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3 Best Haunted Hotels in San Diego that will make you Shiver

These hotels are historical, fun to visit, and absolutely full of spirit
Best San Diego Haunted Hotels

Whether you believe in ghosts or not, there is no denying that there is something special about visiting a historic place that has laid witness to generations of human experience – from joyous celebrations to tragic losses, and everything in between.

You can’t help but feel a deep connection to the obscure energy emanating from the antique furniture, dilapidated woods and historic architecture.

One of my favorite ways to bathe in the eerie goodness of history is to stay overnight in a haunted hotel. I love hearing about the stories of those who have checked in before us, and those, who for one reason or another, decided never to leave.

Luckily there are plenty of haunted hotels in California, and specifically, in the city of San Diego. This is just one of the reasons why San Diego is our all-time favorite city for a weekend getaway.

And since we have experienced many of the haunted places in San Diego over the years, we decided to write this article to share with you our 3 favorite haunted hotels in San Diego to help you plan your next creepy visit to the birthplace of California.

Interactive Map: Top 3 Haunted Hotels in San Diego

THIS POST MAY CONTAIN COMPENSATED LINKS. FIND OUT MORE IN MY DISCLAIMER.

Cosmopolitan Hotel - Old Town

226 Calhoun St | San Diego, CA 92110 | 619.297.1874

A Brief History

Standing proudly at the Northeast corner of Old Town San Diego’s historical plaza, the Cosmopolitan Hotel was once the grand home of Juan Lorenzo Bandini. He had made a fortune in the Mexican cattle ranching industry and wanted a home that reflected his social standing in the community. The original structure was built in 1827 as a single-story adobe ranch-style home by natives from the local mission.

Portrait of Juan Bandini

Casa de Bandini was the happy home and site of many social gathering, like fandangos, the Bandini’s popular dance parties. However, due to a changing economy and California becoming a state, Bandini’s fortune dwindled and in 1869 his son-in-law sold the property to Albert Seeley.

Seeley remodeled the adobe ranch-style home into the two-story Greek revival Cosmopolitan Hotel, complete with a wrap around balcony that not only continues to be popular with current guests, but with past spirits as well!

Old Photo of original Cosmopolitan Hotel

Since then the Cosmopolitan San Diego has seen many changes in ownership including Bandini’s own grandson, Cave Couts Jr, who owned the property in the 1930’s.

Named a state national landmark no. 72, the hotel was revived into its 1870’s glory while maintaining some pieces of the original structure, like the floorboards, wainscoting, window and door frames, as well as some adobe.

Now owned and operated by Old Town Family Hospitality Corp, the Cosmopolitan Old Town remains a fully functioning hotel that is known for welcoming guests – both dead and alive!

Hauntings

The Cosmopolitan Hotel has been recognized by the paranormal community as one of the most haunted places in San Diego, which is saying a lot because just around the corner in Old Town is the infamously haunted Whaley House. You can read more about the Whaley House HERE.

Bandini family members, kids and even natives are rumored to still be wandering the halls of the Cosmopolitan. However, many of these haunted hotel stories are just rumors with no historical evidence to back them up.

Room 11

Allegedly the most haunted hotel room on the property, room 11 is thought to be haunted by Bandini’s youngest daughter, Ysidora. There was a story going around that Ysidora fell to her death from the balcony outside room 11, but that story actually appears not to be true.

For one, neither the second story nor the balcony existed during the time of the Bandini’s residence.

Secondly, Ysidora didn’t die on the property and lived until the age of 67. However, she did visit the hotel and was known to prefer room 11. So, it is possible that her spirit likes to check in every now and then.

Room 4/5

This room is another hotbed for activity with lots of stories circulating around the room and its furniture. There is no doubt that there is activity going on in the room. There are some rumors about the furniture in the room.

There is a story that the carving on the headboard is of a little girl that died tragically and the carving on the adjacent dresser is the face of the mother. But…that cannot be validated as no one knows the origin of the furniture as the pieces are not known to be original to the property and were acquired during the most recent renovation. We do know that the carvings do not represent members of the Bandini family.

There is one story, though, that has been reinforced over and over again, which is the presence of the Lady in Red. A local medium channeled her spirit on the balcony outside room 4/5 waiting for a gentleman. Some speculate that it may be a lady of the night. However, she appears to have a lighthearted and feisty personality so don’t be scared.

List of Main Features

  • Free wifi
  • Air-conditioning
  • Family room available
  • Complimentary breakfast
  • Free parking
  • On-site restaurant and saloon
  • Walking distance from local Old Town attractions

To find out more details, see pictures, or check availability click -> HERE

Hotel Del Coronado - Coronado Island

1500 Orange Ave | Coronado, CA 92118 | 619.435.6611

A Brief History

Across the San Diego Bay sits the historic Hotel Del. Built in 1888, this beach front resort was the largest resort hotel in the world during that time and continues to be the second largest wooden structure in the United States.

A real swanky place, the Coronado Hotel San Diego has been a home away from home for many celebrities, presidents and royalty for 130 years. Amazingly, this national historical landmark is still rated among the top ten resorts in the world to this day – an incredible feat considering the competition that has grown over the years since it was built.

Old Postcard from Hotel Del Coronado

The Del has been featured in several movies, most notably “Some Like Hot” starring Marilyn Monroe. It was even used to house pilots in training at North Island Naval Air Station as well as their families during World War II.

Hauntings

Beautiful Stranger

Kate Morgan was only 24 years old when she checked into The Del on Thanksgiving Day 1892. Sadly, poor Kate would never check out and is said to still be hanging around the resort.

She told hotel staff that she was waiting for a gentleman companion to join her, but five days later it is believed that she shot and killed herself. Her body was discovered at the bottom of an outside staircase leading to the beach with a gunshot to the head. At first the hotel could not positively identify her and she was dubbed “the beautiful stranger.”

Portrait of Kate Morgan Beautiful Stranger

There has been some speculation that this was a homicide rather than a suicide as the bullet in her head did not match the bullets in her personal gun. However, the case was never reopened.

In addition, some claim that the body wasn’t Kate Morgan at all, but rather a young lady by the name of Lottie Barnard. A recent visit from a local medium, revealed some truths to this theory that have since checked out thanks to a little research.

Kate (or Lottie) is spotted frequently around the property, and her third floor guestroom is reportedly a hotbed for paranormal activity.  Maybe she is stuck here because of her tragic death, or she may just be annoyed to have been falsely identified all these years. If you are feeling brave, check into room 3327 and let me know about your experience.

I am apparently not the only weirdo into this kind of stuff, as her room is the most requested on the entire property!

Gift Shop

For no explainable reason, the gift shop, which is original to the hotel, has seen a lot of paranormal activity. Things are known to move around and items have been reported to have flown from shelves. For some reason, it is the Marilyn Monroe/”Some Like It Hot” paraphernalia that seems to be of interest to the ghosts. Perhaps they don’t like it hot. Ha!

List of Main Features

  • Family Suites
  • Beachfront Resort
  • Del Beach services
  • 2 outdoor swimming pools
  • Complimentary breakfast
  • Sunday brunch
  • 7 bars and restaurants, including an ocean front seafood restaurant and an open air pizzeria
  • Live music can often be found at the many lounges.
  • Always a host of events and seasonal activities going on
  • Delventure Kids Program that includes mermaid and pirate camps and slime labs!

To find out more details, see pictures, or check availability click -> HERE

Horton Grand Hotel - Gaslamp District

311 Island Ave | San Diego, CA 92101 | 619.544.1886

A Brief History

The Horton Grand Hotel San Diego joins two historic 1880’s hotels, the Grand Horton and the Brooklyn-Kahle Saddlery Hotel. Sitting on the edge of the famous Gaslamp Quarter, The Horton Grand Hotel is one of the oldest historic hotels in San Diego, built in 1886.

This was around the same time that Wyatt Earp showed up to San Diego and he spent many years as a guest at the hotel. If you don’t know who Wyatt Earp is, first watch the movie Tombstone and then check out my post HERE.

In addition to Wyatt Earp, many other significant figures in society were also guests of the Horton Grand, including presidents, colonels and kings of years past.

