Published on Thursday, May 10, 2012 00:45
Eileen Ogintz of TakingtheKids.com
shares her 51 top summer family vacation adventures. In alphabetical order, they are:
Costa Rica… The Galapagos Islands… Machu Picchu… American Canyonlands. You can have all the memorable adventures you want without any stress when you let the experts lead the way on trips that are geared and designed for families. Consider companies like Austin-Lehman
(especially known for Yellowstone), Lindblad-National Geographic
(known for family Galapagos trips), Thomson Family Adventures
, Wildland Adventures
, REI Adventures
and Mountain Travel Sobek
. Check out www.fsguides.com
for other guided adventure options in beautiful wild places. Australia-based Intrepid Travel
touts trips that might include a home stay with a local family. Try searching for whales with Sea Kayak Adventures
in British Columbia. Here’s what I wrote about climbing Kilimanjaro
with my daughter and touring the Galapagos Islands.
You can cruise the Inside Passage on many large cruise lines including Disney
this year—great for multi-generational families and those with young kids. But you can also tour Alaska on a different kind of cruise—from the 12-passenger Sea Wolf
that enables you to kayak every day in Glacier Bay to discovery ships with special family sailings from Inner Sea Discoveries
or Lindblad Expeditions
with National Geographic photography instructors on board. Here’s what I wrote about Sea Wolf. 3. ALOHA HAWAII
Especially if you are on the West Coast, you’ll find great deals in Hawaii like those from Pleasant Holidays
, where you can score an air-car-condo deal. Concentrate your stay on one island like Kauai where you can stay at an upscale resort like Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort
, the centrally located Kauai Marriott Resort
or a relaxed condo like The Colony Resort
on the North Shore and take your pick of adventures—surfing, snorkeling, hiking. Opt for Disney’s new Aulani Resort
on Oahu or visit the big island of Hawaii where you can visit Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
and see Kilauea Volcano. Here’s what I wrote about a recent trip to Kauai and to see the Aulani. 4. ARIZONA
may be hot in the summer but it’s got great hotel bargains and sites like the Grand Canyon. You can escape the heat lounging at the spectacular Scottsdale
resort pools congratulating yourself on the great deal you’ve gotten. Stay at the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess
, with fireworks every summer Saturday night for just $159 per night, which includes a $50 resort credit for dining, spa or tennis. The kids will love the dive-in movies! Take a ride down a 110-foot long waterslide and float down the lazy river at The Westin Kierland Resort & Spa
when you book a family fun pack with rates starting at $169. Plus, receive a $100 daily resort credit for dining, spa, golf or the Kid’s Club. My gang loved the 2.5 acre water playground and the Native American experiences at the Hyatt Regency
where you can get a fourth night free. When you’ve had enough of the pool Explore the Musical Instrument Museum’s
collection of 15,000 instruments from around the world through interactive displays for only $15 for adults and free for kids five and under or Take a flashlight tour at Desert Botanical Garden
. Let’s not forget Tucson
with equally terrific resorts, dude ranches and the first-rate Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum. Here’s what I wrote about a stay at a Scottsdale resort and on a train to the Grand Canyon.
, the gargantuan (3,500-room) Paradise Island resort boasts everything from a teen club CRUSH to cooking lessons for kids to interactions with dolphins and sea lions and an expansive Aquaventure Waterpark as well as spa treatments (for kids as well as parents), some 40 restaurants and lounges and summer fantasy camps
for everything from LEGO building to marine adventures to cheerleading. But despite kids eat and stay free deals, Atlantis can be expensive when you add up all of the activity charges. Here’s what I wrote about Atlantis. 6. BOSTON AND CAPE COD
There’s no better city to begin the college hunt (there are more than 50 in the Boston area), learn a little American history (think Freedom Trail
and Boston National Historical Park
) and experience a historic baseball park (Fenway
is celebrating its 100th anniversary!). That’s not counting the wonderful New England Aquarium
(go whale watching!), MIT Museum
(think robots) and the Museum of Fine Arts
, Museum of Science
and Boston Children’s Museum
among them. The iconic Fairmont Copley Plaza
is celebrating its centennial with several family packages. In celebration of the bicentennial of the War of 1812 and the writing of the Star Spangled Banner, majestic Tall Ships and Navy Ships from around the world will gather in Boston in the week leading up to July 4th. Head to The Cape for some fun in the sun on beach along the Cape Cod National Seashore
with lighthouses, wild cranberry bogs, miles and miles of beaches. Rent a house or opt for a resort like the newly renovated Ocean Edge
Resort and Golf Club with tennis, pools, beach, golf and access to the 26-mile Cape Cod Bike & Rail Trail
. Here’s what I wrote about learning African American history in Boston and to Provincetown.
