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Are you looking for a list of must-see places to add to your family’s United States bucket list?
The following article contains our actual (still in progress) United States bucket list of places that we’re committed to visiting as a family before the kids leave the nest.
It includes our exact itineraries to the places we’ve already visited and have checked off the list.
Use these ideas to help customize your very own USA bucket list which will include the U.S. cities, towns, and National Parks you dream of visiting.
This post may contain affiliate links, which means that we may receive a small commission, at no cost to you, if you make a purchase through a link. For more info, see disclosure.
Inspiration For Our United States Bucket List
With the kids getting older, my husband and I realize the years are dwindling before they will eventually leave the nest.
Likewise, because we realize the amazing benefits of traveling with kids, there are certain places we absolutely want to experience as a family.
Consequently, once they ditched the diapers, bottles, and naps, we kicked our family travel goals into high gear.
With a glass of wine and Ipad in hand, we began creating our family’s USA bucket list!
The goal…that we will complete the list before our oldest child turns 18.
First, we pondered popular landmarks, theme parks, national parks, and beloved U.S. cities that we’ve read about and daydreamed about visiting.
We want to experience it all.
Next, we decided on a tentative year to visit each destination based on their location as well as the respective ages and maturity of the kids.
When your children are young, customize your family vacation bucket list to include destinations that are close to your hometown.
Our first two bucket list destinations are within driving distance of our hometown and are places that we continue to love to explore to this day.
The remainder of the places that we’ve visited, and have yet to visit, on our USA bucket list are all well-known and what we consider – “must-see” for all.
Bucket List Family Trips: Accountability
Naturally, time for traveling together as a family is limited due to work, sports, school schedules, and other commitments.
Creating a United States bucket list, however, holds us accountable for accomplishing our travel goals despite our busy schedules.
In addition, anticipating future travel motivates us to set aside the appropriate funds to make our travel goals happen.
The following U.S. bucket list is a chronological outline of the fabulous adventures that we have already taken, as well as the ones we have yet to take.
All of the following itineraries and travel tips are ones that we have experienced while being mindful of cost and the conveniences necessary when traveling with kids.
Allow for flexibility and spontaneity in your United States bucket list. When unexpected ideas or invitations to travel come up – similar to our multi-generational family trip to Dreams Playa Mujeres – by all means…go for it!
1. Duluth & Lake Superior (Minnesota)
- Ages: We started visiting Duluth, MN annually when our kids were 6, 4, and 2 years old due to the multitude of things to do with kids in Duluth, as well as its close proximity to our hometown.
- Accommodations: The Suites Hotel at Waterfront Plaza (Awesome pool area and hot breakfast included with your stay.)
Dubbed the “Best Outdoor City in America,” and “The Craft Beer Capital of Minnesota”, Duluth is one of our absolute favorite family travel destinations.
Duluth sits on the north shore of Lake Superior, which is the largest of the 4 Great Lakes of North America.
It is an active port city where families can witness oceangoing ships transporting coal, iron ore, and grain underneath the harbor’s famous lift bridge.
Duluth is well known in the Midwest USA for its great outdoor activities, awesome cultural scene, and delicious dining.
Duluth Family Vacation Itinerary
Save yourself the work of planning from scratch by checking out our 2-day Duluth itinerary that is perfect for families with kids both young and old.
2. The Wisconsin Dells (Wisconsin)
- Ages: We started visiting the Wisconsin Dells annually when the kids were ages 7, 5, and 3 years old. This is a great place to visit with small children as there are shallow areas and splash pads at every waterpark and attraction.
- Accommodations: Great Wolf Lodge (best for visiting with kids ages 3-10) or The Wilderness Resort (our favorite for school-age kids and teens).
Splash and play to your heart’s content in Wisconsin Dells, the Water Park Capital of the World, our second bucket list family vacation!
After all, the Dells has more configurations of indoor and outdoor waterparks per capita than anywhere else on the planet.
As another popular Midwest USA tourist destination, the Dells has so much more to offer than just its famous water parks, however.
Laidback locals, awe-inspiring natural beauty, and year-round attractions lead many families to return here year after year.
Wisconsin Dells Family Vacation Itinerary
We haven’t yet officially put our Wisconsin Dells itinerary into writing.
You can’t go wrong, however, in simply using your waterpark hotel as a base to then add in other fun area attractions as time permits.
Memories are sure to be made in this epicenter of family fun!
3. The Black Hills and Mount Rushmore National Memorial (South Dakota)
- Ages: We had success visiting this famous United States bucket list destination when our 3 kids were 8, 6, and 4 years old. This is a destination that can be enjoyed at any age, however.
- Accommodations: Cambria Hotel Rapid City (Central location with a huge indoor swimming pool and hot tub.)
The Black Hills are a small mountain range in western South Dakota that extends into Wyoming. This is a travel region that is so spread out, yet packed with family travel opportunities.
The Southern Hills is home to Mount Rushmore National Monument, Wind Cave National Park, Custer State Park, and Mammoth Springs, the world’s largest mammoth research facility.
Further, attractions in the Northern Hills include Spearfish Canyon, historic Deadwood, and the Sturgis motorcycle rally.
