As much as you want your kids to stay young, cute, and sweet forever, they’re eventually going to grow up. As they grow up, they might become the quintessential teenager who is deeply embarrassed by their parents’ existence, and they’ll become far too cool for kiddie activities.
When it comes to choosing a family vacation destination, you want to take advantage of certain places or attractions while your kids are still young and willing to hold your hand as you wait in line to meet Peter Pan at Disney World!
Dinosaur Valley State Park
Seventy-five miles southwest of Dallas is just the place you’ve been looking for to fulfill your child’s Indiana Jones dreams and maybe even inspire a career as an archeologist. Dinosaur Valley State Park is in Glen Rose, known as the Dinosaur Capital of Texas (not that there’s a lot of competition elsewhere).
You can explore the large footprints in the Paluxy River or take a covered wagon tour, plus there are plenty of outdoor activities like mountain biking, swimming, fishing, and hiking.
You’ve got beaches, you’ve got boardwalks, you’ve got history, and if you’ve got a child who is obsessed with those big fancy things that fly through the sky, Virginia Beach also has a military aviation museum!
Take a ride in an open cockpit biplane at the aviation museum, then if you time it properly, you can compete in a sandcastle-building contest at Neptune’s Castle. If you feel like honoring the first U.S. president, you can walk in his footsteps at Ferry Farm in Fredericksburg, too.
Glacier National Park
North America’s glaciers are disappearing, so if you’re looking for the best place to show them to your kids, Montana’s Glacier National Park is top of the list. The Glacier Park bus tours let kids see wildlife from a safe distance, or you can venture along the trails. In the summer you’ve got glacial lakes to kayak or canoe along, or you can book a boat tour.
The Denver Zoo
The Mile High City in general is a great option for a family vacation, with a visit to the Denver Zoo being an absolute must. The Children’s Museum of Denver as well as the Denver Museum of Nature and Science will keep your kids entertained for hours while you’re visiting, and you can ride on the free open-air Denver Trolley.
Jackson Hole Mountain Resort is considered to be one of the top ski destinations in the country, plus there are two other large resorts in the Jackson Hole Valley, so you have your pick of destinations.
In the winter, you can teach the kids to ski or snowboard, and explore an ice castle or go ice skating in Teton Village. If you’re more of a warm-weather destination kind of family, there’s plenty to do in the summer too!
You might not think that historical sites are the best place to keep a child interested, but take advantage of it while they’re still too young to complain that they don’t want to see giant stone carvings. Mount Rushmore offers a hands-on history lesson, you can pan for gold, explore ghost towns, and maybe even see a few buffalo roaming around!
A visit to Chicago has to include a visit to the reflective Cloud Gate sculpture (better known as “the Bean”), but there’s more to do for your kids in Millennium Park than just taking photos.
There are lots of free activities in the summer, like yoga classes, or you could rent bikes to ride around. Maggie Daley Park is a great place for your kids to blow off some steam, and then they can cool down with a splash in the Crown Fountain.
It’s pretty clear why you’ll want to hit this destination while the kids are still young. Sesame Place has water attractions like Big Bird’s Rambling River and The Count’s Splash Castle, or you can opt for dry land options like exploring Sesame Neighborhood via Oscar’s Wacky Taxi. Wear them out with all the excitement during the day, then let them doze through dinner as you and your spouse get to relax a little.
The Space Coast
Florida really does have a lot to offer in terms of family attractions. If your little one is convinced they’re going to be an astronaut one day, let them experience it for a day by taking them to the Shuttle Launch Experience flight simulator at the Kennedy Space Center.
The Space Coast area also offers beautiful beaches and a host of outdoor attractions when you’re done with pretending to be in space.
Disney World truly has something for every visitor, whether they’re 8 or 85 years old, but nothing beats the magic of visiting Disney World or Disneyland when you’re a child. The first time your little girl gets to meet her favorite princess or your son gets to meet Mickey Mouse will be a moment that none of you will forget.
Cedar Point is a great vacation option if you want a couple of days of excitement for your teens or older-aged elementary kids. The roller coaster capital of the world has more than 10 miles of track for you and the family to ride, including the historic Blue Streak, which dates back to 1964.
Whether you want to stay on the American side or venture across the border into the international waters of Canada, Niagara Falls is sure to impress your children (and probably you as well), especially if you want to commit to a ride on the Maid of the Mist. Beyond the Falls, there’s a number of attractions on both sides of the border like the Niagara Parks Botanical Gardens.
The French Quarter
New Orleans doesn’t have to be reserved solely for adults looking to celebrate Mardi Gras, and the spirit of the festivities last throughout the year! There are lots of free family activities in Jackson Square where you can watch jugglers, magicians, or jazz bands in the streets. Hop on the St. Charles streetcar to the Audubon Zoo where kids can feed the giraffes, or pay a visit to the Audubon Butterfly Garden.
Home to the National Baseball Hall Of Fame and Museum, Cooperstown is the perfect place for your kids who are determined to be the next Babe Ruth. Even if you yourself aren’t a huge sports fan, there’s plenty to do beyond the Baseball Hall of Fame. There’s the Barnyard Swing Miniature Golf Course, or The Farmers’ Museum at Fly Creek Cider Mill & Orchard.
The Wizarding World Of Harry Potter
Similar to Disney World, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is truly a magical experience for your kids as well as yourself, but around 8 to 13 years old is really a peak time to experience the magic a muggle normally wouldn’t get to know about. With the number of things to do in the Wizarding World, you could make it your sole destination spot, or make it a day trip.
Your children, as well as yourself, probably learned all about Plymouth Rock in school, but if you’re looking to step back in time, Plimoth Plantation lets the whole family jump back in 1620. See Plymouth Rock, interact with actors in costume and character, and participate in crafts or cultural-based activities at the Wampanoag Homesite.
Nicknamed the Waterpark Capital of the World, the Wisconsin Dells has certainly earned its nickname. Noah’s Ark waterpark is the largest waterpark in the United States, featuring 51 water slides and dozens of other attractions. If you’re not feeling like venturing onto Noah’s Ark, there’s a number of other parks (indoors & outdoors) for the family to choose from.
An overseas adventure might not be what every family is looking for, but if you’re planning your family trip across the pond, Buckingham Palace is a great attraction for your kids. Watch the Changing of the Guard outside the palace so your kids can enjoy the soldiers in their red coats, and if your kids are particularly interested in that big building where the Queen lives in, you can maybe take a tour inside!
Redwood National & State Parks
Seeing some of the tallest trees on Earth is a bucket-list item for many adults, but that doesn’t mean you need to wait to bring your kids to see the Redwoods. Stroll through Lady Bird Johnson Grove (where your kids can crawl through the hollow trees), look for elk grazing in the meadow, and you might even spot a whale or two in December through April.
Theodore Roosevelt National Park
Arguably one of the most underrated U.S. states, North Dakota offers the peace, quiet, and stargazing you’ve been searching for after a long summer at home with the kids. If you’re looking to inspire a lifelong love of camping or start a new family tradition, Theodore Roosevelt National Park is the scenic location you’ve been dreaming of.