The 5 Best Kid-Friendly Vacation Spots For Families With Young Children

One of our favorite things to do as a family is travel and we are extremely blessed in that we are able to visit a few different places each year.

Since we got pregnant with my oldest a mere 3 months after getting married (and because we were pretty broke), we never got to do much traveling with just my husband and me, but luckily our boys enjoy going along with us and are generally easy to take places. That being said, we have quite a few cities under our belt, so I wanted to share where our favorite places to travel with the kids have been and why. (Obviously, Disney is probably going to be ours and everyone else's top pick for kid-friendly travel, so I want to cover a few of the less obvious places!) 

Rapid City

We have visited family in Rapid City, South Dakota the last two years now and couldn't enjoy it more! There are SO many fun landmarks and historic sites in the area (which, if you are like our geography/history loving 5-year-old, is a fun bonus!), but it can also be an affordable getaway.

A few of our favorite places around Rapid City are: 

mount rushmore with kids

Mount Rushmore - C'mon; you can't go to South Dakota without seeing Mount Rushmore! Before going, we read a lot of books about it to Jackson (our 5-year-old, who was 3 and 4 at the time of our trips), so he was thrilled to finally see it in person! Another bonus? Admission costs only $10 per car, which is very reasonable. 

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Reptile Gardens - We could have EASILY spent all day at Reptile Gardens! On a warm day, there is nothing quite like walking around the grounds, which is chock-full of beautiful gardens and fountains, plus hundreds of different animals. In addition to *just* seeing the snakes, reptiles, and other amphibians, there are also several shows and hands-on exhibits to take in. (Need another reason to go? Your pass is good for the entire season, so you can pay one price and visit numerous times.) 

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Downtown Rapid City - Ice cream shops. Splash pads. Theaters. Playgrounds. It doesn't get much more child-friendly than this! 

Phoenix 

When I was little, I went to Phoenix when my cousin got married, but that had been my only real experience with the Valley of the Sun until last year, when we flew down to visit friends and family. Despite the miserable heat, I fell in love... there are so many fun things to see and do around town, including: 

legoland phoenix

Legoland Discovery Center - If you have kids under the age of 10 (or husbands of any age), you HAVE to go to Legoland! We went with friends and could have easily spent the day here, thanks to the building centers, 4-D movie theater, rides, and city-themed playground for the kids! 

Tip: If you can, go on a weekday when it is dead -- there are literally no lines, PLUS you can take advantage of their Toddler Time, which runs most Mondays through Thursdays and includes admission for one adult and one child 5 and under, plus coffee, and a kid's meal for only $19.95.

phoenix train park

McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park - This is hands down one of the best FREE parks I have ever been to! Located in Scottsdale, the Railroad Park sits on 30 acres and has train-themed playgrounds, model train sets, and a super cute picnic area. Even better? The 10-minute train ride and carousel ride only cost $2 per person and will be the highlight of your kids' day. 

i.d.e.a. museum phoenix

i.d.e.a Museum - When you have littler kids, you can never go wrong with a children's museum, which is why we were so excited to discover the i.d.e.a Museum! We met my best friend from high school there for an afternoon of play and I loved how it was geared toward smaller kids and allowed them to safely play in an open space. (Better yet? We found a Groupon and got all 4 of us in for less than $20!) 

Houston

My favorite vacation we ever took was to Houston. Why? Well, we randomly saw a $1 airfare sale with Frontier, noticed Houston was the only city left on the list, booked it, and flew out the next morning with no plans whatsoever. My husband was able to find a good deal on a hotel and rental car, so after we arrived we began to somewhat plan out our days, which included:

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Space Center Houston - It's a bit of a drive to get there (I think a little over an hour, if I remember correctly), but if you go to Houston, you HAVE to go to NASA! Since Jackson (now 5) was not quite 2 when we went, he didn't get to enjoy it as much as the kids 3+, but there was still so much for him to see and look at during our visit! We played in the kids area, walked through an actual space ship (pictured), and took a riding tour of the campus... the whole experience was fabulous! 

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Houston Museum of Natural Science - I normally say that a nature museum is a nature museum is a nature museum, but we actually really enjoyed walking around this one in Houston! Bonus points: We found a Groupon for discounted tickets and they had a special area for the kids. 

Punta Cana 

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Since we didn't venture away from the resort, I cannot say a whole lot about the different things to do around the beautiful island, but I can definitely sing the praises of the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, Punta Cana. This was the boys' first time out of the country (and only my second!), so the flight was a little long, but check in was a breeze, our hotel room was lovely, and everyone who worked there was incredibly kind. 

What makes the Hard Rock so family friendly? For starters, there are kiddie pools and waterslides (and an on-site tiki bar with icees for the kids and pina coladas for the parents); lots of picky eater-friendly restaurants and room service options; a free arcade; and our personal favorite: the kids club, which was a Thomas the Train, Barney the Dinosaur, Angelina Ballerina, and Bob the Builder theme. So fun! 

Santa Fe

santa fe with kids

Last but certainly not least is Santa Fe, which we haven't gotten to spend nearly as much time in as I would like, but still charmed me none-the-less. Since we went down for my cousin's graduation and then wedding, the trips were way too short and we didn't get to do nearly as many tourist things as I would have liked, but if we had, I would have loved to taken the boys to Meow Wolf, the Santa Fe Children's Museum, and to a few of the amazing art galleries. 

Pictures are the boys at our Airbnb; a working horse farm with a super generous hostess who let us get up close with all of her animals. 

These are our 5 favorite places to take the kids, but now I want to hear yours! Let me know in the comments.