7. CITY LIGHTS
Amtrak offers significant discounts for kids to let you explore a nearby city over a weekend when hotels are eager to fill rooms which means you will score a deal. For example, Omni Hotels & Resorts has launched Camp Omni, a deal that is good all summer and includes room discounts, breakfast buffet for kids, gift card for kids to use and even a collapsible water bottle. Check websites like www.getaroom.com
, or check www.craigslist.com
for apartment rentals in cities where you want to visit. Take a weekend to visit a city near your home—Baltimore
, Kansas City
and explore like a tourist. Go to a baseball game, a museum, a festival, a theatrical performance, a locally run restaurant; Check the city’s official tourism website for the latest deals and to see what special family offerings are available. Let each child plan a day of the itinerary. You will be amazed where they lead you! Here’s what I wrote about Baltimore and the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis, the largest in the country. 8. CALIFORNIA
Take your pick of Disneyland
(look for deals from Southwest Vacations
), Universal Studios Hollywood
. You can head to beach towns like Huntington Beach, explore museums and restaurants in San Francisco
, shop till you drop or check out a huge dino in Los Angeles
, maybe spying a celebrity. Want to commune with the animals? Go to the Monterey Bay Aquarium
in Monterey, the famous San Diego Zoo
or Sea World
. Relax at a resort like the historic Del Coronado
in San Diego touting special family packages, kids and teen club and even a teen spa. If you’ve never camped or just don’t want to sleep on the ground, check out places like El Capitan Canyon
in Santa Barbara, CA. There are bikes, hiking trails through the Canyon's 300 acres of undeveloped foothills, a heated swimming pool, and even massages in either a spa cabin or an open-air spa tent by the creek. Here’s what I wrote about the San Diego Zoo and Monterey. 9. COLLEGE TOURING
Leave the other kids in the family behind and opt for some one-on-one time with your high school junior. Stay in a Bed and Breakfast
near the campus to pick up some intel from locals. Don’t try to cram too many schools into one trip. They all start to seem the same! Check out www.goseecampus.com
, a free website offering the first online college trip planner for high school students and parents. Bring a lap top or iPad and have your high schooler jot down some thoughts after each visit. What did he like? What didn’t she like? And if you drive up to the campus and they refuse to get out of the car, keep driving. Here’s what I wrote about Boston college touring. 10. COOKING TOGETHER
Learn how to make a delicious Italian pizza or pasta by hand, while exploring regions of Italy famous for the culinary traditions along the way. Boston-based Lauren Birmingham Piscitelli
leads culinary tours in Italy with a focus on kids cooking — whether they are three or 18. Opt for a cooking class where you are visiting. Here’s what I wrote about a family cooking class in Mexico and in Italy 11. CRUISE
from a port near your home. You have more than two dozen to choose from. Even Disney Cruise Lines is now cruising from NYC as well as Seattle. Carnival just announced it will have a ship cruising year-round from NYC. Cruises are good bets for families whether the kids are preschoolers (organized activities!) or teens (all they can eat! A safe place to roam!). Some Royal Caribbean
ships and Disney Cruise Line
have day care for infants). You can cruise from more than two dozen U.S. ports (including New York, New Jersey, Galveston, TX and Los Angeles), which means you can avoid flights. Go for three days or a week. Invite grandma and grandpa along. Mega ships like Norwegian’s Epic
and Royal Caribbean’s Oasis and Allure offer something for every age group. Even luxe Crystal Cruises
offers special family reunion programs. And it’s not too late to snare a deal. Check websites like www.cruisecompete.com
for good deals. You can find a travel agent who is a cruise expert at www.cruising.org
. I’ve written about many family cruises in my cruises section.
12. DOWN ON THE FARM
Well recognized in Europe, farm vacations are gaining popularity here as farms offer overnight lodging, meals and a peek into their lifestyle. Here’s your chance for the kids to see where their food comes from! Eggs are collected fresh from the hen house; carrots are pulled from the ground, berries from a bush. There is a rhythm to the chores. There are stars in the sky. And, there is dinner (and play) all together as a family. Go to Farm Stay U.S.
for a directory with over 975 working farms and ranches across the U.S. (in all 50 states and U.S. Territories).
