Dream Destinations for Families

The Ahwahnee Hotel (Yosemite National Park, California) and Riviera Maya (Mexico)
Yosemite National Park, California
COLD COMFORT: Winter sunset in Yosemite National Park (Larry Brownstein/Photodisc/Getty)

The Ahwahnee Hotel (Yosemite National Park, California)
The Ahwahnee Native Americans who lived in these spectacular mountains and valleys in central California bequeathed the name of what is today one of the world's most stunning national parks: Yosemite, meaning grizzly bear. They also quite inadvertently lent their own tribal moniker to what would become one of the country's grandest inns, Yosemite's rustic but elegant Ahwahnee Hotel. The hotel—not to mention the park—is wonderful in summer, but perhaps more wondrous in winter; a highlight since its opening in 1927 has been the annual Christmas-season Bracebridge Dinners, replete with all the Old English trappings.

A second fine option in Yosemite, particularly for families on a budget, is Housekeeping Camp, right down by the banks of the Merced River. There are 266 cabins here; each sleeps up to six. You, too, have the millionaire's views of the awesome, ponderous summit of Half Dome; of majestic Yosemite Falls, a cascade of water 2,425 feet long, which makes it the highest waterfall in North America. Greet the dawn and then go exploring. The hikes are as good as it gets, and the signature sights—such as the sheer face of El Capitan, the world's largest granite rock (twice as big as Gibraltar)—will create memories to last a lifetime.
Click here to read Away.com's Yosemite National Park Family Vacations Guide

Riviera Maya (Mexico)
Far from its famous French namesake is a seaside paradise more than 50 miles long that attracts not the glitterati in pursuit of glamour but families seeking fun and adventure. Mexico's Riviera Maya, which stretches down the Yucatán Peninsula, features snow-white beaches and, just offshore in the warm waters of the Caribbean Sea, the second-largest barrier coral reef in the world. There is exotic swimming inland, too, in the cenotes—deep natural pools of crystal-clear water connected to underground rivers. The Mayans of yore thought the cenotes led to the underworld, but to the present-day tourist they represent portals to paradise. Older children will be fascinated by the Mayan ruins at Tulum (El Castillo looks down upon the ocean from atop a dramatic cliff) and Coba; and all ages will be awed by the giant caves of Aktun Chen, where stalactites and stalagmites grow in caverns beneath a thriving rainforest.
Click here to read Away.com's Riviera Maya Family Vacations Guide

Published: 14 May 2008 | Last Updated: 7 Dec 2012
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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