Your children’s friends at preschool or daycare likely come home from their vacations with exciting stories about the adventures they had. And yes, spying Elsa at Disney World or visiting a waterpark in Myrtle Beach are both incredibly fun activities for kids of all ages. But if your family feels like a unique, offbeat vacation this summer, the U.S. is simply packed with kid-friendly destinations that are a little less crowded, a little different, and may even have a hotel room or vacation rental available, even at this late date. It’s not too late to grab a bit of adventure for your family this summer.
Carlsbad, California. Located within an easy drive from both Los Angeles and San Diego, Carlsbad has the same sun, sand, and activities, without the overwhelming crowds. And this town is a kid’s paradise! Got a junior builder in your family? She’ll undoubtedly be thrilled to visit the first LEGOLAND in North America. Thrill seeking big kids will love the go-karts at one of the largest go-kart race tracks in the U.S. Visit Carlsbad’s beautiful beaches and take a tour of its aquarium. Save LA and San Diego for day trips.
Sanibel Island, Florida. Sleepy and sophisticated, Sanibel Island is a treat for kids who love to explore the shoreline and adults who want to relax in comfort and style. Separated from the mainland by a series of causeways, Sanibel is a Florida get-away that may not include thrilling rides and attractions, or a thriving night scene, but it has a mellow charm that lures families back again and again. Known for its variety of seashells to be found right on the beach, Sanibel is a real favorite among kids who love to collect precious shells and bring them home as souvenirs. The warm gulf coast waters make the island a beach-goer’s heaven, and the relaxed atmosphere is perfect for a family that needs to unwind.
Rochester, New York. Right in the heart of the Finger Lakes region, Rochester is possibly one of the more overlooked destinations on our list. But if your kids love water sports, boating, or camping, this area is for you. Plus, Rochester itself is a vibrant city that is home to over 12,000 acres of parkland, and scores of festivals throughout the spring and summer seasons. But the real family attraction here is The Strong. Comprised of The National Museum of Play, The International Center for the History of Electronic Games, and the National Toy Hall of Fame, it’s a must-see that your kids won’t want to leave. You may have to make multiple visits!
Port Angeles, Washington. Olympic National Park is the major attraction here. It’s rich variety of ecosystems will delight nature lovers both young and old. Three different ecosystems thrive within this national park, ensuring that your kids will have no end of creatures to discover. Visit the tide pools to see crabs and starfish, or relax in the park’s shallow, kid-friendly swimming areas and its mineral water wading pool. Puppets, costumes, and other imaginative play items are up for grabs at the Ranger play area.
Upper Peninsula, Michigan. Bordered by three Great Lakes, Lake Superior, Lake Michigan, and Lake Huron, the Upper Peninsula is a haven for kids and adults who enjoy being on the water. 1700 miles of shoreline ensures plenty of space for summer visitors to boat, fish, camp, and play watersports. The area boats over 150 waterfalls and 40 lighthouses, giving your kids plenty to explore. Rent a house and spend your days adventuring and your evenings lounging lakeside.
Don’t cross big ticket destinations like Disney World, the Grand Canyon, and Niagara Falls off your list. But this year, you may be interested in a vacation that’s low-key, understated, and budget-friendly. These hidden gems are sure to fit the bill.