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Need to escape with the family for a few days to get out of the daily grind?
Whether you're looking for adventure, relaxation or an educational experience, we've rounded up some of the best cities for a quick weekend getaway.
Read on for our top picks along with recommendations on where to stay and what to do when you're there!
Why go? Pigeon Forge, Tennessee is an easy drive with a central location for those in the Eastern half of the U.S. and offers plentiful activities for kids of all ages.
What to do: Enjoy the great outdoors by hiking in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, get your thrill on at the rides at Dollywood and see a live show at Dolly Parton’s Stampede Dinner attraction. When it’s time to eat, don’t miss a home cooked meal at Paula Deen’s Family Kitchen.
Where to stay: The Margaritaville Island Hotel is a fun spot in The Island entertainment district that allows you to walk to the Great Smoky Mountain Wheel ferris wheel, along with dining and shopping.
Why go? Give the kids a taste of the desert and get away to Palm Springs, a place that always seems to be warm with winter high temperatures in the 70s and 350 days of sunshine every year.
What to do: Palm Springs is a great spot for outdoor activities. Rent bikes and cruise through the amazing architecture in town or take a hike through Indian Canyons. The kids will also love a trip to the top of Mount San Jacinto on the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway.
Where to stay: Renting one of Palm Springs' classic midcentury modern properties, most of which have pools, through a company like HomeAway or Vrbo, can be a perfect way to get the feel of a local and truly step inside its magnificent architecture.
Why go? Experience the beauty of Colorado and the Rocky Mountains only 70 miles south of Denver in an area that is ideal for outdoor-loving families.
What to do: Drive or take a tour to the tip-top of Pikes Peak and wander among the majestic red rocks at Garden of the Gods National Natural Landmark. See a 500 million-year-old cave at Cave of the Winds Mountain Park, and climb the 224 steps to the top of Broadmoor Seven Falls, a series of seven cascading waterfalls.
Where to stay: Cheyenne Mountain Resort in Colorado Springs, Colorado is tailor-made for families with so many activities on-site. Kids can hang out at one of several pools and enjoy water activities like boating and kayaking on their 35-acre lake. They also have basketball and tennis courts, a spa and an 18-hole golf course.
Why go? You’ll never get bored in New York City with so many free activities and educational opportunities to broaden young minds.
What to do: For a fun free outdoor activity, take a walk on the train-tracks-turned-public-park High Line in Chelsea. There’s great architecture, art and people-watching. A stroll or bike ride through Central Park is also a perfect calorie-burning activity. Kids will love seeing dinosaur bones at the American Museum of Natural History, and a cruise with Hornblower Cruises is a great way to see the Statue of Liberty, Brooklyn Bridge and the New York City skyline.
Where to stay: Even Hotels Times Square South is a creative health-themed hotel that is actually quite far south of Times Square, making it a convenient spot to head both downtown or uptown. Take a break from all the walking in the city with a relaxed family game of ping pong at the hotel.
Why go? With year-round temperate weather and many outdoor adventures, great food, theme parks and plentiful beaches, you can choose different types of vacations all in the same city in San Diego.
What to do: Legoland California is a fun spot for younger kids or check out SeaWorld San Diego for marine lovers. Be sure to grab a meal in the Little Italy neighborhood and spend time meeting sea lions, strolling past gorgeous sea cliffs and even kayaking through sea caves with Everyday California in the La Jolla area of town.
Where to stay: Choose of one two Kimpton properties in downtown San Diego, including the Kimpton Hotel Solamar in the trendy Gaslamp Quarter or the Kimpton Hotel Palomar close to San Diego's Little Italy neighborhood.
Why go? Sports lovers will get their fill of athletics with a visit to Indianapolis, the racing capital of the world. Hoosiers also happen to be die-hard basketball fans.
What to do: Make like a race car driver and ride around the famous Indianapolis 500 racetrack, then head downtown to the beautiful White River State Park and tour the NCAA Hall of Fame. Basketball fans will want to make time to see Butler University’s historic Hinkle Fieldhouse of the movie “Hoosiers” fame. Entertain the kids with a day at the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis and the Indianapolis Zoo.
Where to stay: For an absolutely unique stay, book a room at The Alexander art-themed hotel or the modern boutique Le Meridien, both downtown. For a visit to the north side, the Ironworks Hotel, whose design is inspired by America’s industrial heritage, is a modern spot to lay your head.
Why go? This historic city is a true gem because it has preserved American history from the founding of our country to the Civil War. Visitors to Charleston are able to walk among many preserved homes and buildings from these early time periods.
What to do: Take a horse-drawn carriage tour or stroll through downtown over cobblestone streets and along the Battery, peeking into beautiful gardens and historic mansions. Take a boat tour to Fort Sumter where the Civil War began with Spiritline Cruises and wander through the Charleston City Market for a souvenir sweetgrass basket to take home. Charleston is also a popular culinary destination, so be sure to eat your fill of shrimp and grits in restaurants like Millers All Day or try some mustard-based barbecue at Bessinger’s BBQ.
