With both Mother’s Day and Memorial Day falling onto the calendar in May, late spring may not instantly jump to mind as a good time to avoid large crowds while still saving on hotels, vacation rentals, car rentals, and flights. But actually May is shoulder season for some of the best family vacation spots in the U.S., Europe, and Mexico, which makes it an ideal month to travel with kids.
The Best Places to Visit in May with Kids
This year, the best places to visit in May include a New York vacation in the Big Apple, a tropical island you don’t need a passport to visit, and a Mexico family vacation spot with loads of kid-friendly hotels and family resorts. Each destination offers plenty of opportunities to enjoy a budget-friendly family vacation before the summer vacation crowds (and corresponding higher prices) hit.
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1. New York City, New York
Visitors flock to New York City to see Broadway shows, experience a wealth of different cuisines, explore world-class museums, and shop at one-of-a-kind stores. As one of the biggest and most culturally diverse cities in the U.S., the “Big Apple” is one of the most popular family vacation ideas any time of year—but it’s one of the best places to visit in May thanks to affordable spring hotel deals, comfortable weather, spring blossoms, and fewer tourists (aside from Memorial Day weekend, which also kicks off Fleet Week).
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In New York, the month of May sees average high temperatures in the upper 60s Fahrenheit, with the chance of a few rainy days. Pack an umbrella, just in case, and enjoy the benefits of fewer tourists in the city during your visit. Not only can you typically find better deals on lodging and airfare when you visit in May versus high season, but fewer people make it easier to see the best tourist attractions.
Families traveling with kids can avoid long summer lines while exploring the city’s top family-friendly attractions, including the Children’s Museum of Manhattan, Children’s Adventure Garden at the New York Botanical Garden, New York Aquarium, SeaGlass Carousel, and the One World Observatory, among many others. If the weather is nice, Central Park is always a great place to have a picnic and explore with little ones.
Where to Stay in New York City in May
Located in Midtown less than a two-minute walk to Times Square, The Muse New York (formerly the Kimpton Muse Hotel) makes a great jumping-off point to explore the city. The hotel caters to families by providing babysitting services, a toy upon check-in, and complimentary use of Micro Kickboard Scooters (in two kids sizes) and helmets.
2. Honolulu, Hawaii
May is an ideal time to visit Honolulu (and the island of Oahu) while avoiding the large crowds and hefty prices that come with a typical Hawaii family vacation. Most people visit Honolulu during the winter to escape colder temperatures back home or during the summer when kids are on vacation, but it’s the months of May and June that the state capital sees lower hotel prices, airfares, and tourist crowds.
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Average temperatures in May hover between the high 60s and the high 80s, with a slight chance of rain. Most days are warm enough to spend time at the beach or in the water, so don’t forget your beach essentials when planning a trip. On a sunny day, there’s no better place to play than the famous Waikiki Beach or its neighbor, Queen Kapiʻolani Regional Park, covering 200 acres that includes the Honolulu Zoo and free concerts at the Waikiki Shell.
For those on a vacation with toddlers, head to Magic Island (part of Ala Moana Beach Park) to enjoy shallow waters and tree-covered picnic areas. Some other popular stops for kids are the USS Arizona Memorial, Discovery Center Hawaii, Waikiki Aquarium, and Foster Botanical Garden. Don’t miss a visit to Kapahulu Avenue to browse artisan shops and try local cuisine like shave ice or a plate lunch.
Where to Stay in Honolulu in May
Situated on Waikiki Beach, and a short walk from the Honolulu Zoo, Royal Hawaiian, a Luxury Collection Resort, is an ideal spot to enjoy the city and the sea. The historical pink resort provides babysitting services, but the entire family can enjoy its pool, beach access, and Waikiki’s only oceanfront luau, taking place twice a week. Be sure to grab a slice of banana bread from the on-site Royal Hawaiian Bakery.