Lobby of Horton Grand Hotel San Diego

With so much history, it was a shame when the two historic hotels were on the chopping block to make room for the Horton Plaza mall. Thankfully, a local developer and historical heritage organization saved the hotels, however, by reconstructing them two blocks from their original location.

Ironically the area where this grand hotel, oozing with Victorian sophistication, now sits was once a seedy neighborhood known as the Stringaree District. It was home to saloons, gambling halls, opium dens, and brothels.

Hauntings

Roger Whitaker

Room #309 is said to be haunted by Roger Whitaker. There are a couple of stories about him floating around (pun intended!), but the story I find most interesting is the one about him being a gambler in trouble. Apparently, he was on the run because he owed a lot of money to some not-so-friendly guys. Rumor has it that he ran to his room at the Horton Grand and hid in his armoire.

Well he didn’t run or hide well enough, because he was found and shot to death in this said armoire.

I know it is kind of gruesome, but this is likely the reason room 309 is reported to very active. There are the typical paranormal occurrences like lights flickering, objects moving, and sudden changes in temperature; but there are also some more interesting happenings.

For instance, the bed sometimes shakes, an indent of a body is sometimes seen on freshly made beds, and most interesting of all is that when he appears he is described as being so realistic and life-like that a guest even asked him where the ice machine was located.

Ida Bailey

Remember what I said about the former neighborhood being sordid and home to brothels? Well Ida Bailey was a well know Madame and her brothel sat on the exact site that the Horton Grand now sits. She was quite the business women, acquiring high profile clientele and avoiding many of the district’s raids. Bailey has apparently appeared to guests, but by all accounts she is friendly and warm. It sounds like she carried her charm into the afterlife.

Guests that don’t check out

There have been a number of sightings of apparitions in 19th century fashion floating around the Horton Grand. You know that feeling where you just don’t want your vacation to end? I do. And I suppose these guests feel the same way, booking a long term stay at the Horton Grand Hotel.

List of Main Features

  • Free wifi
  • Antique furniture
  • marble framed gas fireplaces
  • flat screen television
  • coffee/tea maker
  • On-site restaurant and lounge- Salt & Whiskey
  • Horton Grand Theater
  • Walking and trolley distance for Gaslamp and other downtown attractions

To find out more details, see pictures, or check availability click -> HERE

That’s a Wrap!

The next time you visit San Diego you can stay in a regular, predictable hotel (there are plenty to choose from) OR you can check out one of these historical haunted hotels. If you are anything like me then you and your family will appreciate the the antique design and dusty historical aura – but more than anything, you will cling to the legendary stories that seem to haunt the place. You never know, something quite unexpected can occur any time you stay at a historical hotel that has seen generations of guests come and go, their personal stories leaving an indelible mark for future guests like yourself to fathom and enjoy. My advice is to go with an open mind and just see what happens.

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3 Top haunted hotels in San Diego CA

Visiting Capilano Suspension Bridge Park with Kids: Tips, Advice and Video Tour

An incredible outdoor adventure awaits your family in Vancouver, BC
Capilano Suspension Bridge Park with kids

Have you ever heard of the Capilano Suspension Bridge? Honestly, I didn’t know much about it until I started planning our family vacation to Vancouver. However once we discovered it, Capilano quickly became the number one Vancouver attraction we wanted to visit together as a family. The thought of exploring the Vancouver rain forest via …

Las Vegas with Kids – The Ultimate Family Guide to everything Las Vegas

Vegas is not just for adults anymore, and it is time that families start to take notice
Best things to do in Las Vegas with Kids

Whether it’s “Vegas Baby” or Vegas with babies, this city offers a wide selection of activities for every age group. I’ve been going to Vegas since I was a young girl and I’m proud to keep the tradition going with my own three children.

Let me tell you, Las Vegas with kids can really be a blast. And please don’t let anybody tell you otherwise.

Over the years we have all developed a special bond and love of the city, from the sound of slot machines spinning and clanging to the sight of millions of light bulbs setting the warm evening sky ablaze.

(btw, my personal favorite is smelling that magical mixture of suntan lotion and pina colada, with a hint of cigar smoke, which reminds me of all those summers I spent as a kid at Mirage)

Needless to say, our goal here at HotMamaTravel is to be the ULTIMATE RESOURCE for families visiting Las Vegas with kids.

That’s why we created this Family Guide to Vegas for Kids. Our custom articles are full of insider tips and helpful information so you can have a safe and fabulous time in Las Vegas with kids.

I am confident by following the advice in our guide that you and your family will come to love Vegas as much as we do, and dream of returning year after year.

Hotels in Las Vegas for kids
Best Family Hotels

See the hottest Vegas hotels that are also great for kids.

Vegas resorts for big families
Vegas Resorts for Large Families

There are great family options just off the Vegas strip

Show in Las Vegas for kids
Vegas Shows for Kids

See our ultimate guide for the top kid-friendly Vegas shows

Family pools in Vegas
Best Family Pools

See our favorite pools in Las Vegas for kids

Kid friendly Vegas restaurants
Vegas Family Restaurants

See our favorite kid-friendly Vegas restaurants

Free family activities Las Vegas
FREE Family Activities

See our favorite free attractions in Vegas with kids

Affordable family attractions in Vegas for kids
Cheap Family Attractions

These activities are worth your precious time and money

best day trips from Vegas with kids
Tours and Day Trips from Vegas

There are lots of kid-friendly adventures near Vegas

Insider tips for Vegas with kids
Vegas Insider Tips

Tips for having a safe family visit to Vegas

Pregnant in Vegas tips
Tips for Vegas Pregnant

See my top advice for doing Las Vegas pregnant

Powered by Vegas.com

THIS POST MAY CONTAIN COMPENSATED LINKS. FIND OUT MORE IN MY DISCLAIMER

Aren’t you tired of all the boring and generic maps of Las Vegas out there on the web? We are too, and that is why we created this colorful and interactive map of hotels on the Las Vegas Strip. (If you think this map is unique and helpful, please share with your friends on Pinterest or Facebook!)

Click on Vegas Hotel Map icon You can CLICK ON any hotel bubble to see pictures, read reviews, and check rates on Vegas.com.

Disclosure: We are an affiliate partner with Vegas.com, which means that if you book a room by clicking one of our links, we will earn a small commission for helping you find the perfect hotel at NO extra cost to you. It truly is a win-win, and we really appreciate the care and support of you, and all of our readers.

Family Hotels in Las Vegas

The Vegas strip has so many amazing hotels, most of which cater to families with children to some degree or another. However, from our experience some Vegas hotels are just so much more family-oriented and budget-friendly than others. We go in extreme depth about our 5 favorite Vegas strip hotels for families HERE but here is a quick rundown of the top 3 to get you started:

  • The BEST family pool – a tropical oasis with waterfalls

  • Great family shows – Beatles LOVE (Cirque du Soleil), Terry Fator (comedy. ventriloquist)

  • Family-oriented atmosphere – very comfortable, budget-friendly, kid-friendly restaurants

  • The BEST family show lineup – Ka (Cirque du Soleil), Jabbawockeez (hip-hop dance), David Copperfield (magic)

  • Huge family pool complex – waterfalls, grottos, lazy river, poolside dining

  • There’s so much to do! – CSI experience, lots of family restaurants and taverns to grab a drink with kids

  • Budget-friendly and great value – nice affordable rooms and great location on the strip

  • Great family restaurants – lots of kid-friendly options plus the best Irish Pub at Nine Fine Irishmen

  • Fun atmosphere & attractions – roller coaster, big arcade, jubilant party atmosphere

Kid-friendly Las Vegas Shows

It goes without saying that Las Vegas is a top entertainment capital and is a great place to catch a variety of world-class shows to fit any mood. The best thing for families is that many of these Las Vegas shows are actually kid-friendly! We provide a detailed overview for 21 Las Vegas family shows HERE and best of all, we provide custom ratings for every show to see how well it matches your interests, including the best shows for magic, dance, thrills and comedy. Here is a quick rundown of our top recommendation in each category:

