These sunny destinations earn top marks for safety and family-friendly activities.
1. Yellowstone National Park
2. New York City
3. San Diego
7. Las Vegas
8. Grand Canyon National Park
9. New Orleans
10. Washington, DC
11. San Francisco
13. Zion National Park
Taking a vacation can seem like more of a problem than a reprieve, especially if you’re a parent. There are hours of planning, lots of prep work, and, of course, the packing. So much packing.
SafeWise wants your family vacation to be less stressful, so we dug up data on the safest destinations for kids that should be top of your bucket list. Our rankings highlight domestic destinations in the United States so you can travel without the hassle of passports, vaccinations, and other potentially tricky items that are part and parcel of international travel.
Before we dive into the recommended destinations, we want to impart a few words of wisdom from seasoned parent travelers. No matter where you end up on your vacation, these safety tips will ensure you have an enjoyable stay.
1. Don’t Forget the Sunscreen
While you can buy some sunscreen at your destination, it’ll be much more expensive. And you might find yourself having to make do with an off brand that isn’t optimal for your kiddo’s skin.
2. Pack Medicines
Follow TSA guidelines on how to pack and label medicines if you’re traveling by air. It’s always wise to bring along Tylenol or ibuprofen, even if your child doesn’t have specific health concerns.
See the TSA’s guidelines on traveling with prescriptions in your carry-on baggage.
3. Secure the Kids
You can rent car seats and strollers when you arrive, but it’s a pretty costly perk (up to $25 per day), and most airlines will let you check strollers and seats at the gate to ensure your convenience and comfort. You might want to also consider investing in a few wearable safety devices for kids to keep your crowd anxiety on track.
For more safety travel tips for families, visit SafeWise’s recommendations. Now buckle up, and let’s take a trip through the best family vacation spots in the United States, ranked according to crime rate. We’ve provided you with ideas for kids’ activities and insider tips that’ll make your vacation the stress-free zone you’ve been dreaming about.
1. Yellowstone National Park, WY
Crime Rate: 0 Violent, 6.37 Property per 1,000 residents
Yellowstone, one of America’s most famous national parks, straddles the Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana state lines. It’s an unparalleled landscape of mountain wilderness and gushing geysers where herds of bison still roam free across the range. This national park enjoys not only the lowest crime rate, but also the fewest annual visitors of any locale on our list, making it the perfect place to leave the crowds and your anxiety behind.
What We Recommend: Hiking in Yellowstone is one of the prime attractions for many visitors, but it can be tough to go the distance with little ones in tow. The Junior Ranger Program is also an excellent way to keep kids busy, and you can get more details about how to participate when you check in at the park’s entrance.
Take the Upper Basin Geyser Trail, which has a four-mile boardwalk and is wheelchair and stroller accessible. The trailhead is directly behind Old Faithful, so time your visit to coincide with the eruption, which occurs every ninety-two minutes on average.
Insider Tip: Sunset is a great time to visit the meadows around Yellowstone Lake, where herds of wild animals often descend at dusk to graze. But keep your family in the car or at a safe viewing distance since stampeding animals could make your Yellowstone stay a little less idyllic.
2. New York City, NY
Crime Rate: 5.86 Violent, 15.19 Property per 1,000 residents
While New York is the second most frequently visited destination on our list, America’s favorite metropolis has a surprisingly low crime rate. Come brave the crowds in Times Square, gawk at the skyline, and enjoy some of the world’s best people watching.
What We Recommend: A visit to New York City just isn’t complete without a trip to the top of the Empire State Building or a tour of the Statue of Liberty. But once you’ve gotten those typical tourist destinations knocked off your list, NYC has lots to offer kids. Spend an entire day simply wandering Central Park—which has a zoo, theater, and carousel—or taking in one of the many famous museums in the Big Apple.
Insider Tip: There are several major Broadway musicals that are fantastic for families, so book your trip and grab tickets early to ensure you can score a seat at productions like The Lion King or Aladdin.
3. San Diego, CA
Crime Rate: 3.99 Violent, 20.82 Property per 1,000 residents
Southern California offers the best of both worlds with miles of beaches and, in places like San Diego, plenty of old-town charm. Tour historic downtown while marveling at the Spanish-influenced architecture and spend a low-key afternoon at Balboa Park, where the kids can run free in the shade of the ancient trees, or visit the San Diego Zoo. San Diego is also home to two popular amusement parks: LEGOLAND and SeaWorld.