Black Hills Family Vacation Itinerary
Don’t head to this area without an itinerary in mind.
There are literally so many amazing things to do in the Black Hills with kids that you’ll want to go there prepared.
The area’s best landmarks, attractions, and state parks can all be visited during this perfect 4-day Black Hills Itinerary that we made with families in mind.
Our must-do recommendations in Black Hills, SD include:
4. San Diego (California)
- Ages: We visited San Diego when our 3 kids were ages 9, 7, and 5 years old.
- Accommodations: VRBO vacation rental home adjacent to Moonlight State Beach in Encinitas, California.
San Diego is on the coast of the beautiful Pacific Ocean in Southern California.
The city is known for its mild year-round climate, extensive beaches, and a multitude of family-friendly theme parks and activities.
A visit should not be limited to the city alone, however.
Instead, I recommend that you and your family be sure to take excursions to the surrounding communities of Coronado, La Jolla,
Each one of these cities has something fun and delightful to offer.
San Diego Family Vacation Itinerary
Be sure to fit in visiting all of the amazing coastal communities (that I mentioned above), by checking out our epic 6-day San Diego itinerary!
Our must-do recommendations in San Diego, CA include:
- SeaWorld San Diego
- San Diego Zoo
- Touring the USS Midway Aircraft Carrier
- Spending an afternoon on Coronado Island
- Going to Legoland Hotel and Theme Park (Carlsbad, CA).
- Hiking at Torrey Pines State Reserve
- Watching the sea lions in La Jolla Cove
5. Grand Canyon National Park (Arizona)
- Ages: We visited the Grand Canyon with our kids when they were 10, 8, and 6 years old. If you’re wanting to do extensive hiking, I recommend that your kids be a bit older.
- Accommodations: Thunderbird Lodge (Family-focused lodge in an excellent location.)
One of the world’s natural wonders, the iconic Grand Canyon National Park is one of the most famous attractions in the United States.
This giant canyon carved by the copper-colored Colorado River exposes billions of years of history in its layers of colored rock.
Most visitors see the Grand Canyon from the South Rim which is open all year and easily accessed by personal vehicles or shuttles.
On the other hand, the North Rim is less populated by tourists because it is in a more remote location and has a shorter tourism season.
Either way, witnessing the splendor of the Grand Canyon is an absolute must on your family’s United States bucket list.
Grand Canyon Family Vacation Itinerary
Check out this itinerary if you only have 1-Day to visit the Grand Canyon.
Our must-do recommendations at Grand Canyon National Park include:
- Hiking the Bright Angel Trail
- Check out the Hopi House
- Walking the Trail of Time
- Visit the National Geographic Visitor Center
- Ride the free Hermit Road shuttle bus (Red Route)
- Explore nearby Slide Rock State Park and Sedona, Arizona
6. Disney World in Orlando (Florida)
Ages: We visited the Disney theme parks in Orlando, Florida for the first time when our 3 children were 12, 10, and 8 years old.
We’ve also found that there are dozens of awesome things to do in Orlando for adults if you’re visiting there when older.
Accommodations: Holiday Inn, Lake Buena Vista (An amazing and affordable off-site Disney hotel.)
Walt Disney World is the world’s most famous family-friendly destination, which is why it may be of no surprise that it is part of our United States bucket list.
Encompassing 4 major theme parks in 1, Disney is a theme park paradise that appeals to both kids and adults.
Not only is Orlando home to the famous Walt Disney World, but there are tons of things to do in Orlando on Disney non-park days!
Orlando Family Vacation Itinerary
After our visit, we created an amazing, action-packed, 6-day Orlando itinerary that you can customize with the parks and places of your family’s preference.
Our must-do recommendations in Orlando, FL include:
7. Sightseeing in Chicago (Illinois)
Ages: We first toured Chicago when our 3 kids were ages 13, 11, and 9 years old.
Accommodations: Embassy Suites Chicago (Downtown River North or Magnificent Mile – both are great and very family-friendly!
The magnificent city of Chicago receives recognition as being the “Best Big City in the U.S.”, as well as the “#1 World’s Best City for Having it All”.
As an avid family traveler, my personal opinion is that it is also one of the most family-friendly big cities that we have ever visited – which is why I recommend going on a family vacation here!
Chicago has a vibrant downtown that is home to amazing architecture that even kids will find fascinating.
Likewise, its vastly preserved green space and play spaces create a welcoming atmosphere for the young and old alike.
Magnificent family-friendly attractions sprinkled throughout Navy Pier and Millennium Park will keep you and your family entertained for hours!
Pack like a pro for your next family vacation! Click the following image to get your FREE family vacation packing list that is both customizable and printable!
Chicago Family Vacation Itinerary
Check out our awesome 3-day Chicago itinerary that is perfect for visiting Chicago with kids.
And, be sure to check out our list of the best things to do in Chicago in winter if you’re visiting there during the colder months.
Our must-do recommendations in Chicago, IL include:
8. Glacier National Park (Montana)
Ages: We visited Glacier National Park when our 3 kids were ages 14, 12, and 10. These are great ages to go, as they were all able to hike on their own without complaining.
