50 Unexpected Family-Friendly Vacation Destinations
Escape the daily grind and retreat to an idyllic place you – and the kids – will love.
Make lifelong memories together in unpredictable locales.
When planning a family escape, it's easy to drift toward classic vacation destinations like Disney, where you can create lifelong memories and embrace maximum bonding time with minimal hassle. After all, if you're traveling with restless toddlers or fickle teens, it's tempting to choose a convenient locale removed from the stresses of parenting – from policing digital activity to lugging the kids to extracurricular activities. But if you really want to shake up your routine and reconnect as a family, consider an out-of-the-ordinary trip where you can enjoy wildlife adventures, cultural immersion and enrichment in unexpected places. Here are 50 surprising kid-friendly ideas to get you started.
Tokyo has a reputation for its fast, frenetic energy, soaring skyscrapers, neon-lit signs and throngs of tourists, but this world-class city and top vacation destination in Japan is also a culinary and cultural mecca with plenty of diversions for visitors of all ages. Family travel expert Amy Tara Koch suggests joining a small-tour culinary expedition with Arigato Japan Food Tours to get a taste of the city's vibrant street food, markets (Tsukiji Fish Market is a must) and pop culture trends. On the Crazy Kawaii tour, for instance, you and youngsters can snap Instagram-worthy photos of colorful food art. Imaginative culture- and food-focused tours aside, youngsters will also get a kick out of attractions like the Ghibli Museum.
Park City, Utah
Park City is often touted for its pristine, snow-covered slopes, but this alluring ski town also brims with small-town charm and kid-friendly activities catering to adventurers of all ages year-round. Aside from skiing and snowboarding in winter, young thrill-seekers can take a scenic ride along the Heber Valley Railroad and enjoy mountain biking and hiking in the warmer months. And at the Homestead Crater, a geothermal spring that dates back 10,000 years, you can enjoy a soothing soak or try yoga on a paddleboard. As for lodging options, the Grand Summit Hotel at Canyons Village offers a heated outdoor pool area and even a Little Adventures Children's Center.
The Twin Cities may be best known for their vibrant art and music scenes with world-renowned artists such as Bob Dylan and Prince, but you'll find plenty of attractions catering to young outdoorsy types, too. Little ones can enjoy swimming, canoeing, biking and other active outdoor pursuits in the warmer months thanks to Minneapolis' bounty of lakes. And while adults savor a pint from breweries like Surly Brewing Company, youngsters can grab a delectable burger (order the Jucy Lucy) from Matt's Bar. Budding art connoisseurs will also appreciate the city's top-notch cultural gems, including Paisley Park Museum and the Walker Art Center. For kid-approved amenities, check into the Kimpton Grand Hotel Minneapolis.
Charleston, South Carolina
It's not hard to see why foodies, history buffs and architecture lovers flock to Charleston. Everyone can delight in picking up souvenirs at shops along King Street, snapping photos with the iconic pineapple at Waterfront Park, savoring low country staples such as grits and fried chicken or catching a performance at Dock Street Theatre. Charleston is also the place to immerse yourself in history and southern charm. Boone Hall Plantation – the iconic Spanish-moss draped estate that served as the cinematic backdrop of the film "The Notebook" – offers tours. And along Rainbow Row, you'll find stately Georgian Homes, including the Nathaniel House. Plus, there are plenty of family-friendly lodging options, including the Restoration on King.
When you think of Nashville, country music, bluegrass and honky-tonk bars may come to mind, but there are a number of kid-friendly places, says Karen Cicero, senior travel editor at Parents Magazine. If you're planning a winter visit, head to the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center, which goes all out for each holiday season with Ice!, a holiday attraction that includes "amazing display sculptures and ice slides," she says. The hotel transforms into a wonderland of sorts with gingerbread-house decorating, she adds. If the kids are music lovers, you won't want to skip visiting the Grammy Museum Gallery at the Musicians Hall of Fame, which features a hands-on exhibit where visitors can learn about songwriting and producing music.
