Why: Santa Fe is a creative vortex that thrives at 7,200 feet, at the foothills of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, attracting artists and healers from around the world. It’s an ideal getaway for nature lovers, art enthusiasts and spa seekers. Surrounded by natural beauty, the city’s roots go deep with a Native American, Hispanic and Anglo heritage. This year, the city is 407 years old and is the oldest capital city in the United States. It's home to 250 restaurants, more than 300 art galleries, at least a hundred boutique shops and a dozen festivals and fairs. Some of the highlights include strolling along Canyon Road and visiting a mile of art galleries. Visit the oldest house in the U.S. and attend mass at the oldest church in the U.S. — the San Miguel Chapel. See over 130,000 folk art objects from more than 100 countries at the Museum of International Folk Art for $12 admission. Check the Santa Fe Tourism Office Calendar for events and festivals, as well as historic walking tours (only $14), cooking classes and more. Don't miss the pulled pork sandwiches at Whole Hog Café (from $3.99) and be sure to sample their six signature sauces. On Saturdays, stop by the Farmer’s Market and try local dishes at food stands. Find winter promo rates at La Posada de Santa Fe, a luxury hotel starting at $99 per night. Fly into Albuquerque and rent a car to drive to Santa Fe (Hertz has deals as low as $13.99 per day), so you can take day trips to Taos and Chimayo or go hiking at Bandelier National Park.
With mild weather and plenty of museums to explore, Denver is a family-friendly and affordable summer vacation this year. According to WalletHub’s Best Places to Visit in Summer, Denver ranks sixth, earning a spot for its low travel costs and minimal hassles. KAYAK’s 2018 Travel Hacker guide also lists median airfare to Denver under $250 round-trip from the U.S. and Canada for the summer months, and median hotel nightly rates around $150. Flights found on Fareness are cheapest ($145 round-trip) from Los Angeles and New York City ($182) in September.
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Since no one has time to check flight prices constantly throughout the day, it’s a good thing that you can ask someone else to do the searching for you. Sign up for a fare alert, which is a subscription notification (usually via email) that provides a selection of flights and prices to a chosen destination. For example, I receive a daily email that tells me the cheapest flights over the next six months to London, Paris, and Bora Bora.
Disney Cruises for Families: Disney Cruises are such a favorite with kids that they deserve their own mention. Disney has four ships designed with kids in mind, complete with a theater and a cinema playing all of the kids’ favorite Disney movies. There are several pools to choose from, with water slides and other water fun. Dream and Fantasy ships feature the AquaDuck with a transparent, acrylic tube that spans four decks of the ship and over the side of the ship over the ocean. The spa is meant for adults only, so you can enjoy a peaceful time to yourself while kids participate in the children’s program. Kids are divided into several age groups: infant – 3, 3 – 4, 5 – 7, 8 – 9, and 10 – 12. Teens have access to a private club, featuring plush couches, games and a bar serving soft drinks. Keep reading for more best family vacations.
Puebla: Once considered a nice day trip from Mexico City (it’s two hours away by car), Puebla is emerging as a primary destination in its own right. After all, it’s not a small village; Puebla is Mexico’s fourth-largest city, with some of the country’s best examples of Spanish colonial architecture. Additionally, at 7,200 feet above sea level, Puebla never gets too hot, and it’s considered one of the safest places in Mexico. Getty Images/iStockphoto
Why: Following the devastation caused by Hurricane Maria, travelers might be reluctant to visit the territory of Puerto Rico. But, on a recent visit to the island to help rebuild some of the most popular tourist attractions, I was thrilled to see that Puerto Rico is thriving and really is open for business. If you don’t have a passport — or if you have one that’s closed to expiring or being filled — one of the best parts about visiting Puerto Rico is that no passport is needed for U.S. citizens. With plenty to see both in San Juan — from the charm and bright colors of Old San Juan to checking out where one of the most famous rums in the world is made at the Bacardi Factory ($15 for a historical tour) — and outside, such as a trip to El Yunque National Forest, you'll be kept busy. Flights to San Juan generally will run you less than $250 from the East Coast, making it a perfectly close and affordable getaway. While there are several affordable chain hotels, boutique hotels flourish — especially in Old San Juan. Check out The Gallery Inn or Decanter Hotel.
Where to stay: Tanque Verde Ranch is celebrating its 150th anniversary this year, and they’re offering a special $150-per-night family stays for the entire summer. The family-owned property provides an authentic wild west experience with horseback riding and much more, through Arizona’s most breathtaking desert landscapes of the Rincon Mountains. The $150 for the 150th special includes breakfast and free use of the pool and general facilities. A kids camp, great for ages 4 to 12, is available for an extra fee, as is horseback riding, biking, and guided hikes.
