Best Kid-Friendly Destination (2015)


What makes an ideal kid-friendly destination? We asked USA TODAY 10Best readers to chose their favorite place for a family vacation, and after four weeks of voting, the results are in!

  • Niagara Falls, N.Y.

    Niagara Falls, N.Y.

    Niagara Falls isn't just for honeymooners any more. The sheer power and magnitude of this natural wonder equally awes kids. Classic tours such as Maid of the Mist and Cave of the Winds get visitors up close with the falls to really feel the energy and force of Mother Nature. River and Erie Canal excursions include jet boats and locks tours. In the summer, Old Falls Street stays festive with street food vendors, live entertainment, movies and lots of family activities.
    Photo courtesy of Denis Pepin / iStock Photo

  • Tampa


    With its blend of big city amenities, resorts and beaches, the Tampa Bay area is a strong magnet for family vacationers. Busch Gardens stars as the big attraction, but downtown Tampa has developed into a nice, walkable destination with a continuum of museums and art venues, including the Tampa Bay History Center, Tampa Museum of Art and Glazer Children’s Museum. Nature experiences, such as the Manatee Viewing Center, and professional sports from Yankees spring training to Buccaneers NFL games, further entice families, who can travel across the bay to the beaches of St. Petersburg for the flip side of metro vibes.
    Photo courtesy of Jeremy Thompson / Flickr

  • Myrtle Beach, S.C.

    Myrtle Beach, S.C.

    It's like a county fair every day on Myrtle Beach, an affordable beach vacation destination for families. The 1.2-mile Oceanfront Boardwalk and Promenade brings a carnival atmosphere to the beach. Kid-favorite Ripley’s has a believe-it-or-not huge presence here with an Odditorium, Aquarium, Haunted House and 5-D Moving Theater. Boat tours (including a pirate themed one), water parks, fishing, golfing, epic entertainment, legendary seafood restaurants and Myrtle Beach State Park make this a complete family destination for all ages.
    Photo courtesy of Visit Myrtle Beach

  • Anaheim, Calif.

    Anaheim, Calif.

    Synonymous with the original Disneyland theme park, Anaheim's family attractions expand far beyond the park and its entourage of resorts and Downtown Disney shopping, dining and entertainment district. Anaheim and its surrounding communities in Southern California entertain kids with stellar beaches and boardwalks, museums, sporting events and amusement parks. Families will love playing at Adventure City, a theme park less overwhelming than Disneyland, and shopping at Anaheim GardenWalk, with its own cool playground .
    Photo courtesy of Paul Hiffmeyer/Disneyland Resort

  • Wisconsin Dells, Wisc.

    Wisconsin Dells, Wisc.

    The birthplace of the indoor water park, the Wisconsin Dells has evolved into water park heaven year-round with first and best superlatives at every turn. It boasts, for instance, the country’s largest outdoor water park, Noah’s Ark Waterpark, with 51 slides and a body board surf pool. The indoor water parks are often part of a resort, many reasonably priced for family budgets. In addition to its “Waterpark Capital of the World” reputation, the Dells offers amusement parks, zip lining, go-carts, horseback riding, Circus World, train rides, snow skiing and live shows.
    Photo courtesy of Wisconsin Dells

  • Orlando


    The undisputed mecca for theme park enthusiasts, Orlando headlines the big names – Walt Disney World, Universal Studios, SeaWorld and LEGOLAND – but also offers a mass of smaller water parks and family attractions. Young kids love the Green Meadows Farm – a petting zoo on steroids. The Orlando Science Center engages the entire family, while teens find adventure on zip lines, in hot air balloons and at a virtual sky diving experience. Aside from the plethora of attractions, area shopping, dining and lodging aim squarely at the family market.
    Photo courtesy of Matt Stroshane, photographer