While the Dutch capital certainly has its share of risqué areas like the red-light district, it also offers plenty of charms, from world-renowned art museums to lovely contemporary canal-lined cafes and impressive 17th-century architecture. Cicero highlights the Hotel Pulitzer as an especially family-friendly retreat. Design-conscious teens will appreciate the family room lodgings, which offer plenty of space in split-level accommodations, along with the complimentary breakfast and outdoor garden, which offers a relaxing place to unwind. If you're traveling with elementary-school kids, visit the Anne Frank House and the Van Gogh Museum, Cicero adds. Other must-dos include savoring an authentic Dutch pancake at a kid-friendly café like Mook Pancakes and visiting the floating Amsterdam Flower Market.
Crescent City is known for its vibrant jazz clubs, booze-filled Bourbon Street, larger-than-life parties and year-round revelry, music and mysticism, especially around Mardi Gras. But here's a secret: For aspiring culture vultures and foodies, the Big Easy offers an enticing retreat, Cicero says. Not only can you take in the city's infusion of Spanish, French, American and African influences on a family-friendly walking tour, you can also embrace bayou charm with a powdery beignet at Café Du Monde and ride around an authentic streetcar on St. Charles Avenue. Design-conscious kids will appreciate the wrought-iron balconies and antebellum architecture of the French Quarter, and little ones will appreciate riding the carousel in City Park.
Big Sur, California
With misty coastal views, dramatic cliffs and enchanting grown-up retreats (we're looking at you, Post Ranch Inn), Big Sur may not seem kid-friendly, but it's much more than a romantic hot spot. Outdoorsy types can soak in their surroundings on a hike at Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park, with its 3,300-plus Manuel Peak, or walk among redwood-filled groves in Limekiln State Park. Another must is Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, which offers a mix of waterfalls, scenery-packed trails and picnic spots. As for lodgings, you can retreat to nearby Carmel and Monterey for spacious, family-friendly accommodations at places such as Carmel Valley Ranch and Hyatt Regency Monterey Hotel & Spa on Del Monte Golf Course.
If you and your brood are interested in embarking on a one-of-a-kind voyage, consider cruising to Antarctica, Koch says. The cruise line Hurtigruten offers adventure-focused Antarctica cruises that journey through the Drake Passage to the Antarctic Peninsula. On The Frozen Land of the Penguins 14-day cruise, you can catch sight of Adélie or gentoo penguins, and hike along unspoiled landscapes. Best of all, Hurtigruten's Young Explorers Program, designed for kids ages 7 to 13, offers field research, activities and a lecture series focused on climate change and environmental sustainability, Koch adds. With the program, kids can partake in onshore excursions, learn about the geology of the Southern Ocean and even partake in eco-focused community service activities.
"A much-underrated Midwest destination for families is Detroit, whose famed zoo opened the world's largest penguin exhibit last year," says Suzanne Rowan Kelleher, a family vacations expert at Tripsavvy.com. She suggests checking out the new Polk Penguin Conservation Center at the Detroit Zoo, which features a 25-foot-deep aquatic area where visitors can observe 80-plus penguins in the 326,000-gallon facility. She also highlights the DNR Outdoor Adventure Center as a must-see. "The three-story facility offers a taste of Michigan’s great outdoors in a fun, interactive way, giving kids the chance to catch a fish, paddle a kayak and steer a snowmobile or bush plane," she says. Another kid-friendly attraction worth exploring is the Michigan Science Center.
Jackson Hole is touted for its powdery slopes and ritzy ski retreats at Teton Village, but skiing and wintry pastimes aside, it's also an enchanting escape for youngsters looking to tap into their inner cowboy on a Wild West getaway. Adventurous types can check out the fascinating wildlife at Yellowstone National Park (one of the best places to visit in May) or the National Elk Refuge, dance to live music and catch movie screenings at Spud Drive In. Plus, the area's rustic natural beauty doesn't have to come with a steep price tag. Stay nearby at Spring Creek Ranch for access to a swimming pool, tennis and even horseback riding – without blowing your budget.
The Canary Islands
The Canary Islands' archipelago offers the right mix of superlative beaches, balmy temperatures and outdoor recreational pursuits to cater to versatile interests and age groups. If you're traveling with adventurous youngsters, you can enjoy everything from hiking to surfing to stargazing. And while many families may be wary of the high cost and logistics of reaching the Canaries' off-the-beaten-path isles, with plenty of discount airlines offering cost-effective options and a variety of inexpensive, kid-friendly lodging, it's easy to keep your budget in check. At the Hotel Jardín Tecina on La Gomera, for example, kids can play volleyball, tennis and swim or retreat to the kids' club to enjoy cooking, music and a disco.
