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While it can be hard to please everyone in the family when trying to make the best decision as to where to travel, these destinations might just do the trick, offering something for people of all ages and types to enjoy.
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What’s not to love about Costa Rica? An ideal family travel playground, the country is filled with exotic wildlife, including an abundance of colorful birds, monkeys and the incredibly adorable sloth. You’ll find gorgeous beaches and lush jungle, as well as the opportunity for scenic hikes, swimming under waterfalls, zip lining, kayaking and more. Even kids as young as six can ride river rapids on a “safari float,” a gentle river ride over Class I and II rapids. If your timing is right, you might even be able to witness a mother turtle hauling herself up on the beach to lay her eggs, an unforgettable experience for travelers of all ages.
New York City, New York
Visiting New York City is the perfect opportunity to teach your kids about U.S. history in a much more fascinating way than they could ever learn by studying book. Visit the Statue of Liberty, one of the nation’s most recognized symbols of freedom, and walk in the footsteps of the millions of immigrants who came through Ellis Island in hopes of a better life. At Ground Zero, they’ll be able to link what they’ve heard about 9/11 to the actual site, and read the names of the victims that are etched in the bronze panels that surround the twin reflecting pools. Of course, there are plenty of opportunities for fun too, including watching the performers in Central Park, visiting the zoo and walking through the bright lights of Times Square.
The Black Hills, South Dakota
Most people come to the Black Hills to see Mount Rushmore, but this beautiful region offers many other sights and attractions too. Kids, and the kid at heart, will love digging for mammoth bones, splashing in water parks and exploring Wind Cave, one of the longest in the world. At Custer State Park, there are all sorts of family-friendly activities, including taking a paddle boat out on Lake Sylvan, famously used as the backdrop for scenes in a number of films, including “National Treasure: Book of Secrets,” fishing, horseback riding and wildlife watching. By taking a scenic drive on Wildlife Loop Road, you’ll encounter the famous begging burros, along with bison, elk, deer, pronghorn, mountain goats and more. Hill City offers the chance to relieve the Old West on a historic 1880 steam train, and in Rapid City you can embark on a wildlife safari at Bear Country U.S.A., visit Cosmos Mystery Area where “the laws of nature seem to have gone completely berserk,” and take a selfie with a giant Aldabra tortoise at Reptile Gardens.
London is an ideal destination for parents who want their kids to experience a major European city. While English is obviously spoken, it still feels like a foreign place, and they’re likely to be fascinated with the world they may have seen in on screen in Harry Potter or other films. Teens and older kids will especially enjoy the ghoulish tales heard at the Tower of London. Europe’s first fortress, it was constructed in the 11th century at the request of William the Conqueror. Queen Anne Boleyn was beheaded there in 1536 and is rumored to still haunt the place. Princess lovers won’t want to miss Buckingham Palace, the home of a real-life Queen, Queen Elizabeth. Gather at the big iron gates for the Changing of the Guards, where soldiers march out in their trademark red coats and black hats, accompanied by music and royal horsemen.
Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming/Montana/Idaho
All kids should have the chance to experience Yellowstone National Park before they grow up. One of America’s most spectacular national parks, it boasts more geothermal features, including hot springs, mud spots and geysers, than anywhere else on Earth. They’ll be in awe watching Old Faithful shoot steam as high as 185 feet into the sky, and watching along many other lesser known geysers too, along with the gurgling mud pots, colorful paint pots and brilliant multi-colored hot springs. Grand Prismatic Spring, the largest hot spring in the country, was named for its striking coloration in hues that match the rainbow dispersion of white light by an optical prism of orange, yellow, red, green and blue. Stop at the Old Faithful Visitor Center to pick up an infrared-thermometer gun that takes readings of thermal pools when pointed at the water – the kids are guaranteed to love it. Of course, they’ll also love seeing all the wildlife, including elk, bison, Bighorn sheep, and perhaps even the more elusive bear or wolf.
The Yucatan, Mexico
The Yucatan is another great place to take the kids with well developed tourism infrastructure and lots of fun things to see and do. In Quintana Roo there are beautiful freshwater pools carved from the rocks called cenotes for swimming in, snorkeling opportunities, ancient ruins to visit, sandy beaches to play on and charming towns to explore. You can hit one of three theme parks, go snorkeling with the turtles and swimming with the dolphins, and in Tulum, located along cliffs overlooking the cerulean sea below, you’ll be able to explore one of the last walled cities to be built by the Maya people. The archaeological sites are incredibly well preserved and it’s easy to imagine the once bustling community.
Families who travel to Hawaii frequently know that it’s a great place for kids to not only experience striking natural beauty, but a multicultural environment and a true aloha spirit. The sun is out nearly every day of the year, and in Honolulu on the island of Oahu, older kids and teens will be able to experience the legendary scene at Waikiki and have the chance to learn to surf, boogie board, parasail or even paddle an authentic outrigger canoe. The highlight for many parents however, is for the kids to learn firsthand what the Aloha spirit is all about – it’s more than just an expression, but a way of living and treating people with kindness and generosity.
Iceland may not seem like a destination the kids would love, but this is a place that’s truly magical for people of all ages, from the other-worldly landscapes complemented with a backdrop of colorful, dancing northern lights to erupting geysers and hot springs like the legendary Blue Lagoon. Bathing in the warm milky turquoise waters encircled by black lava rocks with the steam rising all around is truly a surreal experience. And, as most Icelanders believe in elves, or “Huludufok,” which translates to “hidden folk,” they’ll be fascinated with the tales of this fantastical creatures that are said to be invisible to the human eye. Talk with a local, and they’re likely to have a story or two about them, in fact, many building projects have been diverted to avoid their reputed habitats.
There are many kid-friendly destinations in Japan, but for a place that offers activities the whole family will enjoy, you’ll be especially spoiled for options in Tokyo. Let the teens explore Akihabara, where every other store on its main street is either a video game shop, a toy shop or a manga retailer (a Japanese-style comic book store). You’ll find plenty of parks and interactive museums to explore together too. And, Tokyo Disney Resort is an experience not-to-be-missed. Imagine a Magic Kingdom that combines the best of Disney World’s and Disneyland’s. Then combine it with the world’s best theme park.
Grand Cayman Island, The Cayman Islands
Families that enjoy diving and snorkeling together can enjoy one of the most breathtaking underwater worlds on the planet by heading to Grand Cayman Island. The largest of the three Cayman Islands it’s a water lover’s paradise with a multitude of family-friendly activities and attractions. many of which are right on picture-postcard beaches or in the warm waters that are as clear as a swimming pool. At Sting Ray City, a shallow sandbar, the kids can wade out into the sea where they’ll almost instantly have hundreds of gentle stingrays all around them. They can even feed them by hand for an especially unforgettable, if ticklish, experience.