13. EUROPE STRESS FREE
If you want to introduce the kids to Great Sites but don’t want to spend your vacation navigating and lugging bags from train station to hotel, consider a special family-oriented tour from companies like Adventures by Disney, Tauck Tours,
or Abercrombie & Kent
. (Here’s what I wrote about one tour
.) More active families may like bike and other trips from companies like Backroads
. (Here’s what I said about a hiking trip in Italy
.) European cruises are a good way to introduce kids to famous sites, enabling them to return to the ship to familiar foods, English-speaking staff and new friends they’ve made in the organized kids’ clubs. Another plus: You pay one price in American dollars for food, lodging, on board entertainment and transportation from port to port. Check websites like www.cruisecompete.com
for good deals. Here’s what I wrote about one family cruise in Europe.
14. FAMILY CAMPS
Take your pick off camp-like resorts from Maine (Migis Lodge-
- here’s what I wrote about it
) to California (Montecito Sequoia Lodge and Summer Family Camp
. The Appalachian Mountain Club
has a variety of kids play and stay and eat free programs at their Cardigan Lodge. Many traditional camps also open their doors to families during specific weeks at the end of the summer. The American Camp Association’s Find a Camp database
lists over 400 family camps that are searchable by location, cost, activities offered, and more. (Start the search by selecting the 4th option, “Family Camps or Camps for Adults)
Head to a resort like Sandestin
on the Gulf Coast (here’s what I wrote about their tennis program
) where you can sign the kids—and yourselves–up for golf and tennis clinics as well as explore miles-long white-sand beaches. This summer Sandestin offers Mini Weeks….great for families/moms who can escape Sunday-Thursday….20% off (Code: BEACH). Check out Amelia Island
’s beautiful beaches. (Here’s what I wrote about Amelia Island.)
Collect shells in Sanibel
Anchor your gang at a Palm Beach
area resort and hit the spa and view the alligators in the Everglades. Tradewinds Island Grand Resort in St Petersburg has just opened a new floating water park in the Gulf of Mexico www.JustLetGo.com/Waterpark
while Loews Miami Beach Hotel
amped up its kid-friendly offerings as part of its $50 million renovation, complete with a retro ice cream ship and Sushi making lessons. Trump International Beach Resort
has a new all-inclusive "Stay a While" family travel package offering a 30% savings and starting at $2000 for five nights for a family of four.
16. FOLLOW THE SUN TO THE CARIBBEAN
Low season starts in mid-April which means prices drop dramatically. Look for packages like at St. Croix’s Buccaneer
which offers free breakfast, kids club and among many other amenities. Check out the new junior tennis camps at the beautiful yet quiet Curtain Bluff Resort
on Antigua and sailing programs for kids and teens at The Bitter End Yacht Club
on Virgin Gorda in the British Virgin Islands. Here’s what I wrote about our visit there.
Look for discounts at all-inclusive resorts like Beaches
in Jamaica and Turks & Caicos with special Sesame Street activities for the youngest travelers and tween and teen clubs for older siblings. (Here’s what I said about Beaches in Turks & Caicos.
) Jamaica’s Breezes Trelawney Resort
has everything from trapeze, rock-climbing, tennis lessons, to mini golf and a water playground. Barcelo Bavaro Beach Resort
in the Punta Cana, the Dominican Republic is touting its new renovation with a $1000 added-value resort credit and up to 25 per cent off while Turks & Caicos' The Sands at Grace Bay
luxury resort is offering a 4th Night Free summer travel with discounted rates can be as low as $169 per night. Or partake in the Cayman Summer Splash
, through which visitors get a 5th night free and $100 resort credit as well as family discounts for top island activities and dining.
17. FOLLOW YOUR PASSIONS
Or, learn something new together. Learn to scuba dive at a place like Bohio Resort
in Turks and Caicos. (Here’s what I wrote about our stay at Bohio.
) For more dive resorts and learning how to scuba dive, visit www.padi.com
. Explore a museum devoted to sport like the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame
in Springfield Mass where the game was first invented; music (the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame
in Cleveland, OH), spies (The International Spy Museum
in Washington DC) or baseball at the Baseball Hall of Fame
in Cooperstown, NY.
18. HILTON HEAD, SC
is a small island with, beautiful beaches, golf, tennis and more. The Sea Pines Forest Preserve within the Sea Pines Resort
offers boardwalks to explore the wetlands, observation decks, and a nice hike. The famous “Salty Dog” in Sea Pines is a marina area offering jet skiing, para-sailing, boat rentals, as well as a bar area near the beach. The Coastal Discovery Museum
has guided tours of the beaches. Explore via bike or kayak. Disney’s Hilton Head Island Resort
has the wide range of activities for kids and teens that other Disney Resorts have, but on a picturesque beach. Family activities are also included. Westin Resort Hilton Head Island
has a kids camp for ages four to twelve, which includes crafts, trips to the pool and beach, and more!
