation, consider checking into a downtown Chicago hotel if the budget allows. If not, take a train ride into the city and use public transit or ride sharing services to explore.
Some of the best things to do in Chicago with kids are Maggie Daley Park, Navy Pier, and Michigan Avenue. For a full day of adventure, head to Museum Campus. Here you can visit the Adler Planetarium, Shedd Aquarium, and Field Museum. They’re all within walking distance.
Other destinations outside of downtown that should be on a staycation Chicago list include: the Morton Arboretum, Museum of Science and Industry, and the waterfront along Lake Michigan. There are plenty of kid friendly Chicago restaurants, but don’t miss Garrett Popcorn or the Nutella Café for a sweet treat while exploring Michigan Avenue. Kirsten
Don’t know where to stay in Chicago? Check out our favorite family hotels in Chicago!
Cincinnati is full of rich history, beautiful parks, and plenty of great family-friendly activities. This city is the ideal spot to settle in for a staycation. Looks can be deceiving as there is more to do here than meets the eye.
From visiting Cincinnati’s celebrity hippo, Fiona, to taking in the breath-taking views from the top of the Carew tower, there is no shortage of family fun. Depending on the season, pop down to Great American Ball Park to cheer on the Reds, get your adrenaline pumping at Kings Island, or go for a stroll along the Ohio River in Smale Riverfront Park.
Create a food tour through Cincinnati that includes stops at staples such as Skyline, LaRosa’s, and Montgomery Inn. For trendier establishments, visit local favorites such as the Eagle, the Senate, and Taste of Belgium.
Take time to visit the Cincinnati Art Museum while exploring the scenic views from Eden Park. Then cap off your evening with a black raspberry chip ice cream from Graeters. Stephanie of Consistently Curious
There are so many things to do in Columbus, Ohio, you can have a fabulous staycation without ever leaving this thriving Midwestern city.
If you have kids, your first stop should be COSI. This interactive children’s museum keeps kids entertained for hours, and there’s a special play area just for younger kids.
The Columbus Zoo & Aquarium is also a must-do activity. Don’t miss the Heart of Africa exhibit in the warmer months. Here is where you’ll see cheetahs, lions, zebras, and even feed a giraffe.
Head to the Columbus Commons for great activities throughout the year. This six acre green space in the heart of downtown features a carousel, beautiful gardens, and hundreds of events including concerts, fitness classes, festivals, and kid’s activities.
In the summer, you can cool off by the fountains in Bicentennial Park, along the beautiful Scioto Mile. The fountain covers 15,000 square feet and features over 1,000 spray nozzles. Katie of Zen Life Travel
If you are looking for other things to do nearby, why not take a day trip to Mansfield which offers the Little Buckeye Children’s Museum, Kingwood Center Gardens, Gorman Nature Center, and more!
Milwaukeeans know you can change your state of mind with just a 15-minute drive in any direction, so a staycation here can be a true escape. From enjoying the white sand beaches of Lake Michigan to hiking along a scenic trail, or exploring a museum in the city’s urban center and then paddling through downtown on the Milwaukee River, there’s an adventure waiting for every family.
Don’t miss 3rd Street Market Hall, a new food hall in the heart of downtown featuring 20 local vendors. America’s Black Holocaust Museum, which explores the legacy of slavery and promotes racial repair, reconciliation, and healing will open as well.
If you’re looking to give the kids a taste of the fine arts, this fall the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra’s new home, the Bradley Symphony Center, will also open in the heart of downtown. Watch the Symphony’s schedule for family-friendly performances of major movie scores, like Harry Potter, Star Wars, and more.
Because this is a staycation, it only makes sense to let someone else do the cooking. Thanks to a diverse and vibrant community, Milwaukee is home to a wide variety of ethnic and internationally-flavored restaurants — and many of the city’s restaurants are brought to life by chefs sharing their own traditional cuisine with locals and visitors. From Ethiopian to Syrian, Nepalese to Vietnamese, there’s always a new cuisine to try. And for dessert, there’s always the Milwaukee classic, frozen custard, found at Kopp’s, Leon’s, AJ Bombers, and Gilles. Claire of Visit Milwaukee
While most widely known for hosting the world’s largest single day sporting event, the Indy 500, the city is a sports fanatics dream. Step inside the NCAA Hall of Champions or take a tour (where you can actually step on the field) of Lucas Oil Stadium, home of the Indianapolis Colts. If you’re more of a cultural connoisseur, a stop at Newfields, home of the Indianapolis Museum of Art, gorgeous gardens, and 100 Acres: Art and Nature Park.
