Tell Grandma To Get Out Her Good Luggage, We've Got 18 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 few years, when so many of us were separated from our loved ones for long and 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 laid-back island escapes to national park adventures to first-rate resort communities to splurge-worthy wellness retreats. All you have 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 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 laid-back 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 culture-centric 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.
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.
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 sunny seaside stay
The Florida Gulf coast—and the Panhandle in particular—has long been a favorite destination for families thanks to its white-sand beaches and emerald waters. While places like Destin and Panama City Beach get lots of buzz, don't forget about Pensacola, which has as much to do on the sands as it does in town. Don't miss the museums (the Pensacola Children's Museum and Pensacola Museum of Art are favorites) and the restaurants (where fresh seafood is always on offer).
Hot Springs, Virginia
For a small-town welcome
Along the Virginia stretch of the Blue Ridge Parkway are lots of charming small towns perfect for a getaway with the whole family. They make for great vacations at any time of year, but especially in autumn when fall foliage descends on the forests and paints them in reds and golds. Travelers will find the Omni Homestead Resort—which is over 200 years old—nestled in the Allegheny Mountains. It's the perfect place to check in and make new memories while hiking to waterfalls and wandering the grounds (which offer 2,300 acres to explore).
Port Aransas, Texas
For a low-key Gulf retreat
This area on the Texas coast is located just offshore from Corpus Christie and includes Port Aransas, Mustang Island, and Padre Island National Seashore. It's a favorite family getaway because of the broad beaches and bounty of coastal rentals, which are perfect for big groups seeking a getaway by the water. Port Aransas has a cozy, small-town feel with miles of beaches to enjoy. With other activities like deep sea fishing and birding, plus plenty of paddling trails to explore, there's something for the whole family to enjoy in and around Port A.
For a riverside vacation with style
Anytime is a good time to visit Chattanooga, an accessible river city with lots to recommend it. Stay along the riverfront, and you'll be just a stone's throw from the Walnut Street Pedestrian Bridge, ice cream shops, plenty of parks for exploring, and kid-friendly attractions like the Tennessee Aquarium and AT&T Field, where you can catch Chattanooga Lookout baseball games. Head into town to see the Chattanooga Choo-Choo and find more shops to browse and restaurants to try. There's never a dull moment in Chattanooga, and when you visit, it won't take long to see why.
Emerald Isle, North Carolina
For a Crystal Coast oasis
When it comes to planning a vacation to a North Carolina beach town, travelers are spoiled for choice. One of the best of them all—and one of the ultimate destinations for families—is Emerald Isle, North Carolina, which is located south of the Outer Banks on the Crystal Coast. Find it on a map, and you'll see it on a slice of island between Bogue Banks and the Atlantic, giving it incredible access to water activities. Cozy neighborhoods and 12 miles of beaches keep families coming back for more beach weeks spent sunning, sailing, kayaking, and building sandcastles.
For a Bluegrass State adventure
The area around Louisville is bourbon central, and it's where you'll find many of the stops on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, which is popular with the over-21 crowd. However, the city has something for everyone, including bikeable greenspaces (grab your two-wheeler and take a spin around Cherokee Park), fun hotels that combine fantastic amenities with comfortable stays, and great restaurants with buzzy menus. One of families' favorite activities in the city is the Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory, which offers tours exploring how the bats are made as well as the history of baseball. It's a city with no end to exploration, no matter where your interests lie.
For a city break with personality
There's a bounty of fun to be had in Austin, and its reputation for lively attractions and outdoor adventure just keeps getting stronger. In addition to fan-favorite tacos (don't miss the opportunity to visit Torchy's), families will find biking and hiking trails, as well as swimming holes (like the ones at Barton Springs and Zilker Park) and lakes (including Lady Bird Lake) for splashing around in the warm months. There are few places nicer to be than Austin on a sunny day. Museums and historic sites round out the city's cultural draws. But don't even think about leaving town before tracking down some authentic Texas barbecue, which Austin has in delicious abundance.
Eureka Springs, Arkansas
For an Ozark Mountain escape
Families visiting the Ozark Mountains will find small towns teeming with charm as well as deep forests filled with some of the most dramatic fall foliage in the South. The historic downtown of Eureka Springs has antiques shops aplenty, as well as amazing architecture to experience. It's a great spot to wander on foot, though there are also tram tours available to whisk you through the stops on a sightseeing tour. Other family-favorite activities in the area include rides on the the Beaver Lake pontoon boat and the Eureka Springs and North Arkansas Railway, both of which are ideal ways to take in the changing colors of the Ozark landscape.