Best Family Events of 2018

Traveling with the wee ones? You’re in luck. Family friendly events are everywhere in 2018!

family on beach

There’s a little something for everyone– check out our picks for the best for mom, dad and all the kiddos right here.

Iditerod, Anchorage & Nome, AK
January 26-28,2018

iditerod, alaska
The Iditerod touts itself as the “Last of the Great Races” and it’s definitely not wrong. The race route goes from Settler’s Bay in Anchorage to Nome (a distance of about 900 miles) and it generally takes a week or more (depending on how many blizzards the dog teams have to navigate). Most of the fun for visitors happens after the race (there is an awards banquet),but if you’re planning to be in Alaska, there are volunteer opportunities to partake in and the chance to meet the dogs as well as their “mushers.”

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Lantern Fest, Phoenix, AZ
February 10, 2018

lantern festival
You’ve probably noticed the rise of the “Lantern Festival” circuit over the past few years, but what you may not know is that they’re generally very family-friendly events. The Phoenix Lantern Fest is being held at Schnepf Farms just south of the city and adult admission ($50) includes one lantern, a marker, a lighter and a s’more kit. Kids pay $10, and toddlers are free. Before sundown friends and families can enjoy food, live music, a stage show, familiar princesses, face painters, s’mores, balloon artists and more. Then, when the time is just right, everyone sets their lanterns aloft to light the night sky with thousands of traditional paper lanterns. It’s really a wondrous sight to behold!

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Eeyore’s Birthday Party, Austin, TX
April 28, 2018

eeyore's birthday
One of the parties keeping Austin weird for the past 55 years is the annual festival thrown in honor of the grumpiest donkey that ever lived. It’s 100% free to attend, but the organizers ask that all attendees wear a costume to get with the spirit. Face-painting, henna and tattoo artists offer their services while local bands keep the crowds entertained all day. Maypoles are also a fun activity to take part in. Proceeds from the sale of hot and cold food and beverages as well as commemorative t-shirts go straight to many charitable organizations in and around Austin doing good work for the community. It’s a really fun way to explore local culture and rub elbows with Austin denizens.

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Inflatable Run, Miami, FL
May 5, 2018

inflatable run
“What the heck is an “inflatable run?” you might be thinking right about now. It’s simply a family-friendly 5K run (or walk) that has inflatable obstacles to climb, slide down and otherwise circumnavigate as participants complete the course. Once you’re finished, the festival area has a ton of free family activities to keep the fun going as well as food and beverages to sate your appetite.

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The Great Smoky Mountain Firefly Show, Smoky Mountains, Tennessee
Late May – June, 2018


Every year the Synchronous Firefly Display in the Smoky Mountains takes place when the stunning natural beauty of hundreds of thousands of fireflies light up in unison over a course of a few short weeks in May and June. It’s a once in a lifetime experience and one that families can remember for a lifetime. We recommend checking out the Great Smoky Mountains National Park site for more specifics – including the best spots for clear viewing and the exact dates to expect activity.

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San Diego Comic-Con, San Diego, CA
July 19 – 22, 2018

comic con
Got teens? This year, why not take the whole family to one of the best places to geek out over a huge variety of movies and tv obsessions. If you ever wondered when nerds stopped being, well, nerdy and started being cool, you have Comic-Con to thank at least partly for the phenomenon. It’s a virtual playland for grown-up fanboys and girls to express their unabashed inner nerds unencumbered by the stigma foisted on them by the bullies of the world. And lo and behold, it is one of the coolest parties of the year. Your tweens and teens might actually think you’re cool for a few days!

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Frontier Days, Cheyenne, WY
July 20-29, 2018

rodeo
Frontier Days is a festival that turns the clock back on Cheyenne and transforms this cowboy town into a real old-timey western town – complete with a huge rodeo, a frontier town, saloon, parades, a Chuckwagon Cook-off, a pancake breakfast, and an air show (okay, that last one is a bit of an anachronism but it sure is cool!) There’s also a number of military reenactments and an Indian Village, where visitors can learn more about the lives and culture of the local tribes, including storytelling, dancing and an evening pow-wow.

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International Surf Fest, Redondo Beach, CA
August 1-5, 2018

sand sculpture
The International Surf Fest is a premier event on the southern California surf scene and every year there are exciting competitions to watch and participate in! There’s a popular 6-man Volleyball Tournament, a lifeguard competition and sailing, bodysurfing and surfing challenges. Our favorite event every year is the Sand Castle Design Contest that draws teams of professional sculptors to create amazing sand sculptures for all to wonder at.

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National Book Festival, Washington, D.C.
September 1, 2018

national book festival
Bookworms of all ages can find fun and informative events to attend at this huge book fair at the Washington Convention Center. The website will update with attending authors and events as we get closer to the festival.

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Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta, Albuquerque, NM
October 6-14, 2018

balloon fest
Over the years, the Balloon Fiesta has grown to be the largest international hot air balloon event in the world. Highlights include scheduled Mass Ascensions, where hundreds of hot air balloons launch at once, and the “Special Shape Rodeo,” a crowd-pleasing launch that includes many unique and non-traditional balloons. A large center stage venue hosts local musical acts and children’s performers to entertain between balloon events. Affordable food vendors are everywhere, some with a nod to the local cuisine highlighting New Mexican chili peppers.

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Run Disney Kids Race, Orlando. FL
November 3, 2018

kids run
There’s activities all weekend long surrounding the main event (the Wine & Dine Half Marathon), so if your family is one of those “the family who races together stays together” teams, you might be interested to know that there’s also a 13 and under kids race. There’s a One Mile Run for the 13 & under set, a 200 Meter Dash for the 5-8 year olds, a 100 Meter Dash for 1-4 year olds, and even a Diaper Dash for “crawlers” under 1. How’s that for family friendly? What else would you expect from Walt Disney World?

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Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, New York, NY
November 22, 2018

macy's thanksgiving day parade
credit: shutterstock.com

A classic New York event to attend in November is the 92nd Annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade (starting at 9am on Turkey Day morning). The parade kicks off at the corner of 77th Street and Central Park West and finishes up at the flagship Macy’s store on Herald Square (and 34th Street). Close to 4 million people line the streets to take in the parade in person every year – so if you’ve a hankering to visit New York, it’s a festive time to make the trip with the whole family. Come for the spectacle of the floats, marching bands and character balloons, but stay to experience the festivities like a real New Yorker.

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Don’t own any rug rats of your own? Check out our other Best of Events lists for the year: Music Festivals, Food/Culture, and Sports. Happy travels in 2018!

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