If you’re planning a family trip to Indianapolis, book a room at the downtown Crowne Plaza at Historic Union Station Hotel where you can actually sleep in one of the original traincars from Indy’s days as the world’s first ever Union Station. Another good choice for families is the JW Marriott, across the street from the Lucas Oil football stadium.
Regardless of where you rest your head, these downtown hotels are within walking distance to White River State Park, a 250-acre urban greenspace with a Central Canal (rent a paddleboat!) or seven family-friendly museums, like the Indianapolis Zoo or Eiteljorg Museum for Native Americans and Western Indian Art.
No matter who you’re traveling with, how long you’re staying, and what type of exploration you’re looking for, you’ll be met with a large dose of Hoosier Hospitality. Morgan of VisitIndy
*One of our favorite things to do in Indy with kids is The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis. It’s the largest children’s museum in the world and they have some of the most magical exhibits.
Don’t miss the Take Me There Greece exhibit which transports you to a traditional Greek town, or the Power of Children exhibit which shares to the stories of powerful children in history (Anne Frank, Ruby Bridges, and Ryan White, with Malala Yousafzai’s exhibit joining in September).
If you visit between March and November, be sure to try the Sports Legend Experience featuring 12 outdoor sports experiences. Kids and adults alike can try all the sports they love and learn some new ones.
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Named one of Travel + Leisure’s top 50 places to travel in 2020, Oklahoma City is the perfect place for a staycation. Its fascinating history, thriving local food scene, national sports, and outdoor recreation offer up fun for all ages. And with new businesses opening every week, there are plenty of things to do in Oklahoma City that you haven’t seen yet.
Bricktown and the Boathouse District (just across the Oklahoma River) are where you’ll find plenty of entertainment from movies and OKC Thunder games to white water rafting. It’s easy to get around Bricktown via streetcar. Riversport Adventure is a favorite with visitors looking to be active on land or water.
For local food and art, head to the Plaza District. The Plaza Walls is an ever-changing outdoor murals project showcasing the city’s best artists. Nearby you’ll find shops, live theater, and restaurants like The Press, Empire Slice House, Mexican Radio, and Pie Junkie.
Omaha is a bargain destination, offering attractions and restaurants that rival larger cities but at a budget-friendly cost. Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium, often ranked among the best in the world, features the largest indoor rainforest in North America, and a fabulously fun splash park and Children’s Adventure Trails. Families with young children will want to add Omaha Children’s Museum to their visit. All ages will enjoy The Durham Museum, zip lining at Fontenelle Forest, and the .9k challenge across The Bob.
Charming neighborhoods with popular locally-owned restaurants include the Old Market, the Blackstone District, and Benson. Omaha is home to two James Beard Best Chef nominees in 2020: the chefs at Au Courant Regional Kitchen and Yoshitomo. Both restaurants are found in Benson. Traveling with kids? There are two popular dining halls to consider: Inner Rail Dining Hall and Flagship Commons. Kim from Oh My Omaha
Looking for more Nebraska fun? Don’t miss these awesome things to do in Nebraska!
West Coast Staycations
Nothing is more exciting than enjoying the sights and sounds of your own city, especially if you’re from Honolulu and have no plans to travel any time soon. From experiencing a true Hawaiian luau at Polynesian Cultural Center; to golfing on the sunny west coast of the island at Ko Olina Golf Club; hiking up Makeup’s Lighthouse Trail at sunrise or just kicking back to enjoy the multi-hued colored beaches in beautiful Waikiki. There are many reasons why Honolulu continues to rank top 10 for staycations in the US.
As trendy eateries pop-up in local neighborhoods – Honolulu has emerged as a culinary “melting pot” with a multitude of dining experiences you must immerse yourself in while visiting. Shop or dine at any of the restaurants at “SALT” in Kaka’ako or grab a “malamode” at Pipeline Bakery in Kaimuki – sweet or savory, whatever craving you’ve got, the city of Honolulu promises to deliver. Wendy of Pint Size Gourmets
With its fantastic selection of sights, hikes and food, Portland is an amazing option for a US staycation. Washington Park is home to many of the city’s top sights and the Japanese Garden, International Rose Garden, Hoyt Arboretum and Oregon Zoo are all housed within its grounds.