Accommodations: During our family vacation to Montana, we had the opportunity to stay at two amazing properties.
We stayed at both Grouse Mountain Lodge in Whitefish, Montana, and The Lodge at Whitefish Lake in Whitefish, Montana. You’ll love reading about them to determine which would be best for you and your family!
Glacier National Park is located in the northern Rocky Mountains in northwestern Montana.
Not only is Glacier National Park home to active glaciers, but it’s also comprised of stunning valleys, towering mountain tops, cascading waterfalls, colorful wildflowers, and majestic wildlife sightings.
In our opinion, it is the most beautiful place that we have ever been to – and we recommend adding it to your USA bucket list as well!
Glacier National Park Itinerary
Our 3-day Glacier National Park itinerary includes the best scenery, family-friendly hikes, glaciers, and must-see stops to help you plan the perfect visit.
Our must-do recommendations when visiting Glacier National Park include:
- Explore the 23-best stops on Going-to-the-Sun Road (Glacier’s world-famous scenic drive)
- Hike Trail of the Cedars, Avalanche Lake Trail, and Hidden Lake Overlook
- Go whitewater rafting in Glacier National Park
- Enjoy the best things to do in Whitefish, Montana that includes swimming in a huge glacial lake
- Visit St. Mary Lake and take a Rising Sun Boat Tour
- Go horseback riding in Many Glacier
9. Washington D.C.
Ages: I visited Washington D.C. on a solo trip with my 15-year-old son. This was a fantastic age for him to visit and we both learned a ton!
Accommodations: Residence Inn by Marriott at Washington, DC National Mall. A 5-minute walk to the National Mall, indoor pool, kitchens with full-sized refrigerators/freezers and microwaves, complimentary evening reception, and complimentary buffet breakfast.
A family trip to Washington D.C. is a US bucket list destination for many American families – including ours!
The District of Columbia (in between the U.S. states of Maryland and Virginia) was set aside as the nation’s capital so that the federal government would not be located in any single state.
National symbols such as the U.S. Capitol Building and the White House are accessible to visitors, along with dozens of other tourist attractions, which include world-class museums and important monuments.
With so many amazing opportunities for exploration, it’s important to understand the general layout and to know what there is to do there before your arrival.
Washington DC Itinerary with Kids
The main tourist area of Washington DC is enormous, requires a lot of walking, and definitely requires taking into consideration the individual ages and interests of your family members.
It is absolutely essential to consult our Washington DC family vacation itinerary for spending 1 – 7 days in the nation’s capital to help you prepare for this iconic family trip.
Our must-do recommendations in Washington D.C. include:
- Get reservations for a U.S. Capitol Building tour
- Spend time at the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool
- Photograph The U.S. White House
- Take an evening walk around Washington D.C.’s monuments and memorials
- Go to the National Museum of American History (and other free Smithsonian Museums)
- Attend a performance at The John. F. Kennedy Center
10. Rocky Mountain National Park (Colorado)
Ages: We visited Rocky Mountain National Park when our 3 kids were ages 15, 13, and 11.
You could also go when your kids are a bit younger as there are several easy hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park and other popular attractions geared toward small children enjoy.
Accommodations: The Ridgeline Hotel in Estes Park, CO
I highly recommend staying in the nearby town of Estes Park, Colorado when visiting Rocky Mountain National Park.
There are 5 entrances into Rocky Mountain National Park that are within 5 miles of Estes Park, making it the ultimate gateway city.
We love it so much that we’ve written an entire 7-day Estes Park itinerary to use when visiting there!
This includes all of the best things to do in Estes Park, as well as summarizes our amazing adventures in Rocky Mountain National Park!
Rocky Mountain National Park Itinerary
You definitely do not want to visit Rocky Mountain National Park without a plan.
With heavy crowds and with so many areas of the park to explore, it’s important to have a good idea of how to get around, where to park, etc.
We write about the best things to do in Rocky Mountain National Park and include our 1-day Rocky Mountain National Park itinerary here.
Our must-do recommendations in Estes Park, CO include:
- Horseback riding at Sombrero Stables
- Whitewater rafting
- Mustang Mountain Coaster
- Visit Downtown Estes Park and do the Riverwalk
- Explore Rocky Mountain National Park
- Hike Bear Lake Loop
- Drive Train Ridege Road
Future United States Bucket List Destinations
We have yet to explore the following destinations that we have on our United States bucket list.
Once we do, we will edit this article to include our crafted itineraries and lists of must-do attractions. (Follow us on our social to stay in touch!)
Check out the remaining places that we are looking forward to visiting as a family before the kids leave the nest.
- An Alaskan Cruise – Complete in June 2023 – article coming soon!
- Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Park (Wyoming)
- The Mighty 5 Utah National Parks
- Las Vegas and the Hoover Dam (Nevada)
- New York City (New York)
Have you done any of these bucket list family trips before? What are your family must-do recommendations? I’d love to hear about what’s on your family vacation bucket list!Jen
*Before leaving, be sure to check our Travel Resources Page to find exclusive travel discounts and to book hotels, rental cars, and guided tours.*
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