Tell Grandma To Get Out Her Good Luggage, We've Got 10 Trip Ideas for the Whole Family
Over the last decade, as more and more Baby Boomers have reached retirement, multigenerational family travel has, well, boomed. And after the last year and a half, when so many of us were separated from our loved ones for long unprecedented stretches, we're itching to pack up the whole family—kids, parents, and grandparents; aunts, uncles, and cousins, too—and hit the road. But planning a successful trip that takes into account the needs, wants, and interests of a range of personalities and age groups can be a daunting undertaking.
To help you out, (we don't want any family feuds on our hands) we've rounded up a few can't-miss Southern destinations with ageless appeal—everything from laidback island escapes to national park adventures to first-rate resort communities to splurge-worthy wellness retreats. All you've got to do is pack.
Great Smoky Mountain National Park, Tennessee
For a safari-style National Park adventure
Sleeping under the stars in America's most-visited national park no longer requires roughing it in sleeping bags and too-small tents thanks to the folks at Under Canvas, a national outfitter offering glamorous, safari-style canvas tents with wood burning stoves, private bathrooms, and even suites with adjacent kids tents. Situated on an 182 wooded acres, the resort, which opened in 2017, is just ten miles from Gatlinburg, Tennessee, and a few short minutes from the park entrance. Nightly s'mores for kids of all ages are a given.
For a tropical escape—no passport necessary
You can feel your blood pressure drop when you hit the Overseas Highway, heading south from Miami toward this village of islands located about halfway between mainland Florida and Key West. The pace is slower, here. The people are friendlier. The fish are bigger. Accommodation options are plentiful (and varied), but like the late President George H.W. Bush, we're fans of the recently revamped Cheeca Lodge & Spa. Opt for individual rooms or book one of the property's colorful casitas for your whole crew, complete with private beach access. Do as much (fish, snorkel, parasail, paddleboard) or as little (lounge by one of the three excellent pools or hit the spa) as you like—you're on island time.
Bluffton, South Carolina
For a luxury Lowcountry getaway
One of coastal South Carolina's best kept secrets, this small town stunner on the banks of the May River is a just short drive from better-known Lowcountry destinations like Charleston, Savannah, Beaufort, and Hilton Head. With the same dreamy, Spanish moss-draped landscape as the other locales, Bluffton still feels like a discovery even if it now has a host of celebrity fans thanks to nearby Palmetto Bluff, a luxury conservation-focused resort community and inn. Check VRBO for local in-town accommodations or make Palmetto Bluff your home base and spring for a cottage or one of the property's multi-bedroom homes available for rent.
For a splurge-worthy, mountain-top wellness retreat
From our talented friends at Blackberry Farm, Blackberry Mountain, which opened in 2019, caters to outdoorsy, health-conscious families who also love their creature comforts. Not to mention good food and drink. If you're imagining a strict diet of smoothies and green salads, think again. At the Mountain, wine with lunch is a go, and dessert is encouraged. After all, between the mountain biking, morning yoga and meditation, guided hikes, rock climbing, ropes course adventures, and fly-fishing excursions, you'll have earned a little indulgence. Note: During major U.S. holidays, young travelers (ages 4+) have the option of enrolling at Camp Blackberry for the duration of their stay.
Amelia Island, Florida
For a small town sojourn with plenty of Old Florida charm
Key West meets Savannah in this forgotten slice of Old Florida, located just half an hour north of Jacksonville. The charming fishing village is bookended by two state parks, so there are plenty of wild places to explore by foot, bike, or even on horseback. Bursting with restaurants, local shops, and quirky dive bars, downtown is well-preserved and walkable, and if you love architecture, you can spend a whole afternoon admiring the waterfront historic district's vernacular Victorian architecture. There are two first-class resorts (Omni Amelia Island Resort and The Ritz Carlton, Amelia Island), but try Elizabeth Pointe Lodge for a quainter, quieter vibe.
Lake Martin, Alabama
For a laidback lake escape
When it comes to making lasting family memories, it's hard to top the old-fashioned allure of a trip to the lake. Cannonball contests and pontoon cruises. Gin tournaments and board game marathons. Sunset cocktails and hamburgers on the grill. And while there are dozens of Southern lakes we love, we're partial to the forested banks of Alabama's Lake Martin for its lively community feel and historic (as well as historic-inspired) lakefront architecture, including the famously rustic Russell Cabins, which were built in the first half of the twentieth century.
For a cultural big-city getaway
We all know mixing politics and family is never a good idea, but a trip to our nation's capital need not involve any political chatter at all. Get your culture fix and dive into D.C.'s strong museum game. Bucket-list visits include: The National Museum of African American History, International Spy Museum, the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History, and The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. If you're into art, check out the Renwick Gallery, known for its innovative and immersive exhibits. And after years of a food scene largely dominated by clubby steak houses, the city now boasts some of the country's most interesting and enlivening dining options.
New Braunfels, Texas
For a taste of the Texas Hill Country
Stop over in Greune, a historic district on the Austin-side of New Braunfels, and teach the TikTok generation the two-step at Greune Hall, Texas' oldest dance hall. Summer months bring a surge of tube-toting visitors looking to float this Hill Country town's two naturally flowing rivers, the Comal and the Guadeloupe. To avoid the worst of the crowds, skip major holiday weekends and arrive at river outfitters in the early morning or late afternoon. New Braunfels is also home to the original Schlitterbahn water park. Sandwiched between Austin and San Antonio, it makes for an easy drive to either Texas metro. Heading north to Austin? Detouring to visit one of the Driftwood wineries or Dripping Springs' booming distillery district.
Georgia's Sea Islands
For a barrier island escape
No matter your family's vibe. There is a place for everyone on Georgia's storied Sea Islands. Outdoorsy and eco-friendly? Consider one or two of the waterfront cottages at the all-inclusive Little St. Simons Island resort. For relaxed elegance and lots of laid-back beach time, the historic Jekyll Island Club Resort is your best bet. And if you've got a busy family with lots of wide-ranging interests and you're looking to splurge, The Cloister at Sea Island delivers old-school coastal glamour like no one else. The region also sits at the heart of the Gullah-Geechee Corridor, which encompasses barrier islands from North Carolina to northern Florida, and is home to the Gullah Geechee people, the descendants of Africans enslaved on nearby plantations. Take time to learn about the rich history and cultural heritage of this unique group and their contributions to the region.
For a dose of Disney magic
Whether you're eight or eighty, Walt Disney World rarely disappoints. It's the original multigenerational family vacation destination and is designed to make group travel not just easy but enjoyable. Be sure to consider weather and crowd levels when picking a date, and if your budget allows, think about staying on property at a Disney Resort, which come with a whole host of perks, including unlimited free access to Disney transportation, extended park hours, complementary magic bands, early reservation windows for FastPasses and Disney dining, not to mention the location makes it a breeze to scoot back to the room for quick afternoon nap.