Other must visits include the iconic Powell’s City of Books and the historic Pittock Mansion. There’s also the vibrant street art and the quirky Mill Ends Park which holds the Guinness World Record for the World’s Smallest Park.
Portland has a thriving food and drinks scene. The city is renowned for its food trucks and donut offerings with Voodoo and Blue Star Donuts leading the way.
The Historic Columbia River Highway boasts the magnificent Multnomah Falls and is a short drive from the city. It’s a wonderful addition to any Oregon road trip itinerary.
Portland is also a great option for families are there are lots of things to do in Portland with kids. The Children’s Museum is an awesome outing as is the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry and the hike to the Witches Castle in Forest Park. Elaine & David of Show Them the Globe
Filled with loads of green spaces, art, technology, great restaurants and a whole lot of good coffee, Seattle never disappoints. As a local, you could go years without seeing and doing all this city has to offer. Museums like the Chihuly Garden and Glass, Frye Art Museum and Seattle Art Museum, bring art exhibits from around the world. Free art spaces like the Olympic Sculpture Park are fun to explore when the kids need to run around, and everyone can enjoy great views of Puget Sound. Dive into the natural world at the Pacific Science Center, Seattle Aquarium and Woodland Park Zoo.
For the best food, you don’t have to go very far. Pike Place Market is a cornucopia of flavors that locals and visitors love to eat their way through. Neighborhoods like Capital Hill and Ballard offer weekly farmers markets and farm to table restaurants using local ingredients and highlighting the best of Pacific Northwest wines.
If you need to escape the city, the Cascade Mountains are just an hour away, and Mount Rainier is less than three hours from the heart of downtown Seattle. Go hiking, look for wild flowers, mountain bike or kayak in the alpine lakes. Just remember, this is nature and wild animals do like to roam about. Keryn of Walking On Travels
Colorado Springs, Colorado
Outdoor adventurers and historic city lovers alike love Colorado Springs. Sitting at 6,035 feet at the base of Pikes Peak, Colorado Springs makes for a great staycation for all ages.
Your number one stop is Garden of the Gods. This free city park stretches out across 1,300 acres with towering sandstone, fantastic hiking trails and a modern Visitor’s Center.
Nearby you will find the famous Broadmoor Hotel. Don’t miss their shuttle and visit Seven Falls for some gorgeous waterfall action. Consider splurging on Soaring Adventure: 10 ziplines, rope bridges, and controlled rappelling.
One of America’s top zoos is just around the bend. Cheyenne Mountain Zoo offers up close and personal encounters with animals and beasts — feed the giraffes face to face and plan to watch the Grizzly Show.
For dining in Colorado Springs, try the Skirted Heifer downtown, followed up with Josh and John’s homemade ice cream. The Urban Egg never disappoints and the Bristol Brewery at the old Ivywild School is the spot for local brews and pub food.
Discover more of the best things to do with kids around Colorado Springs from Rad Family Travel. Tanya of Colorado Hikes and Hops
Salt Lake City, Utah
Salt Lake City is a hidden family-friendly gem. Visitors should first stop to see Temple Square and learn about the city’s religious history. Next, visit This is the Place Heritage Park and see how the pioneers lived, worked, and ate. The park has pony rides, local crafts, farm animals, gemstone mining, and other activities.
The Natural History Museum of Utah is a great place to learn about Utah’s geological, biological and cultural diversity — and it has an amazing dinosaur gallery.
Lastly, get into the mountains outside SLC for hiking, skiing, climbing, and a wide range of outdoor activities. Head up to Snowbird to ride the tram and enjoy the mountains. Climb Desolation Trail for a great view of the whole SLC Valley or jaunt up to Park City to check out Utah’s Olympic Park. Some of the most popular spots to eat are Settebello Pizzeria, Café Rio, The Pie, and Red Iguana. Elise of 3 Kids Travel
Palm Springs, California
The nine cities of Greater Palm Springs offer plenty of diverse opportunities for the ultimate staycation. Explore the local hiking trails at places like Indian Canyons and expansive Joshua Tree National Park, where accessible hiking trails wind through a Seussical landscape.
