11 Family Fun Trips for 2012 Slideshow
December 26, 2011
Experience the great outdoors with a trip to a dude ranch. The whole family can learn how to twirl a lasso, perfect their cowboy skills, and breathe in the fresh mountain air. After a long day of horseback riding, head back to the lodge for awe-inspiring views and a feast of homemade breads, signature burgers, farm-fresh vegetables, and wine for the grown-ups.
All parents need rest and relaxation, but kids usually need a bit more stimulation than a really good book by the pool. So forget weeks of planning and book into a full-fledged resort in Hawaii such as the Grand Wailea Resort or the Grand Hyatt Kauai. Kid-friendly buffets with grilled cheese, burgers, and smoothies served all day make lives easier.
Vegas may not be the first place you think of as family-friendly, but Sin City boasts tons of kid-approved activities. The Venetian offers gondola rides; check out the MGM Grand's lion habitat; ride the roller coaster at New York-New York; take in a Cirque du Soleil show; or take them on a shopping spree. Plus, huge breakfast buffets are a kid's dream.
Spend your vacation in the trees at Oregon's Treesort. Kids will love sleeping in tree houses and flying through the air on the zip line course. If you need a break from the heights, spend the days on the ground exploring the acres of national forest. Just make sure to save the evenings for roasting s'mores over group campfires.
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter
You may not be able to skip the theme park trip altogether, so why not take the kids to see Harry and friends at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando? Hit notable sites like Hogwarts and Hogsmeade, take on the Dragon's Challenge, and sample butterbeer at the Hog's Head pub.
Ski Bretton Woods
Bretton Woods is New Hampshire's largest ski resort, but it doesn't feel like an enormous, impersonal place. Kids can take ski classes, ice-skate, make their own stuffed animals, and have family movie nights. Teach the little ones to tie a tie for a formal dinner at the Mount Washington Resort, or stop to eat in a former train station.
Costa Rica is a haven for families seeking adventure. From rainforest exploration to volcano walks and from hot springs to waterfalls, Costa Rica will send the kids to bed exhausted every night. The whole family can learn about sea turtle conservation and then sample local cuisine like fried plantains, the day's fresh seafood, gallo pinto, and Costa Rican coffee for the adults.
Glacier National Park
Bring science class to life with a visit to Montana's Glacier National Park, where a park ranger can help the family discover wildlife and postcard-worthy views. Days spent hiking, swimming, biking, and boating come before s'mores and camp-side stories. Or book a room at the Many Glacier Hotel for a more fine dining dinner experience.
Bringing the kids to Rome combines a chic city break with fascinating artifacts and activities. Cobblestoned streets lead to gelato shops, the Vatican, Borghese Gardens, the Cupola, Piazza Navona, the Spanish Steps, and the Trevi Fountain. No kid will complain about the plentiful pizzas and pastas on offer at dinner, either.
Colonial Williamsburg; Gettysburg
Travel back in time to these historical sites for trips that are educational and fun (we swear). History class comes to life on the battlefield at Gettysburg, while kids can see how life was once lived in Colonial Williamsburg, where they can learn to churn butter, see the blacksmith, and dine in George Washington's favorite tavern.
From haunted towns to Native American heritage sites, New Mexico is full of activities for families. Take the tramway to Sandia Peak for killer views and light hiking, hit Albuquerque for the annual hot air balloon festival, and ski in Taos. The area's Tex-Mex flavors are as kid-friendly as can be, and burgers and pizzas are on offer almost everywhere as a safety net.