Replace that Disney World vacation with a cheaper and more peaceful getaway to one of these family-friendly vacation spots for summer.
Disneyland is smaller than Disney World, but standing alone it’s no small potato, with two theme parks in all and its own entertainment district. Anaheim is also home to Knott’s Berry Farm, a haven for roller coaster buffs. While an Anaheim makes a great vacation base, try to travel out to the sea every now and then; Sunset Beach is only a half hour away. There is plenty to do here for your entire family with children ages 5 and up.
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Cocoa Beach, Florida
If you’ve got a budding surfer in your group, consider one of the East Coast’s best surfing destinations for your summer vacation with slightly older children. This small, mostly quiet beach bum-friendly town is also a scenic drive from the Kennedy Space Center and Disney World. Cocoa Beach and its surrounding areas are packed with tons of great parks, playgrounds and other recreation for children of all ages.
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Whether you’re collecting seashells on the beach or souvenirs at Channelside, opening up your imagination at the Museum of Science and Industry or your pocketbook at a cigar shop in Ybor City, Tampa is a striking, shoreline town with exciting possibility for each and every member of your troop. If, on the other hand, your goal’s to avoid dry land at all costs, simply pair your time on the beach with some time at the Adventure Island water park. Many of Tampa's top hotels are packed with features for your little ones.
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Las Vegas, Nevada
Vegas is one of the most economical and lovable family vacation spots in America. There are tons of free shows for kids in Las Vegas like Silverton Hotel Aquarium, Ethel M Chocolate Factory and the Botanical Cactus Gardens, Fountains of Bellagio, MGM Grand Lion Habitat, M&M’s World, Circus Acts at Circus Circus, and much much more. Chill out at the Wild Island Family Adventure Park, try out the twenty-five rides of Circus Circus Hotel’s Adventuredome, and do some indoor birding at the Flamingo Hotel’s Wildlife Habitat. Las Vegas is essentially a hodgepodge of theme parks, museums, buffets, live shows, boutiques, street entertainers, and zoos – even if you skip out on the gambling and nightlife, you’re guaranteed a summer vacation that's jam-packed with good, clean fun.
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Ocean City, Maryland
The Boardwalk, featuring a clutter of gift shops, ice cream stands, diners, and even carnival rides – all lined along the beach, is where most summer fun begins and ends in Ocean City. But even if you pass up every Boardwalk vendor, the Ocean Pier Rides and the Jolly Roger Amusement Park are musts for your family’s itinerary.
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San Antonio, Texas
Explore nature at Natural Bridge Caverns, history at the Alamo, and original shops and restaurants on the River Walk. When the little ones get antsy, head to SeaWorld or Six Flags Fiesta Texas.
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Peel your eyes from San Diego for a minute and look up north to Carlsbad, a frequently forgotten but no less alluring seaside city. Despite its relative obscurity, it’s got Legoland California, the South Carlsbad State Beach, and the Carlsbad Mineral Water Spa.
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Amelia Island, Florida
For parents seeking respite from the frenzy of trying to balance work and home life, there’s adorable Amelia Island and its thirteen miles of serene shoreline. It's hard to imagine a better summer escape than this 13-mile-long barrier island just north of Jacksonville near the Georgia border. The shark's teeth are cool, as any kid will tell you, but they're only a small part of the island's appeal. Amelia Island has great family accommodations as well. The recreation package at Amelia Island Plantation includes everything from access to 23 pools to bikes, nature tours, golf, and kids' programs.
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