After adventuring in the desert, refuel at one of Palm Springs’s leading restaurants. Las Casuelas Nuevos in Rancho Mirage serves tangy margaritas, table-side guacamole, and all sorts of authentic Mexican dishes. For Mediterranean flavors, head to Evzin in either Palm Springs or Palm Desert. With over 300 days of sunshine per year, ice cream is mandatory, and Instagrammable Shop(Pe) Ice Cream in Palm Springs is the place! Choose from a rotating selection of 16 different gourmet flavors.
Test your skills (and get your thrills) while learning how to drive like a pro at the BMW Performance Driving School. There is even a one or two-day teen school. Palm Springs with kids does not disappoint! Nancy of Luxury Travel Family
San Diego, California
People travel from all over the world to experience 70 miles of coastline that San Diego residents are lucky to have in their backyard. The gorgeous beaches of San Diego provide plenty of year-round outdoor fun thanks to an average outdoor temperature of 70 degrees. Aside from sunbathing, the ample opportunities for water sports include snorkeling in some of the clearest water on the West Coast, surfing lessons for kids as young as age 5, and even kayaking around La Jolla sea caves.
Wildlife enthusiasts can take advantage of up-close animal experiences like seeing the La Jolla seals and sea lions in the wild or bird watching on the various hiking trails and seaside parks. Dynamic daily programming at family-friendly museums and world-class theme parks, like San Diego Zoo and LEGOLAND California, means that no two visits are ever the same. You will not run out of things to do when staycationing in San Diego with kids or on your own. Katie of La Jolla Mom
San Francisco, California
Kids of all ages love exploring San Francisco’s family-friendly parks. The Presidio is one of the best places to take them. The largest US national park in an urban area, it’s home to a myriad of butterfly species, birds and native plants.
Enjoy a picnic in lush meadows and along breezy headlands. There’s 24 miles of hiking trails to explore, one of them is accessible for all abilities and modes of transportation, including bikes, strollers and wheelchairs. If hiking is on your itinerary, don’t miss these best hikes in San Francisco.
Crissy Field, once an air strip, is wide open for kite flying in the shadow of the iconic Golden Gate Bridge. Kids love to explore Battery Chamberlain and other artilleries that dot the coastline. The Presidio is also home to Lucasfilm, the creator of Star Wars, and the Disney Family Museum. Kristine from Trekaroo
With a wealth of nature play and family-friendly attractions, Scottsdale makes a great staycation destination. Walkable Old Town Scottsdale bursts with art galleries, Southwestern jewelry shops, and kitschy souvenir shops. Wander the nearby Civic Center Mall, a beautiful outdoor space filled with sculptures, gardens and fountains.
Meanwhile, the 200,000 square-foot OdySea in the Desert will wow the whole family with its rotating aquarium, shark-filled tanks, otters, penguins and other sea life. Next door, Butterfly Wonderland delights visitors who wander America’s largest butterfly conservatory. Additionally, shopaholics and spa goers love Scottsdale for its abundance of stores and swanky spas.
Hiking and horseback riding are hits for staycationers who love the outdoors – keep your eyes open for bobcats, javelinas, snakes and birds like road runners. (Meep! Meep!)
Mexican cuisine, frozen yogurt shops, and boozy brunches abound in Scottsdale. There are all sorts of international dining options, though, to tempt taste buds in this sprawling Phoenix suburb.
When the weather is hot, cool off at one of the Valley of the Sun’s many water parks or book a stay in a local resort with a fabulous pool, like Fairmont Scottsdale Princess or The Scott Resort & Spa. Although temperatures soar in summer, hotel prices dip drastically, making splashy hotel stays particularly appealing in those months. If you are looking for a vacation rental, check out these Airbnbs in Scottsdale. Colleen of Travel Mamas
The iconic red rocks of Sedona are what many people picture when they think of Arizona. Sedona is one of the most popular day trips from Phoenix as it’s only two hours by car. This small desert town has a lot to offer in the way of exploration, culture, and breathtaking landscapes. Sedona with kids is the perfect staycation destination.