Where to stay: The Restoration Hotel is a boutique property located on the bustling shopping district of King Street that offers a rooftop restaurant and coffee bar. For a beach stay, consider the Charleston Harbor Resort & Marina with pools, a beach, bocce court and life-size chess.
Why go? As a sports mecca in America, as well as with its historic foundations, Boston can make for a fun weekend that features both education and the opportunity to cheer on some of America’s most beloved teams.
What to do: Baseball lovers won’t want to miss a chance to see historic Fenway Park and the famous “green monster” wall. Get a lesson in history at the Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum, as well as the Old North Church, then spend an afternoon walking through the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway and along the Boston Harborwalk with a stop for lunch or dinner at the Quincy Market Colonnade, the largest food hall in New England.
Where to stay: The Verb Hotel is a former motor hotel transformed into a modern mecca just across from Fenway Park. Experience the midcentury modern ambience amidst a historic setting.
Why go? Beautifully hilly and with a distinct German heritage, Cincinnati offers everything from sports to museums to funky neighborhoods and shopping districts.
What to do: If the Reds are playing, be sure to catch a game at Great American Ballpark. The Newport Aquarium across the Ohio River in Kentucky is also a huge draw for families, and for a quirky stop, visit the American Sign Museum with an eclectic collection of neon signs from times gone by. For lunch, grab a bite to eat at the historic Findlay Market, the oldest continuously operating market in Ohio, then wander through the funky Over-the-Rhine district and enjoy dinner at Sacred Beast restaurant.
Where to stay: If you’re attending a Reds game, it doesn’t get any more convenient than the AC Hotel Cincinnati at the Banks, which is directly across from the stadium. It’s also easy to hop on the city’s Street Car, which is only $2 for a day’s pass.
Why go? This Gulf-side Florida island is about as far south as you can go before reaching the Everglades and is a sleepy town that makes for a relaxed seaside getaway.
What to do: It’s all about the water on Marco Island, so take an opportunity to rent a boat and check out the creepy Cape Romano dome homes that are now surrounded by water and look like a scene out of Star Wars. Or hop a jet ski to explore the area's Ten Thousand Islands, where lots of dolphin and even a few manatee call home. Kids will love collecting shells, which are plentiful on this island.
Where to stay: At the JW Marriott Marco Island, you will want for nothing. The resort offers multiple restaurants, including both casual and formal fare, several pools, tiki huts for rent on the beach, expansive fitness facilities, a spa and watersports, including jet ski tours.
Why go? Located centrally in the U.S., St. Louis is known for its famous arch and its spot along the mighty Mississippi River, but also offers many kid-friendly activities.
What to do: The City Museum is always popular with kids, offering a quirky way for visitors to get active, climbing, sliding and exploring, in eclectic artistic surroundings. Of course, you can take a ride to the top of the Gateway Arch, spend a day at Six Flags St. Louis, watch the Cardinals play at Busch Stadium or wander Forest Park, home of the 1904 World’s Fair and one of the largest urban parks in the U.S.
Where to stay: Stay in the former Union Station in St. Louis at the Curio Collection Union Station Hotel and choose a railroad-themed suite for even more fun. Don’t miss the Grand Hall Experience 3D Light Show, featuring lights, a waterfall and flames all set to music.
Why go? Dubbed the official indoor waterpark capital of the world, Wisconsin Dells is a great spot to visit during the winter months for some indoor play at its many resorts featuring indoor waterparks.
What to do: Besides hanging out at your resort’s waterpark, you can opt for all sorts of activities like bumper cars, laser tag, trampoline parks, escape rooms, Wizard Quest and cosmic bowling.
Why go? Myrtle Beach is a classic beach destination with carnival rides, a boardwalk, miles of beach and lots of other area attractions.
What to do: Families will want to hang out at the beach or at their oceanfront resort’s pool and waterparks. Other top things to do on the Grand Strand include live shows like the Carolina Opry, Broadway at the Beach entertainment district, the SkyWheel Ferris wheel and lots of outlet malls.
Where to stay: The Holiday Inn at the Pavilion is an affordable stay located in the center of Myrtle Beach’s downtown entertainment district, right by the SkyWheel and along the oceanfront boardwalk.
Why go? The Windy City has so much to offer families from delicious deep dish pizza and amazing architecture to abundant cultural opportunities and top-notch shopping.
What to do: During warmer months, take a cruise or a water taxi down the Chicago River and marvel at the city’s impressive architecture and then hop off at the Willis Tower (formerly the Sears Tower) to see the city from sky high. A visit to Shedd Aquarium, the Field Museum or the Museum of Science and Industry should top the list for families, and be sure to grab a deep dish pie at Lou Malnati’s and dinner at Harry Caray’s Italian Steakhouse.
