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Best Kept Secret Family Vacation Spots & Hidden Gems

This guide to the best kept secret family vacation spots will help you uncover hidden gems that offer the perfect blend of adventure, relaxation, and unforgettable family-friendly activities.

These unique travel destinations will ensure your next trip is filled with one of a kind experiences and cherished memories.

While popular destinations like Disney World and Los Angeles have their charm, sometimes the real magic lies off the beaten path. Join us as we uncover the best family vacation spots across the United States. 

Best Kept Secret Family Vacation Spots

These family vacation spots are off the beaten path and span across the northeast, south, midwest, and western parts of the United States.

Best Family Vacation Spots in the US That Are Off the Beaten Path

Colorado

Experience an unforgettable journey through Central Colorado, where the majestic Rocky Mountains unveil awe-inspiring landscapes and a rich cultural heritage. While this beautiful place is known for its natural wonders that draw in millions of people every year, there are plenty of unique places often overlooked by tourists. So instead of heading to Rocky Mountain National Park or fighting the crowds at Estes Park, enjoy these truly unique travel experiences in the Centennial State.

Immerse yourself in the captivating story of Molly Brown, a legendary figure renowned for her survival of the Titanic disaster and her extraordinary resilience and courage. At the Unsinkable Molly Brown Museum in Denver, visitors can get a glimpse into her fascinating life journey and be inspired by her enduring spirit. After exploring this beautiful Victorian home, visitors can take a quick walk to one of the best local restaurants located just a few blocks away. 

Savor a culinary journey like no other at Steuben’s Restaurant, where classic American dishes are artfully crafted with a modern twist. Indulge your taste buds in a delightful array of flavors while soaking in the vibrant ambiance of this iconic Denver eatery with a retro vibe.

Best Kept Secret Family Vacation Spots in U.S.

Discover the refreshing allure of the rushing rivers and pristine streams meandering through the breathtaking landscapes of the Rockies. Take a pause during your journey to immerse yourself in the crystal-clear waters that wind through this majestic region, offering moments of tranquility and natural beauty at every turn.

If you are looking for outdoor activities for the whole family without the crowd of the national parks, head to Elitch Gardens Theme & Water Park. This surprisingly spacious Denver attraction offers a perfect blend of thrilling rides and refreshing water activities for the whole family without the long lines found at most theme parks. 

Georgia

Georgia is home to many of the best kept secret family vacation spots that you may recognize from movies and television. Although they are lesser known because they don’t always make the big headlines, these hidden gems offer unforgettable experiences for families seeking adventure and relaxation alike. From quaint coastal towns to picturesque mountain retreats, Georgia’s secret vacation spots promise to create lasting memories for you and your loved ones.

Take the family on a cinematic journey through Georgia’s diverse landscapes and uncover famous Georgia filming locations from your favorite movies and TV shows. From the sandy dunes of Tybee Island to the coastal charm of Jekyll Island, explore hidden gems and iconic spots that have graced the silver screen. This weekend adventure is a great way to experience the beauty and culture of the East Coast. 

Step into the enchanting world of “Fried Green Tomatoes” and treat yourself to authentic Southern comfort food at the iconic Whistle Stop Cafe in Juliette, Georgia. Nestled amidst picturesque landscapes, this beloved eatery offers a delightful culinary experience infused with rich history and cinematic charm. It’s a great spot for those seeking a unique slice of the American South, perfect for a family trip in a tiny town with little crowds and lots of charm.

Best Kept Secret Family Vacation Spots - Juliette Georgia.

For a mix of nature and history, head to the nature reserves around Savannah or explore the unique landscapes of northern Georgia. And if you’re into family-friendly activities, don’t miss out on the animal encounters at local nature centers or the thrill of a hot air balloon ride over the stunning Georgia countryside.

Best Family Vacation Spots in the US That Are Off the Beaten Path in the Midwest

Illinois

Discover hidden culinary gems nestled within the charming streets of Galena. From cozy cafes to elegant fine dining establishments, each venue promises a delightful foodie adventure. Indulge in delectable dishes crafted from locally sourced ingredients, showcasing the rich flavors of the region. Visit all of the best places to eat in Galena, from cozy cafes to elegant fine dining establishments, all of these great spots promise a delightful family experience. 

As you savor each bite, take in the beauty of Galena’s surroundings which has landed this state on the list of the best kept secret family vacation spots. Nestled in the heart of Illinois, this picturesque town offers a perfect blend of natural beauty and historic charm. After a satisfying meal, take a leisurely stroll along the quaint streets or explore the scenic parks and trails that dot the landscape.