Build a trip around American history whether in the Historic Triangle
of Colonial Williamsburg, Jamestown and Yorktown, or Philadelphia
where you might meet “Betsy Ross” or see the Liberty Bell
in the new Liberty Bell Center. (Here’s what I said about historic Philadelphia and the Freedom Trail in Boston
). An international parade of ships will sail into Baltimore on June 13 for Star-Spangled Sailabration
, the national launch of the three-year commemoration by the U.S. Navy and the State of Maryland of the Bicentennial of the War of 1812 and the penning of “The Star-Spangled Banner.” If your family is into war history, you can also tour a battlefield like Valley Forge or Gettysburg. Gettysburg
is on the cusp of the 150th anniversary in 2013, but 2012 is an ideal year for families to take in America's most visited battlefield without as many visitors. Gettysburg is home to a 6,000 acre battlefield where families have more options to tour - including bicycle, Segway, and even horseback. In addition, re-enactors and living historians spend their weekends on the battlefield and throughout the town.
20. HISTORIC RESORTS
like The Broadmoor
in Colorado Springs, The Sagamore
on a private island in Lake George, NY, The Breakers Palm Beach
and The Homestead
, in West Virginia, which has been welcoming families for 200 years, offer you the chance to step back in time in gracious surroundings with 21st century amenities. The Homestead has just added a Mini Cascades miniature golf course and water slides and lazy river set to open in time for July 4th festivities; The luxe Breakers touts summer packages that include day camp, tennis, kids food and more. Here’s what I wrote about a stay at the Broadmoor.
21. HIT THE SLOPES—IN SUMMER
. Locals joke they came to a ski town for the slopes and stayed because of the summer. There’s nothing like that clear mountain air where you can hike, fish, mountain bike and more and score a bargain on lodging more than half off winter prices. Look for summer deals across the country at ski resorts from Vermont
. Ski towns like Aspen
tout festivals all summer long – in Aspen be sure to visit the Snowmass Ice Age Discovery Center
which celebrates the discovery of a huge cache of prehistoric Mastadon bones just in the past two years (Here’s what I wrote about it
). Lake Tahoe
of course draws families to water-based fun.
22. HOME AWAY FROM HOME
Whether you want to head to the mountain slopes or the beach, book a condo or vacation home and you can invite your favorite niece to babysit the toddler, join forces with another family (great for single parents!) or invite a friend for your teen or tween. Try sites like www.vrbo.com
where you can negotiate directly with a homeowner. TripAdvisor’s Flipkey.com
lets you read and write reviews on rentals. Look for free nights from www.resortquest.com
and deals from Luxury Link
. Here’s what I wrote about a villa in the British Virgin Islands and searching out different kinds of lodging abroad.
23. HOUSEBOATING ON LAKE POWELL
is a great laid-back vacation with family and friends. As you cruise through spectacular sandstone canyons on the border of Arizona and Utah — there are nearly 2,000 miles of coastline — you can swim, water ski, fish, explore side canyons, camp on the beach. Share a boat and the trip is even more economical. You can also houseboat elsewhere, of course. Houseboating.org gives you options around the country with some houseboats starting at under $500 a week. Here’s what I wrote about houseboating.
While the throngs head to the National Parks this summer, head into equally stunning country where few other families venture. Idaho has the largest single Wilderness Area in the lower 48 states and is a mecca for family exploration. Visit sites of the Lewis and Clark expedition
, the Nez Perce National Historical Park
at Spalding where families can participate in erecting a tipi, see a rich collection of tribal art and artifacts, interact with the hands-on exhibits and learn about the cultural heritage of the Nez Perce people. Then drive along U.S. Highway 12, a designated Great American highway and stay at River Dance Lodge
where all-inclusive packages for families include rafting, biking, hiking and more starting at around $160/person/day in log cabins complete with hot tubs.
25. KIAWAH ISLAND GOLF RESORT
, which has been ranked among the top family resorts nationally by Travel + Leisure, is an island resort off the South Carolina coast, about a 30-minute drive from historic Charleston. One of the most unique aspects of the island is its commitment to the environment. The Kiawah Conservancy
can show you how your kids and you can help. There are miles of bike trails, kayaks, fishing and Kamp Kiawah
offers kids an activity-filled day camp environment where they can play the day away.
