Best U.S. Beach Vacation Spots for Kansas City Families

Are you dreaming of a beach vacation but not sure what the best option is for your family? You’re in luck because we’ve put together a guide to the best beach locations (in the continental U.S) to consider for your next family vacation. We’ve got tips on when to visit, how to get there, and where to stay. You’ll also find all the details about drive time, nearest airports, and activities to keep your kids entertained when you’re not on the beach!

When to Visit

Spring break is a historically popular time to go to the beach but don’t plan on spending a lot of time in the ocean unless your kids don’t mind the cold water or will wear a wetsuit. Definitely stay somewhere with a heated pool!

If you want the water to actually be warm enough to comfortably swim in its best to visit in the summer or in the shoulder months like May or September.

Hurricane season is from July – November, so it’s important to book places with generous cancelation policies or have trip insurance.

Mom Pro Tip for Researching: Do a Google search for “average temperature in ____ month” or “average water temperature in ____ month” to help you decide when to visit a particular beach.

Getting There

This will come down to your family’s budget and preferences.

Driving can be economical but being landlocked means it takes one very long day or two days of driving to get to the ocean. That’s a long time to keep kids entertained!

If you are looking for white sandy beaches and blue waters it may be worth the slightly longer drive to Alabama or Florida instead of Texas beaches.

Flying gets you there faster but you will probably need to get a rental car unless you want to rely on ride sharing. Many beach towns do have free shuttles available to use during the season or have bike or golf cart rentals available to help your family explore the area. Check out our tips for flying with kids.

Mom Pro Tips for Flying: Want to go somewhere with direct flights? This list of nonstop destinations from the new KCI is super helpful! Southwest and Allegiant have seasonal direct flights to many of the smaller airports closest to the beach. Typically these fares are offered from June – August.

Where to Stay

Consider how close you want to be to the beach as public parking at beaches can be limited and expensive.

Resorts and hotels can offer closer proximity to the ocean and amenities like private beaches, reserved lounge chairs, multiple pools, and on site meals. However, you will be dealing with less space to live and sleep in. Not a huge issue if most of your time is spent near the water! You can pay to stay somewhere that involves little to no planning or work on your part which means more time to relax.

A private rental like an airbnb/Vrbo gives you much more space (a separate bedroom for the kids is a must for us!) and a full kitchen so you can prepare your own meals. It can be the most economical option especially if you drive.

Things that are a must for us when choosing a private rental include being on or very close to the beach, access to a pool (one kid prefers pool to the beach), and preferably somewhere private where we don’t worry about disturbing neighbors if the kids are loud and up early. If we are flying to our destination we make sure the rental has beach toys, chairs, umbrellas, etc. for us to use.

Mom Pro Tips for Food: Look for blog posts or Youtube videos from other moms about specific beach towns to get tips on family friendly restaurants. Consider having groceries delivered or doing a pick up order at Target to save you time getting groceries.

Best Beaches for Kansas City Families

Texas Beaches

Corpus Christi 

  • Driving Distance: 14 hours.
  • Nearest Airports: Corpus Christi (CRP) or San Antonio (2 hours)
  • Things to Do: USS Lexington Museum, Texas State Aquarium, boat tours.

Galveston Island

  • Driving Distance: 12 hours and 45 minutes.
  • Nearest Airport: Houston (1 hour).
  • Things to Do: Moody Gardens Aquarium, Schlitterbahn Water Park, Galveston Island Pier, mini golf, go carts, dolphin tours.

South Padre Island

  • Driving Distance: 14.5 hours.
  • Nearest Airport: Brownsville South Padre Island Airport (BRO) or Corpus Christi (45 min).
  • Things to Do: Sea Turtle Inc. conservation center, Gravity Park, largest outdoor sandcastle in the U.S., South Padre Island Adventure Park, dolphin tours.

Alabama Beaches

Dauphin Island

  • Driving Distance: 14 hours.
  • Nearest Airport: Mobile (MOB) is a 45 minute drive.
  • Things to Do: Alabama Aquarium, take the ferry to Fort Morgan.

Gulf Shores and Orange Beach

  • Driving Distance: 14.5 hours.
  • Nearest Airport: Pensacola (PNS) is a 1 hour drive. Direct flights available seasonally.
  • Things to Do: Visit the Wharf and ride the ferris wheel, Gulf Coast Zoo, Track Family Fun Park, mini golf, dolphin cruise.

Florida Panhandle Beaches

Destin

  • Driving Distance: 15 hours.
  • Nearest Airport: Destin-Fort Walton Beach (VPS). Direct flights available seasonally.
  • Things to Do: Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park, Big Kahuna’s water and adventure park, go-carts, mini golf, boat tour.

Panama City Beach

  • Driving Distance: 15.5 hours.
  • Nearest Airport: Northwest Florida Beaches International (ECP) is 30 minutes away. Direct flights available seasonally.
  • Things to Do: Visit Shell Island, pirate cruise, swim with dolphins, Wonderworks Museum, Coconut Creek Family Fun Park, Ripley’s Believe it or Not, Shipwreck Island water park.

Pensacola Beach

  • Driving Distance: 14.5 hours.
  • Nearest Airport: Pensacola (PNS). Direct flights available seasonally.
  • Things to Do: Naval Aviation Museum, watch the Blue Angels practice, Gulf Breeze Zoo, visit Fort Pickens, mini golf, dolphin cruise.

30A: Rosemary Beach, Santa Rosa Beach, and Seaside

  • Driving Distance: 15 hours and 15 minutes.
  • Nearest Airport: Northwest Florida Beaches International (ECP) is a 30 minute drive. Direct flights available seasonally.
  • Things to Do: Sea Life Discovery Center, rent bikes, Duckies Shop of Fun, Baytowne Adventure Zone, shopping, dolphin tours.