Vegas show for kids Blue Man Group
Best show OVERALL
Blue Man Group
Luxor, All Ages
live music, drums, interactive, multimedia theatrics
Learn more and check deals at Vegas.com
Terry Fator Las Vegas show for families
Best for LAUGHS
Terry Fator
Mirage, Ages 5+
variety show, ventriloquist, impersonations, singing
Learn more and check deals at Vegas.com
Ka Cirque du Soleil for kids in Vegas
Best for THRILLS
KA by Cirque du Soleil
MGM Grand, Ages 5+
cirque, martial arts, folklore, fire, puppetry, flying
Learn more and check deals at Vegas.com
Las Vegas family magic show Xavier Mortimer
Best for MAGIC
Xavier Mortimer's Magical Dream
Planet Hollywood All Ages
Magic, shadows, physical comedy, theatrics
Learn more and check deals at Vegas.com
Laughternoon comedy magic show in Vegas for kids
Best on a BUDGET
Laughternoon with Adam London
D Hotel, All Ages
comedy, magic tricks, audience participation
Learn more and check deals at Vegas.com

Kid-friendly Vegas Pools

Las Vegas resorts on the strip are enormous and loaded with amazing restaurants, entertainment options,  and fun attractions. And one of our favorite FREE family activities to counteract the heat and kill some time during the day is to hang out at the resort pool. Virtually every resort on the Vegas strip has a pool, but not all Vegas pools are created equal. Not by a long shot! There are some Vegas pools that seem to be designed with families in mind, and there are others that seem to be an obligatory afterthought. Here is a list of our favorite Vegas pools, what to expect, and most importantly, why we love them so much!

Mirage Vegas pool with kids

Overview:

Mirage has our favorite pool in Vegas for kids, and it definitely seems like this pool was designed with families in mind. It is a tropical oasis with several waterfalls, tons of palm trees, and a couple of large hot tubs. They also have a restaurant called Paradise Cafe where you can enjoy lunch or brunch poolside. My kids love the Mirage pool, and when we talk about planning a trip to Vegas, they start talking about this pool.

Pool at Mandalay Bay Resort Las Vegas

Overview:

Mandalay Beach is a sprawling pool complex with a lazy river and a huge wave pool. We like that it has a tropical landscape and the kids really do like floating in the lazy river. The Mandalay Bay pool is unique because it has over 2.5 thousand tons of real sand, but to be honest, we could do without the sand. Sure it is a nice touch, but it also makes the pool visit quite a bit more messy. During the summer, they also have a Beach Concert Series so you can catch some music as a family by the pool. I am confident you and your kids will love spending an afternoon at the Mandalay Beach.

MGM Grand Pool Las Vegas

Overview:

The MGM Grand Pool is an enormous area that includes 5 different pools, a lazy river, and quite a few waterfalls and grottos. They have a restaurant called Cabanas Grill where you can have a poolside lunch or brunch, which we always take advantage of after spending an afternoon at the pool. Best of all, they have 5 different bars in the Grand Pool Complex to grab a pina colada or cold beer! Your family could spend a whole day at the MGM pool and still not have time to do it all.

Kid-friendly Vegas Restaurants

Las Vegas hotels on the Strip are sprawling resorts that are loaded with restaurants, pubs, taverns and casual eateries. It is hard to pick the best restaurants for kids in Vegas because there are just so many great kid-friendly places to eat all along the strip. Instead, we have selected three of our favorite family hotels and highlighted the top family-friendly options available at each resort. Importantly, we also show you a few kid-friendly places to grab a cold one. This is Vegas after all!

Mirage Cravings Buffet Las Vegas

Cravings Buffet: This buffet is a bit pricey, but it is so good we find it well worth the cost. The kids love eating at Cravings Buffet in Mirage, and the adults love it too. They have bottomless champagne and beer at a very reasonable charge!

Carnegie Delicatessen: This is our go-to restaurant at Mirage for breakfast, lunch or brunch. The sandwiches are stacked almost a foot tall and the kids really like the Matzo Ball soup. Casual dining with mid-range prices (but it is easy to share the huge portions and save a few bucks).

Pantry: The Pantry serves American classics like waffles, fried chicken, biscuits and gravy and is open for breakfast 24 hours. The atmosphere is chic farmhouse and is absolutely adorable.

California Pizza Kitchen: CPK is a crowd pleaser and extremely family-friendly. Yummy tossed, chopped salads and a unique selection of pizzas. It is located next to the Mirage sports book.

Kid-friendly places to grab a drink

LVB Burgers and Bar: This place has great burgers and a big selection of malted milkshakes, which the kids will obviously love, but they also serve spiked milkshakes. I’ve never tried a spiked milkshake, but it sounds intriguing. A good selection of beers and fun atmosphere.

The Still: The Still is a sports bar with 27 TVs  and a retro theme centered on a refurbished Airstream trailer that operates as a full service kitchen. They specialize in serving craft beers and distinct cocktails, as well as yummy bites like tacos. The kids will enjoy playing shuffleboard or the other available games.

Dolphin Bar: The Dolphin Bar  can be found at the Mirage pool and is a must visit for a HUGE pina colada while splashing around at the pool in the afternoon heat.

Il Fornaio NYNY Las Vegas Restaurant

Village Street Eateries:  This is a fun place to grab a quick cheap bite including NY style pizza, Coney Island hot dogs or NY-style deli sandwiches. Oh, and you can grab a pretty cheap beer here and sit comfortably at a table with the kids just off the casino floor so they can feel a part of the casino action and live music at Times Square bar without getting harassed by security.

Tom’s Urban: Casual American dining with big family friendly circular booths, this is a unique place that mixes American classics and world-inspired street food. They also serve creative cocktails and tons of craft beers.

Il Fornaio: Lovely Italian cuisine in a romantic setting that is also family friendly, we eat at Il Fornaio at least once every time we stay at NYNY. The pizzas and pastas are great, and delicious warm bread is served before the meal. A great place to savor a bottle of wine as well.

America: This place is reminiscent of the classic Vegas cafe and an affordable place to get eggs, hash browns and coffee in the morning. We love that it has an American road trip vibe and is open 24 hours a day.

Al fresco restaurants in The Park

Sake Rok: Upscale Japanese restaurant with insanely yummy sushi and sake. They also have a stage for lip-syncing battles and other amusing entertainment.

Bruxie: The best chicken sandwich you never had is served in a waffle (you heard that right) at Bruxie. This is a famous sandwich and I challenge any person NOT to fall in love the the Original chicken and waffle sandwich!

Beerhaus: This place is designed after classic beer halls, with a huge selection of beers and happy hour specials. Great place for sausages and sandwiches with an outdoor al fresco environment adjacent to the Park. Lots of games for the kids to play like oversized Jenga or cornhole.

Kid-friendly places to grab a drink

Nine Fine Irishmen: We love everything about this place and it is definitely the best Irish pub on the Vegas strip. Great authentic Irish fare, and plenty of Irish whiskeys and beers on tap. The patio is a nice place to savor a cold Guinness and the live Irish music by Sin e Ri Ra is fun for the whole family.

Nine Fine Irishmen Pub Las Vegas

Gonzalez y Gonzalez Grill: A decent place for Mexican food and margaritas, with a nice selection of tequilas. Kids love any restaurant that serves chips and salsa before the meal, and this place hits the spot.

MGM family Vegas restaurants

MGM Buffet: A very good buffet that is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Avenue Café:  This place has a cool retro design and serves hearty meals for breakfast or lunch.

Food Court: Lots of affordable choices at the MGM food court for a quick meal with kids.

Emeril’s New Orleans Fish House: This place serves comfort food inspired by traditions of New Orleans and the American South.

Fiamma Italian Kitchen: This is a beautiful restaurant with leather seats and a fireplace with authentic Italian cuisine.

Kid-friendly places to grab a drink

Michael Mina Pub 1842: Chef Mina takes comfort pub food to a whole new level. There are lots of beers on tap and unique whiskeys to sample from here, too. Pilsner was invented in 1842, hence the name.

Hecho en Vegas Mexican Grill & Cantina: This place has over 100 tequilas to choose from and great margaritas.

Tap Sports Bar: This is a cool sports bar with 60 TVs and tons of different beers on tap. They have an eclectic mix of sports memorabilia decorating the restaurant, making sports lovers feel at home.

