25 Best Places for a Family Vacation
Traveling with family in tow can be one of life's great joys. But some destinations are more suitable for family travel than others. From theme park hotspots to playful towns and family-friendly islands, here are 25 places that you and your kids will surely adore:
1. Orlando, USA
A sophisticated city in its own right, Orlando is the perfect destination for a family vacation. Disney World alone would be worth the price of flying to Orlando, featuring a diverse array of rides and attractions inspired by some of the most iconic children's movies of all time. Several other theme parks covet your attention as well, from Universal Studios' interactive movie-themed rides to the spectacular creatures inhabiting SeaWorld. If your children are of the curious sort, the Orlando Science Center can be a fun visit, while Madame Tussauds' wax museum offers them a chance to take a picture with replicas of their favorite heroes and celebrities.
2. Rovaniemi, Finland
Unless you're absolutely allergic to the cold, chances are that a winter wonderland landscape looks quite magical to you. And while the world has no shortage of those, only one can claim to be the "official" home of Santa Claus. That honor goes to a small town in Finland called Rovaniemi. Begin your excursion into Father Christmas' land by boarding the Santa Claus Express from Helsinki, then visit the Santa Claus Village, where you can even write a letter to Santa himself or witness Mrs. Claus bake traditional gingerbread cookies. And if that's not enough, why not cap it all off in style by using a reindeer sled to get through the snow?
3. Paris, France
The city of Paris is many things to many people, but families too can look forward to exploring the French capital with gusto. Climbing the Eiffel Tower may be a bit challenging with its 600+ steps, but it'll provide your kids with an unforgettable view in addition to a good workout. Then of course there's Disneyland Paris, the largest Disney resort outside of the United States. Paris' many museums may be of interest to kids as well if you manage to sneak in a fun activity or two along the way. For example, imitating the poses of the iconic statues in the Rodin Museum can be a very entertaining family activity.
4. Copenhagen, Denmark
The birthplace of Hans Christian Andersen, Denmark is infused with the one-of-a-kind charm that characterizes his writings. To experience some of that beauty, book a trip to Copenhagen, the country's gorgeous capital. Smack dab in the center of the city, the colorful theme park known as Tivoli Gardens awaits, with highlights ranging from face-melting rollercoasters to whimsical Hans Christian Andersen tableaux. If your kids love animals, be sure to also pay a visit to the Blue Planet aquarium, where they can admire the likes of hammerhead sharks and rays in huge walk-through tanks. And spare some time for the KU.BE, a huge building dedicated entirely to movement and play.
5. San Diego, USA
With its picture-perfect climate and friendly amenities, San Diego is a paradise for families. The San Diego Zoo is one of its chief attractions, being one of the world's most reputable animal shelters, where kids can witness over 800 species, including lions, tigers and bears. But one should not forget about other highlights such as SeaWorld San Diego, famed for hosting shows like Dine with Shamu and Penguin Encounter, or the beautiful grounds of Balboa Park with its multiple gardens and playgrounds. Last but not least, San Diego features more than 70 miles of beaches that families can get to know, with amenities for surfing and sea-kayaking among their numerous features.
6. Tokyo, Japan
The most populated city on Earth is filled with gems that families will love. Its own spin on the Disney theme park, Tokyo DisneySea, focuses on nautical attractions, with recreations of the Venice canals and fictional ports such as Mermaid Lagoon among its chief highlights. If you're aiming for a more authentically Japanese experience, Studio Ghibli Museum fits the bill. Inspired by the studio that created anime hits such as "Spirited Away" and "Howl's Moving Castle", this is a place that your child can get lost in for hours. Other Tokyo must-see places include Puroland, an indoor Hello Kitty-themed park, and KidZania, where the young ones can play-act over 100 adult occupations.
7. Cayman Islands
If your idea of a family vacation involves an exotic archipelago, you can't go wrong with the Cayman Islands. This Caribbean wonderland is chock-full of family-friendly places that both young and old will enjoy. Look no further than Starfish Point, a gorgeous beach that's known for its shallow waters where colorful starfish can often be found. Or consider diving in Stingray City, where hoards of harmless stingrays brush up against divers' legs like playful puppies. And if you'd like to experience the sea without getting wet, you can always get inside a WowBall that allows you to walk on water without fear of falling in.
8. Barcelona, Spain
Barcelona's colorful architecture is the stuff that dreams are made of, so places like Park Guell and Casa Mila alone are enough to justify the price of admission. But then you've got stuff like the Tibidabo Amusement Park, which boasts attractions and rides for all ages. In addition, the Magic Fountains Montjuic at Placa d'Espanya deserve to be seen in person for their spectacular lights and water acrobatics. Last but not least, L'Aquarium Barcelona earns a place on this list for boasting Europe's largest sea tunnel, over the course of which you'll get to witness everything from sharks to moonfish swimming in close proximity to you.
