Vacation time lets you relax, unwind, recharge, and get in touch with the fun side of yourself. Family vacation time also helps you bond with your loved ones and make memories that last a lifetime. However, while it’s important that you take a family vacation, it’s just as important where you take your vacation. Here are five destinations for a great family vacation.
The Grand Canyon
Make memories that will last a lifetime with a trip to Grand Canyon National Park. Along with the spectacular views only found at the Grand Canyon, the National Park Service operates a variety of family-friendly tours, numerous lodgings, a small village, and donkey rides to the canyon floor. Learn about some of Grand Canyon's diverse wildlife on the “Critter Chat” tour or explore an 800-year-old ancestral Puebloan site on the Tusayan Ruins Tour. Both tours are ranger-led, and both are free.
For the ultimate Grand Canyon experience stay inside the park at one of the seven lodgings (six on the south rim, one on the North Rim). Depending on where you stay, some rooms may even have a view of the canyon. But, no matter where you stay, all park lodgings let you enjoy an amazing night sky, as well as sunup and sundown at the canyon. Plan ahead because park lodgings get booked well in advance, especially during the summer months.
No other vacation destination offers families as many ways to enjoy their time together as Gatlinburg, Tennessee, and nearby Pigeon Forge. Home to Dollywood, and located right at the gateway to Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge boast three mountain coasters, two water parks, and numerous family themed festivals and events throughout the year. The towns also have several theaters which host a variety of music, comedy, and magic shows appropriate for all ages.
Gatlinburg has plenty of lodging but, for a true Smoky Mountain experience, stay in a Gatlinburg rental cabin. Enjoy a quiet evening sitting by the fire, or stargaze from the porch while the kids play games in the arcade. Most Gatlinburg rental cabins come with fireplaces, large porches with swings, fully-equipped gourmet kitchens, multiple televisions, and WiFi Internet. Some larger cabins even have built-in home theaters. All cabins come with amazing views of the beautiful Smoky Mountains. A Gatlinburg rental cabin provides the convenience of modern living combined with the charm of a rustic mountain lodge.
Visiting Orlando, Florida - the home of Disney World, Universal Studios, and SeaWorld - you won’t find a higher concentration or wider variety of rides and attractions anywhere else in the world. Plus, not as well-known, but just as much fun, the Orlando Science Center, or the Holy Land Experience — a biblical museum and theme park — provide a nice break when the lines get too long at the parks.
If you’re going to spend most of your time at Walt Disney World, consider staying at a Disney Resort. Disney World currently has twenty-five properties ranging from value resorts to luxury hotels. They’re all themed, and you’ll also enjoy complimentary transportation to and from the Orlando Airport to the hotel, free parking and early access to the theme parks.
A mix of kid-friendly museums, sightseeing tours, beautiful architecture, and a world-class zoo make Washington, DC a great place for a family vacation. The Washington Mall alone has eight major historic monuments — including the Washington Monument, and the Lincoln and Jefferson Memorials — all within easy walking distance of each other. If your feet get tired, hop on a tour bus. Washington DC has a variety of hop-on-hop-off tour buses that stop at the White House, the Capitol Building, Arlington National Cemetery, and almost every other major attraction. For a different perspective and stunning views of the DC landscape, take a cruise on one of many tour boats that operate on the Potomac.
Along with sightseeing, Washington DC also has a wide variety of activities as well. Seventeen museums and galleries make up what’s known as the Smithsonian Institution. More than a museum, the Smithsonian encompasses the family-friendly National Air and Space Museum, the National Museum of American History, a planetarium, interactive exhibits, and the National Zoo. The National Zoo also has a children’s section where your kids get to meet and greet hogs, cows, goats, chickens, alpacas, and fish.
Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin
Thanks to the largest concentration of indoor and outdoor water parks on earth, Wisconsin Dells claims the title of “Waterpark Capital of the World.” Beyond just water parks, however, for a small town in south central Wisconsin - set in a hugely scenic area - Wisconsin Dells has a ton of other attractions to visit. If you and the family prefer traditional amusement park rides, for example, there’s Mount Olympus Theme Park (also part waterpark), Timber Falls Adventure Park, and Tom Foolery’s Adventure Park. Three different zip-line tours, several go-kart tracks, horseback riding, and lots of miniature golf means that you’ll run out of energy long before you run out of things to do. Accommodation of every kind abounds in this area too.
When evening rolls around, Wisconsin Dells has a number of theaters that host a variety of family entertainment. Laugh until your side hurts at Dells Game Show & Comedy Club where you take the stage and compete against your family and friends. Sit back at Dells Lumberjack Show and enjoy a mix of traditional lumberjack competitions and extreme sports. At the Rick Wilcox Theater, Rick and Susan Wilcox perform a ninety-minute Magic Show that Milwaukee Journal theater critic Damien Jaques says “defines the concept of family entertainment.”