Galena illinois places to eat

For those planning a family trip, Galena offers more than just great dining. Venture off the beaten track to discover the town’s hidden gems perfect for family vacations. Nearby Apple River Canyon State Park is a great spot for hiking and picnicking, offering a serene escape into nature. Take in the limestone bluffs and deep ravine while camping or fishing in one of the most beautiful and often overlooked state parks in Illinois. For those seeking more adventurous activities, the nearby Mississippi Palisades State Park provides opportunities for rock climbing, fishing, scenic bike paths, and horseback riding. 

Indiana

When you think of beautiful beaches, usually places like Costa Rica or some remote islands come to mind but Indiana is home to quite a few stunning beaches. 

In fact, the best time to visit this hidden gem is during the Summer months so you can take advantage of the unique water activities that the Hoosier state has to offer. 

Indiana’s beaches offer a great place for a family trip without the typical crowds found at popular white sand beaches. While Lake Michigan is the most recognizable water body to the north, don’t miss out on other great swim spots like Pokagon Beach, Lake Monroe, Hidden Paradise, Miller Beach, and Brookville Lake, just to name a few. These beaches are all located away from the beaten track, providing a remote location perfect for a day trip or a weekend getaway. Whether you’re seeking adventure or relaxation, Indiana’s beaches boast unique landscapes and beautiful scenery, making them ideal spots for families, couples, and solo travelers alike.

For the perfect family vacation, I recommend the Indiana beaches resorts and campgrounds conveniently located by the Indiana Beach Amusement Park. The park has a lot of family-friendly activities, classic boardwalk rides, and water rides including the water parks best attractions, the lazy river, the crazy slides, and of course a splash pad. Plus, this area has some of the best beaches with lots of natural scenery and fun for little kids, young kids, older kids, and special needs alike. 

Plus, this state is the perfect place to take a family road trip and see amazing places that have earned their spot in rock and roll history. Rock out to the rhythm of Indiana’s vibrant music scene, where every note strikes a chord with rock enthusiasts. From legendary musicians’ favorite pizza spots to visiting rock legends’ childhood homes, Indiana offers a symphony of experiences that resonate with music lovers. Be sure to see all of the Musical Destinations in Indiana that rock fans should visit to plan your Midwest Rock N Roll road trip. 

Midwest Rock N' Roll Road Trip

Iowa Travel Destinations

As a resident of the beautiful state of Iowa, I have visited all of the best kept secret family vacation spots in the Hawkeye state.

Experience the charm of Anamosa with our guide to the top attractions and activities in this picturesque town. Learn about the area’s most famous resident, Grant Wood, who painted the famous American Gothic Painting at 5 Turner Alley in nearby Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Stop by the Brucemore Mansion while in Cedar Rapids and see some of Wood’s early artwork in the form of a sunporch made for one of the area’s most prominent families in the early 1900s. Those interested in learning more about Grant Wood’s history may enjoy taking a visit to see the real home from the American Gothic painting located in Eldon, Iowa. 

Animal lovers will enjoy the free Cedar Rapids petting zoo and if you are really up for an adventure take the whole family to Clarksville, Iowa to stay at the New Day Dairy Guest Barn. Try your hand at being a farmer for the day and sleep in the guest barn that rivals most five-star resorts for cow lovers. This is one of my favorite places I have stayed at in recent years and for good reason, guests get a bird eye view of the dairy cows during their entire stay in the barn. If you plan the trip at the right time you may get to watch a calf being born and help name it.

You aren’t going to get that kind of experience sitting on white-sand beaches at all-inclusive resorts. If you just want to tour a dairy farm and not sleep at it, you may want to check out Hansen’s Dairy Farm for a unique day trip with lots of surprises. 

Lacey-Keosauqua State Park

For a truly secluded family trip away from crowds, visit Lacey-Keosauqua State Park, with plenty of cabins where pets are welcome and lots of family fun outdoor adventures await. To escape the stress of big cities like New York and make the most of your big city breaks, try meditating at the Maharishi Patanjali Golden Dome of Pure Knowledge.

Experience the simple joys of Amish life in Kalona, where tradition and tranquility converge. Head to Wilton where you can step back in time and indulge your sweet tooth at Wilton Candy Kitchen, a historic gem serving up nostalgic treats at the oldest ongoing ice cream/soda parlor in the world.

