Family-friendly towns in the United States By Katie DeTar
Sturbridge, MA (Flickr: Sean)
Travel in the United States offers the unique opportunity to visit a vast array of charming towns, each with their own unique character and style. Visually stunning, historic towns offer natural landscapes and interesting architecture to please the adults in the group and fun activities to please kids and teens, too! From land to shining sea, these are some of the most charming, most scenic, and most interesting towns to visit with your whole family.
Ellicott City, MD
If your travel plans bring you to the Washington DC area, be sure to grab your walking shoes and take a short day trip to Ellicott City, MD. Repeatedly ranked as one of the best places to live in the country, the cozy town center nestled into the hillside includes historic stone buildings and quaint shops. Be sure to stop into Sweet Cascades Chocolatier for some unique treats – including chocolate seasoned like a Maryland-style crab boil! Kids will love the historic Ellicott City Station, the oldest railroad station in the United States. The family can see a large model railroad display, hear an old-fashioned telegraph, and climb aboard a real caboose! Ellicott City is also known for their ghost tours. Kid-friendly walking tours with costumed guides tell creepy tales of Civil War soldiers and others who left their mark on the town.
Sturbridge, Massachusetts is quintessential New England. First settled in 1729, this colonial-era village includes historic homes, churches and an early library. The area is best known for the 200-acre Old Sturbridge Village, a scenic collection of more than 40 historic buildings, depicting life in 1830s New England. This outdoor living history museum is a great place to bring the kids to explore and meet tradespeople, try old-fashioned games and meet farm animals. Old Sturbridge Village also has on-site family-friendly lodging and dining. For more outdoor fun, take the whole family to the Westville Recreation Area, a picturesque waterfront park is ideal for a nature walk and picnic.
Cooperstown, NY (Courtesy Cooperstown/Otsego County, New York )
Home to the Baseball Hall of Fame, this beautiful village located in central New York State attracts thousands of sports fans annually. But there is plenty to do, beyond baseball, to keep the kids busy and entertained! At the Farmers Museum, kids can meet and feed friendly animals and learn all about life in the 19th century from costumed guides. A visit to the museum also includes a ride on a hand-carved carousel and weekly story time. After a day at the museum, grab lunch in the village at a charming deli, and head to nearby Glimmerglass State Park for a swim and time relaxing and playing in the sand at Otsego Lake. Just outside of the village, the iconic Otesaga Hotel, opened in 1909, is a family-friendly retreat right on Lake Otsego. Kids will enjoy the outdoor pool and canoe and paddleboat rentals.
New Braunfels, TX
New Braunfels, TX (Flickr: Michael Salazar)
Located between San Antonio and Austin, New Braunfels was established in 1845 by a German prince and military officer. He later encouraged hundreds of German settlers to follow, and today the town maintains it’s strong German heritage. Two German festivals are held annually, and the most popular town attraction, the Schlitterbahn Waterpark, creates a magical Bavarian village amidst waterslides and rides. There are 40 water attractions spread over 70 scenic acres at this seasonal destination for families. Back in town, bring the kids to explore the oldest hardware store in Texas, enjoy delicious treats from the oldest bakery in the state, and try on boots and western wear at unique town shops. For more water adventure, the nearby Guadalupe and Comal Rivers are open for tubing and rafting. Outfitters along the rivers will get your family set with rafts and life vests for a few hours of floating fun on the river.
(MORE: 10 Places You Absolutely Need to Visit While the Kids are Young)
Sedona, AZ (Courtesy Visit Sedona)
Sedona, Arizona is red rock country at its finest. Majestic stone formations create a most unique and iconic American landscape. Spend an afternoon with the kids admiring the rock formations that surround the town center, and have fun identifying the “Coffee Pot Rock” and the “Bell Rock”. There’s even a mountain named “Snoopy” after the iconic cartoon strip character! To get an up-close view of the landscape, hop on one of the off-road jeep tours. The kids will love rolling and riding these open-air jeeps as you make your way through the rocky terrain, and everyone will appreciate the incredible views of the stunning red mountains. Sedona’s Main Street, while very modern, maintains the feel of an old fashioned western town and offers shopping and dining that appeals to all ages.
Katie DeTar of KatieDeTar.com contributed this to MiniTime. She is a travel writer and a television host.