9. Chicago, USA
The Windy City is as diverse as it is accessible to families. Navy Pier is a veritable hub of entertainment, with its giant Centennial Ferris Wheel as one of its main draws. The area also contains the Chicago Children's Museum, where the little ones can go on a dinosaur bone digging expedition or tinker with real tools in a safe DIY space. Aside from Navy Pier, the Museum of Science and Industry will amaze you and your kids with fascinating displays such as a live tornado simulation and a recreated coal mine. And don't forget about the Adler Planetarium, one of the prettiest attractions of its kind in the US, replete with huge telescopes and spectacular sky shows.
10. Bali, Indonesia
This Indonesian hotspot is known for many things, but you may be surprised to find out that it's also a burgeoning family destination. There are several points of interest that will please the entire family, from the water-based adventures of Waterbom Bali to the elephant rides you can book at the Bali Safari Marine Park. Don't overlook the island's classic attractions either, as landmarks like Tanah Lot and Uluwatu Temple are quite incredible to see in person. And what better way to cap off your family escapade than with a visit to the Sacred Monkey Forest, where you can freely interact with our simian cousins in their natural habitat?
11. Yosemite National Park, USA
Bonding with your family in the great outdoors can be an unforgettable experience as long as you pick out a worthy destination. Enter Yosemite. America's most venerable national park is filled with attractions that cater to every age, from the spectacular Nevada Fall to the Giant Sequoias that deck Mariposa Grove. Popular summer activities include rafting and swimming in the Merced River, whereas winter comes with its own outdoor ice rink in Yosemite Valley. If your kids are so inclined, they can even obtain the title of Junior Ranger by taking part in a quick program that teaches them about the animals in the park and how to best protect them.
12. Reykjavik, Iceland
The capital of Iceland is an inviting city for families if you don't mind braving some chilly temperatures. The Blue Lagoon geothermal spa is a great place to relax and unwind, and even offers free access for children under the age of 14. Then you've got the Perlan Museum, known for its immersive Forces of Nature show and virtual aquarium. But for a borderline mystical experience, try visiting Raufarholshellir, an underground lava tube that's known for its colorful interiors. And then cap it all off with a whale watching tour off the coast of Reykjavik, during which you can introduce your children to some of nature's most amazing sea creatures.
13. Banff National Park, Canada
Whether you come here during summer or winter, Banff National Park is a fabulous place for taking your family on an adventure. The Banff Upper Hot Springs are open year round and offer wonderful bathing opportunities, while Moraine Lake is so gorgeous that it was chosen to grace the Canadian 20-dollar bill for many years. You can also embrace mountain culture by hiking the Stewart Trail or weaving through the forests of the Rocky Mountains. And there's nothing quite like seeing the waterfall at Johnston Canyon, particularly if you come here during winter when its waters are usually frozen in place.
14. Cape Town, South Africa
Probably the most picturesque city in all of Africa, Cape Town deserves to be explored at a leisurely pace. You can start by heading down to Boulders Beach, a local favorite where you and your whole family can witness the African penguins roaming freely around the boulders on the beach. Then ride the Table Mountain Cableway, at the end of which you'll be greeted by stellar views of the city from high up above. What about animals, you say? Cape Town is definitely not in short supply there either, what with the Two Oceans Aquarium having more than 3,000 marine creatures on view and Noordhoek Beach giving you the chance to roam the sands on horseback.
15. Keystone Resort, USA
While skiing and snowboarding can be risky activities for the young and uninitiated, there are resorts out there that go out of their way to ensure the safety of their most vulnerable riders. Colorado's Keystone Resort is one such place. Setting aside the fact that kids can ski for free at Keystone, the resort boasts highlights like the aptly-titled Snow Fort and the Tubing Hill on Adventure Point, where even non-skiers can fly down the slopes. Add to that a skiing terrain that is perfect for gradually developing your skills, including the kid-specific Tornado Alley, and you have all the makings of a truly special place.
16. Chiang Mai, Thailand
The biggest city in northern Thailand is considerably less hectic than Bangkok, which makes it a much better fit for families looking to relax and escape the grind of everyday life. Nature reigns supreme in Chiang Mai, with places like the Elephant Nature Park offering a glimpse into the life of its titular creatures. The Museum of World Insects and Natural Wonders is another winner, featuring an extensive collection of creepy crawlies that are as exotic as they are fascinating. And if your kids love chocolate, why not take them on a Cacao Plantation Tour, so they can witness for themselves how their favorite sweet is harvested and created?
17. Edinburgh, Scotland
A deeply historical city with a lot of jaw-dropping landmarks, Edinburgh can be an evocative experience for all ages. Its chief attraction is probably Edinburgh Castle, which dominates the city's skyline and offers up unique attractions like the Mons Meg cannon and the Crown Jewels. In addition, the Scottish city is known for its Camera Obscura, a popular show that dabbles in unforgettable illusions and light shows. Finally, be sure to end your Edinburgh experience with a bang by visiting Dynamic Earth, a popular science center filled with interactive exhibits that focus on nature's past, present and future.
