Merida and Valladolid: Gerardo Tanaka Pacheco, senior account executive for MSL Group, the public relations firm for VisitMexico.com, recommends these two towns as great alternatives to other nearby tourist hot spots. “A lot of people go to Playa del Carmen and Tulum, but on the Yucatan Peninsula there are these two beautiful colonial cities that are so welcoming, colorful, and full of traditions that travelers won’t regret visiting them,” he says. Getty Images/iStockphoto
Attractions, Family, Kids (Amusements, aquarium, mini golf, museums, etc.) Nature, Sports & Outdoors (National park, hiking, horseback riding, trout fishing, whitewater rafting, skiing & snow, golf, shooting sports, etc.) Arts & Cultural (Crafts, demonstrations, music, winery, etc.) Entertainment & Special Events (Parades, exhibits, live shows, food, etc.) Shopping (Mountain crafts, galleries, candy, etc.) Dining (Casual, southern, ethnic cuisine, etc.) Weddings/Marriage (Chapels, ministers, flowers & photography, etc.) Transportation (Maps, driving tours, etc.)
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.
Why: This small island nation is easy on the wallet and big on experiences. I came here on a three-week tour expecting to be a beach bum, but instead, found so much more: delicious (albeit spicy) food, stunning ancient rock formations in Sigiriya, surfing at Arugam Bay, and some of the most physically rewarding hikes I’ve ever done. Climbing to the top of Adam’s Peak and (barely) surviving the 5,500 steep stairs that make up this pilgrimage, with the help of a friend and a monk, taught me some inner lessons about strength and power. Don’t miss a chance to visit Ella, a small mountain town with a laid-back hippy vibe, accessible via a scenic train ride from Kandy that will cost you less than $10 and bring you past stunning tea plantations. The real magic of the country is outside of Colombo, but since your flight will always begin/end here, I strongly recommend starting your trip with a stay at Penthouse Above Sea ($100 a night). The amazing woman who runs this property can help you plan your time in the country.
Akumal is a snorkeling and diving haven with numerous lagoons and natural parks. Mayans referred to this spot as the "Place of the Turtle" and today it draws droves of tourists hoping to catch a glimpse of these creatures in their natural habitat. Like the rest of the Riviera Maya, Akumal features a slew of affordable hotels, motels and all-inclusive resorts. (Getty Images)
According to USA Today, the Better Business Bureau files well over 1,000 complaints in a single year from victims of “free” cruise scams. Other “too good to be true” deals may not be actual scams, but may require you to participate in a sales presentation, commonly for a time-share. Be alert, be skeptical, and be willing to put in the time to verify anything that doesn’t feel right.
Why you’ll love it: You can explore more than 300 miles of shoreline jetting out into Lake Michigan and Green Bay in Door County all dotted by charming communities and a Midwestern friendliness that will make you feel like you stepped back in time. Younger kids will enjoy peering through the periscope at Door County Maritime Museum with views of Sturgeon Bay and active shipyards; teens will enjoy hiking, biking, and kayaking along the Mink River Estuary. Everyone will love the classic Skyway Drive-In and the creamy treats served up at the old-fashioned soda fountain at Wilson ice Cream Parlor.
Some of the top destinations for families are the Caribbean, Florida, California and Hawaii, attracting vacationers with their sandy beaches and colorful sunsets, especially during the colder months and in the summer when there is no school and kids can get away for a longer vacation. Many families enjoy cruises which allow them to see many destinations in a short span of time. Mega cruise ships offer a wide variety of activities, from pools and waterslides to rock climbing and kids' clubs. Consider the season - the destinations that work best in the spring and summer may not be as interesting in the winter. Resorts with water parks include the Arizona Grand Resort, the Lake Lanier Islands, the Gaylord Palms Resort. Unique getaways in the U.S. include The Cloister at Sea Island, The Bishop's Lodge, Hilton Hawaiian Village and Grand Wailea Resort.
On an eight-day trip with Un-Cruise, adventures include touching anemones in tide pools and looking at plankton kids have collected under the microscope. Movie nights and dance parties keep the group camaraderie going on board. Book the Inner Reaches Eastern Coves itinerary for access to harbor seals in Endicott Arm, humpbacks in Stephens Passage, and lessons in Tlingit and Haida culture.
