Top Ten Family Vacation Spots in North America and Mexico - Page 2
5. San Diego, California
Making kids happy could very well be the motto for laid-back San Diego. With a wealth of family-friendly hotels, restaurants, beaches, a world-renowned zoo, and a handful of nearby theme parks, a kid would have to be an android not to get excited. Start at the San Diego Zoo to view the latest member of the panda family. Thirty miles north of the city, more wildlife can be found at the often overlooked Wild Animal Park. Get a bird's eye view of the lions, giraffes, elephants, rhinos, and other animals in their hot air balloons. Then there's my family's favorite, Sea World, where you can dine with Shamu. Enjoy a gluttonous buffet while the killer whale does flips not more than ten feet from your seat. Disneyland, Legoland, and Knott's Berry Farm are three theme parks located less than 90 minutes from San Diego. Lines at Legoland are relatively short and, like San Diego, there's a relaxed ambience. If you want to extend your stay in the area, spend several nights at that quintessential California coastal town, Laguna Beach.
San Diego Family Vacation Guide
4. Orlando, Florida
While we're on the subject of theme parks...Disney knows a thing or two about running one. This year, they continue with their "Year of a Million Dreams" celebration at both Walt Disney World in Orlando and Disneyland in Anaheim, California. Every day cast members will award prizes to visitors that might include an overnight at the royal bedchamber inside Cinderella Castle in Magic Kingdom, serving as grand marshal in a Disney parade, private meetings with favorite Disney characters, or a Golden Fastpass, offering easy access to many of the rides. The hit Disney movie, High School Musical, has also made its way into the park. Join the East High crew as they party on Main Street, inviting you to sing and dance along the way.
Like Disney, Universal has become a hot spot for togethering, the growing trend in travel to go on vacation with extended family, friends, neighbors, or old classmates. Universal teamed with The Simpsons creator Matt Groening to make public the first attraction based on the popular TV series. Ride with Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa, and Maggie, as you take a hysterical jaunt through Springfield. Over at Universal Orlando's City Walk, known for its large selection of restaurants and clubs, the latest addition is a permanent theater for the zany antics of the Blue Man Group.
Orlando Family Vacation Guide
3. Maui, Hawaii
Home to Oahu's world-famous Waikiki Beach, the volcanoes of the Big Island, and Kauai's lush foliage, Hawaii truly is America's magical island destination. It's an enchanted land where the extraordinary becomes ordinary—whales breaching in turquoise waters, a river of red lava flowing from a crater, or a simple hula dance on white sands as sunset streaks across the sky in shades of amber. But if I had to choose one island to take the family, it would be Maui. You can visit the 10,023-foot dormant volcano, Haleakala, preferably as early as 3:00 a.m. to see the sunrise, and then bike all the way back to sea level. Or hike though bamboo forests to the island's many pristine waterfalls, snorkel in protected waters to go eyeball to eyeball with neon-colored fish and sea turtles, and drive some (but not all) of the S-curves of the Hana Highway to hidden black sand beaches. Maui is also known as one of the great golfing playgrounds in the world. Championship courses, designed by the likes of Palmer, Jones, Nicklaus, and Norman, spread out on the manicured properties in Kaanapali and Wailea.
Maui Family Vacation Guide
2. Cruising Alaska
My family had already seen huge chunks of ice fall off mile-wide glaciers, whales, over a dozen bald eagles, and a brown bear chomping on a salmon. We had already taken a float plane to a remote lodge hidden in Alaska's high peaks, went dogsledding with a genuine Iditarod rider in summer, and kayaked past the harbor seals of Ketchikan Harbor. And yes, we had already dined on all the indigenous goodies, from salmon to halibut to tender Alaskan king crab legs meat dipped in butter. But the best thing about seeing Alaska on a weeklong cruise is that the sightseeing is done at a leisurely pace. Unlike a Mediterranean cruise, where you have the futile task of trying to see Barcelona or Rome in a day, six hours is the perfect amount of time to see Juneau, Sitka, and Ketchikan, the main Alaskan ports on the journey. In Sitka, be sure to splurge for the three-hour Sea Otter & Wildlife Quest excursion. The abundance of marine life is astounding. Within moments of leaving the docks, humpbacks raise their tales, followed by harbor seals, bald eagles standing in the tall spruces, sea lions, a colony of more than 50 sea otters lounging in the kelp, and puffins with their orange beaks.
Alaska Family Vacation Guide
1. Yellowstone National Park
Why go to Africa and spend gobs of money on a safari when we have our own wildlife to cherish here in the States? On the Wyoming-Montana Border, Yellowstone is the country's first and arguably finest national park. One day you're watching a towering geyser by the name of Old Faithful erupt. The next day you're going eyeball to eyeball with buffalo, elk, and moose in Hayden Valley, a favorite wildlife hangout far away from the road. The more adventurous can hike to the summit of 10,243-foot peak, Mount Washburn, or cast out the fly for trout on some of the clearest water you'll ever see. If you can, head to Yellowstone in early June or late August to avoid the crowds at hot spots like Old Faithful.
Yellowstone National Park Family Vacation Guide