What to do: Get there first thing in the morning because you’ll want to make the most of every second. Ride Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey first: Muggles meet Dumbledore, join a Quidditch match, and encounter a Whomping Willow. Next, conquer the ultra-fast Dragon Challenge coaster and the tamer Flight of the Hippogriff; then go wand shopping at Ollivanders (if you're lucky, the wand will choose you).
No. 3. Ka'anapali Beach – Lahaina, Hawaii. Among the most visited beach in West Maui, this area is a popular spot for quiet relaxation or water sports. It’s also famous for the daily cliff diving ceremony off of the beach’s northernmost cliffs known as “Puu Kekaa” or Black Rock. According to a TripAdvisor reviewer, “Amazing this time of year. Right from the beach we saw amazing whale breaches. The sand is amazing and the beach is well kept up!” • Beachfront bargain hotel nearby: Lahaina Shores Beach Resort, from $289 per night on TripAdvisor • Great airfare found on TripAdvisor: As low as $382 round-trip from SFO (San Francisco) to OGG (Kahului) TripAdvisor
What to do: Rent a car and head for the crater! After hiking around La Soufriere Volcano’s hot springs, let the kids throw mud at each other in a mud bath. (You can relax in the mineral waters beneath a waterfall.) Of course, you can’t visit St. Lucia without spending time on the water. Joys Adventure Excursion & Coastal Cruises has a highly coveted 5-star TripAdvisor rating and offers kids the chance to swim at Lover’s Rock as seen in Disney’s "Pirates of the Caribbean."
The most well-known family attraction in Huntsville is the U.S. Space and Rocket Center. Here, you’ll find an awe-inspiring collection of rockets (including a rare Saturn V), a space shuttle, and plenty of NASA memorabilia. This is an understandably popular attraction, so it’s a good idea to book your tickets in advance. If your kids are more interested in natural phenomena, they’ll be enchanted by the 1,000s of butterflies, along with turtles and frogs, in the Purdy Butterfly House at Huntsville Botanical Garden.
The Magdalena Grand Beach Resort, set among a virgin mangrove forest and lush tropical vegetation, offers the ultimate escape to paradise at a more affordable price. It includes lots of family-friendly features, like three large swimming pools and a free kids’ club with the chance to learn about Tobago’s green, leatherback and hawksbill turtles. A free shuttle will bring you to popular Pigeon Point beach, while the complimentary buffet breakfast offers lots of tasty hot items, including an omelet station. Rooms feature ocean view balconies and even marble baths, along with numerous dining and drinking options, including a piano bar and a coffee shop.
Why: The Central Coast runs roughly from Santa Barbara to Monterey and the string of small towns between San Simeon and Pismo Beach is an unexpected surprise for many California coast road trippers. This is where SoCal surf town meets fishing village, and otters and elephant seals share the spotlight with European masterpieces at the Hearst Castle. Veer away from the coast and in a few minutes you'll find yourself at the wineries of Paso Robles, with tastings that are half the price of Napa and Sonoma. Adelaida is open daily; for a special hilltop tasting, try their Vineyard Tour, Taste and Tailgate. An emphasis on eating local and fresh creates foodie-worthy dining options throughout the region. Pismo Beach and quaint Moonstone Beach in Cambria offer the largest selection of lodging with the best value outside of the holidays and summer. Guests at Cambria Shores Inn relax each evening in Adirondack chairs positioned perfectly to take in the sunset. Afterwards, take a five-minute stroll to Sea Chest Restaurant for local seafood or drive to the Cracked Crab in Pismo Beach where the Deadliest Catch crew dined and all things crab are on the menu.
What to do: See Old Faithful, which shoots steam sky-high every 90 minutes, and then move on to the other geysers, stinky mud pots and multi-colored hot springs within walking distance (check out the flower-shaped Morning Glory Pool). Yellowstone is also a great place to spot wildlife: Bison, elk, bears, wolves and Bighorn sheep all hang out here. If you visit in the winter (when it’s easiest to spot wildlife) take the kids on their very first snowcoach tour. For summer fun, fly high at West Yellowstone’s Zipline Adventure Park.
Finding a destination that has multigenerational attractions and dining and hotel options that can accommodate groups can be difficult. Finding a vacation spot that won't destroy your wallet can be even tougher. Based on traveler feedback, editor analysis and factors like sights and accessibility, U.S. News compiled a list of the best affordable, kid-friendly locales that won't break the bank. Use these rankings to start devising travel plans for a trip – but first, vote for your favorite family vacation destinations below.
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