Best Family Vacations: 2016 FamilyFun Travel Awards

Chilled-out or wild, far-flung or next door, a week or a weekend, lavish or on the cheap, these adventures away from home with the people you love are priceless. Ready to start planning? Look no further than the results of our annual travel survey.

Family holding hands with surfboards in arms Thomas Barwick/Getty Images
Top Ten Winners Overall

Our survey respondents rated these destinations as the best of the best!

1. Children's Museum: The Strong, Rochester, NY
2. "‹Historic Site: National Mall and Memorial Parks, Washington, D.C.
3. "‹Family Resort: Great Wolf Lodge, Williamsburg, VA
4. Historic Site: Mount Rushmore National Memorial, Keystone, SD
5. Kid-Friendly City: Orlando
6. Children's Museum: The Children's Museum of Indianapolis
7. Family Resort: Great Wolf Lodge, Traverse City, MI
8. Children's Museum: Miami Children's
9. Museum National Park or Preserve: Badlands National Park, SD
10. Family Resort: Disney's Port OrleansFrench Quarter, Orlando

Northeast

Top Family Resort: The Hotel Hershey, PA
This is one sweet hotel. You could spend a whole vacation on the premises, enjoying indoor and outdoor pools, walking trails, a ropes course and zip line, kayaking, and more. But you wouldn't do that, would you? No, you wouldn't, because the roller coasters and waterslides of Hersheypark and the delicious desserts of Hershey's Chocolate World are minutes away by shuttle. thehotelhershey.com

More highly rated resorts: Six Flags Great Escape Lodge & Indoor Water Park, Queensbury, NY; Rocking Horse Ranch Resort, Highland, NY; Great Wolf Lodge, Pocono Mountains, Scotrun, PA; and Kalahari Resorts & Conventions, Pocono Mountains, PA

Top Historic Site: Statue of Liberty National Monument/ Ellis Island National Museum of Immigration, NY & NJ
Between 1892 and 1954, more than 12 million immigrants debarked on Ellis Island under the blazing torch of Lady Liberty. Today, families still visit these iconic American monuments by boat, but they're highly advised to reserve tickets far in advance at statuecruises.com. Ellis Island's kid-geared audio tours paint a vivid picture of life as an immigrant; and if you're ready for the burn (and are over 4 feet tall), venture the 377-step climb to Lady Liberty's crown. nps.gov/stli and nps.gov/elis

More don't-miss sites: New York City attractions (The Tenement Museum, Empire State Building, National September 11 Memorial & Museum New York, Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum); Witch House, Salem, MA; Gettysburg National Military Park, PA; and Mystic Seaport, CT 

Top National Park or Preserve: White Mountain National Forest, NH
This wilderness park takes up about a quarter of the state of New Hampshire—and outdoor fun is serious business here. In winter, families flock here to ski; in summer, they come to hike, bike, boat, and explore granite caves (try Polar Caves Park in Rumney, NH). The base towns of North Conway, Jackson, and Lincoln all offer diverse lodging and dining options. visitwhitemountains.com

More family-favorite parks: Maine Coastal Islands National Wildlife Refuge; Acadia National Park, ME; Cape Cod National Seashore, MA; and Gateway National Recreation Area, NY & NJ

Top Children's Museum: The Strong, Rochester, NY
A leader in the field of play and games, The Strong is a research center, toy museum, and all-aroundamazing interactive kid space rolled into one. The indoor butterfly garden, climbing wall, aquariums, and mini passenger train complement a host of hands-on learning areas, including the new Build, Drive, Go exhibit that features construction toys and vehicles of all types. museumofplay.org

More mustvisit museums: Children's Museum of Pittsburgh; Boston Children's Museum; Children's Museum & Theatre of Maine, Portland; and Please Touch Museum, Philadelphia 

USA, Massachusetts, Boston, Fenway Park, Baseball team banners Walter Bibikow/Getty Images
Top Kid-Friendly City: Boston
Boston is big enough to offer a smorgasbord of awesomeness, from the New England Aquarium and Fenway Park, to first-class art, science, and children's museums. Even so, it never feels like a mega-city—it's walkable and clean, with good public transport and distinct areas to explore, like the Italian North End (homemade pasta!), Boston Harbor, and the bustling college town of Cambridge. Plus, it's the birthplace of the American Revolution, which even the most jaded tween has to admit is pretty cool. bostonusa.com

More cities to see: New York City; Philadelphia; Portsmouth, NH; and Lancaster, PA

South

Top Kid-Friendly City: Orlando
Oh, Orlando, let us count the ways we love you. Our respondents rated you No. 1 of all cities for your beautiful weather, incredible theme and water parks, day-trip-worthy beaches (including Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge and Canaveral National Seashore), playgrounds, shopping, resorts, and so much more. Disney may be your heart and soul, but our local respondents couldn't stop raving about how many diverse attractions you offer for all ages. As one Florida mom said, "Orlando is awesome for kids and adults. It is never boring!" visitorlando.com

More cities to see: San Antonio; Washington, D.C.; Fort Lauderdale; and Nashville