26. LUDLOW’S S ISLAND RESORT
in Cook, Minnesota is on Lake Vermillion was a favorite of my kids when they were small because they could have the run of the island to chase frogs, splash in the lake or catch fish from the dock. We canoed, fished and went tubing and water skiing. There are only 20 cabins of various sizes tucked beneath the birch and pine trees but you aren’t roughing it—they are very well -equipped and the place, run by the same family for three generations, conducive to relaxing and making new friends.
You’ll find great deals at Mexico all-inclusives along the Riviera Maya, which is still considered safe place to vacation. Those who like history and archeology will be fascinated by visits to ancient Mayan towns, such as Tulum or Coba. Head to eco-cultural nature and water parks, Xcaret
, where you can swim with dolphins, drift on crystal-clear underground rivers or enjoy various shows by Mayan performers. Adventure lovers will enjoy zip-lining, ATV driving or horseback riding in the jungle, and snorkeling or diving in the Caribbean Sea that boasts the world’s second largest coral reef. Here’s what I wrote about the Riviera Maya and Oaxaca
. Check out the Azul Sensatori
(here’s what I wrote about it
), the new Villa del Parmar
Cancun–which offers fully equipped kitchen, and the luxury all-inclusive Grand Velas Resorts
in Riviera Maya and Riviera Nayarit are waiving the single supplement fee for single parents traveling with their children, and one child receives their stay at a 50% discount. You can opt for a condo hotel right in the fishing and tourist town of Playa del Carmen. Try Condo Hotels Playa del Carmen
with five boutique luxury properties, located right next to each other and by the sugary white sand beach.
28. MISSISSIPPI GULF COAST
30 miles of white beaches, water sports, nature parks & historic sites, culinary delights, and southern hospitality. Take the ferry out to Ship Island where historic Fort Massachusetts, crystal clear water, and a beach rated among the finest in the world await. And don't forget to look for the dolphins during your ride to and from the island. Take a tour aboard the Biloxi Shrimping trip and watch the captain haul in the nets and see what they catch for you. Choose from a day at the water park or a visit to our nationally acclaimed children's museum
. The whole family will enjoy an eco-tour
on the Pascagoula River where experienced guides bring you to those hard to reach areas to experience and enjoy native wildlife and vegetation. Along the beach, visitors can rent jet skis, kayak
, or just relax.
29. NATIONAL PARKS
There are 397 National Parks
to choose from besides Yellowstone, the Grand Canyon and Yosemite as wonderful as they are. For example, see towering trees in Sequoia & Kings Canyon in California, the fantastic Badlands of South Dakota, Theodore Roosevelt in North Dakota , the Black Canyon of the Gunnison or Mesa Verde in Colorado and Olympic National Park in Washington with its three distinct ecosystems and North Cascades in Washington. How about going to Carlsbad Caverns in NM to see the bats fly out at night? Here’s what I just wrote about National Parks and kids
30. NEW HAMPSHIRE AND MT. WASHINGTON VALLEY Mt Washington Valley
, NH located in the shadow of the tallest peak in the Northeast – Mount Washington. Giant swings, mountain coasters, indoor and outdoor water parks, Santa’s Village or Story Land, ziplines, BMX bike parks, mini-golf, climbing walls…There’s hiking and biking in the 660,000 acre White Mountain National Forest, natural swimming holes and pools, rock climbing lessons, 11 golf courses and incredible rock formations to explore. There’s a children’s museum and the only museum in the country dedicated to weather – filled with fabulous exhibits for kids and perfect for rainy days. There are even 200 outlets, boutiques and apparel stories for Back to School shopping – and it’s all tax-free! There are 10 campgrounds and more than 150 lodging properties from resorts and hotels to inns and B&Bs to affordable motels and hostels; not to mention 75+ restaurants with everything from family-friendly movie theaters and face painting while you wait for a table to international and fine dining! A family of four can enjoy a 3-day trip to Mt Washington Valley for under $400. Check out inexpensive lodging options from the Appalachian Mountain Club
where you can even hike and stay in mountain huts with the kids along your route.
31. NEW MEXICO
is celebrating the state’s Centennial and offers a great mix of history, culture in Santa Fe, Albuquerque and Taos, the chance to learn Native American history and outdoor adventures. Check out Bandelier National Monument, outside of Los Alamos (where the famous Los Alamos National Laboratories are located) and discover 12th-century Ancestral Pueblo cliff dwellings. In Albuquerque, kids will love the Albuquerque BioPark, which includes a zoo, botanic garden, aquarium and beach. Check New Mexico travel packages
. In particular, to celebrate the state's centennial year, take advance of the NM Centennial Package - book three nights and get the third night for just $19.12 (the year of New Mexico's statehood!) plus special dining discounts. Opt for the Hyatt Regency Tamaya Resort & Spa
that is located on the Santa Ana Pueblo and get a free night and free breakfast with special tribal experiences. Here’s what I wrote about hot air ballooning in Albuquerque.
