5 Best Family Travel Destinations For Summer 2012

You've been in the car with the family for most of the day. The chorus of, "Are we there yet?" is wearing thin. When you finally arrive you need to be absolutely certain that you'll be spending your time in a location that has something for everyone. If you're pulling into at hotel or resort at one of these 5 best family travel destinations, you'll have it made.

1. Myrtle Beach

When you check into a Myrtle Beach resort you're right in the middle of a place that the Travel Channel said was "designed almost exclusively for families." However, the local Chamber of Commerce can't take credit for its beautiful sand or warm water, which are Myrtle Beach features every family member—from the youngest child with a plastic bucket in hand to mom engrossed in her beach read—are certain to enjoy.

Add a long list of manmade attractions to the natural beauty of Myrtle Beach and it's easy to see why it's a perennial "10 Best" list maker. Here are a few: over 100 Myrtle Beach area golf courses, beachside amusement parks, live entertainment, eco-tourism and enough friendly watering holes and great restaurants to make Myrtle Beach one of the most popular Spring Break destinations in the country.

2. Yellowstone National Park

We're blessed with a national park system unlike any other in the world and this is where it officially started in 1872. And, while all the parks are worth a visit, Yellowstone is uniquely suited for family vacations.

Let's take hiking first. Yellowstone offers a lot of great hikes that don't require the stamina or strength of a mountain goat so younger children won't be complaining all the way. Next, let's add in the animals. Bison, elk, moose and bears are everywhere and if you're really adventurous you might find some of the re-introduced wolves.

Finally, there are the geysers and thermal pools. Watching Old Faithful erupt can be as exciting as many theme park thrill rides.

3. Washington D.C.

Explore our nation's capitol as a family. Don't hand over the responsibility to one of your children's middle school teachers on the obligatory annual trip. Washington D.C. is home to more world-class museums than probably any other city in the nation.

Stroll down the National Mall and hit all of the monuments. Peer into every nook and cranny of the Smithsonian. Your children will get just as big a thrill seeing Dorothy's ruby slippers as you will. Of course, the Air and Space Museum will require a major swath of your time.

4. San Francisco

This city has the sophistication to make the adults happy and the attractions to keep the children engrossed. One long afternoon has to be spent exploring Fisherman's Wharf and Pier 39. The sight of the fishing fleet, the sound of the cable cars and smells wafting from the boiling crab will get all your senses keyed up. Explore Chinatown on foot. It will be a cultural experience your children will never forget.

Kids of all ages—as they say—will love the Exploratorium, where you'll experience science in a a whole new way. If you're in San Francisco during baseball season, catch a Giant's game and finally, don't just walk across the Golden Gate Bridge, drive across and visit Muir Woods.

5. San Antonio

San Antonio might not be the first place that comes to mind if your kids want to visit SeaWorld this summer, but that's one of the great family-friendly attractions you'll discover in the area. And if a mega-dose of theme park excitement is on your agenda, Six Flags Fiesta Texas will get everyone's adrenaline pumping.

San Antonio is the most visited city in Texas, and for good reasons. In addition to five amusement parks, it has more than its share of history, with the Alamo, of course, leading the way. Do the self-guided San Antonio River Walk or combine the best of Texas with the best of Venice, Italy and float the river through downtown San Antonio.

I've purposely selected 5 great family destinations in different areas of the nation and with diverse attractions so vacationeers can cut down on drive time or not have to book such a long airline flight. With places like Myrtle Beach on the list, you see that whether this year's vacation has to be on the shorter side, or if you can relax for a full two weeks, you'll always have something new to do.

Jessie Adams writes on a variety of travel topics ranging from golf courses to myrtle beach hotels, and stretching from California to South Carolina.

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