Remember what a typical day in your childhood looked like? Probably not. But we bet you can vividly recall a family trip that blew your young mind.
If you want your kids to experience the same magic on vacation, take them to any of these destinations. From glaciers to volcanoes, dinosaurs to Disney characters, there’s something here for everyone.
1. Miami Beach
Miami Beach, Florida
Best for ages: 8-12
Why go? Although it’s often associated with a party crowd or retirees, Miami Beach can also be kid-friendly.
What to do: Miami Beach has the most tropical beaches in the continental United States. As you drive to Miami Beach from Miami, you hit your first two must-see attractions. Indoors, the Children’s Museum shares an island with Jungle Island.
Where to stay: At the north end of the island, Ritz-Carlton Bal Harbor has the best kids’ beach club. At the south end, Hilton Bentley Miami/South Beach has direct beach access and sits between two public parks.
Best for ages: 2-12
Why go? It’s an amazing green gathering place.
What to do? Strike a pose in the reflective Cloud Gate sculpture (affectionately known as the Bean). Splash around in the animated Crown Fountain, which literally makes faces at you. Join one of the free activities (family yoga, anyone?) on the big lawn or rent bikes from Bike and Roll Chicago or Divvy Bikes Millennium Park to ride to nearby Navy Pier.
3. Jackson Hole
Best for ages: 6-16
Why go? Jackson Hole is home to Grand Teton National Park and a world-class ski resort.
What to do? Jackson Hole boasts more outdoor activities than there are hours in the day. You can raft the scenic Snake River, tube down the runs at Snow King Resort in Jackson or explore the magical ice castle and ice skate in Teton Village.
Where to stay: Hotel Terra Jackson Hole and Teton Mountain Lodge & Spa, both Noble House Hotels, are within walking distance of the chairlifts. Both properties have ski packages in the winter and national parks packages in the summer.
More info: VisitJacksonHole.com
4. Riviera Maya
Best for ages: 4-14
Why go? Snorkel in freshwater cenotes (natural pools), swim with manatees and climb ancient Mayan ruins all before the sun sets.
What to do: Fly into Cancun and then head to Playa del Carmen, the perfect launching point for all of Quintana Roo’s adventures. Float the underwater river at Xcaret Eco Theme Park and stay late for the musical show, “Xcaret Mexico Espectacular.” Then, taxi or bus to Dolphin Discovery in Puertos Aventuras where the kids can splash and play with dolphins, manatees and even sea lions! Finally, explore the clifftop ruins in Tulum. Further inland, take a day trip to Chichen Itza. For beach time, check out Aloha Paddle Club’s water sport rentals in Playa del Carmen or take the ferry to nearby Cozumel.
Where to stay: Panama Jacks Resort Playa del Carmen is located on prime beachfront real estate and home to the Camp Jack kids club. Outside of town, Barcelo has everything from its impressive Barcelo Maya Grand Resort (five family-friendly hotels in one) to its more intimate Allegro Playacar where babysitting is always available. In Cozumel, Allegro Cozumel has a pirate-themed water park on site.
Glen Rose, Texas
Best for ages: 5-11
Why go? This state park just 75 miles southwest of Dallas boasts some of the best preserved dinosaur tracks in the world.
What to do: In addition to walking in the humongous footprints left in the Paluxy River, take a covered wagon tour, mountain bike the trails, borrow a fishing pole from the park’s Tackle Loaner Program and visit the museums in downtown Glen Rose, the Dinosaur Capital of Texas.
More info: Texas.gov
Best for ages: 8-18
Why go? Thanks to climate change, North America’s few remaining glaciers are disappearing.
What to do? Hike! The Going-to-the-Sun Road (one of the most scenic in the world) is also fun to bike, but it’s best ridden early or late in the season when car traffic is minimal. The open-top Glacier Park red bus tours allow kids to see wildlife from a safe distance. To get out on the glacial lakes, rent canoes or kayaks or book a boat tour with Glacier Park Boat Co.
Where to stay: Spend a few nights in a cabin at the no-frills Apgar Village Lodge. Then, splurge at the luxurious, all-inclusive and dog-friendly The Resort at Paws Up located on the edge of the scenic Flathead National Forest.
More info: NPS.gov/glac
Best for ages: 8-16
Why go? The Mile High City has tons of experiences for the 48-inches-and-under crowd.
What to do? Denver’s top attraction is The Denver Zoo. It’s more than 100 years old! At the Children’s Museum of Denver, younger kids can experiment in a test kitchen, cool off in an outdoor splash zone and dance in a room of bubbles. Older kids will appreciate the exhibits and the Phipps IMAX 3D Theater at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. When they get tired, ride in the free open-air Denver Trolley.
Where to stay: The Kimpton Hotel Born is in the heart of downtown (a stone’s throw from Union Station) and has complimentary bikes for guests. The Hyatt Regency Denver at Colorado Convention Center is just one block from the 16th Street pedestrian mall and has an indoor pool.