32. NEW YORK CITY
is tops on every family’s wish list and it is easy to see why—from Broadway to world-class museums ( big ones like The American Museum of Natural History
and the Metropolitan Museum of Art
, and small ones like the Tenement Museum
among them) neighborhoods to explore, Central Park (go for a summer concert!) great sports (take your pick of two major league baseball teams—the Yankees
and the Mets
as well as the chance to see a minor league team
play) great eats and the 9/11 Memorial
. Come over a weekend when the business travelers are gone. Get a good deal by staying in Lower Manhattan
. Here’s what I wrote about the 9/11 Memorial
. And check out the new edition of my The Kid’s Guide to New York City
33. PARK CITY, UTAH
boasts great eats, a mountain coaster, zip line, mountain biking and unparalleled hiking. You can also stay in luxe condos or a resort like the Montage Deer Valley
or the Stein Eriksen Lodge
that you couldn’t afford in winter. Lodging prices drop as much as half in summer while this mountain town offers unique activities in the summertime, including rides on the bobsled track used in the 2002 Olympics and aerial ski shows at the Utah Olympic Park
; Alpine Coaster
rides at Park City Mountain Resort; free outdoor family-friendly concerts at Deer Valley Resort
, and (my personal favorite) the weekly Park Silly Sunday Market, a free eco-friendly outdoor festival on Lower Main Street filled with live music, costumed performers, artists, gourmet and kid-friendly food, kids' projects and a variety of vendors, from crafts to custom furniture. Park City is also the first and only destination to be named a Gold Ride Center
by the International Mountain Biking Association. Outdoor concerts – There is a free outdoor concert nearly every night of the week during the summer months in Park City. Some locations that play host are Deer Valley Resort, Canyons Resort, Newpark Town Center, Silver Star Café, and others. Deer Valley Music Festival
– Utah Symphony and Opera performs from mid-July to mid-August and venues throughout the Park City area. Here’s what I wrote about learning Park City History.
34. OREGON Southern Oregon is a family vacation paradise just seven hours north of San Francisco and four hours south of Portland, Oregon. The Oregon Shakespeare Festival
is one of the main attractions. Crater Lake National Park and the famous Rogue River where you can take the kids on a lodge-based wilderness rafting trip for 3- or 4-days with ROW Adventures
, starting at $879/person. There is also the Oregon Caves National Monument
with an underground cave tour. Make a loop and continue to the Oregon Coast
(Lincoln City is considered the Kite capitol of the world and the Oregon Coast Aquarium
in Newport is first rate) and south to Redwoods National Park
Every park has new attractions this summer — the water park at LEGOLAND Florida
, new parades, shows and Despicable Me attraction at Universal Orlando
, expanded Fantasyland at the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World
and TurtleTrek at SeaWorld.
Come in May and June to score a better hotel deal and avoid the crowds Check Visit Orlando
for the latest deals. TheMagicard
offers discounts on everything from attractions to accommodations and restaurants. Check out www.mousesavers.com
for deals on all things Disney. And, explore outside Orlando. An hour south is the “Space Coast” with the Kennedy Space Center, which offers a space camp and a number of picturesque beaches and nature refuges. Here’s what I just wrote about Universal Florida and what’s new.