There are hiking trails for adventurers of all levels. Soldier’s Pass offers an easy terrain with much to see along the way, including Devil’s Sink Hole and the Seven Sacred Pools.
After a morning of hiking, enjoy a meal or an ice cream at Canyon Breeze and take in the incredible views from the patio. The main street offers many unique shops and restaurants and is a great place for an afternoon stroll. Try Sedona Fudge Company for some quality sweets!
Hop in the car and take the relaxing, scenic drive up Oak Creek Canyon, one of the most picturesque drives in the US. Then, when the sun starts to set, Sunset Point is the place to be for gorgeous views — the perfect way to end a day in Sedona. Megan of Family Gap Year Guide
With 350 days of sunshine, Tucson is a great place for locals and visitors to explore the outdoors year-round. They can visit one of the unique outdoor attractions in Southern Arizona like the Biosphere 2, Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, San Xavier Mission or Kartchner Caverns. Active visitors will enjoy the horseback riding, hiking, golfing, and biking opportunities throughout the region. The beautiful weather also lends itself to a variety of popular annual events including Cyclovia Tucson, The Tucson Gem, Mineral and Fossil Showcase, The Tucson Festival of Books, 4th Avenue Street Fair, and All Souls Procession. These events bring in visitors from around the world.
There are also great day trip opportunities around Southern Arizona like visiting the cooler weather in Summerhaven on top of Mount Lemmon, the Old West charm in Tombstone or the artistic community in the old mining town of Bisbee. There are plenty of things for visitors to do, see, and experience in Tucson. Karen of Desert Chica
East Coast Staycations
Whether you enjoy museums, history, or outdoor activities, families will find plenty of things to do in Boston. To learn about American history, visit the Freedom Trail – either on your own or with a guide. There’s also the Boston Tea Party Museum, and the USS Constitution Museum.
Families should also consider visiting the Boston Museum of Science, the New England Aquarium, and the Boston Children’s Museum. The Museum of Science is especially fantastic for families, and you could easily spend the day there.
If the weather cooperates, take a walk through the Boston Common and the Boston Public Garden, where you can ride a swan boat and see the Make Way for Ducklings statue. In the summer, take a ferry to the Boston Harbor Islands, which are both a National and State Park.
Sports fans will definitely want to visit Fenway Park. You can catch a Red Sox game there or take a tour of this historic ballpark. Read more things to do in Boston here. Jodi of Family Travel Magazine
New York City, New York
There are so many attractions in New York City, it can be overwhelming to try and fit it all in over a day or weekend. For a typical tourist experience, start off the day in Central Park, walk over to Conservatory Water and rent your own model motor boat from Kerb’s Boathouse to sail across the pond. Head over to the Central Park Zoo when you’re done or spend some time at the Tisch Children’s Zoo (where petting animals is encouraged) and Billy Johnson Playground.
Other ideas include exploring one of the city’s many neighborhoods, from Hudson Yards (be sure to climb the Vessel) to Brooklyn (walk across the bridge and grab a bite to eat at one of the DUMBO eateries) to the Meatpacking District (take a walk on the High Line and grab a scoop at Ample Hills Creamery). Any neighborhood is perfect for a day out in New York City.
If you are looking for some awesome staycation hotels in New York City, head to Hotel Gansevoort in the Meatpacking District (with an awesome rooftop pool) or The Peninsula in Midtown East for a luxury family experience. Don’t forget to check out these awesome restaurants for kids in NYC, and add them to your itinerary! Kirsten
If you’re considering exploring closer to home, Philadelphia is a perfect city to choose. The city of brotherly love has an incredible diversity of activities to appeal to any taste, from history to the arts to food to professional sports.
When exploring Philly, make sure to see a few historic sites. If you’re staycationing, consider going beyond the standard Independence Hall and Liberty Bell visits and consider something a bit new, such as Carpenter’s Hall (home if the first Continental Congress), the oldest jewelry district in the US, or City Hall, the world’s largest freemasonry building.
Philadelphia also has world-class museums and food. Start your day with brunch at Sabrina’s Cafe, then head over to the Philadelphia Museum of Art or the Rodin Museum.
If interactive museums are more your style, consider The Franklin Institute, an incredible science museum, or the Please Touch Museum, geared toward little ones.
