I love to travel and explore new places. But with 3 kids and a budget, family vacations are usually limited to driving only. Another caveat is I max out our driving distance at about 8 hours. One day when the kids are older, I’m sure we can all handle going further, but for now we’re limited to an 8 hour cap.
For me, you don’t have to go somewhere exciting to have a fun and adventurous time. Just exploring a city that is different from yours is a great way to make memories, and let’s face it, my kids just think it’s so cool to sleep in a hotel regardless of where it is.
We love the beach and do tend to go every year and being so close to the beach is one definite perk of living here. But sometimes, it’s nice to go out and try new things.
I also am a research queen. I love Trip Advisor and I can’t imagine trying to plan a family trip before the internet. So below are some places my family has visited and loved, and I know your family could too. A handful of days at any one of these locations is sure to provide a lifetime of family memories that won’t totally break the bank.
So full disclosure, I did live in Chattanooga for 4 years of college and that’s where I met my husband and have life long friends who still live there. But honestly, it’s a great city. They have an excellent children’s museum. My son loved riding the incline railway to the top of Lookout Mountain. Near the children’s museum downtown is a nice aquarium. Chattanooga has an amazing very family friendly downtown with lots to see, do, eat and drink. If you have older kids, there is some really great white water rafting and camping areas. If you’re up for driving slightly past my 8 hour max, then you can hit Gatlinburg and there are endless family fun possibilities there.
My family just recently returned from a spring break trip from Huntsville. As per my usual, I put lots of research into our trip and had each day planned out. Everything we did exceeded my expectations. Huntsville is nicknamed Rocket City and their rocket ship collection didn’t disappoint. We visited the U.S. Space and Rocket Center, and it was a huge hit. So much to see and do there and definitely something for every age. We stopped on our way up at William Bankhead National Forest and it was beautiful and we even discovered 3 waterfalls on our hike. We also took a drive one day over to Cathedral Caverns State Park and took a tour of an incredible cave. Bonus :: this outing was very stroller friendly which is not always the case for outdoor adventures. We enjoyed some delicious German food at Ol’ Heidelberg. We also spent half a day at Burritt on the Mountain. My kids had a blast here and learned about life during the 1800s. We attempted to build a “log” cabin, a blacksmith made my son a nail (his prized possession better than any souvenir we bought), we learned about growing your own food, farm animals, and even quilting. It was an awesome trip, and we all left happy and it was the family bonding we needed.
Great Wolf Lodge in Grapevine, TX
This is great because all of your “entertainment” is automatically built in. Our kids had a blast at the indoor waterpark and were thoroughly exhausted at the end of each day. They also would have fun activities like dance parties, story times and hot chocolate. My son routinely asks when we are going back. On this same trip, we made the drive over to the Legoland Discovery Center, also in Grapevine, and that was an obvious hit. The kids had fun riding rides, playing Legos, watching a short Lego film and playing in the various play areas.
Hyatt Regency Hill Country in San Antonio, TX
I could not recommend this destination more. The grounds are gorgeous. They have a large lazy river, water slide, several pools, bikes, nightly s’mores by the fire and movie and popcorn on the lawn. They also have a wave machine my oldest was able to try boogie boarding on and a golf course and spa for mom and dad. There is also plenty to do all around San Antonio if you’re able to pull yourself away from this amazing resort. Although we spent most of our time on the grounds, we did manage to make a stop at the Alamo and enjoyed walking around the grounds and along the San Antonio Riverwalk. We also took a drive to Natural Bridge Caverns and got to take a tour inside an amazing cave. There are also plenty more adventures to be had at places like Six Flags, San Antonio Zoo, Splashtown and lots of other area attractions.
Other drivable destinations to visit on my list are Memphis, Nashville, Austin, Hot Springs and Atlanta. I have personally visited a few of these cities, but I’m looking forward to making them spots for a family adventure in the future.