Oftentimes, planning a family vacation can feel like you’re playing the role of travel agent rather than parent. You spend hours researching the best destinations, itineraries, and activities that your clients (um, kids) will love once you land. And even though traveling with children inevitably changes the dynamic and logistics of a trip—in both wonderful and challenging ways—that doesn’t mean you have to completely plan around the little ones. After all, the wanderlust doesn’t stop once you have kids, and neither should the adventures you love taking.
Planning a “family-friendly vacation” should be just that—a trip that pleases the entirefamily, including the parents! Hit the beach, tour wineries, explore a city—take the vacations you’ve always loved with tweaks to the itinerary or destination that will also thrill your kids. We’ve got some ideas.
Using a mix of editorial insight and data from our Editors’ Choice Awards, we’ve come up with the best places for families this year, catered to your interests but suitable for all ages. With summer break in sight, get a jumpstart on planning, and read on for the best places to go with your tots and teens this year—sprees that are interesting, dynamic, and, of course, fun for the whole family.
For Parents Who Love Exploring Cities: London
Of course, you can’t go to London without visiting the classic sights like Big Ben, St. Paul’s Cathedral, Buckingham Palace (go on the official tour), Westminster Abbey, and the Tower of London, but there are also loads of other kid-friendly attractions that adults will also enjoy.
The Coca-Cola London Eye is a great way to survey the land and get your bearings of the city. Your kids will love a Warner Bros. studio tour of The Making of Harry Potter, where they can learn about the sets, costumes, and film locations, including the movie’s Great Hall, Dumbledore’s office and Hagrid’s hut. Scope out sharks and eels at Sea Life London, get a photo with the royal family at Madame Tussauds London, and see views from western Europe’s highest building, The Shard. You can also learn about London’s dark and sordid past at London Dungeon, and then have a meal and visit some boutique shops at Trafalgar Square or Piccadilly Circus.
If your kids still have energy to burn, or need a break from sightseeing, visit Jubilee Gardens playground next to the London Eye, or St. James Park, not far from Buckingham Palace.
For Adventurous Parents: Indiana Dunes National Park
America has a new National Park—number 61— and we couldn’t be more excited. Previously known as Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, this park, which hugs 15 miles of shoreline along Lake Michigan, it’s now Indiana Dunes National Park.
Frolic around with your family within 15,000 acres of woodland, grassy prairies, viscous marshes, and more than three miles of golden beach. The diverse landscape is home to stunning wildlife with many varieties of birds, and the activities here are numerous: camping, winter sledding, tapping trees for maple syrup, biking, and hiking on over 50 miles of trails. Plus, the sand dunes here, formed over thousands of years, are incredible—Mt. Tom, for example, rises 192 feet above Lake Michigan. Take the kids geocaching, and exchange a trinket treasure after following the map.
Sign the kids up for the Junior Ranger program. After completing the activity book, which can be picked up at the Dorothy Buell Memorial Visitor Center, kids will earn a special badge.
For Beach Bum Parents: Rhode Island
The smallest state in America, which only takes a couple of hours to traverse entirely, touts a bewildering 400 miles of coastline along the Atlantic Ocean, so its well known for its charming seaside Colonial villages and for its sandy beaches. East Beach, Watch Hill Beach, and Salty Brine State Beach are popular choices, and even the larger cities in Rhode Island have great coastline activities—Newport is famous for great sailing experiences, and Providence, the capital, is popular for Rocky Point Park, Warwick City Park, Oakland Beach, and Conimicut Point.
While any are great options for a family outing, Misquamicut Beach, located in Westerly, is the top choice for families. Here, you’ll find hermit crab races, live music, arcade games, rides perfect for littles, waterslides, and even drive-in movies at the beach. Spend a day or two jumping between all the available activities, and then take time to relax in the sun while kids toil the hours away burying their siblings in the sand.
For Parents Who Love Live Music: Nashville
There’s much more to do in Music City than singing and dancing at one of Nashville’s 150 live music honkey-tonk bars (but you should still take time to responsibly enjoy those, too, even with your kids in tow).
Make sure to visit the Grand Ole Opry—see a show and get a backstage tour afterward. There’s something so special about hearing live music from a stage that so many illustrious singers have performed on. Plus, you’ll sit in church pews, which feels like you’re celebrating the best kind of universal creed: music.
Pop in the Bluebird Café to listen to upcoming artists—your kids will be inspired by the grit and gumption of the newbie performers. See the stars at Music City’s Walk of Fame. The Nashville Symphony, Escape Game Nashville, Country Music Hall of Fame, Nashville Adventure Science Center, Centennial Park and the Parthenon (you read that right—the Parthenon is full-scale), Nashville Zoo, Rocket Fizz Candy Store, and Cheekwood Botanical Garden and Museum of Art are all kid-friendly picks.
Before you head out of town, visit the Boot Barn on Broadway to pick up a pair of cowboy boots, and eat bottomless pancakes at Pfunky Griddle.
For Parents Who Enjoy Wine Tasting: Sonoma, California
Sonoma, situated in northern California, is a popular winemaking region—there are 425 wineries to choose from in the county. Well-known options like Francis Ford Coppola, Iron Horse Vineyards, Kendall-Jackson, Korbel Winery, Ravenswood Winery, and Gloria Ferrer Winery are all in this region.
Take your family to Benziger Family Winery, and book the 45-minute open-air tram tour which teaches you all about organic wine and green farming practices, including the process of making biodynamic wines. Kids will love seeing the wine cave, and they’ll get to see the farm’s sheep herd.
Another great choice is Preston Farm and Winery. Parents can sip Grenache Blanc, hard cider, and Zinfandel while everyone in your group can taste fresh bread with a variety of olive oils, baked onsite, plus pickled veggies. Kids will love petting the roaming cats and sheep and playing a game of bocce ball.
Other activities and attractions in the area include shopping in downtown Sonoma, tasting cheese at the Sonoma Cheese Factory, riding the train at Sonoma TrainTown Railroad (a quarter-sized railroad that roams over a four-mile track), and ziplining at Sonoma Canopy Tours.
Make time for a visit at Safari West, a three-hour riding and walking safari where kids can spot over 900 animals from 90 unique species—giraffes, gazelles, zebras, buffalo, antelopes, birds, and more. And, if you can’t get enough, you can experience the adventure overnight with a stay in a glamping safari tent.
Read more: https://www.tripsavvy.com/best-family-vacation-destinations-2019-4682593