Top Family Resort: Great Wolf Lodge, Williamsburg, VA
Our respondents cast votes for 10 (out of 13) Great Wolf lodges across the U.S., and Williamsburg's was the top pick; we bet that's because it offers a great complement to nearby historic activities. Like other Great Wolf properties (the Traverse City, MI, location was another favorite!), it combines epic water play—wicked slides, a multistory treehouse, flowing creeks—with a top-notch on-site hotel. greatwolf.com/williamsburg

More highly rated resorts: Disney World resorts (Port Orleans Resort-French Quarter, Bay Lake Tower, Animal Kingdom Lodge and Villas); Schlitterbahn Waterpark and Resort, New Braunfels, TX; Wilderness at the Smokies Resort, Sevierville, TN; and Great Wolf Lodge, Grapevine, TX

Top Children's Museum: Miami Children's Museum
What to do with kids on a rainy day in Miami? Let them try on a dozen new hats at this museum, where entertainment and education meet. Kids can learn about local marine life in a saltwater tank, then design a new fish and let it swim in a virtual Sketch Aquarium. They can also "shop" at a faux supermarket, learn about safety and clean energy, try sailing a model cruise ship, play on a giant sand castle, and make art. miamichildrensmuseum.org

More must-visit museums: Louisiana Children's Museum, New Orleans; Glazer Children's Museum, Tampa; Creative Discovery Museum, Chattanooga; and Children's Museum of Houston

Martin Luther King Memorial, Washington DC, USA Danita Delimont/Getty Images
Top Historic Site: National Mall and Memorial Parks, Washington, D.C.
With some of our nation's most famous monuments and memorials, more than 1,000 acres of green space, and nary an admission fee in sight, it's no wonder the National Mall and Memorial Parks are a perennial favorite. Whether you're posing in front of the Washington Monument, paying your respects at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, or strolling Pennsylvania Avenue, you'll find history at every turn. nps.gov/nama

More don't-miss sites: Washington, D.C.–area attractions (U.S. Capitol, George Washington's Mount Vernon, and The White House); San Antonio Missions World Heritage Site (The Alamo), TX; Colonial Williamsburg, VA; and U.S.S. North Carolina, Wilmington, NC

Top National Park or Preserve: Great Smoky Mountains National Park, NC & TN
"Put the cell phones down and enjoy!" advises a Tennessee dad about our most visited national park. Families come to this vast, uncrowded, serene wilderness to play outside—to hike, tube, raft, splash in waterfalls, ride the Great Smoky Mountain Railroad, and learn about Appalachian culture and history. The park's gateway cities of Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, TN, bustle with all the food and diversions you might need after a day in these quiet woods. nps.gov/grsm

More family-friendly parks: Cape Hatteras National Seashore, NC; Biscayne National Park, FL; Mammoth Cave National Park, KY; and Padre Island National Seashore, TX

Midwest

Top Kid-Friendly City: Duluth, MN
This Lake Superior port has turned its eye to family tourism, but watching freighters ship in here is still part of the lakeshore fun. The sparkling water and adjacent swaths of North Country woods lure hikers and boaters by the droves, but there's also lots of fun for the less rugged: Try the free Lake Superior Marine Museum, bike or skate the downtown Lakewalk, ride the North Shore Scenic Railroad, or head to Park Point to swim and picnic. "From more urban to all-out wilderness...it's the best!" raves one Minnesota mom. visitduluth.com

More cities to see: Rapid City, SD; St. Louis; Branson, MO; and Columbus, OH

Top Family Resort: Wilderness Hotel & Golf Resort, Wisconsin Dells, WI
Our survey respondents couldn't stop talking about the sheer number of family-friendly activities this resort offers. As one Wisconsin mom described it: "There's lots to do—multiple water parks, a fun arcade, mini golf, and more! Plus, a shuttle that will take you to all of it." Booked a room yet? As if you need more to love, they also just opened a waterslide that's inspired by video games and an "escape the room" challenge perfect for multigenerational bonding.

More highly rated resorts: Great Wolf Lodges (Traverse City, MI, and Wisconsin Dells, WI, locations); Kalahari Resorts & Conventions (Wisconsin Dells, WI, and Sandusky, OH, locations); Grand Hotel, Mackinac Island, MI; and KeyLime Cove Indoor Waterpark Resort, Gurnee, IL

Top Historic Site: Mount Rushmore National Memorial, Keystone, SD
This massive monument to four American presidents is a tribute to bold thinking—by both the artist and his subjects. Learn about its creation at the Visitor Center and Sculptor's Studio, take a closer look by walking the half-mile Presidential Trail, then watch the famous faces emerge in the Evening Lighting Ceremony (studio and ceremony, summers only). As one Wisconsin mom wrote, "It's majestic and aweinspiring." nps.gov/moru

More don't-miss sites: Mackinac State Historic Parks, Mackinac Island, MI; Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village, Dearborn, MI; Lincoln's New Salem State Historic Site, Petersburg, IL; and Jefferson National Expansion Memorial, St. Louis

