The family vacation. Is there anything more traditional, more enjoyable, more American, than packing up the whole family and heading out for a week-long vacation at one or more of the myriad destinations of fun and amusement throughout our great country?
With so many places to choose from, the only difficulty you may encounter will be selecting your itinerary for this year’s vacation. Whether it’s taking a road trip or you’re planning on flying cross-country, there are plenty of ideas for picking your next excursion. We’ve come up with ten that are among the most interesting, exciting, unique, and even educational destinations to consider. The kids likely have their hearts set on checking out some of the big amusement parks while you and your significant other are probably eager to get in some relaxing down-time from the hectic pace of your daily schedule.
1. Grand Canyon
This massive geologic marvel offers a wide array of activities for the whole family to enjoy. You’ll all be amazed as you take in the majestic view of the canyon’s many rock formations, ridges, and gorges situated throughout its sprawling 277-mile expanse.
Located in Arizona, there is no shortage of things to do in and around the site as you can participate in hiking the canyon’s network of trails, try your hand at kayaking or river rafting along the Colorado River, or just sit back and relax as you take a ride on the Grand Canyon Railway. The site is managed by the National Park Service and you’ll find there are a multitude of options for lodging and recreation that are not only a lot of fun but easy on the wallet as well.
Just be warned, however, the Grand Canyon is one of those destinations that everyone wants to try to see in person during their lifetime and so it can get extremely crowded during certain times of the year. The South Rim, where the Grand Canyon Village and the ever-popular Bright Angel Trail are both located, are the two most widely-visited areas of the site.
If you’re looking to stay a bit further from the fray, it can certainly be accomplished, you’ll just need to do a little research as to where you can find some seclusion from the teeming masses. Try the North Rim instead. This is where the more challenging hiking trails are located and the outdoor camping sites are less populated by tourists and casual hikers out for a stroll through an enduring national landmark.
2. Yosemite National Park
Staying with the outdoorsy theme for the moment, if the Grand Canyon is too touristy for you or the family has already been there before, then you may just want to give Yosemite National Park a try. There you will find some of the most breath-taking vistas ever created as you navigate through 1,200 square miles of rock formations, craggy cliffs, majestic waterfalls, and you can even look out upon Sequoia trees that are hundreds of years old.
Yosemite Valley is the most popular location in the park, spanning just seven square miles and populated with hiking trails and the two most well-known landmarks that are located within, the Half Dome and El Capitan. These two challenging and awe-inspiring mountainous regions attract hikers and extreme sports enthusiasts from all over the world.
Since these landmarks are so popular, you’re going to find that Yosemite Valley can get a bit crowded, much in the same way as the attractions and amenities located at the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. Don’t worry, there are still another 750 miles of trails winding through Yosemite so you can find your own little corner of the park to keep away from the throngs. T
here are an endless amount of camping areas to choose from, but if sleeping under the stars isn’t your family’s thing, there are plenty of accommodation options situated surrounding the park. Be advised, though, that lodging reservations fill up quickly. The earlier you reserve a room (or rooms), the better. With an estimated four million visitors a year making their way to Yosemite, you’ll want to get a jump on next year’s rush now.
No legitimate list of the best family friendly vacation spots would be complete without including Disneyland and/or Walt Disney World, so let’s get that out of the way right now. Your kids have wanted to go for years, chances are you went there when you were their age, and it’s very possible you haven’t been back since then.
Well, what you are you waiting for? This is the year to do it and if you’ve already been to one, then you should really make a plan to visit the other one too. The Disney Experience is unlike any amusement park vacation. It’s an entire event filled with rides, shows, and attractions to see during the day, and a fun-filled cavalcade of restaurants and shopping after you’ve had your fill of the park at night.
Vacationers can come out to Orlando, Florida or Anaheim, California and buy park tickets while finding lodging in the area. You can also purchase one of the multitude of Disney resort packages that provide you with lodging situated mere steps from the park itself and plenty to see and do off-site as well. Many of the resort hotels have additional attractions like waterslides and a pool for the kids as well as world-class dining and spas for Mom and Dad.
The Orlando property is the original and offers fun and excitement for the whole family. The Anaheim park gives you Disneyland and the adjacent California Adventure, both of which have been updated with new Star Wars and Marvel Comics themed rides and attractions. You also get special perks if you book a resort stay with Disney, giving you an extra hour in the park that typical pass-holders can’t access and discounts on shopping and dining in and around the resort and park. If you really like Disney you may want to consider joining the Disney Vacation Club.
4.The Strong Museum
What’s that, you’ve never heard of the Strong Museum? It’s only the first of its kind anywhere in the world and a mecca for children both young and old to learn about play. That’s right, it’s a museum devoted to “the history and exploration of play” as the museum’s own site explains.
So what does that all mean exactly? The Strong is a showcase of materials chronicling the history of how we play. Here you’ll find International Center for the History of Electronic Games, the National Toy Hall of Fame, the World Video Game Hall of Fame, the Brian Sutton-Smith Library and Archives of Play, the Woodbury School, and the headquarters of the American Journal of Play, the leading publication celebrating all things related to play.
With a lineup like that including the World Video Game and National Toy halls of fame, you’re bound to keep the kids wowed for hours. Adults like to play games too and walking through the Strong will no doubt evoke memories of your own childhood and the wondrous games and toys that held your imagination when you were the same age as your kids are right now.
At the Strong Museum, they believe that you’re never too old to play. Celebrate your inner child while your own kids see, touch, and of course, play with all of the many exhibits and collections in this exciting look at our history through a prism of fun located in Rochester, N.Y.
5. San Diego
Maybe you’ve done all of the amusement parks in Southern California. Disneyland is like an old hat and you’ve already conquered Universal Studios and Magic Mountain.
If this is the case, then just hop on the 405 and head south to San Diego, a city that has everything for every member of the family. Once you arrive, the first thing you’ll see is the beautiful Pacific Ocean where you can enjoy some 70 miles of beaches to work on your tan.
If sun and sand aren’t your thing, then you can head over to the world famous San Diego Zoo, one of the biggest and most comprehensive of its kind in the United States. There you’ll find nearly 4,000 animals with over 650 species and subspecies, from lions to tigers to bears and even giraffes and monkeys. They usually have special exhibits and promotions year round as well, so you could find yourself face to face with exotic creatures you’ve never seen before or even roam the park at night.
After the zoo, you can head over to SeaWorld for some wet and wild amusement park fun and interact with aquatic animals and species before hitting one of the park’s exciting rollercoasters. The Gaslamp district is filled with restaurants and shopping and it’s located directly next to Petco Park where you can catch a Padres game. If the NFL is more your speed, hit up Qualcomm Stadium and watch the Chargers play if you happen to be there in the Fall.