Don’t forget to stop for cheesesteaks – two of the most popular are across the street from each other so you can compare Pat’s and Geno’s. Or if you prefer a greater variety, head to Reading Terminal Market for a plethora of options.
From parks to walking along Boathouse Row to checking out the dining scene at Rittenhouse Square to walking through the beautiful campus of one of the nation’s oldest universities, University of Pennsylvania. You’ll find something for everyone in Philadelphia! (Want more ideas? Don’t miss these fun things to do in Philly with kids!) Preethi of Local Passport Family
Washington DC is a great place for a staycation. There’s so much to see and do in our Nation’s Capital that you can easily explore on a day trip, or a fun DC weekend adventure.
One of the best things to do on a Washington DC staycation is take a stroll along the National Mall visiting one of the many FREE Smithsonian museums. From here it’s easy to take a walking tour of the many monuments and memorials, since they are all within walking distance of each other.
If you can only explore DC in one day, take a hop-on hop-off bus tour which covers most of Washington DC’s main attractions.
Some of our favorite places to eat in DC are Union Market, Founding Farmers, and the DC Wharf. There are so many amazing places to eat at the Wharf, which is DC’s newest waterfront property. Skylar of Sklyar Arias Adventures
Texas Staycation Ideas
A staycation in Dallas offers the perfect getaway with everything from art museums to hiking to water parks. Not to be missed museums include the Perot Museum of Nature and Science, Sixth Floor Museum at Daley Plaza, George W. Bush Presidential Center, and Dallas Museum of Art. Be sure to buy a CityPASS to save money when visiting Dallas attractions.
After visiting the Perot or Nasher Sculpture Garden, make time for Klyde Warren Park, where kids can burn off some energy. Grab a bite from the food trucks lining the park, or grab a patio table at Savor, with views overlooking the park.
Those looking for outdoor adventures should head to the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden, Cedar Ridge Nature Center, or Trinity River Audubon Center. Each one offers unique experiences for visitors and beautiful views.
If you are looking for fun in the sun, be sure to visit one of the local waterparks. Local favorites include Jade Waters at the Hilton Anatole (you can visit with a day pass), Altitude H2O in Grapevine (a floating aqua park on Grapevine Lake), and Epic Waters Indoor Waterpark in Grand Prairie (with the country’s tallest indoor waterslide).
Fort Worth, Texas
Fort Worth is another great destination for a staycation. There is so much to do plus, you can visit Dallas which is only 30 miles away. Fort Worth is famous for its Stockyards and rodeo, but it also has world-class museums. Some of our favorite Fort Worth museums include The Modern Art Museum and Kimbell Art Museum, as well as cultural venues like Fort Worth Opera and Casa Mañana. The Sundance square area in downtown Fort Worth has charming shops and restaurants and a lovely water feature.
If you are a sports fan, then you can’t miss catching a game of football at the Cowboys stadium in Arlington or see the Rangers play at the Globe Life Park. Arlington located midway between Dallas and Fort Worth is also home to Six Flags Over Texas that the thrill-seekers might want to check out.
Spend an afternoon at the Fort Worth Stock Yards for a truly Western Experience where you can see real Texas cowhands drive a herd of Texas longhorns down East Exchange twice a day. Located about 30 minutes away from Fort Worth is Texas Motor Speedway, a motorsports facility in Texas that hosts IndyCar, Monster Energy NASCAR Cup and Camping World Truck Series races. Priya of Outside Suburbia
From urban green spaces and out-of-this-world attractions to 19 museums, 11 of which are free, families will find a blend of culture and exploration in Houston.
Space City, where creativity meets ingenuity, inspires the next generation through educational fun. At Space Center Houston, the official visitor center of NASA Johnson Space Center, families will find hands-on STEM exhibits that encourage kids to reach for the stars. Children’s Museum Houston, one of the best in the nation, features 90,000-square-feet of interactive bilingual experiences for kids to navigate in a whimsical Robert Venturi-designed building. Families can also connect with nature at Houston’s Discovery Green Park or see thousands of Waugh bats take flight year-round with a Buffalo Bayou Park boat tour.