Florida Gulf Side Beaches

These beaches are a long two day drive from Kansas City so flying will buy you more actual vacation time!

Anna Maria Island

  • Nearest Airport: Sarasota (SRQ) is a 30 minute drive and there are direct flights available seasonally. Tampa (TPA) is a one hour drive and has direct flights all year.
  • Things to Do: Mini golf, Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium, dolphin cruise.

Clearwater Beach

  • Nearest Airport: St. Pete – Clearwater International Airport (PIE) is a 30 minute drive and has direct flights available seasonally. Tampa (TPA) is a 40 minute drive and has direct flights all year.
  • Things to Do: Clearwater Marine Aquarium, Coachman Park, dolphin cruise, mini golf.

Longboat Key

  • Nearest Airport: Sarasota (SRQ) is a 30 minute drive and there are direct flights available seasonally. Tampa (TPA) is a one hour and twenty minute drive and has direct flights all year.
  • Things to Do: Mote Marine Laboratory and aquarium, dolphin cruise, Sarasota Jungle Gardens, Ringling Circus Museum, Sarasota Children’s Garden.

Marco Island

  • Nearest Airport: Fort Myers (RSW) is a one hour drive and has direct flights all year.
  • Things to Do: Visit the Everglades, dolphin boat tour, Rookery Bay Environmental Center, Veteran’s Community Park.

Naples

  • Nearest Airport: Fort Myers (RSW) is a one hour drive and has direct flights all year.
  • Things to Do: Naples Zoo, Visit the Everglades, dolphin boat tour, children’s museum, mini golf.

Sanibel Island

  • Nearest Airport: Fort Myers (RSW) is a one hour drive and has direct flights all year.
  • Things to Do: Wildlife refuge, rent bikes, dolphin boat tour, shell museum, Sanibel Sea School, visit Captiva Island.

Siesta Key

  • Nearest Airport: (SRQ) is a 30 minute drive and there are direct flights available seasonally. Tampa (TPA) is a one hour and twenty minute drive and has direct flights all year.
  • Things to Do: Dolphin boat tour, snorkeling, Ringling Circus Museum, Sarasota Jungle Gardens, mini golf.

St. Pete Beach

  • Nearest Airport: St. Pete – Clearwater International Airport (PIE) is a 30 minute drive and has direct flights available seasonally. Tampa (TPA) is a 40 minute drive and has direct flights all year.
  • Things to Do: Pirate Show, mini golf, St. Pete Pier, Tampa Bay Watch Discover Center.

Florida Atlantic Side Beaches

Cocoa Beach

  • Nearest Airport: Melbourne (MLB) is 45 minutes away. Orlando (MCO) is 45 minutes away and has direct flights all year.
  • Things to Do: Ron Jon Surf Shop, Dinosaur Store and Museum, Wizard of Oz Museum, mini golf, Cocoa Beach Aerial Adventures.

St. Augustine Beach

  • Nearest Airport: St Augustine (UST) is 30 minutes away. Jacksonville (JAX) is one hour away.
  • Things to Do: St. Augustine Aquarium, airboat tours, Pirate and Treasure Museum, historical sites, St. Augustine Alligator Farm.

West Palm Beach

  • Nearest Airport: Palm Beach (PBI) is 10 minutes away. Fort Lauderdale (FLL) is one hour away and has direct flights all year.
  • Things to Do: Busch Wildlife Sanctuary, Palm Beach Zoo, Manatee Lagoon, Schoolhouse Children’s Museum.

South Carolina

Hilton Head Island

  • Nearest Airport: Hilton Head has its own airport (HHH) or you can fly into Savannah (SAV) which is an hour away.
  • Things to Do: Sandbox Children’s Museum, mini golf, rent bikes, Coastal Discovery Museum.

Myrtle Beach

  • Nearest Airport: Myrtle Beach has it own airport (MYR) or you can fly into Charleston (CHS) which is two hours away.
  • Things to Do: Visit the boardwalk, go-carts, mini golf, Brookgreen Gardens, Ripley’s Aquarium.

Southern California

Coronado Beach

  • Nearest Airport: San Diego (SAN) is only 20 minutes away. Direct flights available.
  • Things to Do: Surfing lessons, San Diego Zoo, Balboa Park, whale watching.

Huntington Beach

  • Nearest Airport: Santa Ana (SNA) is 20 minutes away. Direct flights available into Long Beach (LGB) which is 30 minutes away.
  • Things to Do: Surfing lessons, playgrounds, Knott’s Berry Farm, Disneyland, Universal Studios.

Laguna Beach

  • Nearest Airport: Santa Ana (SNA) is 20 minutes away. Direct flights available to Los Angeles (LAX) which is an hour away and Long Beach (LGB) which is 35 minutes away.
  • Things to Do: Whale watching, Pacific Marine Mammal Center, Nix Nature Center.

Newport Beach

  • Nearest Airport: Santa Ana (SNA) is 15 minutes away. Direct flights available to Los Angeles (LAX) which is an hour away and Long Beach (LGB) which is 30 minutes away.
  • Things to Do: Pretend City Children’s Museum, Santa Ana Zoo, Disneyland, Universal Studios.
Julia Willhite
I'm Julia and I live in Olathe with my husband of 16 years, my 10 and 6 year old daughters, and our rescue pug Mabel. I’m a social worker turned SAHM and love Dr. Pepper, thunderstorms, and talking to other adults. I hate coffee, diet culture, and washing dishes. I'll talk your ear off about the best local parks and which restaurants have wronged me by changing their long-standing menu items. I try to walk the line between knowing a lot of stuff and not being a know-it-all. Some days I'm better than others.