The 5 Best Places to Take a Family Vacation in July: Alaska, Aruba, Costa Rica

The best places to visit in July are big on fun and light on crowds.
Whale in Alaska (Photo: Shutterstock)
Photo: Shutterstock

With school out and summer vacation in full swing for the kids, July is a prime time for family vacations. But July is also the month when all of the most popular places to go with kids are practically bursting at the seams with tourists. So when the mercury rises, your best bet is to either find ways to avoid the crowds at the usual family vacation spots or get off the beaten path altogether at a less-visited summer destination.

Instead of the usual theme parks, water parks, and family beach destinations, the best places to visit in July tend to be places where there are plenty of things to do away from the crowds. These also tend to be spots where you can find deals on hotelsvacation rentals, car rentals, and flights even during the summer months, though you may need to be flexible with your vacation days to get the best prices and availability.

From Anchorage to Aruba, here are the best places to visit in July for a family vacation that’s heavy on fun but light (or at least lighter) on crowds.

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1. Anchorage, Alaska

Summer in Anchorage, Alaska (Photo: @Patrick_Thun via Twenty20)
Summer in Anchorage, Alaska (Photo: @Patrick_Thun via Twenty20)

Thanks to sunny days (up to 18 hours of sunshine), pleasant temperatures in the 60s and 70s Fahrenheit, and dazzling wildflowers on full display, July is the most popular time to visit Anchorage. Fortunately, you don’t have to work very hard to escape the city’s cruise line crowds. See the whole city on a small group Anchorage Trolley Tour, picnic amidst the natural splendor and hiking trails of Kincaid Park, enjoy the native plants in bloom at the Anchorage Botanical Garden, or get a summer-only behind-the-scenes peek at the Alaska Zoo Memorial Day through Labor Day.

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Outside the city, hop aboard the Alaska Railroad’s Glacier Discovery train for a full day of sightseeing and unique stops, such as Spencer Lake and its incredible view of Spencer Glacier. And budding conservationists will be thrilled with a visit to the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center, home to 200 acres of natural habitats for orphaned or injured animals, including bears, bald eagles, foxes, reindeer, and moose. 

Where to Stay in Anchorage

With suites featuring a full kitchen, the Home2 Suites by Hilton Anchorage/Midtown provides a great home base for exploring the city. Families will enjoy the complimentary breakfast, the indoor saline pool, and the patio with BBQ grills and fire pits.

2. Park City, Utah

Mom walking across a bridge on the ropes course at Utah Olympic Park (Photo: Park City Chamber)
Mom walking across a bridge on the ropes course at Utah Olympic Park (Photo: Park City Chamber)

It may be best known for its snow sports, olympic history, and the Sundance Film Festival in the winter months, but savvy travelers know that summer is an equally great time to visit the mountain town of Park City. The months of June, July, and August see smaller crowds, plenty of outdoor activities, and significantly lower lodging prices. July is a particularly great time to visit thanks to comfortable average highs in the 70s during the day and 50s in the evenings. 

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Some not-to-miss-warm-weather activities include a hot air balloon ride, horseback riding along the area’s scenic paths, walking or biking among the wildflowers on the Union Pacific Rail Trail, river rafting or tubing on Weber River, or simply strolling down the historic Main Street with its local boutiques, restaurants, and art galleries. The Utah Olympic Park offers plenty to do in the summer, too, such as bobsledding, zip-lining, extreme tubing, alpine sliding, and all-star freestyle shows. 

Park City is also one of the best places to visit in July for its entertaining and kid-friendly events, including the Park Silly Sunday Market, an open-air farmer’s and artist’s market; free music at the Newpark Resort Amphitheater on Thursday nights; and free concerts at the Deer Valley Resort Amphitheater on Wednesday nights. 

Where to Stay in Park City

Just five minutes from Main Street, Montage Deer Valley is a must-stay for families. The resort boasts the largest spa in Utah, a pub with its very own bowling alley, five on-site eateries, and family yoga. Kids can participate in the merit badge program, earning 12 different badges for mastering activities like catching a fish on a fly or hitting a bullseye with a bow and arrow.

3. Pocono Mountains, Pennsylvania

Aquatopia features 16 attractions (Photo: Camelback Resort)
Aquatopia indoor water park at Camelback Resort (Photo: Camelback Resort)

While the Pocono Mountains (the Poconos) are a family-friendly destination year-round, there’s no better time to visit with kids than the summer. July boasts the warmest weather in the mountains with average temperatures reaching the upper 70s, so it’s warm but not sweltering. And while July is a popular time for visitors, you can still find space to spread out, especially if you’re an active family looking to get outdoors.

