Top 10 Best Southern Family Vacations

Hotels with children’s activities, handicap accessibility of the city, and honest to goodness things your children actually want to do helped make these our favorite! Without further adieu:

#10- Nashville, Tennessee


I do so love some country music! However, Music City is more than guitars and bars. Though they have some great ones of those there too! There are many things to do for younger travelers as well! Although, the kids certainly do love to dance on the sidewalk to the music playing around every corner. It’s a fun way to expose them to musicality.

What Not to Miss (wheelchair friendly):

The Opryland Hotel– This is a city inside of a hotel! The kids will love the boat ride and magical fountains, and you will love snapping pictures of them in a beautiful surrounding.

The Nashville Zoo– There is a reason we are season pass holders to this zoo. The zoo has plenty of shade, open space for kids to run and play, an excellent and large jungle gym area, natural animal exhibits, and you can bring your own food and drinks inside! There are picnic tables to eat at as well, several of them are under large trees. This is a must see! Insider tip: Purchase tokens to feed the birds, ride the train, and to ride the carousel at guest services just inside the entrance.

Adventure Science Center– Parking is FREE! You can spend about three to four hours here. There is a planetarium and rotating exhibits.

Centennial Park– 123 acres of let them run until they are exhausted!

Nashville Farmer’s Market– This isn’t just a market, it’s an entire experience.

#9- Atlanta, Georgia


Host to the 1996 Olympics! This city is not only fun but very wheelchair friendly! Public transportation is accessible and available to get you around. The MARTA subway provides an easy way for those in wheels to navigate. Be sure to see if you are eligible for reduced fares. Those with disabilities get to ride for a reduced cost. The same goes for the bus and Amtrak.

What Not to Miss (wheelchair friendly):

The City Pass– This pass gains you admission to five of the top attractions in the city! This includes the Georgia Aquarium, The World of Coca-Cola, CNN Studio Tour (We haven’t take this yet!), the Zoo Atlanta or The National Center for Civil and Human Rights (My children are about the age where they are ready for this, but not just yet,) Fernbank Museum of Natural History or the College Football Hall of Fame (We don’t do football. Correction, my husband does, but the rest of us are a “Nope.”) Just writing all of that made me tired AND excited to go back to Hotlanta!

#8- Chattanooga, Tennessee


Chattanooga is an easy to navigate city that is very family oriented. The kids love the FREE trolley that you can ride downtown! There are a great number of family friendly restaurants, and you can easily walk this city. The roads are level and have wide sidewalks. This makes Chattanooga a wheelchair friendly family destination! One place we found to not be overtly handicap friendly is surprisingly Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream. They have an outside lift, but they share it with the neighboring store. The staff is not well-trained in using the lift. Skip this or plan to have an ale bodied individual bring your order out to you.

What Not to Miss (wheelchair friendly):

  • The TN Aquarium
  • The Imax
  • The Creative Discovery Museum– Show your aquarium ticket stub for a discount! We love this museum. The top floor exhibits change regularly.
  • The Chattanooga Zoo– This zoo is tiny, but many of the animals were rescued from people who kept them as pets! You only need approximately an hour to enjoy visiting. The zoo is also pretty level for wheelchair users. It is best for the age ten and under crowd.

For the Able Bodied Only:

#7- Charleston, South Carolina


Whether it is a handicap accessible carriage ride (Palmetto Carriage Barn,) a visit to the battery, or a tour of the harbor (Charleston Harbor Tours,) Charleston never fails to charm!  Christmas in Charleston is stunning! I used to call this city home. The food here is incredible too! I highly recomend the Charleston Grill, and not just because I used to work there.

What Not to Miss (wheelchair friendly):

  • South Carolina Aquarium– If I had to choose between Chattanooga or the SC Aquarium, unfortunately this one wouldn’t win. However, it is definitely still worth a visit!
  • Charles Town Landing– This is a replica of the first settlement in South Carolina. This place has serious cool factor with a zoo and a replica tall ship! The entrance fee is also affordable.
  • Old Slave Mart Museum– This was a challenging museum emotionally considering we are a multiracial family. However, as parents, we felt this was a more than worthwhile stop.

#6- New Orleans, Louisiana


Wait? I thought you said you ranked with accessibility in mind? I did. This city isn’t easy to navigate in a wheelchair as the streets are literally sinking. That my friends is one of the reasons it made the list. It’s a “see while it is still there.” Here is some information about handicap accessibility in New Orleans. We suggest staying near the convention center.

What Not to Miss (wheelchair friendly):

The Hop on Hop off Bus Tour– This will easily and reliably get you from Point A to Point B, and you have the added bonus of learning some New Orleans history and lore!

Café Beignet– I know! I know! Café du Monde gets all the credit where beignets are concerned. However, we prefer the beignets at Café Beignet much more! Not to mention the line is significantly shorter. If you do decide to still visit the iconic Café du Monde, remember it is CASH ONLY.

Another Broken Egg Café– If you want a fresh and absolutely delicious spin on the beignet, order the beignets here. They come with an amazing honey marmalade! The foodie in you will rejoice! Bonus points that there is food your kids will enjoy too!

The Audubon Experience Package– If your critters love critters, then this is a great value for your family. The package includes entrance into the Audoban Zoo, the Audoban Aquarium of the Americas, Entergy Giant Screen Theater, and the Audoban Butterfly Garden and Insectarium!