Everything is larger in Texas, including the selection of family-friendly hotels. Opt for awesome pools at Houstonian Hotel, Club & Spa or a kid’s sensory suite at Omni Houston Hotel. If amenities are favored, Top Golf at Four Seasons Hotel Houston or a cookies and milk service at Magnolia Hotel Houston are a perfect choice. In H-Town, the sky(line) is not the limit.
San Antonio, Texas
If an incredible pool, water park with a lazy river, two golf courses, on-site spa and tons of dining options appeal to you, book your staycation at the J.W. Marriott San Antonio Hill Country Resort and Spa. This has that “away from it all” vibe without going far from the city (located 17 miles outside of San Antonio).
Although the River Walk is what most prospective visitors are pumped about, this isn’t typically the place where locals hang. A staycation in San Antonio is a great excuse to do all the touristy things: ride a river barge, check out Alamo Plaza, take a ride up to the observation deck of the Tower of Americas, and have a margarita on the patio at Casa Rio.
To really explore San Antonio, try the Via VIVA routes. There are three to choose from: Arts and Culture, Missions and Centro. These buses stop at museums, the zoo, Japanese Tea Garden, missions, La Villita, and many other iconic SA spots.
Best kept secret: The other four missions are way more awesome (and infinitely more Instagrammable) than the Alamo. Jill from Ripped Jeans and Bifocals
Need more ideas? Don’t miss these day trips from San Antonio!
Looking for other places to visit in Texas with kids? Don’t miss the best state parks in Texas, with something for everyone.
Staycations in the South
Asheville, North Carolina
Asheville is one of those rare cities that countless people visit once and immediately wish they could live there. Located in Western North Carolina in the heart of the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains, Asheville offers all of the charm you’d expect from a mid-sized mountain town as well as the sophisticated arts, culture, and cuisine scenes you’d expect from a major city.
Prefer urban activities? Check out the historic art deco architecture, lively breweries, galleries in the River Arts District, and critically-acclaimed array of Downtown Asheville restaurants.
Love outdoor adventures? Nearby options include rafting the French Broad River, fishing at Linville Gorge, hiking in Pisgah National Forest, rock climbing at Chimney Rock, and looking for the famous Cataloochee Elk herd in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
You can also spend a day at the world renowned Biltmore Estate, or go for a scenic drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway. In short, Asheville is the perfect place for a U.S. staycation, with plenty of activities and attractions to suit every member of the family. Bret Love & Mary Gabbett of Blue Ridge Mountains Travel Guide
Raleigh, North Carolina
People who live in central North Carolina can enjoy a great staycation in Raleigh. Known as the City of Oaks, Raleigh is home to more than 200 parks. The parks offer classes and programs, lakes, nature preserves, playgrounds and open spaces for people to enjoy. Most are connected by Raleigh’s greenway trail system, with more than 100 miles of paved pathways throughout the city for biking and hiking.
The city is also home to world class museums including the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, the North Carolina Museum of History and Marbles Kids’ Museum among others, many offering free admission.
Perhaps the best things in Raleigh, though, are its neighborhoods. Each one offers a different experience, too. Explore downtown’s many shops and restaurants. Discover Raleigh’s roots in historic Oakwood. Enjoy shopping and entertainment in Cameron Village, North Hills or Midtown. This once sleepy city has evolved into a vibrant destination making it a fun place for staycationing families to enjoy. Karen of Family Travels on a Budget
Charleston, South Carolina
Living in one of America’s top cities can be tough, but there is a reason the world flocks to Charleston. Ranked as the #1 City in America means Charleston has what one wants for the perfect staycation. Charleston has warm weather, friendly people, beautiful beaches, amazing restaurants, historical sights, top shopping and luxury spas. That is why when one wants to staycation in Charleston, they won’t be disappointed. A family, fitness, foodie, spa, historical, wellness or shopping staycation can be guaranteed in this internationally famous destination.
For the basic must-do while on a Charleston staycation, check out this First Timer’s Guide to Charleston. Now enjoy your Charleston staycation! Ava of Spa Travel Gal
If you’re looking for a staycation where the sun always shines, then Miami is your answer. This is an exciting city with lots of things to do for kids of all ages from spotting alligators in the Everglades to admiring Art Deco architecture. It’s hard to narrow down the best things to do in Miami with kids because there are just so many options, but you can start with the beach.