Free Family Activities in Vegas

There is so much to do in Las Vegas, especially if you have a few bucks, but there is actually quite a lot that you can do for FREE. Here we highlight some of our favorite free activities to do with kids in Las Vegas. Be sure to check out the full list HERE.

kids on the vegas strip

The Vegas strip is unique and there is a lot of fun to be had just strolling the strip as a family. You can cruise through different casinos (as long as you don’t stop for too long, you can pass through casinos with kids without hassle) and you can see what each casino is like. There are picture opportunities and street entertainers. We recommend starting your stroll about one hour before sunset and continuing as the millions of Vegas light bulbs come alive and set the city ablaze at night. Just don’t stay out too late after sunset, perhaps about 30-60 minutes, because the strip can get a little more wild and unpredictable at night. The strip is calm and weather more temperate in the morning, but it is also a way more boring time to walk the strip.

Mermaid at Silverton Las Vegas

This Silverton Casino is not on the Vegas strip, but it isn’t too far away and even if you are not staying the night there, it is definitely worth a stop when you are leaving or coming to Vegas. It has a huge fish tank with real live MERMAIDS that interact with the kids by waving and blowing heart bubbles. The kids will be mesmerized while the mermaids put on their beautiful show. You have to go at a certain time to catch the mermaid show, and here is the schedule:

  • Thursday: 12:00 – 1:15pm,  2:00pm – 3:15pm,  5:00pm – 8:15pm
  • Friday: 12:00 – 1:15pm,  2:00pm – 3:15pm,  5:00pm – 8:15pm
  • Saturday: 12:00 – 1:15pm,  2:00pm – 3:15pm,  5:00pm – 8:15pm
  • Sunday: 10:30am – 1:10pm,  2:00pm – 3:15 pm, 5:00 p.m. – 6:45pm

Family fun in Mirage Pool Las Vegas

Of course the most affordable way to spend a few family-friendly hours in Vegas is to hang out at your resort pool. Just about every Vegas hotel on the strip has a pool, but choosing a hotel with an amazing pool designed for families with children is definitely the way to go (see our favorites HERE). What kids don’t like splashing around in the pool and parading under cascading waterfalls!? It will likely even bring out the kid in you.

Cheap Family Activities in Vegas

There are lots of attractions and activities to do in Vegas as a family, but not all of them are worth your time and money. We have been to Vegas with children countless times when they were various ages, so we have experienced most of what Vegas has to offer. Here is our list of the best affordable family activities, where we define affordable as less than $30-$40 bucks. It is possible to find deals for most of these attractions, so be sure to look for deals, for example on Vegas.com. These are just the top 3, but you can see the whole list of cheap family activities in Vegas HERE.

View from top of Eiffel tower Vegas

In my opinion, this is one of the best activities to do in Vegas with kids, especially around dusk when the sun is going down and the lights start to shine along the Vegas strip. The kids loved the whole experience of taking the open-view elevator up to the top of the tower, and then seeing the Vegas strip from 46 stories high! Ticket prices vary by time of day and package. The day tickets (10:00am- 7:00pm) are less expensive than the night tickets (7:00pm-1:00am) and buying a family package or group package also reduces the price of individual tickets. Also, kids under 6 are free! Learn more about Paris Hotel at Vegas.com

lions at mirage vegas

We usually stay at the Mirage in Vegas with kids and one of the reasons is because we like to spend a day together at the Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat. Animals are unpredictable so you never know what to expect and each visit is truly special and unique. It can get quite hot during the middle afternoon, so we recommend going early and wearing swimsuits in case the kids get wet from the dolphins and so that you can just jump in the pool to cool off immediately afterwards. The Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat is right next to the Mirage pool. Learn more about the Dolphin Habitat at Vegas.com

cheap vegas show

Las Vegas is a great place to catch a magic or comedy show with kids. Yes shows can be expensive, but before you panic there are some fun choices for around $30 or less. Many family friendly shows will not break your bank (see our entire list and reviews of 21 Vegas shows for kids HERE). Here is a short list of some of our favorites for the price:

That’s A Wrap!

Family Vacation at the Mirage

Although an expensive playground for adults, I hope we have shown you it is possible to have a fun and affordable Las Vegas family vacation. It’s obviously easier to have a good time if everyone in the group is over 21, but bringing children to Vegas is worth the extra effort in our opinion, even though it does take a little bit more creativity. A kid-friendly Las Vegas trip can be tricky, so it’s important to pace yourself and not make any concrete plans. Be flexible, walk around and take in the unique sights and sounds of Vegas! In no time, like us, I am sure you will have Las Vegas kids and will find an excuse to return every year after!

Disclaimer: HotMamaTravel is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program. Amazon and the Amazon logo are trademarks of Amazon.com, Inc. or its affiliates. This means that we get credit for providing awesome advice in helping you to decide on your purchase if you use one of our links. There is no extra cost to you, but it helps to support the cost of running our blog. Thank you for supporting us!

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Family Guide to Las Vegas with kids

5 Haunted Historical Places you need to Take your Kids right now

Kids love a good scare as much as anyone and these places will teach them all about history too

As a young girl, I always found myself drawn to dark and ethereal stories.

My parents would often get mad at me for frightening my younger family members with Ouija board games, makeshift séances and candlelit ghost stories.

But let’s be honest, they kept coming back for more and no doubt found this unknown world to be as thrilling and mysterious as I did!

Fast-forward twenty years and it is no wonder that I now seek out travel experiences with my own children with deep historical significance and a rich history of ghoulish tales.

Jump Ahead: Eastern State Penitentiary | Tombstone AZ | Whaley House Old Town San Diego | Pirates’ House Savannah GA | Queen Mary Long Beach CA | Bonus: Windsor Hotel

 

The funny thing is, if you do a Google search for “haunted places to visit with kids” (go ahead, try it; in a new tab, of course), you will find a bunch of articles about haunted houses that are apparently not too spooky for kids, and a suspicious lack of information for visiting actual haunted historical sites with children.

What the heck is going on here!? I can’t be the only mom interested in sharing real-world ghost stories with my kids! 

Kids-haunted-voodoo-museum-new-orleans

Let me be clear, I don’t believe these places are actually haunted per se; but I do love a good, dark story and I do get enthralled by the emotional weight of tragic individual stories that DO seem to haunt certain places.

The only other conclusion I can think to draw from this sparse research is that most moms simply don’t consider taking their kids to places like these, either because it seems inappropriate to them or they lose out to more conventional family attractions like theme parks or resorts.

But honestly, I think these families are truly missing out.

As long as children are prepared for haunted history, whatever that you think that means for your particular family, then your kids will start to feel comfortable and probably delight in places like these as much as mom does.

Our personal style has been to embrace a rather uncensored style of family travel, purposefully choosing to expose our children to unfiltered experiences of cities, cultures, exhibits and events just about anywhere.

If you follow us on social media you will know that ghost stories, voodoo museums, catacombs, prison ruins, torture chamber tours, and emotionally heavy exhibits have definitely not been out of bounds for us.

In fact, I believe this appetite for unconventional family travel makes our blog a unique resource for other moms out there like me, which is the reason for our tagline “family travel with a twist”.

So, if you would like to inject a little mystery and ethereal excitement into your next family trip, consider visiting one of these FIVE haunted historical places with your kids (plus a bonus at the end of the article).

THIS POST MAY CONTAIN COMPENSATED LINKS. FIND OUT MORE IN MY DISCLAIMER

Eastern State Penitentiary

Philadelphia, PA

Eastern State Penitentiary Haunted Cell Block

History: Eastern State Penitentiary is a historic landmark prison that was commissioned by the Pennsylvania legislature in 1821 to hold up to 250 inmates. It was the first of its kind “penitentiary” style prison that isolated prisoners in cells to inspire regret and penitence, a correctional theory (known as the Philadelphia System) that has played a foundational role in the design of our modern day prison system. By 1836 the prison complex was completed with state-of-the-art plumbing, sewage and central heat – all before the White House even had these things! Upon completion it was one of the most expensive buildings in America. In 1929, Chicago gangster Al Capone spent almost a year at Eastern State Penitentiary, which had grown to hold up to 1700 inmates. During the 1970s and 80s, the prison was permanently closed and abandoned, languishing as an urban jungle for stray cats and vandals for several decades.