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A veritable playground for outdoor enthusiasts, there’s no shortage of places to hike, bike, swim, boat, fish, kayak, horseback ride, or zip-line in the Poconos. One not-to-miss stop includes the eight waterfalls of Bushkill Falls, known as the “Niagara of Pennsylvania.” Another is Camelbeach Outdoor Waterpark, the state’s largest, and its sister property Aquatopia, one of the best indoor waterparks in the country. And animal-loving kids will enjoy Claws and Paws Wild Animal Park, and “zoo in the woods” that’s home to more than 100 varieties of animals.

To learn more about the Poconos’ rich history, take a Pocono Day Tripper open-air historic trolley ride to the town of Delaware Water Gap, the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, and the surrounding areas.

Where to Stay in the Pocono Mountains

With more than 30 scheduled daily activities, nightly family-friendly entertainment, and a slew of on-site amenities (including go-carts, miniature golf, climbing walls, and a kid’s club), the Woodloch Resort offers families a stress-free and entertainment-filled vacation at one of the best all-inclusive resorts in the U.S. for families.

4. Aruba

Sunset over Manchebo Beach on Aruba (Photo: Shutterstock)
Manchebo Beach on Aruba (Photo: Shutterstock)

Known for its pristine beaches, all-inclusive resorts, and prime location south of the Hurricane Belt, the island of Aruba is a fabulous place to take the kids any time of year. But for a truly sun-soaked Caribbean vacation without any crowds, head there in July when visitor numbers drop and the average highs reach 90 degrees. You’ll save big on lodging and won’t need to compete for a spot at any of the island’s beautiful Caribbean beaches.

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Spanning just 70 miles, Aruba may be small, but it is big on family-friendly activities, too. For animal-lovers, the island offers a variety of ways to interact with furry and not-so-furry friends, including The Butterfly FarmAruba Ostrich FarmPhilip’s Animal Garden, and the Donkey Sanctuary Aruba. Or thrill the kids with a quick ferry ride to De Palm Island for a deep dive into fun with its waterpark, snorkel tours, underwater helmet walk, body drop slides, and banana boat rides. 

Tour different parts of Aruba by horseback, jeep, ATV, trolley, or on foot, or get a glimpse of undersea life snorkeling along Arashi Beach. Take in the Caribbean’s largest shipwreck aboard the Seaworld Explorer Semi-Submarine without ever having to get wet. Or, if you prefer to go deeper, take a plunge inside the Aruba Atlantis Submarine Expedition, which goes 130 feet below the waves to explore the Barcadera Reef and other shipwrecks. 

Where to Stay in Aruba

Recognized as one of the best all-inclusive resorts in Aruba, kid-friendly Divi Aruba features one-and-a-half miles of pristine beach right at its doorstep, which is one of the many locations where kids can participate in resort activities like sandcastle contests or scavenger hunts. The resort also offers family-favorite menu items at its Sea Turtles Club.

5. Costa Rica

Uvita, Costa Rica Whales Tail beach, one of the best vacation spots for couples
Whales Tail Beach in Uvita, Costa Rica (Photo:@chadsmith110 via Twenty20)

Tropical Costa Rica sees a drop in tourism during its rainy season from May through November, which means lower prices on everything from flights to all-inclusive resorts in Costa Rica. The sweet spot for visiting during this period is July, when there’s typically a dip in rainfall that translates to more time to explore the gorgeous greenery of the rainforest.

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Make time on your Costa Rica family vacation to visit the country’s smallest national park, Manuel Antonio Park, and discover the unique biodiversity among its rainforest, beaches, and coral reefs. (Plus, it’s the best place to see sloths.) Other kid-friendly things to do in Costa Rica include the Arenal Hanging Bridges; getting a taste of the chocolate-making process on the Don Olivo Chocolate Tour; thrilling to the adrenaline rush of an Arenal Ecoglide Park canopy tour; and enjoying the stress-relieving power of the thermal water pools at the Baldi Hot Springs (kids will love the extreme water slides also on site).  

Where to Stay in Costa Rica

With a prime location by the beaches of Playa Conchal, an on-site spa, golf course, lagoon-style pool, and a Beach Club, the all-inclusive Westin Reserva Conchal gives guests enough reasons never to leave the property. Parents and kids (4 to 12) alike will love the Kids Club room, which features a playground, arcade and game room, and activities with an adventure-packed eco-recreational team.

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Kate Knapp
Kate H. Knapp is an Oregon-based writer with more than 15 years of experience writing about travel, food, events, education, and other topics. When she is not in the kitchen, she is at the computer helping others achieve their dreams.

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