Try These 12 Top Kid-Friendly U.S. Festivals
In need of some fresh travel ideas for the coming year? Lots of cities and towns have festivals to attract people in their low season or feature some of their best local attributes.
They can be great events to anchor a weekend getaway with (or without) the kids, or even a weeklong family vacation.
Here is a family friendly festival for every month of the year. If you have a specific destination in mind check their Tourism Bureau website for a calendar of special events for a festival to anchor your visit.
Finally, be sure to book a place to stay well ahead of time. After all, the point of these special events is to fill hotel rooms and restaurants.
12 Top Festivals for Families Across the U.S.
Where: Aspen CO
Aspen makes the most of winter with figure-skating exhibitions, snow-sport competitions, children’s story hour and other activities, special museum events, movie showings and musical performances.
Check out serious skiing competitions and just-for-fun-activities like broomball. This is definitely a festival with something to please everyone in the family — with fabulous skiing on hand besides.
Where: Seattle, WA
What: Museum Month
All month long visitors to the city can stay at over 50 participating downtown hotels and receive a Seattle Museum Month pass that provides half-price admission to more than 40 museums.
It’s a great low-risk way to sample some new museums with the kids or teens.
Where: Orlando, FL
What: The Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival
Epcot goes green with character-shaped topiary and temporary gardens, tours, clases and play areas.
Kitchens move outdoors to provide special foods and drinks. And Epcot hosts special weekly concerts.
Where: Clearwater Beach, FL
What: The Sugar Sand Festival
What could be more family friendly than a festival built around sand castles — and what sand castles! Watch professional sand artists carve enormous and elaborate sand sculptures with Clearwater’s famous soft sand.
Beyond that, enjoy a kids’ sand carving space, buskers, movies and concerts on the beach and special food and drinks.
Where: New Orleans, LA
What: The New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival
The fest has evolved into an eclectic gathering of big-name performers (from Sting to Aretha Franklin to the Preservation Hall Jazz Band).
This surprisingly kid-friendly festival also features cooking demonstrations, African and Louisiana craft markets, a folk-life village and cultural exchange pavilion. Get tickets well in advance.
Where: Homer, IL
What: The Homer Soda Festival
Get your sweet tooth ready for six blocks of tasting booths featuring small batch and artisanal sodas (think Maple Syrup Root Beer from the local Homer Soda Company).
There’s also food, music and kids activities like bouncy castles. It seems made for kids but real ginger beers and other serious flavors will please parents, too. (Read Jody Halsted’s review.)
Where: Watkins Glen, NY
What: The Finger Lakes Wine Festival
The Finger Lakes is a dispersed wine region so being able to taste its many wines in one place —along with wines from other parts of the state—is a handy treat. Some 90 wineries participate.
The festival also features a beer garden, crafts and jewelry vendors, local foods, live music and pace car rides around the historic Watkins Glen racetrack. It’s a quirky festival but definitely kid friendly as is the region’s wine and beer scene in general.
Where: Huntington Beach, CA
What: Surfing US Open
Here’s a festival for the teen in your life: The world’s largest surf competition and festival has the best surfers competing for one of the largest prize purses in the industry.
Also catch skateboarding and BMX competitions, live music, movie premieres, fashion shows, and product demos from brands like Vans, GoPro and Jeep. If you act cool enough, they’ll let you hang out with them.
Where: Jekyll Island, GA
What: The Jeckyll Island Shrimp & Grits Festival
An entire Festival built around my favorite Low Country dish on family friendly Jeckyll Island. Learn how many different ways it can be made and sample them all.
There’s also entertainment and music, an artists’ market, a kids’ zone, food, and a craft brew fest to accompany all that good food.
Where: Gettysburg, PA
What: National Apple Harvest Festival
This made-for-kids festival, which takes place a few miles outside of town, offers six stages for music and entertainment such as chainsaw carving, live birds of prey and Native American dancing.
Sample Apple butter hot from the kettle, applesauce, apple fritters, candy apples and more while taking in Pennsylvanias fall foliage. (Read about more things to do in Gettysburg.)
Where: Charlottesville, VA
What: Virginia Film Festival
This eclectic four-day festival offers a wide array of movies for kids, teens and adults including both new releases and modern classics.
Aim for family day to enjoy free movies, arts-inspired workshops led by UVA faculty and students, and an afternoon arts festival with crafts, performances, music, and food trucks.
Where: San Francisco, CA
What: The Great Dickens Christmas Fair
Cow Palace is transformed into Charles Dickens’ 19th century London with three acres the author’s characters plus carolers, street vendors, food and more.
The fair is a holiday season treat even for those too young to know who Tiny Tim is. For the adults it’s a great opportunity to find some truly unique holiday gifts. (Read about Bay Area playgrounds)