36. PENNSYLVANIA DUTCH AND HERSHEY
Fashion a trip that combines Amish culture and “the sweetest place on earth.” In Lancaster County
– the heart of Pennsylvania Dutch Country – families can explore the nation’s original Amish community. For a fun introduction to the Plain culture, try one of the area’s interpretive attractions like the Amish Village
. Take a break Cherry Crest Adventure Farm
, with its Amazing Maize Maze. Vacation dollars go farther in Lancaster with loads of vacation packages and discount coupons, hotel rooms for as low as $109. Anyone who loves Chocolate loves Hershey, PA with Hersheypark
, Hershey’s Chocolate World
, concerts, golf and even a spa that offers Chocolate treatments
Your kids might never look at chores the same way again, once they’ve pitched in at a place like the Rockin’ R Ranch
in Utah, an authentic cattle ranch where besides riding they can try their hand at barrel racing, archery, roping, and more. Idaho Rocky Mountain Ranch
has its own natural hot spring that feeds directly into their pool. My gang loved Vista Verde Ranch
in Steamboat Springs, CO, as well as the 320 Guest Ranch
near Gallatin, Montana. Southern Oregon’s Aspen Ridge
is off the beaten path--a 14,000 working cattle ranch; Opt for an all-inclusive weekend Rodeo Package at Malibu Dude Ranch
in Milford, PA, where cowboys from across the country will compete in the only rodeo competition in the Eastern United States. Not only won’t you have to worry about entertaining the kids, you won’t have to worry about feeding them either because all the meals are included. The Dude Ranchers’ Association
can offer many more options. Check out the website
from a Montana mom who was raised on a ranch and is raising her kids on a ranch which focuses on top riding experiences at ranches in the U.S. and abroad. Here’s what I wrote about Vista Verde
and the 320 Guest Ranch
on the Middle Fork of the Salmon, the Green River, the Colorado through the Grand Canyon. You can go for a few days or a week. You’re guaranteed to be unplugged without cell service and to relax since the guides do all of the work, even preparing sumptuous meals and entertaining the kids. Check out companies like Western River Expeditions
, Dvorak Expeditions
offers some kids-free trips every summer Arizona River Runners
is known for their Grand Canyon trips, some as short as three days. Here’s what I wrote about rafting on the Yellowstone River
last summer. 39. RVING
Many suggest that despite high gas prices, RVing is cheaper than other vacations and for many it is a chance to experience the outdoors without dealing with tents and without bathrooms, showers and fridges with young kids. Just as important, parents say, are the instant friends they and their kids make at campgrounds. That never happens in a hotel. Nor do you have to corral kids in restaurants; they can run around all they like after they are done eating at a campground. Here’s what I wrote recently.
40. SAIL YOURSELF AWAY Moorings
are among the companies through which you can charter a yacht with or without a captain for a high-seas family vacation. Consider the British Virgin Islands, acknowledged as among the best boating destinations in the world, where you are rarely out of site of land and you’ll find discounts. With a “Powercat”, a family can cover a lot of ocean but there’s always the option of dropping the anchor and going snorkeling, scuba, fishing, reading, or sunbathing! Another option is Mexico’s Baja Peninsula near Cabo San Lucas and Baja California. The bodies of water include the Gulf of California and the Sea of Cortez, both with views of pristine beaches and beautiful mountain ranges. Here’s what I wrote about our most recent sailing trip.
41. SAN ANTONIO, TX San Antonio
boasts more than 300 days a year of sunshine, is home to The Alamo and The Riverwalk. The Alamo
has more than 2.5 million people a year visit and The Riverwalk is one of the most popular tourist destinations in all of Texas. The legend of The Alamo, complete with Davy Crockett and Jim Bowie, is one of America's most often researched US battles. The Alamo is an old mission that still rests on a 4.2 acre complex, complete with museum and monument to those who perished there, that is located in the middle of downtown San Antonio. There’s also SeaWorld
and the chance for some R&R at luxe resorts like the JW Marriott San Antonio Hill Country
with its six-acre water park and junior golf as academy and the Hyatt Regency Hill Country Resort and Spa
with its own huge water playground and junior spa.
42. SAN FRANCISCO and BEYOND
Cable Cars, Alacatraz, Sea Lions and The Golden Gate Bridge—San Francisco
has plenty offer kids of all ages. What I love is that the city is so unique! Talk to local farmers at the Ferry Building farmer’s market
and sample veggies you’ve never tried. Visit The Exploratorium
which will show you and your kids how science is really fun. Stay in a boutique hotel—San Francisco is known for them! Head north over the Golden Gate Bridge—celebrating it’s 75th anniversary
this year to see the Giant Redwoods in Muir Woods
, see how the Marine Mammal Center
in the Marin Headlands saves orphaned and sick sea lions and other marine mammals. Head south from San Francisco to Half Moon Bay
to explore tide pools, visit farms, fish and more. Here’s what I wrote about San Francisco’s museumsand the Marine Mammal Center.
43. SEA ISLAND
is a top nature destination and resort off the southeastern coast of Georgia that offers a wide array of family activities (tennis, squash, fishing, nature walks, cooking class, sea turtle excursions, etc), including “Camp Cloister,” for kids and programs like the Coastal Discoveries Program and the Survival Skills After Dark on Friday night where kids test their survival skills building fires, tying knots, pitching tents and reading a compass—topped off by s’mores.