Portland may be known as a laid-back retreat with a rising brewery and dining scene, sprawling green spaces and progressive and hip neighborhoods, but it's not only the quirky destination you picture from "Portlandia." Budding bibliophiles can enjoy perusing the stands of Powell's City of Books, while active types hike around Forest Park. Plus, everyone can enjoy grabbing next-level ice cream from Salt & Straw or one of the 500-plus food trucks in the area. When you need a respite, find your zen at the Portland Japanese Garden. As for accommodations, youngsters will appreciate kid-approved perks at the Kimpton Hotel Monaco Portland, which boasts welcome gifts for kids and even kid-sized bathrobes.
Cape Town, South Africa
Imagine waking up to the inspiring Table Mountain, with emerald waters at Table Bay and golden sands at Boulders Beach in the distance. After embracing the Mother City's striking natural surroundings, you and the kids can enjoy horseback riding, penguin-spotting or getting a history lesson. Carve out some time to explore Robben Island and The District Six Museum before hiking Table Mountain, checking out Boulders Beach and strolling along the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront. When you're ready to unwind, steal away to One&Only Cape Town, which offers its own kids' club where youngsters can enjoy jewelry making and dancing, along with organized teen-focused activities like sandboarding along dunes.
Savoring authentic Swiss chocolate, admiring penguins, tigers and snow leopards at Zoo Zurich, strolling along cobblestone alleys in Old Town, taking in the alpine scenery – there's no shortage of enticements for the young and young at heart in Zurich. Young art lovers and culture vultures will want to check out the city's wealth of artsy treasures, including the Swiss National Museum and Museum of Art, while young sophisticates will want to window shop along Bahnhofstrasse. When you need a break from all the activity, picnic and people-watch in Lindenhof. At the end of the day, retreat to an affordable hotel, like the Marktgasse Hotel, which offers spacious accommodations and a central location.
One of the best ways to force your kids to enjoy a bit of culture is to take them to a world-class European metropolis. And though Vienna often springs to mind as a choice Austrian destination, Salzburg offers plenty of allures, from baroque architecture to the real-life locations from "The Sound of Music." Fuel up with authentic eats like dumplings and schnitzel in Old Town before making your way to the Hellbrunn Palace. Music-loving visitors will also want to visit Mozart's Geburtshaus, his birthplace, to learn more about the legendary composer. When you need a respite, visit Mirabell Gardens, the cinematic setting where Julie Andrews perfected "Do-Re-Me," and snap photos with attractions like Pegasus Fountain.
Asheville, North Carolina
Asheville isn't just for beer lovers, hipsters and barbecue aficionados. Active kids will appreciate hiking and biking along the Appalachian Trail. Cruising along the Blue Ridge Parkway – especially as the leaves change colors in fall – is also a must-do. Young history lovers can also admire French Renaissance-style architecture at the Biltmore Estate, while culturists venture to the River Arts District. Best of all, families can enjoy memorable Southern meals together at institutions like Buxton Hall Barbecue. The area also offers plenty of economical accommodation options like the Omni Grove Park Inn, which distributes games, crayons, activity booklets and cookies to youngsters.
Not just a top retreat for music lovers (especially Elvis and Johnny Cash fans), Memphis beckons to travelers with its wealth of historic and educational attractions. Take the kids to the National Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Motel for a self-guided tour filled with emotionally stirring artifacts that illuminate the civil rights movement. Then, take a breather at the Peabody Memphis. You won’t want to miss the famous (and free) duck march around 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. Other must-visit destinations include Graceland and Sun Studio. Cap off your day with a stroll along Beale Street. For your barbecue fix, visit the Bar-B-Q Shop, where staples like pulled pork on Texas Toast are on the menu.