From riverfront attractions to historic landmarks, explore the best of Dubuque with our curated list of must-see sights. Stay at the historic Hotel Julien and explore the captivating Mississippi River Museum. 

Raise a glass to Iowa’s burgeoning wine scene and embark on a wine-tasting journey through Iowa’s top wineries and vineyards. Ignite the flames of romance with a getaway to the Quad Cities, where scenic beauty and cultural attractions await.

Best Kept Secret Family Vacation Spots - Why You have to visit the Quad Cities

For those who enjoy the darker side of travel and enjoy haunted places, you’ll love these famous Iowa haunts. Brave the chilling atmosphere of the Villisca Ax Murder House where Iowa’s most famous unsolved murder took place. Or head over to Iowa City where you can explore the haunting legend of The Black Angel of Death in Iowa City, a mysterious statue shrouded in myth and mystery. 

Discover the wonders of the natural world at the Natural History Museum in Iowa City. Step back in time with a visit to the Old Capitol Museum, where history comes to life in the heart of Iowa City. Marvel at the architectural grandeur of the Iowa State Capitol Building, a symbol of democracy and civic pride. Fuel your adventures with drinks from Iowa City’s best coffee shops

Related to Best Kept Secret Family Vacation Spots: Best Things to Do in Eastern Iowa

Michigan

Experience the diverse and captivating attractions of Michigan with the best kept secret family vacation spots in Michigan. From the bustling streets of Detroit to the serene beauty of the Upper Peninsula, Michigan offers a wealth of experiences for every type of traveler. 

Explore the vibrant music scene of Detroit, Michigan, with our guide to iconic music locations, historical stops, and musical landmarks. Known as the birthplace of Motown, Detroit’s rich musical heritage includes legendary spots like the Motown Museum, where you can immerse yourself in the history of artists like Stevie Wonder and Diana Ross.

For those who love the outdoors, Michigan is a paradise. Head to Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, where you can climb towering sand dunes and enjoy breathtaking views of Lake Michigan. This national park is a perfect place for a family trip, offering plenty of hiking trails, beautiful beaches, and opportunities for wildlife spotting.

Best Kept Family Vacation Spots- Detroit Michigan

Step off the beaten track and explore some of Michigan’s hidden gems. Visit the charming town of Saugatuck, where you can wander through art galleries, enjoy water activities on the Kalamazoo River, and relax on Oval Beach, one of the state’s most beautiful white-sand beaches.

Escape to the remote location of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula for a truly secluded getaway. Visit the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore to marvel at the unique landscapes of colorful cliffs and pristine waters. For history buffs, the Quincy Mine offers fascinating tours of its historic copper mining operations.

For a truly unique experience, take a trip to Mackinac Island, a little island where time seems to stand still. Explore the island by bike or horse-drawn carriage—no cars allowed! Visit Fort Mackinac, enjoy delicious fudge from one of the many sweet shops, and take in the stunning views of the Mackinac Bridge.

In addition to Mackinac Island, Michigan boasts several other beautiful islands worth exploring. Beaver Island, the largest island in Lake Michigan, is a great spot for fishing, kayaking, and enjoying the tranquility of nature. For a unique island adventure, visit Isle Royale National Park, where you can hike, camp, and even spot moose and wolves in their natural habitat.

Best Family Vacation Spots in the US for Road Trips

Missouri 

Explore some of Missouri’s lesser-known spots for a unique travel experience at one of these best kept secret family vacation spots. Immerse yourself in the timeless charm of Hannibal, Missouri, the hometown of literary icon Mark Twain. Explore historic sites, riverfront vistas, and cultural landmarks that inspired Twain’s beloved tales. Visit the Mark Twain Boyhood Home and Museum to walk in the footsteps of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. Don’t miss a riverboat cruise on the Mississippi River for a glimpse into the past.

Discover the entertainment capital of the Midwest with our expert tips for planning a memorable trip to Branson, Missouri. Branson is a great place for family-friendly activities, offering live shows, theme parks, and outdoor adventures. Enjoy a day at Silver Dollar City, an amusement park with thrilling rides and live entertainment. For a more serene experience, explore Table Rock Lake for boating, fishing, and hiking.

