For families around the globe, going on vacation is a time-honored tradition. Some enjoy visiting new cities, while others prefer to visit oceanfront resorts for some fun in the sun. Still others visit theme parks for new and memorable experiences. Here are ten family-friendly destinations that offer something for everyone.
1. San Diego, California
The southernmost city on the California coast, San Diego offers a plethora of family-friendly attractions. For a high-seas experience without even leaving port, families can consider a sleepover on the USS Midway, a retired aircraft carrier which served the U.S. Navy from the 1940s through the 1990s. Dining in the mess halls and sleeping in the same berths as Navy sailors only adds authenticity. Nearby LEGOLAND and Sea Life Aquarium offer an interesting combination of “land” and “sea” with LEGO models cleverly integrated into the aquarium’s displays of marine wildlife.
2. Atlantis Paradise Island, Bahamas
A popular resort located on Paradise Island in the Bahamas, Atlantis provides its guests with a variety of activities in such a way that there is definitely something for everyone. In addition to exploring the resort’s 141-acre water park, families can get up close and personal with dolphins, scale the rock climbing wall and even try their hand at making personalized souvenirs at the Earth & Fire Pottery Studio.
3. Washington, D.C.
No city in America offers more free-of-charge, family-friendly attractions than the nation’s capital, Washington, D.C. Visitors of all ages will enjoy paying a visit to the Smithsonian National Museum of American History, home to such beloved treasures as Dorothy’s ruby slippers from The Wizard of Oz, legendary Muppet Kermit the Frog and Archie Bunker’s chair from the hit 1970s TV show All in the Family. DC’s National Zoo is home to a lively menagerie of thousands of animals from around the world, including the popular giant pandas. For a more relaxing experience, families can pack a picnic lunch or dinner and explore Theodore Roosevelt Island, an urban oasis with views of Washington’s most iconic landmarks, including the Capitol Building and Washington Monument.
4. Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada
A bona fide wonder of the natural world, Niagara Falls straddles the border between New York, U.S. and Ontario, Canada; however, the Canadian side offers a greater variety of enticing attractions for visitors of all ages. The Clifton Hill Entertainment District is home to attractions such as the Great Canadian Midway arcade, Ripley’s Believe it or Not! Museum, and the 175-foot-tall Niagara SkyWheel, which provides a bird’s eye view of the Falls and the surrounding area. For a change of pace, families should stop by the Niagara Parks Butterfly Conservatory, an indoor tropical oasis where guests can become human heliports for the graceful fluttering creatures.
5. Amsterdam, Netherlands
This Dutch capital offers a variety of family-friendly attractions, all an easy walk, boat or bike ride from just about anywhere in the city. NEMO Science Museum offers a variety of interactive exhibitions, while the offbeat Pannenkoekenboot (literally, “Pancake Boat”) combines a 75-minute cruise along Amsterdam’s many canals with a complimentary pancake buffet. Families seeking an authentic Dutch experience will enjoy a side trip to the town of Zaanse Schans, where they can try on clogs and climb a windmill to enjoy the spectacular scenery.
6. Munich, Germanay
Bavaria’s largest city, this southern German metropolis is known for its annual Oktoberfest, but offers up a variety of family-friendly attractions all year round. Obletter Spielwaren, one of Europe’s largest toy stores, is a must-see, as well as the Toy Museum, which houses a diverse array of classic European and North American playthings. Children of all ages can play and run in the beer gardens while their parents sample lagers and pilsners. Not far from Munich proper is Neuschwanstein Castle, the residence of 19th-century Bavarian ruler Ludwig II and the inspiration for the castle in Disney’s timeless film Sleeping Beauty, as well as LEGOLAND Deutschland, based on the LEGO construction toy franchise. The Miniland exhibit, which includes scaled-down replicas of landmarks such as Munich’s Allianz Arena and the streets of Venice, Italy, are not to be missed.
7. Luangwa National Park, Zambia
Africa’s famous safaris – journeys into the continent’s vast interior for glimpses of wildlife such as lions, giraffes, and elephants – have become increasingly family-friendly in recent years, and Luangwa National Park in Zambia is no exception. In addition to their own personal safari guide and tour vehicle, families staying at Luangwa Safari House will enjoy deluxe accommodations, complete with a chef and housekeeper. Children 7 years of age and older are welcome to participate in a variety of activities, including trips to the Kawaza Village and the marketplace at Mtuwe, where local vendors hawk their wares. The annual wildebeest migration from June to November is a must-see.
8. Tokyo, Japan
One of the largest and most modern cities in Asia, Japan’s capital city is full of attractions for the whole family. Tokyo Disneyland and its sister park, Tokyo DisneySea, offer a diverse array of rides and shows for the entire family, although DisneySea attracts a slightly older clientele. The Fukagawa Edo Village provides visitors with the chance to go back in time to experience a 19th-century Japanese village, including houses and small shops. Curious minds of all ages will be fascinated by the interactive exhibits at the Museum of Science and Innovation at Miraikan, where guests can view a demonstration of the incredibly human-like robot, ASIMO.
9. Sydney, Australia
The largest city in Australia, Sydney is home to more than just the uniquely designed opera house that bears its name. In fact, there are plenty of attractions in Sydney that attract family vacationers from around the world. The Manly Sea Life Aquarium plays host to hundreds of colorful tropical fish, along with sharks, dolphins and a flock of Little Penguins, which are native to the land Down Under. The Powerhouse Museum offers visitors the opportunity to explore Australian science, art and industry. Exhibits range from Australia’s oldest working telescope to a vintage 1855 steam locomotive, a replica of a 1930s cinema and even a reconstruction of a general store that once served customers in rural New South Wales. For the preschool set, there is an exhibition based on the beloved Wiggles TV franchise. To top off a day of sightseeing in Sydney, a visit to the Colonial Bakery for some Anzac biscuits (delicious coconut-flavored cookies, considered a local specialty) is a must.
10. Buenos Aires, Argentina
Often regarded as South America’s answer to Paris, the capital of Argentina has a distinctly European flair but is not too sophisticated as to discourage family vacationers from visiting. The Bosques de Palermo park offers family-friendly diversions such as paddle boats, while youngsters can let their imaginations run wild at the Museo de los Niños children’s museum. Just a short train ride away from downtown in the suburb of Tigre is the Parque de la Costa amusement park, which offers a plethora of rides for thrill-seekers and families alike.