Between space camp and theater rehearsal, swim lessons and Little League, it's easy for the family vacation to take a backseat to constant household buzz. But the kids are only kids for so long. So we rounded up some amazing family experiences that will encourage you to explore something new with your kids while they're young — and rediscover your own sense of wonder through their eyes.

If you’re looking for your next family adventure, check out these under-the-radar gems and get busy planning.


    Every kid should experience the awe of a national park, and Yellowstone, the country’s first protected national park, is a great choice for its variety of activities and scenery. Camp inside the park or stay in a cabin or lodge. Plan ahead; reservations go fast.

    What to know about visiting: Come for Old Faithful and the mud pots and geysers; stay for the wildlife around every bend. Don’t miss a hike down a set of 300 steep stairs to the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone. Take advantage of the plentiful ranger-guided hikes to learn more about the geology and history.

    While you’re there: Head into town to book a paddle/saddle horse and river rafting adventure. And if you have an extra day, visit the nearby Grand Teton National Park, equally wondrous in its own way.

    Other great finds:


    Kids and kids-at-heart know you can’t beat a good theme park. The gleeful look on your kid’s face at the roller coaster’s big drop will be more than worth it. One to try is Silverwood Theme Park in Athol, Idaho.

    What to know about visiting: This theme park is really two in one — the ride side and a water park. With names like Aftershock and Panic Plunge, the thrill rides deliver, but there are also options for the younger set. Cabana rentals let you beat the heat while kids brave the water slides. Don’t miss the shows, including one with Garfield the cat.

    While you’re there: In under half an hour you can be in Coeur D’Alene, where you can bike, hike and boat. Check out the Museum of North Idaho to learn more about the timber industry.

    Other great finds:

    • Silver Dollar City in Branson, Missouri, is another ride-and-slide combo with an 1880s theme.
    • Walt Disney World is a classic for a reason. Of course, they've got great coasters (between four theme parks, the possibilities are endless), plus the magic of your kids seeing their favorite superheroes, princesses and lovable characters come to life.

    Floating in the waves, digging in the sand … a beach is guaranteed all-day entertainment. While most people think of Florida or California when they hear “beach,” you’ll find St. Simons Island on the Georgia coast to be a top-notch waterfront locale.

    The gleeful look on your kid’s face at the roller coaster’s big drop will be more than worth it.

    What to know about visiting: In addition to gorgeous stretches of shore, you can rent bikes and kayaks or boat, fish and golf. Take a trolley tour, visit the Revolutionary War landmark Fort Frederica, and end your evening at Neptune Park watching the passing ships.

    While you’re there: Take a day trip to Jekyll Island, where you can visit the Georgia Sea Turtle Center, a sea turtle education and rehabilitation facility. Then take a gander at the lavish homes where old-money families like the Rockefellers and Vanderbilts used to summer.

    Other great finds:

    • Ocean City, New Jersey, yes that Jersey Shore, offers the quintessential beach experience from the sand and surf to the boardwalk.
    • Kiawah Island, South Carolina, is a family-friendly resort area that boasts 10 miles of wide beaches, 123 acres of parks and 30 miles of hiking and biking trails. (Oh, and alligators.)

    It’s America’s pastime for a reason. No matter what home team you usually root, root, root for, it’s worth a stop at the Boston Red Sox’ stadium, Fenway Park, known as “America's Most Beloved Ballpark.”

    What to know about visiting: Red Sox not in town? Take a tour anyway and learn more about the park’s traditions and legends — and even sit on the famous “Green Monster.” Don’t forget to teach your kids the words to Sweet Caroline, traditionally sung at the bottom of the eighth inning. (My son, who is a baseball nut, said that was his favorite part of the game!)

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    While you’re there: Boston is full of historic sites, from the Old North Church to the Bunker Hill Monument. Take part in the Boston Tea Party Experience where you get to throw tea overboard into the harbor, like true indignant colonists.

    Other great finds:

    • Spring Training means you don’t have to wait for summer to see baseball, and it’s the perfect excuse to catch some sun during late winter. Eastern teams cluster around Tampa/St. Petersburg, Florida, while the western teams are up to bat in the Phoenix area.
    • Lincoln Financial Field (Philadelphia) is home to the “Eagles Nest,” where the 2018 Super Bowl champions play. Tour the stadium and visit the field, locker room and post-game interview room.

    Nothing beats an outdoor slumber party ... but sometimes you don’t want to acquire all that gear. That’s why you'll love Sandy Pines Campground in Kennebunkport, Maine, with its overnight rentals from themed “glamp tents” to rustic “hideaway huts.” There's ample room for RVs and traditional tent camping, as well.

    What to know about visiting: Just two hours outside of Boston, this family-friendly campground boasts an array of amenities from a heated saltwater pool to lawn games like ladder ball and volleyball. You can rent bikes, kayaks and paddle boards, or whip something up in the Kids’ Kraft tent. Parents deserve a treat, too — guaranteed you’ll go nuts for the Maine lobster dinner at the snack bar.

    While you’re there: Venture to Goose Rocks Beach, three miles of soft, white sand beach with calm waves perfect for wading and splashing. Then visit the Seashore Trolley Museum in nearby Kennebunkport.

    Other great finds:

    • Fort Stevens State Park in Hammond, Oregon, where you can climb on a shipwreck and explore a gun battery that once was a World War II command center, then slide down sand dunes.
    • Yogi Bear’s “Jellystone Park” in Bremen, Georgia, with amenities like a mini golf course and water theme park — and of course nightly movies with you-know-who.

    Today’s animal-themed parks are designed to keep critters in their natural habitat. Most venues have a conservation component, such as Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium, which focuses on sustainability, including making smart choices with the seafood we eat.

    What to know about visiting: Tour the seas of the world in exhibits that range from reefs to the Great Lakes to the Amazon. Special encounters will get you up close and personal with penguins and Beluga whales, and littler ones can even explore Artic waters in a kid-sized “submarine.”

    While you’re there: See land animals at Lincoln Park Zoo and animal fossils at the Field Museum.

    Other great finds:

    • Ocean Rider Seahorse Farm in Kona, Hawaii, has seahorses in abundance. Give kids a lesson in biology by showing them a pregnant male seahorse.
    • Virginia Safari Park in Natural Bridge, Virginia, has a drive-through adventure park where you can spy on animals in their natural habitat, as well as a more traditional walk-through component where you can feed giraffes and admire tigers.

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