What We Recommend: Many cities have zoos, but the San Diego Zoo Safari Park is next level. Situated on 1,800 acres of land, it is home to a sprawling savanna, the Lion Camp, the Hidden Jungle, and much, much more. Make reservations for a Roar and Snore Safari, where the whole family can camp out overnight in a luxury tent at the park.
Insider Tip: Looking for a great beach to while away an afternoon in paradise? Head to La Jolla Shores, a mile-long stretch of family-friendly sand where the kids can learn to snorkel and enjoy the adjacent underwater park.
4. Anaheim, CA
Crime Rate: 3.64 Violent, 28.72 Property per 1,000 residents 16.18
The home of Mickey Mouse, Anaheim is much more than a Disney destination. Tour nearby Universal Studios, take in a game at Angel Stadium, or get some sand and surf at the iconic Santa Monica pier. All of these activities are a short car ride from Disneyland, Anaheim’s major tourist attraction.
What We Recommend: If you are headed to Disneyland, get a Park Hopper Pass and spend some serious time in California Adventure Park. This sister theme park has a winery, plenty of carts serving a bevy of authentic street food, and lots of craft beer on tap to make the two-hour wait for Radiator Springs Racers just a little more bearable. Kids will love World of Color, the nightly water and light show, so be sure to grab a front row spot early using FastPass.
Insider Tip: Before you go, download the MouseWait app, which lets you know current wait times and FastPass return times for all the rides in both parks, as well as the crowd index so you steer clear of the chaos.
Crime Rate: 2.44 Violent, 31.11 Property per 1,000 residents
While it might a long plane ride away, this paradise makes up for every moment of in-flight torture. The islands of Hawaii abound with all-inclusive, family-friendly resorts that cater to kids and have plenty of food for picky eaters, camp programs, and miles and miles of those picture-perfect beaches.
What We Recommend: Stick to the outskirts of the city on an all-inclusive property, where smaller crowds and less crime make for a less complicated vacation. Tour Waikiki Aquarium, Hawaii’s most popular aquarium located on the University of Hawaii campus, learn to snorkel, or take the Atlantis submarine for an incredible look under the waves.
Insider Tip: Hawaii is a great place to go whale watching, but if you do plan to be out on the open sea, take some Dramamine along in case you get a motion-sick little sailor.
6. Chicago, IL
Crime Rate: 9.04 Violent, 29.46 Property per 1,000 residents
Like New York City, Chicago is a relatively safe and fun urban vacation spot that’s often overlooked. The Windy City is famous as a family-friendly destination not only because it is the home of LEGOLAND, but also for the Navy Pier, which includes a Ferris wheel, miniature golf, and an IMAX theater.
What We Recommend: The Chicago Children’s Museum, located at Navy Pier, is one of the best in the country. A tinkering lab, treehouse trails, a kids town, and plenty of water exhibits will keep the little ones busy for the foreseeable future.
Insider Tip: Admission to the Children’s Museum is free on Thursday nights from 5–8 p.m. and for all children under fifteen on the first Sunday of every month.
7. Las Vegas, NV
Crime Rate: 9.21 Violent, 29.95 Property per 1,000 residents
You might not think of Sin City as a family destination, but Las Vegas has a lot of kids’ entertainment to offer on the cheap. Tour M&M World, ride one of the many amusement-park-style rides at the various casinos, or visit Shark Reef at Mandalay Bay.
What We Recommend: One of the iconic Las Vegas sights is the Bellagio fountain display, which is set to music and especially dazzling at night. Swing by after dinner to catch the show and grab dessert at the nearby gelato shop just inside the doors of the casino. It’s one of the best in the city.
Insider Tip: Avoid the folks passing out unsavory materials on the strip by sticking to travel on the monorail. It’s a small price to pay in order to sidestep some tough questions from your kids.
8. Grand Canyon National Park, AZ
Crime Rate: 3.74 Violent, 28.74 Property per 1,000 residents
This relatively uncrowded national park joins our list for family-friendly fun with breathtaking vistas and accessible hiking opportunities. For older children and more adventurous families, consider the traditional mule ride or helicopter tour of the canyon. But book tickets in advance because they fill up fast ahead of the summer season.
What We Recommend: Bike the rim on an easy, family-friendly trail that has no car traffic and runs between the Grand Canyon Visitor Center and the South Kaibab Trailhead. You can rent bicycles, including kids bikes and bike trailers for little ones, at the visitor center to take on the five-mile trip.
Insider Tip: Hiking or biking in the canyon can be a delight as long as you leave early and avoid the heat of the day. Always carry three to four liters of water per person and additional sunscreen to apply every ninety minutes.