Eastern State Penitentiary from Street view

What to Expect: Fast forward to present and Eastern State Penitentiary is now a historic landmark that has been featured in several Hollywood movies over recent years. The outer walls of the prison emerge from the bustling streets of Philly like a medieval castle, beckoning families to explore the dilapidated prison blocks and bathe in the incredible stories contained within its stone walls. Visitors can tour the prison ruins, which is actually creepier and more eerie than even the photos can portray. They provide an educational audio tour called “Voices of Eastern State” which is entertaining and narrated by Steve Buscemi. You will learn about the history of prisons in America, and about the specific experience of prisoners at Eastern State during different time eras. Hearing these first-hand stories of prisoners while standing inside the ruined cell blocks will inspire a visceral feeling that this place may truly be haunted.

View of Eastern State from Courtyard

Hot Tip: A great time to visit is during Halloween, as they host one of the most popular Halloween events in the country, called “Terror behind the walls”. Learn more on their official website HERE.

Why kids will love it: We visited Eastern State when our kids were 5 and 6 years old, and I think they really learned a lot from the experience. I mean, it is rare for children to be allowed inside of a functional prison to really appreciate and understand what it means when people “go to jail”, but visiting a ruined prison of historical significance is a safer and more interesting way for children to learn about the topic. In fact, it is likely your kids will not even learn much about this topic in school, nor will it come up in casual conversation around your dinner table, so I think it is a great educational opportunity for kids (heck, and for parents). In fact, we found that our kids were pretty engaged with the audio tour, and were excited by the numerous amazing picture opportunities with the unusually creepy backdrop. I can almost guarantee that your kids have never been anywhere like Eastern State Penitentiary, and that alone (in my opinion) makes it worth a visit!

Tours Available: Tours are available all year-round, seven days a week. Tickets can be purchased at the door or online (with a small discount), and the audio tour and history exhibits are all included in the admission price. Adult general admission is $14.00 and children (7 to 12) are $10.00. Children 6 and under are free, but we did have to sign a waiver due to environmental hazards that still exist in the ruined prison. With young children you are advised to be careful that the kids do not touch or climb on anything. Just keep a close eye on them and you will be fine.

More Resources:

See our article for more ideas on how to visit Philadelphia with kids HERE

See what our visit was like:

City of Tombstone

Cochise County, AZ

Tombstone Arizona Boothill Graveyard

History: Tombstone is so much more than just a popular movie – it is a real place, with real history, that runs much deeper than just a gunfight at the OK corral.  Located in Cochise County in southern Arizona about 35 miles from the US border, Tombstone was founded in 1879 by a silver prospector named Ed Shieffelin looking to strike it rich on the American frontier. And strike it rich he did! Through the 1880s, the mines in Tombstone produced almost 100 million in Silver bullion, and the city grew to a population over ten thousand in just a matter of years. At its peak, the city of Tombstone sported 110 saloons, 14 gambling halls, numerous dance halls (and brothels), four churches, two banks and one school. However, Tombstone also suffered from several devastating fires over the years that destroyed large sections of the city. Due to its lawless, violent and fiery history, Tombstone is generally regarded as one of the most haunted places in Arizona, if not the entire West Coast.

Tombstone Haunted hotel with kids

What to Expect: Now a National Historic Landmark, there are so many historical buildings and amazing things to see in Tombstone AZ, including the Crystal Palace Saloon, Longhorn Restaurant, Cochise County Courthouse (with gallows still in the courtyard), City Hall, Big Nose Kate’s Saloon (one of our absolute favorites with free live music and festive cowboy atmosphere), Boothill Graveyard, and of course, the infamous Bird Cage Theatre. We spent a long weekend in Tombstone and we were able to virtually do it ALL, including a tour of Shieffelin’s mine guided by a charming local miner and a guided ghost tour in which we walked the city with the kids at night hearing all the creepy ghost stories. It is a small city but it is literally cram-packed with fun things to do with kids, including seeing the world’s largest rose bush, a dramatic recreation of the gunfight at the OK corral, shopping authentic country western stores, and touring the Bird Cage Theatre, which is still adorned with bullet holes and old west regalia.

Tour Bird Cage Theater Tombstone with kids

Why kids will love it: Seriously, what is not to love about Tombstone? The kids really enjoyed the hotel we stayed at called the Tombstone Grand Hotel because they had a bonfire at night with a local artist who played guitar and prize games with all the kids. Honestly, I’d like to say that the kids enjoyed the ghost tour, but because it was at night, my 4 year old son fell asleep and my daughter was getting restless by the end. We had a lot of fun on the tour though, and learned some interesting information about the history of Tombstone. The kids also really enjoyed exploring the Shieffelin’s mine because it was their first time going 100 feet underground (go figure!) and it was a totally unique experience. We capped off each night with live music and dancing with the kids, and of course a couple of pints, at Big Nose Kate’s Saloon. Crystal Palace also had good food for dinner and free live music that we all enjoyed. Actually, recalling all these fantastic family memories makes me want to go back tomorrow!

Check Rates and Pictures of Tombstone Grand Hotel on Expedia

 

Kids in Tombstone AZ

Tours Available: There are so many different tours available that are worth your time and money, from our experience. I would definitely check out the daily self guided Bird Cage Theatre Tour (Adults $12, Kids 8-18y $10) and if you have older kids (12 and up), I would recommend the Bird Cage Ghost Tour ($20 person). There are various other ghost tours offered by different companies that you can read about online and check reviews.

Mine Tour in Tombstone

I would also recommend setting aside two hours to do the Good Enough Underground Mine Tour as long as your kids are at least 4 feet tall and your family is willing to walk lots of stairs (Adults $15). The OK Corral is a must see, and you should definitely try to catch an afternoon show (remember to wear sunblock!) where they do a dramatic recreation of the epic gunfight (Adults $10, kids 5 and under FREE). You can even score some impressive pictures with Doc, Wyatt, Virgil and Morgan!

Show at OK Corral Tombstone

Honestly, the kids were a little less interested in the museum tour of the Tombstone courthouse (at least they were both under 6 and FREE), but the adults enjoyed killing a few hours there learning more about Tombstone’s history (Adults $7).

For free, you absolutely have to do a self-guided tour of Boothill Graveyard to see the real graves of notorious Tombstone residents like Marshal Fred White, Billy Clanton and the McLaury brothers. Also for free you should just walk around the city and visit places like the original home of Wyatt Earp and his brother Virgil (now a cute bed and breakfast).

Visit Boothill graveyard in Tombstone with kids

More Resources:

See our Ultimate Guide for visiting Tombstone with kids HERE

See what our visit was like:

Whaley House

Old Town San Diego, CA

Front of Whaley House Old Town San Diego

History: According to many, including our own Government’s Commerce Department, the Whaley house is an official haunted house. Travel Channel’s “America’s Most Haunted” even went so far as to say that Whaley house is the MOST haunted house in America. The Whaley house, as the name implies, is the historic family home of the Whaley family built in 1857 by Thomas Whaley. In the early years it stood at the center of public life in San Diego, housing the County Court house and the first commercial theater in San Diego, while also serving as a polling place, school, billiard hall and ballroom. Before the house was constructed, this was the location of gallows where convicts like “Yankee Jim” (now a reported ghost that roams the property) were hanged from the back of wagons. In 1882, Thomas Whaley’s daughter Violet Eloise married a con artist who disappeared during their honeymoon with the substantial dowry, and she was shunned from Victorian Society thereafter. Tragically in 1885, at the age of 22, Violet committed a violent act of suicide by shooting herself in the chest with a .32 calibre. Her ghost is just one of the many purported to inhabit the confines of the Whaley house today.

Kids at Old Town San Diego Whaley House

What to Expect: The Whaley house is said to be haunted, sure, but don’t let that scare you from visiting this vibrant Old Town district in the heart of San Diego, CA. We have traveled the country and this is still one of our all-time favorite places to visit, and living in Orange County, we do visit regularly. If you plan a visit, do yourself a favor and book a room at the Best Western Plus Hacienda Hotel – this is our go-to place to stay in Old Town and it is literally steps away from the Whaley house. The Whaley house is a fun attraction, but the Old Town district itself is alluring enough with numerous authentic Mexican cantinas with mariachi bands and fresh tortillas, festive shopping areas for candy and Mexican-style souvenirs, historic graveyards and buildings, and a beautiful park where the kids enjoy running around being kids.