#5- Pigeon Forge, Tennessee

gem mining

The Smokey Mountains are a nature lovers paradise! With a Vegas type feel, minus the casinos, this city is family friendly to the core. Whether it is a dinner show you crave, a hike in the mountains, some quiet time in a cabin overlooking the mountains, or an amusement park experience, Pigeon Forge entertains!

What Not to Miss (wheelchair friendly):

All things Dolly– Whether you visit the amusement park, water park, hotel, or stampede, you will have a great time! My kids love the Dixie Stampede! Be sure to let them know in advance if you need wheelchair accessible seating. That seating is in the top row. You will have a great view! For my tube feeding friends, there are not discounts available if your child doesn’t eat orally.

Gem Mine– Please don’t let their website fool you! They are very knowledgable and create beautiful jewelery out of the gems your family mines. I have done this on a girlfriends road trip and with my children. I have a stone set from both times. I love wearing them and being reminded of the happy memory we made together!

Wonderworks– First and foremost, wear closed toe shoes here! Also, if you have sensory sensitive kids- skip this please. You won’t enjoy yourselves. While it would be tempting to schedule this in on a rainy day, don’t.  That’s when the lines are seriously long!

The Great Smokey Mountain National Park– Be sure to check and see if any of these discounts apply to you! If you are handicapped or have a child that is, please read about free lifetime entrance to national parks here. You need to apply for that benefit prior to your visit, so please plan ahead. There are some wheelchair friendly trails. We suggest starting at the Sugarlands Visitors Center.

#4- Panama City Beach, Florida


Who doesn’t love a good beach? Ok, I wholeheartedly admit, I prefer beaches in the winter. I am that person. While the beach itself is the main attraction, there are plenty of other ways to enjoy Panama City Beach! We truly enjoyed staying nearby on Okaloosa Island. This villa had a separate “owner’s locker” that came with all the things you could possibly need for the beach and had enough room to store our beach wheelchair. The pool was zero entry too! They also had a ramp down to the beach, which made our stay superb! The above picture was taken on one of our visits.

What Not to Miss (wheelchair friendly):

The beach! There are a great many beach wheelchair rental companies that will bring a beach wheelchair to you. There are fifty-eight public beach access points in this area. Here are the ones that are handicap accessible.

Ripley’s Believe it or Not!- Be sure to look for the combo packages to save you more money. The Mirror Maze is a blast!

New Year’s Eve Beach Ball Drop– For those of us who love winter at the beach! What a fun way to ring in the new year! Note: I have not attended this even, but I intend to! Hint hint to my husband.

Rent a Pontoon Boat– Remember if you head over to Shell Island that there are no restrooms!

#3- Washington DC


I firmly believe every family should make at least one pilgrimage to the United States’ capitol! This family friendly city also has a great number of places to view and things to experience (technical terms there!) that are handicap accessible. Having lived in the DC Metro Area, I can attest to the beauty of visiting when the cherry blossoms are blooming!

What Not to Miss (wheelchair friendly):

The Air and Space Museum– Perhaps it is because my husband is former Air Force, but we found this museum to be a great deal of fun! It doesn’t hurt that all Smithsonian museums have free admittance! Plan to spend about three hours visiting.

The Holocaust Museum– No, it is not uplifting. That’s not the point. This museum touches your heart and hopefully your soul. You will need to plan this in advance, please see their website for specific instructions.

Go beyond the Smithsonian- The Washington DC Explorer Pass gains you entrance to museums, outdoor experiences, Hop On Hop Off, and more.

#2- Orlando, Florida


It is simply impossible to hear the words, “I’m bored.” in Orlando! This destination is jam packed with excitment, but it does come with a hefty pricetag. Lodging will not be your biggst expense, it will be theme park admissions. If you plan on visiting more than once in a year, consider season passes.

What Not to Miss (wheelchair friendly):

Walt Disney World– It makes every child’s must experience list! If you are staying at a Disney Resort, try visiting in the fall when they offer a free meal plan! Try not to be overwhelmed by the size and maze that it feels like Disney is. Disney has an excellent app called My Disney Experience, that will get you between all of your rides and reservations easily without getting lost! Worried about Zika? Disney provides complimentary bug spray in your room as well as in the park.

Universal Studios– Potter fans unite! From wandering the streets of Hogsmeade to having a blast with interactive wands, you won’t be dissapointed!

Disney Springs– The foodie in you will be happy! There is plenty to do at Disney Springs! It doesn’t cost anything to walk around and parking is FREE! An added bonus that some Disney Dining plans are accepted!

#1- Hilton Head Island, South Carolina

Hilton Head View.jpg

What makes this sleepy little town my favorite? The fact that it is just that! The town is beautiful in its presentation. There are no bright golden arches screaming at you. They are there, but the restaurants and stores are mainly hidden behind beautiful live oak trees. I don’t have much to report on the sights or activities. We go here to relax and get away from it all. Sometimes, some quality family time together without the distractions is the absolute best!

We stay at Disney’s Hilton Head Island Resort. They have at least two beach wheelchairs that are free to use. The resort is across the street from the beach, but they have a handicap acessible shuttle. The staff is what I have dubbed Disney friendly. They are kid centered and attentive. The resort has villas with full kitchens, washers and dryers, and balconies overlooking the marsh.








Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s