As anyone who has ever traveled with a teenager knows, it’s not always easy. When your teen is happy, everyone’s happy, but if your teen is miserable, a bad time is often had by all. If you’d like to enjoy a fun, unforgettable trip with your teen in tow, these destinations are just about guaranteed to please everyone.
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New York City, New York
The Big Apple is the ultimate destination for families with teens, and kids of all ages. There’s so much to do, you won’t have any trouble finding activities and attractions for everyone to enjoy. Teenagers will love the street culture, gazing up at the bright lights and people watching in Times Square, and even checking out the hip Museum of Modern Art. Just taking a walk through Central Park makes for a good time, with the dazzling array of performers that are sure to impress. You might even want to send them off on their own to take an On Location tour, where they’ll be guided to various filming sites around the city. A visit to nearby historic Coney Island is a must for any traveler to the city, regardless of age. While younger kids will appreciate traditional rides like the carousel, teens will will love the old-school vibe and boardwalk feel, along with the great hot dogs.
What teen wouldn’t enjoy a trip to Hawaii? The key is to visit an island where there’s plenty of stimulation, and Oahu fits the bill. It’s the ultimate Hawaiian hangout for family vacations particularly those with older kids. The most populated and urban of all the islands, it has a cosmopolitan vibe, an energy that’s electric, and there’s always something to do. Most teens would happily spend their days learning to surf at a Waikiki surf school, while their parents enjoy sipping cocktails by the pool. The scene at Waikiki is legendary, with the opportunity not only to surf, but to parasail, boogie board, kayak or paddle an authentic outrigger canoe, all of which can be rented right along the shoreline. If you stay along beach, near the restaurants and shops on Kalakaua Avenue, you won’t have to worry about letting your teens venture out on their own.
Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
Myrtle Beach is jam-packed with teen-friendly activities. The boardwalk stretches for over a mile and features a carnival-like atmosphere with souvenir shops, arcades and rides like the 187-foot-tall Myrtle Beach SkyWheel. Peaches Corner, an institution here since 1937, is beloved for its root beer floats and foot-long hot dogs that are first deep-fried, and then grilled – something that’s sure to please kids, and adults, of all ages. The walkway has become the hub of activity in Myrtle Beach, hosting live entertainment on summer nights like bagpipers, stilt walkers and jugglers as well as a weekly fireworks display. Many of the area golf courses let teenagers under 16 play for free too, with a paying adult, and mini-golf can be found just about everywhere you look.
Orlando is one of America’s most popular family vacation destinations, and a place everyone should really experience at least once, particularly Walt Disney World. The iconic theme park offers delights for kids and adults of all ages, and teens tend to especially enjoy rides like the Rock n’ Roller Coaster, Expedition Everest and Kali River Rapids. Universal Studios, with its 3D Spiderman experience and Incredible Hulk Coaster is sure to please too. And, when the weather gets a little too hot and sticky, you’ll find an abundance of water parks to cool off and splash around in. Orlando also has a lot of budget hotels and cheap eats, making it a bit easier to manage financially.
Taking a trip to a foreign country offers an education your children won’t be able to get out of school text books, and their teens years are an ideal time to go. If you can afford it, allowing them to experience another culture is an eye-opening experience that could even change their lives. London is a great destination for families and first-time international travelers, as everyone speaks English, and it won’t be as much of a culture shock as many other places around the world. Take them for a ride on the London Eye, Europe’s tallest Ferris wheel, to see Big Ben, and tour the fascinating Tower of London to view the crown jewels and the executioner’s block which beheaded a couple of Henry VIII’s wives as well as a number of troublesome heirs to the throne.
The Caribbean on a Carnival Dream Cruise
One of the worst things you could do would be to take an unhappy teenager on a cruise where you’ll be stuck together for days on end trying to turn that frown upside down. But taking that teen on a cruise geared to keep those frowns at bay can make for an amazing family vacation. Carnival Dream is one of the most teen-friendly cruises out there. It cruises throughout the Caribbean and boasts two separate clubs for teens according to their ages: Circle C, a special tween-only club for 12- to 14-year-olds and Club O2, a hang-out for older teens, ages 15 to 17. There are movie screenings and a dance floor at Club C, and Club O2 features a soda bar and has its own DJ too. The cruise line even has a spa just for teens, with treatments like the “Surfer’s Scrub” as well as the conditioning hair treatment and French braid styling session known as “Y Care for Your Hair.”
Yellowstone National Park
Yellowstone is a place that everyone should see before they grow up. Its incredible geysers are sure to inspire teens as well as younger children, particularly Old Faithful, which shoots steam as high as 185 feet approximately every 90 minutes. It’s other geysers are impressive too – there are over 300 – and you’ll also find lots of other geological wonders, like the bubbling mud of Fountain Paint Pot, the electric blue Leather Pool, and countless steaming fumaroles. Hike the walkways over this otherworldly terrain, then visit the shore of Yellowstone Lake and take a trek to the rim of the park’s 10,000-year-old Grand Canyon to see magnificient 100- and 300-foot waterfalls, watching out for wildlife along the way, including bison, elk and Bighorn sheep.
Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin
Wisconsin Dells, often referred to as the “Water Park Capital of the World,” is home to America’s largest water park, Noah’s Ark. It offers a practically overwhelming array of aquatic rides, including two wave pools, a surfing simulator and 51 slides. Scorpion’s Tail, a favorite for its heart-pounding thrills in the water, propels riders down a nearly vertical slide into an inclined loop. There are few teens who would be grumpy about that! But this region offers a lot more than water parks, including the chance to take a zipline tour, hike at Devil’s Lake, go fishing and even enjoy a true rarity, a double feature at the Big Sky Twin Drive-In Theater.
For those outdoor adventure loving teens, it’s hard to beat a whitewater rafting trip on a river in Colorado. In Gunnison, there are three turquoise-hued rivers set against a backdrop of craggy mesas, including an 11-mile stretch along the Gunnison River featuring class I & II rapids that are ideal for families with kids of all ages. There are all sorts of other recreational activities too, including hiking, outstanding trout and salmon fishing, mountain biking and horseback riding.
For many years, teens came up with the short stick as far as Caribbean resorts. Their parents had access to a long list of amenities tailored to their needs, while younger kids had playgrounds, pools and clubs aimed just for them. Teenagers were generally lost in the shuffle, until recent years, that is.