Best of Lists

Top 10 Kid Friendly Destinations

Pools, Parks and Paddleboards


Looking for a fun, child-friendly spot for your next family getaway or summer vacation? Here are 10 places the whole family will love!

1. Block Island, Rhode Island

The Narragansett Indians called it Manisses Island, meaning island of the little gods. It's fitting then that Block Island is now one of the top kid-friendly destinations in New England. Just 10 miles off the southern coast of Rhode Island, this glacial remnant remains blessedly unspoiled in fact, more than one-third of it is conservation land. Start your day by enjoying any of the 17 miles of beautiful beaches, then hike or bike inland along the many stone-line roads that crisscross the rolling hills and open meadows. An abundance of wildflowers, migrating birds and other animals inhabit Block Island, including camels, llamas, sheep and emus at Abram's Animal Farm & Petting Zoo. It's just a short walk from New Shoreham, the island's only town, where you can poke around the Historical Society Museum and dine on fresh seafood.


Block Island Boat Basin (401-466-2631)

Champlin's Marina (401-466-7777)

2. Cape May, New Jersey

Known as the nation's oldest seashore resort, Cape May hasn't lost a step since it became a popular leisure destination in the 1880s. In fact, the passage of time has only made its authentic Victorian buildings more charming. Kids will love the boardwalk, with all of the kitschy shops you would expect and the white sandy beaches (you'll need to purchase beach tags for the family). The list of things to do is so long it's impossible to include it all here. Take a ghost tour, hit a water park, rent a bike, kayak or paddle board, hire a fishing guide, go dolphin and whale watching, play mini golf or explore the zoo. Visit the Nature Center of Cape May that offers summer children's programs every week including birding expeditions, ocean exploration, whale and dolphin excursions and a youth fishing camp. Even on a rainy day you won?t be bored! For families who want modern amusement park attractions, North Wildwood makes a great day trip and is just a short drive away.


South Jersey Marina (609-884-2400)

Canyon Club Resort Marina (609-884-0188)

3. Virginia Beach, Virginia

Looking for a family-friendly spring break vibe along a picturesque sprawl of sand? This is the place. Virginia Beach is prime resort territory, featuring a two-mile boardwalk and oceanfront strip with high-rise hotels, restaurants, shops and entertainment galore. The beach is the main attraction, of course, with jet ski rentals,parasailing, kiteboarding, surfing lessons and sport fishing. But the excitement doesn't diminish away from shore. Ocean Breeze Waterpark, two miles south, offers 16 waterslides and a million-gallon wave pool. Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center has hundreds of hands-on exhibits, including an outdoor aviary and marshlands. And you can't miss First Landing State Park, where the Jamestown colonists alighted in 1607. Camp, hike, swim, boat, bike and explore while soaking in the historical and educational displays.


Rudee's on the Inlet (757-425-1777)

Virginia Beach Fishing Center (757-491-8000)

4. Hilton Head, South Carolina

This congenial low-country resort island has a lot to offer families beyond the popular golf, spa, tennis and shopping pursuits for mom and dad. Its pristine beaches and marshes rank high with nature lovers, and several outfits offer guided kayaking, paddleboarding, hiking and horseback riding tours to experience them. The Coastal Discovery Museum teaches about the local ecology and cultural heritage, which includes Native Americans, European colonists, African-Americans, pirates and soldiers, and you can tour important historic sites on your own or with an organized group. Sea Pines Resort, at the southwest end of the island, has hiking and biking trails, a beach club, and waterside dining plus, you can take a ride on the America's Cup sailing yacht Stars & Stripes or the replica pirate ship Black Dagger.


Harbour Town Yacht Basin (843-671-2704)

Skull Creek Marina (843-681-8436)

5. Duck Key, Florida

This secluded islet is unique among the Florida Keys in that it was developed primarily with family in mind. (If you want rowdy nightlife, look elsewhere.) The key player is Hawks Cay Resort, a 60-acre property surrounded by private homes. Designed for casual luxury, the resort is a destination unto itself, featuring five pools, five eateries (one an ice cream parlor), villas, shops, tennis courts, a spa and a fitness center. Water lies at the heart of the action: There's deep-sea as well as flats fishing, diving and snorkeling along a live coral reef, kayak and paddleboard tours, jet ski rentals and kiteboarding classes. Like dolphins? The on-site research facility let?s you view, feed, swim with and even help train these amazing animals. No wonder Travel + Leisure magazine readers voted the kids program here to its 'best of' list.


