1. Head to Bean Town
Boston has something for every person of every age. Popular attractions include the Boston Children's Museum (which is celebrating 100 years in 2013), Museum of Science and New England Aquarium. Explore Freedom Trail, which leads to more than a dozen historic attractions, and enjoy a baseball game at the famous Fenway Park. Additionally, the city provides a number of interesting activities and tours, including bike excursions and carousel rides at Boston Common.
2. Vacation Like Royalty
There's no place like London! The city is full of family-friendly fun, from attractions to accommodations. It's also rich in history, with landmarks like the Tower of London, London Bridge, Big Ben and Buckingham Palace, where families can watch the Changing of the Guard. Kids will love the London Eye, a Ferris wheel-like ride with gorgeous views of the city. London will host several events this summer, including the City of London Festival and the Queen's Birthday Parade.
3. Do Some Good
Instead of sitting on the beach this summer, consider lending a hand in a vacation that gets your kids involved in helping others. Volunteer vacations have become increasingly popular among families, especially in the wake of recent natural disasters. You can travel abroad with a reputable group like Cross-Cultural Solutions, or stay close to home. Consider helping to clean up our national parks and trails by joining the Sierra Club for a multi-generational project.
4. Ride a Loop de Loop
What kid doesn't want to run around an old-fashioned amusement park, screaming wildly when they are flipped, looped and tossed about on a number of roller coasters? It's even better with a parent who doesn't have nerves of steal. Something about watching us squirm makes them laugh and appreciate our efforts even more. So, be a kid again and hit a local amusement park at one of our favorite 8 Electrifying Amusement Parks.
5. Cruise with Disney to Alaska
Disney provides families with an amazing opportunity to visit some of the most pristine land and water in America, all with a magical touch. Disney Cruise Lines is renowned for its family friendliness, and its Alaska trip aboard Wonder will be filled with Disney characters, kid's clubs and activities, kid-friendly food options, and plenty of family adventures at ports, such as Skagway and Ketchikan.
6. Have a Sleepover at a Major Museum
Did your kids (and you) love "A Night at the Museum"? Take part in the real deal at a number of museums across the country. The American Museum of Natural History in New York is featured in the film, and we've got that, plus nine other Best Nights at the Museums programs to check out. There are also great Zoo Overnights with Animals, if your kids prefer sleeping near lions and tigers and bears.
7. Go to a Resort that IS the Destination
You know what we're talking about -- the grand resorts that sit atop a mountain, nestled beside a lake, or overlooking a gorgeous coastline. These old-fashioned resorts harken back to yesteryear, when families would spend a week or their entire summers amongst friends they would see year after year. Here, it's not about what you'll see and do over your vacation, but about spending time together, and enjoying activities outdoors with the kids. See the list of 10 Best Grand Resorts for some of our favorites.
8. Visit the Water Park Capital of the World
For kids, nothing beats splashing around in a pool and slipping down water slides on a hot summer day. As a kid, I personally saved all my babysitting money for a year to blow it at a water park for one week with my little sister. The Wisconsin Dells in Wisconsin is the self-proclaimed water park capital of the world, and we won't dispute it when it offers up nearly two dozen massive water parks to visit, some indoors, some outdoors. Even if you're not in the Midwest, making a trek to the Dells will be a true gift to your kids this summer.
9. Take a Road Trip
The Great American Road Trip is an oft-written pastime (think Kerouac's "On the Road") and most of my childhood vacation memories include the drives. Right out of "National Lampoon's Vacation," we would stop at obscure sites en route. Then again, sometimes the road trip can be the vacation, such as driving the Pacific Coast Highway from San Francisco to Los Angeles. Famed for its coastal views and Big Sur, it remains a dream trip for many folks. We've got more Sensational Drives for Families, as well as advice for surviving a car trip.
10. Celebrate Another Red, White & Blue Celebration
Bastille Day, July 14, is the date the French celebrate their independence, and French nations come alive with fireworks and events. You don't have to go to Paris (although it certainly wouldn't hurt!) for the fun. Quebec City and Montreal both offer fun festivals. Even American cities like Boston and Philadelphia have parties through their Alliance Francaise, blocking off streets for fairs and food-filled fun.
11. Sample Some Sweets
Got someone with a sweet tooth in the family? Hit the road on a tour of our 12 Best (and Sweetest!) Factory Tours. Visit the Jelly Belly Factory in California or Wisconsin, where you can take a ride down Candy Alley. Tour Hershey Chocolate World and learn about the famous Hershey Story in Pennsylvania. Eat as many chips as you want at the Cape Cod Potato Chip Factory in Massachusetts, and indulge with ice cream at the Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream Factory in Vermont.