18. Toronto, Canada
Canada's most cosmopolitan city is as rich and diverse as its reputation suggests. Families can look forward to watching rare animals in the Toronto Zoo, or spending time exploring marine life at Ripley's Aquarium of Canada. Then there's Canada's Wonderland, a rollercoaster extravaganza that's perfect for thrill-seeking kids. And if you want to leave the hustle and bustle of the city behind, taking a quick ferry ride will take you to Centre Island, where you'll find everything from sandy beaches to picnic areas. Undeniable highlights here include the Centerville Amusement Park and Franklin's Children's Garden.
19. Antalya, Turkey
Turkey's resort towns offer great bang for your buck in terms of both natural beauty and affordability. And Antalya is perhaps the cream of the crop, a place where you can spend a whole day perusing the gigantic Antalya Aquarium, home to the world's biggest aquarium tunnel, or gawking at the incredible sculptures of Sandland. Families also owe it to themselves to check out Kaleici, the city's historic center, where structures dating back to Byzantine and Ottoman times can be found. For more kid-centric activities, pay the Antalya Toy Museum a visit or opt for some non-stop fun in the sun at the Aqualand waterpark.
20. The Bahamas
Going for that exotic island feel, but with a family-friendly twist? You can't go wrong with the Bahamas, a luxurious archipelago located in the West Indies. The country is famed for its top-notch resorts, with the Beach at Atlantis and the Bell Channel Inn being just two of the most family-friendly. Bahamas is a great place to practice your snorkeling, diving and swimming skills, as it boasts clean and calm waters that are perfect for beginners. Perhaps the best place to do this is on CocoCay, a colorful island that's also filled with iconic waterparks like Splash Summit and Daredevil's Tower.
21. Niagara Falls, Canada/USA
You could hardly wish for a more awe-inspiring natural wonder than that represented by the Niagara Falls. Whether you visit it from the American side or the Canadian one, this majestic waterfall is bound to leave you and your kids speechless. Be sure to board the Maid of the Mist or the Hornblower boat cruise in order to get close to the falls themselves, and take a ride on the Niagara SkyWheel for some awesome views of the Horseshoe Falls and the American Falls. Then, for the ultimate treat, venture behind the falls and into the Cave of the Winds, only to emerge beneath the waters themselves for a soaking great time.
22. Kruger National Park, South Africa
South Africa is the most family-friendly country in Africa when it comes to booking a safari, and Kruger National Park is the nation's crowning jewel for witnessing wild beasts in their natural habitat. Inside the park, you'll have your pick of family-friendly accommodations and activities tailored to suit all ages. The likes of Kambaku Safari Lodge and the Timbavati Game Reserve even allow you to view the wildlife directly from the premises. Creatures including zebras, cheetahs, lions and elephants all roam the national park, along with several species of birds and reptiles.
23. Galapagos Islands, Ecuador
One of the most remote places on Earth, the Galapagos Islands are justly celebrated for the large number of endemic species that can be found on their shores. In addition to the titular Galapagos giant tortoise, the islands are home to large populations of sea lions, penguins and fur seals. Families are more than welcome to take part in the fun, with a host of accommodation options and tours geared towards children and adults alike. Aside from spending time with the land creatures found on Galapagos, visitors can also engage in diving and snorkeling expeditions to truly sample the islands' incredible diversity.
24. Wisconsin Dells, USA
Just like quality theme parks, water parks can turn any vacation into a memorable one. And no place takes this to heart more than Wisconsin Dells. This resort town is practically teeming with water parks, among which Noah's Ark Water Park and Mt. Olympus are two of the most kid-friendly. If you want to take a break from getting wet, the Dells Raceway Park offers you the thrill of stock car racing, while Circus World impresses with its live performances, magic shows and historical exhibits. And don't forget about the best way to explore the city – by boarding one of those iconic Dells Army Ducks boats!
25. Bran, Romania
For kids who enjoy a little fright now and then, the home of Dracula should provide an irresistible vacation destination. This is the place where the imposing Bran Castle stands tall, a monument to a bygone era that has taken on mythical proportions in modern day life. Going on a tour of Dracula's castle is a sure way to get those goosebumps rolling, especially if followed by a visit to the aptly-titled Castle of Horror, a museum focusing on depictions of medieval life at its scariest. And if you need a respite from the horror, the nearby Liberty Bear Sanctuary is the perfect place to see some cuddly bears in action.
Going on vacation with your children is a deeply rewarding experience as long as you plan things accordingly and pick out an appropriate destination. The places listed here all have plenty of things to recommend them, so feel free to use them as a starting point for your next family adventure.