There are certain destinations that pop up in conversations again and again. And sometimes you can’t help but wonder — is it really that good or do people just go there because there’s where everyone else is going?
In these vacation destinations, the experiences are that good. Here are 10 touristy family vacation destinations that live up to the hype – plus some ways to make them even more enjoyable despite the crowds.
1. Disney World
Even the biggest Disney cynic has a hard time resisting the magic when entering the “Happiest Place on Earth.” The immersive Disney experience, from the characters to the rides to the look on your little princess’ face when she spies Cinderella’s castle for the first time, all suck you into the wonder of Disney World. With the launch of Pandora – the World of AVATAR at Animal Kingdom and the coming introduction of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge at Hollywood Studios, there is something to excite fans of all ages and preferences.
To make your visit as stress-free as possible, consider visiting off-season during the school year when the temperatures are cooler and the crowds are fewer. You may even want to splurge on a VIP tour to zoom through lines and use backstage entrances to save time and hassle.
Recommended Hotel: Disney’s Art of Animation Resort
2. Yellowstone National Park
Yellowstone National Park is one of the top five most visited national parks in the United States. When you have been standing around for an hour waiting for Old Faithful to erupt, it can feel as if the whole world is waiting there with you. But where else can you find 500 active geysers, 290 waterfalls, and 10,000 thermal features? This otherworldly landscape is not to be missed!
Luckily, with 3,500 square miles to cover, there are plenty of opportunities to get away from the crowds. Be sure to move around to see the beauty, the wildlife, and the raw power of nature at work. Just remember that if you want to spend your time in the park, you’ll need to book your lodging a year in advance.
Recommended Hotel: Yellowstone Valley Lodge
3. Niagara Falls
Back in the day, Niagara Falls was a hot spot for honeymooners. Today, Niagara Falls, Canada, and Niagara Falls, New York, have turned the Falls into tourist nirvana. The Maid of the Mist is clich?, but surprisingly fun and exciting. And, if that doesn’t get your blood pumping, families can also zipline over the Falls or take a jet boat through the whirlpools.
But a trip to Niagara Falls doesn’t have to be all touristy. Nearby you can also go biking, hiking, wine tasting, and visit historical sites, turning what was once a weekend destination into a weeklong vacation.
Recommended Hotel: Sheraton on the Falls
4. Grand Canyon National Park
Pictures of the Grand Canyon absolutely do not do it justice and it is one destination that you just need to see in person. You don’t need to hike all the way to the bottom (because remember, you have to also hike back up!) to appreciate its beauty.
To avoid the crowds, visit the less-touristy North Rim — just remember that this side is closed in the winter!
Recommended Hotel: Holiday Inn Express Grand Canyon
5. San Francisco
Everyone should have a chance to take a picture at the Golden Gate Bridge and watch the sea lions at Pier 39 in San Francisco. It may be touristy, but just try to hide your smile as you are hanging off a cable car heading down the hill to Fisherman’s Wharf.
San Francisco is very family-friendly, with favorites like Lombard Street, Ghiradelli chocolate, Alcatraz, the Exploratorium, and Golden Gate Park.
Recommended Hotel: Omni San Francisco Hotel
France is the most visited country in the world, and Paris is at the top of everyone’s bucket list. It is worth joining the rest of the tourists to relax in the charming sidewalk cafes and stroll through the beautiful gardens.
If you need help navigating the crowds, take a tour of Louvre highlights and pre-book your tickets to visit the Eiffel Tower (or just enjoy a picnic down below.)
Recommended Hotel: Hotel Plaza Athenee
7. Machu Picchu, Peru
The mystery surrounding this ancient city on a mountain is an enormous draw for tourists. But the view, the history, and learning about the Inca culture make a trip to Machu Picchu, Peru, worthwhile (and getting up close to the llamas doesn’t hurt either!)
To catch the view without as many crowds, avoid visiting during the summer or holiday weeks and go between noon and 5:30 p.m. You’ll also want to reserve tickets online as soon as possible and hike to Huayna Picchu, the mountain behind the ruins.
Recommended Hotel: JW Marriott El Convento Cusco
8. Cliffs of Moher, Ireland
The stunning Cliffs of Moher are one of the most iconic sites in Ireland. You will usually see lines of tourists dotting the edges of the towering cliffs. Luckily, the Cliffs stretch for 5 miles so it is easy to find an empty spot to take your own Instagram-worthy photos. Just hold onto your hat and stay away from the edges!
Recommended Hotel: Sheedy’s Country House Hotel
Iceland has been the “it” destination in the last couple of years, attracting more visitors per year than there are Icelandic people. But even a crowded waterfall in Iceland is nothing like the crowded museums of Florence. Its black-sand beaches, pounding waterfalls, sprawling lava fields, and vast glacier expanses offer stunning landscapes that shouldn’t be missed.
It isn’t hard to get away from the tourists. Head west or north and you will certainly see more horses and sheep than you will people.
Recommended Hotel: Alda Hotel
10. Santorini, Greece
When you see photos of the sun-drenched Greek island of Santorini, it is hard to imagine that it can actually look that picturesque in person. Those whitewashed buildings and bright-blue roofs may inspire you to dance through the streets singing songs from “Mamma Mia.” Just make sure you stay for at least a few days to catch one of its picture-perfect sunsets.
Recommended Hotel: Golden Sunset Villas