3. Quebec City, Canada
If you’re longing to visit France but want to stick a bit closer to home when flying with kids, it’s time to give Quebec City a try. Located about two hours from Montreal, the walled city of Old Quebec is filled with cobblestoned streets, cafes serving croissants and café au laits, and French-speaking locals.
The fortified city is a major draw for visitors and sees an uptick in crowds over the summer months, but it’s one of the best places to visit in May due to the smaller crowds and increased chances of saving money on lodging. Average temperatures reach in the low 60s and rain can be a possibility. There are plenty of things to do indoors if it starts to sprinkle, however.
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One of the best reasons to visit in the spring is to sample freshly-tapped maple syrup at a local sugar shack. There are a variety of shacks to choose from not far from the city. As for things to do in the city, Old Quebec is fun to explore on foot—with local shops and plenty of places to grab a bite—and the Old Quebec Funiculaire is a neat ride.
Those traveling with kids will want to visit the indoor-entertainment Méga Parc des Galeries de la Capitale, which features bumper cars, an ice-skating rink, a roller coaster, a Ferris wheel, and arcades; experience the toy store/magical experience that is Benjo; or say hello to polar bears, walruses, jellyfish, and other sea creatures at the Aquarium du Quebec.
Where to Stay in Quebec City in May
Located 20 minutes outside of Quebec City, Hotel Valcartier is worth the drive for a stay the family will never forget. The hotel offers dorm rooms for large groups or families, a Digital Games Room, and is only steps to Village Vacances Valcartier’s indoor and outdoor waterparks—featuring wave pools, waterslides, river rides, a double surf attraction, and water games.
4. Cabo San Lucas, Mexico
If a tropical resort vacation is calling your name, May is an ideal time to visit Cabo San Lucas. The city sees a drop in tourism—aside from the Cinco de Mayo holiday—after the busy winter vacation months, which means savvy family travelers can typically snag a great deal on Mexico all-inclusive resorts and/or airfare. Start planning a trip in early winter to find the best deals. May also boasts comfortable weather in Cabo, with an average high temperature in the mid-80s.
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Since there are fewer crowds to compete with on the sand and in the sea, be sure to pay a visit to the Cannery Beaches, a string of three beaches featuring crystal-clear waters for a full day of fun in the sun. For families wanting to dive into adventure, spend the day swimming with the dolphins; riding a camel along the shore; ziplining above the trees; going on a whale-watching expedition; or snorkeling along a coral reef.
Where to Stay in Cabo San Lucas in May
Overlooking Medano Beach, considered one of the most swimmable beaches, Casa Dorada Los Cabos Resort and Spa, provides a sunny spot to stay close to the downtown marina. The hotel features two swimming pools, a playground, five restaurants, and a saltwater spa.
5. Barcelona, Spain
Thanks to an energetic art scene, diverse culture, and rich history, Barcelona is one of the most fun and exciting places to visit with kids, especially in May. As the most-visited city in Spain, Barcelona can be busy throughout the year, but you can avoid the heavier crowds of summer by visiting in the shoulder season. Tourists are still plentiful, but pleasant temperatures with average highs in the upper 60s make it easier to keep things cool.
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Some of the best ways to take advantage of the smaller crowds is to explore the Mediterranean-themed L’Aquàrium de Barcelona; discover Antoni Gaudí’s masterpiece, Casa Batlló, and his unfinished masterpiece of a basilica, the Sagrada Familia; play in the gardens at Park Güell; catch the illuminating night show at the Magic Fountain of Montjuïc; explore the universe at CosmoCaixa, an interactive science museum; listen to a concert at Palau de la Música Catalanal; and take in panoramic views of the city on Montjuïc Cable Cars.
Where to Stay in Barcelona in May
Traveling with kids is a dream while staying at the Hotel Arts Barcelona thanks to its Ritz Kids program that welcomes little ones with balloons and sweets, reachable treat displays in the Club Lounge, and special kids menus. The hotel also features two outdoor swimming pools, an on-site two-Michelin star restaurant, city and beach views, and a luxury spa.