New Hope, Pennsylvania
If you're yearning to embrace small-town charm on a stress-free weekend getaway (or daytrip) with the gang, Cicero highlights New Hope in Bucks County as a choice destination. While the historic area is known for its antique shops and flourishing art scene, it also offers plenty of draws for kids. Head to storied Peddler's Village for plenty of family-friendly amusements, including Giggleberry Fair, a play area that includes an obstacle course, a carousel and a game room, Cicero says. For more outdoor exploration, there's also the meadow- and wildflower-filled trails at Bowman's Hill Wildflower Preserve. There's also the small but hands-on Bucks County Children's Museum, Cicero adds.
Block Island, Rhode Island
It may not has the same name recognition as Nantucket or Newport, but Block Island has plenty of New England charm, kid-friendly accommodations and striking coastal scenery. It's filled with 17 pristine beaches, including a shallow, enclosed area known as Baby Beach, charming shops and seafood restaurants, and even a quintessential gothic-revival lighthouse. You can kayak, bike, paddleboard or simply lounge on the sand. When you're ready to explore town, peruse the shops along Water Street or grab a bite at crowd-pleasing eateries like Finn's Seafood followed by a sweet treat at Aldo's Bakery. At the end of the day, retreat to the kid-friendly Darius Inn, which offers rooms appointed with kitchenettes and complimentary breakfast.
With the Zika virus still posing a risk to travelers in a variety of tropical destinations throughout Mexico, the Caribbean and South America, jetsetters, and especially expectant couples and those planning to start a family, must "choose their destination very carefully," Kelleher says. For a safe and worry-free escape, Kelleher recommends Bermuda, "which is easy to get to from the U.S. and currently free of Zika-transmitting mosquitoes," she explains. Bermuda is not only convenient and picturesque, but it also offers compelling rates in the offseason (November to March), and a variety of kid-friendly hotels and activities, from a miniature golf course to the sprawling Crystal Caves network to the Bermuda Aquarium, Museum & Zoo.
Clayoquot Sound, British Columbia
If you've ever really wanted to get off the beaten path and escape to an upscale safari tent outfitted with wood stoves, oil lamps and private showers, plot your escape to the Clayoquot Wilderness Resort, located in the Clayoquot Sound Biosphere Reserve, a UNESCO-recognized area filled with icy peaks and verdant rainforest. Days here can be spent sailing, rock climbing, fishing and horseback riding. For more relaxation, check out the property's cedar hot tubs, yoga room and outdoor lounge at the spa. Best of all, families can take advantage of special discounts during the peak season and count on creating long-lasting memories as they roast s'mores around a crackling fire and play games in a billiards tent.
Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, Michigan
Verdant forests, sandy beaches and ample opportunities for hiking, paddling, kayaking and other outdoor activities make Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore an ideal Lower Michigan escape for adventurous broods. It's hard to match hiking and climbing the legendary dunes together as a family before taking a dip in emerald waters. Make nearby Traverse City – another top vacation spot in the state – your home base to enjoy kid-friendly attractions like zip lining and mini golfing at Pirate's Cove and nature hikes at the Grand Traverse Conservation District. And if you arrive in July, around the time of the National Cherry Festival, you won't want to skip the cherry-spitting competitions, air show and other family-focused events.
The Turquoise Trail, New Mexico
Along this picturesque byway between Santa Fe and Albuquerque, you can enjoy a mix of enrichment, enchantment and history. Spanning about 15,000 square miles, the 52-mile long drive on Highway 14 yields dramatic desert views from above Sandia Crest and meanders through charming small towns. If you're traveling with gold rush enthusiasts, don't skip Golden, a former mining town. After enjoying a leisurely picnic and a few photo ops, steal away to Albuquerque to embrace the city's melding of Spanish and Native American cultural influences. As for accommodations, head to the Hyatt Regency Tamaya Resort & Spa for kid-approved perks like Southwestern cuisine and age-appropriate activities at Camp Hyatt, including jewelry- and pottery-making.
While this top March vacation destination has garnered a reputation for its opulent hotels, cutting-edge international gastronomy and once-high currency exchange rate against the dollar, there are plenty of inexpensive attractions geared toward families, Cicero says. A variety of London museums offer discounts for kids, and there are free parks well worth exploring, such as St. James's Park and Regent's Park. Aspiring wizards will enjoy snapping Instagram-worthy photos at Platform 9¾ at King's Cross Station, while little ones will enjoy releasing pent-up energy at the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Playground. Best of all, plenty of hotels offer family-focused programming, such as Le Méridien Piccadilly, which boasts children's menus and its own afternoon tea-time with a fun Jungle Book theme, Cicero adds.