Where to stay: ACME Hotel Chicago is a fun and funky boutique spot to lay your head in the Windy City, right in the heart of the River North District of Chicago and conveniently located close to many area attractions. Kimpton also has several great properties, including Kimpton Hotel Monaco Chicago with fabulous window seats overlooking the city and river, as well as the Kimpton Hotel Allegro in the theatre district if you’ll be catching a show.
Why go? Give the kids a lesson in American history in this classic city that has a story to tell around every corner.
What to do: Be sure to stop by the must-see Independence Hall and Liberty Bell Center, but when you’re tired of history, have some fun at Sesame Place, a Sesame Street-themed amusement park for little kids and the Please Touch Museum, where kids are encouraged to get hands-on. Franklin Square is also a great spot to get out and play in Philadelphia along with Spruce Street Harbor Park on the Delaware River. Oh, and don’t forget to run the “Rocky” steps at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
Where to stay: At the Kimpton Hotel Monaco Philadelphia, some rooms overlook Independence Mall, home of the Liberty Bell and Independence Square. The hotel is located in a 1907 building and features complimentary bikes, fitness center and a rooftop lounge.
16. Orlando, Florida
Why go? Well, let’s just say … Walt Disney World and Universal Studios Orlando. Of course, there’s plenty more to do in Orlando beside theme parks, but those are usually No. 1 on the list.
What to do: Be sure to check out the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Orlando if you’re a Harry Potter fan, and younger kids will love meeting Mickey and Minnie at Walt Disney World. Universal’s Volcano Bay is also an adventurous waterpark for all ages. But Orlando is also home to SeaWorld Orlando, Madame Tussauds and even Gatorland.
Where to stay: The Grove Resort Orlando is a friendly spot for families with spacious accommodations that each have full kitchens, washer/dryers, screened balconies and separate bedrooms, as well as its own onsite waterpark, multiple pools and a gaming center.
Why go? A visit to Coeur d’Alene in northern Idaho makes for an enchanting weekend escape with a 25 mile long lake and beautiful mountain views with its setting in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains.
What to do: Explore the charming downtown, play golf on the world’s only “floating green” (reachable only by boat) and enjoy water sports and boating at the lake’s marina. The Coeur d’Alene Resort also has a fitness center, pools, shops and dining for more entertainment.
Where to stay: The Coeur d’Alene Resort offers many activities and rooms with lake views and cozy gas fireplaces.
Why go? Downtown Louisville has lots to offer families from creative hotels and interactive museums, as well as dining and sports.
What to do: Get a lesson in baseball at the Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory, where everyone takes home their own mini baseball bat and gets a firsthand look at how the bats are made. You definitely have to check out the famous Churchill Downs horse racing track, home of the Kentucky Derby, and the Kentucky Derby Museum. Other must-dos include the interactive Kentucky Science Center downtown, ziplining inside a cave at Louisville Mega Cavern and a chance to ride a real riverboat down the Ohio on the Belle of Louisville.
Where to stay: Stay amidst an art museum at the 21c Museum Hotel located in the heart of downtown. The hotel’s museum is open 24 hours a day for free with art installations intermingled throughout the property.
19. Atlanta, Georgia
Why go? Atlanta really upped its game when the Olympics were held in the city in 1996, and today many of the city’s top attractions are centered in Centennial Olympic Park.
What to do: Explore many different activities in Centennial Olympic Park like the Georgia Aquarium. At the World of Coca-Cola, you can learn how Coca-Cola is made (but not the top secret recipe!) and sample cola drinks from all over the world. Kids will love splashing in the fountain of rings and you may want to go for a ride on the Skyview Atlanta Ferris wheel. Take a break for some gaming fun and dinner at nearby Game-X or try some of the city’s top barbecue at Twin Smokers.
Where to stay: The Glenn Hotel, Autograph Collection is a charming boutique hotel located at Marietta and Spring Streets with unique features like a chandelier of old keys and a rooftop bar with panoramic views of the city.
Why go? San Antonio offers a variety of things to do from its lovely River Walk to history at the Alamo to the charming Hill Country of Texas.
What to do: Be sure to stroll the River Walk or ride a river barge through the 15-mile waterway. Encourage the kids to “remember the Alamo” with a visit to the Alamo and a lesson on its role in history. At Natural Bridge Caverns, you can explore underground caves and their impressive formations, or spend some time at SeaWorld & Aquatica San Antonio or Six Flags Fiesta Texas for some theme-park fun.
Where to stay: The Hotel Indigo San Antonio River Walk is a Spanish-style property with an outdoor pool, rooms with balconies overlooking the river and a fitness center.
For more travel picks, check out:
- 40 great places to take your kids before they're grown
- Where to find some of the best travel deals of 2019
- 10 of the best hotels in the world
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