Top National Park or Preserve: Badlands National Park, SD
The rugged mudstone formations and prairies of the Badlands inspired an Illinois mom to write us: "It is an otherworldly and beautiful place! The park has trails, but they also tell you that you can go anywhere you want. You can climb on cliffs, rocks, and outcroppings. Our kids had the best time because of the freedom and joy they experienced in their exploration!" nps.gov/badl

More family-friendly parks: Black Hills National Forest, SD & WY; Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, WI; Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, MI; and Ozark National Scenic Riverways, MO

Top Children's Museum: The Children's Museum of Indianapolis
It doesn't surprise us a bit that this year's highestrated children's museum was also a winner last year—among science museums. The CMI is a standard-bearer and trendsetter, with interactive permanent and rotating exhibits that are truly original. Kids can dig for dinosaur bones, explore Chinese culture (learn to play a traditional instrument or try drawing Chinese characters!), and explore a re-created shipwreck. Said one Indiana mom, "Our baby loved the toddling area, my preschooler loved climbing in the Playscape, and my elementary-age child loved learning about other cultures. They all loved the water zones and free performances; it was worth the drive and easy to spend the whole day there!" childrensmuseum.org

More must-visit museums: The Magic House, St. Louis; Betty Brinn Children's Museum, Milwaukee; Chicago Children's Museum; and Cincinnati Museum Center

West

Family in Glacier National Park at sunset laughing Thomas Barwick/Getty Images
Top National Park or Preserve: Glacier National Park, MT
Get psyched for a summer snowball fight! The Going-to-the-Sun Road, the main thoroughfare of this million-acre wilderness, has snow at the top no matter the season. (But be forewarned: Sometimes it's not fully plowed until July.) There's plenty to do at lower elevations, but the 50-mile park road accesses Glacier's highest trails, meadows, waterfalls, lakes, and turquoise streams, as well as vantage points for spying eagles, moose, wolves, elk, bighorn sheep, and grizzlies (consult ranger alerts before you hike). A Montana dad advises, "It's beautiful, and the glaciers won't be around forever. Try a guided boat ride on one of the lakes to get a more in-depth look at the park; it's easy on the wallet and a good time." nps.gov/glac

More familyfriendly parks: Yellowstone National Park, WY, MT & ID; Rocky Mountain National Park, CO; Zion National Park, UT; and Arches National Park, UT

Top Kid-Friendly City: Honolulu
Love the idea of a city's worth of attractions right next to a perfect beach—almost 2,500 miles away, across the Pacific? Then set your sights on Honolulu. Families flock here to enjoy the big hotels on Waikiki Beach, where kids can swim, surf, visit the Honolulu Zoo and Waikiki Aquarium, savor Hawaiian shave ice, and take easy day trips nearby. Two great excursions are snorkeling at Hanauma Bay State Park, a shallow-water nature preserve; and hiking Diamond Head crater. gohawaii.com

More cities to see: California-coast cities (San Francisco, San Diego, Santa Barbara, and Santa Monica); Denver; Seattle; and Portland, OR

Top Family Resort: Loews Coronado Bay Resort & Spa, San Diego
Location really is everything at this bayfront resort: To the east is the San Diego skyline; a short walk west is the Silver Strand State Beach. The property is threaded with walking and biking paths, and offers all manner of water sports, like gondola and sailboat cruises! loewshotels.com/coronado-bay-resort

More highly rated resorts: Anaheim resorts (Disneyland Hotel, Disney's Grand Californian Hotel & Spa, and Disney's Paradise Pier Hotel); Hilton Hawaiian Village Waikiki Beach Resort, Honolulu; Arizona Grand Resort & Spa, Phoenix; and La Quinta Resort & Club, CA

Top Historic Site: World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument, Honolulu
A visit to this moving memorial begins at Pearl Harbor Visitor Center, where families can learn about life as a Navy sailor stationed in Hawaii in the 1930s and listen to audio stories from civilian and military survivors of the World War II attack. Kids will be wowed by a gallery of aircraft, weaponry, and scale models of sunken ships; and then sobered by a 23-minute documentary and a visit (via Navy shuttle) to the U.S.S. Arizona Memorial. nps.gov/valr

More don't-miss sites: Hearst Castle, San Simeon, CA; San Francisco attractions (Alcatraz Island, San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park, San Francisco Cable Car Museum, Fort Point National Historic Site); Tillicum Village, Seattle; and Old Town San Diego State Historic Park  

Top Children's Museum: Children's Creativity Museum, San Francisco
If there were a yellow sign on the door here, it would read: "Caution: Innovators at Play!" This creative space offers cutting-edge fun at the intersection of art and technology: a fully equipped stop-motion animation studio; a music studio with a green screen; and a computer coding lab with programmable robots. Plus, galleries showcase kids' creations. creativity.org

More must-visit museums: Kidspace Children's Museum, Pasadena, CA; Children's Museum of Phoenix; Hands On Children's Museum, Olympia, WA; and Discovery Gateway, Salt Lake City

How we got our results

Using a nationally representative pool, we asked 2,000 families that travel with kids ages 3 to 14 to rate 446 destinations in five categories. Respondents rated only nominees within their own region (Northeast, South, Midwest, or West) that they had visited within the past five years. Winners required a minimum number of votes to qualify.

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