Crowds of families at the Arizona State Fair surrounded by colorful lights, games and concession stands.

8 of the best US destinations for a multigenerational vacation

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January 12, 2024
Gregory E. Clifford // Shutterstock

8 of the best US destinations for a multigenerational vacation

More families are using their vacation time to make memories with extended family. Marketing and tech firm PMG called multigenerational travel—trips with three or more generations of a family—an emerging trend.

Grandparents are often the ones initiating these trips. According to the Family Travel Association's 2023 study, bonding with family and spending time with grandchildren are the biggest motivators for more than 3 in 5 grandparents to take a multigenerational trip.

Planning a family vacation for three or more generations often requires extra logistical consideration. Families with young children may need lodging with cribs or dark, secluded rooms for naps, while older family members may need accessible entrances and bathrooms. Since each traveler will likely want to spend time doing different activities, the family planner's challenge is to find a destination that gives plenty of opportunities for families to do a wide variety of activities separately and together.

With so many needs to consider, some look to all-inclusive options, such as resorts or cruises. Others prioritize booking rental homes or cabins, so family members can stay together while maintaining some privacy. State and national parks are another popular choice since cabins and campsites are often available to reserve next to popular wilderness sites. But those aren't the only options for multigenerational travelers.

Stacker sourced data on regions with ample lodging options and cross-referenced that information with details on the area's accessibility and available activities using a variety of sources. Here are eight options to start the search and inspire trips for years to come.

Downtown Palm Springs lined with palm trees at dusk.
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Palm Springs, California

Palm Springs in Southern California is a popular desert oasis for families, including those traveling with several generations. The area has outdoor activities for everyone, from kid-friendly hikes to hot springs and golf courses for older age groups. Generations of all ages may enjoy the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, which takes riders 2.5 miles over the Chino Canyon. Families can visit the Palm Springs Art Museum for free on Thursdays from 5 to 8 p.m., then check out VillageFest, a weekly street fair on Thursday nights.

The Palm Springs metropolitan area is a certified autism center, which means several restaurants and other businesses in the area make accommodations for people with autism.

People walking on sand dunes at sunset.
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Outer Banks, North Carolina

Beach vacations are a favorite among multigenerational travelers. The East Coast's barrier islands deliver much of what the entire family is after. The Outer Banks, off the coast of North Carolina, are especially popular for families who want a remote beach getaway. There are many different lodging options, including bed and breakfasts, campgrounds, vacation homes, and cottage courts, which share a common courtyard.

Family members have a diverse set of land and water activities to choose from. Some highlights include birdwatching—Outer Banks is one of the best birding locations on the East Coast, viewing lighthouses, and visiting the area where the Wright Brothers took their first flight.

A train of tourists running along a cliff.
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Durango, Colorado

This small town in southwest Colorado is all about hot springs and railroads. For hot springs, families stay at the Durango Hot Springs Resort, with 19 family-friendly and 10 accessible soaking pools compliant with guidelines set by the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Visitors from around the world come to Colorado to ride the Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad, a National Historic Landmark that takes passengers through the San Juan Mountains. For cultural and historical activities, families visit the ancestral homes of the Pueblo at Mesa Verde National Park. Families who visit during ski season can take advantage of the snow at Purgatory Resort, where kids 12 years old and under ski for free.

Universal Studios Park in Orlando.
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Orlando, Florida

Disney World is just one of Orlando's many theme parks, a huge draw for family travelers. People may not know Orlando is an emerging city for dining, one of the top priorities for travelers and foodies of all ages. Four Orlando area restaurants have earned a Michelin star, and 11 more are labeled Bib Gourmand, the guide's label for quality food at more affordable prices.

Orlando also has more short-term rental inventory than any other U.S. city, according to AirDNA, which tracks data on short-term rentals. Orlando and its local theme parks also have initiatives in place to make them accessible to people with cognitive and mobile disabilities. For example, Walt Disney World offers Disability Access Services for people who cannot endure long waits inside the theme park due to a disability. Some Orlando restaurants also have private dining rooms for families looking for a sensory-friendly experience.

People standing on a wheelchair accessible ramp to an overlook.
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Door County, Wisconsin

Door County, Wisconsin, was named one of the top 20 locations for a multigenerational trip in a study published by Gogo Charters using TripAdvisor and AreaVibes data, and it's easy to see why. Lake Michigan surrounds the peninsula and offers ADA-accessible playgrounds, and hikes and beaches that accommodate wheelchairs.

Families can take trolley tours to see the area's lighthouses, spring blossoms, or outdoor scenery. There are also plenty of water activities on Lake Michigan, including fishing, sailing, and scuba diving. Lucky families may even spot the northern lights on nights with a clear sky.

A busy street in Gatlinburg in summer.
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Miro Vrlik Photography // Shutterstock

Gatlinburg, Tennessee

A family vacation in the Appalachian Mountains is popular among multigenerational vacationers. Members of the family have lots of choices of activities, such as spending the day in the downtown Gatlinburg shopping district or hiking the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

The area also has small theme parks, such as Rowdy Bear Mountain and the Soaky Mountain Waterpark. The whole family can come together in the evenings around a cabin fireplace to enjoy the views of the sun setting over the Smoky Mountains.

Many cabins in the area offer multiple bedrooms. Some, like those offered by the Cabins of the Smoky Mountains, offer five or more bedrooms, additional beds, and entertainment and game room options, perfect for big family gatherings and reunions.

People riding horses through a mountain park.
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Phoenix, Arizona

Phoenix over-delivers on options for dining with kids. Check out The Teapot, a coffee shop with a complimentary playhouse and rock climbing wall for kids in its backyard, or Rustler's Rooste, a steakhouse with an indoor slide. Hikes are plentiful in the Phoenix area, and some are barrier-free, meaning they're wide enough for wheelchair users to navigate.

There are also plenty of vacation homes and lodging options to choose from. Some resorts also offer water parks like those in the Hyatt Gainey Ranch or the Westin Kierland. The Phoenix and Scottsdale area ranks 10th worldwide for the number of short-term rentals based on AirDNA data.

People viewing underwater wildlife at the Atlanta Aquarium.
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Atlanta, Georgia

Atlanta has many accommodation options for multigenerational travelers. AirDNA ranks Atlanta 11th in the world (behind Phoenix/Scottsdale) for the number of short-term rentals available. The BeltLine trail loops around the city and is a mostly ADA-accessible way to get to know the city, with stops at local restaurants and shops along the way.

The Georgia Aquarium and the World of Coca-Cola are two adjacent downtown stops for families. The King Center on Auburn Avenue is a short drive away. Foodies will enjoy the city's newly created Michelin guide, including five restaurants that earned a Michelin star and 10 that landed the Bib Gourmand in 2023. Or head to Buford Highway for international fare at every price point.

Story editing by Carren Jao. Copy editing by Kristen Wegrzyn. Photo selection by Lacy Kerrick.

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