Avoid the crowds in Orlando and head to one of these sunny destinations in the South instead. By Erin Gifford
Beach time on Galveston Island (Flickr: Allen Sheffield)
Whether youâre looking to build sand castles on the beach, splash and slide at waterparks or take open-air sightseeing tours to explore new towns this summer, the South has a lot to offer families.
Take a look at five of our favorite family-friendly destinations in the South – from Texas to South Carolina – that are perfect for a family getaway this summer. So pack your bags, gather the troops and get ready for an amazing sun-drenched summer.
Kids will love driving aboard and taking the 20-minute ferry ride from Port Bolivar to Galveston Island to build sand castles at Stewart Beach and take a spin on the giant Ferris wheel at Pleasure Pier. Ride the Treasure Isle Tour Train to get acquainted with the island, including many historic homes, before heading to Moody Gardens, which boasts an aquarium, a ropes course, a waterpark and a rainforest experience, as well as a paddlewheel boat and a discovery museum. Stay at the Holiday Inn Club Vacations Galveston Beach Resort or book one of many family-friendly vacation rentals in the area.
Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
Kids in Myrtle Beach (Courtesy Visit Myrtle Beach)
It would be easy to spend all day splashing in the surf in Myrtle Beach, but with mini golf courses, go-karts, an aquarium and even a zoo, youâll want to get up and get out for some serious family fun. Along the Grand Strand, look for mini golf courses galore, including Jurassic Golf and Mt. Atlanticus Golf. Or, head to the boardwalk for a ride on the SkyWheel for scenic views of the beaches as well as downtown Myrtle Beach. Stay at the Crown Reef Beach Resort, which boasts two new four-story water slides, as well as a brand new waterpark with one of the longest lazy rivers in Myrtle Beach.
New Orleans, Louisiana
French Quarter in New Orleans (Flickr: Long Zheng)
From riding the St. Charles Streetcar to watching as parade floats are created at Blaine Kernâs Mardi Gras World, thereâs much to do with kids in New Orleans. Take a kid-friendly sightseeing tour of the French Quarter with French Quartour Kids before cruising along the Mississippi aboard the Creole Queen. Just outside the city, kids will love playing with baby alligators in a touch pool at Insta-Gator Ranch & Hatchery. Before the day is done, relax with a few powdered sugar-covered beignets at CafÃ© du Monde, then head to the quiet Central Business District for a stay at the Sheraton New Orleans.
Gulf Shores, Alabama
Gulf Shores in Alabama (Flickr: faungg’s photo)
Yes, there are beach towns in Alabama, and some pretty spectacular ones, like Gulf Shores. Kids will love swimming, crabbing and stand-up paddleboarding along the two miles of sandy beaches at Gulf State Park. Thereâs also a nature center, as well as hiking and biking trails, to explore the local wildlife in the park. Take time for Waterville USA, which has plenty of water slides and a water play area, as well as attractions for dry land lovers, like mini golf and a wooden roller coaster. Stay at the nearby Staybridge Suites Gulf Shores for kid-friendly amenities like free breakfast and an outdoor pool.
(MORE: Find more vacation ideas in the Southeast.)
Tybee Island, Georgia
Sunset at Tybee Island (Flickr: Ryan McKee)
Just east of Savannah, kids will love all they can see, do and learn on Tybee Island. Climb to the top of the Tybee Lighthouse for panoramic views of the island before watching musket and solider demonstrations at Fort Pulaski, which played an important role in the Civil War. Relax on a dolphin tour or sunset cruise with one of several boat tour companies, then get in some fun and learning during a two-hour ecology trip packed with beachcombing and exploring tide pools. Try the Ocean Plaza Beach Resort for easy access to the beach and two outdoor pools.
Erin Gifford of Kidventurous contributed this to MiniTime.