Bar Harbor, Maine
With quintessential New England charm, rustic lobster shacks and easy access to Acadia National Park, Bar Harbor offer a low-key getaway for families. Although this best place to visit in July was once home to well-heeled residents like the Astors and the Vanderbilts, today Bar Harbor is accessible and affordable thanks to a wealth of bed-and-breakfast accommodations and boutique properties, along with enticing shoulder-season promotions. If you're traveling with outdoorsy types, you can't miss hiking or biking to the awe-inspiring Cadillac Mountain. And for a laid-back place to hang your hat, check into the Asticou Inn, which offers perks such as a heated pool, complimentary Wi-Fi and a terrace.
Coeur d'Alene, Idaho
An underrated small city in northern Idaho, Coeur d'Alene is an adventure lover's playground. Whether you want to enjoy white water-rafting along the Clark Fork and Spokane rivers, try your hand at stand-up paddleboarding or enjoy mini golfing, there are plenty of outdoor activities to distract kids from their digital devices. Younger kids won't want to miss climbing at Fort Sherman Playground or lounging on the beach at City Park. In the summer season, you can even catch film screenings and concerts at the park. When hunger sets in, check out Olympia Restaurant or Hudson's Hamburgers, a 1907 institution that dishes out crowd-pleasing cheeseburgers and pie.
Slipping away to a hip Scandinavian metropolis known for its high-fashion streets, Michelin-rated restaurants and exciting neighborhoods may not seem like an attractive choice for a kid-friendly vacation – but think again. The Danish capital boasts plenty of diversions for kids, from Tivoli Gardens, an amusement park with restaurants, a traditional Japanese garden, games and candy to the Tycho Brahe Planetarium, where kids can watch 3D films and IMAX movies. After hitting must-see city attractions, such as Strøget, a pedestrian thoroughfare with shops and cafes, and the iconic Little Mermaid statue, unwind over a leisurely meal at a kid-friendly dining venue such as Honey, Restaurant Julian or Bistro Royal.
Phoenix has long catered to grown-ups craving a dose of southwestern charm and R & R amid striking desert scenery. But in reality, there are a variety of appealing family-friendly resorts that offer special kids programming and an enticing alternative to a traditional beach or ski trip, Cicero says. At the Pointe Hilton Squaw Peak Resort, youngsters have access to an 18-hole mini putting course. Plus, visitors ages 4 to 12 can head to the Coyote Camp for everything from swimming expeditions to gold-panning to desert walk 'n' talks. Cicero also highlights the nearby Musical Instrument Museum as a can't-miss for young audiophiles, with its interactive and hands-on areas.
Thrill-seeking families looking to ditch their usual beach or city break should consider Wales, where there's plenty of opportunities for hiking, canoeing, climbing, fishing, biking and family surfing, among other activities. Head to Pembrokeshire Coast National Park to check out imposing sandstone cliffs and coastal scenery, laze along serene beaches and catch sight of fascinating local wildlife, from seal pups to porpoises to red kites. For more adrenaline-pumping pursuits, try zip lining or bouncing on underwater trampolines. Frugal-minded visitors can retreat to campsites and budget-friendly accommodations like the Cambrian Inn. For a splurge, retreat to The Grove, a charming country hotel near Pembrokeshire Coast National Park.
New York City
"People think of New York as being crowded and kind of chaotic," Cicero says. But there are plenty of big-city attractions and kid-friendly hotels that make the city less daunting, she adds. She recommends staying downtown at the family-friendly Conrad New York for easy access to landmarks like the Statue of Liberty. From there, you can easily hop on the subway and reach Times Square and Central Park in a snap. For Instagram-loving teens, make your way to Black Tap for a creative and photo-worthy milkshake. And if you're looking for a break from the fast pace of the city that never sleeps, cross over the Brooklyn Bridge to explore lovely Brooklyn Heights.
