A countdown of your 15 favorite family vacations
The city by the bay has a vibe all its own, where Victorian meets modern — and it seems everyone meets at Fisherman's Wharf. Take the family on a trip on a cable car tour, bike across the Golden Gate bridge or drive down Lombard Street. Grab dinner at a Noodle Bar, dessert at Ghirardelli Square and walk around the eclectic neighborhoods that make San Francisco one of a kind. Or why not take a day trip to Berkeley, Santa Cruz or Sonoma.
Say "aloha" to a place where big-city living meets beach-side fun. Introduce your kids to the culture of the 50th state through its many museums, including Pearl Harbor, and take in Oahu's" Hawaiian spirit on a hike to Diamond Head, a surfing lesson on the famous Waikiki Beach or make friends at Turtle Bay. Then take in a sunset that brings one word to mind: Paradise.
Parents around the country are pleased with the efforts "Sin City's" (aka Las Vegas) over the last several years to turn it into a destination offering something for everyone in the family. And what a success that has been. It's now a whole lot more than just shopping and casinos. Catching an incredible live show, visiting Lake Powell or enjoying a gondola ride at the Venetian hotel are among the delights lying in wait for children.
Your history teacher probably told you that the nation's capital is a must-visit place for every American. That teacher was right, and clearly many family travelers agree. From the White House itself to quaint Georgetown, sporty Baltimore or Glen Echo Park, to the 17 museums along the Washington Mall, the array of dramatic sights and historical artifacts is undeniably cool and mind-expanding. You can't help but learn something — and maybe even renew a sense of American pride.
White sand, blue waters and a really large aquarium await your family in Nassau. Located on New Providence Island, Nassau is the capital of The Bahamas, which is made up of more than 700 separate islands strung along a shallow coral reef. Whether playing in or out of the water, the people, culture and history of this beautiful island chain seamlessly merge adventure and relaxation.
Not only is San Antonio the most popular vacation city in Texas, it's also one of the most popular vacation places in the country. Families are endlessly fascinated by the story of the city's most famous attraction — the Alamo — and the battle so bravely fought there by Davy Crockett and more than 200 other men. It's clear, though, that there's so much more to the city, such as gorgeous parks perfect for cycling, and some of the best barbeque in the nation.
Florida is a vacation paradise for sure, but the United States' southernmost city, Key West, seems to captivate like no other, with its laid-back beaches, magnificent sunsets, and wealth of activities fit for families with kids of all ages. You can really get away in the Keys, and without much fuss — 42 bridges connect the 120-mile island chain to the mainland and to one another.
Is it the museums, the Lake views, the deep-dish pizza or the sports teams? We have a hunch that it's the legendary friendliness and hospitality of the Windy City that brings throngs of family visitors year after year. This is a center-of-it-all city that packs a ton of fun and variety (from Lincoln Park to North Suburban Evanston), but is pleasantly low on the intimidation scale. It's absolutely your kind of town.
"Here you leave today and enter the world of yesterday, tomorrow and fantasy," is the message millions of families have been greeted with since 1955 as they entered Disneyland. Rocket ships, a haunted mansion and a real castle make it feel like you're walking through your imagination. There are plenty of thrills, too, whether it's careening around Disneyland's mountain range, dropping 13 stories on Disney's California Adventure's Tower of Terror or "soaring" over the State of California.
When good weather is as plentiful as it is in San Diego, you don't need much else to enjoy the laid-back, SoCal vibe and miles of welcoming coastline. Of course, there are famous and fabulous attractions, including the Hotel Del Coronado, The San Diego Zoo, Sea World and even a replica of Shakespeare's Globe Theater at Balboa Park. Everyone smiles in San Diego. Go there, and you'll be smiling, too.
It never ceases to amaze: The view above one of the world's most iconic natural wonders, where shades of pink, purple, and gold shine in layers reaching nearly one mile down and 10 miles across. Whether you see it from a balloon, a mule, a trail hike, even from the parking lot, a trip to the Grand Canyon is sure to impress everyone in your brood and will be remembered for a lifetime.
Hike, swim, fish and take in some of the best views in the West on a visit to Yellowstone Park. Introduce your family to the wonders of nature and the beauty of the great outdoors, including a visit to Old Faithful geyser, a soak in the hot springs and a walk to the incredible Artist Paint Pots — a rainbow of mud.
Central Florida might be known for its magical kingdoms, but the movie rides at Universal Studios, roller coasters at islands of Adventure, water slides at Wet and Wild, exhibitions at the Orlando Science Center and creatures at Sea World that call this land home contribute to the Orlando love. The 47 million tourists who visit every year by car, bus and plane have shown the city to be one your family will want to visit again and again.
Everyone wants to be a part of it — the city that never sleeps, New York, New York. It's no surprise, either, because the Big Apple is chock full of one-of-a-kind experiences, with iconic landmarks at every turn and unique and wonderful people, places and attractions at every corner (including day trips in Brooklyn and the Upper West Side. What you might not realize is that the city's a simply magical place for kids, and sure to leave them — and you — with experiences you'll never forget.
What kid doesn't practically come out of the womb with a trip to Walt Disney World at the top of their life list? Lose yourself in a world that lets kids step inside their dreams — and find yourself going right there with them. No matter how old you are, a trip here has a way of making you feel special.