Mid-Atlantic & South
Paint the town red, white, and blue as you immerse your family in our nation's rich history and culture. Whether you're visiting the stately Lincoln Memorial or touring the White House, your kids will come away with unforgettable memories. There's tons to do in the capital. Happily, most of it is free -- including the awesome National Air and Space Museum (202-357-2700, www.nasm.si.edu). And don't pass up the National Museum of American History (202-357-2700, www.americanhistory.si.edu). "There's no way to describe this magical place adequately," says Bruce L. Flamm, M.D., a Parents adviser. "There's even a full-size locomotive on display on the first floor."
ASHEVILLE, NORTH CAROLINA
Could a city that boasts a highway as one of its top attractions be worth a visit? If it's Asheville, North Carolina, the answer is yes. The Blue Ridge Parkway, which winds through the Blue Ridge Mountains, has some of the most breathtaking vistas in the country. "The views are absolutely gorgeous," says contributor Emily Abedon. Along the way, you can access plenty of great hiking trails -- or you can opt to head directly to Sliding Rock, a natural 60-foot water slide that's a favorite with families. For indoor fun, Abedon suggests trying the Health Adventure at Pack Place (828-254-6373, www.health-adventure.com), a children's discovery center.
HILTON HEAD ISLAND, SOUTH CAROLINA
It's got miles of beaches and bike trails, as well as dramatic salt marshes and a maritime forest -- what's not to love about Hilton Head? Stop by the Coastal Discovery Museum (843-689-6767, www.coastaldiscovery.org) for hands-on exhibits about the island's environment and heritage. "My best memory of Hilton Head is walking along the peaceful, white-sand beach, gathering shells and searching for sand dollars," says Kate Lawler, articles editor. A trip to Hilton Head can also be relaxing for parents who golf -- the island has more than 20 courses.
Nestled in the North Georgia Mountains, Helen captures the look and feel of a Bavarian village. On Main Street, shopkeepers dressed in lederhosen welcome visitors to their quaint stores, and restaurants offer a unique mix of European and Southern cuisine. "We'd stay at the Castle Inn (877-878-3140, www.castleinn-helen.com), which is a treat for kids because the outside really looks like a castle, and the rooms have beautiful views," says Kourtney Eidam, assistant editor. Fun family activities nearby include panning for gold, tubing down the Chattahoochee River, and taking the easy hike to breathtaking Anna Ruby Falls.
THE FLORIDA KEYS
Getting to the Keys is half the fun. With the ocean on both sides, the Overseas Highway has sweeping views of the Atlantic and its coral islets. "We love the Keys," says Parents adviser Michael Thompson, Ph.D. "They're funky, simple, and relatively inexpensive." On Islamorada, the Theater of the Sea has dolphin and sea-lion shows, exhibits, and bottomless boat rides (305-664-2431). On Key West, tour the island by riding the popular Conch Train. For accommodations, try the Conch Key Cottages, which are located on their own little castaway-style island (800-330-1577, www.conchkeycottages.com).