9. New Orleans, LA
Crime Rate: 9.50 Violent, 38.74 Property per 1,000 residents
A trip to the bayou city of New Orleans can feel like entering another world, with the French-inspired architecture and spicy Cajun cuisine. Take a streetcar for a tour of the city or a carriage ride around the square. New Orleans also enjoys fantastic city parks and a world-class zoo.
What We Recommend: Go to Café du Monde for world-famous beignets, those powdered, messy doughnuts everyone is so fond of. But don’t go in the morning with hungry kids, when your wait time might make for a cranky start to the day. The café is open twenty-four hours, so hit it up after dark for a taste of pastry that’ll be just as sweet.
Insider Tip: Two tips that are absolutely essential for touring NOLO with kids in tow: Don’t go during Mardi Gras, where festivities can get a little out of hand and are definitely for adults only. And please avoid Bourbon Street, which is a specific avenue on the edge of the French Quarter that is lined with bars and known for debauchery. Otherwise, this southern city is big on charm and easy on the wallet for your next family vacation.
10. Washington, DC
Crime Rate: 12.03 Violent, 45.16 Property per 1,000 residents
Our nation’s capital has lots to offer as a family vacation spot, especially in the late spring and early summer. Tour the National Mall, which has many parks and public spaces to explore and is a thing of glory during cherry blossom season. And of course, stop by the White House for that once-in-a-lifetime selfie with the entire family. No climbing the fence though, okay?
What We Recommend: While DC is packed with museums and memorials, younger kids will get the most enjoyment out of the Natural History Museum and the National Air and Space Museum. Both are well stocked with hands-on exhibits to keep even the youngest explorers engaged.
Insider Tip: Traffic in the city can be brutal, so take the metro when possible. It’s an expansive, clean, cheap, and efficient way to get around DC and the surrounding suburbs.
11. San Francisco, CA
Crime Rate: 7.77 Violent, 61.39 Property per 1,000 residents
The Golden City pays off as a great place for families with plenty to do beyond the typical tourist destinations like the Golden Gate Bridge and Fisherman’s Wharf. Take a trolley ride over to Ghirardelli Square and satisfy everyone’s sweet tooth with a factory tour, or head out on the bay for a cruise to Angel Island.
What We Recommend: Over the Golden Gate Bridge and down the road a spell is Muir Woods, an ancient, tranquil redwood forest outside the city. These gorgeous acres, named after the famous naturalist and author, have wheelchair- and stroller-accessible trails.
Insider Tip: If you want to walk the length of the Golden Gate Bridge, be aware it’s often fogged in and extremely cold. Bring a jacket and temper your expectations for that iconic Instagram shot.
12. Orlando, FL
Crime Rate: 9.41 Violent, 60.16 Property per 1,000 residents
Orlando should probably go ahead and change its name to Amusement Park, USA. It’s home to a boggling array of theme parks, including Disney World, SeaWorld, Universal Orlando, and more. Orlando is also the most visited destination on our list, with over 113 million visitors annually.
What We Recommend: While it’s easy to get caught up in the allure of amusement parks, remember that lounging on Florida beaches is a great way to spend an afternoon. Cocoa Beach, which is just an hour drive from Orlando, is considered the East Coast capital of surf. You can grab a lesson for kids as young as seven from the famous Ron Jon Surf School.
Insider Tip: Mark your stroller with something bright and specific so when you go to retrieve it after a ride at one of the theme parks, it won’t get lost in the ranks of the stroller army parked outside.
13. Zion National Park, UT
Crime Rate: 5.42 Violent, 66.91 Property per 1,000 residents
This national park is one of several in southern Utah that offer unparalleled scenery with smaller crowds compared to other tourist destinations. Red rocks framed by green trees and natural arches are a splendid backdrop for a quiet family vacation in a natural setting.
What We Recommend: Cars aren’t allowed in the main area of the park, so have everyone take a bathroom break and then hit the Zion shuttle. It’ll take you on a guided tour through the heart of the canyon, but we recommend disembarking and walking up the paved path to Weeping Rock, one of the coolest formations at Zion. Depending on the season, you’ll either get a roaring waterfall effect observable from under the overhang or a quaint trickle.
Insider Tip: Camping at Zion can be challenging with little ones because of all the red dust, so book a room at Zion’s Lodge. Run by the park, it’s a quaint, family-friendly hotel that has no Wi-Fi but does have an entire board game cupboard in the common room. #FamilyPriorities
To determine the top safest vacation destinations for families, we took the most booked locations and then ranked them according to FBI crime data from 2015. In the case of Zion National Park, crime data for the closest city, Springdale, was used. Crime rate is per 1,000 residents.
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