By Gone with the Family! 

When planning a family vacation in a U.S. city, the first destinations that are likely to come to mind are large cities such as New York City, Boston, Chicago, San Francisco, or Los Angeles. These are all fabulous destinations with long lists of family-friendly attractions and activities but they can also be quite expensive to visit. If you're willing to think outside the box though you might find that a smaller city has everything you are looking for in a family vacation and will be easier on the budget too.  

I asked a group of family travel writers to recommend their favorite smaller and/or lesser known U.S. cities and we came up with this list of 25 cities that are great for family vacations. 

Irvine, California

Consistently rated as one of the safest cities in the United States, Irvine in Orange County in California is a great destination in itself as well as being close to other family-friendly destinations.  For example, Disneyland is only 20 minutes away as well as the beachside resort of Laguna Beach. Los Angeles is technically only 40 miles away but the traffic can make it much longer than the estimated 1 hour drive. Irvine itself has plenty of activities to keep you busy though. A planned city which is only about 50 years old, Irvine has put lots of thought into maintaining an outdoorsy lifestyle for its citizens. For example, the city planners have built in 50,000 acres of open space into the historic Irvine ranch land. There are hundreds of miles of cycling lanes, both off-road and on-road, for cyclists and hikers. In Great Park, you can find The Orange Balloon which is fun for its cheap helium balloon ride, play areas and farmers' market.  It's also the headquarters of California cult classic, In-N-Out Burger, so you know you could have a great burger and shake any time! 

Contributed by Shobha George, Just Go Places


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