The United States of America are made up of 50 states worth of unforgettable family holidays.
Whether you want sunny and summery in the south, great northern cities or vast, majestic landscapes with nothing but geography as far as the eye can see, nowhere else comes close.
And the US loves to show off its marvels, so expect to be welcomed everywhere, encouraged to enjoy everything and find that anything is possible.
Once in a lifetime doesn’t quite capture the Grand Canyon, but it’s a start. 446 river kilometres, 29 kilometres wide and almost 2 kilometres deep the world’s most famous natural wonder is immense. Fortunately you’re not expected to do it in a day. A week pass is normal to scratch the surface from north to south rim and the park has everything from campsites and hostels to rural-lux hotels. Families do go it alone but, unless you have serious outdoor credentials, park shuttle buses and trains are a good plan. Book everything in advance, especially in summer. And read the information pack, it’s based on long experience, thoroughly comprehensive and covers all the fun stuff too.
Sunny California is as beachy and glossy as you imagine, only more than you ever thought possible. Families have to be tourists in LA for the Hollywood sign, the movie studios, the fashion district, the glamorous city hotels and all the places kids didn’t believe existed in real life. Same goes for San Francisco: from Russian Hill to Fisherman’s Wharf, the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz and Pacific Heights, sightseeing is a natural reflex. Lesser known greats like San Diego and Sacramento demand no less attention. And if you think the desert is a breather, remember the desert in California is Death Valley and it’s as monumental and awe-inspiring as everything else in the state.Take me to California
A sport-mad architectural giant with enormous lakes, fantastic museums, great parks, iconic cooking and enough energy to fill a million cities, Chicago is simply incredible. And you know it even before you touch down at O’Hare Airport – just look out the plane window. Chicago amazes kids because something is always going on, whether it’s a summer music festival like Lollapalooza or a street food fair or a city wide parade. And it may not have quite as many icons as New York in its skyline but what it lacks in legend it more than makes up for in confidence.Take me to Chicago
Stop after Orlando and you do the great state of Florida an injustice. Sunny almost all year round, trimmed with stunning beaches and remarkable cities, packed with some of earth’s oddest and eeriest landscapes – including the amazing Everglades – and home to the almost Caribbean keys, Florida could fill a lifetime of family holidays and still surprise you.Take me to Florida
Nothing prepares kids for the scale of Montana’s grand landscape of mountains, forests and rivers. Throw in the idea of a holiday on a working ranch with horses, cattle, lassos and campfire cookouts and few kids aren’t prepared to saddle up and head into the great unknown. If that sounds a little bit on the rugged side, the state also has good ski resorts, packs a mean fishing adventure and employs untamed splendour to great effect for everything from white water rafting to extreme rock climbing.
From sudden bursts of parades to street corner bands and beignet for breakfast, New Orleans is rich and colourful and very eccentric. Visit Jackson Square at the heart of the historic French Quarter: always busy, always touristy and always captivating. Tremé’s City Park is bigger than Central Park and, with its Spanish moss draped oaks, deep shady groves and chattering birds, about as close to the Bayou as you get without a boat – great escape for overtired kids. Naturally there’s music everywhere. And if you come in February, carnival is king and the city’s more exuberant than ever. But New Orleans is a gracious host and even the madness of Mardi Gras has a family-friendly side.
You can’t hold back describing New York. It’s like a living movie set crammed with icons and busier, louder, more hectic and demanding than any other city in the US. But kids love it and why wouldn’t they? From hot dog carts to outsize parks, skyscrapers, department stores, yellow taxis and New Yorkers themselves, everything’s a cliché but the city doesn’t care because it invented them all in the first place. You can do a whistle stop tour and take in the sights in a few days. But hang on a bit longer and get to know the boroughs and you have another New York entirely – even if you only make it over the bridge to Brooklyn. It’s an expensive city that can work a budget if you mix the big ticket prices with freebies: Staten Island Ferry, Governors Island for great views of the Statue of Liberty or Brooklyn Flea and Central Park – just for starters.Take me to New York
5587km² of wild, just about sums up the basics of USA’s original national park. But it doesn’t tell you over half the world’s geysers are here, herds of bison and packs of wolves roam free, and bears are in permanent residence. Yellowstone is an expedition, best ventured in summer and not to be taken lightly. Humans have made little impact here so nature’s still king and the elements dictate everything. That said, visitors in their thousands stay every year and return home happy and safe to tell the tale. Plan ahead and, there are few experiences, even on this continent of riches, which come close to a holiday in Yellowstone with kids.Take me to Yellowstone
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