I’m in prime travel planning mode right now for 2019, researching potential vacation spots thanks to our bucket list. In fact, I read an article about a study that said that the anticipation of a vacation can bring as much psychological value as the trip itself – it’s called “nexting.” And, while I do not want to wish my life way, one of my great joys is constantly investigating new places to visit, particularly through reviews and experiences from other family travel bloggers.
Each of our trips in the U.S. has been special for different reasons. We have been to 27 states so far – we love New England because of its history and beautiful coastlines; Utah to visit family and experience the outdoors, and the Midwest, where we live, thanks to family-friendly museums and festivals (The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis is ranked the best in the world and you cannot go wrong with a weekend in Chicago). But, there are two U.S. destinations that have surpassed our expectations more than others for trips with our boys: San Diego and Fripp Island, SC.
Favorite U.S. kid-friendly destination: Tie San Diego, CA and Fripp Island, SC
San Diego has it all for families, particularly for kids under 12 (we went when our kids were 5- and 7-years old). There are both great activities and attractions as well as beautiful scenery and beaches. Highlights include: The San Diego Zoo, San Diego Safari Park, Legoland California, whale watching boats, spying on seals and sea lions, and inspecting the tidal pools at La Jolla Cove. And, since LA is only about two hours north, you can also fit in the La Brea Tar Pits (my husband’s dream since he was a kid) and the California Science Center which houses one of only four space shuttles for viewing in the world. We stayed in the Courtyard Marriott at Liberty Point and it was perfect – had a great breakfast, nice outdoor pool and it walking distance to restaurants and a Trader Joe’s.
Fripp Island, SC is my happy place and the only destination that we continually go back to every few years. A barrier island only three miles north of Hilton Head (by boat), the closest town is Beaufort, a charming, small Southern town with antebellum mansions, cute shops, restaurants and dolphin cruises. Fripp is ideally placed about half-way between Charleston and Savannah, which make perfect day-trip opportunities for families (Charleston – walk Rainbow Row and the downtown market, the South Carolina Aquarium, a trip out to Fort Sumter and a tour of USS Yorktown aircraft carrier. In Savannah, walking tours, trolley tours and the Georgia State Railroad Museum). Oh… don’t forget the phenomenal southern cooking in all three cities (Our fave is Lowcountry Produce and Market – the best tomato pie and chocolate banana pudding you will ever eat! And we love Johnson Creek Tavern, which is on Harbor Island, just about 3 miles from Fripp – super good fried shrimp that comes straight from the boats parked across the inlet.
Fripp is a private island, meaning that the only way to get on the island is if you are registered as a guest (or have a home there). To stay, there are lots of VRBO and AirBNB options, or you can go through the Fripp Island Resort. There are miles of beachfront as well as miles of paved trails for walking, biking and running. Golf carts are the preferred mode of transportation, which the kids LOVE, and are perfect for searching for alligators sunning them selves near the island’s hundred of lagoons or for getting to one of the pools or playgrounds. Fripp is also a national designated wildlife refuge -whitetail deer roam freely around the island, and there are scores of different water birds there. Eagles are often seen at the inlet between Hunting Island and Fripp. You can rent boats, paddleboards, kayaks and jet skis at the marina. And in summer, the kids can enjoy Camp Fripp during the day with crafts and activities while mom and dad relax on the beach.
After considering what our favorites were, I decided to ask some fellow family travel bloggers what their favorite places in the U.S. are for trips with kids.
Favorite U.S. kid-friendly destination: Oregon
My favorite vacation domestically right now was our recent trip to Oregon. We did not set a strict itinerary, so we were able to mosey along at our pace and pick and choose venues as we went along. We had a vague outline of what we wanted to do, but it was freeing to just pick at whim a bit. Since we had wiggle room, we were able to spend two days on the coast revisiting places we experienced earlier in the trip. This gave us time to really relax instead of packing it in. We also were able to linger longer at places like waterfalls, the International Rose Test Garden, the Lan Su Chinese Garden and more.
Favorite U.S. kid-friendly destination: Outer Banks, NC
The best family vacation we have taken was two years ago to Cape Hatteras on the Outer Banks in North Carolina. It was the first big vacation we had taken since having our son, and he was three years old at the time. He was so excited to see the “real” ocean (which is how he referred to it), and for my husband and I, it was truly a joy to see him experience the ocean and beach for the first time. It wasn’t the easiest vacation, simply because traveling and vacationing with a young child isn’t easy but so very worth it. The memories made are worth it all.
Favorite U.S. kid-friendly destination: Oahu, Hawaii
The overall best family vacation we ever took was at Oahu, Hawaii. Our kids were so excited and it was also our youngest son’s first flight. We had so much fun visiting a lot of places and it was absolutely beautiful. One of our favorite activities was visiting Kualoa Ranch. We’re big movie buffs and this place had two of our favorite things: popular movie scene locations and a gorgeous view of the ocean & mountains.