A high-altitude college town known for its craft brew scene, climbing opportunities and proximity to the Rocky Mountains may not read family-friendly, but with a raft of outdoor activities and budget-friendly accommodations, Boulder makes for an appealing getaway. Head to Chautauqua Park for striking views of the Flatiron rock formations. Then, take a break at Pearl Street Mall and pick up a few souvenirs at the Boulder Book Store or Into the Wind. When you're ready to turn in, retreat to Basecamp Hotel Boulder, which offers easy access to downtown and fun amenities for kids, from pingpong tables to an indoor climbing wall to an outdoor patio with a fire pit.
Not only a world-class city for its vibrant nightlife and art deco-filled streets, Miami offers versatile, kid-friendly attractions, Cicero says. If you're traveling with outdoorsy types, tack on a trip to Everglades National Park for top-notch wildlife-viewing, and if you're vacationing with design-loving teens, take in the neon- and pastel-hued art deco buildings along Ocean Drive. Little ones will also get a kick out of Jungle Island, a zoo park that offers daily shows and a bird sanctuary with orangutans, flamingos and parrots. As for accommodations, consider checking into the Loews Miami Beach Hotel, which touts a designated kids club and amenities such as kids' menus, along with paddleboards and kayaks available to rent.
While everyone has heard of Dubrovnik's legendary Old City (the cinematic backdrop of King's Landing from the hit HBO series "Game of Thrones"), there's plenty more to experience across Croatia's lesser-visited ancient ruins, stunning beaches and photogenic isles. Take the kids on the trip of a lifetime to Krka National Park in central Dalmatia to take in magnificent waterfalls, or visit Hvar to lounge along pristine beaches and admire Gothic architecture. If you're traveling with young history buffs, exploring the storied Diocletian's Palace in Split (one of the best places to visit in Eastern Europe) is also a must-do. For kid-friendly accommodations, consider basing yourself in Dubrovnik, where you'll find a variety of options, from boutique hotels to historic retreats.
Not just a mecca for storied historical attractions like Mount Rushmore, South Dakota's "incredibly diverse landscape is larger than life," Kelleher says. You can check out Deadwood, retrace the footsteps of Lewis and Clark and check out Native American sites, she explains. "Whatever you do, you must witness Badlands National Park’s otherworldly lunar-like landscape, whose sandstone formations hold the fossilized remains of mammals that roamed this part of the world millions of years ago," she says. Family-friendly activities might include hiking and catching a glimpse of free-roaming bison and bighorn sheep, she adds. Plus, kids can pick up Junior Ranger activity books and join guided activities such as hikes, crafts or fossil talks, she says.
Fort Worth, Texas
Often overshadowed by Dallas, Fort Worth boasts a mélange of historic, art and outdoor attractions to keep youngsters entertained. Get your culture fix at top attractions such as the Modern Art Museum and the Kimbell Art Museum. Afterward, tap into your inner cowboy or cowgirl at the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame. Another crowd-pleaser is the Fort Worth Stockyards district, which hosts weekend rodeos. Once you've explored can't-miss attractions, refuel with a tasty treat at Melt or get your barbecue fix at Heim. Best of all, there are plenty of accommodations for cost-conscious clans, including the Omni Fort Worth Hotel, which offers perks for younger guests such as complimentary cookies and activity books.
While Aspen isn’t an outside-the-box choice for families, budget-conscious clans seeking alternative lodgings should consider staying in backcountry huts, Koch says. Colorado's 10th Mountain Division Hut Association offers a variety of hut options. And though these no-frills huts are well-suited for experienced backcountry skiers in the winter time, if you're a backcountry novice, fret not. Reputable outfitters like Aspen Alpine Guides offer a variety of expert-led hiking, mountain biking and backpacking trips based on your family's interests and skill levels. Best of all, huts are available starting at $30 per person and include barebones amenities such as beds, propane burners, wood-burning stoves and eating utensils. Just make sure to bring your own sleeping bags.
