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Try These 12 Top Kid-Friendly U.S. Festivals

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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.

January

Where: Aspen CO
What:  Wintersköl

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.

Fireworks light up Aspen during its winter festival
Stay: *The Inn at Aspen
(Check rates on additional Aspen hotels on *Trip Advisor)

February

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.

dinosaurs are one kid friendly find during Seattle's museum month

Stay: Fairmont Olympic Seattle
(Check rates for additional Seattle hotels)

March

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.

This is one of those Disney events that’s fun with the kids, but don’t hesitate to drop them at the kids club and spend some time without them, too. (Here are More Disney resources)

EPCOT center goes green during its spring flower show

Stay: Disney Beach Club
(Read rates on additional Disney World hotels)

April

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.

mignons at the Sugar Sand Festival

Stay: Wyndham Grand
(Check rates on additional Clearwater hotels)

May

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.

zydeco at the new orleans jazz fest

Stay: The Westin Canal Place
(Check rates for additional New Orleans hotels)

June

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.)

plenty of cold pop at the Homer soda festival

Stay: Hyatt Place Champaign-Urbana
(Find rates for hotels in the Homer area)

July

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.

a nice cold glass at the Finger Lakes Wine Fest

Stay: The Watkins Glen Harbor Hotel (our review)
(Compare rates for more Finger Lakes hotels)
(Read about a Finger Lakes Weekend and Top Things To Do in the Region)

August

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.

women catch waves too at the Surfing U.S. Open

Stay: Pasea Hotel & Spa
(Find low rates for more Huntington Beach hotels)

September

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.

it's not called the shrimp and grits festival for nothing.

Stay: The Jeckyll Island Ocean Club
(Find low rates for other Jeckyll Island hotels)

October

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.)

caramel apples at a fall apple festival

Stay: The 1863 Inn at Gettysburg
(Compare reviews of more Gettysburg hotels)

November

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.

kids set the scene at the Virginia film festival

Stay: Cavalier Inn at the University of Virginia
(Compare rates for more Charlottesville hotels)

December

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)

London comes to San Francisco during the Great Dickens Fair

Stay: Holiday Inn Golden Getaway
(Find reviews and low rates for additional San Francisco Hotels)

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