Hacienda Hotel in Old Town San Diego

Check Rates and See Pictures of Hacienda Hotel on Expedia

 

Why kids will love it: Our kids love spending the weekend in Old Town San Diego. There is a fun candy store, a place to dip their own creative candles, lots of fun shops with cheap Mexican trinkets, a big grassy area to burn some energy, and every restaurant has free chips and salsa! Kids are allowed to tour the Whaley house, and my kids seemed to have fun hearing the stories and seeing the old bedrooms and the courthouse that they still have on the second floor. We looked for orbs in the pictures at dinner afterward and toured the El Campo Santo cemetery with a ghost communicator app on my phone. It was great fun.

Tours Available: There are daytime and nighttime tours of the Whaley house. From 10am to 4:30pm, you can drop in anytime for a self guided tour (Adults $10, children 6-12 $8, children 5 and under are FREE). While children under 5 are not recommended on the night tour and we have never done it, it does sound like a unique and spooky experience. There is also a popular nighttime trolley tour to all the haunted sites in Old Town called Ghosts and Gravestones that you could also check out HERE.

More Resources:

Read more about visiting Old Town San Diego with kids HERE

See our Full review of the Hacienda Hotel in the heart of Old Town HERE

See what our visit was like:

The Pirates' House

Savannah, GA

Pirates house family dining in the Herb House

History: Talk about historic, the Pirates’ House is a tavern and restaurant in Savannah, GA established in 1753. Yes, you read that right, before the Declaration of Independence was even signed. In fact, a portion of the structure called the “Herb House” was actually built in 1734 and is reportedly the oldest building in Georgia still standing today. There is an old Rum Cellar in the basement of Pirates’ House, and there is an old tunnel from the 1700s that runs all the way to River Street. Savannah is regarded as one of the most haunted cities in America, and over the years, numerous ghost stories have accumulated about the Pirates’ House, including one of my favorites that the infamous Captain Flint from Robert Louis Stevenson’s novel “Treasure Island” actually died in the bedroom upstairs. A building that has long been a refuge and meeting place for debaucherous pirates, drunken sailors, criminals and other unsavory characters, there is little doubt that this old tavern is full of spirits.

Spooky inside Pirates' House Savannah

What to Expect: Fast forward to today and the Pirates’ House is now an immense restaurant that has incorporated adjacent buildings and grown since the 1950s to include 15 different dining room areas, each with its own style and charm. The tunnel still runs under the restaurant to the cellar (you obviously can’t go down there as the tunnel is over 200 years old), but there is a large opening in the middle of the restaurant so you can see a portion of the original tunnel. The food was excellent and included a buffet of delicious fried chicken, biscuits, potatoes and gravy, collared greens and other southern fixin’s. After dinner we talked to the hostess and found out that they give FREE pirate-guided tours from pirates that have deep knowledge of the history of the area. Since we were a party of 6, it was a basically a private tour and we just tipped generously at the end of the 30 minute tour. We learned all about the tunnel, the Herb House, the rum cellar, the book Treasure Island, and other interesting historical tidbits that make this restaurant truly unique and worth a visit with kids.

Why kids will love it: When we visited, we were so lucky to get the chance to dine as a family in the Herb House, literally the oldest standing structure in the whole state of Georgia! I let the kids use my handy ghost communicator app on my phone after dinner and they had fun talking to the ghosts (see in our video below). The kids always love buffet-style meals, so the food in this place really hit the spot. They enjoyed the pirate tour and listened thoughtfully the entire time, even asking some interesting questions, so I know they were learning a lot. They have a huge gift shop with tons of pirate-themed treasures and souvenirs, and the kids had a blast shopping at the end of our visit. This was probably their favorite restaurant experience of the entire summer, in which we visited dozens of cities in 19 states across 60 straight days of travel (You can read more about our epic US road trip HERE).

Tours Available: The restaurant itself offers a FREE guided tour that lasts about 30 minutes to learn about the history of the restaurant and the city of Savannah (we tipped $20 for our group of 5).

There are also companies like Ghost City Tours that provide a variety of ghost tours of Savannah, which often include a stop at the Pirates’ House as well as the several haunted mansions, cemeteries, battlefields and burial grounds in Savannah, GA.

Pirate Tour inside Pirates' House Restaurant

More Resources:

See our Guide for visiting Savannah GA with kids HERE

See what our visit was like:

The Queen Mary

Long Beach, CA

Queen Mary Long Beach CA

History: The Queen Mary was built in 1936 during the Great Depression by John Brown & Co in Clydebank near Glasgow, Scotland and is nearly twice the size in weight compared to its sister ship, the Titanic. While the Titanic never made it successfully across the Atlantic, Queen Mary completed 1,000 trans-Atlantic voyages. During WWII the Queen Mary was changed into a troop ship that was so fast and good at outrunning German U-boats that she earned the nickname “Grey Ghost”. After surviving the war, Queen Mary returned to passenger service as an ocean cruise liner for 20 years before retiring permanently to the port in Long Beach, CA in 1967. During her time in service countless prisoners of war, soldiers and crew died in her boughs and are said to haunt and roam the ship in its final resting place. In the past 60 years, there are also reports of two engineers being crushed by watertight “Door number 13” during routine drills. As a result, Queen Mary is said to be one of the most haunted places in the entire world.

Inside Queen Mary Boutique

What to Expect: Today the Queen Mary is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and is a fantastic place to visit for the day or even overnight, as the ship is still maintained as a fully functioning hotel. The state rooms are unique and maintain the retro Art Deco vibe of its time. Still onboard the ship, you will find 3 casual and fine dining restaurants and one absolutely fantastic bar called the Observation Bar, which has scenic views of the Harbor and downtown Long Beach. Oh, and they have an epic Sunday Brunch in the elegant Grand Salon that Conde Nast Traveler named as the best hotel brunch in the world! They have various tours and rotating exhibits as well as fun events and festivals during different times of the year. For example, in February they host a raucous celebration of Scottish culture at the Annual Scots Festival and in October they host a Halloween event called Dark Harbor that has haunted houses, live music, dancing, and a whole lot of spooks.

Queen Mary SOS Terror on the Harbor

Why kids will love it: The Queen Mary has a lot of fun and informational activities for parents and kids. While their exhibits do occasionally rotate, that last time we went there was an enormous replica of the Queen Mary made from Lego blocks, and a section where kids could play with Legos. Currently (as of June 2018), the ship has an exhibit about life on the ship during WWII and its glorious time in service to the war effort, an exhibit on Winston Churchill who made frequent trans-Atlantic trips aboard the Queen Mary, an exquisite exhibit dedicated to the life of Princess Diana, and of course a Haunted Encounters tour and Ghosts and Legends tour that will take you to the dark bowels of the ship including the infamous old boiler room. There also fun free things to do while exploring the ship, with old images and artifacts virtually around every corner.

Queen Mary Long Beach CA

Tours Available: General admission to board Queen Mary is $32 per adult, $25 for children 4-11 years. For $48 you can purchase a passport to most exhibits aboard the ship including the 4-D screening, Glory Days (WWII) tour, Haunted encounters, Princess Diana exhibit, Historic Exhibit, the ship model gallery and passion for painting. You can board the Queen Mary if you buy one of these tours OR if you are a hotel guest (a great value!), or if you have a restaurant reservation. Find out more information and buy tickets HERE.

Money saving tip: After 6:00pm you can board the Queen Mary for FREE and dine at one of the restaurants or hang out in my favorite place, the Observation Bar. If you spend $20 in these spots (you will), then your self-parking will be validated as FREE as well!

Sir Winston's Restaurant Queen Mary

More Resources:

See our Ultimate Guide for visiting Queen Mary with kids HERE

Read more about the fun Queen Mary Scottish Festival HERE

BONUS

Windsor Hotel

Americus, GA

Windsor Hotel Americus Georgia

History: The five-story Windsor Hotel was built in Americus, GA in 1892 and has 100 Victorian style rooms. Architecturally, this hotel is an absolute beauty with a tower, turret, several balconies and a three story open atrium. There have been numerous former Presidents and famous guests at Windsor Hotel over the years, but it is the persistent guests that really intrigued us during our visit. There have been numerous stories and purported sightings of ghosts including the old housekeeper and her daughter who died tragically (and were possibly murdered) in an elevator shaft on site, and the former employee named Floyd who spent 40 years of his life as a doorman and lift operator at the hotel.

