6 Amazing Small Cities For A Family Vacation

Whether you’re traveling with a curious toddler or a reluctant teen, it can be difficult to find a destination that pleases everyone.

That tried and tested trip to Disney isn’t your only option; we’ve highlighted six US destinations with a small-town feel and a wealth of unique attractions your children will love. The cities on our list will extend a warm welcome and offer your family the chance to create life-long memories.

FlipKey has a variety of vacation rentals to choose from in all six locations. You’ll enjoy big savings, extra space and amenities like fully-stocked kitchens, beautiful backyards and the benefits make them a no-brainer for your family vacation. By booking a rental, your family can enjoy extra space to spread out and avoid getting on each other’s nerves, and amenities like fully stocked kitchens and free Wi-Fi offer all of the comforts of home.

Fayetteville, AR

Fayetteville is the third-largest city in Arkansas and is situated at the outskirts of the Boston Mountains.

Tucked deep within the Ozarks, Fayetteville appeals to families looking for a breath of fresh air, a friendly atmosphere and lots to do. Explore the city’s natural beauty on display in community gardens and state parks or stroll past shops and restaurants downtown. When school is in session, the city comes alive rallying around its hometown University of Arkansas Razorbacks. Stay in a spacious vacation rental and surround yourself with the excitement of Fayetteville.

Arkansas & Missouri Railroad

For more than 30 years, the Arkansas & Missouri Railroad has been navigating trains through scenic mountains and valleys in Northwest Arkansas. Take a seat in an antique railcar or parlor coach, sit back and let the hum of the train transport you back in time as you travel in the style of a bygone era. Choose between one-way and roundtrip excursions to nearby towns, or opt for a full-day adventure that includes a layover for shopping and dining.

Botanical Garden of the Ozarks

Unlike many public gardens in the country, the Botanical Garden of the Ozarks was created as a result of an entirely volunteer-led, grassroots effort. Today, the garden draws more than 80,000 visitors through its gates each year. Chase your kids along the tree-lined boardwalk that winds through twelve themed gardens or take your time in the region’s only butterfly house.

Hello Cocoa

Visit Hello Cocoa and you will enjoy a chocolate experience like no other. Every handcrafted, chocolatey morsel produced at the small-batch factory is of the highest quality and made from bean-to-bar Cocoa. One bite and you’ll be asking yourself why you never tried Hello Cocoa’s chocolate before. Because only the finest ingredients are used, you can relax about letting your child have a sugary treat.

Terra Studios

Even your kids will think you’re cool if you take them to Terra Studios. This hip wonderland of art sparks visitors’ inner creativity through its workshops, demos and displays. If you’re looking for a hands-on family activity, sign up for a class in the Art Lab. Need some inspiration first? Explore the 6-acre Art Park, which is decorated by sprawling sculpture gardens, colorful murals and beautiful art installations.

The Jones Center

The Jones Center offers fun during every season, and the massive complex boasts an ice skating rink, swimming pool, gymnastics area and many more kid-friendly activities. If you visit at the beginning of the month, take advantage of First Friday Kids Night. The event offers high-energy fun in the form of challenging, inflatable obstacle courses, themed arts and crafts and much, much more. The recreation schedules are updated weekly, so check for your favorite activities before your visit.

Rockville, MD

Two siblings fish at a pond in Montgomery County, Maryland.

Although it’s just a short drive from the bustle of Washington, DC, Rockville feels like a million miles away. It’s regarded as one of the best small cities in America and has a comforting environment that instantly puts visitors at ease. Smiles on the street are always returned by friendly residents and there is an attraction for visitors of all ages and interests. Choose from a variety of FlipKey rentals in the Rockville area that will make your family vacation one for the memory books.

Clyde’s Tower Oaks Lodge

Tucked away in suburban Maryland is Clyde’s Tower Oaks Lodge, a grandiose log cabin-style restaurant that will amaze your children. Seat yourself near the fireplace in The Great Room, a majestic 200 year old barn from Vermont that serves as the heart of the Tower Oaks Lodge. The restaurant offers a kid-pleasing menu of finger foods and a regular menu that will satisfy the adults, too.

Go Ape!

Soar past the treetops of Rock Creek Regional Park on a Go Ape! adventure. Suspended in the air, you’ll tackle obstacles in between exhilarating zip line rides and experience the area’s breathtaking scenery like never before. The Rock Creek course is suitable for visitors age 10 and up and the minimum height requirement is 4’7”.

KID Museum

Best suited for elementary and middle school-aged children, KID museum offers a slew of workshops and programs designed to inspire kids to build a better world. The museum’s hands-on experiences promote science, technology, art and the exploration of world cultures, while sparking every child’s innate sense of curiosity.

Montgomery County Nature Center

The Montgomery County Nature Center is the perfect place for visitors to enjoy the region’s natural beauty. Interactive educational displays will satisfy your little ones’ curiosity about what lives in the wild, while older children will appreciate some time to explore the nature trails on their own. Whatever you decide to do, don’t forget to take a moment to simply admire the beautiful surroundings.

