I always wanted to choose a vacation destination by closing my eyes and pointing to a map of the US. Wherever my finger lands is where we go. Unfortunately that’s never happened. Instead, I put together a list of the best family vacation destinations in each state and I’ll leave it up to you to see where your finger lands. This is a two part post, the first post will have natural outdoor destinations that the whole family will love. The second post will be touristy kid-friendly locations.
Alabama – Childersburg DeSoto Caverns– The main Cathedral Room is 12 stories tall and as long as the field at Bryant–Denny Stadium. Escape the summer heat, the inside stays 60 degrees year-round.
Alaska – Denali National Park– One can not go to Alaska without seeing the highest mountain in North America at 20,310′. It is home to over 850 different species of mammals, birds and flowering plants.
Arizona – Grand Canyon National Park – This is a no-brainer. Tons of scenic overlooks, hiking, white water rafting, helicopter tours, mule rides, Havasu Falls, awesome train rides ans so much more.
Arkansas – Hot Springs National Park – Nicknamed “The American Spa” Soak in the natural mineral baths, get a mud bath (what kid wouldn’t love that) or massage. Great place to relax and rejuvenate.
California – Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park – These gigantic trees are utterly majestic with awe inspiring beauty. Some of the largest trees on the planet.
Colorado – Canyons of the Ancients – An array of ancient Pueblo Indian structures and artifacts dating back over 1000 years with over 6000 individual archaeological sites.
Connecticut – Gillette Castle Park – Former home of actor, William Gillette who played Sherlock Holmes. Fun Fact: It has 47 doors, each of which has a unique wooden puzzle lock that he devised
Delaware – Nemours Mansion and Gardens – Walk the 300 acre estate of the Alfred I. DuPont of the famous DuPont family. Tour the 77-room mansion and the largest formal French gardens in North America.
Florida – Dry Tortugas National Park – 70 miles off Key West, it’s one the nations least visited National Parks because of it’s remoteness but worth the trip.
Georgia – Tallulah Gorge State Park – Nice easy hikes for the kids to the falls. One of our families favorites. Very popular with rock climbers as well.
Hawaii – Take a Helicopter tour around the island’s cliffs. To really enjoy the natural beauty of these islands it is best to see them by air.
Idaho – Sun Valley Resort – Year-round fun including skiing, fishing, hiking, golf, sport shooting, and much more. One of the country’s best ski resorts.
Illinois – Starved Rock State Park – Amazing rock formations with miles of hiking trails and beautiful waterfalls. Enjoy hiking, camping, canoeing and cross-country skiing in the winter.
Indiana – Marengo Cave – A privately owned cave found in 1883. The most popular natural attraction in Indiana. Several different tours are available.
Iowa – Field Of Dreams – Come run the bases the iconic field where the movie with the same name was filmed.
Kansas – Wilson State Park – tons of hiking and 40 foot cliffs are great for exploring. No, not all of Kansas is flat!
Kentucky – Cumberland Gap National Historical Park – Take the 2.3 mile hike where the three states of Kentucky, Tennessee and Virginia come together.
Louisiana – Chicot State Park – Try some primitive camping. Make sure you bring your bug spray though!
Maine – Acadia National Park -Visit the highest point in the Eastern United States, Cadillac Mountain. An area extreme biodiversity and tons of outdoor adventure.
Maryland – Antietam National Battlefield – Visit the battleground of the single bloodiest single-day battle in the Civil War and watch a live fire demonstration.
Massachusetts – Whale Watching – Take a whale watching tour off the coast. Best time to see Humpback, Finback, Minke, Right and Pilot whales is May-October
Michigan – Yellow Dog River Falls – Visit some of the area’s most picturesque places in the state. Most of the falls are fairly easy to get to from the parking lot.
Minnesota – Forestville/Mystery Cave State Park – Yet another cave. But this one is a mystery….and it has a cool 1800’s replica town built right above it.
Mississippi – The Petrified Forest – 36 million years in the making. It is the only one of it’s kind in the Eastern US.
Missouri – The Gateway Arch – As the gateway to the west, the iconic arch is a must visit on anyone’s bucket list.
Montana – Glacier National Park – The crown of the Continent, Glacier is the headwaters for streams that flow to the Pacific Ocean, the Gulf of Mexico and to Hudson’s Bay.
Nebraska – Chadron State Park – Nestled between several buttes and canyons it looks like something straight out of a western movie.
Nevada – El Dorado Canyon and Techatticup Mine – The oldest, richest and most famous gold mine of the 1800’s located in Southern Nevada.
New Hampshire – Waterfalls of Mt Washington Valley – After the snow melts in the spring, these waterfalls come alive.
New Jersey – Passaic River Great Falls – One of the largest waterfalls in the US in one of the country’s oldest industrialized cities.
New Mexico – Taos – Tons of mountain outdoor activities for any season including skiing in the winter.
New York – Niagara Falls – The US side of the falls are beautiful but if you get a chance to cross over to the Canadian side it is even better.
North Carolina – Stay in a log Cabin in the Smoky Mountains – There is no better place to stay during the holidays than the Smoky Mountains.
North Dakota – Theodore Roosevelt National Park – Very rich Native American as well as fossil history. Head to the North Unit to get away from any crowds.
Ohio – Hocking Hills – Fantastic views of cave formations, gorges, waterfalls and best of all the park is free to enter.
Oklahoma – Chickasaw National Recreation Area – situated in the foothills of the Arbuckle Mountains with many Springs, streams, lakes, great swimming in the summer.
Oregon – Crater Lake – My Home state and an easy choice. An extinct volcano that holds the deepest lake in the US. Pictures don’t o it any justice.
Pennsylvania – Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania – Over 45 miles long and depths up top 1500 feet deep. Labeled one of the 10 best places to bike ride in the world.
Rhode Island – Cliff Walk in Newport – One of the most scenic views in the state overlooking the Atlantic Ocean
South Carolina – Caesars Head State Head – Hike Raven Cliff Falls trail to the overlook to see an amazing view of Table Rock.
South Dakota – Mount Rushmore – A 60 ft carving of 4 of our presidents in the face of the Black Hills Mountains and one of the most photographed landmarks in the country.
Tennessee – Lookout Mountain – See seven states from the outlook including Tennessee, Kentucky, Virginia, North & South Carolina, Georgia & Alabama.
Texas – Seminole Canyon State Park – Come for the ancient prehistoric cave paintings and stay for the fantastic views and great hiking and camping.
Utah – Zion National Park – Hard to pick just one place but Zion’s deep red cliffs, flowing waterfalls, hiking trails make it some of the best scenery in the country.
Virginia – Arlington National Cemetery – In my opinion this is a must see for every American. See the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. If it doesn’t give you goose bumps then you’re not alive. Also take a minute to sit in silence at the Memorial Amphitheater.
Washington – North Cascades National Park – Could of easily chosen Olympic N.P. But for it’s sheer untouched pristine beauty NCNP is a great choice and far less crowded.
West Virginia – Blackwater Falls State Park – The waterfalls are one of the most photographed locations in the state. Perfect for hiking, camping, boating, hunting and much more.
Wisconsin – Apostle Islands ice caves – When Lake Superior freezes, once every few years conditions are just right to see this amazing ice wonderland. Last freeze came in 2015.
Wyoming – Yellowstone N.P would be most logical but also very crowded. Instead check out Grand Tetons N.P. With 12 mountain peaks towering over 12,000 feet and endless hiking trails this is an outdoors travelers paradise.