Check Rates and Availability at Windsor Hotel

 

Inside the Windsor Hotel Spooky Hallway

What to Expect: Victorian splendor. Wonderful food at the restaurant on site called Rosemary and Thyme. Killer drinks at Floyd’s pub. Possibly an experience of a ghost or two! (see the video of our family ghost hunting at Windsor below).

Why kids will love it: Just watch the video below.

Rosemary and Thyme Restaurant inside Windsor Hotel

More Resources:

See our detailed family review of the Best Western Plus Windsor Hotel HERE

Find out about visiting nearby Andersonville National Historic Site with kids HERE

See what our visit was like:

That’s a Wrap!

There are so many ways in which travel can teach your kids about the world. We are big proponents in investing in family travel to supplement our kids education and to encourage family bonding. We have had incredible fun visiting these five haunted historical sites, and I think you will too! If you have found family travel to theme parks and resorts to be unfulfilling, try expanding your horizons and consider going on a ghost hunt with your kids in a haunted historical site. My kids love it and I am sure yours will too.

Disclaimer: HotMamaTravel is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program. Amazon and the Amazon logo are trademarks of Amazon.com, Inc. or its affiliates. This means that we get credit for providing awesome advice in helping you to decide on your purchase if you use one of our links. There is no extra cost to you, but it helps to support the cost of running our blog. Thank you for supporting us!

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Best haunted places to take your kids on vacation

Family Road Trip Across US: 19 states in 60 days

Taking your kids and parents together on a family road trip across US is a life-changing experience

In the Summer of 2017, we packed up the kids and grandparents and took the plunge on an epic family road trip across US, driving from one coast to the other in our own minivan. We were able to visit so many amazing cities and attractions that have always been on our bucket list. And we spent only $700 in gasoline to transport 6 people for 60 straight days! I learned a lot about the exceptional value of family road trippin, and had the chance to follow historical family breadcrumbs all across the country.

In this page, you will find an overview of key statistics and an interactive US map of our road trip, with links to explore all of our blog articles and fun family videos from the trip.

Quick Overview and Stats

  • Miles Driven

    8347 total miles across 60 consecutive days

  • Longest Drive

    Single longest day of driving was 12 hours

  • Cost in Fuel

    We spent $700.00 in gasoline, averaging 28 MPG

  • Amount of Media

    310 gigabytes of photos and video taken

  • Boat Rides

    We took boat tours by water of 3 different cities

  • Family Travelers

    6 travelers in one minivan, 5 to 84 years old

  • Number of States

    We saw or drove through 19 different states

  • Number of Hotels

    We stayed in 22 hotels in 19 different cities

  • Number of Bars

    We took our kids to 11 bars with live music

  • Number of Uber XLs

    We took 18 Uber rides in various cities

Road Trip Map

Return to map anytime by clicking GPS icon

We just published an overview video of our epic road trip, where we show 15 awesome cities for 30 seconds each, and a fun US map animation to carry you along on the trip.

Check out our Road Trip Highlights Video:

A Legacy Trip for Grandpa

My parents came along for the ride, and a large purpose of the road trip was actually to take my dad back to East Coast, where he spent his childhood over 70 years ago. We visited his old homes, his old high school, and his favorite stomping grounds from the 1940s. Here is a montage of photos of grandpa in Gloucester City NJ, re-visiting his past and doing something he never thought he would get to do in his lifetime.

gloucester city travel photos

Deming, NM

Stop #1: “The New Chicago”

OVERVIEW: Deming, New Mexico was our first overnight stop of the trip. We didn’t get do anything in Deming but basically eat and sleep. We did get a pretty nice room with 3 beds and an attached bedroom at a great rate at the Days Inn.

travel photos deming nm

San Antonio, TX

Stop #2: “Alamo City”, “River City”

OVERVIEW: We were so relieved to arrive at our first major stop, San Antonio, after two full days of driving, and I mean like 12 hours driving each day! We spent 2 nights at the Best Western Plus Sunset Suites Riverwalk, which was nicely situated to explore various areas of the city. Highlights from San Antonio include, of course, visiting the Alamo and taking a river cruise along the river walk. But one of the most surprising delights was randomly deciding to jump off the City Sightseeing bus at the Pearl District to find a bustling market, brewery and outside venue to have a cold beer while listening to live country music.

travel photos san antonio tx

San Antonio Blog Articles:

  • Check out our review of the Best Western Plus Sunset Suites Riverwalk Here
  • Find out the best things to do with kids in San Antonio with our destination guide Here

San Antonio Videos:

New Orleans, LA

Stop #3: “The Big Easy”

OVERVIEW: Despite Tropical Storm Cindy, we made the most of our 2 nights in New Orleans. We spent a majority of our time in French Quarter, enjoying beignets at Café du Monde, listening to live music in the rain and venturing into the New Orleans Historic Voodoo Museum. The rain did hamper us from exploring some of the things on our list, so we will definitely have to take a trip back to the Big Easy and hope for better weather!

travel photos new orleans

New Orleans Blog Articles:

  • Please check back later! We will have some great content soon, I promise 😉

New Orleans Videos:

Americus, GA

Stop #4: International headquarters of Habitat for Humanity

OVERVIEW: In this sweet, historic Georgian town, we stayed at the historic Windsor Hotel, a Best Western Plus property that has a presidential past and infamous haunted history.  We spent most of our time in Americus at the hotel because, after all, they had a first class restaurant and second floor bar with a patio. As we left Americus, we explored our own family history with a day trip to the Andersonville National Historic Site and Prisoner of War Museum to find the grave of my father’s great-great-grandfather, a Union soldier that was killed during the civil war at Fort Sumter prison. It was a heavy day, but the kids learned a lot and I could sense they appreciated the magnitude and solemnity of the experience.

americus ga travel photos

Americus/Andersonville Blog Articles:

  • Check out our review of the Best Western Plus Windsor Hotel Here
  • Find out how to visit Andersonville National Historic Site with kids Here

Americus/Andersonville Videos:

Savannah, GA

Stop #5: “The Hostess City of the South”

OVERVIEW: Live music, fried chicken and roadies, oh Savannah how we love thee. We spent 2 nights savoring as much of Savannah’s sweet southern charm that we could. We wandered the many historic Spanish moss covered squares (truth be told it was brutally humid and the kids got hot n’ miserable halfway through), toured the famous house from the book Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by Jon Berendt, and dined at the storied Pirate House, which is the oldest restaurant in Georgia. We finished both nights by enjoying drinks and live music at the City Market near our hotel at the Best Western.

savannah ga travel photos

Savannah Blog Articles:

  • Fun Things to do in Savannah GA with kids Here.

Savannah Videos:

Charleston, SC

Stop #6: “The Holy City”

OVERVIEW: With only about a half a day to explore the charming city of Charleston, we tried to see and eat as much as we could. Starting our day with lunch at the Crab House, we then strolled through the city market and historical streets. It was really hot, so to keep cool we let the kids splash around at Waterfront Park and ended up (as we always do!) popping into various bars along the way to grab some “refreshments”.

charleston sc travel photos

Charleston Blog Articles:

  • Please check back later. Still working on this one too.

Charleston Videos:

Baltimore, MD

Stop #7: “Charm City”, “The Monumental City”

OVERVIEW: Phew! We finally reached our home base for the East coast portion of the road trip. We stayed in and around Baltimore Monday-Thursday for 5 weeks and used this as a jumping off point for various weekend adventures. In fact, Baltimore is a bit of a misnomer here, because we ended up spending most of our time in nearby Havre de Grace, which has some beautiful views of the Chesapeake Bay.

baltimore travel photos

Baltimore Area Blog Articles:

  • Please check back later. We will soon publish some beautiful content on Havre de Grace.

Washington, DC

Stop #8: The Nation’s Capital

OVERVIEW: We started our D.C trip with a visit to Mount Vernon, home of America’s first president in Virginia. The day was full of excitement, history and thunderstorms, before we continued the good time with a night on the town in Old Town Alexandria. The rest of the weekend was spent exploring our nation’s capital, visiting various national monuments and government buildings, and eating at trendy Ramen joints. Our weekend was made complete with an unexpected visit to the Game of Thrones popup bar.

washington dc travel photos

Washington DC Blog Articles:

  • The Game of Thrones pop up bar (PUB) is closed now, but our review is fun for fans anyways. Read it Here.