44. SEATTLE AND SAN JUAN ISLANDS Seattle
is a great bet for families from the world-class aquarium
where you can learn all about Puget Sound sea life, Pike Place Market
(watch the experts throw fish!), the Space Needle, Pacific Science Center
and even the chance to be treated like Rock n’ Roll royalty at The Edgewater
, Seattle’s luxury waterfront hotel where rock’s biggest legends have stayed or at the kid-friendly boutique Kimpton Monaco
with its lobby toy chest. Then head to the San Juan Islands
, near Seattle, for the chance to kayak and to see Orcas in their home environment. About 80 orca whales frequent these waters, most often in the summer months, and can be seen close to the shore at Lime Kiln Point State Park, which has an interesting 1919 working lighthouse now a whale research station too.
45. SIERRA CLUB OUTINGS AND MORE
a variety of trips across the country designed for families-- Days are spent hiking trails, swimming in lakes, or exploring local attractions kayaking in North Carolina and whitewater rafting in the Adirondacks, among other places. Evenings include nature programs, crafts, and games. There are also family service trips, where children learn to be good stewards of the environment.
46. SPECIAL CHALLENGES If a child or a member of your family faces special challenges, that no longer should keep you home. Autism on the Seas
helps arrange vacations on land and sea for families with Autism, Asperger Syndrome and other Developmental Disabilities. The National Ability Center in Park City, Utah
and the National Sports Center for the Disabled
in Winter Park, CO offer many different outdoors programs for children with special challenges and their families. Walt Disney World
g et high marks from visitors with disabilities. There are special park maps and handheld devices for those with visual and hearing disabilities too.
47. STOWE, VT AND BEYOND Stowe
is my favorite Vermont town with the chance to do everything from visit a farmer’s market to Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream Factory,
to bike or in-line skate on the 5.3 mile Recreation Path
, ride the Alpine Slide, play golf, and mini-golf and hike along the Appalachian Trail.
You can stay anywhere from a luxury hotel to a condo to a kid-friendly Bed&Breakfast or a farm. Burlington
is nearby with its terrific Pedestrian Mall and the chance to cruise on Lake Champlain. Here’s what I wrote about Vermont in summer.
, especially if your kids are older. Organizations like Cross-Cultural Solutions
and Global Citizens Network
can help you find an appropriate volunteer opportunity. The website Together for Good
lists over 90 places that families can give back on a land-based vacation or cruise in the Caribbean, Mexico and Central America. Volunteer America
connects families with volunteer vacations on public lands all across the United States—from archeological digs to trail building and whale counting. But these trips often cost as much as a traditional vacation; the reward is in what you are doing and who you meet along the way. Greenloons
, the company that helps families make sustainable vacation choices, lists volunteer options on its website to combine touring in countries like Cambodia and China with volunteer programs.
49. YMCA of the ROCKIES
Estes Park Center and Snow Mountain Ranch in Colorado for family camping and reunions. They host so many family reunions that they have a dedicated staff and plenty of activities for everyone in the gang—hiking, horse back riding, crafts, archery, fishing, mountain biking and even a zipline and accommodations ranging from cozy cabins to hotel-style rooms—all at an affordable price. Here’s what I wrote
about them. Great Wolf Lodges
have affordably priced resorts around the country from Williamsburg, VA to the Wisconsin Dells to Grand Mound, WA that are known for their indoor water parks and growing roster of family amenities for kids (think specially designed bowling alleys and “glowing” night time mini golf) to spas (receive 15% off any suite style room when you book Sunday-Thursday, June 4-July 26. Enter code: SUMMERSAVE.
cruise in Maine where kids have the opportunity to help sail historic vessels and learn traditional skills like knot tying, steering, hauling sails, polishing brass, rowing, cranking ice cream. There’s plenty of shore time for tidal pool exploration, swimming, berry-picking, stone skipping and seaglass hunting Windjamming is like camping at sea: stargazing, storytelling, singing, games.
51. WHISTLER, BC AND BEYOND Whistler
offers all varieties of outdoor fun—golf, hiking, mountain biking, ziplines, canoes, fishing, even the chance to see bears. Stay in a two-bedroom suite in the Pan Pacific Whistler at the base of the mountain, in the heart of the village. Sunwolf
, located 45 minutes from Vancouver and a half hour from Whistler in the Coast Mountains with some of BC’s best whitewater rafting and fishing, is touting discounts if you book by June 15. Take time to explore Vancouver
, one of the most beautiful cities in the world and then travel across British Columbia by train
on the Rocky Mountaineer.