12. Watch the Amazing Speeds of Cyclers in France
Everyone knows who Lance Armstrong is, but who will be the next great cyclist to win a string of Tour de France competitions? The endurance sport will roll through the country between June 29 and July 21, and you and the family can then enjoy the family-friendly attractions and sites in Paris, including the Eiffel Tower and Catacombs. You'll also enjoy the city's slew of summer events, which include the Paris Air Show and Midsummer Fireworks in late June, and a colorful parade called Carnaval Tropical de Paris in July.
13. Visit Major Museums for FREE
When it comes to traveling with the kids, free is always better, and who can beat free admission to some of the best museums in the world? Washington, D.C.'s 19 Smithsonian Museums, including the National Air & Space Museum, Museum of Natural History and the National Museum of American History, are all free! In London, the National Gallery, the Victoria & Albert Museum and the British Museum are also free. And many city museums offer free admission on the first Sunday of the month, including the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Visit Target's Web site, as well, for its list of free museum days around the country that they sponsor.
14. And National Parks, Too
Many of our national parks offer free admission, while others charge a fee. Luckily, all parks are free of charge on select days throughout the year. This summer, you can enjoy free admission to all parks on June 8 (Get Outdoors Day) and Sept. 28 (National Public Lands Day). Our favorite parks include Acadia in Maine, Yellowstone, the Grand Canyon and the Great Smoky Mountains in Tennessee. National parks provide opportunities for hiking, mountain biking, fishing, or simply relaxing with a picnic lunch. If you're lucky, you'll get up close and personal with wildlife, too!
15. Vacation Like a Vanderbilt
The ultra-wealthy sure knew how to enjoy their free time back in the day! They spent their family vacations in grand mansions with top-notch service and outstanding views. For a luxurious, old-fashioned experience like this, visit Newport, R.I. to see the Vanderbilt family's summer "cottage," The Breakers, or head to The Biltmore, their mountain estate in Asheville, N.C. Stay at the Inn on Biltmore Estate for intimate access to the historic grounds (which cover more than 8,000 acres) and all-season outdoor activities.
16. Enjoy the Slopes, Sans Snow
Once the snow melts, ski resorts actually come to life in the summer. Using their lifts to bring people to the mountain peaks for downhill mountain biking or hiking on the trails, families can continue to enjoy mountain resorts year-round. All that melted snow results in nearby rivers offering fantastic river rafting adventures, like in Colorado, and winter resorts open their doors for summer travelers who splash in their pools and gather 'round fire pits for S'more-filled evenings.
17. Bunk at a Summer Camp Together
Summer camp is no longer just for the kids! There are a host of family summer camps that allow parents to sleep away with their tots and participate in all the fun! Partake in everything from potato sack races to greased watermelon swimming races, and then gather at night for ghost stories and scavenger hunts. Check out our Summer Camps for Families page.
18. Enjoy Long Weekends Mini-Getaways
Memorial Day Weekend, Independence Day Weekend and Labor Day Weekend are three great excuses for hitting the road. Looking for a quiet beach to make your escape? Consider the Jersey Shore's many family-friendly (not at all MTV-like) areas, including Cape Cod. Hilton Head and Myrtle Beach are also great if you're on the East Coast. Mid-westerners can head to the Lake of Ozarks, the Florida Panhandle, or the Upper Pennisula of Michigan. On the West Coast? Slip away to Santa Cruz or Santa Barbara.
19. Say So Long to Summer in New York
The U.S. Open is a fantastic kid-friendly tennis tournament held annually in New York, but many families don't realize that before the event, a great kids-specific event is held. The Arthur Ashe Kids Day, named for the renowned U.S. tennis champ, is filled with Disney performers and kids' faves putting on concerts while tennis greats introduce youngsters to the sport. The event will be held on August 24 this year. Besides the tennis, families will obviously have a number of attractions to visit and things to do in the Big Apple.
20. Party Like It's the End of the World
The "end of the world" came and went on Dec. 21, 2012, but it's still an exciting time to explore the Mayan ruins in Mexico. Cancun and Riviera Maya, two of the country's most popular destinations, are within close proximity of Tulum (the only Mayan ruins that overlook the Caribbean Sea) and Chichen Itza. The architecture, in and of itself, will amaze you and even your otherwise bored teenager. Additionally, Mexico provides plenty of opportunities for snorkeling, zip-lining, and of course, relaxing on the beautiful beach.
21. Release Your Inner Cowboy
For a rip-roaring good time that your kids will rave about for years to come, consider a dude ranch. The entire family can get outdoors for horseback riding, fishing, hiking, and swimming in ponds and streams, and then gather nightly around the campfire for stories and S'mores. At many dude ranches, you'll also be able to help with daily chores, such as feeding the horses. Check out 10 Best Dude Ranches for Families for ideas.
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