Trekking to the southern tip of South America with kids in tow may seem out of reach – there's the logistics and expense, after all. But this offbeat, bucket-list worthy destination does not disappoint with its pristine glaciers, emerald lakes and dramatic Andes peaks. And when you can hike along the famous Perito Moreno Glacier, take in the iconic Mount Fitz Roy and catch sight of cormorants and Magellanic penguins at Punta Tombo wildlife reserve, it's easy for every adventurer to stay engaged and entertained. Consider basing yourself in Estancia Cristina, a historic lakeside ranch, which offers an ideal perch next to Los Glaciares National Park and guided glacier, waterfall and fishing expeditions.
Cinque Terre, Italy
Move over Florence, Rome and Venice. Remote fishing villages lining the Ligurian Sea, dreamy hotels and jaw-dropping scenery may sound like all the trappings of a romantic getaway, but when hiking, swimming and snorkeling are rewarded with pizza and gelato, it's easy for kids to swoon over this must-visit Italian destination. On a private tour with a reputable outfitter like Country Walkers, days can be spend hiking among chestnut and olive grove-lined paths, exploring medieval castles and snorkeling in the enchanting Ligurian. Best of all, budding epicureans can partake in hands-on cooking classes to develop a love for fine Italian dining at an early age.
You might associate Israel with sacred attractions like the Dome of the Rock and the Western Wall. However, in one trip, you can go to the beach, ride camels and float in the Dead Sea, Koch says. "For kids, it's such a cool place," she explains. For more adventure, there's the Negev Desert, where you'll find striking formations and craters, and you can slide down sand dunes, take camel rides and enjoy stargazing at night. And near Tel Aviv, you'll find the city of Acre, a UNESCO-recognized port city with Ottoman buildings, Koch says. Best of all, in Tel Aviv, there are plenty of affordable lodging options well-suited for families.
With world-renowned attractions like Victoria Peak and cosmopolitan splendors – from dim-sum dining institutions to soaring skyscrapers to vibrant markets – Hong Kong beckons to worldly jetsetters of all ages. There are plenty of direct flights from the U.S. Plus, the city hosts a wealth of one-of-a-kind experiences, including catching the light show along the Tsim Sha Tsui Promenade, riding the tram to take in vistas from Victoria Peak and exploring the Ladies' Market and the Stanley Market. And while it's easy to feel jet-lagged while navigating the city's bustling streets, thanks to the prevalence of bilingual speakers and signs as well as lush green spaces, Hong Kong offers an easy entry point for Western visitors.
Ashford Castle, Ireland
Slipping away to a romantic medieval castle in County Mayo near Ireland's village of Cong may not seem like a practical kid-friendly escape, but with plenty of pampering for grown-ups and kids alike and activities like falconry, it could just be a dream come true. Here, you and the gang can bond while zip lining, horseback riding, playing tennis and cruising around the lake, among other activities. Plus, young princes and princesses can delight in special VIP perks, from customized storybooks and homemade cookies at bed time to special child-size robes and slippers. The property also offers Children's Afternoon Tea and kids menus to satisfy picky eaters as well as enticing packages catered to families.
A high-end Four Seasons property in Hawaii may not come to mind as a top retreat for education and enrichment. But when you can snorkel with magnificent fish, stargaze at an observatory from Mauna Kea and check out the fiery molten lava at Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park, it's easy for everyone to stay engaged. At the Four Seasons Resort Hualalai on the Kona-Kohala Coast, there are seven pools, including King's Pond, a pool carved from lava rock teeming with more than 4,000 tropical fish. What's more, there are designated activities for kids (ages 5 to 12) such as sand sculpting, treasure hunts, canoe lessons and lei making.
Sedona's captivating red-rock buttes, otherworldly "vortexes" and New Age bent don't only appeal to couples and wellness-seekers. Budding geologists will appreciate hiking to iconic formations, like Cathedral Rock along Sedona's scenery-packed trails. If you would rather let someone else handle navigating through Sedona's famed ochre-hued landscapes, book a Jeep tour. When you need a break from the trails, visit Tlaquepaque Arts and Crafts Village off of Route 89A, where you can pop into eclectic art galleries, admire mosaic fountains and check out New Age shops. At the end of the day, retreat to Enchantment Resort, which boasts Camp Coyote, a kids' club for visitors ages 4 to 12 that offers stargazing, pottery making and yoga.
