Top 10 Family Destinations
As families flock to Walt Disney World in droves this summer, consider declining the long lines and Mickey Mouse ears and opt instead for a less exhausting, and less expensive, family retreat. Stretch both your dollars and your children’s memories by booking a trip to a destination, near or far, that parents and kids together will love. We’ve done the dirty work for you and scoured the globe for the world’s Top 10 family destinations:
Possibly the best and definitely the cheapest way to see the Emerald Isle is by car. Rent (or “hire”, as they say in the land of leprechauns) an automobile in the country’s capital, Dublin, and begin your exploration. Catch a Gaelic football game at Croke Park Stadium or live Irish music at a local pub before heading south to tour the coast. Along the scenic way, stop in Waterford to see gifted glass blowers sculpt arguably the world’s finest crystal. Then continue on to the Ring of Kerry to admire Ireland’s natural beauty, take frameable photos and let the youngsters stretch their legs.
Lake Powell, Utah, USA
Straddling Utah and Arizona, Lake Powell is the second largest man-made lake in North America. If you’re traveling with a larger bunch, consider chartering a houseboat to tour the massive body of water and the surrounding, awe-inspiring Glen Canyon. Houseboats sleep up to 12 – a fine option if you want to include grandparents or friends in your family adventures. Canoe, Jet Ski or fish from the stern of your all-inclusive ship as you coast along the placid lake.
Whistler, British Columbia, Canada
Even when the snow has melted and slopes turned green, Whistler is an absolute blast for families. The outdoor activities are endless at this Pacific Northwest tourist down during June, July and August. Fly into Vancouver for a day of downtown sights before driving two hours north to mountain climb, horseback ride, zip line and hike. After all of the exercise, you’ll need a respite. Treat yourself to a massage at one of the many five-star spas in town as the kids learn to spot, belay and repel at half-day or two-day climbing camps.
Cinque Terre, Italy
If you’re keen on keeping an eye on the children at all times, Cinque Terre is your spot. The “Five Lands” are isolated gems, situated along the Italian Riviera and providing tourists a true dose of Italian living, unsullied by tourists or modern developments. Take the family for hikes along the winding dirt paths that connect each town and soak in the views of natural wildlife and endless stretches of sea. Once you’ve worn the little ones out, relax at the spectacular beaches. We recommend making Vernazza your hub. Smaller than Monterosso, it’s a fabulous combination of delicious restaurants, charming guesthouses and low-key living.
Washington, D.C., USA
Bring your walking shoes to America’s capital for an inexpensive trip this summer. Channel the Yankee in you at the National Mall, a two-mile stretch of memorials and monuments in the heart of D.C. Before it’s too hot, take your kids and camera to outdoor must-sees like the White House, Washington Monument, and the Lincoln Memorial and Reflecting Pool. Then head indoors to the Natural History Museum, Air and Space Museum, and Smithsonian – admission is free to them all. Once you’ve had your fill of history lessons, zip north to the National Zoo to coo at the city’s pride and joy, the giant pandas.
If your kids can handle the lengthy flight, whisk them off to Sydney for a taste of winter down under, an unforgettable summer adventure for adults and children alike. Australia’s largest city offers a plethora of activities for families, from city bike tours to gnarly surfing. Scale the Sydney Harbour Bridge together and, once you’ve reached the 134-meter-high peak, soak in the marvelous views of the harbor and Sydney Opera House. After your feet are planted firmly back on the ground, head to the world-famous Sydney Fish Market and watch as nearly 100 species of fish get auctioned off daily.
Hit the ground running with the whole family on Barcelona’s most famous avenue, Las Ramblas, and sop up the excitement of Spanish vendors, bird markets and street musicians as you stroll the tree-lined lane. For a change of pace and more kid-friendly activities, head to the Museum of Natural History or the Barcelona Zoo in Ciutadella Park. After a few days of city musts, consider the beachfront district of Barceloneta for miles of bike riding along the boardwalk and beach. Let the kids sample fresh paella as you sip white wine and take in the views.
Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia, USA
Williamsburg is like a real-life history class for your kids – only fun. The entire town is themed in 18th Century garb, from red jacketed townspeople to colonial courthouses. Lose yourself in the revolution as men fly by on horseback and Virginian women tend to their gardens. Then bring yourself back to the future at Busch Gardens, where riding roller coasters is trumped only by Jack Hanna’s wildlife reserve, where the experts teach your children about endangered species and preserving the planet.
Hike the Swiss Alps this summer on a European vacation your kids will never forget. Make Interlaken, a tiny town in Switzerland situated between two Alpine lakes, your family’s home base as you rock climb, paraglide, and river raft by day, and indulge in savory schnitzel and chocolate fondue by night. Take a train, then cable car ride up the snow-capped mountain to Mürren, a quaint town inaccessible by car. Visit the revolving restaurant at the peak for lunch – and pictures, of course – before trailing your way south to hillside villages.
Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada
Finally see what all the fuss is about this summer at Niagara Falls. Ensure everyone in the family has their sea legs on before boarding the Maid of the Mist, a boat that takes visitors to the foot of the falls for an all-but-too-close perspective of the North American water wonder. Once the kids tire of the overflow, head to Clifton Hill amusement park or the butterfly conservatory in the Niagara Parks Botanical Gardens for hands-on entertainment. For an urban retreat, rent a car and follow the coast 90 minutes north to Toronto, Ontario’s bustling capital.