  • San Diego

    San Diego

    Kids love animal attractions and beaches, but there is even more to recommend sunny San Diego to families. Besides the San Diego Zoo, Safari Park and SeaWorld, families will find LEGOLAND and a number of museums in the attractions department. They will also discover a wonderland of live entertainment, kiddy rides, gardens, playgrounds, hiking, biking and even lawn bowling in Balboa Park. Pacific Ocean beaches have a casual, surf-bum air that beguiles kids of all ages.
    Photo courtesy of Mike Aguilera/SeaWorld® San Diego

  • San Antonio

    San Antonio

    A typical family vacation day in San Antonio provides a nice balance of history, nature and pure frivolity. Tops in the history department, the Alamo Mission draws more than 2.5 million people a year. San Antonio Missions National Park, Mission San Jose and Cathedral of San Fernando also explore the city’s Spanish roots. Nature lovers can visit the Natural Bridge Caverns, Natural Bridge Wildlife Ranch and San Antonio Zoo and Aquarium. For the fun component, there’s the River Walk, SeaWorld and a host of amusement and water parks.
    Photo courtesy of San Antonio Convention & Visitors Bureau

  • Virginia's Historic Triangle

    Virginia's Historic Triangle

    From pilgrims to roller coasters, this destination takes some dares, dips and sharp turns. Jamestown, Williamsburg and Yorktown form the points in the triangle that connects the dots to the region’s past. Living history takes visitors to that first permanent English settlement in Jamestown, to Yorktown and an American Revolutionary battlefield and to Williamsburg and colonial times. To lighten up the history lesson, Busch Gardens and Water Country USA plunge families into the 21 st century and pure delight.
    Photo courtesy of Visit Williamsburg

  • Yosemite National Park, Calif.

    Yosemite National Park, Calif.

    Families interested in soaking in the great outdoors find a dream vacation at Yosemite National Park, a mountainous miracle of nature in the High Sierras. Spectacular waterfalls, dramatic valleys, ancient giant sequoias, lovely meadows and sheer granite up-scapes combine to form a breathtaking backdrop for a number of recreational activities from hiking and camping to backpacking and rock climbing. Accommodations within the park offer a range of choices from budget-friendly tent cabins to well-appointed lodges and hotels.
    Photo courtesy of Christophe Testi / iStock Photo

Only a handful of votes separated our winner from the runner up, but in the end, Niagara Falls, N.Y. came out on top. Families flock to this northeastern city to experience the awe-inducing grandeur of this natural wonder, whether aboard the Maid of the Mist or from the Cave of the Winds. Aside from the cascades, Niagara is packed with other family-centric attractions.

Runner-up Tampa attracts family vacationers with star attractions like Busch Gardens and the Manatee Viewing Center, and the nearby beaches of St. Petes add to the appeal.

The top 10 winners in the category Best Kid-Friendly Destination are as follows:

  1. Niagara Falls, N.Y.
  2. Tampa
  3. Myrtle Beach, S.C.
  4. Anaheim, Calif.
  5. Wisconsin Dells, Wisc.
  6. Orlando
  7. San Diego
  8. San Antonio
  9. Virginia's Historic Triangle
  10. Yosemite National Park, Calif.

Additional nominees included Alaska, Washington, Hawaii, Philadelphia, Jackson Hole, Boston, the Grand Canyon, San Francisco, Los Angeles and New York.

A panel of experts picked the initial 20 nominees, and the top 10 winners were determined by popular vote. Experts Katie Dillon (La Jolla Mom), Kyle McCarthy (, Eileen Ogintz (Taking the Kids) and Dave Parfitt (Adventures by Daddy) were chosen for their expertise in the family travel industry.

10Best and USA TODAY extend their congratulations to all the winners. The contest was promoted on 10Best and USA TODAY.

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Katie Dillon

Katie Dillon

Katie Dillon

Kyle McCarthy

Kyle McCarthy

Kyle McCarthy

Eileen Ogintz

Eileen Ogintz

Eileen Ogintz

Dave Parfitt

Dave Parfitt

Dave Parfitt