Best Kept Secret Vacation Spot - Branson Missouri

Uncover the perfect accommodations to experience all that Missouri has to offer, from boutique hotels in vibrant cities to cozy lodges nestled in scenic landscapes. In St. Louis, stay at the historic Chase Park Plaza for luxury and convenience near iconic attractions like the Gateway Arch. For a nature-filled retreat, opt for a cabin at Lake of the Ozarks State Park, where you can enjoy water activities and scenic trails.

Step back in time with a visit to the Missouri State Museum in Jefferson City, showcasing the state’s history from its early days to the present. History enthusiasts will also enjoy the Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield near Springfield, a key site from the Civil War.

Missouri’s diverse landscapes make it a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts. The Ozark National Scenic Riverways offers stunning natural scenery perfect for canoeing, kayaking, and fishing. For hiking and breathtaking views, head to Taum Sauk Mountain State Park, home to Missouri’s highest point.

Indulge in the diverse culinary scene of Missouri, from mouthwatering barbecue in Kansas City to fine dining in St. Louis. Don’t miss the chance to taste local specialties like toasted ravioli and gooey butter cake. For a unique experience, visit the Hermann Wine Trail, where you can sample wines from some of Missouri’s finest vineyards. 

Ohio

Take the family on a journey through Cleveland, Ohio, and discover a world of family-friendly fun, cultural attractions, and outdoor adventures. From its vibrant arts scene to its rich history, Cleveland offers something for everyone to enjoy. Plan your family getaway in Ohio with our comprehensive guide to the best of Cleveland. 

Step into the cinematic world of “The Shawshank Redemption” with our guide to the iconic filming locations scattered across Ohio. Follow in the footsteps of Andy Dufresne and Red as you explore the real-life settings of this beloved film. From the Ohio State Reformatory to the Shawshank Oak Tree, discover the magic of Shawshank filming locations in Ohio

Music lovers will want to take the ultimate Midwest road trip and explore the heart of rock ‘n’ roll with our curated itinerary. From legendary music destinations to historic landmarks and hidden gems, experience the rich musical heritage of the Midwest. Start your adventure in Cleveland, home to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and journey through iconic midwest cities with a rich rock and roll history. Rock out to the rhythm of the Midwest and create unforgettable memories along the way.

Related Article: 15 Road Trip Activities for Kids with Free Printables

Best Family Vacation Spots in the US for Unique Experiences

Nevada

Embark on the perfect girls’ trip with our meticulously crafted 4-day itinerary for Las Vegas showcasing the best kept secret family vacation spots in Las Vegas. Satisfy your culinary cravings at Las Vegas’ best restaurants, where every meal is a feast for the senses. From celebrity chef hotspots to hidden gems off the Strip, discover a world of delicious delights in the heart of Sin City.

Create cherished memories at the best Las Vegas attractions that are more than just the strip. For a truly unique travel experience, try out RV travel with a twist using our expert tips for planning a trip to Las Vegas using Airbnb RV rentals. Hit the road in style and enjoy the convenience of having your own mobile oasis, complete with all the comforts of home. Explore the beauty of the Nevada desert by day and immerse yourself in the excitement of the Las Vegas Strip by night. 

Best Kept Secret Family Vacation Spots for RV Trip

Discover the hidden treasures beyond the neon lights of Las Vegas with a visit to the breathtaking Valley of Fire State Park. Just a short drive from the Strip, this lesser-known gem boasts stunning red rock formations, ancient petroglyphs, and scenic hiking trails, offering a serene escape from the bustling city. Immerse yourself in the natural beauty of Nevada’s oldest state park and uncover the secrets of its fiery landscapes, making memories that will last a lifetime.

New Jersey

Looking for a truly unique travel experience on the East Coast? Step into the world of your favorite TV shows and movies with our guide to iconic filming locations scattered across New Jersey. Here you will find locations made famous by movies and television. Visit New Jersey locations made famous by the Sopranos, The Amityville Horror House, and more with this list of famous movie locations in New Jersey. 

From juicy Taylor ham sandwiches to melt-in-your-mouth saltwater taffy, there’s no shortage of deliciousness to discover in the garden state. So go ahead, take a bite out of New Jersey’s diverse food scene with these 27 Iconic New Jersey Foods —you won’t be disappointed!

live music restaurants in seaside heights

Headed to the Jersey Shore? This list of the 25 Best Restaurants in Seaside Heights NJ is your ticket to a flavor-packed adventure in Jersey. Get ready to tantalize your taste buds with the freshest seafood, classic boardwalk bites, and more. Whether you’re a foodie on the hunt for the perfect lobster roll or just craving some good old-fashioned funnel cake, these spots have something for everyone.