Washington DC Videos:

Philadelphia, PA

Stop #9: “Philly”, “The City of Brotherly  Love”

OVERVIEW: Staying at the Best Western Plus Philadelphia Convention Center Hotel, we kicked off our weekend in America’s birthplace with a wonderful evening relaxing at Spruce Street Harbor Park. The twinkling tree lights, colorful hammocks, lively vibe and gorgeous views of the Delaware River, made for truly memorable experience.  The next day we hit the history hard by hopping on the Philly PHLASH bus to various landmarks across the city. Highlights included, the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall, Betsy Ross House, Ben Franklin’s grave site and the famously haunted Eastern State Penitentiary.

philadelphia travel photos

Philly Blog Articles:

  • See our review of the Best Western Plus Convention Center Hotel Here.
  • Find our the best ideas for things to do in Philadelphia with kids Here.

Philadelphia Videos:

Wildwood, NJ

Stop #10: “Jersey Shore”, “Childwood”

OVERVIEW: This weekend was all about retracing the footsteps of Papa’s childhood. We started with a brief visit to Gloucester City, NJ, to see if his childhood homes were still standing (they were!), and to check out the high school and Catholic Church he has so many stories about. We spent two nights in Wildwood, and let me just say, this was one of our absolute favorite spots for everybody! If you have kids, they will love this place with roller coasters, ferris wheels, carnival games, and beach fun. We found it very safe and family friendly for the whole crew.

wildwood travel photos

Wildwood Blog Articles:

  • Please check back soon for an awesome post and photos of Wildwood. If you subscribe to our free newsletter with just your name and email, we will send you an update when it is published.

Wildwood Videos:

New York, NY

Stop #11: “The Big Apple”

OVERVIEW: Knowing that Manhattan is a nightmare to drive and park, we opted for a stay at the Hilton Garden Inn on Staten Island. What a great choice that turned out to be, because the free hotel shuttle to the free Staten Island Ferry got our trip off to a great start and the driver was super chatty but in a fun way. The ferry ended up being a highlight of the day, with its smooth ride to Manhattan, drinks and glorious unobstructed views of the Statue of Liberty.  We wanted to get the most of our short time in the Big Apple, so we opted for a hop-on hop-off bus tour. We didn’t have as much time as we would have liked, but we can say we saw all major parts of Manhattan in one day. Other highlights included a visit to the American Girl Store, Central Park, The Plaza Hotel, Rockefeller Center, St. Patrick’s Cathedral and finally some pints at the oldest pub in the city, Fraunces Tavern.

new york family travel photos

New York Blog Articles:

  • Please check back soon for our New York tips and highlights.

Annapolis, MD

Stop #12: “Sailing Capital of the World”

OVERVIEW: We actually had planned to visit Boston this weekend, but instead opted to visit Annapolis at the last minute – and boy, did we make a great choice. I think overall, our weekend in Annapolis was our favorite of the entire trip, just a smidge ahead of Wildwood. We saw the Naval Academy and the lunch hour drills (must see and they do it every day!), took a trolley tour around the small city, and really enjoyed strolling the streets and popping into an old bookstore, or an authentic Scottish clothier, or an Irish pub with live music.

annapolis family travel photos

annapolis doors collage

Annapolis Blog Articles:

  • Best restaurants with live music for families in Annapolis HERE

Annapolis Videos:

Asheville, NC

Stop #13: “San Francisco of the East”

OVERVIEW: Asheville was the first stop on our way back home, and it provided a fun and wacky jolt to our spirits. First, we visited the historic site and home of former Governor and Civil War Officer Zebulon Vance, with beautiful rolling green hills. We were also lucky to be there during a city festival, with live music and tons of food and fun booths for local businesses. The kids even got the chance to do faux sword fighting and walk tightropes. It was a very interesting day with a lovely ending with live music at Packs Tavern.

asheville travel collage

Asheville Blog Articles:

  • Coming soon! Please check back in a few weeks or subscribe for monthly updates.

Asheville Videos:

Nashville, TN

Stop #14: “Music City”

OVERVIEW: We were lucky to spend two nights in Nashville as invited guests to the Best Western Plus Belle Meade, which was a perfect jumping off point for visiting the Belle Meade Plantation, famous for breeding thoroughbreds important for modern day horse racing. This is the Music City, so of course we finished each night with several hours of live music at the Wild Horse Saloon and the renowned BB King’s Blues Club and restaurant. The night life is just amazing in Nashville and the kids had so much fun. We finished our last night at the world famous Hattie B’s, and it did not disappoint.

nashville family travel photos

nashville family nightlife

Nashville Blog Articles:

  • See our review of the Best Western Plus Belle Meade Inn & Suites Here.
  • Find out all you need to visit Belle Meade Plantation with kids (teaser: they have free wine tasting!)
  • See the Best Kid Friendly Places with Live Music in Nashville Here.

Nashville Videos:

Memphis, TN

Stop #15: “Grind City”, “Barbecued Pork Capital”

OVERVIEW: We were fortunate to get a room at the Peabody Hotel, home of the infamous duck parade from the fountain in the central of the lobby, to the elevator and up to their own room. They have been doing it every single day for years, and it is quite a popular spectacle for all ages. We started our day off right with the best ribs I’ve ever had in my life at central BBQ. Later, we hung out at Beale Street at night to get a feel for the city and it was really lively, colorful, and exciting. We capped the night off by witnessing the most amazing live music at the original BB King’s Blues Club. We retired to exquisitely decorated rooms at Peabody. I wish we had more time in Memphis to soak up more of the sounds, and food and culture.

memphis family travel photos

Memphis Blog Articles:

  • Check out How to spend one day in Memphis with kids Here!

Memphis Videos:

Austin, TX

Stop #16: “Bat City”, “Live Music Capital of the World”

OVERVIEW: It was such a long drive from Memphis to Austin, but we finally arrived to the Best Western Plus Austin City Hotel, and we were delighted to find out they have a bar and restaurant attached to the hotel. Super convenient after being on the road. The following day, we took an Uber into the heart of the city and explored a bit and listened to live music at the Dricoll Hotel. The highlight of our day, though, was a Lone Star River cruise to see the legendary Austin Bats at dusk. We had the most perfect weather and sunset we could hardly believe it. The bats came out in full force, and you must watch the video to see the whole experience.

austin family travel photos

Austin Blog Articles:

  • See our review of the Best Western Plus Austin City Hotel Here.
  • Find out everything you need about seeing the Austin bats on a bat cruise Here.

Austin Videos:

Scottsdale, AZ

Stop #17: “The West’s most Western Town”

OVERVIEW: Our final stop before returning to Orange County was in Scottsdale AZ, a place I had visited as a child, but forgot how fun it was. We stayed two nights at the Best Western Plus Sundial, and this is honestly a great place to stay in Scottsdale. It is in the heart of everything and the kids loved night swimming in the generous pool. We just loved the western vibe and desert feel of the city, with turquoise jewelry and leather stores abound. But the place to hang your cowboy hat and grab a cold one is the Rusty Spur Saloon, a favorite of locals and tourists that prides itself with live music all day seven days a week. We spent several hours here and the kids loved it too! Scottsdale was a perfect relaxing ending to a long and exciting road trip across the country.

scottsdale family travel photos

Scottsdale Blog Articles:

  • See our review of the Best Western Plus Sundial Hotel Here.
  • Find out the best hotels and things to do in Old Town Scottsdale Here.

Scottsdale Videos:

That’s a Wrap

What else can I say, this road trip was an experience of a lifetime. It took months of planning and preparation, but it was all worth it in the end. Our kids learned and experienced so much, I hope this is one of those things they carry with them for the rest of their lives. I can already see how they have grown and changed over this adventurous Summer. A sixty day road trip is not for the faint of heart, I will be honest, there were a lot of twists and turns (literally and figuratively!), but I will just say that you will not regret taking the plunge on a family road trip across US with your kids and your parents.

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An Epic Family Road Trip Across the US - 60 days, 19 states, 8k miles. Lean more so you can plan your own adventure!

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