Top Ten Budget-Friendly Vacations for Families - Page 3

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Smithsonian natural history museum
HISTORY IN CONTEXT: The Smithsonian's Natural History Museum in Washington, D.C.  (courtesy, the Smithsonian Institute)

5. Moab, Utah
This is a great destination for combining camping with a few nights in a motel to clean up. There are easy mountain-biking trails (harder ones for older kids and Mom and Dad), plus river rafting, jeep trails, and beautiful hiking along the Colorado River. Moab is the gateway to two national parks—Canyonlands and Arches—and within one to four hours of Capital Reef, Glen Canyon, Zion, and Lake Powell. A three-hour drive takes you to the iconic mountain towns of Telluride and Ouray. Don't forget water, sunscreen, and a wide-brimmed hat. Salt Lake City has the closest major airport.
Moab Vacation Guide

4. Palm Springs, California
Southern California is a top vacation pick for kids for one big reason—Disneyland. But the urban jungle and freeways surrounding Anaheim aren't most parent's idea of relaxing. Consider using the Palm Springs area (with eight resort communities) as a base camp. Desert temps can be hot, but swimming pools abound, with the 21-acre Knotts Soak City a must. In Palm Desert, most hotels cut prices by 50 percent in the summer. The JW Marriott Resort and Spa in Desert Springs has a kid's club, a family pool, and lagoons with pink flamingos and black swans. Check out the Children's Discovery Museum of the Desert and the 1,200-acre Living Desert Wildlife and Botanical Park. From your desert oasis, you can take a quick trip into Anaheim to visit Disneyland. The drive's about two hours in good traffic, so spend a night at a local hotel and get two-day park pass so you can take in the evening fireworks.
Palm Springs Vacation Guide

3. Las Vegas, Nevada
Despite its reputation as Sin City, Las Vegas's cheap flights, deep-discount lodging, and endless buffets keep costs low for families. Mega-hotels have spent millions, maybe billions of dollars building magnificent family-friendly attractions—and you can walk most everywhere along the strip. Kid-pleasers are the Shark Reef at Mandalay Bay—home to more than 1,200 species of sharks, rays, tropical, and freshwater fish and reptiles; The Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat at the Mirage with tigers, panthers, leopards, and dolphins; Circus Circus; and Vegas Indoor Skydiving. Or hike the cool canyon trails to springs and swimming holes in Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area.
Las Vegas Vacation Guide

2. Riviera Maya, Mexico
This section of the Caribbean coast (about a half hour south of Cancun) boasts the world's second-largest barrier coral reef, so the snorkeling is spectacular. Families can find great deals in the many all-inclusive resorts and boutique hotels, and there are good deals on flights into Cancun International Airport—especially June through August. In addition to pristine beaches, Xcaret eco-theme park lets you swim with dolphins, view pumas and jaguars, walk through a butterfly pavilion, or explore Mayan ruins tucked into the lush rainforest.
Riviera Maya Vacation Guide

1. Washington D.C.
There's no better way to make learning about history and politics fun than a visit to our nation's capital. Free entry to all 19 Smithsonian museums (including the National Zoo with giant pandas, Sumatran Tigers, and baby rhinos), the National Gallery of Art, and the national monuments will definitely help keep expenses down. Hotels can be expensive downtown, but the great public transportation system—the Metro—lets you stay in less-expensive lodging outside the National Mall. Older kids will love the International Spy Museum, while a more somber reflection of history can be had at the spectacular United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Fun day trips include Civil War battlefields like Gettysburg, Bull Run, and Manassas, and visits to Mount Vernon, George Washington's placid home.
Washington, D.C. Vacation Guide

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