5 Best Family Destinations to Rival Florida Without Going Broke
Ah, Florida — known not only for its orange juice, active retirees and miles of beautiful beaches, but also for several of the most popular family vacation destinations in the U.S., including Walt Disney World, Universal Studios Florida and SeaWorld Orlando.
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But unless you’re lucky enough to live within a short driving distance of the Sunshine State, prices can get steep for families on a budget. In addition to getting your family there, you’ll have the expense of admissions, lodging, meals and photo ops.
The good news? You’ve got plenty of parks to choose from, many of which offer assorted discounts and offers for those planning ahead! In addition to saving on park admissions, there also are ways to save on lodging, dining and add-on packages.
Here are five great family destinations around the country:
LEGOLAND: Carlsbad, CA
Make no mistake: A visit to LEGOLAND is much more than putting together colorful plastic puzzle pieces en masse. The park offers 60-plus rides, shows and attractions, like the King’s Market — where families can dress-up as fairy tale or science fiction characters — and Splash Safari, with small slides just for toddlers.
Seeking more adventure for all ages? Head to the Water Park for dozens of slides, tubing and a wave pool. And the nearby SEA LIFE Aquarium houses sharks, jellyfish and interactive exhibits for curious kids, helping to make this one of the best family destinations around.
Discounts and Special Offers: LEGOLAND offers various discounts for both active and inactive military service members and their families. The general public can secure discounted tickets by buying them online in advance of arrival.
Hershey Park: Hershey, PA
If you can stomach being surrounded by the smell of chocolate 24/7, this ride-heavy park may suit you. Besides 12 roller coasters, Hershey Park features 10 water rides, two pools and a Sandcastle Cover and Shoreline Sprayground for little ones.
Rides are designated by height, starting with kids 36″ and above. Rides for kids under three feet include the Bizzy Bees, Dinosaur Go-Round and the Tiny Tracks train.
Discounts and Special Offers: Depending on the length of your visit, you can save on admission and meal costs by purchasing various ticket packs. Those will a valid military ID can save even more. Traveling in a pack? Groups of 20 or more can save up to 45% on admission tickets; If you’re a group of 40 or more, you can take in an all-you-can-eat picnic in one of Hershey Park’s pavilions.
Cedar Point: Sandusky, OH
It’s called the “Roller Coaster Capital of the World” and for good reason: the 365-acre park features 16, from the acrobatic Gatekeeper, the longest and tallest in the world, to the Woodstock Express, a junior coaster that takes riders through hills, turns and curves.
Cedar Point hosts special events across the year: May events include Coaster Campout, in which families pitch tents overnight, and Brew and BBQ, a festival featuring 100 beers. July is welcomed with pie-eating contests, face-painting and fireworks on the 4th. And Beach Blast lights up the nights in July and August, with extended park hours and live music.
Discounts and Special Offers: Those buying their tickets online receive various discounts on daily admission tickets and passes and special deals, as well as admissions for groups of 15 or more. Cedar Point provides discounted admission for all active, retired and honorably-discharged members of the Armed Forces.
Busch Gardens: Williamsburg, VA
Looking for a bit of history and culture? This theme park near the banks of the James River may be your best bet.
That’s because its nine villages are built around six countries and feature strolls along Parisian streets, Scottish landscapes and even Oktoberfest celebrations like those found in Munich. You’ll find roller coasters like the 13-story-tall Loch Ness Monster and the corkscrew-like Tempesto. Need to sit back and relax? The park offers a handful of family-friendly musical revues.
Discounts and Special Offers: If you buy your tickets online, you can save anywhere from $20 to $40 per ticket, depending on the package you choose. Those on active military duty who register online can receive one free single-day ticket, plus three for dependents.
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Six Flags Great Adventure: Jackson, NJ
There’s little chance of running out of things to do at this budget-friendly destination. Six Flags Great Adventure offers three categories of rides, including kids’ rides, like the Bugs Bunny Camp Carousel and Stagecoach Express, family rides like the Big Wheel Ferris Wheel and Congo Rapids, and thrill rides, like the 15.5-story Daredevil Dive and El Diablo spiraling coaster.
That’s 56 in total. There also are character meet and greets (Tweety Bird, anyone?) and a Looney Tunes Talent Show. Select events like Seeing Eye Puppy Days and concerts are sprinkled throughout the season.
Discounts and Special Offers: Six Flags, which includes locations in nine U.S. states, offers daily tickets, passes and memberships. Buying online can save $25 on a daily ticket and there are discounts for groups of 15 or more. Most military bases offer discounted admission tickets at their travel/ticketing offices.