Can you really call a trip with your kids a “vacation” or a “relaxing getaway”? There’s a good chance you’re still waking up at 5:45 every morning, carrying a bag full of diapers and random stuffies everywhere you go, and comforting at least one crying child several times a day. Even so, we all need to get out of the house now and again. And that change of scenery can be good for us and our kids.
So what makes a great Memorial Day weekend destination for a family?
- Somewhere that is easy to get to
- Is easy to get around (either with your car or public transportation)
- And has lots of activities for kids of every age.
1. Washington, D.C.
Washington D.C. is filled with monuments, parks, and museums (many of them free) that can entertain kids of any age. Whether your kids are into dinosaurs, vehicles, art, space, or fashion, there’s a museum for them. In fact, you definitely can’t get to all of D.C. 's museums in a long weekend.
Don’t get overwhelmed, though. Most kids would be delighted to check out the National Children’s Museum, the International Spy Museum, and Smithsonian’s National Zoo — arguably the most popular zoo in the country.
Plus, the city is super walkable with easy-to-navigate public transportation.
2. Marathon Island, Florida
If you’re craving a beach vacation where you’re almost guaranteed blue skies and water warm enough to swim in during the early part of summer, then Marathon Island in the Florida Keys is your go-to spot.
Like all the Florida Keys, it has gorgeous beaches that’ll offer plenty of time for relaxation, building sand castles, and splashing in the water.
But Marathon Island also boasts some pretty incredible wildlife activities. At the non-profit Dolphin Research Center, you can watch dolphins and sea lions splashing around in their natural habitat. For an experience your kids will never forget, you can also purchase the immersive package — where you swim and interact with the dolphins.Marathon Island is also home to The Turtle Hospital, a rehabilitation center for turtles where visitors can take a guided tour that ends with an opportunity to feed the resident sea turtles.
3. Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
If you’d like to spend some time in the natural splendor of Arizona before it’s 115 degrees out, late May is a good option.
The Grand Canyon on its own is spectacular and sure to inspire awe in your kids — plus, the surrounding areas have plenty of other kid-friendly activities.
Getting lodging (even camping) within the park can take some early planning, but there are lots of hotels outside the park and in neighboring areas. Many families with younger kids prefer to do the canyon itself as a day trip since little ones might not have as much stamina for long hikes or interest in the history.
So what else can you do with your time in the area? Bearizonia, a drive-through wildlife park, is always a hit. Williams, Arizona on Route 66 is a blast from the past and especially appeals to any kid who loves the Cars movies. And Meteor Crater, where a 150-feet wide meteorite hit the earth more than 50,000 years ago, will wow even the grown-ups.
4. San Diego, California
In many ways, San Diego feels like it was built for a family vacation. For starters, they have Balboa Park, where you can choose from 17 different museums. You could visit a science center, a children’s museum, and a natural history museum all in one spot.
And then there are the beaches, the double decker bus tours, and the sea lion sightings. Speaking of, if you have animal-loving kids, you can head to the San Diego Zoo, San Diego Zoo Safari Park, and SeaWorld San Diego.
And of course, you can’t miss LEGOLand California. You’re less than an hour’s drive away.
5. Breckenridge, Colorado
Don’t forget about traditional winter vacation spots, like the ski town of Breckenridge, Colorado. You can often find lower rates on lodging, and there’s plenty to do.
For families who love outdoor adventures, Breckenridge is the perfect destination. The area has gorgeous hiking and biking trails for every skill level. If you’re into water sports, you can go white water rafting, kayaking, or paddle boarding. Swim in a heated pool surrounded by a stunning mountain view.
And if you’re greeted with a rainy day, there are indoor activities as well. The Mountain Top Explorium is a children’s museum with exhibits for every age, from tots to teens. You could also go summer dog sledding, ice skating, or enjoy a guided tour of a gold mine.
6. Punta Cana, Dominican Republic
For families looking to go further afield, Punta Cana is a popular destination. Look at a picture, and you won’t have to wonder why. The clear water and white-sand beaches are what dreams are made of. Plus, many of the resorts in Punta Cana have water parks, so you have the opportunity to be your child’s absolute favorite person.
Once your kids have had enough of lounging on the beach and playing in the sand, you can take a glass-bottom boat tour, go zip-lining, or visit ChocoMuseo to see chocolate being made. If your kids are a little older, you can even take a workshop to make a chocolate bar yourselves.
There’s also a forest reserve with lagoons and a petting zoo, as well as several places to see and interact with local marine life like dolphins and sea lions.