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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Charity De Souza is a Florida native and travel enthusiast. Traveling to over 50 countries abroad and residing in 6, she has a passion for exploring new cultures. While Central Florida is where she calls home, her favorite travel memories include skydiving in Switzerland and watching the sunset in Morocco.
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Need some inspiration for your next family trip? Whether you’re looking for something near or far, unique and off-the-beaten-path or a budget-friendly adventure, you’re sure to find something on this list that will spark your interest. From the sand and the sun to castles and exotic wildlife, pick your favorite and start packing.
If the tropics are what you’ve had in mind but not everyone in the family has a passport, consider the Florida Keys. This chain of islands that can be reached from the mainland via the Overseas Highway, one of the most beautiful drives in the world, is about as close as you can get to the Caribbean without actually being there. By basing your stay in one of the Keys farther north like Key Largo, you’ll find quite a few affordable family-friendly resorts and hotels for enjoying palm-lined beaches and swimming or snorkeling in crystal-clear aquamarine-hued waters. John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park hosts the country’s only living coral reef along with abundant marine life, including sea turtles, colorful fish and dolphins.
The three-mile-long boardwalk at the southern tip of Ocean City in Maryland makes a great spot to focus any family vacation with a long list of things to do nearby. Dating back to 1902, its Herschel-Spellman carousel has been spinning for nearly 120 years now. You’ll find other rides along with games, shops, eateries and a wide range of attractions to enjoy too. Explore the Life-Saving Station Museum, take advantage of outdoor movies, Beach Olympics and free concerts on Wednesday evenings in July and August.
America’s first national park is a must-visit for families, home to more geothermal features like geysers, hot springs, fumaroles and mud pots than anywhere else on Earth. Old Faithful, its most famous geyser, skyrockets steam as high as 185 feet about every 90 minutes, while Grand Prismatic Spring, the country’s largest hot spring is a sight to behold, named for its striking coloration in nearly all shades of the rainbow. The park is also filled with wildlife, from bison, elk and Bighorn sheep to wolves and bears.
Visitors of all ages will be lured in by Edinburgh’s charm, where an exploration of the Edinburgh Castle or the National Museum of Scotland will appeal to the entire family. Enjoy four floors of games at the Museum of Childhood, engage with interactive exhibits at Dynamic Earth, and have oodles of fun at Doodles, Edinburgh’s first “do it yourself” ceramic workshop. Watch animals roaming free and play on go-karts at East Links Family Park, where you’ll also find a train safari, indoor animal barn, and trampolines.
One of the most scenic stretches of coastline in the entire United States, the Oregon Coast spans for 360 miles from Astoria and the Columbia River down to Brookings. You’ll find plenty of scenic spots to pull over for, including Haystack Rock at Cannon Beach and the Yaquina Head Lighthouse in Newport. Make pit stops at charming towns like Florence with its Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area and Tillamook, which is known for its dairy products, while the shorter Three Capes Scenic Drive is ideal if you’ve only got a weekend to explore.
A visit to the Emerald Isle is sure to thrill the whole family, with the chance to explore countless castles from the over 800-year-old Dublin Castle to 12th-century Trim Castle, Ireland’s largest and one of its most famous having played a starring role in the movie “Braveheart.” Climb the steep steps to kiss the Blarney Stone at Blarney Castle, check out the creepy dungeon at Bunratty Castle and even join a medieval banquet, complete with musicians in period costumes playing the harp and violin. In the seaside town of Dingle, one of the prettiest in the country, you can even meet its friendly resident dolphin Fungie.
The Black Hills are one of the best destinations for a fun family vacation in the country with a wide range of attractions and outdoor activities. Delve into history by visiting Mount Rushmore and Crazy Horse Monument, and be sure to visit Custer State Park where you can watch for abundant wildlife like wild burros, bison, elk, pronghorn, deer, eagles and more. Enjoy hiking scenic trails and swimming or paddling on Sylvan Lake too. You can hop on a historic steam train ride between Keystone and Hill City, pan for gold, explore caves, and check out the adorable bear cubs at Bear Country USA.
Disney-loving families will delight in the attractions surrounding Munich, as exploring Neuschwanstein Castle is like stepping into a real-life fairytale. Even the beer gardens that dot the city are family-friendly, while Englischer Garten is the city’s central park and is a great place to stretch out in its grassy expanse. Stroll the open-air Auer Dult Munich market and stop for a spin on the carousel, or visit the Munich Zoo, Tierpark Hellabrunn, to enjoy camel rides and penguin parades.
“The Waterpark Capital of the World,” Wisconsin Dells is a top vacation spot for families in the Midwest. It’s home to both indoor and outdoor waterparks, including Mt. Olympus Water plus Theme Park and Noah’s Ark Waterpark, which host a wide range of aquatic rides including two wave pools, a surfing simulator and 51 slides. Scorpion’s Tail, a favorite with those looking for heart-pounding thrills in the water, propels riders down a nearly vertical slide into an inclined loop.
Enjoy a fascinating history lesson and the beautiful beaches of Cape Cod with a trip back in time to the 1620s, when the pilgrims arrived here from England. Plimoth Plantation offers living history with costumed actors recreating what it was like on the crossing as well as daily life in the settlement. You can also step onto the replica of the Mayflower ship before taking advantage of the miles and miles of unspoiled sands, lighthouses, art galleries, museums and delicious eats on the Cape.
