K.C. was a featured writer for Yahoo! Travel before joining trips to discover in 2013. She is the author of Best Travel Guide for First Time Visitors to Ireland, an Amazon bestseller every year between 2013 and 2016. She has been a featured expert on Newsweek, Travel + Leisure, Travelocity, among others.
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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.
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 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 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 fun rides. 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 and natural springs in the Central Florida area.
Taking a trip to a foreign country offers an education your children won’t be able to get out of school textbooks, 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.
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. Its 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 magnificent 100- and 300-foot waterfalls, watching out for wildlife along the way, including bison, elk and Bighorn sheep.
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. Now you’ll find a long list of family-friendly resorts in the Bahamas where the entire family will be happy.
Denver is an ideal destination for those who want to enjoy city attractions and time in the mountains. In the Mile High City itself, teens will love exploring the Denver Selfie Museum and the Denver Art Museum is sure to impress many too. There are amusement parks with thrill rides and the Denver Skate Park is always fun for watching the tricks that talented skaters pull off. Plus, the Rocky Mountains are a short drive away for hiking and mountain biking during the summer, with winter bringing the chance to enjoy a skier’s and snowboarder’s paradise.
Jackson Hole is a year-round vacation destination with opportunities to take scenic float safaris to spot everything from bears to elk and moose, ride the rapids on the Snake River, and hike or mountain bike miles of trails. World-class skiing and boarding can be enjoyed in the winter, and at any time of the year, teens will enjoy exploring the town itself where everything is within walking distance making it easy to explore on foot. It not only offers a Wild West feel with its wooden sidewalks, but hosts all sorts of shops, eateries, and entertainment.
For European teenagers, a trip to Tenerife is a right of passage. American teens are sure to appreciate an exotic visit to this island and its beautiful, lively beaches. It offers a diverse array of beaches with everything from black sands to golden stretches that are popular for windsurfing and kite surfing while dolphins, sea turtles, orca, minke, and sperm whales, can all be seen offshore. Boat tours to see them are available as well as excursions on catamarans with glass-bottomed panels for marveling at the marine life below. The opportunities for fun are nearly endless – ride the cable car to the summit of the world’s third-tallest volcano and take a downhill bike tour into Los Cristianos, experience the thrill of a zero-gravity slide at Siam Park, and much more.
Often ranked as the happiest country in the world, Costa Rica is an ideal destination for turning the frowns of grumpy teens around, showing them what pura vida really means. The wildlife is incredible, with lush rainforest home to an abundance of exotic wildlife, including sloths, monkeys, ocelots, toucans, and macaws, while the opportunities for thrills like ziplining and enjoying refreshing dips in serene waterfall pools are all possible too. Right next to the famous volcano Arenal, they can climb Cerro Chato volcano, or head to funky Tamarindo to learn to surf.
The only downside about a vacation in Seattle is that teens are likely to enjoy it so much they’ll want to move there. The Museum of Pop Culture is sure to please with exhibits that span diverse areas, including music, sci-fi, fantasy, horror, fashion, sports, and video games. Everyone will enjoy watching the famous fishmongers toss the catch-of-the-day at Pike Place Market where numerous buskers provide free entertainment. A tour of a chocolate factory with samples included at Theo Chocolate is sure to please too. On a sunny day, enjoy paddling or cruising the numerous waterways, and if it’s rainy out, take the Underground Tour which intrigues all with a vast, eerie network of underground tunnels beneath the Pioneer Square neighborhood.
A family trip to the nation’s capital provides the opportunity for older kids to explore iconic museums, monuments, and landmarks that they’ve learned about in school. They can see the U.S. Capitol Building, the White House, Lincoln Memorial, and much more, getting a better understanding of America’s history than they could from a textbook. Plus, they’re sure to love museums like the International Spy Museum where they’ll be immersed in a world of secret ops and undercover missions through hands-on experiences. The National Air and Space Museum is a favorite for many, featuring all things outer space and aviation, including moon rocks, the Apollo 11 Command Module, and the Wright Brothers exhibit.