If you're looking for purple mountain majesty, this region is the place to look.
Stand in the footsteps of giants — dinosaurs, that is — in one of the most famous dinosaur fossil discovery sites in the world. Here along the West Alameda Parkway, also known as Denver, Colorado's "Dinosaur Freeway," you'll be amazed by series of actual footprints left behind by dinosaurs that roamed the area 145 million years ago. Since the 1930s, dozens of successful dinosaur digs have been conducted in the area. More than 70,000 dinosaur enthusiasts flock to Dinosaur Ridge each year see the evidence of these incredible animals first-hand.
Sure, Aspen's got ski slopes, but winter isn't the only time of year you can enjoy what the area has to offer. To make it well worth the trip any time, check out the incredible Aspen Recreation Center, which boasts an NHL-sized hockey rink, 32-foot climbing tower, heated pool (with a slide!), full gym, and hot tubs. Lessons in activities from ice skating to swimming are offered, and there's a daycare center onsite. Best of all, it's open to the public, offering quite reasonable daily, monthly, or annual entry fees.
Take in one of the most iconic views of the nation's original national park with a gaze over the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, from the vista point at Canyon Village in Yellowstone National Park. Many other famous vista points are accessible from here, such as Artist Point, and Upper Falls, as are a souvenir shop and an irresistible, interactive super-volcano exhibit. Chances are you'll be inspired to venture farther into the park and get out on the trails, so be sure to lace up your hiking shoes and bring your sunscreen for some of the most beautiful views you'll ever see.
Sun Valley isn't all about the skiiing — ice skating here is serious business, with a renowned skating instruction program and a beautiful outdoor rink. You never know who you might spot on the 180-foot by 90-foot outdoor rink, but many Olympians, including Peggy Fleming and Scott Hamilton, and other celebrities have been known to take to the ice. And you might just pick up a tip or two on how to do a double-axel or triple lutz.
This isn't your typical Sunday drive. The 32-mile trip along Going-to-the-Sun Road will take you on a winding, wonderful tour of some of Glacier National Park's most exquisite sights. Snow-capped mountains, glaciers, waterfalls, even glimpses of wild beasts will reveal themselves as you gain 1,400 feet in elevation. Plenty of stopping points along the way let little passengers get out to stretch their legs and take in some heart-stopping scenery.
Take a thrilling, 2,500-foot ride down a mountain on the Alpine Slide at Jackson Hole's Snow King Resort and your kids won't stop smiling for days. Take a chairlift to the top and get on a plastic sled that lets riders control the speed of the ride. It's a sure-fire hit with teens and adventurous school-age kids; toddlers younger than 6 must ride with an adult. Either way, it's a blast, and gives you an excuse to visit a simply gorgeous setting four miles from Grand Teton National Park.
Young kids can't seem to get enough of this 61,000-square-foot wonderland of experiences. Formerly known as the Children's Museum of Utah, Discovery Gateway is one of Salt Lake City's most popular attractions for families, with a mission of helping kids to make discoveries that open up worlds of new possibilities. Energetic little explorers can try their hand at everything from pretend-farm work to dressing up like a beaver; while sitting in an actual helicopter cockpit is a hit with tweens and teens.
Other-worldly views of sharp spires and craggily rock ledges will be positively transporting for those hardy enough to hike the West Rim Trail in Southern Utah's Zion National Park. This is a challenging hike for older kids and more experienced family outdoorspeople but it's a journey that won't soon be forgotten and definitely worthy of a souvenir snapshot. If you're lucky enough to live within driving distance of Zion, check out Bryce Canyon National Park as well, just two hours further north and east of Zion.