Miami is home to miles of golden sand from its iconic South Beach to family-friendly corners idea for gentle paddling and building sandcastles. If pools are more your thing, head to the retro Venetian Pools that were built in 1923. On dry land you should head to the Fairchild Tropical Botanic Gardens, a vast expanse of lakes, tropical trees, orchid gardens and a butterfly house.
For hands-on activities head to the excellent Frost Science Museum that is completely geared towards curious minds, encouraging them to learn through touch, smell, sound and experimentation. Get active on a bike ride or on a jet ski and then end the day watching the sun set. Katja of Globetotting
Naples, FL is an amazing beach town for so many reasons – it has beautiful, white sand beaches, a chic and bustling downtown, excellent dining and shopping, and a wide range of both outdoor and indoor activities. Most people think of just beach life when they think of Florida, but there’s so much more to Naples (though just going to the beach is fine too! Naples has some of the best beaches in the country.)
For those looking for a break from the sand, there is the award-winning Naples Botanical Garden, the popular Naples Zoo, the Naples Town Pier, Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, the Golisano Children’s Museum of Naples, and of course all the activities that go along with warm weather – boat rides, dolphin tours, bike rentals and more. And in between all the activity, people can refuel at a plethora of superb restaurants, something this lively town is known for. Corey of Fifi + Hop
Orlando, Florida is a great place for a staycation! Even though there are a ton of amusement parks (Walt Disney World, Universal Studios, Epcot, Animal Kingdom, SeaWorld, Wet n Wild, City Walk, Gatorland, etc) . . . there’s so much more to get into!
Deciding which cool things to do really depends on the time of year it is and what you’re in the mood for. Are you looking to hangout with the entire family or just the adults? Regardless if it’s a family affair or not, you may want to consider taking a guided tour. There are tours available for almost anything you want to do throughout the city.
Staycations are a great way to explore the city and try new things. If you’re not really sure what you want to do, consider taking a ride on International Drive. Since it’s a long strip of outlets (including Orlando’s International Premium Outlets), themed restaurants, major attractions, Pirate’s Cove Adventure Golf & ICON Park it’s easy to pick and choose something fun.
Looking to do something more laid back?. . . Lake Eola Park or Harry P. Leu Gardens are cool. Maybe even take a quick drive to Winter Park to the Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art or try the Winter Park Scenic Boat Tour.
Because Orlando is centrally located, there are no beaches. However, there are beaches within a 45 minute to 2 hour drive. For a little R&R at the beach, Daytona Beach, Clearwater, Cocoa Beach or parts of the Canaveral National Seashore are great options. Shalona of Moms Need a Break Too!
Don’t miss our favorite family resorts in Orlando!
Nashville is a wonderful staycation destination for couples, families, friends and more! Whether you are a music lover or sports enthusiasts; history and art buff or outdoor adventurer…or you simply want to find a coffee shop and people watch (Nashville celebrities abound!) there is something for everyone.
Check out Nashville’s local music venues, get outside and hike among the trails and greenways, eat at authentic Nashville spots like Hattie B’s Hot Chicken, The Loveless Cafe or Martin’s Bar-B-Que, or check out the amazing Nashville murals around town. Peruse a local record shop, check out the professional and college sports teams, or simply find a quirky coffee shop to relax. Clearly the options are endless! Sarah at The Wandering Rumpus
New Orleans, Louisiana
Exploring outside of Bourbon Street will open up your world to some fun things to do in New Orleans. Kids will enjoy an afternoon at the Audubon Aquarium of the Americas, playing at Storybook Land, riding a bike through City Park or visiting Mardi Gras World to see floats and costumes from the festive parades.
The history buff will LOVE the National World War II Museum, reading stories about the Greatest Generation that fought for freedom on the Road to Berlin or Tokyo.
A Haunted History Tour through the French Quarter, a steamboat ride up the Mississippi, or even shopping at the French Market makes for a cultural and educational experience.
But a trip to The Big Easy is not complete without some amazing local food at Red Fish Grill and beignets at Cafe du Monde. Jazz bands can often be found dancing their way through the streets, or plan an evening visit to Fritzel’s European Jazz Club for an intimate concert featuring the best music in the city. Laissez Les Bons Temps Roulez (Let the good times roll). Jason of Carltonaut’s Travel Tips