Thinking about heading out of town with the family? There are plenty of exciting destinations beyond Disneyland and Disney World that will give your kids plenty to do, see, and learn. Whether you’re looking for beaches, mountains, history, peace and quiet, or the buzz of a big city, chances are you can find a great place for a vacation that’s family-friendly as well. Check out these five great destinations:
San Diego: San Diego is a nice-sized big city – not as huge as Los Angeles or New York – but with plenty to keep you and your family entertained for a laid-back city vacation. You could keep yourself busy for weeks at Balboa Park, the world’s largest urban cultural park with 15 major museums. The world-famous San Diego Zoo, which is part of Balboa Park, is one of the largest and finest of its kind. Not too far outside the city you’ll find the classic kids’ favorites Sea World and Legoland. On top of all of these attractions, add perfect year-round weather and delicious, authentic Mexican food, and you’ve got a vacation with something for everyone.
Lake Tahoe: Spanning 22 miles between California and Nevada, Lake Tahoe is a year-round vacation destination with plenty for kids to do. In the winter, skiing and other snow sports take center stage, and in the summer, there’s sailing, camping, hiking, and biking. Even those family members who are not so outdoorsy will find plenty of shopping, restaurants, spas, museums, and festivals to keep them entertained. Budding young photographers will also find plenty of stunning vistas to practice their craft.
Washington D.C.: Your young history buffs will have a great time zipping around this easy-to-navigate city. From the White House to the Capitol, there’s plenty to see and do – and the clean and convenient Metro can get you there without a car. Even better, all of the museums on the National Mall (an open-air park, not a shopping center) and the National Zoo are free. Contact your member of Congress once you know the dates of your trip because he or she may be able to offer you special tours that you could not get on your own.
The Florida Keys and Key West: The Florida Keys island chain is a great way to have a tropical vacation without leaving the country. Just off the Keys you will find the only living-coral barrier reef in the continental U.S., which is protected as part of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. Your family may enjoy a variety of eco-friendly activities, including catch-and-release fishing, kayaking, swimming with dolphins, and snorkeling and diving. Or you can just stay at the beach, enjoy the clear blue waters and beautiful weather. Before you leave, don’t forget to soak up some of the local history and culture for which the Keys are also famous.
Yellowstone National Park: Yellowstone is the granddaddy of America’s national parks, established in 1872 and spanning the states of Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho. Your kids won’t want to miss Old Faithful, the world’s most popular geyser, and plenty of other geysers and hot springs. Families also enjoy boating, fishing, wildlife and bird-watching, hiking, and camping. For scenic splendor, don’t miss the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. Most park enthusiasts suggest allowing at least three days to enjoy the sights.
Of course, this list is by no means all-inclusive. Other family vacations you may want to consider include Nashville, New Orleans, or Branson, Missouri for music; North Carolina’s Outer Banks or New Jersey’s Cape May for quiet family beaches; Seattle or Baltimore for boating and seafood; Boston or Williamsburg for history; Savannah or Charleston for Southern charm; the Berkshires or the Poconos for summer mountain adventures; or the Grand Canyon, South Dakota’s Black Hills, or Utah’s Red Rocks for stunning vistas. Whatever venue you choose, try to pace yourselves, take the time to enjoy the scenery, and make sure everyone gets a good night’s sleep so you can make the most of each day.