If you're pining for an action-packed getaway, set your sights on Oklahoma City. "Active families will be impressed with Oklahoma City, which expanded its Olympic training site in 2016 to create a massive aquatic adventure mecca for families in the Oklahoma City Boathouse District," Kelleher explains. Families can partake in stand-up paddleboarding, kayaking and other outdoor pursuits, Kelleher says. Plus, "the adjacent Youth Zone features big and small zip lines, high ropes, an 80-foot climbing tower, a playground and more," she adds. Aside from the Adventure District, there's also the Oklahoma City Zoo and attractions well-suited for older tweens age 10 and up, like Pole Position Raceway, an indoor go-kart track.
Serengeti National Park
Embarking on a once-in-a-lifetime African safari with the gang doesn't have to be a pipe dream. If you're yearning to catch sight of gazelles, wildebeest and zebras across Tanzania, book a tour with &Beyond Lodges and Camps. The high-end outfitter offers private Serengeti Under Canvas safari tents outfitted with en suite bathrooms and outdoor showers as well as game drive tours within Serengeti National Park to witness the Great Migration. With the &Beyond WildChild program, youngsters can develop an appreciation for Africa's rich culture, landscapes and wildlife. At the &Beyond Grumeti Serengeti Tented Camp, for instance, kids can take nature scavenger hunts, while at the &Beyond Sossusvlei Desert Lodge in Namibia, youngsters can learn about sourcing food and water in the desert.
California Wine Country
Leisurely wine tastings, Michelin-starred dining venues, cozy caverns and striking vineyard scenery may not ooze family-friendliness, but California wine country offers plenty of charms for visitors of all ages. At many wineries, there are playgrounds, board games, grape juice tastings, swimming pools and gardens for kids, Cicero explains. Take the Larson Family Winery in Sonoma, where kids can play tag or bocce ball and enjoy a picnic. Meanwhile, at Sterling Vineyards in Calistoga, kids are gifted with backpacks stocked with a snack, game and drink. What's more, aspiring gastronomes can join one-of-a-kind, age-appropriate interactive cooking classes at the Culinary Institute of America's Greystone campus in St. Helena at select times of year, Cicero adds.
If you and the kids are itching for a digital-free reset in the great outdoors, it's hard to rival a Montana getaway. At the Resort at Paws Up in Greenough, Montana, outdoor adventure beckons at every turn. Whether your youngsters are interested in fly-fishing, horseback riding or river rafting, it's all possible at this rustic, 37,000-acre retreat. With the Kids Corps of Discovery package, youngsters can partake in age-appropriate nature- and wildlife-focused programming. Little ones can partake in treasure hunts, go-kart ricing and pony rides while older kids break out of their comfort zone with archery, mountain biking and ATV tours. Plus, the property offers family promotions that include activities, meals, beverages and lodging.
Denali National Park, Alaska
With its postcard-worthy landscapes – punctuated by pristine peaks and emerald lakes – and top-notch wildlife-watching opportunities (caribou, wolves, grizzly bears – oh my!), Denali National Park offers plenty of draws. Not only can you join expert-led hikes, bike, kayak, raft or fish, you can also explore natural splendors like Wonder Lake, Reflection Pond and Denali, North America's tallest peak, on a road trip to remember while traversing the 90-mile-long Denali Park Road. As for accommodations, consider staying near the park entrance at McKinley Chalet Resort or Denali Princess Wilderness Lodge, which offers family-friendly perks such as kids' activities and arranged excursions, from zip lining to whitewater rafting to jeep expeditions to Denali Peak flightseeing adventures.
The Maldives' isolated chain of islands are well-known for their dreamy overwater bungalows, unspoiled coral reefs and superlative dive sites, but they're also a bucket-list destination for adventure lovers. Youngsters can enjoy snorkeling, dolphin trips with marine biologists and building sandcastles along the beach. Plus, a variety of hotels offer kids-oriented amenities and facilities. At Six Senses Laamu, for instance, there's a kids' club outfitted with a playground and crafts area where kids can enjoy climbing ropes, painting, treasure-hunting and cookie-making. Meanwhile, at the Anantara Dhigu Maldives Resort, there are activities for everyone – from toddlers to tweens – from coral planting to kayaking to badminton and volleyball.
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