The small volcanic island of Milos features white sand beaches, its own thermal springs and a plethora of diving options for scuba enthusiasts. Archaeological ruins are also abundant, making this island an enviable option for those interested in Greek history and culture. Travelers will enjoy the mouthwatering and affordable Greek fare and inexpensive guest house accommodations on this island. (Getty Images)
New Hampshire’s White Mountains are considered the crown jewel of the state, home to the highest peak in the Northeast, and filled with pristine lakes and dense forest. By staying at the American Mountain Club’s rustic Highland Center lodge, you’ll have access to all types of activities, from guided scenic hikes to spots like the gorgeous Presidential peaks while learning about the area’s geology, nature and picking up some outdoor skills. You can also enjoy splashing around in the pools underneath Arethusa or Ripley Falls, and even rock climbing on the nearby Frankenstein Cliffs. The lodge itself serves hearty home-cooked meals to fuel those adventures, with all meals included in room rates.
Where to stay: With its private beach, private farm (where the kids can learn how to milk cows and make corn tortillas) and resident monkeys and sloth, there’s no place on earth quite like Morgan’s Rock Hacienda and Ecolodge. Jicaro Island Ecolodge Granada is another unique property where you feel like you have the island to yourself — until the birds wake you up in the morning.
Why: It might be expensive to get to the Northern Territory of Australia, but the investment of money and time is worth it to experience this once-in-a-lifetime destination. The Northern Territory of Australia is best known for Australia’s most famous natural landscape, the dual World Heritage listed, Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, which spans 311,000 acres of wilderness. Australia’s spiritual center, Ayer’s Rock, is all lit up by internationally acclaimed artist Bruce Munro’s immersive installation, “Field of Light Uluru.” The exhibition has been so popular since it launched in April 2016 that the artist has agreed to keep the installation open until December 31, 2020. Voyages Indigenous Tourism Australia sustainably manages Ayers Rock Resort on behalf of the Indigenous Land Corporation, and all profits from the business go toward supporting indigenous training and employment across Australia. Safari in Australia? What's that you say, mate? The diverse geographic terrain of the Northern Territory allows for travelers to go from the Outback to the tropical Top End, which experiences some of the dramatic climatic extremes of any region in Australia. The coastal floodplains are Australia’s answer to the Okavango Delta and the Kakadu and Arnhem Land are the heartland of indigenous culture. Stay at Kakadu Lodge and Caravan Park for as little as $78 a night, where you can save your money for the ultimate treat: a stay at the bucket list-worthy Bamurru Plains, a bush camp on the edge of the Kakadu National Park.
The 22-acre Hilton Hawaiian Village Waikiki Beach Resort complex, set on the widest strip of beach in Waikiki, is a family-entertainment mecca. You can swim, surf, snorkel and paddleboard right from the hotel. Ideal for little ones is its beachfront lagoon, which lets them experience salt water without the big waves. Four nights of the week, the hotel stages Waikiki's only outdoor luau, with traditional food, Polynesian dancing and music, and fire dancers. The resort's Spirit of Aloha snorkel tours include a visit to Turtle Canyon. Sea turtles come to a spot where fish "clean" them before the turtles push off, making way for the next ones in line. If you don't want to get wet while experiencing the ocean, descend 100 feet in an Atlantis Submarine to see reefs, sunken boats and planes, along with fish, sharks and turtles. — Todd Pitock
Guanajuato: Why visit Guanajuato? Think old mines, a mummy museum and streets so narrow that one is called the Alley of the Kiss because couples can smooch one another from opposite sides. You can visit Guanajuato as a day trip from nearby San Miguel de Allende or use it as a home base in itself. Visitors to the area are mostly native Mexicans, so you can immerse yourself in the culture fairly well; try a miner’s enchilada if you get a chance. Getty Images/iStockphoto
Budget tips: There’s plenty to do for free in Rapid City: Visitors can participate in a free, interactive walking guide of the City of Presidents, a series of life-size bronze statues of our nation’s past presidents along the city’s streets and sidewalks. A slight detour leads into Art Alley, a stunning expression of Rapid City’s creative community. After a day of exploring, cap off the day with a stroll through Main Street Square, a community hub featuring year-round free events for travelers to enjoy, as well as public art such as The Sculpture Project.