For those who want to enjoy the rides or maybe just want to soak up some sun on the beach, the Seaside Heights Boardwalk has something for everyone. So grab your friends and family, and get ready for a day of unforgettable memories at this Jersey Shore gem with this list of the 55+ Best Things to Do at the Seaside Heights Boardwalk.

South Dakota

Immerse yourself in the natural beauty of Custer State Park with our guide to the best hiking trails, wildlife encounters, and scenic drives. Rent a cabin at the park and experience the tranquility of being surrounded by towering pine trees and the sounds of nature. Whether you’re embarking on a challenging hike to the top of Black Elk Peak or simply taking a leisurely drive through the park’s winding roads, Custer State Park offers endless opportunities for adventure and relaxation.

Although you are looking for hidden gems and the best kept secret family vacation spots, you can’t travel through the state without visiting Mount Rushmore. With the right planning and tips, you can avoid crowds, see it all, and make the most of your visit to this national park. 

To get off the beaten path in South Dakota, you will want to explore the rugged beauty of Badlands National Park. Take in the towering rock formations and sweeping prairies that create a dramatic landscape unlike any other. Hike along scenic trails, marvel at colorful rock formations, and keep an eye out for bison, bighorn sheep, and other wildlife that call this unique environment home. 

Just a short drive from Badlands National Park lies the charming town of Wall, home to the famous Wall Drug Store. Step back in time as you explore this iconic roadside attraction, featuring quirky shops, Western-themed displays, and delicious homemade donuts. 

Further south, you’ll find the fascinating Minuteman Missile National Historic Site, where you can learn about the Cold War history of the region and tour a decommissioned missile silo. Nearby, the town of Interior offers a glimpse into South Dakota’s cowboy past with its historic shops and restaurants. 

Best Family Vacation Spots in the US That Are Truly Off the Beaten Path

Wisconsin

Treat your palate to a delightful culinary journey through the heart of Wisconsin with our handpicked selection of the 15 Best Restaurants in the Wisconsin Dells.

From savory local delicacies to international flavors, these dining spots promise an unforgettable experience that will tantalize your taste buds and leave you craving more. While gaining in popularity, this destination is one of the best kept secret family vacation spots because it offers so many unique experiences for the whole family. Be sure to try out Wizard Quest and Ripley’s Believe it Or Not while there.

For wine enthusiasts, this area offers a hidden gem among its scenic landscapes – the Wisconsin Dells Best Wineries. Indulge in exquisite, award-winning wines as you explore the region’s top wineries and vineyards, where each sip is a toast to the beauty of the surrounding countryside and the artistry of winemaking.

Experience the great outdoors with our guide to the best camping and RV parks in Door County Wisconsin. In this area, you can learn about maritime history and take in breathtaking views at the iconic Cana Island Lighthouse.

11 Best Camping & RV Parks Near Door County Wisconsin

Want to see it all? Stay at the Best Western Premier Bridgewood Resort Hotel, your premier destination for relaxation and adventure in Wisconsin. 

for a truly unique travel experience, explore the quaint town of Dickeyville, Wisconsin. Here you can take in the mesmerizing Dickeyville Grotto – a captivating display of religious art and architecture that captivates visitors with its intricate design and spiritual significance.

Related Article: Keto Road Trip Snack Ideas

Wyoming

Learn about Wyoming’s best kept secret family vacation spots such as Dubois, Wyoming, as we unveil the town’s lesser-known gems and off-the-beaten-path attractions. From hidden historic sites to secluded natural wonders, Dubois offers a wealth of unique experiences waiting to be explored.

Escape the crowds and immerse yourself in the tranquility of Thermopolis, Wyoming, where hidden accommodations offer secluded retreats amidst breathtaking scenery. Discover the charm of lesser-known lodging options and experience the true essence of Wyoming hospitality.

Prepare for an unexpected adventure with a visit to the Buffalo Bill Dam in Cody, Wyoming. Explore beyond the tourist trail and uncover the fascinating history and engineering marvels of this iconic landmark.

Venture off the tourist track and into the heart of Yellowstone National Park, where hidden treasures await. From secret hiking trails to secluded viewpoints, Yellowstone offers a plethora of lesser-known attractions that promise to surprise and delight adventurous travelers. 

Related Articles: What You May Not Expect from a Trip to Yellowstone National Park

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