VisArts Rockville

VisArts Rockville has come a long way since its humble beginnings in a converted garage. Today, the facility welcomes more than 25,000 visitors through its doors each year. Classes offered include sessions on drawing animals, the production of comic strips and exploration with watercolor paints. Get your creative juices flowing beforehand by browsing the works of art on display in the gallery.

Grand Rapids, MI

Large log balanced on top of dam in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Grand Rapids is an ideal choice for a family vacation because it combines the pleasures and conveniences of big city life with the charm and affordability of a small town. The city is easy to navigate and has a host of available rentals to accommodate small and large families. Spend your days taking advantage of indoor and outdoor activities in Grand Rapids before diving into the reinvigorated downtown scene in the evenings.

Catch Air

Catch Air is a premier indoor play center for children age 10 and under. Visitors will find numerous inflatables that are set up for little ones to bounce on and a three story, soft play structure that calls for endless exploration. Other interactive activities include a bubble dance party and a mesmerizing laser show. No need to rush your kids at Catch Air since there’s no time limit for the price of admission.

Furniture City Creamery

Packed into 500-square feet is Furniture City Creamery, a charming ice cream shop with a rotation of over 65 flavors. Every gallon of ice cream served here is made from scratch using only ingredients from local Michigan businesses. Flavors change daily so you’ll want to return to sample something new. Furniture City Creamery also offers ice cream making classes where you can learn the basics of making ice cream. Check the schedule before your trip and sign up your family for an evening of fun.

Grand Rapids Children’s Museum

Grand Rapids Children’s Museum’s mission is centered on the value of play for kids. From storytelling and finger painting to planting seeds and blowing bubbles, there is no shortage of playtime here. The museum even offers a “kid-size” version of Grand Rapids known as “Little GR”! Watch as your kids shop the aisles of a mini Meijer grocery store or browse books at the Little GR Library. Plan to spend several hours here so your kids can explore the all of the unique exhibits.

Grand Rapids Symphony: Lollipop Concerts

Attending a Lollipop Concert is the perfect compromise between an elegant evening at a symphony concert and an entertaining children’s show. Parents will love listening to the classical music, while kids will be mesmerized by the rhythmic performances and colorful costumes of dancers on stage. Grand Rapids Symphony has a way of bringing timeless childhood tales like Peter and the Wolf to life and renewing families’ interest in classic children’s literature.

Rebounderz Grand Rapids

From an indoor trampoline arena and foam pit to a Ninja Warrior course set to open in 2017, Rebounderz Grand Rapids has everything a kid could dream of (and more!). Let your kids take flight from the beds of trampolines during a game of Air Dodgeball, or watch as they launch themselves off the JumpXtreme Tower. Whether you spring for the “Unlimited Jump” pass or fit in as much trampoline time as you can in 30 minutes, there’s never a dull moment at this “extreme fun center.”

Columbia, MO

The University of Missouri is a public research university located in the state of Missouri. In 1839 the university was founded in Columbia, Missouri, as the first public institution of higher education west of the Mississippi River

Columbia will surprise you with its picturesque parks, world-class art and impeccable dining options. Start your trip in the downtown district where you’ll find eclectic eateries, vibrant shops and a friendly atmosphere that you’ll want to return home with. If there’s time, branch out to nearby mid-Missouri destinations like Jefferson City and the Lake of the Ozarks less than an hour away. Whether you surround yourself with nature, indulge in the local cuisine or learn something new, Columbia has endless possibilities.

Andy’s Frozen Custard

Is there anything a cup of creamy, slow-churned frozen custard can’t cure? Not if it’s from Andy’s Frozen Custard, which has been making this specialty for more than three decades. Only the finest ingredients are used, and the custard is always served within one hour of being made. If you’re looking for a little something extra, order a concrete: a frozen custard blended with sauces and chunky mix-ins.

Missouri Contemporary Ballet

If your children love playing dress-up and are interested in dance, then add a Missouri Contemporary Ballet performance to your to-do list. It’s the only professional dance company in mid-Missouri and offers a full schedule of world-class productions. Top dancers take the stage and enthrall viewers with their graceful movements and beautiful performances every time.

Runge Conservation Nature Center

Be on the lookout for white-tailed deer, wild turkey and over 100 species of birds while exploring Runge Conservation Nature Center. The conservation area is known for its peaceful nature viewing and includes five hiking trails of varying difficulty for visitors to explore. Catch your breath while looking at an exhibit highlighting Missouri habitats or sit down for a picnic lunch at the park’s pavilion.

The Boone County Historical Museum & Galleries

Part history museum, part art gallery, this Columbia attraction tells the story of decades’ worth of Boone County’s history. Interesting artifacts and local records are always on display, while larger exhibits rotate every four to 12 months. Admission to the museum is free and only $5 for a guided tour of the Village at Boone Junction.

