You’ve walked the black-sand beaches of Hawaii, and while you fell in love with the lazy island breezes, you no doubt spent a lot of money on a vacation that bored your kids to tears. So you decided to make up for it with a trip to the happiest place on Earth: Disneyland. And although your children were overjoyed, a harrowing day of waiting in lines, being crushed by a crowd, frantically trying to keep a hold of your kids, and dining on greasy, sugary park food left you less than thrilled at the prospect of future visits. You just wish you could find a vacation destination to meet the needs of the whole family! Lucky for you, there are plenty of family-friendly travel locations throughout the United States that will offer fun for your kids and a little relaxation for the adults. Here are just a few you may want to check out.
1. San Diego, CA. From Balboa Park to Sea World to the San Diego Zoo, there are a host of spectacular attractions that will delight your children (without the frenzy of a theme park). In addition, you can stroll the wharf for a little light shopping with an ocean view, or visit some of the many excellent eateries and shops located in the historic Gaslamp District. If you decide you want a day on the beach, La Jolla will meet your needs and even has fire-pits in the sand so you can have an ocean-side BB. And if you cover all these attractions there are many day trips from San Diego that will keep your family busy.
2. Steamboat, CO. If you’re looking for a getaway in a winter wonderland, you could do worse than Colorado. Skip the touristy (and expensive) locations like Aspen or Vail and head for Steamboat instead. Get a centrally located cabin and set the kids up with some ski lessons while you lounge by the fire and sip cocoa (or hot buttered rum). Then take the gondolas to a nearby restaurant row, or arrange a day-trip to Strawberry Park Hot Springs for a relaxing soak in the warm mineral waters.
3. Arches National Park (near Moab), UT. If your kids are outdoorsy types, a camping trip on the edge of the Grand Canyon might pique their interest (and offer you some much-needed R and R). The visitor center can help you plan out guided tours and hands-on activities for the kids (including informative Junior Ranger activity books), or you can simply marvel at the majesty of the soaring arches, ephemeral pools, and fiery furnaces. This spectacular park is sure to delight and amaze the whole family.
4. Orlando, FL. Sure you can visit the theme parks, but there’s a lot more to do than sample foods of the world at Epcott Center. For example, check out the natural wildlife at one of many nearby alligator farms. Or if the snappers make you nervous, take the short trip to Kennedy Space Station, where you can tour exhibits, meet real astronauts, suit up for the Astronaut Training Experience, and embark on the Shuttle Launch Experience. If you time it right, you can even witness a shuttle launch at close range, and you can always take your family to Disney World!
5. Castaway Cay, Bahamas. Okay, so the Bahamas aren’t actually part of the United States. But since Disney owns an island in this Caribbean commonwealth and you can only reach it by cruise ships leaving the coast of Florida, it can be considered an excellent vacation destination to take the kids. And really, the Disney cruise offers the best of both worlds. Kids can take part in fun activities and meet their favorite cartoon character on board while parents will enjoy the all-inclusive nature of the trip (lodgings, food, and transportation in one!) along with the warm waters and sunny beaches of Castaway Cay (not to mention a stopover in Nassau for a bit of shopping).
Sarah Danielson writes for Tour Dust, an adventure travel website for independent travelers who are looking to book holidays and tours from expert local tour operators [Photo credit: davecobb@flickr]
Which of these have you visited with your family already? What other destinations do you recommend? Comment below and share this post!