If the Caribbean is calling, Grand Cayman is a water lover’s paradise that offers an excellent variety of family-friendly activities and attractions, including pristine white sand beaches framed by a crystal-clear blue sea. picture-perfect beaches sitting at the edge of the water that’s as clear as a swimming pool. At Sting Ray City you can even wade out among hundreds of gentle stingrays.
Oahu, Hawaii is a delight for visitors of all ages, with its laid-back island vibes and array of outdoor attractions. The beaches of Oahu are an obvious lure, but you can also take the kids to the Dole Pineapple Garden Maze, go snorkeling at Hanauma Bay, surf lessons on Oahu’s North Shore or keep it budget-friendly with a scenic stroll at Diamond Head to soak up panoramic island views. Wrap up your day with a frozen treat at Matsumoto Shave Ice in North Shore. Stay at Aulani, A Disney Resort & Spa to experience its kid-approved luau and Fireside Storytelling with Moana.
A walkable city with tons of things to see and do, Vienna is a great family destination for those looking for a cultural getaway. Visit the Schonbrunn Palace, the former summer residence of the imperial Habsburg family, to explore its palace grounds, a children’s museum and zoo. Kids can play with interactive exhibits at the Zoom Children’s Museum or House of Music, while the indoor playground at Bogi Park boasts go-karts and trampolines. If you want to admire city views, take the elevator up to the North Tower of St. Stephen’s Cathedral or take a ride on the Giant Ferris Wheel.
Puerto Rico is a sun-drenched island where you can enjoy the sunshine, golden sand, and warm azure waves. Visit the 18th-century El Morro fort in the Old Town for a day of picnicking and kite flying, stroll the promenade in Paseo de la Princesa or explore hands-on exhibits at Museo Del Niño. Visit Mosquito Bay to kayak in a bioluminescent bay, go horseback riding through El Yunque National Forest or try stand-up paddleboarding at Condado Lagoon. For a private beach and outdoor pool, stay at Caribe Hilton.
Surrounded by mountains and beaches, Vancouver offers plenty of kid-approved fun. Head to Granville Island and Stanley Park to explore the Vancouver Aquarium, four playgrounds, an outdoor water park, and a miniature train, then walk across the 450-foot-long Capilano Suspension Bridge for an adrenaline rush. Adventurous families will find plenty of hiking, kayaking, and skiing to enjoy, while Kitsilano Beach is a great place to relax and unwind with its heated salt-water pool and wrap-around view of the city. Take the SeaBus to North Vancouver or the SkyTrain to New Westminster or visit False Creek for an exploration of the Telus World of Science.
A great spot for outdoor-loving families, Reykjavik is full to the brim with impressive natural wonders. You’ll find pools fed by thermal hot springs, mesmerizing waterfalls, and a chance to spot the Northern Lights. Take a dip in the thermal pools that have shallow kiddie pools for the tots, hop on a whale-watching cruise off the coast, or ride an Icelandic horse, which is considered a national treasure. You can also visit the Volcano House to learn about volcanic rocks and minerals through interactive exhibits.
More than just its culinary delights, Florence is a great place for the kids with its walkable streets and variety of beautiful art and architecture. When the kids get weary after exploring the gems in the Uffizi Gallery, you can take a scenic stroll along Ponte Vecchio or satisfy your sweet tooth with a scoop of gelato. Take a break in the colorful gardens at Boboli Gardens or admire the view from the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore.
While Bali might a further destination to reach than others on this list, it is an excellent choice for traveling families. This Indonesian island offers plenty of outdoor activities, from surfing and white water rafting to hiking through rice paddies, while it’s also brimming with culture and traditions. You can watch the Kecak dance at Uluwatu Temple, soak in the Tirta Empul holy springs, and visit cheeky monkeys in a monkey forest in Ubud. Slide down water slides at Waterbom Bali, observe wild animals at Bali Safari and Marine Park, or admire colorful creatures in Kemenuh Butterfly Park.
The Land of the Rising Sun is surprisingly family-friendly, offering your family a chance to explore Japan’s rich history and culture. You can visit the Tokyo Disneyland & DisneySea theme parks, visit the home of anime at Studio Ghibli and watch a musical robot dinner show. Sample sushi and ramen, then meet Hello Kitty at the colorful parades at Puroland or take a scenic boat ride at Inokashira Park. To truly immerse yourself in Japanese culture, stay in a traditional ryokan like Hoshinoya Tokyo, which also has a rooftop onsen.
Skip the crowds in London and instead head to Scotland for an exploration of the Scottish Highlands, an 11,000-square-mile region north of Glasgow. Families can marvel at the natural splendor of this area on a hike through evergreen glens and along the rugged coastlines and beaches. Harry Potter fans will enjoy a ride on the Jacobite steam train aka Hogwarts Express, you can head along the banks of Loch Ness and do some Nessie hunting or feed reindeer at Cairngorm Reindeer Centre. If you time your visit right, you can also attend the Highland Games to see kilt-wearing Scots compete in games.