9 Family Day Trip Ideas for Close-to-Home Adventure

Consider these fun attractions when planning your next family day trip!

Published February 22, 2023
Family Exploring beautiful outdoors together

If you're looking for some fun family vacation plans, but can't afford the actual vacation, you're not alone! More than half of Americans are in the same boat. The good news is that there are affordable and entertaining day trips that will give you quality time with your kids and the opportunity to try new things along the way. Here are some family day trip ideas we love.

Family Day Trip Ideas Everyone Will Enjoy

What exactly is a day trip? It's an excursion that lasts about eight to ten hours, including travel time. This allows you to enjoy your day away, while also ensuring that you get home safely at the end of the night. For the folks looking for kid-friendly day trips, aim to be in the car for three hours or less each way.

When determining potential options, simply pull out a map and look at what is in a two to three-hour or 200-mile radius.

National Parks

Did you know that there are 423 national parks in the United States? How about the fact that every single state, expect Delaware, has at least one of these scenic sites? This makes them amazingly accessible spots for fun! Best of all, most of these areas are free to enter and can provide hours of entertainment.

National parks are great for hiking, fishing, bicycling, hunting, climbing, and more. They can also bring some gorgeous views in the spring and fall months when the vegetation is changing. Pack a lunch and explore the great outdoors in one of these breathtaking parks.

Top Spots to Try:

  • Yellowstone (Montana)
  • Yosemite (California)
  • Sequoia (California)
  • Grand Canyon (Arizona)
  • Zion (Utah)
  • Rocky Mountain (Colorado)
  • Great Smoky Mountain (North Carolina / Tennessee)
  • Grand Teton (Wyoming)
  • Glacier (Montana)
  • Bryce Canyon (Utah)

Want to find a national park in your area? Check out the many options from the National Park Service!


There's an entire world below your feet! Most people don't realize that there are over 45,000 caves in the United States. This makes them a fantastic option for fun family day trips. These natural wonders feature underground lakes and rivers, unique rock formations, interesting animals, and lots of unsuspecting learning opportunities.

Did we also mention that they normally maintain the same cool temperature year-round? In other words, they are great to visit any time of the year. While Missouri is the official "Cave State" with over 7,500 amazing underground grottos to explore, there are plenty of other spectacular stalagmites and stalactites to soak in 41 of the 50 states.

Top Spots to Try:

  • Carlsbad Caverns (New Mexico)
  • Mammoth Cave (Kentucky)
  • Lava Beds National Monument (California)
  • Longhorn Cave (Texas)
  • Great Basin (Nevada)
  • Wind Cave (South Dakota)
  • Natural Bridge Caverns (Texas)

Bodies of Water

Lakes, rivers, oceans, and swamps are just a few of the many bodies of water that can bring bundles of fun for the family! The opportunities are endless - swimming, fishing, whitewater rafting, waterskiing, kayaking, floating, stand up paddle boarding, and snorkeling are just a few of the pastimes that are associated with water! You can also go on airboat tours, build sandcastles on the beach, or ride on a showboat for the day. These experiences are always exciting and guaranteed to give your whole family a thrill.

They are also another budget-friendly day trip idea. Again, just grab a map and take a gander at your area. It may surprise you at how many small bodies of water are hidden in your region.

Regional Farms

While most people think of cows and chickens, there's an array of interactive farm experiences that you can enjoy with your family that don't involve stereotypical farm life. Berries, peaches, and apples always taste sweeter when picked fresh off the plant! Sunflower and lavender farms can also be a real treat in the summer months.

Additionally, the fall season is so much better when you get to visit a real life pumpkin patch and wander through the corn maze. The same goes for Christmas trees! These spots normally have food and fair style fun as well, so book a trip to see how Old MacDonald lives life.

Drive-Through Safaris or Other Animal Adventures

Drive-through safaris aren't available in every state, but they are well worth the drive if you live nearby. Texas, Virginia, New Jersey, Georgia, Massachusetts, Wisconsin, Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Florida all have these amazing animal experiences that allow families to drive through the park and even handfeed the wildlife.

Other Exciting Animal Activities to Try:

  • Horse Races
  • Alligator Farms
  • Zoos
  • Aquariums

Amusement Parks

Family enjoying amusement park

Roller coasters, carnival games, fair food, and shows are just a few of the many attractions these establishments have to offer. If you're planning a fall or winter day-trip, these parks also have spectacular decor, parades, and special holiday happenings to enjoy. This can make for an extra special experience your kids will never forget.

Top Amusement Parks to Try:

  • Disney Parks
  • Silver Dollar City
  • Busch Gardens
  • Schlitterbahn
  • LegoLand
  • Universal Orlando
  • Six Flags
  • Hersheypark
  • Knott's Berry Farm
  • Dollywood
  • SeaWorld

Local Landmarks

With 2,600 national historic landmarks to choose from, there's bound to be a spectacular site in your three-hour radius! From iconic monuments like the Empire State Building, the Golden Gate Bridge, and the Alamo, to weird roadside attractions such as Cadillac Ranch, the world's largest ball of twine, and the Corn Palace, there are adventures in the most unsuspecting of places. Get googling and see what spectacular and silly spots are in your area.

Neighboring Cities

Have you ever taken the time to explore nearby towns? There's something unique about every spot in America. Look up the top attractions in nearby places and see if any of the options tickle your fancy!

Top Attractions You May Find in Nearby Towns:

  • Outlet Malls
  • Museums
  • Unique Restaurants
  • Ice Skating Rinks
  • Arboretums
  • Farmer's Markets
  • Performing Arts Events (ballet, musicals, etc.)

Sporting Events

The roar of the crowd, the delectable dishes, and the excitement of the game make athletic events a great one stop option for families. When looking at these types of events, consider the many types of sports available in your area and the various levels of competition. For instance, you can attend college, minor, and major league baseball games. This can allow you to have a bigger selection to fit your budget and time frame.

More Tips for Kid-Friendly Day Trips

If you're looking for out-of-the-box ideas for your next day trip, consider the season. There are concerts, festivals, fairs, rodeos, and other events that occur every year and these can make for great family activities. Do a little research to see what attractions will pop up in your area in the coming months. Also, don't forget to think about the age of your kids. This is an important consideration for ensuring that everyone has a good time. Finally, always pack snacks! Road trips don't always have the necessary stops you need, so make sure that you are prepared for anything.

9 Family Day Trip Ideas for Close-to-Home Adventure