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The Top 10 Most Family-Friendly Cities For Summer Vacation, According To New Study

Yes, Orlando made the cut — but it’s not #1.

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Summer may be flying by, but there’s still plenty of time to squeeze in at least one family getaway. In this economy, though, you want to know that wherever you travel, you’re getting the most bang for your buck — and that means not spending your entire vacation feeling like the place you visit isn't keen on having the kiddos around. As luck would have it, a new study could help you home in on the most family-friendly U.S. cities to visit next.

Rustic Pathways, a company specializing in educational student travel, just released their analysis of 323 major cities in America based on the three primary metrics: affordability, safety, and family and kid activities. Some of the criteria used in the study include family activities per 100,000 people, median booking prices on Booking.com, public transport costs, and crimes per 100,000 residents.

Ultimately, each city was given a score out of 100, with 100 being the highest score possible. Curious to see if your hometown made the cut? Here’s how the top 10 rankings played out, counting down to the (reportedly) most family-friendly city in the U.S.

10. Green Bay, Wisconsin

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Home of the Packers, Green Bay secured a spot on the list for ranking in the top 5% for an affordable meal at an expensive restaurant as well as among the top 25% of safest cities in the study. Popular sites and attractions to visit with kids in Green Bay include Lambeau Field, Titletown, Bay Beach Amusement Park, Bay Beach Wildlife Sanctuary, the National Railroad Musuem, and Green Bay Botanical Garden.

9. Bend, Oregon

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Bend scored 65.22 out of 100 for ranking among the top 25% of cities for safety, having an average accommodation rating on Booking.com of 7.78, and offering affordable food options. The city’s natural beauty serves as a setting for some of its best activities, from hiking at Smith Rock State Park to floating down the Deschutes River.

8. New Braunfels, Texas

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A city getting tons of recognition in recent years as an up-and-coming destination, New Braunfels takes the #8 spot with a score of 65.55. Arguably, its most impressive ranking factor is that it’s among the top 10% of safest cities in the study, but it has always remained refreshingly affordable for families who enjoy eating out occasionally. Kid-friendly local attractions include listening to live music in the Gruene Historic District, floating the Comal River, and beating the heat at Schlitterbahn Waterpark & Resort.

7. Honolulu, Hawaii

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Coming in at seventh place is Honolulu, home to the third-highest rate of family and kid activities in the nation. This island destination also received favor in the study for its low crime rates and affordable meals. Obviously, Honolulu’s breathtaking beaches, waterfalls, and nature preserves draw many families to the area.

6. Scottsdale, Arizona

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The sixth-place city, Scottsdale, enjoys low crime rates (top 25% of safest cities), highly rated accommodations, and a wide variety of kid and family activities. Cited among the favorite attractions are the Southwest Wildlife Conservation Center, the McDowell Sonoran Preserve, Butterfly Wonderland, and Old Town Scottsdale.

5. Cape Coral, Florida

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C’mon, we all knew Florida would find its way onto this list! Sliding into the fifth spot is scenic Cape Coral, which is among the top 5% of safest cities in the study and the fourth cheapest for a fast-food combo meal (if that’s your thing). Hitting the Cape Coral Farmers Market, taking a boardwalk through thick mangroves at Four Mile Cove Ecological Preserve, and cooling off at local waterparks are just a few of the family-friendly activities that make this Lee Island Coast city fun for everyone.

4. Orlando, Florida

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I mean, obviously. This wildly popular travel destination boasts the highest rate of family and kid activities in the country. In addition to the biggies like Disney World and Universal Orlando Resort, the highlights include Discovery Cove, Sea World, Fun Spot, Kia Center, Madame Tussauds Orlando, Orlando Science Center (one of my family’s personal favorites), aquariums, water parks, museums, and more.

If you’re wondering why Orlando didn't rank higher, it got dinged for the high cost of meals at inexpensive restaurants and a crime rate of 10,397 per 100,000 people.

3. St. George, Utah

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Who knew, right? Although considering St. George has a high average accommodation rating on Booking.com (not to mention one of the lowest median booking prices), it would seem St. George is a well-kept secret. There aren’t as many family-friendly activities as some of the other cities in the top 10, but it also ranks high for safety, landing in the top 15% of cities.

2. Clearwater, Florida

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The final Florida city to make the list, Clearwater snags the runner-up spot. With a score of 71.93, it even managed to sneak past the major tourism hub of Orlando. Granted, it lacks the sheer volume of activities its sister city has, but Clearwater makes up for it in safety and relative affordability. And anyone who’s ever visited knows that the stunning turquoise seas at Clearwater Beach make it well worth the visit. Not to mention, you can take your kids to meet Hope the Dolphin, the star of Dolphin Tale 2!

1. Charleston, South Carolina

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Southern Living’s Best City in the South, Travel + Leisure’s No. 1 City in the U.S., Condé Nast Traveler’s Best Small City in the Country — you name the accolade, and Charleston has gotten it. It’s also been dubbed the friendliest city in the U.S., according to numerous outlets and publications, so it makes sense that it would secure the top honors when it comes to most family-friendly cities in America. It just edged out Clearwater with a score of 72.63, thanks to having the second-highest rate of family-friendly activities (second only to Orlando).

Favorite family-friendly draws in this coastal city include several beaches, historic gardens, Charleston Waterfront Park (and its beloved pineapple fountain, pictured above), the South Carolina Aquarium, Fort Sumter, museums, art galleries, skate parks, and more.