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7 Sensational Family-Friendly Movie-Based Vacation Destinations

Updated on October 1, 2023
Dana J Sartell profile image

Dana is a blogger, freelance author, and content-creator extraordinaire blasting for over two decades. She lives in a suburb of Sacramento.

Summer always comes with rising temperatures and a yearning for travel. While kids are on their well-deserved break from toiling away at school, this is when we start planning amazing adventures as a family during these warmer months.

As avid movie fans, instead of sitting behind our ever-present screens, both children and adults alike have the opportunity to venture out into the real world to visit these family-friendly locations showcased in some of our all-time favorite flicks.

So without any further adieu, here are the top seven vacation destinations we should seriously share with our families. These "hot-spots" are sure to give your clan long-lasting memories beyond compare when it comes to traveling.


1. Cannon Beach, Oregon

Featured Film: The Goonies

Legendary director Richard Donner was behind the lens during many classic films throughout his remarkable career. The Goonies is perhaps one of his most treasured, all-time favorite family flicks.

Many of the remarkable scenes unfolding during this feature occurred on Cannon Beach in Oregon. Early on, the main character of Mikey lines up the iconic Haystack Rock using an artifact from his Dad's collection of museum treasures uncovered in the family's attic. Eventually, the story comes to fruition on the very same shores where Mikey and his friends began their search for pirate treasure.

Director's Cut: Even though this is a terrific beach to enjoy with your family, ocean breezes and temperatures get pretty chilly even in the summer months. Be sure to bring along some sweaters or jackets for you and the kids.


2. The Devil's Tower National Monument, Wyoming

Featured Film: Close Encounters of the Third Kind

This Spielberg classic helped to launch the likes of Richard Dreyfuss and Teri Garr into movie history. In this extra-terrestrial tale, a huge rock drives some of the cast members crazy as they connect to The Devil's Tower National Monument located in Wyoming.

In the early days of CGI, green screens and computer images, Mr. Spielberg utilized a real-life location for this historical (albeit fictional) landing place for friendly, musically-inclined aliens to make contact and give us some "close encounters" of the best kind.

Director's Cut: To take in everything this National Monument has to offer, bring along a good pair of hiking shoes or boots to explore miles of popular hiking trails in the area.


3.The Griffith Observatory, California

Featured Film: The Terminator

When Arnold Schwartzenegger's Terminator character travels through time in the buff, he lands at The Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles. Granted this was from the very first installment from this series of fan-favorite science fiction films.

For all you trivia buffs out there, this location is near the famed Hollywood sign and was also featured in the James Dean classic Rebel Without a Cause from way back in 1955.

Diector's Cut: If possible, plan your trip to the observatory during a time when they're offering a special event especially those that are "kid-friendly" and check the programs page on their website for more details.


4. Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, California

Featured Film: Lost Boys

This classic amusement park located on the Northern California coast was featured in the scary, eighties classic flick about teen vampires. From the opening credits to some of the early scenes, these adolescent night-dwellers use The Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk as their playground after the sun sets.

Visitors to this retro wonderland will enjoy the beach by day and the boardwalk at night, just like the young vamps. Among some of the original attractions, a wooden roller coaster and a traditional merry-go-round with a vintage ring-toss game included in the ride will entice youngsters and parents alike.

Director's Cut: I've visited the boardwalk multiple times throughout my lifetime and little has changed including the original carousel and iconic coaster called The Giant Dipper. During summer months, the park is host to free Friday Night Concerts on the beach so check their schedule for your favorites.


5. Monterey Bay Aquarium, California

Featured Film: Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home

Not far from Santa Cruz is the quaint California coastal town of Monterey. One of the biggest draws of this sleepy city three hours south of San Francisco is their signature aquarium. During some of the oceanic scenes shot in the fourth edition in this Star Trek film series, The Monterey Bay Aquarium was used as a scenic backdrop.

This sleepy town with a bay lesser known than that of it's more famous northern neighbor is definitely worth a visit. The aquarium is an amazing way to spend the better part of a day with budding marine biologists, seafaring fans and kids curious about creatures living in our vast oceans.

Director's Cut: The city of Monterey and nearby Carmel are both beautiful towns full of delectable restaurants and quaint shops. To see the best views of the stunning coastline in this area check out the scenic route known as the 17-Mile Drive.


6. The Hunger Games: The Swan House

Even though the Hunger Games series of novels and movies all are set in the distant future, one of the most iconic images from the series of these flicks is found on the streets of old town Georgia. The Swan House is a historical site open to the public in the land of the old South is an epic experience for travelers.

Built in 1928, after construction, it barely survived the Great Depression and was built as a home designed for entertaining. History buffs and architectural fans take heed, ya'all need to stop by there now, ya hear?

Director's Cut: The Swan House is part of the Atlanta History Center so there's plenty more to see, special activities, events and additional locations to explore. Be sure to check out their website and plan accordingly - you may want an extended stay to take in all that's available here.


7. Multiple Movie Moments: The Hawaiian Islands

The latest addition to the Jurassic Park series was once again filmed in our beautiful fiftieth state of Hawaii. Back in the day, when the movie Avatar was released, it was hailed for its award-winning, mind-blowing special effects. Many viewers missed the forest-themed backdrops from the Keahua Arboretum an inspiration behind some of the filming sequences from this fantastical, sci-fi favorite.

The list of movies using these gorgeous islands is lengthy and legendary. Aside from those previously mentioned, the classic flick From Here To Eternity showcases the iconic, on-shore screen kiss shared between Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr. This magical movie moment was captured on the Halona Beach Cove in Oahu while the waves washed over them during this sensational, sandy embrace.

Director's Cut: The Halona Beach Cove is also home to an iconic blow hole shooting a geyser of seawater up to thirty feet into the air. Bring your camera or smartphone along to get a shot of this picturesque phenomenon.

Closing Credits:

In any event, when planning an extra-terrestrial adventure right here on earth during a break for our everyday existence, you'll make plenty of unforgettable memories. Winter, spring summer or fall, all you have to do is call on some of these unforgettable locations to land an adventure worthy of sharing.


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