Hawks Cay Marina (305-743-7000)

6. Paradise Island, Bahamas

When you're talking about Paradise Island as a family getaway, you're talking about Atlantis, the beach resort metropolis that resembles a cross between SeaWorld and Oz. Its 141-acre Aquaventure Waterpark features 18 water slides and a mile-long river ride with waves, rapids, tunnels and more. Eleven different pools beckon, or you can snorkel alongside tropical fish in mythical, man-made ruins. Dolphin Cay lets you interact with dolphins and sea lions. There's even the CRUSH nightclub and cafe for kids 9 to 17. Atlantis Kids Adventures & Camps offers supervised activities and expeditions for children ages 3 to 15, including junior scuba, junior golf and marine adventures. And did we mention the miles of on-site shopping, restaurants, spas, gaming and private beaches? Atlantis truly offers a once-in-a-lifetime family vacation experience.


Marina at Atlantis (242-363-6068)

7. Sandusky, Ohio

Ohio?s Lake Erie shore is a great coastal retreat for Midwest boaters, with the town of Sandusky topping the list of family hot spots. Along with its beautiful beaches and stunning sunsets, this city tucked between Toledo and Cleveland is home to the roller coaster capital of the world in Cedar Point Amusement Park. In addition to 17 coasters (rated from aggressive thrill to mild thrill), the park has live family entertainment, a water park, a beach and kids camp programs. There are no less than three other water parks nearby - Kalahari, Great Wolf Lodge and Castaway Bay - plus diverse attractions such as the Sandusky Maritime Museum, Lagoon Deer Park and Ghostly Manor Thrill Center, a year-round haunted house, that up the ante with bouncy houses and a skate park. For auto racing fans, the Sandusky Speedway offers high-speed thrills from April through October.


Cedar Point Marina (419-627-2334)

Battery Park Marina (419-625-6142)

8. Chicago, Illinois

The Windy City has long been a stopover for those traveling the Great Loop, and with its outstanding family attractions, it's not hard to see why some find it hard to leave. Navy Pier, once a military training facility but now a major tourist destination, consists of 50 acres of parks, promenades, shops, eateries and more. Take a ride on the 150-foot-tall Ferris wheel, see an IMAX movie or check out the childrens museum. Speaking of museums, Chicago has a zillion of them - the Field Museum of Natural History, the Museum of Science and Industry and the Shedd Aquarium for starters. A new Chicago Maritime Museum is scheduled to open soon in a facility adjacent to the Chicago River. Visit it on foot or see it from one of the many guided boat tours offered throughout the city.


Burnham Harbor (312-747-7009)

DuSable Harbor (312-742-3577)

9. San Diego, California

A visit to sunny, mild-weathered San Diego can take on many different themes: historic, natural, adventurous ... or all three. Start at the downtown waterfront with the Maritime Museum of San Diego and its full-rigged iron sailing ship, Star of India. Nearby, the USS Midway Museum on the longest-serving aircraft carrier of the 20th century features 60 exhibits, a collection of 29 restored aircraft and two light simulators. Next, head over to the world-famous San Diego Zoo, home to more than 3,700 rare and endangered animals, and the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, where you can ride a expedition truck into the field. SeaWorld San Diego turns 50 this year with special surprises, gifts and performances throughout the year. Last but not least, LEGOLAND California Resort offers rides, shopping, dining, a water park and an aquarium, all built around connecting fun and learning.


Sunroad Resort Marina (619-574-0736)

10. Seattle, Washington

Wait, the birthplace of slackers makes a great family vacation destination? You bet! People forget that long before grunge music, Seattle was known as the outdoor playground of the Northwest. A prime example is Discovery Park, a 534-acre green space overlooking Puget Sound that includes two miles of tidal beaches as well as dramatic sea cliffs, active sand dunes, thickets and streams. You can rent a boat for the afternoon or take classes at the Center for Wooden Boats on Lake Union or just check out its historic photos and exhibits. Seattle has no shortage of world class museums, including the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture, the Pacific Science Center and the Seattle Children's Museum. The Olympic Sculpture Park offers art activities, performances and much more. Finish the day with a thrilling trip to the top of the Space Needle.


Bell Harbor Marina (206-787-3952)

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