We all love family vacations but sometimes get in a rut by heading out for the same destination year after year. Kids learn more when they take part in different kinds of adventures—and such adventures provide amazing memories for the whole family!
1. Down at the Boardwalk
Nothing says summer vacation like a classic boardwalk. Kids love to see the sights and enjoy boardwalk food like hot dogs, fries, and funnel cakes. By day you can people watch, hit the beach, or visit the amusement park. As night rolls in, a long family walk will include boardwalk entertainers and ice cream, not to mention glorious sunsets. Often there is live music or movies under the stars. Check out National Geographic’s list of top 10 boardwalks.
2. Education Vacation
Educational trips can be fun and will broaden the horizons of everyone in the family. Plan an overnighter to a large science center and spend a day or two immersed in learning fun! If the science museum has an Imax theater and a planetarium, be sure not to miss them. An aquarium or history museum is another idea. Every state has educational sites to visit. Some well-known sites include the Liberty Science Center in New Jersey, the Air and Space Museum in Washington D.C, the Space and Rocket Center in Alabama, the Georgia Aquarium, the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago, the Museum of Natural History in New York, and the Pacific Science center in Seattle. Parents.com shares their top 10 science centers here.
3. Hit the Big City
New York is an amazing place to visit. From noisy and bright Times Square to Central Park, there’s fun at every corner. Enjoy the theater district, Rockefeller Center, terrific shopping, and lots of walking. Consider a bus tour of the city and don’t forget to go to the top of the Rock or the Empire State Building for the scenic city views. A visit to One World Trade Center is a very moving experience. If you can’t make it to New York City, there are plenty of other cities around the country. Chicago, Atlanta, Houston, Dallas, San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle … you choose. Each one offers a unique feel and many things to do. Try Washington D.C for all the free museums! Travelocity lists the 20 best cities to visit with families.
4. Explore the Countryside
Stay on a working farm or spend the week in the country at a small inn or hotel. Let the kids see animals that aren’t in cages. Enjoy the fresh air (city and suburb kids especially love this) and spend days in country stores, hiking, biking, and eating fresh food away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Many farms let you feed a baby animal, brush a horse, watch cow milking, and take part in farm chores. Some offer classes on cheese making, gardening, canning, or cooking. Farmstayus.com offers ways to find a farm and a travelers guide. There are also dude ranches where families can horseback ride over breathtaking countryside.
5. Wild Theme Park Vacation
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Disney, because every child should visit Disneyland or Disneyworld at least once! Stay on Disney property, if you can, plan on spending several days to take it all in. There are so many other fantastic theme parks from coast to coast. Visit Six Flags, Dollywood, Sandusky, or one of dozens more. Consider water parks for a day of wet fun and a break from the summer heat. Many parks, like Hersheypark, have both dry and wet rides, so pack the suits and towels too! Travel Channel lists their top 10 amusement parks.
6. Once in a Lifetime
This one depends on your family’s interests (and budget). Perhaps it’s swimming with dolphins, a helicopter adventure into the Grand Canyon, a celebrity meet and greet, a road trip in a rented RV, or a Disney cruise. Maybe you want to catch the sunrise from the top of a volcano crater in Hawaii or head out of the country for a safari? If your family is into sports, maybe you dream of attending Olympics, the Superbowl, or the World Series? Talk it over in a family meeting and choose your dream destination, then start planning your trip.
7. International Travel
Let the kids experience a new culture. See how others live, listen to a different language, and try new foods. If you don’t want to fly, drive to Canada or Mexico. Or consider popular destinations like Costa Rica, Iceland, England, and Italy. Choose a place your heart desires (and your wallet can afford)! Parents.com lists many terrific international travel for families.
8. Explore the National Parks
Head to one of the many spectacular parks in the United States. You can check out Yellowstone, Grand Canyon, Yosemite, Glacier, Zion, and more. Let the family explore our landmarks and the beauty of nature. There’s really nothing quite like the enormous size of these parks. Take in the mud spots, hot springs, geysers, stone formations, red rocks, natural bridges and acres and acres of pristine wilderness. Some areas are booked years in advance so start planning this trip early, especially if you plan on visiting in the summer when school is out.
9. Hit the Rails
Most kids love trains and even teens enjoy them. Get a break from driving and an experience you’ll always remember. Whether traveling through open lands, lush forests or scenic mountains, trains are fun ways to travel. No traffic and plenty of window seats make it a pleasurable time all. The lulling sounds of the train are hypnotic and the rhythmic sway is relaxing. Try americabyrail.com or Amtrak, which travels to over 500 places.
10. Cold Weather Adventure
Even families that don’t love the cold (like mine) should experience a trip that involves snow and mountains. Skiing, snowboarding, tubing, or any outside adventure that concludes with a marshmallow roast and a hot tub will make for an outstanding day. Bonus points if it snows while you’re there! You can stay at large lodges or small cabins. Families can take snowboard or ski lessons or sign up for group excursions. From coast to coast, we have stunning ski resorts, mountain chalets, and beautiful old lodges. They all offer spectacular nature views and family activities day into night. After a day outside, a night by a fire is the perfect way to relax with the family. Find some of the best family ski resorts listed here by USA Today.
We have 18 years with our children before they head off to college. If you prioritize vacation time, you’ll never regret it!