Affordable Family Friendly Vacations in U.S. Cities

It’s family vacation season! School is letting out for the summer, unused vacation days at work are piling up, and both kids and parents are ready for a little family fun. Big cities around the country are actually affordable places to visit, contrary to the cost of living in those cities. Looking for some guidance on choosing your next affordable family friendly vacations? Here’s a list of things to do and places to see in some of the U.S.’s largest cities.

Affordable Family Friendly Vacations

Affordable Family Friendly Vacations in U.S.

East Coast

Rich with history and iconic landmarks, cities on the East Coast offer something for all generations. There are plenty of free or affordable attractions to visit.

Washington, D.C.

The nation’s capitol is a popular destination, as there are numerous attractions and hands-on museums for the whole family to enjoy.

National Museum of Natural History, International Spy Museum, US Botanic Garden, the Newseum, and National Air and Space Museum are just some of the most entertaining and educational attractions for children.

You can explore the National Mall on your own or by taking one of the walking tours. DC by Foot offers free kid-friendly tours, including the Arlington Cemetery Tour; the Lincoln Assassination Walking Tour; the Ghosts of Georgetown Tour.

The National Zoo, also free, has giant pandas Mei Xiang and Tian Tian, and their offspring, Bao Bao and Bei Bei. The zoo’s conservation efforts can be experienced firsthand along the Asia Trail. The zoo even has tiny red pandas.

Summer is the perfect time to take a ride on one of the D.C. Ducks. These are fully restored World War II vessels that were used to carry supplies back and forth to ships that did not have port facilities. Today, you and the kids can ride on an authentic Duck (an amphibious vehicle), and see the sights of DC by land and sea. It’s a fun and unique way to learn about the history of our nation while having affordable family friendly vacations.

Washington monument in Washingyon DC. Affordable Family Friendly Vacations
Washington monument in Washingyon DC. Flickr: Pedro Szekely / CC BY-SA 2.0

New York City

While it may not be feasible to live in the Big Apple; there are plenty of things to do on a dime in NYC as New York is a complex city with a lot going on. It’s comprised of five boroughs sitting where the Hudson River meets the Atlantic Ocean. Manhattan is at the core and is a densely populated borough and among the world’s major commercial, financial and cultural centers.
Some of the world’s most iconic sites are in NYC. These include the Empire State Building, Statue of Liberty, Times Square and Central Park. Here’s a 2017 comprehensive list of activities to do with kids in NYC.

West Coast

San Diego

If escaping the concrete jungle and heading to a beach is more your speed; San Diego has a ton of free things to to do. There are more than 30 public beaches in San Diego. A few recommendations include Coronado Beach, Pacific Beach and La Jolla Shores.

The Gaslamp Quarter, 16-block historic district in downtown, has a distinct turn-of-the-century Victorian vibe and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Originally built in the 1860’s, the name of the area comes from the gas lamps used to light the streets. These still adorn the walkways and streets of the area, now home to over 100 shops, restaurants and bars.

For the adults, sample free beers while getting a behind-the-scenes look at beer making. San Diego is the home of America’s craft beer scene. The breweries with free tours include The Green Flash Brewing Co., Karl Strauss Brewery, Stone Brewing Company and Lo Jolla Brewing Company.

If you need a beach break, education amusement parks are definitely kid pleasers, including San Diego Zoo, SeaWorld, and Legoland.

San Diego beach. Affordable Family Friendly Vacations
San Diego beach. Flickr: Steve McClanahan / CC BY 2.0


Seattle is a family-friendly city, where you can see a bunch of attractions in one area at a time and be entertained for hours. Seattle Center is one such area where you can visit the Space Needle, Chihuly Garden, Pacific Science Center and Museum of Pop Culture.

When people think of Seattle, then the first thing that probably comes to mind is Pike Place Market. Located on Elliott Bay, it truly is the fish-throwing hub that’s packed with fresh produce and flowers, coffee, entertainers, and more. It’s classic Seattle.

Seattle Waterfront is just a short walk from the popular Pike Place Market. It’s a good place for people watching along the piers, plus gift shops, restaurants and tourist-friendly activities. You can catch a carriage ride or spin on the merry-go-round.

Seattle Center. Affordable Family Friendly Vacations
Seattle Center

There’s so much to see and do from coast to coast, so this barely scratches the surface of all the fun to be had. Have a great vacation with the kids this summer and put some of these affordable family friendly vacations cities on your bucket list soon.

About Melissa Davidson

Melissa Davidson is a freelance writer and social media marketer with a B.A. in Journalism from the University of Montana. Her favorites topics to write about are travel, mental and physical health, and endurance sports. Find Melissa on Twitter @madtris

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