Chapel Hill, NC

An aerial view of the University of North Carolina campus and surrounding area on April 21, 2013 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

If Chapel Hill’s reputation as “the southern part of Heaven” isn’t tempting enough, its exquisite food and the locals’ neighborly disposition will surely change your mind. The city was established to serve the needs of UNC-Chapel Hill, but it has rapidly emerged as a hot spot for tourism. Franklin Street is hailed as the place to go for the city’s most popular coffee shops, museums and bars, while Southern Village is known for its green space and community areas. Rent a modern apartment downtown and experience Chapel Hill like a local.

1870 Farm

The 1870 Farm takes visitors back to a time before smartphones and televisions took up much of our leisure time, when picking wildflowers and gathering eggs was enough to entertain children. The farm is just minutes from the bustling UNC Campus but its pristine acres of land make it feel worlds away. Cast your fishing line into the stocked pond to reel in a catfish, relax in the farmhouse or help feed the alpaca. No two trips to the farm are alike.

Ackland Art Museum

Operated by The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the Ackland Art Museum features a massive permanent collection of over 18,000 works of art. From premier Asian and European art collections to contemporary masterpieces, this museum has a little something for everyone. In addition to ever-changing exhibits and displays, the Ackland Art Museum offers several children’s programs for budding artists. Programs include guided tours of select galleries followed by the opportunity for kids to create their own works of art.

Al’s Burger Shack

Sometimes the easiest way to please the entire family is to eat out. Al’s Burger Shack offers an All-American menu and a casual atmosphere that families will love. Try the “Bobo Chili Cheeseburger” prepared with chili sauce, slaw and yellow mustard oozing out from under the bun, or order the “Dirty Dog” made with tomato, jalapeno, hot sauce and pimento cheese. Everything at Al’s Burger Shack is made-to-order, so even families with the pickiest eaters can find something to enjoy.

Kidzu Children’s Museum

Kidzu Children’s Museum’s mission is to inspire “purposeful play” through a variety of hands-on exhibits and programs. Kids can stretch their imagination playing with puppets on the stage of the museum’s Forest Theater or learn about healthy living in the “Farm to Fork” play area. This children’s museum is perfect for children of all ages.

Preservation Chapel Hill

Preservation Chapel Hill began in 1973 as an effort to save one historic building. Today, it is dedicated to preserving all of the historic architecture and cultural landscapes of Chapel Hill. Start at Preservation Chapel Hill’s office in the Horace William House, the only restored home open to the public, to see original woodwork, mantles and floors from the 1800s. After, take a self-guided tour of the community exploring the historic district along East Franklin Street, the Old Chapel Hill Cemetery, and more.

Sioux Falls, SD

Falls Park in Sioux Falls, South Dakoka.

Situated in the heart of America, Sioux Falls welcomes its visitors with warm hospitality and a wealth of family-friendly attractions. Those traveling with children in particular will appreciate the city’s blend of small-town atmosphere and big-city entertainment. Book a spacious Sioux Falls home for less than $100 per night and enjoy being only minutes from any given location no matter where you stay.

Butterfly House & Marine Cove

Through interactive exhibits and educational displays, the Butterfly House & Marine Cove inspires visitors to learn about and appreciate the environment. Step into a world of colorful, fluttering butterflies at the Butterfly House. It’s kept at a balmy 80 degrees so that the hundreds of tropical butterflies that call it home can thrive. Curious kids will be delighted when they dip their hand in water and are greeted by friendly stingrays at the Shark & Stingray Touch Pool. Other popular exhibits include the Pacific Tide Pool and the Marine Cove.

Museum of Visual Arts

From Monday through Wednesday, the Museum of Visual Arts offers many hands-on activities for kids. The inspiring atmosphere encourages children to channel their imaginations and build Lego masterpieces, create kid-size playgrounds out of foam blocks and so much more. No registration is required for groups of 10 or less and all childrens’ activities are free. If your kids are no longer entertained by Barbies and Legos, set out as a family to explore the museum’s two art galleries featuring art from local and international artists.

Porter Sculpture Park

Just 30 minutes outside of Sioux Falls is Porter Sculpture Park, a positively one-of-a-kind attraction that boasts over 50 larger-than-life works of art. Each piece has been lovingly handcrafted by the sculptor, Wayne Porter, who spends much of his time at the park enjoying his spectacular sculptures and meeting visitors. The best part about this family-friendly attraction? Unlike at museums, you don’t have to worry about keeping your kids from touching the art. Everyone’s welcome to feel each piece of art and take lots of photos. The colorful sculptures are a truly unexpected delight for travelers exploring the Sioux Falls area.

The Outdoor Campus

At The Outdoor Campus, kids are encouraged to turn off the television and spend time outside enjoying nature. From “Jr. Naturalist” classes specializing in native South Dakota fishes to nature-inspired storytelling, there’s a class for every age and interest. Keep in mind that while all youth programs at The Outdoor Campus are free, some adult classes do have a materials fee. Pre-registration is required for all classes and programs, so make sure to reserve a spot for your family before your vacation begins.