Why you’ll love it: For tweens and teens, this getaway is a perfect fit; it’s 35 miles east of Los Angeles, but without all the traffic and commotion, so they can explore on their own without parents worrying. Claremont Village is home to over 150 shops and restaurants (don’t miss the I Like Pie Bakeshop or the frozen treats at 21 Choices) and where you’ll want to spend your evening. The Raymond M. Alf Museum of Paleontology and Folk Music Center are local favorites to visit, and there are events going on every week throughout the summer.
Why you should go: The landlocked country has a rich indigenous culture (por ejemplo: you can buy dried llama fetuses from colorfully dressed mamitas in the markets of La Paz), and a stunning range of landscapes, from rust-colored desert where dinosaurs once trekked to lush pampas and jungles to the otherworldly expanse of the Salar de Uyuni, where the horizon disappears between ground and sky. Adventurous spirits can find some of the cheapest paragliding in the world in Cochabamba, while mountaineers can tackle the 21,000ft high Nevado Sajama. The rest of us can wander around charming cities like Sucre, or take in the mesmerizing sunsets of Lake Titicaca, as beautiful to behold as it is fun to say. - Laura Yan, Thrillist contributor
This Oregon city is a haven for outdoorsy families. During the warmer months, travelers with kids can offset pricey room rates by sticking to free attractions like Forest Park and Tom McCall Waterfront Park – the latter boasts a large water fountain for children to play in. Another option: Peruse the 2 million volumes on sale at Powell's City of Books. Read More »
With four-color illustrations and packed with real-world science, The Vacation Guide to the Solar System is the must-have planning guide for the curious space adventurer, covering all of the essentials for your next voyage, how to get there, and what to do when you arrive. Written by an astronomer who presents at the Hayden Planetarium and one of the creators of the Guerilla Science collective, this tongue-in-cheek reference guide is an imaginative exploration into the "What if" of space travel, sharing fascinating facts about space, the planets in our solar system, and even some moons!
The Cairo: D.C. has a height limit and this is the building that caused it. One of the first residential towers to employ steel frame construction, it was taller than most fire truck ladders could reach. This "moorish pile of bricks" was fashionable but then was in rough shape by the 1960s and now is a lovely Dupont Circle condo. Thomas Franklin Schneider, architect. Justin A. Wilcox
Punta Cana features beaches with soft golden sands, crystal clear waters and all-inclusive resorts galore. Travelers can save a bundle by choosing one of the many affordable all-inclusive hotels available. These resorts allow guests to combine food and drink, as well as on-site and some off-site activities, for one low price – all in an idyllic setting along the Caribbean Sea. (Getty Images)
Huatulco: A beach town located in Oaxaca to the southwest of Puerto Escondido, Huatalco offers tons of water activities such as snorkeling and scuba diving, some nearby surf spots, and tours of coffee farms to boot. While Huatulco itself is considered one of the safest places in Mexico, the State Department is restricting travel along Highway 200 in the area (except to and from the airport), so you may not want to wander too far. Getty Images/iStockphoto
Why: For an epic adventure that won't break your travel piggy bank, head to the Komodo Islands , named one of the New 7 Wonders of Nature. Most of the islands in Indonesia are incredibly undermined because of how popular Bali is, but Komodo and its surrounding islands are definitely worth a visit. As the name implies, Komodo is the native home of the terrifying mini-Godzillas known as Komodo Dragons. To see them, you go on an incredible boat tour that takes you to a tri-color beach island and swimming with wild manta rays. Getting to Komodo from Bali costs about $40 by boat or $200 for a flight, and accommodation and food is super cheap because, well, it's Indonesia after all.
What to do: First, sign up for the Very Important Kids Snowmass program to see the resort’s daily child-friendly programming and packages. Then, drop the younger ones (2-4) off at The Treehouse Kids Adventure Center for their lessons and then head to Camp Aspen with the older kids and pre-teens for their programs. In the afternoon, meet up to ski together, go tubing or take a free naturalist tour. End the day by enjoying a Snowcat dinner or a family Chuckwagon Dinner hosted at a remote cabin showcasing a quieter side of the mountain.
Why you’ll love it: Devastated by a double hit of Mother Nature in 2017, Puerto Rico is recovering from the storms and is focused on welcoming families for summer vacation. From Miami, flights to the historical city of San Juan start at just $99 round trip on Frontier Air. Since you don’t need a passport to visit the Spanish-speaking island (it’s a U.S. commonwealth), it’s a great easy first cultural trip for elementary school-aged kids.
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